These little valleys and low spots on the western slope of the Sierra can get rather toasty on a summer day (about 102 degrees on this one), but its name ‘little ovens’ came from the bake oven shape of its tombstones.
Most gold rush mining towns and villages with their matchstick construction burned to the ground and for some, several times over. Hornitos however is a bit different because they used a lot of adobe and stone in their buildings, for instance, the walls of the jail are two feet thick. Why? The town was built like a typical Mexican village by inhabitants that came here from other nearby camps and towns for being 'undesirable'....for their ethnicity.
At first, Hornitos was as wild as any other mining town with streets lined with bars, gambling dens, and houses of ill repute, but eventually they settled in and town folk desiring law and order even incorporated the settlement...the only town in Mariposa County to ever do so and that's the reason it became a state landmark.
The infamous bandit/folk hero Joaquin Murieta was almost captured here in the early 1850’s but slipped away. Though the official line is that Murieta was eventually caught, killed, and his severed head paraded about the state, many people thought it was faked and that he retired from his Robin Hood’ish ways to live off riches he’d stashed away. One version of that story puts Hornitos as the place he buried his gold. Joaquin Murieta was the basis for the fictional character of Zorro, and for a song ‘Joaquin Rides Again’ by yours truly, and part of the album ‘Hangtown Fry’ coming out on Blue Night Records in January 2012. Here’s the lyrics:
JOAQUIN RIDES AGAIN
In a dusty Spanish pueblo, where the heat drives you insaneLived the bravest man around, Murietta was his name
In the evening air he would disappear, and become the poor man’s friend
He’ll come to fight and it would be all right, when Joaquin rides again
In earlyThe lands in the hands of the white man, and the brown man has no name
, where the forty-niners came California
But the wealthy few will always lose, when he is in command
Hang on tight; it’ll be all right, when Joaquin rides again
(Chorus) From the sky at midnight,To an outlaw’s moon well sing this tune, when Joaquin rides again
He’ll come down from the mountain he’ll come from the river shoreHe’ll be in the hearts of free men, and even up the score
He’ll be the liberator, and put troubles on the mend
Hang on tight it’ll be all right when Joaquin rides again
From the mining camps and valleys from the hillsides to the seaHe’ll be asking one lone question won’t you ride with me
For all of
He’s come to fight it’ll be all right, when Joaquin rides again
Plaque inscription: NO. 333 HORNITOS (no plaque)- Hornitos, 'little ovens,' derived its name from the presence of many old Mexican stone graves or tombs built in the shape of little square bake ovens and set on top of the ground. The town seemed to have been settled by an undesirable element driven out of the adjoining town of
Location: 2877 Bear Valley Rd Hornitos 11 mi W of Bear Valley on County Road J16, Hornitos The town of Hornitos is located at the intersection of Bear Valley Road and Hornitos Road about 18 km west of Bear Valley