Sonora

Miners from Sonora, Mexico arrived here during the summer of 1848 and settled at what was called "Sonorian Camp." American settlers arrived the following spring, and news of rich discoveries led to Sonorian Camp being the largest in the area by fall. Unfortunately, scurvy was prominent at the camp; so much so that on November 7, 1849, a town government was established with the initial goal of providing a hospital. Lime juice, fresh potatoes, and other foods high in Vitamin C brought the epidemic to a close.

In February 1850, Tuolumne County was established and the camp - now called just Sonora - was chosen as the county seat. The town thrived, becoming known as the "Queen of the Southern Mines." With this growth, however, came controversy; in 1850, the Foreign Miners Tax was passed, requiring all non-American miners to pay a tax of $20 per month. Being primarily aimed at Mexicans, the tax drove resentment between them and white miners. Several Mexicans were forced to leave Sonora, while others became outlaws and turned to raiding, robbing, and murder. In May and June 1850, assaults were almost daily occurrences and nobody walked the streets unarmed. Another problem with the Foreign Miners Tax was the loss of population from other ethnic groups. Nearly 2000 Chilean, Chinese, Mexican, French, and others fled the area and Sonora's businesses declined rapidly. The tax was repealed in 1851, and order was restored.

Sonora continued to thrive as a mining town, as the gold deposits were still rich. One pocket of the Bonanza Mine yielded 990 pounds of gold ore in just one week. On May 1, 1851, Sonora was incorporated as a city - only the tenth in the state - and boomed as a commercial and supply center.

Like many towns in Gold Country, Sonora had its share of fires. One, known as the "Great Fire," struck June 18, 1852. Started at the Hôtel de France on Washington Street, the blaze destroyed almost every building in town, save for those furthest away. Nevertheless, the town rebuilt. A series of fires struck again during the latter half of 1853, but each time the town was rebuilt and continued to thrive.

Unlike most Gold Rush towns, as the gold diminished, Sonora did not. Its status as county seat as well as its location on major roadways and proximity to growing cities in the Central Valley have kept it alive. The city's population today stands at around 5000 and downtown boasts several historic buildings and structures (most dating from after the 1853 fires), making it well worth stopping and exploring.

I Visited Sonora
9.9-10.2018

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