Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sutter Creek Community Benefit Foundation - Fall 2015

This is a reminder that our Donor Appreciation Evening will be held at the Historic Sutter Creek Grammar School on Thursday October 29, 2015
5:00 to 6:30pm
Sutter Creek
Fire History Project 
The Sutter Creek Fire Department History Project is restoring and recreating vintage fire equipment used in the Mother Lode for the last 150 years.
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P.O. Box 24 
Sutter Creek, CA 95685 
(209) 560-6880 

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General membership renewal letters will be mailed out this December 
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Tremendous progress has been made at the historic Sutter Creek Grammar School. A major project that can be seen from all over town is the restoration of the front porch and pouring of the concrete staircase. When Sutter Creek Community Benefit Foundation took on the school project the front stairs were wooden and quickly crumbling away. The new stairway will certainly last through the buildings next century. The eleven stairs are a sweeping twenty feet across and took over sixty yards of concrete. The 2015 Sutter Creek Primary School class pictures were taken on the new steps, renewing a 145 year tradition.
The front porch railings were reused where possible and the new railings were constructed to match the originals. Some front porch pillars were restored and those that were built were modeled off of the originals. The front porch gable structure and roof were repaired and reattached and will appear unchanged from the front.
During the restoration of the front porch original decorative brickwork and a wooden starburst structure were revealed (As seen in the image below). These strictly cosmetic intricate features have likely been hidden since an 1890 expansion which added the gable structure. The new porch ceiling has been redesigned to box in and feature the original 1840 brickwork.

The large concrete slab in the center of the park will support the five head stamp mill built at the The weed choked, semi-neglected, used car lot that once occupied the South end of town has already undergone a tremendous transformation. The grading, tree-trimming, and new rock barriers have revealed a lovely shady space.
There have been some other interesting appearances at the Bend. While it is fun to guess what function these large, somewhat imposing, certainly awkward to move mechanical dinosaurs held hundreds of years ago, we thought we would shed some light on a few.
  • The exhibit at the Southern end of the park is an air compressor with the motor and holding tank. These compressors were used to supply the air used by the equipment that extracted the gold ore from solid rock.
  • Next to the largest of the oak trees is a high pressure water pump that removed water from the mines.
  • The large headframe includes a winch and motor. The headframe was used to bring the gold ore to the surface and to raise and lower men and equipment. The ore car sitting aside is called a Knight Foundry in 1882.
Ultimately the park will feature more than a dozen exhibits of mining era relics including informational signage. Sidewalks, picnic tables, benches, and a water fountain will be installed making Miners' Bend Park an inviting place to spend some time in Sutter Creek.


Sutter Creek History Corner - 
At the corner of Main Street and Badger Street is a building that is known by many as the "Oneto Garage". Today the building is home to the Sutter Creek Cheese Shoppe, Water Street Interiors and Sierra Mountain Outdoors.
This lot located on the banks of Sutter Creek has been an industrial site since the very early days of the City. It wasn't until the 1990s that the street name for the section of road that intersects Main Street was changed from Foundry Street to Badger Street.
The first foundry and stamp mill in Sutter Creek was located on R.C. Downs property at 175 Spanish Street across from the Catholic Church on the creek. By mid 1854 the foundry had moved up the creek to the site at Main Street and Badger Street. The foundry was operated by Frank Tibbits, previously the superintendent at the Lincoln mine. Tibbits died in 1869 and the works were sold to S.S. Mannon. Mannon's Foundry became the Donnelly & Howard's Foundry and then by 1887 it was known as Donnelly's Foundry.
By the early 1870s the Amador Canal ran from the Mokelumne River and served Tanner Reservior located off of Ridge Road just above Sutter Creek. Before electricity, the water pressure from Tanner Reservior provided hydraulic power to Sutter Creek before electricity to power machines at the steam laundry, butcher shop, foundry, newspaper and others. At the same time the parcel between the intersection of Badger Street and Anna Street (Neville's house today) was used by the Amador Canal as their local maintenance yard.
What most people in town don't realize is that this foundry was served by a 10" high pressure line from a reservoir that was located just below Raylan Drive on the Old Highway 49. In fact the original survey map for Highway 49 shows the location of the reservoir. You can still see evidence of the reservoir's berm if you are coming down into town and on your left just after Raylan Drive.
In 1893 electric power was at its early stages of development by the local Amador Electric Railway and Light Company. In that same year Mr. Donnelly died when he fell off a train somewhere between Ione and Galt. Shortly thereafter Samuel Knight bought the foundry property for the Amador Electric Railway and Light Company's use. By 1895 the Foundry was gone and the Amador Electric Railway and Light Company had taken over the site. A Pelton Wheel was first used generate electricity for 1000 lights, but increasing need for more electricity in Sutter Creek, Amador City and Jackson necessitated that another water wheel, that was produced at the Knight Foundry, be added to the powerhouse for 2500 more lights.
In 1898 the Blue Lakes Water Company built a power house on the Mokelumne River very close to Highway 49 to supply power to nearby towns and mines, and as far away as Stockton. At some point around the turn of the century lines from this first power plant on the Mokelumne River were brought to Sutter Creek. Newspaper articles from the time indicated that the local Sutter Creek plant would eventually shut down yet it appears that the Blue Lakes power house did not bring an immediate end to the site in Sutter Creek.
Prince Andre Poniatowski from France and W.H. Crocker formed the Standard Electric Company with the dream of supplying electricity from the Mokelumne River to San Francisco. By 1902 the Standard Electric Company completed a new powerhouse on the Mokelumne River known today as Electra I. This plant eventually supplied most of the San Francisco Peninsula with electricity in the early 1900s.
In 1912 the Standard Electric Company (soon to become Pacific Gas and Electric) took over the parcel between Badger Street and Anna Street for their use as a maintenance shop. Shortly thereafter Pacific Gas and Electric controlled the entire operation of hydropower and transmission in the Amador County and along the Mokelumne River thus bringing an end to Sutter Creek's chapter of hydro-electric production. By 1928 the site on the Creek at Badger and Main became Oneto's garage as all of Sutter Creek's electric power was supplied by Electra I power plant.


Written by Ed Arata and Robert Gordon

Monday, October 12, 2015

Preston Castle Halloween Haunt - Oct 16 &17, 23 & 24, 30

Friday, October 16
Saturday, October 17
Friday, October 23
Saturday, October 24
Friday, October 30
6:30 to 11:00 pm each night
IONE, CA:  The event you've been waiting for, Halloween 2015, at the magnificent, eerie, scary, Preston Castle!  Now that we have ownership, we are planning a bigger and better Haunt, and you will see some new areas of the Castle. Featured on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, come experience Northern California's only REAL Haunted House!

This is a fun "scare" tour and not a historical tour of the Castle.  Please be advised that it may be too intense for younger children, so leave the real young 'uns at home.  There will not be a children's carnival this year.

Food concessions by Clark's Corner and KJ Hot Dogs will take care of your hunger and thirst. Cool merchandise including really great T-Shirts, will be available for purchase.

Come and see if you dare!

Gates open at 6:00 pm, scare tours start at 6:30 pm. Admissions are limited for each night, so order early to make sure you can get in.
A VIP Upgrade gives you Fast Pass line access and a second Haunt walk thru. Just buy your ticket(s) for the night you want, then buy the VIP Upgrade(s).
Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for youth under 14, $15 for VIP Upgrade.  No Refunds.  The Haunt is open from 6:30 to 11:00 pm.  For advanced tickets and information go to  We’re waiting for you!
WHAT:         Preston Castle Halloween Haunt
PRICE:          $20, $10 youth under 14, $15 VIP Upgrade
WHO:           Sponsored by Preston Castle Foundation
                    Bill Thiry, Chairperson
WHERE:       Preston Castle, Ione, CA
35 miles southeast of Sacramento, CA off HWY 104 in Ione
WHEN:         Fri. and Sat., October 16, 17, 23, 24, and 30, 6:30 to 11:00 pm
About Preston Castle Foundation
The strikingly beautiful Romanesque style Preston Castle, on a hill in Ione, was actually the administration building for the Preston School of Industry, the first major attempt in California at rehabilitating, instead of just impris­­­oning, young offenders.  Opened in 1894, the Preston School of Industry became a leader in the juvenile prison reform movement by giving convicted boys a real chance at life by educating them not only in academics, but in all of the useful trades of the time.
 Closed in 1960, when the Preston Youth Authority moved into a new administration building down the hill, the Preston Castle was left to deteriorate due to weather, vandalism, and general neglect.  It now serves as a vacant, but vitally important landmark for Ione, Amador County, and the Motherlode.  It is a California State Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mission of the Preston Castle Foundation is to preserve, rehabilitate, and utilize the historic Preston Castle site.  We are proud of the fact that the State of California has deeded the title for the Castle, four other buildings, and surrounding 13 acres of land, to the Preston Castle Foundation.  This year we are working hard to obtain our own water and sewer connections.  To help raise money for this important project, the Foundation sponsors several fund raising events throughout the year.
In addition to the Halloween Haunt, we will be holding a Halloween Costume Ball on Saturday, October 31, and a holiday fair/bazaar called Old Tyme Christmas on December 12 and 13.
Help Save the Castle and learn more about our history, events, and tours by visiting:  All contributions are tax deductible.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fiddletown's Fall Breakfast Raises Funds for Historic Schoolhouse - Sun Nov 8

Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the colorful fall foliage and a hearty morning meal out in the country.

Visitors are invited to attend the Fiddletown Preservation Society's all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and bake sale Sunday, Nov. 8 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Fiddletown Community Center. All proceeds benefit the restoration of the original one-room Fiddletown Schoolhouse on American Flat Road. Once restoration is complete, the schoolhouse will serve as a community learning/cultural center for small concerts, art and historical exhibits, and other public and private events.  The Preservation Society hosted the first ever public event in the schoolhouse since it closed in 1955,on August 29th with a very successful publishing party for Elaine Zorbas'  new book, "Banished and Embraced:  The Chinese in Fiddletown and the Mother Lode."

Fiddletown Schoolhouse
The structure was built in 1862, and served children in grades 1 through 8 until 1955 when the school closed and students began attending school in the town of Plymouth six miles away. The FPS began restoration efforts in 1964. The inside renovation is mostly done. The inside plumbing is complete - lines from the building to a septic holding tank are in. The schoolhouse was given a new foundation this year, thanks to the years of fundraising. Guests will be welcome to visit the schoolhouse during the breakfast.

Prices for the breakfast are $11 for adults, $3 for ages 6 to 16 and $1 for ages 5 and under. A $1 discount for the bake sale will be offered for each adult ticket purchased. Menu includes: French toast, scrambled eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, bacon and sausage, pastry and muffins, fresh fruit, milk, orange juice and coffee. A separate bake sale will also be available for guests to take home a piece of Fiddletown country goodness. Additionally, the group is selling two new publications - Fiddletown Schoolhouse Memories - based on interviews with former students of the Fiddletown/Oleta School conducted by historian Elaine Zorbas, and "Banished and Embraced:  The Chinese in Fiddletown and the Mother Lode."

For more information, visit or call (209) 245-6042.