Debbie Croft: The crown jewels of Mariposa

August 22, 2013 

In 1850, shortly before California became the 31st state to join the union, the county of Mariposa was formed. Because of the area's sparse population, it encompassed one-fifth of the state.

Mariposa County was christened the Mother of Counties.

Four years later, the county courthouse was constructed on land donated by John C. Fremont. The cost to build was $9,300.

Some of the timbers used in construction came from an area called Logtown, on the west side of the town's cemetery.

The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest courthouse still in use today west of the Rocky Mountains.

The original brick vault, built in 1861, had walls 3 feet thick. A second vault was built 30 years later.

The iconic cupola and clock were added in 1866.

Other additions and renovations have been made throughout its history.

Near one of the oldest sections of Mariposa, between Eighth and Eleventh streets, and along Jones and Bullion streets, is a group of historic buildings that make up Courthouse Square. Many of these structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The first building to be included, of course, was the courthouse.

The second was the George Lind house. It sits to the west and across from the courthouse on Bullion Street. The Lind residence was built in 1897. Lind served as county treasurer from 1926 to 1934.

Third was the Milburn House, built by Thomas Lind in 1898. It later became the home of Louis T. Milburn and his wife, Eilleen McGuire.

Milburn was a native of Mariposa, born in 1893. He was elected at the age of 25 to be district attorney, the youngest in state history. He served as district attorney until his death in 1946.

Milburn became the first director of Veterans Services for Mariposa County.

Fourth and fifth were the Henry Garber Jr. house and the Henry Garber Sr. house. The two homes were joined by a raised walkway.

The elder Garber emigrated from Germany around 1856. He owned a livery stable that continued operating for a time after the invention of the automobile.

The Thorn house was sixth in the square, sitting behind the courthouse, to the east, across Jones Street. This residence belonged to the superintendent at Whitlock Mine but was dismantled around 1902 and moved to town.

Colonel Thorn's great-granddaughter, May Kleiman, lived in the house until her death in 1991.

Seventh was the old Mariposa Gazette building, on the corner of Jones and Ninth Streets. The Gazette has published weekly since 1855. The newspaper office moved to the downtown area a few years ago, and recently relocated to a new facility on Fifth Street.

Eighth was the prettiest Victorian residence in town: the Trabucco-Campbell house.

Joseph J. Trabucco and his wife, Edith Ridgeway, moved into their brand-new home in 1901.

Trabucco served as Mariposa County district attorney from 1894-1902. In 1903 he was elected as Superior Court judge and served until his death in 1938.

None of his decisions were ever overturned.

The Campbell family now owns the house.

Ninth was the Adair house, built for Joseph Adair. He eventually deeded the house to his wife, Annie Kerrins. Adair was a schoolteacher, owner of the Gazette, and served as district attorney for eight years.

Adair's father, James, came to Mariposa with J.C. Fremont.

Sheriff John J. Castagnetto and his wife, Alta Prouty, owned the house in later years.

And tenth was the Tiscornia & Ivers Mariposa Funeral Home. In 1935, the place was built by Frank Greeley for George Tiscornia. The chapel was named after Winifred Williams in 2000, for his dedicated community involvement.

The Mariposa County Museum and History Center has possession of notes from the Court of Sessions minutes and Board of Supervisors minutes from the years 1851-1867.

The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest courthouse stillin use today west of the Rocky Mountains

For more information, go to www.mariposacourt. org and www. mariposaresearch.net. Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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