One of the few Sierra foothill towns where gold wasn't important, this little town in the southern Mother Lode had its beginnings in 1860 when Hiram Hughes, a miner who had prospected for years in Nevada without success sent some ore samples to be assayed for silver content. They contained copper then worth $120 a ton. Quail Hill mine was the first, and the timing was perfect: the Civil War had just broken out, and the need for copper was great. After the war, the bottom fell out of the market. However, in 1902, demand had again risen and the mines were reopened. The mines operated until the early 1950s. Between 1860 and 1867 several thousand people lived here, but few do today. The ore was smelted thousands of miles away, carried first by cart to Stockton, then by riverboat to San Francisco, then by ship to New England and Swansea, Wales.

Access the town from Highway 4. Some of the old buildings here were built in the 1860s from brick hauled from Columbia, where buildings there were being torn down by miners in an effort to get at the gold beneath. Several brick structures remain in Copperopolis. The largest was once the Federal Armory and served as headquarters for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Next door visitors will find the old warehouse and office buildings of the Copper Consolidated Mining Company. At the other end of town an I.O.O.F. hall was originally a church and more recently has served as a community center.

Close by Copperopolis is a fictional town invented by Bret Harte. He set his story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," in this valley that was once known as O'Brynes Ferry and that is now inundated by Turlock Dam.

Today the beautiful area booms with fine residences and more.

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