One of the principal mining communities in Calaveras County, named for the discoverer of gold on the flat in 1849. The objective of many immigrants coming over the Sierras by Ebbetts Pass, Murphys Flat and surrounding mines produced 20,000,000 dollars in gold. Early regulations restricted claims to 8 ft. square. Suspension flume conveying water across Murphys Creek and drainage race draining the flat, were two outstanding accomplishments of early day miners. Business portion of town destroyed by fire August 20, 1859. Joaquin Murietta bandit, began his murderous career here. Calaveras Light Guards recruiting for Civil War, organized here May 4, 1861.
Directions: Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Jones Street on Main Street.
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
The town of Murphys is rather small. Its main attraction is the spectacular Mercer Caverns, located about a mile outside of the town. We visited the cave in 2015 over Memorial Day weekend. We just drove through the town and didn't stop, as there was some sort of festival taking place, so there was a lot traffic in town. We had originally planned to visit Moaning Cavern, but ended up coming here instead (long story). I'm glad we did though as it was far more impressive than we thought it'd be, and it didn't disappoint. The road leading to the cave is a bit difficult to find, as you have to drive through a small alleyway to connect with it. We called ahead of time and got directions from cave staff.
There are several tours operating daily, but schedules vary during the winter and summer months. (See link below for schedules). Tours last around 45 minutes and cost $16 per person, which is a steal for what the cave has to offer. Tour guides lead visitors though a series of steep stairways, offering them glimpses of spectacular one of a kind formations found nowhere else in California. The cave was one of the most unique and beautiful I've seen anywhere, and the most unique and beautiful I've seen in California.
The cave was accidently discovered on September 1, 1885, by Walter J. Mercer, while he was prospecting for gold. He originally named the cave, New Calaveras Cave, because of the many Native American remains he discovered inside. The current name wasn't adopted until 1946.
In addition to Native American remains, explorers also discovered the remains of a prehistoric bear.
Just a few days after discovering the cave, Walter Mercer staked a gold mining claim on it. He than used mining equipment to enlarge the entrance, and decided to profit from his find, by charging curious visitors 50 cents to tour the cave. But just three years later in 1888, tragedy struck. While searching for a possible cave exit, Walter Mercer's rope broke, and he fell 30 feet to the jagged rocks of the cave floor. At just 34 years old, Walter Mercer would be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life, and be unable to conduct any further exploration. However, the accident didn't stop his tour business. Confined to a wheel chair, Mercer continued to collect entrance fees from curious visitors, raising the fee from 50 cents to a grain of gold.
For safety reasons, video cameras are not permitted inside the cave, however small hand held digital photo/video cameras are allowed.
We were also fortunate enough to have a cute tour guide, which made the experience even more pleasant. Other cave staff was friendly as well.
If you're traveling with kids, there is this small trough outside where kids can mine for gems.
This cave is definitely a MUST if you're visiting this part of the state. There are also a few other caves in the area, but as I have not visited them in person, I cannot compare. But I am thinking about heading back down there over the summer to check out some of the other caves in the area.
Address: 1665 Sheep Ranch Road, Murphys, CA
Directions: About a mile NW of Murphys near the Stevenot Winery.
Phone: (209) 728-2101 or 728-2378
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- Hiking and Walking
I was surprised to see so many vineyards in this area. Visiting "wineries and tasting rooms" sems a popular weekend activity with some of my American friends and relations.
There were many such opportunities on Main Street where I counted 10 or more. We
did not stop there for a taste but instead bought a bottle to take home to drink with a meal.
I was heading for the Old Timers Museum housed in the Traver Building. Built in 1856 it is the oldest stone building in town and because of its solid structure and iron shuttered windows was one of the few that survived the fire of 1859 that destroted most of the businesses on Main St.
The Museum was closed - it only opens Friday to Saturday - but I spotted a very unusal sight on the side wall of the building.
Known as the Wall of Comparative Vitus it was the established by a group of fun-loving, public spirited men in 1851. They named their association The Ancient and Honourable Order of E Clampus Vitus.
Perhaps they did not qualify for the Odd Fellows or for the Masonic movement or perhaps found thier proceedings too stuffy.
The primary objective of the group was to care for the widows and familes of miners who had been killed or serioulsy injured in the Californian mine fields.. The fun side grew as well providing these hard working men with an outlet to enjoy a bit of absurb merriment. Plaques commeroration both real and serious achievements were clamped to the wall side by side with absurd . humourous citations to known and unknown individuals.
The organisation still exsists but members now devote their energy to the placement of historical markers ensuring the history of the west is preserved throughout the State.
Address: Main St.
There is plenty to keep you occupied for several hours - even allowing that early in the season not all facilities were open on a Wednesday.
Thankfully not one branch of any of the fast food chain outlets to be seen along Main St. instead you will find individual eateries, - from pizza to gourmet, wine tasting outlets, boutique style shops, historic buildings and hotels, art galleries and craft shops - and more.
The many excellent mounted plaques make possible a self guided historical tour.
Strolling the streets of downtown Murphys, one can enjoy the atmosphere of a 19th century Gold Rush town, still well-preserved.
Address: P.O. Box 2034, Murphys, CA 95247
Directions: On Highway 4, between Angels Camp and Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
This is a little museum on local history and the Gold Rush. It's in an old stone building on Main Street.
Address: 470 Main St.
Directions: It's on the east side of Main Street in the heart of town.
- Historical Travel