Summersville (now Tuolumne) (No. 407 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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Frank Summers was one of the area’s first non-Indian settlers. He lived with his new wife and young family, finding gold and new wealth along with tragedy. The town was rough and wild as any Gold Rush town. Murders, gunfights, jealousy and hardship were common throughout the mining years.
Summers, his wife and young family arrived in 1854 after several months on the trail from Missouri. After building a cabin, Sommers worked the territory with his brothers as part owners of the “Eagle Ranch” and the Summers Quartz Mine with a five-stamp mill. The Summers brothers became very successful miners.
On March 20, 1856, the brothers were debating in court with the Dickinson’s, another large family in town. After court adjourned for the day, the Dickinson’s left the courtroom and returned with rifles. A gun battle began and Frank and his brother, who were both taken by surprise and unarmed, were shot and brutally murdered. Frank Summers wife, one of few respectable ladies in town, opened up a boarding house with home cooked meals for miners to earn a living and support her children.
In late 1856, Elizabeth Summers gave room and board free of charge to William and James Blakely, two brothers who were miners from Cornwall, England. William and James made a fabulous discovery of rich quartz gold and founded the ore-rich Eureka Mine. As the richest men in town, they wanted to repay the kindness of Elizabeth by naming the town after her. She declined and suggested it be named Summersville in remembrance of her late husband.
Lee Ann Summers, one of the children, reported that Mark Twain stayed in Summersville for a time at Mrs. Summer’s boarding house. Since Mr. Clemens was also from Missouri, he declared after a lengthy discussion of ancestry between Elizabeth Summers and himself, they were cousins “according to the rules of Missouri.”
Around 1859-1860, the gold was running short and the town began to change into more peaceful residential properties. By the 1870′s, Summersville was a thriving community with stores, hotels, saloons, doctor, lawyer, butcher shops, drug stores, express office, fraternal organizations, several churches, cigar manufacturer, livery stables, barber shops, milliners and dressmakers.
The school district is known as Summerville School District today because someone recorded the name of the town with one “s” and the school began with the town name spelled incorrectly.
After establishing a post office the town was named Carter, for Charles Carter the owner of a drugstore and later to Tuolumne, taking the name of the train station stop.
Narrative excerpted from Tulomumne City Memorial Museum Blog
The marker can be seen in the island, center of Carter Street at the intersection with Tuolumne Road. The Summers cabin was located half mile from the historical marker.
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