article first appeared in the December 3, 1998 issue of the Mariposa
Gazette and is the conclusion to a previous article.
It is reprinted here with the author's permission.)
the year of 1851, a militia was formed in Mariposa County for the express
purpose of elimination of the Native Americans who found themselves in
conflict with the miners. The issue was simply the supply of natural
food. The miners had arrived with little civilized supplies, save
the pick, shovel, tent, and frying pan. All else had been left along
the route of march. They did, however, prize their weapons, for they
represented protection and the opportunity to revert to the pioneer American
method of survival: living off the land. The available forage was
more in balance with the needs of the natives. The miners soon depleted
the available game and were unwilling to eat much of what the natives sustained
themselves on. There are, however, tales of men hanging on to their
claims on a sustenance of insects and birds, when available. To give
up a claim which promised instant wealth seemed untenable.
protect their survival, the Indians learned that the horse and mule were
viable substitutes for the missing game. Problem was, they were the
valuable property of the miners. There were raids and depredations
on both sides. A volunteer committee was formed in Mariposa to stop
the raids by the natives. The burning of a store by James Savage
and the killing of his workers, caused Sheriff James Burney and Savage
to organize the force and carry out raids. Concerned about the possibility
of a massacre, U.S. Indian Agent Adam Johnson petitioned the state for
help. Governor John McDougal sympathetically authorized the formation
of a 200 man militia to protect the Mariposa frontier. At the command
of the Militia, named the Mariposa Battalion,
was Colonel James D. Savage, who divided the group into three companies.
Company "A" was commanded by Captain William Dill. Because of the
threat of open war between the Americans and the Indians, a Federal Commission
took charge of the operation attempting to implement a policy of moderation.
Their goal was the removal of the natives to sites where they could no
longer be a threat.
March 24, 1851 the company, under the command of Savage, entered Yosemite
Valley for the first time in pursuit of Chief Tenaya and his band.
While they may not have been the first white men to see Yosemite Valley,
they were the first to penetrate the beautiful presence and explore its
extent. As a result of this event, Yosemite Valley became known to
the outside world. Within a few years the valley had become an attraction
previously known for its beauty and value. It attracted artists,
writers, adventurers and lovers of nature from throughout the world.
may be said that the environmentalist movement had its start as a result
of the presence of Yosemite. John Muir came first to Yosemite Valley
in 1869 and eventually lead the fight to have Yosemite become a National
Park. The Gold Rush was directly responsible for the discovery of
Yosemite, at least at that time, but more importantly, the early development
of California was the result of this inrush of an international habitation.
The greed caused by the thought of untold riches to a world population
tired of economic recession, drove men and women to seek solutions to their
personal fortunes. The reality of the matter was that out of the
$400 million of gold taken from California mountains and streams, little
found its way into the pockets of the ordinary miner. The solution
was to prove difficult.
County developed differently than the other counties of the Mother Lode.
Due to the long legal entanglements of John C. Fremont and the lack of
easy access to abundant water mining in Mariposa County soon evolved into
industrial pursuits. While the placer period lasted for a few years,
hard-rock quartz mining conducted underground quickly became the order
of the day. This meant that men no longer held individual claims
but worked for the "company," often living in company housing, and buying
in the company store. They relied on the availability of company
capital and resolved to have successful employment. Towns sprang
up which were more orderly than their neighbors outside of the Fremont
Grant. Mariposa, Princeton (Mt. Bullion) and Bear Valley were laid
out on properly surveyed grids with the developers bringing all manner
of activities needed for human need. They also brought debt to the
company store and boarding houses. When legal difficulties arose, the miners
and their families were left to their own devices with the mines closing.
the 1850's closed a good part of the original Mariposa County had been
divided into new jurisdictions. People were coming to the foothills
more for its grazing and farming land than the gold in the mines.
Employment was offered on a seasonal basis by ranchers and some held mining
claims on major streams which were to be worked sporadically. Many
of the pioneer families who still live in Mariposa County were established.
The 49'ers had long since left, either in pine boxes, with empty pockets,
or as deck hands on ships for the east. Although many migrants during
the early rush to the mines came overland, there is no record of any returning
east retracing their steps. The steam ship to Panama was the favorite
route with the crossing to the Atlantic side now more secure and easy.
Mother of California Counties now settled into years of livestock raising,
farming, tourism and small family businesses and the occasional opening
and closing of the mining properties. Yes, there were some fortunes
made in the mines of Mariposa County and most, with the exception of John
Hite, never found public examination. Most were stock ventures which
resulted in loss of one's investment. A series of owners of the Fremont
Grant experienced losses to the point of bankruptcy. The last company,
The Mariposa Commercial Mining Company, an English company, found more
viability in leasing land and claims to individuals than to investing on
their own. The last company that owned and operated a mine closed
almost 100 years ago, and no records as to its economic viability can be
found. The greater beneficiaries of the gold rush were the merchants
and industrialists who followed and who built the great commercial empires
on the sweat of the ordinary miner and farmer.
County's contribution to the history of the State of California lies more
in the presence within its boundaries of Yosemite National Park.
Its discovery, development and history are intimately tied to the development
of the County and the Las Mariposas Grant of John C. Fremont. While
Fremont knew little of the presence of the beautiful Yosemite, his wife,
Jessie, certainly did. She knew Galen Clark, discoverer of the Mariposa
Grove of Big Trees and Guardian of Yosemite in later years.
With Clark, Senator Coness of California and the photographs of pioneer
photographer, Carlton Watkins, president Lincoln and Congress, at the height
of the Civil War, were convened to grant Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa
Grove to the State of California for the purpose of the creation of a park.
This act alone saved these mountain features for future generations.
By 1913, all the properties were in the hands of the federal government
and became the complete Yosemite National park.
County was recognized for its importance as the southern extreme of the
Mother Lode when the California State Mining and Mineral Museum was established
here in the 1980's. For more than 20 years, historic routes have
been followed by wagon and horse during the spring ride from Eastern Mariposa
County, over Chowchilla Mountain, and on to Mariposa, the County seat.
Located in Mariposa town is the Mariposa Museum and History Center with
its celebrated display area showing artifacts of life in Mariposa County
from its beginning. The library and collection contains many research
works accessed by writers and students of history from all over the world.
In Coulterville, is the Northern Mariposa County History Center, displaying
many items from the historical past of that part of the county.
County is becoming recognized more for its unique and variable history,
as a source of more established life during and after the gold rush.
Established communities and their histories give a broader insight than
is frequently found.
more Mariposa History try Malakoff's