Ophir, California―When you pass by Ophir (rhymes with gopher) or alternately (rhymes with oh deer),
you're visiting a state of mind, a wine, a school and even a road sign.
Ophir, the town in Northern California's Gold Country, no longer exists,
they say. Yet with so many things to commemorate the place, it's as if it
never left. Take the sign that welcomes you, for instance. This
neatly painted greeting stationed in the tan grasses at the base of a hill is
as nice as any city sign in the region. With
two white posts topped with little, carved horse heads, it includes white
lettering that says, "Welcome to Ophir". Set against a fairway green
background, it is adorned in the the lower left and right corners with
emblems for Ophir 4H and OPA. Ophir clearly exists in the hearts
of the 4-H club that often meets at Ophir School.
More evidence of Ophir's existence came from a San Francisco Chronicle
article written in December 2005. A story about the fruit stands and
found in this Placer Valley region listed Ophir as one of the destinations to
visit. Ophir is located near
Loomis, Penryn, Auburn, Lincoln and Roseville, with at least one prominent
resident (Ophir Wines) using a Newcastle address.
What will you find in
Ophir? Award-winning Ophir Wines, Park 'n' Ride lot for
public transportation, Landmark Marker 463 and spectacular scenery shown in photos above
all can be found in Ophir. One
home has a large, green field that contains assorted, rusted machinery
antiques. Great wine grapes,
oranges, figs, olives, almonds, and other semi-tropical fruits grow
abundantly in Ophir, where you'll notice lots of colorful trees in bloom,
especially in the spring time.
There are many
places named Ophir in the United
States and Australia. Once a favorite
name used by gold miners, extraordinary gold mines were compared to the Biblical temple of Solomon
which was known for its riches.
Placer County, California's Ophir is
Registered Landmark 463. A big stone
marker containing a mounted plaque on Lozanos and Bald Hill Roads three miles
west of Auburn contains the message: "Founded in 1849 and first known as
"The Spanish Corral". Area proved so rich that Biblical name of Ophir
adopted in 1850. Most populous town in Placer County in 1852, polling 500
votes. Almost totally destroyed by fire July 1853. Later became center of
quartz mining in this century."
The tablet was
sponsored by the California
Centennials Commission and the stone base was furnished by Placer County
Historical Society. This monument was fittingly dedicated on September 23, 1950, 100 years after Ophir was first named.
In the fall of 1850, a log cabin comprised the prospective town of Ophir.
It was 2.5 miles below Auburn on the Auburn Ravine. During the next year,
Ophir grew with several new buildings, several log houses and a large number
of tents and canvas coverings. The summer of 1851 nearly skeletonized the
little village, but the fall and winter rains resurrected, or recreated it.
In 1852 Ophir became the largest and most prosperous town in Placer County.
At the Presidential election of that year 500 votes were cast in the
precinct. Very rich placer mining came fast and easy, according to the
records from that era.
Then on July 12,
1852, the whole town was consumed by fire. Ophir never recovered from the
shock. The surface diggings were deemed nearly worked out, and points below
on the Auburn Ravine drew away the population. Many hoped Ophir would
rebound because of the quartz mills that were rapidly developed.
For those who
envision the once thriving Ophir as a rough and ready place, Placer County
Historical Society cites the work of Bill Wilson’s “Gold and Schemes and
Unfulfilled Dreams” with an in-depth look at one of Ophir's great citizens,
Judge James E. Prewett. Wilson's book is available at the Placer County
Museum Gift Shop.
Judge James E.
Prewett moved to Ophir around 1890 with his wife and children for health
reasons. He was a partner in law firm in nearby Auburn and held court in
every county in California with the exception of Inyo and Del Norte
counties. He served 31 years as a Superior Court judge and died in 1922.
extremely intelligent and well-spoken. He was familiar with the classics and
retained information. Recognized as a historian, an experienced chemist, a
linguist and a Latin scholar, he could read and speak Spanish, French and
Chinese. He created a list of 14,000 English words
that often were mispronounced. In addition to his love of languages and
cultures, Prewett also enjoyed lively debate. He formed the Monday night
club where 300 topics were debated by local citizens. It's no surprise that
this well-spoken gent was invited to speak at many functions. Prewett believed his accomplishments were a
result of genetic factors.
sources list prominent citizens who resided in Ophir before the turn of the
20th century. Today, the residents of Ophir seem equally intelligent
and well-spoken. If you have an opportunity to attend a wine tasting at
Ophir Wines during one of the special art or wine events, you may meet the
partners/owners. We found them extremely intelligent and cultured.
One source states that Ophir was also named
Ophirville during the late 1800's to avoid confusion with another town named Ophir in Mariposa
For information about this destination,
contact Placer Valley
Tourism, 300 Harding Blvd., Suite #109, Roseville, CA 95747. Phone:
(916) 773-5400. www.placertourism.com