Historic Mariposa, CA
April 25, 26, 27, 2008

The Fremont Adobe

The Oldest Building in Mariposa
The Fremont Adobe
 By Tom Phillips



On September 13th of 1849 the first group of white 49er's arrived in the Mariposa valley.  Angevine Reynolds, one of the 49ers, and later owner of the Mariposa Gazette, gave an account of their first arrival.  "There were not hotels, stores, saloons, courthouse, jails or even a newspaper of any sort here then.  The present locality of Mariposa had not given birth to a town at that time.  The only sign of any one living in this neighborhood was a few Mexican miners camping on Missouri Gulch, and Scott and Montgomery's butcher corral at the junction of Stockton and Mariposa creek."  

The gold miners set up their camp along the creek banks but with the winter's high waters washing away their efforts the bluff above the creek seemed more appropriate.

Fremont's adobe building was probably built in the spring or summer of 1850.  It was built out of adobe with a basement and a two-story section in the rear.  The building has historically been called Fremont's headquarters, but may have been more of an office for Fremont's attorneys or the Cook, Palmer & Co., which leased Fremont's mine on the southern end of town.  Fremont's need for attorneys began with Fremont's ownership of the disputed "Las Mariposas Grant" which Fremont contended encompassed most of the prime mining sections of the county. The Las Mariposas Grant was finalized in 1859.

In 1859, Fremont sold the Fremont adobe building to Victorio Ablies and the rest of the unsold lots in Mariposa to "Quartz" Johnson.  Abilies held the building until 1863 when he sold it to Louis Feibush.  Feibush had jewelry and watch repair shop in the building since 1862.  Feibush held the building for just over a year when he sold it to the Stahl Brothers.  The Stahl Brothers opened a bakery in the building and later changed it to a Dry Goods store.

Mariposa's 1866 Fire, which destroyed most of the town, did damage to the adobe building, but the building survived and the damaged portions were rebuilt with fireproof brick.  During the time the Stahl's owned the building, in 1882/3, they leased it to John Higman who opened a general store there.

One of the most remembered uses for the building was that of the Mariposa Restaurant and Gordon Hotel.  Pete Gordon, early pioneer and stage driver, and his wife, Margaret, ran their business there from 1888 till 1909 when their estate sold the building to John Trabucco.  In 1896, Cornelious Vejer painted large murals on the walls.  During the later years of Gordon’s tenure the building was leased to Pat Stanton who continued the business.

John Trabucco leased the building to George Bertken in 1921.  Bertken opened a butcher shop there.  George Bertken was also the town constable.

The building's name was changed to the Gold Coin Club in 1937 when Charles Greenamyer and Don Turner opened a saloon and restaurant.  The Gold Coin Club's name was chosen to reflect the success they had in the Gold Coin Mine, which they operated in the Coulterville area.

In 1949, when the Gold Coin was under the management of the Maxwell family the building caught fire and the interior  was almost completely destroyed.  It was reopened three months later in March of 1949.  The "Gold Coin Club" continued under different management groups until closing down a few years ago.  In 1988 Winfred VonDerAhe purchased the property along with the other properties owned by the Trabucco family.



Folklore of the Fremont Building

During Fremont's time the basement of the building is said to have contained a tunnel that led to the Mariposa Mine and a private jail.  Though bars can be seen under the main structure from the rear, it is unlikely that Fremont ever tried to use it as a jail, as Fremont was not very popular with many of the residents of the area because of his claim to much of the prime mining area. 

A tunnel between the mine and the office, though not impossible to construct, would have to have run so deep that it would not have been practical to raise gold from the tunnel to the basement for storage.  There are even stories of the building being used as a bordello, but with Jessie Benton Fremont's background and John C. Fremont's desire to be elected President of the United States it is unlikely that they would have been connected to such an operation.