Benton Hot Springs has been home to Native Americans for millennia; a silver boom town starting in the 1860s; and a tourist destination since at least the 1920s. Its history is woven from the lives and tales of men and women who dared to be different!
People have lived here for thousands of years, including the ancestors of the Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe who live on the adjacent reservation today. Here they had abundant pure water along with everything else they needed, and the highly refined traditional skills and knowledge to live well. They made tools and projectile points from nearby sources of high-quality obsidian, and traded it for goods from outside the area. They gathered plant foods including pinyon pine nuts and Indian rice grass seeds, and they irrigated crops of taboose root. Other local plants provided fibers to be woven into everything from clothing items to huge nets for rabbit drives, and Paiute basketry was famously beautiful. Deer, rabbits and other animals offered meat, fur and more.
The California Gold Rush of 1849 passed right over this part of California. But with the Comstock Lode silver boom in 1859, prospectors turned to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. They soon found silver in Blind Spring Hill just east of the hot springs, and a town of nearly a thousand grew up around the springs. Booming businesses served the miners’ needs: a Wells Fargo station and stagecoach stop, butchers and general stores, hotels and boarding houses, ore processing mills, newspapers, saloons and breweries. There was a school and a cemetery, but no church.
Many boom towns vanish when mining becomes less profitable, but not Benton Hot Springs. After the silver declined, a series of entrepreneurs capitalized on the tourist dreams of their era: hotel, health spa, dude ranch, motel, right up to today’s hot tubs and a bed-and-breakfast Inn. The Bramlette family bought the entire town site in the 1930s; the fourth generation still keeps the town alive, and founded the Historic Benton Hot Springs nonprofit to preserve and share its history.
Stories and Characters
The story of Benton Hot Springs is full of men and women who were courageous, resourceful, innovative, mysterious, eccentric, or all of these! The Historic Benton Hot Springs nonprofit shares their tales via booklets, newsletters, special events and reenactments. Contact us to become a member! Visit our Posts & News page where we’ll post items of historical interest.