Gold was first discovered in the area in late 1848 or early ’49. Located in the Sierra Nevada east gold belt district, the neighboring areas of Skull Flat, Bummerville, Pioneer Station, and Buckhorn were also extensively mined during the Gold Rush.
The camp was originally known as Indian Gulch, becoming West Point by 1854. The streams and surface ores in the area were mined first, followed quickly by quartz mining. There were numerous easily worked small ledges in the area, and the place came to be known as a poor man’s camp as few tools were needed to do the mining. The area also became quite famous as a rich pocket mining district, where large amounts of gold could be uncovered in a matter of hours.
Two ditches were constructed during the 1850’s to bring water into the diggings. One came from Bear Creek, the other from the North Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River. Even with water available, the town suffered from several terrible fires during its early years.
According to local tradition, the camp took its name from the legend that Kit Carson, while guiding John C. Frémont’s second expedition in search of a pass through the Sierras, reached this spot in February of 1844 but could go no farther. Traveling down the south side of the Mokelumne River canyon, he found the river at flood stage, impassable, and was forced to turn back. As this was the farthest point west he had reached, the legend claims he named the spot West Point.
West Point is located northeast of Mokelumne Hill on Hwy 26.
A Stone Monument at the side of the road is the only reminder of the Gold Rush era in West Point today. It gives a brief history of the town’s beginnings.