Agua Fria (No. 323 California Historical Landmark)
Photo © Historic Marker Database
Aside from a few scattered remnants of building foundations and abandoned diggings, there is little tangible evidence to believe that Agua Fria was once a busy trading center for miners and pioneer traders and the seat of government for one-fifth of California.
Originally named for the two cold water springs below ground, this now dry and empty landscape was once booming as Mariposa County’s first seat, between 1851 and 1852. In the early days of California, when mining was the primary industry, the boundaries of Mariposa County extended across the state and south, encompassing what are now the eleven counties of Merced, Mono, San Benito, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Inyo, Kern, part of Ventura and Mariposa.
Today, the area’s storied past is a distant memory. Agua Fria once had a hotel, express office, assayer’s office, banks, billiard rooms, bowling alleys, houses of “ill repute,” dozens of other stores, tents and log cabins. By the mid-1850s, the town was abandoned when the gold diggings went dry. A series of fires swept the town and it was never rebuilt.
This marker is located at 4189 State Hwy 140 (P.M. 17.2) 3.2 miles W of Mariposa.
The wonders of the Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs lie in eastern Mariposa County. The small settlements in the western foothills of the county sprang up during the Gold Rush. The people in these early mining towns made many decisions affecting statewide mining law.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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Time Period Represented: 1850s