West Point was named by scout Kit Carson, who was searching for a pass over the Sierra as he traveled with Captain John C. Fremont. One emigrant road was forked by Big Meadows; its north branch came directly to West Point, which was a thriving trading post prior to the discovery of gold. Bret Harte, famous author, lived here for a time.
West Point was established as a mining supply camp by 1854. The town was originally named Indian Gulch when it was founded in 1852, and changed to Westpoint in 1895 and later West Point in 1947.
Prior to the Gold Rush, Calaveras and surrounding counties were home to Native Americans; in Calaveras County, the Mi-Wuk were the dominant tribe. Once the area was inundated with Anglo settlers from the east looking to get rich quick once gold was discovered, the native population experienced severe declines due to disease, poverty, and violence. The Mi-Wuks in the West Point area experienced several forced-removals the fringes of the community.
In the 1890s, the Mi-Wuk who had traditionally lived in nearby Sandy Gulch moved to West Point, building their village on the site now occupied by West Point School. Sometime prior to 1900 they were again forced to leave and Captain Eaph and Frank Fisher moved to their final destination on Bald Mountain Road, east of West Point. In 1914, they applied for and were granted Indian Allotments for the land under President Woodrow Wilson. After the land was granted to them, they built traditional structures including roundhouses. Today the modern Mi-Wuk population celebrates the traditional Big Times, an event that has been recently revived.
Mining continued to be a major industry into the 20th century, as well as timbering and lumbr production and charcoal manufacturing.
Unlike many former mining towns, West Point continues to be inhabited, and as of the 2010 Census, the town had a population of 674 and is the location of the annual West Point Lumberjack Days Festival. West Point is located near Black Chasm Cavern National Natural Landmark.
A marker was dedicated in West Point by the California Centennials Commission on July 3, 1949. The base of the marker was furnished by the Mokelumne Lions Club.
Along with Mark Twain’s famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.
Calaveras is a Spanish word meaning "skull." The name was first given to the river because of the great quantities of human skulls found along the lower reaches of the river.
Calaveras County is famous for its lode and placer mines, and the largest gold nugget from the United States was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in 1854, weighing 214 pounds. For many years it was the principal copper-producing county in California. Cement deposits from its vast limestone deposits has become one of the county's major industries in recent years.