Montezuma (No. 122 California Historical Landmark)
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.
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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Montezuma was originally a trading post called “Montezuma Tent,” operated by Solomon Miller and Peter K. Aurand, that grew into a town supporting as many as 800 residents in 1852. According to the California State Office of Historic Preservation, the first recorded history of the town was the day when Miller and Aurand were attacked by Mexican miners. The miners became violent as a result of the passage of a “foreign miner’s tax.”
The area had so little water, most of the mining was carried out under nearby Table Mountain. The yields were small, about $5 to $10 worth of gold per day. The largest nugget was found in 1853 and weighed in at 18 pounds and 8 ounces. In its heyday, Montezuma was stop for two stage coach lines and consisted of four saloons, two hotels, an express office, post office and a church. The landscape was lined with homes, cabins and tents belonging to miners, businessman and other townspeople.
In 1866, a fire of suspicious origin started at Clark’s Hotel burned nearly the entire town to the ground. Today little remains of this raucous Gold Rush town except for the cemetery where the memories of mining folk live on.
The historical marker is located on Highway 49 (P.M. 11.3) 2.5 miles north of Chinese Camp.
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