Native American families were very important in the history of Calaveras County. Most of the county's Native Americans were Miwok.
The gold seekers started arriving by 1848, most of them men who lived in tents at first and also moved frequently from mining camp to mining camp, always looking for the better gold prospects.
As women starting becoming a larger part of the Calaveras County population, schools and churches were started and fraternal lodges became an active part of life in the villages and towns.
Lumber was a large industry, many of the trees cut down being destined for the deep mines that started later in the 1800's. Many crops were also grown countywide, with potatoes, all kinds of fruit trees, hay and other grains as well as vegetable farms. Murphys even had a large strawberry farm at one time.
It did not take long for the folks in the cities to recognize the beauty of the county, with Big Trees being a very popular vacation place. The hotel there was elegant and there was a dance hall on a tree trunk and at one time, even a bowling alley there.
Calaveras County took care of its own with a county hospital started as early as 1858 where indigents were cared for at county expense. The first county hospital was outside of Mokelumne Hill but a new one was opened in San Andreas in 1869 and it served the county until a larger new one was opened in 1890. All three of the hospitals had cemeteries next to them, but the only one of those cemeteries that is still visible was at the hospital opened in 1890, which was located where the county government center is now. The cemetery was behind the hospital and the rocks placed at the head of each grave site number in the hundreds.
Medical care was very rudimentary and the use of narcotic drugs such as opium and cocaine was common. Even such simple things as cough medicine for babies was often loaded with alcohol or other dangerous substances.
The pioneering families did have an active social life with dances held frequently and with masquerade balls, parades, skating parties and other festivities often listed in the newspapers of that day. If a family was in need, they would hold a fundraising dance, which was usually well attended. These dances often lasted all night with a break at midnight for a dinner, which often consisted of ravioli, and followed by dancing until dawn when the weary attendees would start for home.
Angels Camp 1931 Frog Jump
Many of the towns had bands and baseball teams. Horse races, wrestling, boxing and other sports were frequent and gambling on these events was common.
Outdoor events were common and often large groups would pack up the wagons and head for the mountains for a camping trip that often lasted several weeks. Some ranches would put on annual picnics on their ranch with everyone invited and hundreds attended some of those picnics.
Carrying a knife, gun or other weapon was normal in the earlier 1800's but there was a gun law passed in the late 1800s. George Cox, who shot his son in law, was called a martyr to the new gun law by some people when he was hung for the murder. He was the last person hung by Calaveras County and the sheriff, Ben Thorne, sent out engraved invitations to the hanging.
The Calaveras Genealogical Society was organized in 1991 to assist researchers with their research needs. The stated purpose of the CGS is:
To assist people interested in genealogy to research their roots by providing educational opportunities, research materials and tools.
To compile and make available local information of interest to genealogical researchers.
To carry out these goals, the Calaveras Genealogical Society holds monthly meetings where researchers can learn new ways to do their research. There is also a large genealogical research section at the Calaveras County library in San Andreas that is owned by the CGS. The books cannot be checked out but are available to anyone to do their research in the library. A list of the books and other resource materials with a map of the stacks where the books are stored can be read HERE.
Workshops led by well known researcher specialists are also held during the year, which are open to members and non-members. Out of town research trips are planned occasionally to places like Sutro Library, Sacramento Family History Days and other worthwhile genealogical places and events.
The Spring Seminar will be held on April 26 and will be led by nationally known Steve Morse. The sessions during the day will be "One Step Webpages-A Potpouri of Genealogical Search Tools"; "One Step Webpages-A Hodgepodge of Lesser Known Gems" and "From DNA to Genetic Genealogy-Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask". This event's registration form is available for download .
Cemetery tours or tours of other historical locations are also held, with stories told during the tour of the pioneer families buried there. The CGS believes that history is a living thing with many stories to tell and many stories still to be uncovered.
The members of the Calaveras County Genealogical Society are eager to help others in their family research. This website offers lists of Surnames that the CGS members have researched and, if these names are ones you are also researching, you can be put into contact with the member so information can be shared. You can read the names, as well as see a long list of helpful research websites by going to the SURNAMES AND RESOURCES page.
The website also has a CONTACT REQUEST form for viewers to fill out their request for help with information on their Calaveras County ancestors. The form will be emailed to one of the CGS volunteers who will do research on the family names you send and email the results to you. On the FINDING THEM page, a list of known deaths and burials, taken from old lists, newspapers, mortuary records and gravestone surveys, is available in PDF format that can be viewed online or downloaded to your computer. Unfortunately, the lists become out of date daily as new research is done, with errors in old information discovered and new names found, but it is a very good resource for ancestors from Calaveras County and the most complete list you will find.
Membership in the CGS is only $15 annually. A membership form can be downloaded and printed by clickingHERE
The Calaveras Genealogical Society publishes a quarterly newsletter " THE FROGHORN" for their members. Old issues can be read by clicking on the date: