Telegraph City and the Old Stone Walls

Telegraph City and the Old Stone Walls

Telegraph City

As you drive eastbound on Highway 4, keep your eyes peeled for some curious structures dotting the hills of western Calaveras County. Beginning a few miles east of Stockton as you approach Copperopolis, you may happen to catch a glance of the old stone walls winding their way through the terrain. Who built them? And what was their purpose?

It’s funny how legend take a fanciful turn into more fictional tales. Many natives will tell you it was Chinese laborers who built the stone walls back in the 1850s. Sounds fair enough. After a bit more digging, however, the real story starts to emerge.

In the 1850s, copper was discovered in western Calaveras County. A town quickly emerged at the spot — initially dubbed Grasshopper City until a telegraph was built there a few years later — and soon the area was bustling with activity. Hundreds of immigrant workers flooded Calaveras with copper-mining ambitions. Over the years, however, copper was discovered in other areas — and with more abundance — and the town of Telegraph City dwindled in population, becoming more of a ranching site than a hopping township.

The ranchers there made a new (and arguably less exciting) discovery in Telegraph City: field rock. It was plentiful and, therefore, dirt-cheap (pun intended). The ranchers hired immigrant workers still in the area — mainly Irish and Italian — to build rock walls on their properties to serve as fire deterrents as well as a means to confine their livestock.

These days, the rock walls have deteriorated and Telegraph City is little more than a ghost town, complete with its own “Legend of the Chicken Boy” — a legend to be a detailed in a special and appropriately spooky Halloween post.

So the next time you’re on your way back to Murphys, keep an eye out for Telegraph City and its old stone walls. Their a fascinating curiosity and certainly a nice piece Calaveras history.

WHAT: Telegraph City and the Old Stone Walls
WHERE: On Highway 4, beginning about seven miles west of Copperopolis, CA

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