Photo © Jeanetta Phillips
Bear Valley has been called many names: Haydenville, Biddle's Camp, Biddleville, Simpsonville and Johnsonville before becoming Bear Valley in 1858. Col. John C. Fremont a veteran of the Bear Flag Revolt decided to settle down in the San Francisco Bay Area. Desiring a ranch near San Jose, Ca, he sent $3,000 to the American Consul. Instead of his intended purchase, he was sold Rancho Las Mariposas, consisting of 44,387 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills around Bear Valley.
The original grant was a "floating grant" a grant of land for which the area was precisely given but the actual boundaries were left unspecified. After the beginning of the California Gold Rush in 1848, Fremont moved his grant's borders into the hills. Those hills proved to be lucrative for his mining operations centered in Bear Valley. At its peak Bear Valley had a population of 3,000, including Chinese, Cornish and Mexicans. Bear Valley still contains several of the original buildings from the mining days including the BonTon Saloon, Trabucco Store, Odd Fellows Hall, School House and remains of the jail.
Due to its exciting history, Bear Valley is a designated California Historical Landmark (No. 331). To learn more, read the Bear Valley (No. 331 California Historical Landmark) nomination. The landmark is located on State Highway 49 (P.M. 29.2), Bear Valley.
Time Period Represented: Gold Rush 1850s
Visitor Fees: Free
Seasons Open: All Year
OK, on leash.