Mariposa Co., CA



Bandarita, Bandereta

Matsell’s Creek,

Maxwell’s Creek, Maxwellville



(CHL #332)

elevation 1683’




Coulterville is a still active, wonderful old Class E mining town still supporting a number of businesses.  It is listed in this work because of its major impact to the county.  It is located in the oak-studded, roly-poly hills at the junction of SH 49/132, about 28 miles northwest of Mariposa, and a few miles northeast of Lake McClure.  During the Gold Rush it was a major gold mining and supply center, and has remained alive until today.  This former mining town is filled with historic buildings and memories of the “Days of ‘49”.


In 1849, placer mining supported a budding town.  Then, in early 1850, George W. COULTER and George MAXWELL established a small tent store at this location to supply miners working the placers in Black, Boneyard and Maxwell Creeks.  He followed up the store with a hotel, and the nucleus for the town was established.  Some of the other early businesses included:

            A store owned by Stephen DAVIS who operated it from May 1852 through April 1854.

The BARRETT Blacksmith Shop operated in the early 1850s.


The original name for the community is said to have been Bandarita, (which is Spanish for flag) for the flag COULTER flew from his store, but according to GUDDE in CGC:  “No contemporary evidence could be found for the often repeated story that the place was first called Bandereta.”


In 1852 discovery of the Malvina and Mary Harrison Mines caused the small community to grow.  When the post office was established in 1853, it was called Maxwell Creek after COULTER’s partner, but in 1854 it changed to Coulterville to honor the town’s founder.  GUDDE says that change occurred in 1872.  During its peak era the population was about 4000, 1000 of which were Chinese.


In January 1862 the major floods that heavily damaged most of California also wrecked havoc in Coulterville.  All buildings located along the creek were either destroyed or heavily damaged.  BELL’s Saloon was flooded, and four or five brick buildings got so saturated, they started to fall apart.


The historic marker is located in town at the northeast corner of SH 49/132 in the shade of the huge tree out front of the Jeffrey Hotel.


Like many other Gold Rush towns, fire was a major re-maker of the town.  In July 1879, a major fire leveled half of the town.


From an unidentified 1879 newspaper clipping.


Destructive Conflagration- One Half of Coulterville Burned to the Ground.


“On Wednesday last, about 10 o'clock a.m. occurred one of the most destructive fires in Coulterville that has ever been the misfortune of that beautiful mining town to meet with. The fire broke out in the dwelling occupied by Mr. J.W. REED and family, situated on the southerly end of the main street leading north through the principle business portion of the town, and adjoining on the south the old City Hotel, formerly owned and occupied by Mr. George COUNTS and family, who at present reside in this place.

“Mr. George W. COULTER, to whom we are indebted for the particulars concerning the fire given us early on Thursday morning last, the next day succeeding the fire, says: The fire was first discovered in a bed room of the house, and everything being of an inflammable nature, it must have got beyond control before it was discovered by the inmates. There were quite a number of children about the house, which makes it quite possible that matches where being tampered with that caused the destructive fire which so rapidly followed its outbreak. The alarm was scarcely given before the dwelling was wrapped in flames, which with the assistance of a southerly breeze was rapidly carried to the Old City Hotel, a large two story wood building, and in less time than it takes to describe it this massive wood structure was fast yielding to the fire fiend.

“The hotel was untenanted, but used as a lumber depot, in which a large amount was stored and materially added strength to the venomous fire, that raged fearfully, vomiting forth fire and black smoke which ascended to so great a height that it was plainly observed by the inhabitants of Bear Valley, about twelve miles distant.

“The next building in the pathway of the merciless destroyer was the warehouse of Francisco BRUSCHI, which was soon destroyed with all its contents. Following this was HARLOW’S blacksmith shop; from thence to the PENDOLA property, comprising dwelling houses, barns and other buildings, all of which were speedily reduced to ashes. The building known as the PENDOLA Store was not burned. Total destruction of all that portion of the town lying on the east side of Main Street was at this time inevitable. As the fire increased, so did the wind blowing from the south. The next to succumb was the restaurant of John DEBOLT; dwelling and stable of A. TISCORNIA; his store being fire-proof was saved. Next in line of attack was the butcher shop and beautiful residence, fences and out-building of John C. RIHN. At this juncture the fire seemed to increase in its rage and ferocity. Just before it were situated the beautiful and commodious dwelling, livery stable and other valuable improvements of Jonathan MENTZER, a worthy member of our Board of Supervisors, who at the moment the fiery fiend was reducing to ashes his hard earnings which he had for years been accumulating was here in Mariposa attending to his official duties, little supposing at that moment his all of the worlds wealth was being destroyed, and that his wife and children were fleeing from before the invading monster to save their lives only. The business of the Board having been concluded MENTZER, in company with others who had been serving upon Grand Jury, left for home about noon of the same day the fire occurred. On his way he met Mr. COULTER at Bear Valley, who imparted to him the sorrowful calamity that had befallen him, and it is said that he wept bitterly.

“The fire swept on. The store and dwelling place of Mr. Frank CUNEO and family were entirely consumed. To all appearances the fire at this point ought to have ceased its rage, but it did not. With the assistance of the wind it jumped for some distance to the old dwelling house formerly known as the GOODWIN residence. From that point the fire shaped its course easterly and crossed the street bordering up on Maxwell's creek, and consumed the residence of John R. COLLINS and family, and the carpentry shop of George EGGETT. From thence it crossed Maxwell's creek  and was rapidly pursuing its way in a northerly direction up the east branch of Maxwell's creek towards the farm and ranches of James LINDSEY and Patrick DIEGNANS, which were at the time our informant left, considered to be in immanent danger. These ranches are two miles above Coulterville, and the fire was within one mile and advancing rapidly. There were seven families made sufferers by the fire, vis: Jonathan MENTZER, John C. RIHN, A. TISCORNIA, Frank CUNEO, John R. COLLINS and J.W. REED.

“At this writing we have no means of knowing the amount of loses sustained or who had any insurance upon their property. It is thought that MENTZER, RIHN and DEBOLT each were partially insured.”


In 1899, another fire damaged the town, and it was after this fire that a lost treasure legend began.  After the fire, the ruins of several gutted adobe buildings was used to patch holes in the streets of town.  The owner of one of the buildings had apparently secreted some gold coins in a wall, and when the adobe patches were washed by rain, some of the gold coins appeared, creating a mini-gold rush.


Some of the historic old buildings still remaining include:

BRUSCHI Building:  This c1853 adobe building with plastered exterior made to look like brick.  It once housed the alcalde’s office.

BRUSCHI Stores:  There were two stores operated by Francisco BRUSCHI.  One was made of rock, the other of imported bricks.  PHOTO!

BRUSCHI Warehouse:  Slabbed schist walls with one fired-adobe wall support this building which in 1949 housed the Coulterville Fire Department.

CANOVA STORE & Warehouse:  The store dates to the 1860s, and the warehouse to 1870.

COULTER Hotel:  The roofless, flat schist slab walls and soapstone-fronted hotel is the focal point of the old town and sits on the northwest side of the road junction.  PHOTO!


Jail:  Built of soapstone blocks.

JEFFERY Hotel: This three-story wood frame, stone and adobe hotel on the northeast corner of the main junction of town was a AAA-rated place to stay until fairly recently.  It was closed briefly in 2002, but as of October 2003 is still open.  It was built in 1851. PHOTO!

Knights of Pythias Hall/General store:  This two-story building house both a Knights of Pythias Hall (above) and a general store (below).  The upper floor is wood, and a large white balcony extends out the front of the building.

Old oak tree and “Whistling Billy” stand in front of the Coulter Hotel, Wells Fargo Building and the old Coulter Store.  The oak is the reputed “hangin’ tree”, and Whistling Billy once pulled ore cars along the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” at the Mary Harrison Mine (SEE Below). PHOTO!

Sun Sun WO Store:  This c1851 Chinese store was made of adobe with a corrugated tin roof.  It still stands at the upper east end of town in what used to be the heart of Coulterville’s “Chinatown.”  PHOTO!

WAGONER’s Store:

Wells Fargo & Company Express office: Built of brick in 1856, this building now houses the Northern Mariposa History Center.  It sits in the complex of ruins west of SH 49 and north of SH 132.


Coulterviulle bottomed out in the 1970s, but as California grew and the rural Motherlode communities began to attract urban refugees, it also began to grow.


Other photos include:

            Coulterville General Store: PHOTO!

                        Gazzolo Building: PHOTO!

                        Jaenecke Building: PHOTO!

                        “Memories”: PHOTO!

                        “The Boardwalk”: PHOTO!

                        The Heart of Coulterville: PHOTO!


Population figures:

·        1930 - 380

·        1970 - 180

·        1980 - 500

·        1990 - 650

·        2000 - 1772



·        S½ Sec 34, T2S, R16E, MDM

·        N½ Sec 3, T3S, R16E, MDM

·        Latitude: 37.7104860 / 37° 30' 08" N,

·        Longitude: -120.1979658 / 120° 14' 18" W


The Coulterville Mining District stretched about ten miles along the Mother Lode Gold Belt, from the McAlpine Mine (just over the county line in Tuolumne Co.), south to the Virginia Mine.  The mines were worked through 1942 when they closed for the war.  In the 1950s and 1960s, some exploratory work occurred in some of the mines.

Some of the mines located in the Coulterville Mining District included:


·        MIDAS MINE

·        ORO RICO MINE …SEE Peñon Blanco Mine






SOURCES:  #1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, WPA


This was our Ghost Town of the Month for April 2011

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First Posted:  December 10, 2001

Last Updated: August 09, 2011



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