History Day Trips: Gold Country #1


A few years ago I used to do mini road trips on the weekends, mostly up into Northern California’s Gold Country. I decided to pull all the photos and historical information together and write more about the many historic sites I visited. Why? Because I’m a history nerd, that’s why.

This trip visits several sites in California: Sloughhouse, Sutter Creek, Angels Camp, Butte City, and New Melones Lake.


Stop 1: Sloughhouse, Sacramento County (Miwok territory)

Sloughhouse was part of Rancho Omochumnes (also called Rancho Río de los Cosumnes al Norte) granted to Jared Dixon Sheldon in 1844. Sheldon and William Daylor, a cook for John Sutter, established a mill and roadhouse near the slough.

A farm in Sloughhouse, CA. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.


Stop 2: Sutter Creek, Amador County (Miwok territory)

John Sutter was a German Swiss immigrant who established a fort in what he called New Helvetia (Latin for Switzerland) in 1839. Sutter enslaved at least 800 Indigenous people if not more, mostly Maidu and Me-Wuk but also from neighboring tribes and Native Hawaiians. He had a nasty habit of kidnapping and enslaving Indigenous children, and was known for using starvation tactics to force compliance. His fort, located near present-day Sacramento and constructed by enslaved Native people, later became a temporary prison for General Mariano Vallejo, Colonel Salvador Vallejo, and some of their associates during the Bear Flag Revolt of June 1846.

After his employee James W. Marshall discovered gold on Sutter’s property near present-day Coloma, Sutter forced about 100 Indigenous and 50 Native Hawaiians to pan for gold first at a camp he established camp about 10 miles above Mormon Island and then at what would later become known as Sutter Creek. Soon he lost many of his laborers to “traveling grog-shops” and his money to scheming partners and shady miners. He abandoned the camp but it eventually became a mining boomtown. The mines shut down in 1951.

A street in Sutter Creek, CA. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.
A street in Sutter Creek, CA. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.


Stop 3: Butte Store, Amador County (Miwok territory)

There is some conflicting information about this site. A Native Sons of the Golden West plaque states that it was “Constructed by Italian stone mason in 1857. Served pioneer settlers and miners as post office and general store later later known as Ginocchio’s.” However, the California State Office of Historic Preservation says, “As early as 1854 Xavier Benoist was conducting a store and bakery in this building. Later Ginocchio had a merchandise business here.” Whatever the store’s origins, it is the only remaining structure of the once-thriving mining town of Butte City. It was operated for about 50 years by the Gnocchio family; it closed in the early 1900s. A small cemetery is on the hill above the store.

Butte Store. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.


Stop 4: Angels Camp, Calaveras County (Miwok territory)

Henry Angell arrived in California in 1847 and established a store in a canvas tent. The camp that grew up around him took his name, minus the extra “L.” In 1849 Angell sold his store to J.C. Scribner and returned to his home state of Rhode Island. After the placer mines petered out in a few years the camp nearly disappeared, but the discovery of gold-bearing veins of quartz reinvigorating the mining industry.

A street in Angels Camp, CA. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.
Angels Camp Museum. Photo credit: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.


Stop 5: New Melones Lake, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties (Me-Wuk territory)

This is the second reservoir in this area. The first was formed in 1926 by damming the Stanislaus River. The second was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1980.

New Melones Lake. Photo: Alexandria Brown, August 24, 2013.



“Angels Camp.” CalaverasHistory.org. Accessed May 15, 2019. http://www.calaverashistory.org/overview/angels-camp.

“Butte Store.” California State Office of Historic Preservation. Accessed May 15, 2019. http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/ListedResources/Detail/39.

“Historic Sutter Creek.” City of Sutter Creek. Accessed May 15, 2019. https://cityofsuttercreek.org/historic-sutter-creek/.

“History – Sutter Creek.” City of Sutter Creek. Accessed May 15, 2019. https://cityofsuttercreek.org/SC-history.pdf.

Miller, Jim. “Henry Pinkney Angell: 1826 – 1897.” GoCalaveras.com. January 29, 2016. https://www.gocalaveras.com/unearthing-the-mystery-of-henry-angell/.

“New Melones: History.” Bureau of Reclamation: Mid-Pacific Region. Last updated October 27, 2017. https://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/history.html.

Ruppenstein, Andrew and Michael Kindig. “Butte Store.” Historical Marker Database. Last updated December 22, 2016. https://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=100579.

“Sacramento.” California State Office of Historic Preservation. Accessed May 15, 2019. http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21454.

Stelow, Bob. “Butte.” Ghosttowns.com. Acccessed May 15, 2019. https://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ca/butte.html.

“Sutter’s Fort: Sacramento County.” Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California. Last modified November 17, 2004. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/5views/5views1h90.htm.

Valentine, Genevieve. “Horrors Pile Up Quietly In ‘The Other Slavery’.” NPR. April 17, 2016. https://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/471622218/horrors-pile-up-quietly-in-the-other-slavery.

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