Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. It is also a small town in California outside Yosemite National Park where we were fortunate to spend three nights while we visited the park.
Mariposa boasts the oldest courthouse in California still being used. Built in 1854, they have maintained the original courtroom and 19th century furnishings. One district court judge still conducts business there.
John C. Fremont’s office, an old adobe building with the original thick walls, is on main street, now part of a restaurant. We were told by someone sitting next to us during a parade that there is a structure on top of Fremont’s building that is now protected by a corrugated metal covering: it was the whorehouse in Fremont’s time. We were also told that Fremont and Kit Carson plotted the entry of California into the Union in his office. We cannot verify either statement, but it made a good tale.
For a small town, it has many different restaurants. We sampled their wares at the “Taste of Mariposa, Hat contest, raffle and Auction” Friday night. As part of Mariposa’s annual “Butterfly Festival,” it really was a local event and they seemed delighted to have visitors from Florida. We enjoyed snacking and looking at the hats but did not stay for the raffle and auction. Instead, we went back to the Cafe for dessert. We had dinner there the night before and enjoyed an excellent salad and homemade soup. Although the restaurant did not look like much, its menu had some very interesting items: for example, jerked chicken with mango and habanero salsa.
The Mariposa Jail was built in 1858 and used until 1963 — they believe in getting their money’s worth out of buildings. A second floor door led right out to the gallows, but a sign said the last “legal hanging” was in 1874. They had it open for tours as part of the festival and I can assure you the cells were small and miserable with only the tiniest windows for lights. Over the years, a number of prisoners escaped, usually by overpowing their guards. But two fellows used the wire from a bucket handle to open their cell door and, with outside help, got the bars off the outer office window — there were no guards at night.
Those who have read this diary before this trip may know I think small town parades are the best. They have an immediacy and friendliness that can’t be beat. So of course, before heading south to see Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, we had to stay for the Butterfly Festival Parade. Among the highlights were papillon dogs (paillion is butterfly in French) and a toy jeep towed by one of the members of the Jeep Club. We also had seen historical plaques erected by “E Clampus Vitus,” so we were interested to see their local chapter in the parade. They are a fraternal order devoted to preserving Western history – but when asked, they didn’t know what the name meant.