First came the Gold Rush when on January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall announced he found gold at Sutter’s Mill. Then came the 300,000 people with dreams of harvesting nuggets from the ground. Naturally, towns mushroomed along Highway 49, providing housing, food, mining equipment, and various services to the miners.
Jackson, the county seat of Calaveras County and one of many mining spots, served the local communities as a supply and transportation hub. In 1853, Jackson became the county seat for the newly formed Amador County.
The primary purpose for our visit to Jackson was to get a new tire. Fortunately, we had added the road hazard insurance when we the bought the set four years before. Can’t beat $20.00 for a new tire.
After taking care of tire business, we searched for things to do in Jackson. The historic downtown seemed like a good place to start. On the way, a cemetery came into view. Yes, time to stop and pull out the camera.
The Catholic Cemetery and Jackson City Pioneer cemeteries are next to one another. The graves, laid out on what looked like family plots atop a hill, flows down into a valley.
One of the worst gold mine disasters in the United States occurred on August 7, 1922, when the local Argonaut mine caught fire. Forty-seven men died in the fire, many of them buried in the cemetery.
Gold mining ended in California during October 1942 when the War Production Board issued Limitation Order L-208. The World War II war effort needed copper more than gold, and of course plenty of men to fight. As a result, the Argonaut and Kennedy mines closed in 1942.
Jon pulled me away before I filled my memory card with grave sites. It was time to see the historic downtown. From the fine examples of mid-1800s to early 1900s architecture, it’s easy to see why the area is listed in the National Register.
Many of the restaurants and stores in the towns along Highway 49 were closed from Monday to Wednesday. That wasn’t a burden for us. We prefer fewer crowds and don’t buy much because of the lack of storage. But I was a little worried about where we would eat if all the restaurants were closed. Fortunately, Mother Lode Deli was open for business, and we enjoyed a delicious chicken salad sandwich on a croissant. The food was outstanding, the people were friendly, and the place was clean with plenty of space between tables.
The National Hotel had a closed sign on its front door, and their website is no longer online. Although the hotel booking sites still have the property listed, reservations are not available. Had the owners not received the all clear from the health department yet? Had the pandemic and closure decimated the owners’ finances? The most recent information I could find was on the Mercury News website published on August 2, 2019. The article described the hotel as charming with “plenty of 21st-century comfort” and a steakhouse downstairs.
From the downtown tour pamphlet, we learned the Louisiana House was the name of the original building built in 1850. That building burned in 1862, and when rebuilt in the brick style, the owners renamed it the National Hotel, a more politically correct name during the civil war. A major renovation in 2014 revived the hotel to its current state. I hope they come back when the county lifts the pandemic restrictions. The National gets top ratings from their guests, and I would love a peek inside.
St. Patrick Catholic Church and Italianate rectory, built in 1867, replaced the building destroyed in the 1862 fire. The church added a gable in 1887, and in 1894 a cupola and cross replaced a belfry tower and cross when the wind blew it off.
The art déco architecture of the Amador County Courthouse caught my eye at the top of a street off Main Street. The building was originally two: a courthouse built in 1864 and the Hall of Records built in 1893. In 1939, the art déco exterior combined the two buildings.
Although the county abandoned the building for newer and larger space, it hasn’t reached the eyesore stage, yet. It sure would be nice if someone restored the building as a museum or for another purpose.
And here is a look at a few more buildings, some dating from the 1800s and a few from early 1900s.
Other things to do in and around Jackson include:
- Enjoy a picnic and short walk to the Kennedy Mine Tailing Wheels at Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park. There’s a kiosk with historical photos and information on the engineering and operation of the wheels.
- Take a tour of the Kennedy Goldmine. They offer guided and self-guided tours on weekends.
- Visit the Amador County Museum Fridays through Sunday.
- If hiking is more to your liking, check out the Mokelumne Wilderness.
- Prefer to gamble? Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort would love to take your money.
Oh, and don’t forget to take a gander at the Butte Store ruin 3 miles south of Jackson. It is California Historical Landmark No. 39, the only remaining structure of Butte City. The building dates back to 1854.
Next up: A nature hike from the New Melones Lake Visitor Center and a stroll through Columbia State Historic Park.