Jumping Frogs, A Writer and Local History
This weekend as I write - May 13 -16 , 2010 the 100th anniversaty of the death of Samuel Langhorne Clemens will be remembered at the 82nd Calaveras County Fair held at the fairgrounds in Angels Camp.
You might well ask - Who was Samuel Langhorne Clemens ?
Well this Missouri-born printer, river boat pilot, failed miner, traveller, adventurer and writer relied on the language of the river and took from it the name by which he became known - Mark Twain - the warning depth mark for "two fathoms deep."
He came to Angels Camp as a young man in 1855 and one cold winter night sat in a saloon bar listening to old tales and shaggy dog stories.
It was from one of these - about a jumping frog competition - that the story of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was developed and published in 1867 making his name and providing Angels Camp with a literary star.
When the rutted dirt streets of the town were paved in the 1920s the pavements/sidewalks of Main street were studded with bronze plaques commemorating the competition that has been held since 1928 at the annual County Fair.
I was in Angels Camp March21/22 2010 so too early for the May County Fair .
I could not imagine what a frog jumping competition would look like - you can get an idea here
Claussens Corner, popular Bar with a history.
Right next door to the Information Centre there is a Bar that, from the outside, looks a bit of a Dive - a kind of hang-over from wilder days.
But we learned (from chattting with staff in antique shops) that it is a very popular, well run establishment.
We did however discover for ourselves, thanks to another of those informative plaques , that the building has had a colourful history.
Built in the 1850s it was known as the Central Park Hotel with a brothel upstairs .After a change of ownership it was purchased by Billy Ratkovich in 1922 and renamed the Waverley Hotel.
It then remained in the same family through generations . The hotel closed but the bar, called Mel's Corner included billiards and cards.
Another change of owner, another chage of name to Scott's Corner. Then came the Claussens in 2003 .
But the current owners brother and sister - Michael Tarbat and Roberta Hoffman are directly related to Billy Ratkovich.
The Visitor Centre
The Calaveras Visitor centre is housed in an attractive timber building with a lovely porch. It seems very typical of buildings of the town but I think this one may have beena new construction in the old style.
You can find information coverin not only Angel Camp here but all of the County.
Cooperation and Welfare
The hard life of those who joined the Gold Rush has been well portrayed in films and in books. The harshness and danger of those days when, in search of newer, better seams of gold many people often lived nomadic lives.
Those who settled in one place included those who had done well and went on to become influential in creating a civilised town for themselves, their families and the working population.
As early as 1850 cooperative societies were established by like minded men - organisations like the Order of Oddfellows which undertook both a benevolent role and a socio-political role in bringing order and social cohesion to rapidly growing towns such as Angels Camp.
Downtown Angels Camp
Downtown Angels Camp is, as is the case with many of the towns in the Gold Country, essentially strung out along one long street, making it very long but narrow (in comparison to, say, Sonoma, laid out around a plaza). Since it is the primary town, an only incorporated city, in Calaveras County, Angels Camp has the largest and architectully the most interesting of the towns in the county. It is also one of the most bustling, although it comes in behind nearby Murphys on that score. I should note, though, that it is rather small and quiet in comparison to Sonora, about 15 miles to the south, which has possibly the most impressive and bustling downtown of all the towns in the Mother Lode, even considering the much larger Auburn and Placerville.
Angels Camp has a number of attractive and interesting old biuldings from the Gold Rush up through the mid-20th century, including the old Angels theatre.
One prominent and historically significant building is the Angels Hotel, at the southern end of downton. Supposedly it was in this building that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) first heard of the "jumping frog of Calaveras County" when he visiting the town.
- Historical Travel
Downtown Angels Camp
Taking a stroll through Angels Camp, one can appreciate what a special place it is. Notice the plaques on the sidewalks that commemorate the past champions of the annual Jumping Frog contest.
- Historical Travel