First established as a rich placer camp in early 1850, the town’s
later importance came from the fact that it was located on the rich
quartz veins of the Mother Lode. This allowed the camp to survive even
after the placers were worked out and gave the town an extended lease
Known originally as La Mineta, Spanish for “little mine,” the camp’s
name was later changed to Princeton, after the nearby Princeton Mine
which opened in 1852. Eventually reaching a vertical depth of 1,350
feet, the mine produced close to $5 million in gold during its
operation, making it the largest gold producer in Mariposa County.
The mountain to the north of the town was named “Mount Bullion”
after the death of Frémont’s father-in-law, Senator Thomas Hart Benton,
whose unconditional stand favoring hard money—gold and silver
coins—earned him the sobriquet “Old Bullion” from his congressional
counterparts. When the post office was established on July 10 of 1862,
it was given the name Mount Bullion and while mail was addressed to that
name, the town was still known as Princeton. When the Princeton Mine
finally closed, the name Mount Bullion became more generally accepted
and soon claimed title to the town.
Mount Bullion was also an important supply center for the placer
miners whose workings—piles and piles of stones—can be seen along almost
every creek and stream in the area. Combined with the large number of
men working at the quartz mines, Mount Bullion was quite a substantial
community during the early years. Along with the many tents, cabins,
stores, and saloons, the town boasted a large, two-story hotel, an ice
cream parlor and a schoolhouse second to none in the county.
Today Mount Bullion is a quiet collection of homes and ranches
spread out along the west side of Hwy 49. Although no buildings are left
from Gold Rush times, a drive through the streets of this old mining
camp can still impart a sense of what it must have been like during
those days when a fortune could be made overnight, and lost just as
quickly at the nearest saloon or fandango.