Copperopolis was the site of the second copper discovery in the area (after nearby Telegraph City) in 1860. William K. Reed, Dr. Allen Blatchly, and Thomas McCarty located the ore and staked the Union claim, and within the year they were producing a decent amount of copper ore. It wasn't long before word of their discovery got out, and soon a number of other claims were located, including the Keystone, Consolidated, Empire, Webster, Kentucky, and the Calaveras. The Copper Canyon District was born with a camp of the same name, but it soon changed to Copperopolis.

The town grew rapidly around a central plaza, with buildings of brick salvaged from Columbia. The growth was fueled by the high demand for copper during the Civil War, when copper was transported via Stockton and San Francisco, around Cape Horn, to smelters in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York for use by the Union Army as shells and bullets. During this time, the Copperopolis region was the second largest producer of copper for the Union. During this time, an estimated two to four thousand people lived in Copperopolis, and the thriving town boasted several hotels and saloons, an armory, a plethora of businesses, and a weekly newspaper: the Copperopolis Courier, published by L.W. Ransom and J.O. Bean. Unfortunately, after the war, the price of copper fell and by 1867 the mines were idle. By 1870, less than two hundred people remained.

Copperopolis has experienced a few resurgences since then. The first was in the 1880s when the Union and Keystone mines were consolidated and reopened by a conglomerate from Boston. A 100-ton furnace was erected at this time, and for a while the mines again produced; booms were again experienced during the two World Wars, before again coming to a close. Between 1861 and 1946, over $12 million was recovered at Copperopolis.

I Visited Copperopolis