Alpine County, officially the County of Alpine, is a county located in the state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population
was 1,175. making it the least populous county in California. The county seat is the Census Designated Place of Markleeville. There are no
incorporated cities in the county.
Alpine County is located in the Sierra Nevada, between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.
It derived its name from the English word alpine meaning "of, pertaining to, or connected with, the Alps." Lying as it does on the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains, its geographical position makes it particularly an alpine county, and hence its name.
County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts
Alpine County was created in 1854 during a silver boom in the wake of the nearby Comstock Lode discovery. The county
was formed from parts of Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties. At its formation, the county had a
population of about 11,000. By 1868 however, the local silver mines had proven unfruitful, and the population fell to
The first to call Alpine County home were the native Washo people, who occupied the mountains and valleys of western Nevada and eastern California. Living in harmony with the land, the Washo excelled in basketry and spent their summers around the shores of Lake Tahoe, while a southern band of the tribe , the Hung Lel Ti, lived around the Diamond Valley area of Alpine County. The earliest explorers through the region included Jedediah Smith and Joseph Walker, but it was John Fremont and Kit Carson, in their famous midwinter trip across Alpine County and the Sierra Nevada in 1844 that brought attention to possible travel routes across the range.
Followed in 1848 by members of the Mormon Battalion and a year later by the Gold Rush '49ers, the Carson Route of the California Emigrant Road, now Highway 88, was the most heavily used road to California in those early years.
However, it took silver, not gold, to bring settlement to Alpine County. Following the discovery of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City in 1859, thousands of prospectors swarmed into the eastern Sierra Nevada looking for riches. A year earlier, a group of Scandinavian men had discovered rich silver outcrops near Silver Creek and established the town of Silver Mountain.
For the next several years, the population grew, and while there was plenty of mining activity, there was a scarcity of paying ore. Nearby, the towns of Monitor and Mt. Bullion grew from the hills, fostered by the belief in another 'Comstock' just around the corner.
In 1861, one Jacob Marklee took up a 160 acre claim and built a bridge and toll station on the banks of a stream crossing the road from Genoa, Nevada ten miles north of Silver Mountain City. Killed in a gunfight in 1863, Marklee would give his name to the future County seat, Markleeville, and creek of the same name.
Bolstered by the much ballyhooed silver boom, and fed by local politicians, Alpine County was created in 1864 from parts of adjacent counties, while the population had grown to more than 11,000. Miners also left the rich gold fields of Bodie only 80 miles away. Silver Mountain was the first County Seat of Alpine County. The excitement was short-lived. As the Silver Mountain ore proved too stubborn to recover at a profit, men began to leave the area, and by 1868, Alpine County had fewer than 1200 people. The finishing blow came with the demonitization of silver in 1873, collapsing prices and closing the remaining mines.
Markleeville stood ready to succeed its neighbor as County seat, which was accomplished in 1875. Despite its own loss of population, the town had begun to develop into a trade center for the ranching and lumber business, which were still supplying the booming Comstock Lode mines. In 1885, Markleeville suffered a terrible fire, but the town was quickly rebuilt. Several buildings, including the Fisk Hotel (formerly the Alpine Hotel) now the Wolfcreek Restaurant and the log jail were moved from Silver Mountain, though with a reduced population, many lots remained vacant.
According to the US Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 743 square miles (1,925 km2), of
which, 739 square miles (1,913 km2) of it is land and 5 square miles (12 km2) of it (0.61%) is water.
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