::Logan looks into mystery of Sutter Creek’s Amador Trail
There’s a yellowing, circa 1984 clipping from the Sacramento Bee in Logan’s notebooks about the late Ismail Mike Ynzunza and the frantic time he had proving the legal bounds of his lot on that short and somewhat hidden street, Amador Trail, just below Amador High School, in Sutter Creek.
Besides the clipping, over time, Logan has found a few other facts which reveal a bit more history of Amador Trail, if not definitive answers to when it was pioneered and by whom.
Last Saturday, Logan drove north up Highway 49 to the top of the grade that overlooks much of Sutter Creek. Keep mum, but he hopped a gate briefly (but not quickly) for a better view of the area of Amador Trail, albeit hidden among the trees and structures.
Later, he turned off Spanish Street, and dropped into China Gulch to take more photos of the street. Ynzunza’s former house was probably in a photo but that’s not relevant here.
A veteran Sacramento Bee feature writer, Walt Wiley, who the writer talked with periodically, wrote that there was no mystery how the problematic short street got its name. “There appears to be no doubt these days,” wrote Wiley, “that, back in the ‘49er times, a trail led up China Gulch from the heart of this old gold camp to Amador City just over the hill. No one doubts that the trail came to be known as Amador Trail.”
Thus, the assertion it was a ‘49er trail no doubt taken by prospectors, and maybe small, horse-drawn wagons as a short-cut to gold claims and mines where the Sutter Gold Mining Co. is today.
Short-cut? Early on there were few options to travel from Sutter Creek toward Amador City. Neither the present Highway 49, of course, nor any other road traversed the corridor which that highway does now.
Spanish Street became Ione road as it climbed over the hill west, or to Amador City, if you took another shortcut over God’s Hill to the village and its mines. Today’s Amador City Road, off Highway 49 — which becomes Turner Road — was the principal route from camp to destinations north.
Thus, the Amador Trail cut through middle ground to all the claims and mines southerly of Amador City. In its vicinity were quartz mining claims like the “McIntyre (sic: McIntire), Westside, North Star, Wabash, Occident, Comet, Golden Eagle, and then Lincoln.”
None but the Lincoln produced much bullion, although a shaft or two went deep elsewhere — but not deep enough. Thus, you had a string of Mother Lode vein quartz claims atop a block of land, which didn’t attract real capital until Sutter Gold and its predecessor started prospecting with a long decline and many drilled test holes in the last two decades.
One of those non-productive mines was the McIntire, eponymous with a most historic and pioneer name in Sutter Creek, county education and mining. A true ‘49er was Edward McIntire, first county superintendent of schools, and principal owner of the historic Lincoln by another name in the mid-1850s. The McIntire Mine’s ground was where Highway 49 now runs at the top of the grade and surely the Amador Trail ran directly to it and possibly beyond it in the 1880s and perhaps earlier.
I ask tomorrow’s historian to look further into this trail and try and marshal evidence how long it has existed. It shows as an unnamed way on the edge of the 1871 Sutter Creek townsite map. It doesn’t really show on the county’s 1881 and 1904 maps. In fact, the earliest map Logan finds it on is a special gold mining map, Cosumnes River to Jackson, done by J. J. Wright in 1913.
Clearly shown it is, off Spanish Street, to about below where Sutter Gold’s parking lot is now, on Stringbean Alley, which cuts off from Turner Road down into Amador City. The trail cut right through the North Star property on its route.
While it may have been a foot trail in our earliest days, it wasn’t until March, 1885 when John McIntire, enterprising son of Edward and Janelle, cut a road between Sutter Creek and the family mine, creating a direct, alternate route to that and other mining properties.
But it wasn’t until the 1920s when the state highway between Amador City and Sutter Creek co-opted much of Amador Trail and left the small vestige of the street so named. Amador Trail still exists today, but truncated at both ends in China Gulch — and short and hidden still.