Driving along the backroads of rural Nevada County, remnants of the area’s rich, historic past can be difficult to spot. However, the Wells Fargo Express building in French Corral is hard to miss.
Founded in 1849, the community of French Corral, as the name suggests, was the site of a mule pen created by a French settler. Gold was also discovered nearby and the town began to thrive.
Fire was commonplace in the mining west. Most structures were composed of wood and canvas that were easily set ablaze. Italian stonemasons and bricklayers were employed to construct fireproof buildings using iron doors and shutters to hold back the flames.
Constructed in 1853, this Wells Fargo housed gold from the nearby mining operations until it could be transported to San Francisco. It’s estimated up to $4,000,000 worth of gold was extracted from the mines, which equates to $138 million in today’s values.
French Corral is now considered a semi-ghost town. Agriculture and ranching are the only major economic activities in the area.