Hornitos is located on CR-J16, 11 miles west of Bear Valley, and about15 AIR miles west-northwest of Mariposa.
Originally, the nameless community was established by Mexican Miners in 1848. It was quickly populated by
“less desirable elements” evicted from the booming mining town of Quartzburg about two miles away. These evictees changed the character of the mining camp and Hornitos quickly became known as a rough community. Later it settled down and grew respectable as Quartzburg faded and the folks moved to nearby Hornitos. It was the center for both placer and hard rock mining.
The name derives from the above ground tombs/graves of some of the Mexican miners, and the town was named after the resemblance of those graves to small ovens (hornitos). They were built that way due to the hard ground and the difficulty in digging deeper graves.
By the mid-late 1850s Hornitos was a small city with some 6000 people. It was well known for its fiestas, fandangos, gambling and violence.
Some of the early businesses included a blacksmith shop, brewery (1860), butcher, several dance halls, adobe-walled jail (1853), six lodges, general stores, post office (est. June 18, 1856) and a Wells Fargo & Company Express Office (1853). Off to the east side of town a thriving Chinese section grew to house some 2000 folks. Many of the businesses were interconnected with underground tunnels, and for entertainment there were always chicken races, bull & bear fights. It is claimed that some $40,000 in gold was shipped out on a daily basis. Life was NOT boring! It is claimed that the infamous bandit Joaquin MURIETTA is said to have frequented the dance halls and saloons here, and is said to have had a secret escape tunnel from his favorite hangouts. However much of what was written about this outlaw has almost reached legendary proportions and it is difficult to separate fact from fancy. (Kind of like the Earp clan and James Brothers.)
In 1858 the first quartz mill was installed. It was a machine-powered arrastra. By 1860 it had been replaced by a 20-stamp mill. In 1900 there were four operating stamp mills in the community.
By 1870 the population is said to have reached 15,000, and the town incorporated as Mariposa County’s only incorporated city. At this time it had a dozen hotels and 36 saloons along with many other businesses.