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Jacksonville (No. 419 California Historical Landmark)

Roughly drawn map indicating position of Hetchy Hetchy railroad and other points important to miners – The Big Oak Flat Road (1955) by Irene D. Paden and Margaret E. Schlichtmann

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 1800’s 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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Jacksonville, now fully submerged under Don Pedro Reservoir, was once one of the largest mining towns in the Mother Lode, accommodating thousands of miners. In 1849, Jacksonville was one of the largest towns located on the Tuolumne River. It served as an important trading post to supply miners. River gold was also rumored to be worth more than the “grass and dirt” gold of other mining camps. The town had several stores, a post office and three “luxury” hotels.

The river was the town’s biggest asset and its biggest threat as a result of periodic flooding. Miners went to great lengths to recover gold from the river, including diverting the water to ditches to reduce the depth of the Tuolumne River and building dams. Residents wrote of several buildings being washed off their foundations and float down the river.

Jacksonville was first settled by Julian Smart, who planted the first gardens and orchards in 1849. He was more interested in starting his garden than starting a town. He sold fresh vegetables and fruits to miners. His $1 per pound carrots and other locally grown foods were well worth the price to miners who suffered from very poor diets and scurvy. Unfortunately, Smart’s garden was later destroyed as a result of area mining activity. Colonel Alden Jackson arrived in the area and his name was used to name both Jacksonville and the existing city of Jackson less than 35 miles away.

The town of Jacksonville continued to flourish as a small country town until the 1960s. All remnants of the mining town were covered by expansion of the Don Pedro Reservoir, one of California’s largest man made lakes. You’ll pass near the old Jacksonville site as you drive to Yosemite via Hwy 120 just west of the Priest grade area.

The marker is located at the vista point on the north approach to Don Pedro Bridge, State Highway 120 (P.M. 19.4), 3.5 miles southeast of Chinese Camp.

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 country, 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

1850s