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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Chronicle of Murphys Rancherica (Mol-Pee-So): An Historic Central Sierra Miwok Village


Murphys Rancheria was located about one mile from the town of Murphys, California, within the territory of the Central Sierra Miwok (Fig. 1). Situated on an exposed ridgetop that received gusty, southwest winds, the site was not an ideal Miwok village setting as described in the ethnographic literature. There was no economically viable water source until 1853 when the North Ditch mining canal was constructed to provide water for the Ora Plata and other mines in the region. It is probable that this Miwok rancheria would never have existed at its recorded location had not whites and other Euroamericans established themselves in the territory in 1848. As it is, occupation at the settlement was brief, probably lasting only fifty years (ca. 1870-1920). By the time the residents began budding their houses at this location they apparently had been on the move for several decades and were then well adapted to Euroamerican technology and lifeways.

This article summarizes the fragmentary notes, unpublished and published literature (including numerous photographs taken of the village during the 1900s), and the most recent studies involving ethnography, archival research, and archaeology at the village (Maniery 1982a). The main goals are to place Murphys in a cultural-historical setting, convey contemporary values and concerns expressed by non-Indians and native Americans over the disposition of the village (site), and to illuminate the importance of concurrently using archaeological, historical, and ethnographic methods to present a more complete picture on the subject.

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