(Part One)
by Leroy Radanovich
(This article first appeared in the November 5, 1998 issue of the Mariposa Gazette and is reprinted here with the author's permission.)

ariposa County is known as the "Mother of California Counties."  While the first Legislature was awaiting Statehood in the year of 1850, it met and created the structure of the new state.  It made Mariposa the largest county covering one-fifth of the state.  Why they chose to create such a large county is not clear.  One can assume that since the area south of Mariposa was largely considered waste land, and beyond that areas mostly occupied by "Californios" any interest at that time in an area seemingly devoid of promise and gold could be held as a large tract who's value could be determined later.  And that it was.  From that large portion of middle California, all or part of 11 counties were eventually created. 

In 1846, Thomas Larkin, American Council in Monterey, represented John Charles and Jessie Fremont in the purchase of a 44,000 acre Mexican Land Grant, Las Mariposa, from Juan Bautista Alvarado, the last Mexican Governor of California.  Alvarado had received the grant from the Governor of Mexico in 1844 and had never seen the property.  The Grant was an agricultural tract and carried no mineral rights, which still belonged to the crown under Spanish law.  The Grant also had no particular boundaries, as it was for grazing and could, at the will of the owner, be moved to better accommodate the needs of his livestock. 

Fremont may have known of the existence of gold on the property, or on property in the area, as when in 1833, his troop was camping in the lower reaches of the Mariposa River, the metal was shown to him by one of his men.  Contact with hostile natives sent the Fremont party south out of the region.  It was Fremont's custom to take sextant readings each night to record his location, but on this occasion the sky was not clear as the night before and after had been- not on the night of the encounter with both Indians and gold. 

John C. Fremont becomes important to the Americanization of Mexican California through a number of events, culminating in his becoming first the Military Governor for a short time, and then one of California's first Federal Senators.  That term lasted only a short time. 

Fremont spent the next six years after statehood attempting to have his Mexican Land Grant accepted under American Law.  Finally, in 1856, the Supreme Court directed the restructuring of his original claim and the granting of title.  This included, as under American Law, the mineral rights not previously obtained.  The restructuring of the Grant gave Fremont property which had been claimed and developed by others.  This set off a series of legal actions that culminated in providing a body of decision which became the basis for the establishment of much of the mining law of the yet to be developed west. 

The Gold Rush in California resulted in the greatest migration for the search of riches that has ever occurred in the history of the world.  Within the short five years after the discovery, more than 300,000 men, and at first it was mostly men, crowded into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, searching for the pot at the end of the rainbow.  Most were not prepared for privations that they were to experience.  Spending a winter in a leaky tent or shack, waiting for spring, suffering cholera, typhus, pneumonia and other deadly diseases took a heavy toll.  It is said that one in six who ventured from their home and hearth did not return.  The victim of death, either by violence or disease.  It was truly an international event.  Coming from China, Europe, Chile, Mexico, Central America, Australia, England, Ireland, and the United States of America, they gathered as one polyglot society, quickly establishing a "pecking order" or discrimination.  It was a lawless place and time, where English Law was established and distorted.  Justice was swift and permanent.  No jails were evidence at first, so the most expedient method of punishment was the noose . . . 


For more Mariposa History try
Malakoff's goldrush history

Mariposa County is known as the "Mother of Counties" since, between 1851 and 1893, the original county was reapportioned 11 times during the formation of new counties thus giving "birth" to:

* A portion of Los Angeles County (1851)
* Tulare County (1852)
* A portion of San Bernardino County (1853)
* Merced County (1855)
* Fresno County (1856)
* A portion of Mono County (1861)
* A portion of Inyo County (1866)
* Kern County (1866)
* A portion of San Benito County (1887)
* Madera County (1893)
* Kings County (1893)