Historians document relics lost in the butte fire calaveras county’s most trusted news source calaverasenterprise.com z wave database

Among the ruins and rubble, the charred trees and blackened hillsides left in the path of the 2015 butte fire were the remnants of an era when gold panners still combed the streams for nuggets while ranchers began to replace prospecting with agriculture.

Many of the relics of that era would have been lost forever if it were not for the efforts of a number of archaeologists and historians, who sifted through the debris and destruction shortly after the fire to identify and document both what was lost and what remains.

Time was of the essence shortly after the fire, which destroyed much of the natural landscape as well as past and present human habitations over an area of almost 71,000 acres.Butte fire

With cleanup crews descending on the fire scar shortly after the disaster, historians had less than two months to get into the field and survey important historical sites, said julia costello, who participated in the study.


Since the county did not have an established database for historic landmarks in the area, relics of the past would have been hauled off with other housing debris and toxic soils if costello and others from the california department of forestry and fire protection and sonoma state university did not visit the area first.

Eventually, archaeologists would record seven historical sites out of about 20 sites that had been identified before completing a report in 2016.Historical sites they presented their findings throughout 2017. Funded by a $30,000 donation from cal fire, researchers surveyed one town, which supported the mining industry in the 1800s, and six ranches that would have operated after the gold rush era began to wane.

Specific locations for many of the sites were not identified in the report, costello said, because anonymity deters looters, a common problem for archaeological and historical sites. Costello said all of the sites were on private property. Highlights of the seven sites are presented here:

In its heyday, the town had four grocery stores, two butcher shops, a french bakery, a candy shop, a dairy, winery, blacksmith shop and school.Costello said in all, costello said about 30 commercial buildings made up the boomtown that emerged in the early gold rush era to support the mining industry. A fire in 1861 began the town’s demise.

A house on the ranch dates back to an 1870 placer mining claim, but the ranch expanded between 1884 and 1930. After the curnow family, the ranch was leased to the flint and ponte families before charlie luce bought the ranch in 1980. The fletchers came into ownership in the 2000s.

In the 1850s, this site had a store, hotel, restaurant and the county hospital, which remained until 1869. When the hoerchner family moved to mokelumne hill in the mid-1860s, their house on the land the family shared with two other partners fell into ruin.Bought ranch

In 1887, george and rachel mckisson bought the land and built a new house atop the foundation of the old store as well as a barn. Renovations continued through the 1900s, as extended family built a garage and improved the barn.

In 1969, the same year gus spraker and harlan reese bought the property, the mckisson house burned down. The barn was later converted to a residence for 45 years.

Giacomo and agness gambetta bought the ranch in 1880 after the couple came from switzerland to join the burgeoning swiss-italian population. The family and their three children maintained ownership of the land until it was bought by the calaveras cement co. In 1932 to develop its limestone deposits.Bought ranch before it was sold in 1981, cement company manager grant metzger’s family was allowed to settle on the land as caretakers.

Later, new owners repaired and reoccupied the buildings before a fire in 1992 destroyed the property’s two homes. A greenhouse, the only remaining building on the site, was destroyed in the butte fire.

In 1860, bartolomeo ratto and giovanni lagomarsino, entrepreneurs from jesus maria, bought this ranch, which had been developed in the 1850s. They then built a large stone home.

Lagomarsino’s brother and sister-in-law developed the ranch further with olive groves and cattle. The ranch remained in the lagomarsino family until 1984, when the morsco family bought the homesite and renovated the property.Butte fire

This ranch was purchased by atilio and mary lombardi in 1877. Their nine children and eight children from a second generation were raised on the ranch. The property was sold in 1968 and again in 1988.

The hoffman family settled on the property along ponderosa way by 1860. The family has owned the land ever since. The family farmed and raised goats before they relocated to fresno in 1875.

By 1900, the family’s oldest son returned to the land that had a house, pole barn and small barn. Years later, his son left with his family to develop property in sheep ranch, but another descendant eventually returned to the ranch on ponderosa way in 1967 and lived there until 1997.Butte fire

For more details, the 182-page study published by costello, judith marvin, another local historian, and kyle rabellino of sonoma state university, can be found on calaverasenterprise.Com. Locations have been removed to protect the location of american indian sites.

banner