Established in 1855—during the California Gold Rush—Timbuctoo was the largest town in eastern Yuba County. Thriving during the era of hydraulic mining, this Sierra Nevada town of 1,200 pioneers contained a church, a theater, stores, hotels, saloons, a Wells Fargo office, and the Stewart Brothers store. The town of Timbuctoo got its name from a nearby ravine that was used for hydraulic mining as early as 1850; the ravine was named Timbuctoo after an African American who was one of the first miners of the area. Extensive hydraulic mining tailings remain throughout the region as evidence of its lively pioneer past.
Today, very little remains of Timbuctoo. Most of its buildings have long been destroyed by fire. The old Wells Fargo & Stewart Brothers store is the only building left standing. It is said that several million dollars worth of gold dust passed through its doors during its prosperity. The building was restored in 1928 and retains parts of its original locally manufactured brick walls, heavy iron doors and shutters that once protected the building’s merchandise from fire and robbery. After restoration, it was dedicated “to the memory of the pioneer men and women of Timbuctoo” by Marysville Parlour and presented by Wells Fargo Bank and the Union Trust Company of San Francisco. Old stone foundations, an old well, and aged fig and locust trees can also be seen at the site.
A commemorative state plaque is located on State Highway 20 (at post mark 14.9). The actual site is located on Timbuctoo Road (1 mile west of Smartville).
Yuba County was one of California’s original 27 counties. It is said to have received its name from a tribe of Maidu Indians—the Yu-ba—who lived along the banks of the Feather River. Much of Yuba County once belonged to Captain John Sutter, who established Sutter’s Fort and Sutter's Mill—where gold was first discovered in 1848. Used extensively by pioneers during the Gold Rush, the California Trail ran through this area. Lieutenant John C. Fremont—guided by famous explorer, Kit Carson—also passed through this area in his 1842-1846 expedition through the Sierra Nevada.