Vallecito (No. 273 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. 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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Vallecito was first named Murphy’s Diggings after brothers John and Daniel Murphy discovered gold here in 1849. It was then abandoned and known as “Murphy’s Old Diggings” after the brothers had moved elsewhere to strike it rich. The “New Murphy’s Diggings” eventually became what is now the town of Murphys.
Later on, Mexicans moved in and renamed it Vallecito, meaning “little valley”. The town soon became an epicenter of excitement when a large gold vein was discovered and was anyone’s for the taking! This didn’t last long though, people came and went once all the gold had been mined out.
A post office was established in 1854 that is still in use today. On Main Street at the Union Church is the marker as well as the old miner’s bell. This bell was cast at Troy N.Y. in 1853. After it was brought around the horn, early residents collected funds to purchase it from the ship. They brought it to Vallecito and set it up in a large oak tree to call all the townspeople together for many purposes until February of 1939 when a severe wind storm took out the old tree.
Vallecito is home to the largest cave in California, Moaning Cavern, which offers daily tours, rappelling and zip line rides. The cavern gets its name from the moaning sound the dripping water makes as it echoes off the walls and is carried by the wind. The caverns were burial grounds for the Miwok people. It is also known for having some of the oldest human remains in America. The bones were preserved because of the rich minerals in the water in the caverns.
There are multiple wineries in town as well as many a short distance away. Irish Vineyards, Laraine Winery, Twisted Oak Winery and there is even a brewing company, Snowshoe Brewing Company, just up Highway 4.
The historical marker is located at the intersection of Church and Carson Streets, and Cemetery Lane in Vallecito.
Along with Mark Twain’s famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.
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