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Cherokee (No. 445 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
Historical Marker Database

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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According to the California Register of Historical Resources, gold was discovered here in 1853 by the Scott brothers, descendants of Cherokee Indians. Scars of placer 'diggins' in every little arroyo in Cherokee Valley, healed over by Mother Nature, were later replaced by a quartz mine. Present-day productive farms in this area were once rich placer grounds.

Cherokee is named for the town’s two founders, members of the Cherokee tribe. Their discovery of gold in 1853 created the first placer camp in what is known as the East Best of the Mother Lode. Cherokee was one of several mining camps within a few miles of each others because Tuolumne County was so rich with gold ore. Other mines were called Independence, The Little Jessie, Mary Ellen, Plowboy and Excelsior.

By 1856 Cherokee had grown to include seven saloons, three general stores and 700 people. The Scanvino brothers, Domingo and Ciovanni, arrived from Italy via sailing the Isthmus of Panama. Quartz mining followed the gold mining operations. Ciovanni transformed the rich land they owned into a productive farm that remained in the family for many years.

Looking at the landscape today, little remains of the original establishments as new growth covered the remnants of fallen buildings. Farming has overtaken the mines of Cherokee, a common evolutionary trend for many mining camps and small towns throughout the Mother Lode.

The California Historical Landmark is located on Confidence-Tuolumne City Road (P.M. 8.5) two miles north Tuolumne City. Cherokee is part of the Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail.

Tuolumne County

A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the county, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush.

Time Period Represented


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