Jacksonville (No. 419 California Historical Landmark)

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.

Tuolumne County

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.

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Latitude: 37.7415 Longitude: -120.3735 Elevation: 802 ft

About this Establishment

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800’s 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. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

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.

Share your experience. Please leave a comment below if you've visited this historical landmark.

Time Period Represented



My memories of Jacksonville was as a young boy, when my uncle Al Goates took me there to fish along the river that is now covered along with the town of Jacksonville. I remember the old historical buildings that were there and how much I enjoyed fishing and dreaming about how it must of been when people looked for gold along the river. I remember how sad I was when finding out they were going to demolish the old buildings in order to expand Don Pedro Lake. Miss the days when I could enjoy a trip to Jacksonville, fishing on the wild river that now is under water.

Don Eddings, 3/28/2013

How well I remember Jacksonville and the surrounding areas! My grandparents lived about 1/2 a mile or so from Jacksonville on Highway 49 near the old Yosemite Junction. They ran a business from their home called Golden Chain Campground. Their house straddled Moccasin Creek. I recall with fondness our trips to Jacksonville and to Mountain River Lodge by the Tuolumne River driving up 120 and seeing the landmark still makes me feel sad. Along with Jacksonville, my grandparent’s property was also submerged when the Don Pedro Reservoir was expanded. Does anyone else out there remember places like Mountain River Lodge or the Fish Hook Hotel? Diana Boegel

Diana Boegel, 12/8/2013

OMG,how many times did i go to Mt River Lodge??? Could not even begin to guess. Car got stuck in the sand one night down by the river. Then there was Turners TacoHouse. Anyone know what happened to John and his wife??? I am getting teary eyed just remembering.

shirley hudson jaster, 1/8/2014

Where did they move the cemetary?

Judy carsoncarroll, 6/18/2014

It breaks my heart that the Mountain River Lodge is gone. My father, Sid, took me there every summer for a whole week. It was heaven on earth. We camped about a half mile upstream, but came down to the lodge for great burgers. I have spent many many years searching for another place like it, but have never found any other location in the gold country of California that can match it. It truly was a very special place and I have missed it so very much.

Mark Cloud, 7/25/2014

Ditto what Mark Cloud said! I spent only a week one summer at Mountain River Lodge with a good friend and his dad but the memories of that week have lingered for nearly 50 years. We were amazed to see teenagers jumping into the Tuolumne from the Hwy 120 bridge just upstream from the lodge. By the end of the week they were climbing to the top of the bridge trusses and jumping from there! We listened to adults discuss the proposed new dam that would submerge their property and livelihoods.

Bill Ross, 8/14/2014

My family spent every summer at Mountain River Lodge. I remember the blue glass in the bar, that’s where my parents hung out and would run in and out of the bar to beg for money to get a hamburger at the lodge greasy spoon. I remember the sand bar there, and a tree across the river that had a rope tied around a large limb that we would swing on out over the river and jump in. I also remember all the braver souls jumping from the 120 bridge (including my cousin Steve). Later on, my parents bought 5 acres in Jacksonville from the Kleins, who owned the small grocery there, and my dad and his brothers built a very rustic cabin. We would run across the highway and down to the river to swim and hang out. Even with the cabin, we still made many trips to Mountain River Lodge for food and drinks. Those were fun days! My sister and I learned to swim in that river. I'm glad there are others out there who remember that wonderful place.

Connie Madden, 9/29/2014

To Diana Boegel, I spent 3 wonderful summer’s at golden chain. My parents rented a year long space. Mack and Maria must have been your grandparents. They were very nice to me I will always remember that time.

todd, 10/20/2014

Anybody know the old location of Mt. River Lodge? I spent summers there as a small child.

Billy Martens, 1/4/2015

Diana Boegel how far from the 49/120 split was the golden chain campground. With the water levels down so low I would like to get close to its location. I was there last summer and walked almost the full length of old highway 49. I am thinking it is in Mocassin Bay but not sure. We camped there many times during the 60's.

Donald, 4/25/2015

We spent many weekends at the Golden Chain Campground or as it was called by our extended family "The Old Ladies". Mac and Maria were great people and we so enjoyed the camping and trout fishing. I have found a picture of the Fish Hook and the Mountain River Lodge on the internet. If I remember right the Lodge was by the Tuolumne River bridge. It is where we stopped for tackle and bait on our way. Does anyone have pictures of the Golden Chain? I would love to share with my family and remember old times.

Donald Mallory, 4/30/2015

I remember trout fishing on Moccasin Creek as a teenager. On one opening day trip I caught 2 4-5 lb German browns. I remember waling by all the guys lined up along the river below the lodge with my fish. Everyone wanted to see my fish and wanted to know where I caught them. I also remember tubing on the river just before the dam was completed. Wonderful memories.

Tony Limas, 5/30/2015

If you have information or pictures contact me on facebook. www.facebook.com/donald.mallory.7

Donald Mallory, 6/5/2015

I grew up in Moccasin and we used to do a lot of shopping in Jacksonville. My father was the Power House Superintendent. I went to grade school in Moccasin and High School in Sonora graduating in 1960. During my High School Junior and Senior year I worked at the Mt. River Lodge. The owners son and I were classmates. My family spent a lot of time at the river during the summers. I have swung on the rope swing across the river, and have dove of the bridge many times. My father and I did a lot of fishing up and down the river. I am happy to see it has not been forgotten.

Rich Glasscock, 7/28/2015

8/10/2015 My husband and I drove up there this last weekend to see if we could now see the town of Jacksonville, as we heard the lake is completely empty on one side of dam. We did not see any of the town, however the old sawmill was more than half visible. What year was the town vacated so the dam could be built? And is Jackson, Ca. part of this historical story? It’s not far from where Jacksonville was.

Laura Fuller, Escalon, Ca., 9/10/2015

My grandparents lived in Modesto. We'd go with them to Jacksonville to visit their friends. I remember they had an outhouse. When they were displaced by the reservoir water they were offered land overlooking the new reservoir. We'd go visit at their new place but it was a barren hilltop. Nothing at all like their tree-filled property and home in Jacksonville.

Ben Hughes, 12/24/2015

To Shirley H. Jaster: John and Frieda Turner were close friends of my grandparents,Mac and Maria McKnight,who operated the Golden Chain Campground at Moccasin Creek near Jacksonville. Their business was burned down(arson I think),. They lived their final years on Jacksonville Rd. near Jamestown. Mr. Turner passed away and then Frieda. So many fond memories of the taco house! John had me draw so me of the cartoons posted there when I was a teenager. Shirley,I wonder if we crossed paths at Turner's? Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

To Todd,re: Golden Chain Campground: Yes,Mac and Maria McKnight were my grandparents. During a really bad drought you can drive down the old Jacksonville Road to where their cabin and the campground stood. Pretty spooky and sad. Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

To Donald(49/120 split) : I don't remember how far Golden Chain Campground was from the split but I am guessing a quarter of a mile. You can reach the site of the campground in a bad drought,going down the old Jacksonville Road. There,you can see Moccasin Creek flowing its natural course. Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

My family fished and camped at Golden chain in 1965(?) We were there one A.M. when fish and game dept. delivered trout along campsite. We waited half an hour as recommended by officer , and then proceeded to catch 10 trout each (the limit back then) for a total of 70. The next day we caught about 30 more and took them home in styrofoam ice chest(s) what an incredible weekend for novice fishers ! It seemed like a tiny river (creek) and I didn't know about it being long gone now. One of the best vacations ever for kids from the S.F. Bay Area. I vaguely remember the owners being extremely friendly and helpful. I remember names like Colterville (?) Jackson (?) but maybe I'm mistaken. I will look for picture of me catching a fish , to share with you guys. (510) 499-4725 Art

Arthur, 11/2/2016

Diana, I lived in Turner's Taco House every Summer for two months. My name is Sharon. That was in early 60's. I married a local holy terror who was raised in Moccasin community where his dad worked for the City and County of S.F. later he also worked there. John and Frieda were my adopted parents. I was not allowed to date the man I later married. I'd swim and fish in the creek. My name is etched in the front entrance steps. I just moved here and it's been fun seeing how things have changed. I dated Tommy Thompson from My. River Lodge. His mom and step dad were good people. One evening the lights went out. When they came back on there was Tommy coming up the basement stairs behind the bar with a case of beer. We all laughed, he got caught.

Sharon O'Brien (Boyle), 1/30/2017

When we first arrived in this country, my Irish family lived in Stockton from 1960 to 1965, before moving to the East Bay. During that time we'd go to Mt. River Lodge and car camp near the lodge and restaurant over several summers. I have such great memories of the river, the lodge, the rope swing and the brave teenagers jumping off the highway bridge. One summer, my older brother borrowed a kayak from some kind camp neighbors and he'd spend hours paddling around with our dog paddling furiously behind him. Some days we'd explore in the hills and find old good minors tunnels. I also recall my dad talking with the other adults about the coming flood from the dam. It was so hard to phathom for a six year old. I hated that damn dam! We often talked in later years about that mountain river lodge with such great fondness. A little piece of heaven on earth.

Mike Gault, Anchorage, AK 07/20/17, 7/20/2017

To Sharon O'Brien (Boyle): How exciting to hear from someone who remembers Turner's Taco House! My grandparents,Mac and Maria Mc Knight who operated the Golden Chain Campground at Moccasin Creek(now all underwater,sadly) were very good friends of John and Frieda. When I was about ten or eleven,John asked me to draw some cartoons to add to his collection.One cartoon was in the men's restroom with the caption:" We aim to please. You aim too,please. The next fellow may be barefooted." John sure had a sense of humor.It;s so sad to see only the steps to what used to be the restaurant. Was the fire arson? Does anybody know?

Diana Boegel, 8/16/2017

Diana, I heard about the fire from a ranger at Moccasin Point after moving here last Oct. He was not around during those days but his best friend who has passed told him stories. The Vets. Asst. said she lived by Frieda in Jamestown after John died. The ranger told me John and Frieda’s Restuarant became a place of ill repute. I do know John had a gold mine and his place was a mining claim. After they moved my husband and I visited. Found out they got little money because it was a claim, not owned by them. I DO remember the art work in the bathroom. LOL I thought John drew all of them. I had to clean the bathroom, wash dishes, sweep and mop for my board. Since I live up here now I know where John dumped the garbage and plan to go back for treasures some day. lol John and I would get up and boogie to Fats Domino, his favorite! If you give me your email, we can write about old times!

Sharon, 9/10/2017

So good to hear others have such good memories of Turner’s Taco House and John and Frieda.During the '60s I spent a LOT of time there. While I lived in Sonora I went there on a weekly basis, and after moving to the Bay Area went back up and spent many weekends there, also stopped by every time we went backpacking. We looked forward to eats at the Taco House the whole time camping. Frieda made the best chili rellenos and french fries I ever had in my life. John used to take me out back (his liquor license didn't allow him to serve hard liquor) and give me shots of what he called "foreign aid" which consisted of one part Roses lime juice to three parts of grape alcohol. Scary stuff! I tried to stay in touch with them, made some equipment in our machine shop for him when he and Frieda had moved to outside Chinese Camp for him to use in packaging his "Walkin' Chili" hot sauce which he made for a time. I don't believe for a second the "house of ill repute" stuff, as well as I knew John I would have known about that. For a time he did have a couple of trailers across the road which we would use when we were up for weekends, and there was never any sign of any use by hookers.The presence of the trailers is probably how that rumor got started. As to the Taco House burning down, I always suspected John, he wouldn't talk about it afterwards but got a twinkle in his eye when I asked him about it. He once asked me did I know what the most powerful weapon in the world was and when I said no he didn't say a word, just held up a book of paper matches with that same twinkle in his eye. I suspect he was well acquainted with matches as a means of making a statement! I miss he and Frieda greatly, and it's nice to know others do too. One day I'll mix up a glass or two of foreign aid and make a toast to the memory of ol' John, he was one of a kind.

Ben Hankins, San Jose Ca, 10/28/2017

My grandmother was born February 8, 1897, in Jacksonville, CA. Her grandparents owned the Sheafe Hotel, from where she and her younger sister, Anne, would watch the "beautiful" ladies across the way. When she related this story years later, she’d laugh at hers and Anne's naivete, describing how the true identity of the ladies of the night was later revealed to them. My grandmother moved to the Bay Area years prior to the flooding of Jacksonville, but she returned from time to time. The purpose of her last visit was to revisit her childhood home town and pick a few wild flowers, which she carefully pressed and placed in small picture frames and gave to members of our family as mementos of her childhood.

Diana (Henry) Glaser, Antioch, CA 11/12/2017, 11/12/2017

My Grandmother owned a grocery store/ restaurant in Jacksonville in the late 30’s early 40’s. My dad was raised in Jacksonville, my grandmother died very young only 41 but a German Italian family took my dad in. He was 11 at the time. Geri Morgan was my dads step sister she owned a ranch between Jacksonville and Moccasin. It was flooded when they filled Don Pedro. My info is spotty at best I do remember going to the ranch as a small child. Hopefully I can find more info about my grandmothers store/restaurant. My Dads name was Joe Nester my grandmother Sadie Nester if you have any info please contact me on FB.

Shirley Nester, 11/26/2017

Ben, I believe the story about John. Did you know he never received much money for that property? Reason being it was a mining claim. He had this ole miner who had a mule go up there every so often to show it was being mined. He and Frieda took care of me and I never saw any women soliciting while I was there. After I got married my husband and I went to visit them in their mobile home not too far from where my in-llaws lived outside of Jamestown. Good to meet you.

Sharon O'Brien, 3/16/2018

Hi Sharon, good to meet you! Yes, I knew that they only had possession of that property under a mining claim. That's why they were evicted with practically no compensation. John had a VERY high powered attorney (I can't remember his name, but he was a famous attorney out of San Francisco) and fought them tooth and nail but lost in the end. He referred to the opposition as snakes, said that he had been a professional snake hunter in Mexico and recognized a snake when he saw one. Another reason I am sure there were never any hookers there was that Frieda would have never stood for that! Ah, memories. John and Frieda were salt of the earth, finest kind.

Ben Hankins, 4/1/2018

Shirley, Geri's home was up the hill from Turner's. She hated John's dog Joe a windbreaker (spelling) I loved. John let him roam and according to Geri he tortured her chickens. He'd bark at strangers driving up but was harmless. Joe was killed and we guessed who might have poisoned him. Mac and Marie lived across the road. She made me laugh with her shuffle walk and straw that. I had no idea they ran a camp ground. Where was it compared to Turner's?

Sharon, 4/8/2018

Hi Ben! John’s attorney was Melvin Belli. We discussed the case a few times. We must have seen each other dozens of times. Frieda was even tempered unless John did something to set her off. lol Then, they'd stay in the restaurant after hours hashing things out. My room was to the right of the loo, inside that door. He and I would dance to Fats Domino, his musical idol. You heard about our huge flood awhile back. I wanted to go there and take a pic of my name on the front porch carved the day the concrete set but the road is a mess. Good talking to you too.

Sharon, 4/22/2018

Hello to you all, what a find. I spent 2 weeks the summer's of '56, '57 & '58 camping with my Uncle & Aunt, Gil & Lottie Watson at the Golden Chain Campground. This city boy learned to swim in that crystal water & conquered the rope swing, major achievements. Hanging out at the Lodge was a real treat, I still have a pair of "Mountain River Lodge" salt & pepper shakers that are in use. Walking from the camp to the Lodge & back was always an adventure till I ventured just a bit too far into one of the abandoned mine shafts & was a little short of eyeball to eyeball with a Turkey Buzzard, "feet, don't fail me now." My uncle was the head chef at many a fine restaurant in "the city' & Sacto. He was also a Navy diver during WW2, & each afternoon once the sun dipped, he would put on his wet suit, gather his spear gun & come back later with the most beautiful fish that became a most splendid meal, what does a kid know? My older cousin, Tommy was a big pal of Tommy T, I watched & learned from a distance, just far enough. I never understood fully what they were talking about when THE DAM was mentioned, and its effect, I know now. But then, for kicks, there's still always Priest Grade. Thanks for the memories, gosh, I miss that time.

Rod Morgan; 8/28/2018, 8/29/2018

In the early 60’s, my family would camp along Moccasin Creek every summer. I remember eating at Turner's Taco House and trying to figure out how to catch the big fish from the hatchery outflow. Limits of trout most days from the creek, threaded on willow branches and grilled over the campfire. Great times.

Chef TJ, 9/10/2018

Hi Rod and Chef TJ! TJ, once we were fishing in the creek and catching our limit (10 at that time) right below where the creek came out of the hatchery. We never had it so good. Along comes an employee from the hatchery looking down on us. What's up, I ask. Seems someone during the night opened the door in the hatchery and let all the fish out of one pond. haha, we caught 20 of them. If your trip to Turner's was during the summer of the 60's I was there cleaning tables and washing dishes. Rod, Priest Grade is #5 in this country for being steep. I drove down with my kids in our Chrysler smelling my brakes burning. One of the 1st things I looked for when I moved up here was Tommy T. We were buds, went to Groveland street fair together. Sadly, he has alshaimers (spelling) and wouldn't remember me now. He named his son Tommy who named his son Tommy. lol Dick was not his biological father. He apparently took his last name but his real last name is Thompson.

Sharon, 10/10/2018

If you ate at Turner's around that time you saw a young lady washing dishes and cleaning tables. That was me. I remember fishing below the hatchery outlet and catching my limit. Come to find out someone opened the gate and let out an entire pond of fish. No, wasn't me. But I thank them now for allowing me to catch my limit. lol

Sharon, 10/18/2018

in August of 1966, 3, 14 yr old scouts and their leader, a Colonel at Castle air force base, left Atwater on foot, walking 100 miles to pinecrest. On day 2 they stopped in Chinese camp for the night One of them had aggravated an old sprained ankle injury from the year before, making it very painful to walk despite all first aid measures. On the morning of the 3rd day they continued their trek up hwy 120 which led them to Jacksonville. Joe. with the hurt ankle had slipped along the hwy, at a steep bank where there was construction going on, and hurt his ankle more. But, they all made it to Jacksonville. They stopped at a gas station next to a river. 2 of boys and the leader went across the street to a drive-in diner. Joe stayed behind to contemplate his course: go on, or give up? That's me, Joe. I decided i would walk til I could no longer walk before calling for a ride home. By that river, I found 2 sticks and put them together in a cross shape to aid my walking, leaning with both hands on it as I placed it by my hurt foot with each step... for the duration of 50 miles, to complete the trip to summer camp in Pinecrest. Jacksonville became a memory of victory and success.. until one day ...years later, I looked for it. It was not there. And those I talked to 15 yrs later, thought I was talking about Jackson up north on hwy 49. So, finally, reluctantly. I decided, I must have gotten the name wrong somehow. It must've been Jamestown. another close by mountain town. Though, it never seemed right. 40 yrs later,at the age of 60, I was driving around that area and noticed a road in the right area called Jacksonville road... i thought that was s strange twist to the story. a few weeks later I was at an antique store in Groveland when I looked out the back window and noticed a winding road. I asked what the name of that road was, the store clerk said it was Jackonville Rd. I chuckled and asked snidely... does it go to Jacksonville? She said "It used to"... "what?" I exclaimed. "what do you mean used to?" she told me that in 1970 Jacksonville had been covered by Don Pedro resevoire. My memories of Jacksonville had been correct all along.. the mystery of the disappearing town was solved.. That day We made our way down the monument standing over Jacksoville, finally reunited with the town where I refused give up. borrowed the sticks from a tree by the river and walked 50 miles with it.

joseh onzo josephonzo@gmail.com, 6/22/2019

I lived in Jacksonville for two years as a very young boy. I lived in a small trailer park that sat up on the hill above the Frosty Shop that sat just across the highway 120 from Kline's store and bar. Kline's bar was on the banks of where Woods Creek and the Tuolumne river joined together. I have many memories of the frosty because my Great Aunt and Uncle, Art and Annie Freeman owned it. I remember the old Potato French fry press was next to the back door. Before the town was flooded, the federal government payed to have many of the buildings to other parts in the county. The frosty was moved to a piece of property in Columbia just in front of the Columbia Inn which was owned by Art's brother Cleo. The Frosty was remolded into what the building looks like today by my Father, James H Nickley Jr. The dining room was added on to the building which was a covered eating area in Jacksonville. My grandfather was also a big part of Jacksonville. His name was James H Nickley Senior who went by the name of Slim. He was a very tall and slender man. He was the caretaker of the old Eagle Shawmut Mine North of Jacksonville. Slim and my Grandmother Bess also lived on the old mine site which was the old Eagle Shawmut office building that was turned into a home after the mine closed and the building was gutted by fire. When I was three, we moved from Jacksonville to Jamestown where I spent my growing years. I lived in a home not that far from another home that was moved from Jacksonville to Jamestown across from Railtown. A very nice lady who lived in the house in Jacksonville named Winnie and I don't remember her last name lived in that house until she passed away. Another building that still exists is the Motel part of the old Mountain River Lodge. It now sits on a remote part of Jacksonville Road just above where it originally sat on the banks of the Tuolumne River and Moccasin creek in Jacksonville. Thats about all I can remember from the township of Jacksonville.

Randall A. Nickley, Senior, 9/8/2019

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