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Timbuctoo (No. 320 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
Timbuctoo Marker – Syd Whittle, 2006

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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Established in 1855—during the California Gold Rush—Timbuctoo was the largest town in eastern Yuba County. Thriving during the era of hydraulic mining, this Sierra Nevada town of 1,200 pioneers contained a church, a theater, stores, hotels, saloons, a Wells Fargo office, and the Stewart Brothers store. The town of Timbuctoo got its name from a nearby ravine that was used for hydraulic mining as early as 1850; the ravine was named Timbuctoo after an African American who was one of the first miners of the area. Extensive hydraulic mining tailings remain throughout the region as evidence of its lively pioneer past.

Today, very little remains of Timbuctoo. Most of its buildings have long been destroyed by fire. The old Wells Fargo & Stewart Brothers store is the only building left standing. It is said that several million dollars worth of gold dust passed through its doors during its prosperity. The building was restored in 1928 and retains parts of its original locally manufactured brick walls, heavy iron doors and shutters that once protected the building’s merchandise from fire and robbery. After restoration, it was dedicated “to the memory of the pioneer men and women of Timbuctoo” by Marysville Parlour and presented by Wells Fargo Bank and the Union Trust Company of San Francisco. Old stone foundations, an old well, and aged fig and locust trees can also be seen at the site.

A commemorative state plaque is located on State Highway 20 (at post mark 14.9). The actual site is located on Timbuctoo Road (1 mile west of Smartville).

Yuba County

Yuba County was one of California’s original 27 counties. It is said to have received its name from a tribe of Maidu Indians—the Yu-ba—who lived along the banks of the Feather River. Much of Yuba County once belonged to Captain John Sutter, who established Sutter’s Fort and Sutter's Mill—where gold was first discovered in 1848. Used extensively by pioneers during the Gold Rush, the California Trail ran through this area. Lieutenant John C. Fremont—guided by famous explorer, Kit Carson—also passed through this area in his 1842-1846 expedition through the Sierra Nevada.

Time Period Represented


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