The town of Oakhurst, originally known as Fresno Flats, was never
much of a mining town; rather, it prospered as a lumbering and farming
community. As the town marks the southern terminus of Highway 49, it is
a great starting point for a tour of the Gold Country.
A stagecoach holdup around the turn of the century is reported by
some to be the cause of Fresno Flats becoming Oakhurst. As the story
goes, the son of a prominent local family was accused of taking part in
the robbery. He was later cleared, but left town (and his wife) anyway.
He returned several years later with a new bride, who soon grew weary of
hearing the tale of the great Fresno Flat stagecoach robbery and her
husband’s suspected involvement. After much petitioning and persuasion,
she was finally successful in having the town’s name changed.
During the nineteenth century, the area to the north of Oakhurst
around the communities of Ahwahnee and Nipinnawasee was famous for its
tuberculosis sanitarium. The hot, dry air of the hill country, in
combination with the nearby piney mountains, was a common prescription
for “lungers” of that era. The sanitarium was operated jointly by the
counties of Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus, and many of the buildings
still remain intact.
Ahwahnee is an old Indian word meaning “deep or grassy valley,”
possibly in reference to nearby Yosemite. Nipinnawasee has nothing to do
with taking a swim. It means “plenty of deer.”
Oakhurst is located at the southern end of Hwy 49, where that highway
meets with Hwy 40.
Visit Oakhurst's Historic Sites