Amador City on Historic Hwy 49

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Amador City



Early view, while not the earliest photo of Amador City known, it certainly is the most detailed. Recognizable are, foreground, the Amador Hotel and Fleehart Building up the street. Near the top of the hill is the Keystone Mine. Just beneath the new-looking two-story at left center is the Eclipse Mine with a hand-cranked windlass. The Photo is believed to from the late 1860's.

Jose Maria Amador, a wealthy California rancher mined along a nameless creek in 1848 and 1849. His presence gave his surname to the creek, two villages on its banks, and, in 1854, a new county.

There was no settlement where Amador City is now until the summer of 1851, after gold outcroppings had been prospected on both sides of "Amadore's Creek", upstream several hundred yards from downtown. The "Original" or "Little" Amador mine and the Spring Hill were probably Amador County's first gold mines.

With the discovery of such quartz gold, the settlement that was upstream where the stage road crossed "Amadore's creek" or Amador Crossing, gradually moved to ": South Amadore" or Amador City where French Gulch drains into the creek.

The city's most famous and productive mine, the Keystone was organized in 1853 out of two or more claims and before it closed for good in 1942 it produced in intermittent operation about $24 million in gold at much lower gold prices!

Amador City was incorporated in 1915 and was the state's smallest such municipality until recent years.

Amador City's oldest building is the main lobby portion of the Amador Hotel, probably built in 1855. The Fleehart or Wells Fargo building is the oldest store in town, dating from the 1860's or earlier.

The telephone came to town in 1878, electricity in the mid 1890's and the auto just after the turn of the century.

Reprinted from the Amador City Historic Tour Guide.

Amador City


When the Keystone, original Amador and Bunker Hill gold mines were all operating, Amador City was a bustling community, rivaling Sutter Creek and Jackson. The photo to the right shows the an eight horse team standing ready in front of the Amador Hotel, with the Imperial Hotel to the left. The railroad arrived at Martell in the early 1900s, and freight could be shipped below from Martell.


The Fire...

Like most of the towns in gold country, the big fire of 1878 destroyed almost every wood frame business building on main street except for the Fleehart building and the front part of the Amador Hotel. As the owners rebuilt in 1878, they used stone or brick. Each building has the original iron shutters on the front doors and windows which were added protection from a fire that could sweep through town. Tin roofs were also a fire preventative measure, and in the attics they placed sand and bricks which helped prevent sparks from dropping down. Because of these measures, all the existing buildings survived and are all in their original state, over 120 years later


In 1857, at its peak, Drytown was mostly destroyed by fire and never fully recovered, because more successful mines were developed around Amador City, Sutter Creek and Jackson. A big event in the county history occurred in the 1920s when the state developed a new highway route between Drytown and Amador City. In the photo note the road going up the hill on the right, leaving the old route past the school house and on to New Chicago.



Amador County

Before statehood, what is now Amador was part of the San Joaquin District and in the 1849 statewide elections, had at least three precincts - Drytown, Volcano, and Buena Vista Ranch. When California became a state in 1850, this area became part of Calaveras County - one of the original twenty-seven counties organized. But citizens north of the Mokelumne River quickly became dissatisfied with being a stepchild province. After several years agitation, the county was divided in 1854 and on that June 14 Amador was born.

In later years it acquired land north of Dry Creek from El Dorado County and gave up easterly Sierra territory when Alpine County was formed in 1864. Jackson, which had been the county seat of Calaveras for a time in 1851-1852, edged out Volcano to become county seat of the new county. Volcano threatened to wrest the honor away in 1857, but the effort was stymied in the Legislature at the eleventh hour.

Amador County is the only county in the state named after a non-Indian native Californian, Jose Maria Amador, a wealthy ranchero before the gold rush, whose ranch covered much of what is now Amador Valley near Danville. He and his employees mined along a creek in this county in 1848 and 1849. That creek became known as Amadore's Creek and soon after, camps called Amadore Crossing and South Amadore or Amadore City were founded. Miners in the latter camp in 1852 first petitioned that a proposed new county be called "Amador ." In 1854, when legislation dividing Calaveras was debated, a motion to name the new county Amador instead of Washington was adopted.

Sitting directly in the center of the richest part of the Mother Lode, Amador County boomed into the 20th Century with a multitude of rich deep-rock gold mines - including two of the richest in the world at that time - the Argonaut and the Kennedy. The 1910's were the heyday of Amador mining, and gambling saloons and bawdy houses in the mining towns of Amador County prospered, too.

Small Amador ranked among the state's leaders in production of gold second to Nevada County. Today it relies on forest products, hydroelectric generation, legalized casino gambling, and tourism for its income. It is a center for Bed and Breakfast Inns and small boutique wineries. Its premium Zinfandel grapes are always in demand. Amador County is the smallest rural county in the state, with a population of thirty-five thousand and growing.

County history courtesy of the Amador Museum and Archives.
Please visit their website.


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