Historic Gold-Rush-Era Inn Haunted by 19th-Century Owner and Guests
In 1848, gold fever swept the West Coast as thousands of prospectors descended upon the Sierra Nevada foothills of Calaveras County, California. In the present-day town of Mokelumne Hill, European businessman George Leger erected a wood-framed canvas tent to cater to the surplus of miners; soon, he transformed it into the booming Hotel de France. For the next 15 years, Leger’s hotel shared a location with the county courthouse, a dungeon, and a hanging tree out back. Mokelumne Hill was known to attract a rough-and-tumble crowd, and recent guests of the restored Hotel Leger claim those rowdy spirits still wander the halls.
Many have reported seeing various apparitions: George Leger, who was reportedly assassinated in the hotel’s room seven; a woman crying out for her baby; and a child playing by a fireplace, to name a few. Other ghostly goings-on have included rocking chairs swaying by themselves, bed linens mysteriously mussed up, and even the phantom noises of a midnight cattle drive—moos, cowbells, and the plodding of hooves. With the included ghost-hunting kit, you can try your hand at summoning the hotel’s otherworldly guests.
At the Hotel Leger’s onsite restaurant, chefs prepare fresh California cuisine with a Mediterranean twist; entrees include burgers off the grill ($7.95), scampi linguine ($14.95), and prime rib ($17.95). The saloon dates back to the mid-19th century, when it served as a watering hole for prospectors. Each guest room is filled with antiques and period furnishings; some rooms have marble fireplaces and access to the wraparound balcony. Outside, three 150-year-old orange trees provide shade in the courtyard, around the corner from an outdoor pool.
Mokelumne Hill, California: Historic Gold Rush Outpost Near Sacramento
Mokelumne Hill got its start as a gold-mining boomtown in 1848. According to Between the Rivers: A History of Early Calaveras County, California author and historian O. Henry Mace, Mokelumne Hill’s gold rush “was the largest, it was the richest, it was the wildest, and it was the first between the rivers.” The town became notorious for its Wild West exploits; reportedly, there were 17 consecutive weeks where at least one man was shot dead between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Today, the town retains some of its frontier roots with historic buildings and a secluded location bypassed by Highway 49.
Nearby, during a surface tour of the Kennedy Gold Mine, you’ll see the machinery and equipment from the mine that produced more than $34 million in gold during its 82-year career. You can descend beneath the surface on a walking tour or rappelling adventure at Moaning Cavern Park in nearby Vallecito. The cavern is so large that it could swallow the entire Statue of Liberty.
California’s capital city of Sacramento is fewer than 60 miles away. Here, you can bike along an urban riverfront path known as the American River Parkway or hop in a kayak to paddle the waterway, which wends near downtown.
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