Murphys

John and Daniel Murphy join the Gold Rush in 1848, initially settling on Coyote Creek at a point they called Murphys Diggings. Soon, they moved further up the and started a new camp (their original camp became known as Murphys Old Diggings, later Vallecito). Though another small group of miners had already settled around their new camp, it wasn't until the Murphy brothers arrived that the place had any real name. It was first known as Murphys New Diggings, then Murphys Rich Diggings, Murphys Flat, Murphys Camp, and finally, just Murphys.

Soon after their arrival, the Murphy brothers opened a trading post. John worked well with Indians in the area, using their labor to mine and providing provisions and blankets in return. He married the chief's daughter, and ultimately left Murphys in December 1849 as a millionaire.

Meanwhile, gold recovered at Murphys was among the richest in Calaveras County. So rich, in fact, that claims were limited to eight feet square (or 8x12 for a partnership). It is said that during one winter, over $5 million was taken out in just a four acre parcel. Naturally, Murphys grew to a substantial size quickly, and by 1850 the population was 1200. By 1852, that more than doubled to 3000. In 1851, the Union Water Company was organized to ensure that Murphys had a consistent water supply. An aqueduct from the Stanislaus River, fifteen miles distant, was completed in 1853, further increasing growth. In effort to fight inevitable lawlessness, an alcalde, sheriff, and constable were also elected. In addition to mining, Murphys also thrived as a tourism center. A grove of gigantic sequoias, called the Calaveras Big Trees, were a major draw, and the town boasted services to cater to tourists.

Murphys experienced its first catastrophic fire on August 20, 1859. Numerous wooden buildings were lost, but as the placers were still producing, new fire-proof buildings were erected to replace them. Another fire in 1874 destroyed any buildings in the business district that were not of stone construction, only this time the gold had played out and there was little reason to rebuild. A third fire in July 1893 destroyed another portion of the business district.

Today, though mining has ceased, Murphys still maintains a population of around 2200. The Calaveras Big Trees, now a State Park, continue to draw visitors to the area and a ski resort is another nearby attraction. In addition, the area surrounding town has proven itself as a wine growing region, and over two dozen wineries are now located in Murphys.

I Visited Murphys
9.10.2018

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