Search This Blog

Monday, April 17, 2017


Mariposa County was formed in September 1850, even before California became the 31st State of the Union. Mariposa was one of the original counties when the state of California became a state shortly later in 1850. 

Mono County and the region known as Big Meadows east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 is set was originally part of Mariposa County, as well as where I live in the San Joaquin Valley. territory that was once part of Mariposa was ceded over time to form twelve other counties: Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Mono, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare. Thus, Mariposa County is not only the county of the Mother Lode gold mining region in the south, is known as the "Mother of Counties".

The original county seat was founded as a mining camp on the banks of a seasonal stream known as Aqua Fria located about 6.0 miles (9.7 km) to the west of present-day Mariposa. After a flood during the winter of 1849/50, and fires, the town was moved to the location of today's Mariposa, although mainly due to better terrain and the presence of Mariposa creek, a large producer of placer gold. In 1851 the "new" town of Mariposa became the county seat.

By 1854, Mariposa had a grand courthouse which is still in operation. The structure was erected using whip-sawed wood from nearby forests. Two sawmills, Humphrey & Geiger at Log Town and the Clark Mill on Bear Creek supplied the lumber. It has been argued which one actually supplied the lumber, but both were probably used.
Early Mariposa, Californa-Courthhouse is in upper right corner.

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors on February 12, 1855 the building was accepted with a total cost of $9,200. The only problem was that the county still did not have enough funds to pay for the building. So the newly elected Board of Supervisors, which replaced the Court of Sessions as the governing body of Mariposa County, authorized the Treasurer to pay Fox & Shiver what funds that were held in the building fund and to make payments until 1858 when the building was paid for. Fox & Shiver took the county to court on July 23 rd, 1858 for final payments of interest owed.

The courthouse grounds occupy an entire block. The courthouse is so recognizable that its likeness is on the Mariposa County Seal. Also particularly noteworthy is the courthouse's clock tower and bell, which chimes every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest superior courthouse west of the Mississippi and the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies. The Court has conducted normal proceedings continuously in this courthouse ever since, the longest active period for any courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains.

This from the Fresno Bee, August 11, 1925

Mariposa-(Mariposa County) Aug. 11- After seventy-one years the old Mariposa County Courthouse has been fitted with water pipes.  No more will court be recessed while judge and jury descend stairs and cross the street to quench a Midsummer thirst.
Incidentally the improvements afford the first fire protection to the building since its erection in 1854, and progressive residents are in hopes that shrubbery and lawns will soon adorn the spacious courthouse grounds.

The Mariposa courthouse began recording cattle brands early on. Cattle brands belonging to Mariposa ranches are displayed inside the Mariposa courthouse. The brand for my husband’s father who ranched in Mariposa is among them.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical western romances. Five of her books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, , Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides, have been published by Prairie Rose Publications and are available. A sixth full-size novel, Luck Joy Bride, is in the works.




  1. I'm enjoying your on-going articles about your area of California and Mariposa County. I found this tidbit of particular interest: " residents are in hopes that shrubbery and lawns will soon adorn the spacious courthouse grounds." It would have been a challenging undertaking to maintain shrubbery and lawns before garden hoses, sprinklers, and outdoor faucets came along. I remember my grandpa had a system of pipes and pumps to get water from his pond to his holding tank in his garden. He didn't have a lawn because it was too hard to get water to it.

  2. That is a wonderful story of the building. To me, those tangible pieces of history are what bring the rest of the stories to life. Thank you so much for sharing these tales with us. Doris