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Monday, August 17, 2015

Romaggi Stage Inn

Note old CA Highway 49 warning post by corner of the building
When I first started traveling from Angel's Camp to Sonora along Highway 49 through the Sierra-Nevada foothills, the road reached a point where if I or any other driver would accidentally veer off onto the shoulder, we would drive right into the corner of an old adobe building from the California Gold Rush days. When I say the building was right there next to the road, I mean it was RIGHT THERE. Fortunately, in 1985 the California Department of Transportation exhibited some wisdom and foresight that evidently was not available several decades before that. When they widened and resurfaced the road, they moved it over so the building is now several yards from the highway.

For years I wondered what that old building had been used for back in the day since there was no sign to identify it. It was several miles from the other 1850's buildings in Angel's Camp. Thanks to the restoration effort being made, the history of this old building is now readily available.

Constructed of adobe in 1852, the Romaggi Stage Inn served customers traveling between the gold mining towns of the California Mother Lode. Even when the gold played out, many towns such as Sonora became
supply centers for the surrounding towns where gold mining still took place. For example, between the Romaggi Stage Inn and Sonora was the gold mining town of Columbia. Even after the easy placer gold had panned out, mining companies were formed to continue hydraulic mining until the 1870's. 

The terrain proved to be steep and the region did not have sufficient population to support a railroad for some time to come, so miners, farmers, suppliers and other residents relied on walking, freight wagons, pack mules and stagecoaches for personal transportation, freight and mail. 

Courtesy of the Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation
To service the stage lines and provide hospitality to other travelers along the route that is now known as California State Highway 49, This stage stop was built and maintained by James and Louisa Romaggi.

The following is from the history board posted next to the building ruins:


James Romaggi left his home in Romaggi, Italy near Genoa in 1850 for New York and sailed around the Horn to California. He then came to Albany Flat a town of about 3,000 in the1850's, where [the building is now standing]. He panned $1,000.00 worth of placer gold in Mud Gulch, in front of the area where he eventually built his home. In the town of Melones, the site of the present day reservoir, he bought into a mine and accumulated over $30,000.00 in less than five months, making him a wealthy man.

Courtesy of the Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation
A stone mason, he built much of this home himself and it is almost identical to the home of his birth in Romaggi, where his descendents have resided for over 200 years. In 1857 James married Louisa Foppiano and they had six children. James developed his 100 acres to produce fruits, vegetables and grapes for wine to supply his store. Eventually he had a bar and card room for miners and travelers when the home became a stage coach stop.

Courtesy of the Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation
After James and Louisa died in 1905 and 1917, respectively, the home rented and by the 1930's it stood vacant. Hobos burned the flooring for heat during the depression. In 1940, Mr. Ernest Wiltsee purchased the property and planned to restore the home, but died without a will in 1944. His wife and only son had died earlier. In 1957 the Bank of American Trust Company divided the home and estate into six equal shares and gave them to public service organizations such as the Lighthouse for the Blind.

In 1985, Cal-trans relocated Highway 49 that ran directly outside the front door of the home. Before that relocation a car had run into the south end of the building causing damage. Vandals and souvenir hunters caused further damage as have recent storms.


In 2002 "Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation" was formed to restore the home to its original condition. It required two years for the Foundation to secure ownership of the property, perform the title search and register the property in the Foundation's name, which was finally completed at the end of December 2003.
Courtesy of the Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation

In addition to restoring the home, plans call for replanting fruit trees, vineyards and a family garden as shown in a photo from the 1860's. The facility will be called the "Gold Country Family Museum" and feature a pictoral history of the families who came to California searching for gold, later becoming blacksmiths, storekeepers, farmers, lawyers and the citizens of this area and making it the place where so many want to live today.

Courtesy of the Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation
The Gold Country Family Museum will include pictures and histories of these ancestors and feature a computer where their names can be researched to determine when they came from the old country or from the east to start a new life in California....."

More information or details on how to contribute can be found at their website HERE.



 Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press in October 2014 and her novelette, A Christmas Promise, was published by Prairie Rose Publications in November 2014. The first two novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine and A Resurrected Heart, are now available.

The author is a member of Women Writing the West, American Night Writers Association, and Modesto Writers Meet Up. She currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” She enjoys any kind of history including family history. When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.

Please visit the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

Zina Abbott Author Links:

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  1. Near and dear to my heart, history and the home where it was made.Thank you for this look into a piece of California's past. Doris/Angela

    1. Thank you, Doris/Angela. I also enjoyed learning about this piece of history, and having the mystery of the old building solved.

  2. I really get your fascination with this old building and its history. When you see a place like this, you really can't help but imagine who was there, what they did, what their lives were like, and so on.
    I enjoyed all these pictures and the glimpse you gave us of what used to be.
    All the best to you...

    1. Thank you, Sarah. The Romaggi's seemed like very hard-working, innovative people who made the most of their surroundings. These photos give a picture of a stage stop different than the stereotyped way station we often associate with stage lines. This family intended their place to be a gathering place for locals as well as travelers.

  3. It's so wonderful when an old building can be saved and restored. That always impresses me! Thanks for sharing Robyn.

    1. Yes, I agree. I don't think progress is being made quickly, but I hope this foundation is successful with its goal to restore this old building. Thank you for your comments, Kristy.

  4. Robyn/Zina--oh, it's a stagecoach stop! How wonderful and exciting for this building to be preserved. Those old adobe structures could stand for centuries, in some cases. And it was owned and run by an Italian. Wow. I love this story.
    Just think how clever and adept he and his family were to have a winery and all kinds of ways to be a self-sustained operation.
    I love those old photographs--such treasures.
    I wish you much luck on your books with PRP...and I love the Bride Series idea. I'll snag one somewhere along the way! I'm a Bride Series fan.

    1. Thank you Celia. Yes, the Romaggi's were resourceful. The region is not known for a lot of agriculture, so for this family to have grown both grapes and other fruit trees was quite an accomplishment. My photos taken in February show it green and lush. but much of the year the grass is dry and brown. Water would have come from a well or hauled to the property. These people were not afraid of hard work.