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Site of the First Discovery of Quartz Gold in California
The city of Grass Valley is the largest city in the western region of Nevada County, California, United States. Situated in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this historic northern Gold Country city is located 57 miles from the state capitol in Sacramento. It is said that Grass Valley was named by settlers whose cattle had wandered from their campsite on Greenhorn Creek to a 'grassy valley' nearby where the grazing was better. Miners panning for gold along Wolf Creek and a major discovery of gold-bearing quartz in 1850 started a boom. The 'grassy valley' was an easy place to put up buildings. A store opened and the spot became known as Boston Ravine. For a short time it was called Centerville; then it became Grass Valley. As the number of wage-earning miners grew, Grass Valley became a trading center, and in November 1850 the first town election was held. The 1860's and 70's saw things go from 'boom' to 'bust'. Grass Valley mines became known far and wide and drew miners from Cornwall and Ireland. As the mines fluctuated in production, miners came and went. Toward the end of the century the population stabilized and families expanded and became the norm. The commitment to keep the mines open and operating generated employment and opportunity, and as the middle class grew, social clubs, churches and schools provided increasing stability to the community.
Grass Valley mines produced well during the Depression of the 1930's, but closed temporarily during World War II. Not long after the war, production costs went off the scale, and almost one hundred years after it started, it was over. One by one the great mines closed down leaving behind colorful history, miles of subterranean tunnels and shafts - and gold. The gold rush left a historical legacy and today, tourism and the related services constitute the bulk of the local economy. Mill Street and its intersection with Main Street, the heart of Grass Valley, still retain much of the historic flavor of the Gold Rush. Grass Valley still holds on to its Cornish heritage, with events such as its annual Cornish Christmas and St Piran's Day celebrations. Pasties are a local favorite dish with a few restaurants in town specializing in recipes handed down from the original immigrant generation. Residents and visitors today enjoy exploring the history and beauty of the Gold Rush days, visiting designated historical landmarks including The Holbrooke Hotel and Empire Mine State Historical Park.The spirit that established commercially successful quartz mining helps Grass Valley remain the commercial center of Western Nevada County. The City of Grass Valley remains committed to providing an attractive and quality environment in which to live and work. Many of those who do not commute to the Sacramento Valley, work locally in retail, wholesale, trade, engineering, manufacturing, construction, and other businesses, as well in various levels of local and state government. A significant number of high-tech electronics companies are in the area. Another significant sector of the local economy is the agriculture industry, as the soil in Nevada County is considered to be quite fertile. Around the time the areas were being settled during the Gold Rush, farmers planted orchards, vegetables, and other produce as ranchers brought in cattle, sheep, and other livestock. While the percentage of land dedicated to agriculture has significantly decreased over the last few decades, agriculture continues to be an important aspect of the area's economy including local produce and organic agricultural products. During the past decade, Nevada County has become known for its growing wine industry.