Sunday, October 1, 2023

Formation of Tuolumne County, California by Zina Abbott


On February 18, 1850, Tuolumne County was established by the California Legislature as one of the original twenty-seven counties. It was given its name and divided into the six townships of Sonora, Mormon Camp, Jacksonville, Don Pedro’s Bar and Tuolumne City. It had it white American roots in the gold rush.


1852 Columbia, California

The name Tuolumne is of Me-Wuk, or Mi Wuk, (the predominant Native American tribe in the region) origin. It has been given different meanings, such as "Many Stone Houses," "The Land of Mountain Lions." and "Straight Up Steep," the later an interpretation of William Fuller, a native Indian Chief. Vallejo, in his report to the first Legislature, said that the word is “a corruption of the Indian word talmalamne which signifies “cluster of stone wigwams.” The name may mean “people who dwell in stone houses,” i.e., in caves.

This is interesting, since the Mi Wuk tended to live in cedar bark shelters.

1851 California mining map showing counties

Originally, it was much larger than it is now. When the state was organized in 1850, Tuolumne was. At the time, it was far larger than it is now.  It extended from the summit of the Coast Range on the west. It was south of San Joaquin County and extended eastward to the summit of the Sierra Nevada Range. It included all of what is now Tuolumne County, Stanislaus County, and parts of other counties.

At the first California Legislature meeting in 1848-1849, what became known as the town of Sonora, which had been named after the Mexican state of Sonora, became the county seat of Tuolumne County. At first, due to the large number of gold miners from Sonora, Mexico, who had come to work the region, it was known as Sonora Camp.  When Malcolm M. Stewart, who represented the San Joaquin district in the Assembly, went to that first meeting, he called the town “Stewart, formerly known as Sonorian Camp.”  The name was changed back to Sonora by petition and an amendment approved by the State Senate on April 18, 1850.  By May 1851, the city of Sonora was incorporated.

July 7, 1852, the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Tuolumne County was held.


June 1854, Stanislaus County broke off from Tuolumne County, and that county held its first elections. Tuolumne became much smaller in territory.

There is a Tuolumne City in Tuolumne County. However, it has never been the county seat.

It was not long before this county became known for its gold production, timber and lumber, and agricultural production.

Bret Hart Cabin and Hanging Tree in Big Oak Flat

The following is a list of early cities, towns, and communities in Tuolumne County. The names that are bolded are the ones in which I have set some of my books. Big Oak Flat, Chinese Camp, Columbia, Groveland, Jamestown, Long Barn, Mi Wuk Village, Moccasin, Pinecrest, Sonora, Soulsbyville, Standard, Strawberry, Tuolumne, Twain Harte.

Willow, my heroine in my latest release, 

A Watchman for Willow

came from a lumber camp in the east part of Tuolumne County to Sonora after her husband died. To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE






The Early History of Tuolumne County California.pdf,_California


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