Columbia State Historical Park is located in Tuolmne County, a few miles north of Sonora. Its elevation is 2,139 and a population of approx. 2,000.
On March 27,1850, Dr.Thaddeus Hildreth, with his brother George and a handful of prospectors, made camp near here. In their search for gold, they panned the nearby gulch near Kennebec Hill, and gold they found! Within weeks, several thousand miners had made way and set up camp, that was known as Hildreth's Diggins. That name was changed to 'American Camp', which again was changed to Columbia.
Hildreth's Diggins is actually an annual event now named Columbia Diggins. Where you are taken back in time, to observe how they prepared their meals, made their own clothing, and cared for livestock.
Columbia has really never been deserted. It has thrived with people continuosly through out time. The walkways are wooden, and the streets are dirt ridden. It really is like taking a step back in time.
The Matelot Gulch Mine Supply Store offers kitchenwares, minerals, silver and relics, as well as mining supplies. If you would like to learn to pan for gold, this is the place to start!
The Wells Fargo Co. Express building was once The American Hotel, which housed an office to Henry Wells and William Fargo. In 1857 the Hotel burns in a fire, and was rebuilt by Wells, Fargo & Co with wood, which was replaced with brick in 1858. In 1945, the deed was gifted to the state by Wells & Fargo.
The building is kept in historic fashion and is on display daily. It is the 'trademark' of the town and has been used in many western movies. Stage coach rides run daily, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
In 1851 it was known as the Columbia Market. Over the next few years, it under-went several different owners, and burned in 1854 and in 1857. It was rebuilt with brick in 1857 and rented out to John B. Douglass, who ran a very popular saloon with an aviary, paintings, fish, geological display and is also a stage depot.Over the next 110 yrs. it was owned by many people who ran different businesses from it. In 1968 it closed for restoration, and was re-opened as the Jack Douglass Saloon. It is one of the oldest saloons in the west and is currently operated by Pat Narry and Mike Keene.
As you walk back in time here, there is Nelson's Candy Kitchen, which has been turning out confections since the early 1800's. A Danish miner, C. Rex Nelson became the confectioner in 1930, and after 4 generations, are still producing fine candies from the original recipes.
The first Chinese immigrants flooded San Francisco during the gold rush in 1849. They headed East, and Columbia housed as many as 2,000 at one time. They brought with them new foods, herbs, and spices, which was a delightful change to the 'bland' American food of the time.
Mrs. Geraldine Lucille McConnell known as 'Mrs. Columbia', was instrumental in the founding of Columbia State Park. She lived in downtown Columbia until her death in 2003, where she died of natural causes, she was 99.
From the early 1850's to 1861, this lot was home to many businesses (which we know by now,) that was ruined by the fires that riddled this town through the early years. In 1861 the engine company leased the building, that then occupied the lot, and used it as a firehouse. In 1910 the building was torn down, only to be rebuilt as it's present structure in 1911. In 1952 it was purchased by the state for $1.00! It is now known as Columbia No.1 Engine Company.
The Columbia Gazette Office is a replica of the origainal, which is now home to Columbia Booksellers & Stationers.
I have come to the crossroads on this one. There is so much to be found here, it is literally astounding. I have visited Columbia on many occassions, via school functions, a day trip for two, and again for a family trip.