Bear Valley

Initial placer discoveries were made here by Mexicans in 1850, who reportedly recovered $250,000 worth of ore in just a few weeks time. Soon after, white prospectors arrived and a small boom ensued. Haydensville, named for David, Charles, and Willard Hayden, was formed but within a year the placers were exhausted and many moved on. Before long, rich quartz mines were discovered and miners returned.

Over the next few years, the camp would experience a handful of name changes: it was known as Biddles Camp or Biddleville after the Haydens left in 1852, followed by Simpsonville after storekeeper Robert Simpson. In 1856, it was surveyed and renamed Johnsonville, after John F. "Quartz" Johnson, a well-known miner. In 1858, the name finally settled on Bear Valley when the new post office was opened.

During this time, Colonel John C. Frémont made Bear Valley his home and headquarters for his mining interests in the Rancho Las Mariposas land grant. Many of the town's 3000 residents worked for Frémont at his Pine Tree and Josephine mines, and Frémont had the two-story Oso House hotel built with lumber transported around Cape Horn. In 1858, Frémont had a new home built for his family; a whitewashed home, it was locally known as the 'White House' in reference to Frémont's presidential run in 1856. The family lived there until 1861. In 1863, Frémont sold his land grant for $6 million and the White House burned in 1866.

By 1888, mining had greatly decreased in Bear Valley, and that year a fire wiped out much of the town (Frémont's Oso House also burned in 1937). Nevertheless, the small community of 125 has a handful of historic buildings remaining that make it an interesting stop.

I Visited Bear Valley