Jacksonville, now fully submerged under Don Pedro Reservoir, was once one of the largest mining towns in the Mother Lode, accommodating thousands of miners. In 1849, Jacksonville was one of the largest towns located on the Tuolumne River. It served as an important trading post to supply miners. River gold was also rumored to be worth more than the “grass and dirt” gold of other mining camps. The town had several stores, a post office and three “luxury” hotels.
The river was the town’s biggest asset and its biggest threat as a result of periodic flooding. Miners went to great lengths to recover gold from the river, including diverting the water to ditches to reduce the depth of the Tuolumne River and building dams. Residents wrote of several buildings being washed off their foundations and float down the river.
Jacksonville was first settled by Julian Smart, who planted the first gardens and orchards in 1849. He was more interested in starting his garden than starting a town. He sold fresh vegetables and fruits to miners. His $1 per pound carrots and other locally grown foods were well worth the price to miners who suffered from very poor diets and scurvy. Unfortunately, Smart’s garden was later destroyed as a result of area mining activity. Colonel Alden Jackson arrived in the area and his name was used to name both Jacksonville and the existing city of Jackson less than 35 miles away.
The town of Jacksonville continued to flourish as a small country town until the 1960s. All remnants of the mining town were covered by expansion of the Don Pedro Reservoir, one of California’s largest man made lakes. You’ll pass near the old Jacksonville site as you drive to Yosemite via Hwy 120 just west of the Priest grade area.
The marker is located at the vista point on the north approach to Don Pedro Bridge, State Highway 120 (P.M. 19.4), 3.5 miles southeast of Chinese Camp.
A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the country, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush.