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Tuolumne County Timeline

Earliest to 1850

Links to all timeframes for the Tuolumne County Timelines




50M BC

California gold came from deposits in Sierra riverbeds during the geologic time-period "Tertiary Age"

9.5M BC

Table Mountain formation, result of lava flows in a pre-historic river during the formation of Sierra Nevada

8,000 BC



Native Californians arrive, Tuolumne County pre-history leaves legacy of Me-Wuk Native Americans prior to Gold Rush  

300 BC

Giant Sequoia “Tunnel Tree” in Tuolumne Grove spans all of California history to 1881


Cabrillo, Spanish explorer, sighted coast of then Alta California, initially thought an island

1769 July

Spanish, led by Father Junipero Serra, begin colonization; first mission in San Diego continuing chain of missions to Sonoma


Moraga-Munoz Expedition-explores western foothills and the Stanislaus River area


Mission system falls into decline.  Mexico becomes independent and takes control of Alta-California


Jedediah Smith, first “white” mountain man and fur trader to cross the Sierra


Joseph Walker Expedition of fur traders search for new route over Sierra


John Sutter arrives in California and develops Fort Sutter where he is appointed Alcalde (mayor)


Manifest Destiny-public opinion supporting the idea of expansion from sea to sea, “a continental nation”


Bartleson-Bidwell Expedition abandons all its wagons and equipment before reaching the crest of the Sierra’s and continued through on foot to Tuolumne County


President James K. Polk elected on Manifest Destiny platform promises of land expansion into western frontier


Mexican-American War starts over control of Texas and California; war ends with U.S. taking them over in1848

1847, Aug. 17

John Sutter and James Marshall become partners. Marshall contracts to build sawmill on south fork of American River

1848, Jan. 24

James Marshall discovers gold in the raceways of Sutter’s sawmill in valley called Coloma by local Native Americans

1848, July

Near Jamestown, gold found by Benjamin Wood, James Savage and party in Wood’s Creek at Woods Diggings; new arrivals establish mining at Jamestown, Mormon Camp, and other sites

1848, Dec. 5

President Polk reports gold discovery to Congress, starting the great migration to the California gold fields

1849, Mar. 17

Gold found in Sonora in Woods Creek, area of Columbia Way, by Mexicans from State of Sonora, Mexico

1849, Spring

Waves of 49ers arrive in Tuolumne County from around the world; large population of Mexican, Chileans, and Chinese, along with Americans and Europeans

1849, Nov. 13

First general election held in California. Voters approved state constitution. First legislature later met in San Jose


First steam-powered sawmill, built by Major Henri Charbonell in Sonora opposite today’s Opera Hall

1850, Feb. 18

Tuolumne County established by Court of Sessions; divided into six townships spanning from crest of Sierra to crest of Coast Range

1850, Mar. 27



Columbia:Gold found, originally called Hildreth Diggings; causing a major rush from the surrounding areas

1850, May

Beginning of Foreign Miner’s Tax-$20/mo. per non-American, crime in mining camps intensifies. By 1851 the tax is reduced.

1850, Sept. 9



California becomes 31st state after 6 months of debates; Compromise of 1850 allows California to be “free state”

1850, Sept.

First registered cattle brand in Tuolumne County by Emanuel Linoberg – brand was “44”


Harvard Mine originally Whiskey Hill Mine, located in Jamestown; started placer operations

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