County seat for Tuolumne County, Sonora is nicknamed "Queen of the Southern Mines." Two brothers from Mexico, Joe and Seamon Cabezut, found gold here in 1848. Their compatriots flocked to the area, and since many were from Sonora, the most northerly of Mexican provinces, the town took the region's name. In its heyday, this was one of the wildest towns in the Mother Lode.

Ethnic contention plagued the town, especially in 1850 when a greed and bigotry-motivated state-wide tax of $30 a month was levied on all so-called foreigners. The town's population dwindled for a time as Mexican and French miners—between 3,00 and 5,000 of them—departed en masse, unwilling to pay the tax. The tax was repealed the following year, and the Mexicans and French returned.

The Tuolumne County Historical Museum, in an old jail on West Bradford Street, features old-time firearms, a gold collection and history of the westward migration. On the second floor of City Hall (94 West Washington Street), visitors will find a display of vintage firefighting equipment.

Piety Hill, close by the beautiful and much-photographed St. James Episcopal Church, was the site of Big Bonanza Mine, considered the largest pocket mine in the Mother Lode. In the 1879s, three partners purchased the mine for a pittance, and after several years discovered a body of almost pure gold. In one day they sent $160,000 in gold to the San Francisco mint, and after another week had passed found another $500,000.

Today Sonora, at the junction of Highway 49 and Highway 108, is a bustling community with many buildings that survive from the early days. Stroll downtown to see many of these buildings. The historic communities of Jamestown and Columbia are only a few miles away.

Traffic--from pickups and buses to logging trucks rumbles constantly on Sonora's main street.
The many antique stores in downtown Sonora entice visitors with their wares from yesteryear.
The landmark St. James Episcopal Church is found in downtown Sonora.
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