Ione is located in the fertile Ione Valley, which is believed to be named by Thomas Brown around 1849 after one of the heroines in Edward Bulwer Lytton's drama "The Last Days of Pompeii." During the days of the Gold Rush, the miners knew the town by the names of "Bedbug" and "Freezeout." Unlike other communities in Amador County, which were founded on gold mining, Ione was a supply center, stage and rail stop and agricultural hub.
The Town of Ione continued to grow and prosper after its gold rush founding. The first school was built in 1853. The historic Methodist Church was organized in 1853 and the structure was completed in 1862. The first flour mill was built in 1855. The first brick building was built by Daniel Stewart in 1855 for his general merchandise store and is still owned and operated by the same family.
At the centennial of 1876, Ione had a population of about 600 which included about 100 Chinese who lived in Ione's Chinatown. The town included one public school, 4 churches, 4 general stores, one meat market, one laundry, one brewery, a resturant, millinery shop, an art gallery, six saloons, a drug store and barber shop, and many other business establishments. The centennial also celebrated the completion of the railroad to the town of Ione. The centennial celebration was the beginning of what is now known as the Ione Homecoming. This annual celebration has been held during the month of May almost every year since that first Centennial celebration in 1876 and is now held on the first weekend in May every year.
The City of Ione was incorporated as a General Law City in 1953 and is now the largest city in Amador County.
Ione has many interesting landmarks and historical points of interest:
The Preston School of Industry, known as The Castle, was built between 1890-1894 to serve as a school for juveniles referred by the courts. The Castle is currently not in use, but the Preston Castle Foundation is working to help restore The Castle.
Dave Brubeck, the famous jazz pianist, lived in Ione and in 1998 scored a video tour of the castle called "A Castle's Song", sold through KVIE to help fund the restoration efforts.
The Castle and grounds are not open to the public, but there are several vantage points in Ione for photographing this famous landmark. Photos of the castle interior can be viewed at the Amador Country Film Commission website.
The Ione Community Cemetery, next to Howard Park on Church Street, reflects the pioneer history of Ione and dates back to 1852. The Catholic Cemetery is across the street. "Iron Ivan", located in a park behind City Hall on Main Street, was the seventh and last steam engine used by the AmadorCentral Railroad.
"Iron Ivan", located in a park behind City Hall on Main Street, was the seventh and last steam engine used by the Amador Central Railroad.
Located on Historic Highway 49, Plymouth is in the heart of the Gold Country and is a perfect place to stay when visiting beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Amador County's Wine Region.
Amador County is now home to over 50 wineries. Many are situated near Plymouth, on scenic back roads in the picturesque rural terrain of historic California. Most Amador wineries are small family operations.
You are likely to meet an owner and winemaker where unpretentious hospitality is normal. While Amador County is justly famous for its Zinfandel wines, new Mediterranean varieties native to Italy and Southern France are beginning to make a fine showing and are becoming common in area tasting rooms.
Plymouth is located at Amador County's north end. In the 1850's Plymouth and nearby Pokerville grew up side by side. Plymouth Consolidated Mine produced over $13 million in gold. Remaining today is the Empire building, once a mining company's brick office.
North of Plymouth you'll find Nashville, once called Quartzburg, one of historic California's earliest quartz-mining districts. The first stamp mill in the Mother Lode operated in Nashville.
Plymouth hosts the Amador County Fairgrounds and is now considered a gateway to many wineries of Shenandoah Valley. Accommodations and camping are available.
The town of Placerville or Hangtown, as it was commonly called during the California Gold Rush, is a beautiful little town with a gold rush flavor that currently attracts many tourists. Perhaps the largest attraction in the area is known as "Apple Hill". It is an area consisting of a series of small apple orchards which cooperate to host a festival celebrating all the many products of this delicious fruit each fall at harvest time. The festival coincides with apple harvest season and generally lasts from September into early November. Although apples are the biggest attraction today, that was not always the case, and Placerville was not originally founded by ranchers hoping to grow apples. It was once a wild and wolly gold rush town full of miners seeking their fortunes in the surrounding hills.
The town does celebrate its gold rush heritage, and although gold is no longer mined, a few tourists do try their hand panning in the local creeks. Back in the early gold rush days, the town consisted of one long straggling street of wooden board houses and log cabins, built in a hollow along the side of a creek, and surrounded by high and steep hills.
While it has always been presumed that Euro-Americans visited and even settled areas of the Sierra Foothill region prior to the discovery of gold at Coloma in 1848, there is only one case where there is written proof that this happened — at a place called Pine Woods, near today’s Sutter Creek. In 1846, John Sutter sent a number of men out from his fort on the American River to search for a source of lumber. One such party discovered an excellent stand of sugar pine about 45 miles east-southeast of the fort on a ridge above two creeks. It is told the settlement started because of a single tent raised there for miners to use on rainy Sundays when they could not get to Jackson or Drytown.
Two years later, the northerly of the creeks would be named for a wealthy Californian who tried his hand at placer mining there — Jose Amador. The southerly of the two creeks would retain the name given to it by the workers at Pine Woods — Sutter’s Creek. By the mid-1850′s, mining interests had moved from the placer gravels of streams to the quartz ledges of the hillsides, and until the mines were shut down by executive order in 1942 Sutter Creek was a full-fledged mining town with some of the richest “deep rock” mines in the Mother Lode. After World War II, and with the centennial of Gold Discovery in 1949, the town quickly turned its attention to tourism, maintaining its Gold Rush heritage and its classic Old West facade. Today, Sutter Creek continues to attract visitors from around the world, drawn by a rich history and small town hospitality.Yes, Sutter did visit the stream in 1848, directing his Indian workers in a search for gold, but he didn’t stay long — Sutter was a land baron, not a miner. Others did stay, however, finding some success in the placer gravels downstream from the old saw pits. By 1854, when Amador County was formed from that part of Calaveras County north of the Mokelumne River, a significant camp had grown up along the stream. Boasting an impressive hotel and several stores and restaurants, Sutter Creek became an incorporated town that September.
Sutter Creek’s rich history includes many famous names like Sutter himself, but the story is incomplete without mentioning two names, first, Hetty Green the one time richest woman in the world (nicknamed “the witch of Wall Street”) was once the owner of the Old Eureka Mine located at the foot of the sweeping curve of Highway 49 just south of town. Second, Leland Stanford for whom the distinguished university is named. Stanford, received stake in Sutter Creek’s Union Mine, (later renamed the Lincoln), for payment of debt. After many discouraging failures at the mine, and almost ready to call it quits the Lincoln Mine hit the proverbial “Mother Lode”. With unlimited finances behind him Stanford became a Railroad baron, a U.S. Senator and eventually Governor of California.
The little town Volcano sits quietly among the hills in Amador County, California. When the weather is nice, tourists flock to the old town and several popular attractions are nearby. One of the best known of these is Daffodil Hill, an old farm planted densely with daffodils of many types. For some weeks each spring the place erupts with riots of color and bloom, and tourists come to picnic among the pines and the flowers. Quiet little Volcano was not always as it is now, it once roared with the activity of thousands of miners digging for gold.
For untold ages the Indian around the site of Volcano had gathered acorns and pine-nuts, and captured the deer and other game with which the hills abounded. But when gold was found in the Sierra Nevada foothills, men rushed to California to get their share of the wealth. When the miners arrived in the Volcano area, gold was discovered in the hills, gold on the flats, in the gulches, everywhere; gold that opens the roads to influence, power, and happiness.