Hamilton, California

Hamilton, California

Hamilton, California was the first county seat of Butte County, California. This former mining town once contained two taverns, one store, and one blacksmith shop. Soon after, another tavern was erected, also a new store, under the influence of which the old one gave up business. The clerk’s office was fixed in the bed-room of Tom Gray’s hotel, until a shake shanty could be built. Most of the other officers held their offices in their bed-rooms of the hotel where they were boarding." The court itself was held in an old house owned by "Mother Nichols," a widow who lived in a corner of it, wrote Chalmers.

A property tax of one-quarter per cent was levied to pay for a courthouse and jail, and after much back-room dealing and bribery, a $9200 jail was erected. "Considering the short period of its utility," commented Chalmers, "the cost was hardly compensated for. It was a first-class jail, however, for that time. The walls were of great solidity and thickness, and so protected with sheet-iron that a prisoner once incarcerated within one of its two gloomy cells left hope of escape behind until liberated by due process of law." As for the courthouse, a house sitting about four miles downstream was bought and moved up to Hamilton.

As soon as Butte had its courthouse and jail, however, the citizens of Bidwell’s Bar got the legislature to declare that their town, and not Hamilton, was the County seat, on the condition that the citizens of Bidwell's Bar build a new courthouse and jail, which they did, and the County seat was moved upstream on August 10, 1853. The "old" courthouse in Hamilton was cannibalized for its stone, while the jail was put to use as a granary until it burned down in 1878.

All that is visible from this old town is an overgrown cemetery and the pillars of an old bridge.


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