Ophir, California Photos and Information - Placer County Gold Country


Ophir photo of a vineyard
ophir photos


Ophir, CaliforniaWhen 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 excellent produce 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 commemorated with 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.


Prewett was 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.


Other historical 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. ophirwines.com


One source states that Ophir was also named Ophirville during the late 1800's to avoid confusion with another town named Ophir in Mariposa County.


For information about this destination, contact Placer Valley Tourism, 300 Harding Blvd., Suite #109, Roseville, CA  95747. Phone: (916) 773-5400. www.placertourism.com