Copperopolis CA

Copper ore was discovered in the Sierra foothills of Calaveras County in 1860 by Thomas McCarty and William K. Reed. The two men, along with Dr. Allen Blatchly, founded the town of Copperopolis tat same year. The town quickly became the largest producer of copper in the western US, due in large part of supplying ore to the Union army during the Civil War, and its population reached 10,000 by 1863.

Copperopolis thrived during the Civil War, at a time when gold mining in the Mother Lode was in decline. It became one of the largest and important cities in 1860s California. The first post office was established in 1861 and Copperopolis was a stop on the main stage road from Sonora to Sacramento.

The Union mine was the largest producing mine of the six in the area. When the war ended, the mining and shipping costs of copper became too expensive and the population shrunk as mines shuttered. In addition, much of Copperpolis burned down in 1867.

Demand for copper increased in the late 1880s with the movement towards electrification. Copper mining in the area resumed. The years around the World Wars were the most prosperous for Copperopolis. The mines were finally closed in 1946.

Calaveras County
Population: 3,671 (2010 census)
Elevation: 997 ft.

Date visited: June 26, 2020

[Picture of Copperopolis historical plaque]

Copperopolis Armory

Constructed in 1864, the brick Copperopolis Armory was built in the Greek Revival style and housed the Union Guard of Copperopolis, the town's regiment of the Union Army. The 1860s boom in copper mining stemmed largely from the Union Army's need for copper ammunition. The armory served a number of purposes for the regiment: enlisting new soldiers, conduct training, and store ammunition and supplies. The armory was also used for military balls, victory celebrations, and local funeral ceremonies for Abraham Lincoln. A 1837 bronze cannon remains within the armory. After the war, the Independent Order of Oddfellows bought the building and converted it into a social hall. The armory became a community center in 1940.

[Picture of Copperopolis Armory]

[Picture of Copperopolis Armory plaque]

Reed's Store

One of the first discoverers of copper in the area, William K. Reed built this Neoclassical-style, two-storied brick store in 1861. Reed's was the most successful store in town until the 1867 fire and declining copper industry diminished the town's population. A number of lessees rented the store over the next two decades until mine owner Charles Ames bought it in 1890. The store was sold to Charles Fontana by 1900. In 1906, the store was bought Union Copper Mining Company and became its headquarters. Later renamed the Calaveras Copper Mining Company, the company occupied the building through the town's 1909-1929 copper boom.

[Picture of Reed's Store]

Honigsberger Store

L. Honigsberger first built his store in 1861, but then replaced it with this Neo-classical brick building in 1865. The store was prosperous during the first copper book of the 1860s, but business dropped off significantly after the boom ended and the 1867 fire swept through the town. In 1905, the Honigsberger family sold the store to the Union Copper Mining Company (renamed Calaveras Copper Mining Company in 1909). The mining company used the store as a warehouse during the 1909-1929 copper boom.

[Picture of Honigsberger Store]

Powder House

The remains of this small, stone building stands on the other side of the parking lot from the back of Honigsberger Store. Though there is nothing to identify it, the structure has the look of a Powder House. Powder Houses were structures that housed volatile materials such as gunpowder or dynamite and placed safely away from a mine. The buildings walls were stoutly built, but the roof was flimsier so that an accidental explosion would result in the main force of the blast going skyward.

[Picture of Powder House]

Old Corner Saloon

Originally known as Ed Moore Saloon, the current saloon was built as a one-story structure in 1889 on a site where earlier saloons were believed to have existed since 1862. A second story for lodging was built in 1891, along with an extension on the south side of the building for a butcher shop. In time, Ed Moore sold the business to G. Macmillian Ross, which later passed to the Bank of Amador. By 1910, it passed to the Union Copper Mining Company, which ran Copperopolis like a company town during the 1910s and 1920s copper boom. Over the years, the second floor served as a brothel, hotel, and rental apartments. The Old Corner Saloon operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

[Picture of Old Corner Saloon]

[Picture of Old Corner Saloon side]

[Picture of Old Corner Saloon patio]

[Picture of Old Corner Saloon plaque]

Old Mining Structure

On a rise behind the Old Corner Saloon stands a derelict building and four concrete pilings, the latter of which suggested there was once a larger metal structure (stamp mill?) operating there. There was no plaque describing any such structure, so we are left to guess.

[Picture of Stamp Mill 1]

[Picture of Stamp Mill 2]

[Picture of Stamp Mill interior]

[Picture of Four concrete pilings]

Unidentified Old Store

There is nothing identifying this building, which looks like it may have been constructed in the early 20th century.

[Picture of Unidentified Old Store]

Copperopolis Congregational Church

Built in the Gothic Revival style, the brick Copperopolis Congregational Church was built in 1866. Services were held in the church until 1895. The Independent Order of Oddfellows bought the church in 1903 and converted it into a lodge hall, which remained in use until 1939. The church then became a community center.

[Picture of Congregational Church]

[Picture of Congregational Church plaque]

Copperopolis Cemetery

The Copperopolis Cemetery is located to the west of the town's historic plaza (where the Armory, Reed's Store, and Honigsberger Store stands). The cemetery is divided into four areas: Masons, Oddfellows, People's Protestant, and Catholic.

[Picture of Copperopolis Cemetery plaque]

[Picture of Copperopolis Cemetery sign]

[Picture of Giuseppa Andrea Fontana grave]

[Picture of Wooden grave marker]

[Picture of IOOF cemetery sign]