Alleghany is probably the only California community that has continuously had a gold based economy since the gold rush.
Main Street Alleghany looking northeasterly early 1900s. Caseys Place in foreground center left.
The town evolved from the mining camps of Smith’s Flat (located at the Southern end of town where the County yard now is), Cumberland at the North end of town and Wet Ravine (West of town).
In 1853 a group of miners from Allegheny Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh) named the town, spelling Alleghany with an “a” rather than an “e”. In November of 1857 the post office was moved from Chips Flat across Kanaka Creek to Alleghany.
As with most early California gold rush towns the population was very diverse. Individuals came from many places to seek their fortune here. Early population figures for the town are not available. Census records of the district and immediately surrounding communities range from 2,116 in 1860 to 1,183 by 1880 and 712 in 1900. In the 1930’s Alleghany had a population of roughly 500. The 2010 census recorded a population of 58 and the 2020 census recorded a population of 55.
The ten-year span between 2010 and 2020 is the first time since the 1940 census that there was not a significant drop in population for the town. The census only records full-time residents, in recent years the number of part-time residents has increased. The part-time population (not included in the census figures) is between 10 and 15 residents, which is substantial percentage wise.
Alleghany Hotel Main Street Alleghany 1932 the year before the big fire of 1933
Alleghany had its own Chinatown perched on the hillside above Main Street. Most of Chinatown was destroyed in the big fire of 1933 when most, but not all the Chinese residents left. To the best of our knowledge Ah Fong Lee was the last to leave in 1939. He was a respected member of the community and had a lease on the Gold Star Mine for several years. (Chinese mine operators in California were unheard of at that time)
The roofs of Chinatown can be seen on the upper left, covered by snow early 1900s
The Alleghany Hotel can be seen center right (its roof has shed the snow as has the
roof of the Red and White Store (the large building in the lower right corner).