The history of Copperopolis (known locally as “Copper”) is closely tied to the Civil War. The 19 million pounds of copper mined in the 1860s made Calaveras County second in national production of this ore. Mining, workshop sites, and other historical artifacts from this era remain alongside buildings that have been restored by the perseverance and ingenuity of some townspeople.
Copper’s population at its historical height was between 2,000 and 4,000, which is where the current population stands. The town boomed during both world wars’ production of Copper ore, but none has been mined since.
This is also the location of several stage hold-ups by notorious gentleman-bandit, Black Bart, and the scene of his eventual capture. This masked highwayman’s reputation for being a gentleman comes from the fact that he never harmed anyone in any of his holdups, was always polite and left his own poetry at the scene once or twice. In fact, his “gentlemanly” behavior led police to describe him this way:
“…a person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances, and was extremely proper and polite in behavior. Eschews profanity.”
Some of the gold he stole from Wells Fargo reputedly remains hidden somewhere in Copperopolis to this day. After capture, Black Bart was sentenced to six years in San Quentin but was let out for good behavior after four. Wells Fargo detectives apparently continued following him until his eventual disappearance in 1888.
There are four buildings in town on the National Register of Historic Places: Copperopolis Armory, Copperopolis Congregational Church, Honigsberger Store and Reed’s Store.
Copperopolis no longer holds claim to bandits or any working mines, but visitors and residents are drawn by the recreational attractions which include a beautiful 18 hole golf course winding through the old oaks and rolling hills, and Lake Tulloch, a year round water wonderland.
Today you can enjoy the culture, friendliness and generous spirit of Copperopolis locals at the events that take place in Copperopolis Town Square.