- A NEW TOWN with a Historic Past -
Originally known as Copper Canyon, Copperopolis was established in 1861 when copper was discovered here. Known as "Copper" to the locals,
Copperopolis was a thriving copper mining town during the Civil War, and provided most of the metal needs for the Union Army.
At its historical height, the number of residents living in Copperopolis was over 4,000, about the population today.
Copperopolis no longer holds claim to any working mines, but historical artifacts from this era can still be seen alongside buildings that have been restored,
thanks to the perseverance and ingenuity of the townspeople.
- BLACK BART, Infamous Bandit -
Born in England in 1829 as Charles E. Boles, the legend of Black Bart begins on Funk Hill, just outside of Copperopolis on July 26, 1875, when he robbed the Wells Fargo stagecoach strongbox containing $160. After 26 successful robberies throughout California and Oregon, it was his return to Funk Hill that would end the legend where it began. After being shot on the hand during the robbery attempt, Black Bart was tracked down and arrested in San Francisco. Although he pleaded guilty to the robbery and was sentenced to six years in San Quentin, Bart always denied that he was either Black Bart or Charles E. Boles. After being released early for good behavior, Black Bart disappeared. Rumors persist that Wells Fargo paid him off so that he would forever leave their stages alone.
- HIRAM HUGHES,
First to Discover Copper -
Hiram Hughes had grown tired of mining in Nevada's Comstock Lode, and returned to Calaveras County in May of 1860. It is here where he began prospecting for gold along Gopher Ridge and staked a claim on Quail Hill that May. Hiram worked the claim, turning up small amounts of gold and silver, and a lot of reddish colored ore referred to by the local miners as "iron rust." Later that year, Hiram's ten-year-old son, William Napoleon Bonaparte Hughes, discovered vast amounts of the iron rust ore on nearby Hog Hill. Curious to determine what the stuff was, Hiram sent a sample to San Francisco to be assayed, where the ore was found to contain a high copper content worth $120 per ton. Father and son immediately claimed as much of Hog Hill as possible and named the claim the Napoleon, after the boy.
- FORMER STORE, Now a Historic Museum -
The original town center of Copperopolis was located across from the Armory and was known as "The Plaza." During the copper boom, Main Street was lined with buildings of all shapes and sizes and offerings the population might desire. Many of the buildings were constructed from bricks hauled in from Columbia, where many of the buildings were being torn down so the miners could mine the ground below. Copperopolis virtually became a company town during the boom; everyone worked for the mines, either directly or indirectly. Today this historic building is a museum owned and operated by the Tower Family, founders and owners of the Calaveras Telephone Company.
- THE COVERED BRIDGE, at O'Byrnes Ferry -
The Covered Bridge, one of the last bridges of its kind in the state, spanned the Stanislaus River at O'Byrnes Ferry, with the river serving as the dividing line between Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties. Built in New York and shipped around the Horn in sections, The Covered Bridge at O'Byrnes Ferry was designed and constructed by Rehindhart Rupli. The site of the bridge was originally called Byrnes Ferry for the ferry at that point on the Stanislaus River that was conducted by Patrick O. Byrnes. The road still carries the same name today.
- UNION MINE
Copperopolis' Prosperous Copper Mine -
With Copperopolis mines producing 72,598,883 pounds of copper from 1861 to 1946, Calaveras County became the second largest copper-producing district under northern control during the Civil War. In the 1860's, that equated to over $12 million worth of copper, or over $200 million in today's dollar value. The two principal mines during the war were the Union, pictured above, and the Keystone. By 1864, the Union Mine was valued at $2 million, which today would equal approximately $35 million dollars.