Chinese Camp and Jacksonville

Many smaller settlements arose around Jamestown. The placer mining town of Chinese Camp was around ten miles south of Sonora and at one point had as many as 5000 Chinese residents.

Celestial Empire in California

A lot of these towns, such as Campo Seco, Montezuma, Yorktown, Poverty Hill and Algerine have virtually disappeared, remembered only by an occasional street name.  Near the junction of Woods Creek and the Tuolumne River was Jacksonville, where many attempts were made to dam the river and divert the water so as to mine the riverbed.

In 1849 a canal was dug at Hawkins’ Bar just below Jacksonville but the winter floods destroyed it. Similar stories happened at Steven’s Bar, Texas Bar, Indian Bar, Morgan’s Bar, and Don Pedro Bar where a hydroelectric dam was built in 1923 and replaced by a larger one in 1971. But at Jacksonville, in the spring of 1850, a stone dam was built across the river and a canal 2380 feet long dug around it, but just as it was finished the rains came again and the whole enterprise was swept away.

River Mining at Jacksonville

Yet in spite of their tremendous loss these resilient and hardy men built a wing dam partly across the river and managed to take out over a $1000 a day from the riverbed. Then, the next year, they built a log dam and for many years this operation paid extremely well. Today the area around Jacksonville is buried under the waters of the Don Pedro Reservoir.

Old Don Pedro Dam



  1. Wow – I’m originally from Central California, and these historical anecdotes were completely missing from my elementary education. I love reading these hidden stories and about the unsung history of California. The genre definitely needs more dedicated authors to get good books about it out there! Thanks for your work!

    • School always seems to take all the fun out of history.. It’s too bad. The gold rush was such an exciting and fascinating time.

      Thanks for writing, and thanks so much for reading. Stay tuned, there are a lot more gold rush tales to come.

  2. Diana Boegel says

    I remember the town of Jacksonville very well. My grandparents owned property next to Moccasin Creek,about 1/2 a mile from Jacksonville. From their home which was more like a cabin,they operated a business called the Golden Chain Campground. If we weren’t driving into “town” (Sonora) we’d go into Jacksonville to buy food,etc. We spent a lot of time hanging out by the bridge which went over the Tuolumne River near town. I loved exploring the area with it’s old wooden buildings and mines dating back
    perhaps to the gold rush or later. I also got to meet some interesting old characters,some who said they wouldn’t move even with the new dam being built. It was a sad day in 1971 when a “last day” party was thrown near Jacksonville.My grandparents had to relocate and ended up living near Chinese Camp. I sure miss the days before the new dam but I still enjoy reading stories about the area,

    • What a great story, Diana, but it is a sad one. Thanks so much for writing.

    • I have been looking for information about Mack and Marie Knight. We camped at the Golden Chain many, many, many times during the 1960s. Was so sad when they moved and always wondered what happened to them. I remember their campground being farther away from Jacksonville. We always shopped at the bait shop by the Tuolumne River Bridge. They weren’t too far from the Moccasin Creek Hatchery as I remember but that has been many moons ago. I would like any information about finding their old campground or getting close to its location.

      • I lived in Jacksonville from 1954 through 1961. My parents had a cafe, motel and gas station right across from the Jacksonville monument where the Tuolumne River and Woods Creek met. Before that we spent many vacations and weekends in a cabin we had in Jacksonville. My brother and I learned to swim in the Tuolumne river at the old water measure tower about a mile up from Jacksonville. We knew Mack and Marie well and when they relocated turns out they were neighbors of my mother and stepfather in Chinese Camp.

        • judi godfrey gilles says

          I grew up in Jacksonville from first grade to high school (Sonora) graduation in 1963. Like many families, my grandfather, Leonard Tate, had a series of businesses there and owned several pieces of property. I had no appreciation for history in those days and wish I had taken photos of the town before the inundation. The entire county is filled with interesting stories and history and I miss the area having moved to Washington in 1970. I’m loving the posts that include photos and stories of “you know you grew up in T County”.

          • Thanks for writing Judi. Jacksonville has a lot of fans. I’m really glad you are taking an interest in history, especially the history of where you grew up. The gold rush was a remarkable era and so was time you spent in Jacksonville. Treasure those memories. They are more precious than gold.

        • It’s great to hear from you Edna. I’m glad my blog post sparked some good memories. I think the gold country is a fascinating place. There is a lot more than gold along Highway 49. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. Diana Boegel says

    Dear John: I just came across this post and I wanted to make a correction in my entry. The Don Pedro Reservoir was already built but it was being expanded. Another tidbit,and one the old timers would also remember-there was a place called Turner’s Taco House on highway 49 as you headed towards Priest Grade/Moccasin. Many locals would stop for a beer and a taco. Sadly,it burnt to the ground,possibly arson. Diana Boegel

  4. ben hankins says

    Hi John, A little elaboration on Diana’s mention of Turner’s Taco House, I knew John and Frieda well and spent a lot of time with them over the span of many years. The Taco House was taken from John and Frieda when the “new” Don Pedro dam raised the lake level. I never went back after it was gone but John told me it wasn’t going to be under water, just right at the lake shore. John got high-powered attorneys from San Francisco and fought their eviction tooth and nail, but because they didn’t own the property outright, just had possession as a mining claim they lost the case and were evicted. I always suspected John had a hand in the “arson” that destroyed the structure but he would never confirm or deny that when I asked him, just would smile and get this twinkle in his eye. I’ll miss him always…

  5. Kathryn Wilbur says

    I have been researching John Dean and Peter Dean who travelled to San Francisco on two different ships meeting up in Jacksonville in 1849. Peter Dean, a bachelor, stayed in California and became quite prominent – John Dean returned to his family in Providence later moving to Worcester where he was a pioneer in photography – both apparently having struck gold considering the change in their social status. Thanks for the information. I do have a question – is there a way to identify the camps in Jacksonville using the 1850 Census or some other source? Great information here – thanks!

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