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Taking You Back in History: Securing Basic Needs Part 2

By Karen Davis, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society


Brothers Albert and August Mack were also among the more successful businessmen of early Big Oak Flat. Born in Germany they arrived in San Francisco aboard the steamer “California” in February 1849. The 1850 census shows A. Mack working as a merchant in “Oak Flats” and by 1856 the brothers were the owners of A & A Mack’s Mercantile. Albert writes in his autobiography “We prospered and became part owners of four stores besides ours in Oak Flat; a sawmill; a ranch and a pack train of twenty-five mules.”


Another merchant shown on the 1850 census was Alexander Gamble. An Irish immigrant, he was an educator in Maine before traveling to California to “strike it rich”. The “Gamble Block” (otherwise known as the Wells Fargo Building) was built for him sometime prior to 1852 and still stands today. The building is/was divided into three individual stores that in turn housed several separate businesses over the years.


Luigi Marconi, a naturalized citizen from Italy, was panning before the gold rush and operated a grocery in the western most suite of the Wells Fargo Building by 1860. He was also the settlement’s baker. J. D. Murphy, an immigrant from Ireland, was a partner in the business and also owned and operated a flour mill, which may account for the bakery portion of the business. The flour mill burned down in 1873 and shortly after Luigi’s death in 1876 his widow married Joseph Raggio, another naturalized citizen from Italy. Joseph took over the business and named it “Raggio’s Store”.


Another tradesman housed in the Wells Fargo Building was Stephen Noziglia, an immigrant from Sardinia. He and Julio Cuneo were operating a store in the center suite of the Gamble Block by 1860.


Two 1860 merchants of which little is known include Prussian born D. Cohn, who was selling general merchandise in one of the suites in the Gamble Block and Alexander Cross a Frenchman who owned a house and stone building near the Gamble Block.


Brothers Michael and Isaac Stamper, immigrants from Prussia, were operating M & I Stamper General Store in Big Oak Flat in 1860.


Boyer & Stone was listed as a company selling general merchandise immediately prior to the fire of 1863. Boyer may have been a partner of Alexander Stone, an early Big Oak Flat merchant. Alexander’s wife Lucy was the daughter of Thomas Kent a 49er who partnered with P. B. Grant to construct what is now the main portion of the present Odd Fellows Hall.


The Blair & James Market was a butcher shop in Big Oak Flat owned by Charles M. Blair. John C. James was the bookkeeper. The shop “sold ten dressed beeves daily while the mines were in full blast”. Blair sold his interest in the market to James and moved to Merced before 1865. James moved to Stanislaus County shortly thereafter.


As you read in an earlier article “Taking You Back in History” by Scott Belser the Gamble Block (Wells Fargo Building) and what is now the IOOF building were almost the only structures remaining the morning after the disastrous fire of 1863.


Here are other lesser known “survivors”.


A stone and adobe structure that lay immediately east of the Gamble Block is believed to have been an early trading post. Annie Brinham is thought to have operated a grocery store there in the 1920s. The stone and adobe structure was torn down about 1930.


Caleb Dorsey’s stone building was constructed a bit east of the early trading post. It may have served as the Judge J. D. Redmond’s Justice Court before housing the carpenter shop of Charles L. Harper in the 1870s. By 1900, John and Mary Jordan had moved to Big Oak Flat where they established the J. A. Jordan Cash Store, dealing in general merchandise. The building was torn down in the mid-1950s after having been gutted by fire.


Michael Noziglia’s general store was situated across the road and slightly east of the Gamble Block and constructed in a similar style (stone with iron doors). Michael was a brother of Stephen Noziglia (noted earlier). The store, grape arbor and adjacent wood frame dwelling was sold to James Mecartea in 1872. Mecartea converted the store and operated a flourishing blacksmith shop there until abandoning it in the early 1930s. The building was eventually gutted by fire and was torn down in the early 1980s.


The destruction of the former “smithy” building was, at least in part, the catalyst for the formation of the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS). Local citizens recognized the value of historic preservation. It is through their efforts that the Groveland Museum and Groveland Branch Library building was constructed. STCHS members have recently renovated the Cobden House and are currently involved in stabilizing the Gamble Block.


Taking You Back in History is provided by the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS) and the Groveland Gateway Museum. The Museum is open Friday - Sunday 10a - 2p

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