In 1848, gold was discovered in the mountains along the Sacramento and American Rivers in California. As miners began to flood the area, they explored the areas around the rivers, looking for places to pan for gold, and they set up camps. Many of those camps grew into the towns that line the river today. Auburn, CA, is one of those with a history that back to The Gold Rush.
In the spring of 1848, a camp was established by French miners headed for Coloma, CA. One of the miners, Claude Chana, was panning for gold in a stream, when he discovered gold. Chana, Francois Gendron, and Philibert Corteau decide to stay in what would become known as Auburn Ravine, to continue prospecting and mining. In 1849, the town of Auburn was founded, named by miner who had traveled from Auburn, NY. In 1851, Auburn was named as the seat of Placer County and in 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad came to town, on its way to Ogden, Utah, and the first trans-continental railway.
Today, the Placer County Courthouse is still in Auburn, and that is where you will find the Placer County Museum. The museum fills the first floor of the courthouse and contains many artifacts from the area’s history. The artifacts include those from indigenous peoples. starting with the Martis, who lived in the area as far back as 20,000 years ago, to the Nisenan who have lived in the area in more recent times. It includes mining gear and products from local industries. There are also exhibits from the lives of the farmers and workers who lived in the area.
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At the bottom of the ravine is Old Town Auburn. Many of the buildings in this area date back to the late 1800’s. These include the original Auburn post office, which opened in 1870. It is the longest serving post office west of the Mississippi River.
There is also, the old Auburn Fire Station #2. This wood building has a classic engine inside and beautiful decorations on the outside.
Across from the fire house you will find a monument to Claude Chana. This 45-tom statue was sculpted by local dentist Ken Fox.
Old Town is now a place to come for shopping and restaurants.
From Old Town, it is about 3/4 of a mile uphill to the center of town. Here you will find more shops and restaurants to enjoy. Take a walk up Lincoln Way. Browse the stores that sell antiques, second hand goods, and modern fashions. At the top of the hill is the old Auburn depot, which is now the Placer County Gold Rush Museum. In front of the museum is another statue by Ken Fox, this one a monument to the Chinese laborers who built the trans-continental railroad.
The Gold Rush is the base of U.S. history in the area around Sacramento California. There are a lot of place to stop and explore different parts of that history. Auburn is a great place to include on that list.
Nuts and Bolts:
Auburn is about 35 miles east of Sacramento, on I-80.
Placer County Museum is free and open 7 days a week, except for County holidays.