Fiddletown was a bustling Gold Rush town in 1853. Streets were filled with dust from horses and carriages, the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer and other wild behavior characteristic of miners enjoying their evening in the saloon. It is located off the beaten track near Dry Creek.
With a population of 2,000, the size of Fiddletown was smaller than the average mining town of the Mother Lode. To meet the needs of its expanding population, the town featured amenities typical of other Gold Rush era communities. Residents frequented taverns and bakeries. They choose between one of three restaurants, danced in the dance halls and visited public baths. Fiddletown served families with 20 different stores, a school, post office and a church.
The town got its name because miners took to fiddling during the summer when creeks ran too dry to mine. Current residents and visitors in Fiddletown continue the musical tradition by attending Tuesday evening dances and listening to local musicians. Bret Harte brought fame to the town by writing “An Episode of Fiddletown,” in 1858.
During the peak years of Fiddletown, it evolved in a major trading center for nearby mining camps. The town started its slow decline in 1878 as gold mining camps ran dry. The Chinese immigrant population continued to grow. By 1880, Fiddletown was home to the largest Chinese population in California outside of San Francisco. Many immigrants stayed through the early 1900s, long after other settlers had moved on. The buildings constructed by the Chinese remain virtually intact.
The former Chew Kee herb store is now a museum, displaying objects that tell the Gold Rush story from the perspective of the immigrants. Visitors can take a walking tour past the Chinese Gambling Hall, the Foo Kee General Store and the Chew Kee Grocery Store.
In 1878, Fiddletown’s Gold Rush boom ended. Logging and agriculture replaced gold mining as the town’s new economic base. A leading town official commenting that he was embarrassed by the name of his home town, changed the name to Oleta, after his daughter. The town resumed the name Fiddletown in 1932.
Although the voices from the wild Gold Rush era of Fiddletown are long silent, visitors can still experience the character of the old west by taking a historic walking tour through town. The tour blends town history with new structures.
Today the landscape of Amador County is blanketed with vineyards creating distinctive opportunities for other scenic tours.
The historical landmark is located on the south side of the street from Dr. Yee’s Chinese Herb Shop in Fiddletown.
Amador County was one of the most productive of the “Mother Lode” counThe eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop known today as the Kirkwood Inn. The eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop. The relatively narrow county is aligned between the Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers and roughly follows an important emigrant trail route. Gold rush camps and boomtowns abound in the history of the area. Amador County is also recognized for its dozens of vineyards and wineries.