Research into the history of the location proposed for the Bret Harte High School Aquatic Center was conducted prior to its construction. It is located in Altaville, known originally as Forks of the Road, Cherokee Flat and Cherokee Diggings, the enduring name bestowed at a town meeting in 1857. By the 1880s, Altaville, Spanish for “upper village,” boasted a hotel, foundry, fairgrounds, livery stable, wagon making shop, blacksmith, dance hall, stores and saloons, as well as fine residences (Leonard 1985:6). In addition, several important quartz mines and mills coursed southerly down Main Street to Angels Camp, while the Catholic, Public, and Serbian Orthodox cemeteries were established on the Stockton Road. Altaville was annexed to Angels Camp in 1912 and is now part of the City of Angels.
The land on which the Aquatic Center is located (Lot 2, Block 2 of Altaville Townsite) was owned by Bartolo and Mary Prince and their family from the early 1870s until they subdivided it in the 1890s-1930s. Lot 2 was previously owned in conjunction with lots 1 and 3, as well as Lot 25, Block 1, on the south side of the Murphys Road by John and Mary Baumhogger, natives of Prussia, who had settled in the community in the 1850s, with John working a claim on Bald Hill. The couple raised seven children on the property, where John worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker. The family had a large garden on lot 3, with their residence on either lots 1 or 2. When John was killed in the Doctor Hill Mine in 1874, Mary sold all four parcels to Bartolo (Romaggi) Prince. Prince had arrived in California in 1852 and went into partnership with G. Garabardi in the dry goods business in Altaville. In addition to this establishment, he also operated a quartz mine, a hotel, an undertaking parlour, and a silkworm industry. By 1857 he had amassed enough money to contract with David Strosberger to erect an elegant new stone store, still standing on the west side of Main Street.
A native of Italy and relative of the Romaggi family of Albany Flat, Prince soon erected a livery stable on the northeast corner of the Angels Camp and San Andreas Road and the Murphys Toll Road (Grade Road) on Lot 1, Block 2, and the Altaville Hotel on the south side of the Murphys Road. The stable was depicted on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from 1890-1905 as Prince’s Livery and Feed, with stalls for horses and storage for carriages. A horse corral and windmill were located to the east, and a barn to the northeast. By 1905, a hose house with hose cart (firehouse) had been erected to the north. There were no structures on the current location of the Aquatic Center, but the Prince Mine was located on Lot 3. With his Altaville Hotel anchoring the southeast corner of the intersection, Prince controlled most of the commercial enterprises in Altaville for 47 years (Buckbee 1922:47-48; Sanborn 1890, 1895, 1905), except for the Altaville/Demarest Foundry.
By 1922 the livery stable was no longer extant and had been replaced by a saloon, with gas and oil pumps, and a welding shop (Sanborn 1922). In 1939 Ritchart and Anthony Damas were assessed for the property, 100 x 60 feet of lots 1 and 2, with a corrugated iron building assessed at $300. In 1941 a deed from the Prince family to Tony Damas was recorded (Official Record Book 27:198). Damas operated a service station on the corner for many years (U.S. Federal Census 1920). In the 1950s the Foppiano brothers (Bert, Bob, and Ray) erected the extant concrete block service station on the site (built by Nels Moeller). At about the same time, Elmer Canepa built the concrete block building to the north, which he operated as a restaurant and bar (present Pinnell’s Floor Covering). Adjoining that building to the north, another concrete block building was constructed for an insurance business (present Calaveras Travel Service) (Eberhardt 2009). This property is located adjacent to, and south of, the Aquatic Center, on Lot 1, Block 2 of the Altaville Townsite.
On his large Lot 2, in 1894 B.R. Prince sold a 50 x 63-foot parcel fronting on the Altaville-San Andreas Road to Frank Durgen (Deed Book 24:274). Durgen was a blacksmith and erected his two-story shop on the lot by the following year; by 1905 it was noted as a blacksmith shop and dwelling, and as a dwelling in 1922 (Sanborn 1895, 1905, 1922). The property was sold by Charles Camper to Clara (Mrs. Joseph) Monte Verda in 1925 (Deed Book 85:67). The house was valued at $100 in 1939 (Calaveras County Assessment Rolls), and depicted on the site in 1940 (California Department of Transportation 1940). It was located on what is now part of the Bank of Stockton/County Office of Education property, adjacent to the Aquatic Center on the north. It was demolished when the Bank of America (Bank of Stockton) building was erected (Eberhardt 2009, Folendorf 2009).
In 1897 Prince sold another parcel of Lot 2 (13 x 60-feet) to Irene Smith (Deed Book 38:502), which was assessed to Mrs. Lillian B. Smith and Howard Savage in 1904. A one-story dwelling was depicted on the property the following year (Sanborn 1905), owned by I.J. Dill, et ux, in 1940 (California Department of Transportation 1940). The property was located adjacent to the Aquatic Center on the south and is now occupied by the Calaveras Travel Service building (APN 58-019-07).
The remainder of Prince’s Lot 2 property apparently stayed vacant of structures until the Prince family began subdividing in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Deeds from family members (Edward R. Prince, Frank R. Prince, Tessie R. [Prince] Favinger, Mary L. Buhrer, Lawrence G. Preston [AKA Goldstone], Henry P. Fischer, Ethel [Fischer] Eckhoff, and Albert Prince Eckhoff) were recorded in those years to properties along the Altaville Road (South Main Street) and the Murphys Grade Road. Several buildings, including those of P.E. Girodi, G.N. Hawes, C.A. Twisselman, and Tony Damas were built on the east side of Main Street (Deed Books:various, California Department of Transportation 1940); all were removed for later construction activities (State Route 49, Bank of America, Sprouse-Reitz, Safeway, Calaveras Travel Service, Canepa Restaurant, Foppiano Service Station, etc.).
The parcel encompassing the Aquatic Center (APN 58-019-20) was depicted in 1940 as belonging to the Prince Estate, with a small structure (shed, pumphouse?) belonging to Irene Crespi (California Department of Transportation 1940). The property was otherwise vacant, and has remained so since (Mother Lode Engineering 1979, Stemler 2009, Eberhardt 2009, Folendorf 2009). In 1979 it belonged to the Crespi family, but was sold to Bret Harte High School in anticipation of constructing an aquatic center on the site. Preliminary excavation work was conducted in the 1990s, resulting in the large rectangular pit on the property (Deaver 2009). The rear portion of Lot 2 was purchased by Bret Harte High School and a student parking lot constructed.
In regards to transportation, the Aquatic Center is located on one of the earliest roads in Calaveras County, known in various years as the Road from Mokelumne Hill (GLO 1871); Altaville to Angels Camp Road, Angels Camp to San Andreas Road (Deed Books, various); Main Street (Beauvais 1873); and South Main Street. It has remained in the same basic alignment since the early 1850s, but was widened, improved, and moved slightly to the east by the California Department of Transportation in 1940. It was widened and improved again in recent years as State Route 4/49.
When it comes to water in the area, the Angels Camp branch of the Union Water Company Ditch, constructed from the Stanislaus River to Murphys in 1853 and extended to Angels Camp that same year, coursed through the Aquatic Center property from north to south (Beauvais 1873, Sanborn 1890, 1895, 1905, 1922). The ditch branched north of the Aquatic Center, with one branch swinging westerly to the Gold Cliff Mine, and the other south through Angels Camp to operate the overshot wheels of the gold mills. It was abandoned and filled in many years ago.
By Judith Marvin
1873 Map of Altaville, Calaveras County, California.
Buckbee, Edna Bryan
1932 Pioneer Days of Angels Camp. Calaveras Californian, Angel’s Camp, California.
Calaveras, County of
var. Deed Books
var. Official Record Books
var. Assessor’s Roll Books
California Department of Transportation
1940 Plan and Profile of State Highway in Calaveras County between San Andreas and Angels Camp. On file, Calaveras County Archives, San Andreas, and Caltrans, Stockton.
2009 Notes on interview of 3 April 2009. On file, Foothill Resources, Ltd., Murphys.
2009 Notes on Interview of 9 April 2009. On file, Foothill Resources, Ltd., Murphys.
2009 Notes on Interview of 6 April 2009. On file, Foothill Resources, Ltd., Murphys.
General Land Office
1871 Township 3 North, Range 13 East, Plat.
var. Las Calaveras, Quarterly Bulletin of the Calaveras County Historical Society, San Andreas.
Leonard, Edward C.
1985 A Brief History of Angels Camp. Old Timer’s Museum, Murphys, California.
Mother Lode Engineering
1979 Record of Survey of a Portion of Lots 2 and 4, Block 2, Altaville Townsite, Lying in the SW ¼ of Section 28, T.3N, R.13E, M.D.M., Calaveras County, California. Prepared for L.H. International Development, Alameda, by Mother Lode Engineering, Inc., Altaville, California.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps,
Altaville: 1890, 1895, 1905, 1922.
Stemler, Emily (Angels Camp Museum)
2009 Notes on Interview of 6 April 2009. On file, Foothill Resources, Ltd., Murphys.
U.S. Federal Census (Ancestry.com):
1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.