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Historic Copperopolis - Celebrated 150 Year Anniversary June 2010

   In honor of the celebration a Historical Plaza was built by the community. The Plaza is located next to the Museum on Main Street. It is constructed of bricks which were personalized by those who purchased them. The history of the town is displayed on a concrete base in the center of the plaza and proudly flys the American Flag. A special flag was flown over the Capitol on President Lincoln's birthday and was sent to Copperopolis to be flown at the dedication of the

Plaza at Homecoming 2010. The flag is on display in the Armory, and will be flown each year at Homecoming. Bricks may still be purchased for additional phases of the Plaza. If you would likeinformation about the bricks, contact Linda Beck at 209-785-8587 or Linda Stefanick at 209-785-9700.

Copperopolis is rich in its history of mining and ranching. Still standing today the wonderful old barn pictured below, is located on Highway 4 just a few miles from Main Street reminding us of the rural beginnings of our community.
Some of Copperopolis’ first buildings were built in the 1860s from brick hauled by horse and wagon from Columbia. These bricks became available after fire destroyed several structures in Colombia. Miners were finding gold in the rubble beneath the charred floorboards so rather than rebuild the miners did what they did best, mined their own businesses and homes. Blackened bricks can still be seen on the exterior walls of the Old Church and Armory buildings. Several brick structures remain in Copperopolis. The largest was once the Federal Armory and served as headquarters for the 3rd California Infantry soldiers and the Copperopolis Union Guard, a military company organized of volunteer miners during the Civil War. The Armory and Old Church buildings now belong to the residents of Copperopolis and are cared for by the Copperopolis Community Center a group of community volunteers dedicated to the preservation of the buildings as well as the history and historic artifacts in Copperopolis. Next door visitors will find the old Reed and Honigsberger buildings originally built as a mercantile store and office for the Copper Consolidated Mining Company. At the other end of town the Old Church was built in 1866 and is one of the few remaining examples of Gothic Revival brick architecture still standing in California. The original bell can be heard announcing Sunday Church services to this day. Charlie “Sonny” and Rhoda Stone on behalf of the Community Center and the residents of Copperopolis succeeded in placing the Old Church and Armory on the National Register of Historical Places and the California Register of Historical Resources December 30, 1997.

This little town in the southern Mother Lode had its beginnings in 1860 when Hiram Hughes, looking for silver found high-grade copper on Gopher Mountain at Quail Hill. Previously to that, Thomas McCarty saw the same strange looking green minerals stuck to his wagon wheels in the mud, so when William Reed, a miner from the copper rich mines of Wisconsin, brought specimens to McCarty’s “Log Cabin” store on his way to Stockton, McCarty knew just where Reed made the find. At the Log Cabin that day a mining engineer, Dr. Allen Blatchly just happened to be there and told him what he had was copper. The next day Reed, McCarty and Dr. Blatchly went to the area where McCarty and Reed had discovered copper. Reed and McCarty staked a claim two miles long and became partners. This site was to become the famous Union mine. This two mile area runs parallel to Main Street and mine tailings and structural remnants can still be seen today. Within the two mile claim the Union, Keystone, Consolidated, Empire and Calaveras mines were located but it was the copper rich Union mine that gave employment to a great number of miners, timber cutters and teamsters and the beginning of Copperopolis, originally named ‘Copper Canyon’ in the first year. The Civil War had just broken out, and the need for copper was great. Copperopolis became the crown jewel of the copper region of Calaveras County and was the second largest copper producing district under northern control during the Civil War.

Copperopolis’ colorful history includes none other than the infamous outlaw, “Black Bart” (Charles Boles, alias Charles Bolton). “Black Bart” began his career of robbing stagecoach’s carrying strong boxes filled with local gold nuggets, coins and cash just four miles east of Main Street. Dressed in an old linen duster coat, two wheat bags over his legs, a flour sack with eye holes cut into it and a hat that had a large point in the center like a clown, he stood in the middle of a stagecoach road pointing a rifle at the oncoming coach. There had never been a robbery in California so naturally seeing this weird character straight ahead, the driver of the Sonora-Milton express coach stopped. The date was July 26, 1875 and what happened next was the first stage coach robbery in California’s history, right here in our back yard. After 28 robberies Black Bart met his match November 3, 1883 when Jimmy Rolleri, a passenger on the Nevada Stage Company stagecoach, carrying a Wells Fargo strongbox hopped off to hunt for rabbits. When catching up to the coach on the other side of the hill, Rolleri interrupted Black Bart's robbery with a blast from his hunting rifle. In his haste to escape, Bart dropped his silk handkerchief with the laundry mark F.X.0.7. Wells Fargo Agents and San Francisco lawmen were able to trace the laundry mark to the front door of Charles Bolton where evidence of previous robberies was found and Bolton was arrested. He was sentenced to six years in San Quentin and after his release was never heard from again. Jimmy Rolleri was presented with a new rifle with a brass plaque on the stock, which read: “In appreciation for Jimmy Rolleri’s participation in the apprehension of Black Bart.”

Close by Copperopolis is a fictional town invented by Bret Harte. He set his story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," in this valley that was once known as O'Brynes Ferry and that is now inundated by Tulloch Dam. One of the first housing developments around Lake Tulloch is called Poker Flat and holds meetings and community events in their clubhouse aptly named, “The Outcast Hall”.

 

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