From the Napa Valley we headed pretty much east out to the foothills where there appeared a Volcano where no volcano exists. And never has. Its just Volcano CA.
Volcano, the Town
The name leads one to believe there’s an extinct volcano out here. I thought so, too. But with a little online digging I discovered that this valley just looks like a volcano with mist often rising from the valley floor and hovering along the rim. There is no lava here, but there certainly is mining in these hills. Not far from town there’s the California Carrara Marble Quarry, which produced high quality marbled used in the construction of such places as Stanford University, and civic buildings including City Hall in San Francisco.
The town was booming during the California Gold Rush.
Volcano, formerly known as Soldiers’ Gulch or The Volcano, was discovered in 1848 by a Colonel Stevenson, whose men mined Soldiers’ Gulch in 1849. By 1853 the flats and gulches were swarming with men, and business seemed to be booming. At that time there were 11 stores, 6 hotels, 3 bakeries & 3 saloons. Two years later hydraulic mining operations brought a boom….thousands of fortune hunters arrived. The number of hotels tripled, and there was added a library, theatre and “courts of quick justice”. According to the 2010 census, just a little over 100 people call this place “home” at an elevation of 2070 ft (630m) a few miles north of Pine Grove.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
This is a great little town to just walk around, reading the plentiful signs erected to self-educate visitors. Such as this sign for the Bavarian Brewery, right where we parked.
It says that the Bavarian Brewery was the “last of the three breweries in Volcano that helped maintain the spirits of the miners of the Central Mother Lode”.
Volcano is know for more than its gold and marble. It was the home of California’s first astronomical observatory thanks to the miner and amateur astronomer George Madeira in 1860. Here he use the 3 inch refractor telescope to study the heavenlies including the Great Comet of 1861.
The General Store is certainly worth checking out, shelves stocked with both old and new. This is California’s oldest store in continuous use…since 1852!! Originally it was 2 separate stores. It was built from Volcano brick and native limestone.
Here is a reconstruction of the the original portable bandstand built about 1856.
The portable sections were stored in the Armory Hall and would be set up at the intersection in the middle of town when it was required for events.
It now sits at the side of the main intersection (if you can call it that!) where the first bookstore in Amador Country once stood.
Here’s what’s left of the jail, constructed of 2×12 timbers on the outer and inner walls with boiler plate sandwiched in between. The story goes that the first two inmates were the men that actually built the jail!!
Down the street is the Judge’s house. It was originally constructed in the 1850’s for Judge Peter Jonas and his family.
Next door to the Judge’s house was the Union Billiard Saloon and Boarding House built in 1880. It was both a saloon and boarding house for the hard working miners and locals…that is until Prohibition in the 1920’s. Then it served as Volcano Justice Court which was the scene of the first hanging trial presided over by none other than Judge Peter Jonas.
Just about every town has a bakery for Everette to checkout but I had read good reviews about the Kneading Dough Bakery online so I wanted to check it out myself. Besides, I loved the name, and it was time to get a snack.
These are serious sweets. We purchased 4 sweets for the 7 of us…and took left overs home. Along with a loaf of challah.
“Volcano Blues” smuggled the cannon “Old Abe” in by hearse to quell rebel sympathizers. It was only fired once during the Civil War, fired down Main Street causing windows to break in all the shops that hadn’t been warned…those who were sympathetic to the South! Those stores were owned by a Confederate faction known as Knights of the Golden Circle. I guess the warning was to send them a message. Must have worked because Old Abe was never used again.
There’s been a bell in town since 1862. Manufactured in Sheffield, England with Vickers cast steel, it was donated to Volcano by the Unitarian Preacher, Thomas Starr King (and thus named the Starr King Bell) for his gratefulness to the town’s support of the Union and for the election of Abraham Lincoln.
About the year 1852 John Meyers had a framed boarding house he called Eureka House. It burned down (1853) and was rebuilt 3 times, each rebuild getting a new name. The final and existing rebuild is in brick. It’s been the Empire Hotel (burned down 1859), the George Hotel (named for B.F. George) and now St George Hotel.
By the way, the St George Hotel is still open for business.
This mountain air must be really healthy, providing a long life to the town and its residents. Check this out!
The sign about George’s Fountain caught my eye. An amazing story about George, a border collie that arrived in Volcano the year I was born, 1965. She was a self-appointed
- Town Dog
- Town Greeter &
- Town Guide
George was already 10 years old when she moved to Volcano…and died in her 27th year!
Down in the town park grows a Christmas Tree…yeah, that short stunted tree on the right. Not yet decorated (late November) but I somehow feel that townspeople never overlook garnishing this tree with garlands and lights during the festive season.
The tree was planted during WWII “in honour of Volcano Boys in Service, in the Prayerful Hope that the Spirit of Christmas should Forever Rule the Relations of All Men and All Nations”
And here’s wishing long life and health to all of you. Even if you don’t live this beautiful part of California!!
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