Settled in 1848 by miners from Sonora, Mexico, this area was once a cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture with parks, elaborate saloons and the Southern Mines’ largest concentration of gamblers and gold. Racial unrest drove the Mexican settlers out and their European immigrant usurpers got rich on the Big Bonanza Mine, where Sonora High School now stands. That single mine yielded 12 tons of gold in two years (including a 28lb nugget).
Today, people en route to Yosemite National Park use Sonora as a staging post. The historic center is so well preserved that it’s a frequent backdrop in films.
Smaller Jamestown is 3 miles south of Sonora, just south of the Hwy 49/108 junction. Founded around the time of Tuolumne County’s first gold strike in 1848, today the place limps along on tourism and antiques. It has its charm but is only a few blocks long.