Thursday, June 30, 2011


Coulterville, California, is just a dot on the map along California’s Golden Chain Highway, Highway 49. From Coulterville, one road leads up to Priest (as an alternate to Priest Grade), and another winds northward, through Greeley Hill, to Highway 120 near Buck Meadows.

It was this last road that we took to get to Coulterville Saturday morning.

George W. Coulter had started a tent store at that spot in 1850 to supply hundreds of miners working the rich placers in nearby creeks. The “town” grew, and Coulter built the first hotel; water for it was pumped from a well by two Newfoundland dogs (I don’t make this stuff up – it’s on the official signboard in the town!).

Now, Coulterville has a neat little museum, the Northern Mariposa County History Center, housed in what was once the Coulterville Hotel, one of 15 hotels in town (there were 26 saloons, and no one is talking about how many brothels).

My Grandmother had a machine just like this, and I remember her sitting and pumping that treadle to control the needle's up and down speed.

Out front stands Whistlin' Billy, an 0-4-0 steam locomotive that used to run back and forth about 4 miles hauling gold-bearing quartz from the Mary Harrison Mines to the Potosi Stamp Mill.

In front of one of the old saloons, we found the Coulterville Claim Jumpers, an Old West Re-enactment Group, doing very little re-enacting, but mostly standing around. We asked them to re-enact a little for us, and they did.

Later while we were in the saloon having a beer, one of them came in to rob the place. The main guy proclaimed that they "don't want your money, give me your nuts." The nearest patron, in the mood, handed the bad guy a tray of peanuts from the bar. That satisfied the ne'er-do-well, but on his way out the door, the barkeep and the sheriff gunned him to the floor. I wasn't prepared for all this tomfoolery and noise, and failed to get a picture.

The "saloon girl" was actually co-owner of the place with her husband. They had recently bought and remodeled the place.
Skeered down to our vitals, we left the saloon and the town, but not before visiting the old pioneer cemetery. We love to visit those old cemeteries, especially the ones still in use today, and in these little gold country towns, most of the old places still accept new residents.

Leaving town, Suzy noticed this street sign, so we trotted down and looked at the last remnant of the old Chinatown.

Up the road a ways was another cemetery, the Dudley Cemetery. We thought, since it was very near the Dudley Ranch, that it might have been a family cemetery, but it seems open to one and all who happen to die nearby. As in all these old places, some of the sights are heart rending.

There were many graves marked with flags, probably denoting military veterans.

A musician, perhaps? Suzy wants wind chimes on her grave.
These two especially were sad.
The older brother died at age one year nine months, within a week of his infant brother who died at birth.

The Coulterville visit ended our Yosemite / Gold Rush adventure, at least for a while. Now we are in the San Francisco Bay Area for a July 4 holiday visit with daughter Deb. We'll tell you all about that  later in ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Seems like they wouldn't have been brothers what with having different parents... :)

  2. You didn't get a picture? Nuts! :) But your other pictures were just fine and give us a sense of what you saw in Coulterville. I like to visit old cemeteries, too. We passed one when we were driving yesterday and I said to Dave, "it looks like that old cemetary still has plenty of room!"

  3. The saloon girl looked a little on the tired side. All that gun stuff must have wore her out. We love those old cemeteries. I love trying to figure out what happened to them and what kind of life they lived.

  4. I just love those old towns in the west, but there are fantastic old towns in the east as well. I hope they all are always kept up and not allowed to go to ruin. You can't learn history on an iPhone!

  5. You two seem to have the most fun on your travels and you pass along the feelings and happening so very well. I like the story about the Newfoundland dogs; I would imagine they could have easily provided the needed power; that is until the big dogs grew tired.


  6. Since I am a memeber of the Gold Prospectors of America Association, I enjoy stories about old towns that sprang up around gold producing areas. I enjoy your blog and read it often. You two live a fairy tale life, an envy to a lot of us.

  7. I am sure that Coulter made a lot more money than most of the miners:)

  8. Thanks for a great tour and pics of Coulterville. Looks like an interesting place to spend an afternoon.

  9. Great post and pictures. I enjoyed riding along with you today.

  10. We are always attracted to old western cemeteries as well. Also like the old towns from back in the 1800's. Especially the less commercialised ones but sometimes all that's left is a few old stone foundations.

  11. I just loved your post today from the streets of town to the cemetery... Which we also enjoy! Glad you guys are having fun BUT wow wee wow... San Fran!!! One of my favorite cities! (◕‿◕。)
    Hugs to you both

  12. Sometimes we get comments by email, like this one from Mary Russell:

    I'm so glad you do exist; have not had that "nonexistent" message. This caught my eye too - remains an enigma: ..."water for it was pumped from a well by two Newfoundland dogs." Wonder if they ever got bored?! Happy 4th!!

  13. How COOL! Although I've lived in CA for over 12 years I've never heard of this place. One to add to the list for our trip back!


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