The name Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly, was given to a nearby creek in September 1806 when an expedition party led by Gabriel Moraga found a large number of monarch butterflies overwintering there. It later lent its name to Rancho Las Mariposas, which was given to Juan B. Alvarado in 1844. In 1847, Rancho Las Mariposas was inadvertently purchased by John C. Frémont.

In 1849, Alex Godey discovered gold flakes while prospecting on the Rancho's waterways. The gold turned out to be plentiful, and before long numerous miners settled along Mariposa Creek. By the end of the year, Palmer, Cook & Co. leased a claim from Frémont and sent fifty men to work what would later become the Mariposa mine. A townsite was soon laid out, and it quickly developed as a central hub for neighboring mines and communities. On November 10, 1851, the Mariposa County seat moved to Mariposa from Agua Fria (established in 1850 as one of California's original counties, Mariposa County stretched almost to Los Angeles). A courthouse was erected in 1854; still in use, it is the oldest courthouse in California.

In 1858 and in 1866, Mariposa survived two large fires, though the latter destroyed sixty buildings. Nevertheless, as long as the gold held out, the town was rebuilt. The Mariposa Mine continued to produce, with its best years being between 1900-1915. Today, Mariposa is a popular stop for tourists visiting Yosemite. The town also comprises a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

I Visited Mariposa