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Image of a portion of the mine pit at Malakoff Diggins
 

This image of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church and Cemetery was made on a very hazy day. Many photographers have made images of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church which sits on a hill overlooking town including Ansel Adams. When Mr. Adams viewed our portfolio he pondered this image for a moment then lit up as only he could and said “I never thought of making an image of the church from this angle.” We have often since wondered whether that was a compliment or critique. We like to think it was the former, of course! However, every time we return to Hornitos, or to other places in the Mother Mode, we can’t help but recall that conversation as a obligation to always seek out additional interesting composition opportunities.

Hornitos was settled in 1852 by Mexican miners who were “voted” out of nearby Quartzburg by white miners jealous of their success. Hornitos thrived, having a population of 15,000 at its prime. Hornitos was known as a wild and violent town. It was said to have been a favorite hangout of Joaquin Murrieta, the legendary Mexican bandit of the early 1850s. Most of the surviving towns in the southern Mother Lode claim a cellar, tunnel or other hiding place which was allegedly used by Murrieta to dodge the law. Among historians there is controversy over Joaquin Murrieta. Some believe Joaquin Murrieta was a social myth based on several bandits at the time with the name Joaquin. Others believe that Joaquin Murrieta was a real person.

The last time we visited Hornitos in late 2007, the town looked to be making a comeback. When we visited in the 1990s several of the commercial buildings in town stood closed and padlocked. In 2007 some of those buildings were occupied by businesses or being used as residences.


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