The Gold Rush was more than gold. Many areas of the economy developed to support the communities that grew around mining. Thousands came to Gold Country to make their living in other occupations. While many came to strike it rich, they quickly realized that it was more secure to serve the needs of miners.
Feeding the communities was crucial so ranching and farming became an important activity. Cattle ranching was well-suited to the water-scarce region, and ranching and cattle drives continue to the present day. Other farmers turned to growing barley and potatoes, and planting orchards, some of which can still be seen.
An abundance of trees enabled many to establish timber businesses. Wood was widely used in both placer and hard rock mining, as well as home building and fuel. Wood products were vital for Hetch Hetchy construction. As a result, sawmills were common between Big Oak Flat and the eastern communities. Some, such as the Laveroni mill, lasted into the 1950s.
Transportation of goods and people was also important. Before the motorcar era, many freighting businesses with large horse trains hauled goods throughout the region. To support those industries, blacksmith and wheelwright services were significant local occupations. Later, automobiles required the opening of gas stations and mechanics’ shops.
Many settlers took up commerce and shopkeeping. Stores came and went, but a few lasted as community cornerstones for many years such as the Cassaretto Store on Main Street in Groveland. It and a series of other stores in the same location successfully served the needs of local residents for decades.
George Mecartea Blacksmith Shop
(Photo, Mecartea Family Collection)