Manchester of the Los Burros


Not long after the Cruikshank gold discover near Alder Creek, several hundred miners staked claims in the area, and the little town of Manchester, sometimes called Mansfield, was born.

These south Monterey County mines supported the small town of Manchester (population 125-200; some say as high as 350), originally settle around 1887, known Alder Creek, and sometimes as Mansfield.  The little, very remote town had acquired a post office by 14 Sep 1889, and was formally given the name Manchester.

One historian states:

The small town of Manchester suddenly found itself with a record population of 350 people. A hotel, two general stores, a barber shop, a restaurant, a post office, a blacksmith shop, a one-room school, mess halls, bunkhouses, a number of cabins, a small cemetery, and of course, a dance hall and a number of saloons [five by some accounts] made in the town. Today the town of Manchester is truly a ghost of the past-often referred to as 'The Lost City of the Santa Lucias.' 

You just can't make up this kind of Californiana.

The Gem Saloon in 'downtown' Manchester was reportedly owned and operated by a Mr Ed Caldwell.

All of these amenities, mind you, in spite of the fact that there was no road to the town. 

Manchester reportedly burned to the ground in the 1890s (1892, by one account). Several forest wildfires have since ravaged this region, a few of which I witnessed in the 1970s. Many times I've prowled and scouted the apparent site of the original town, and haven't found so much as a scrap nail or old bottle.

In September 1970, 45,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest burned in the Buckeye fire, including most of the Los Burros Mining District. That fire destroyed nearly all of the remaining miners shacks and cabins, as well as many of the timbers supporting abandoned mine shafts and tunnels. 

On the other hand, with much of the vegetation removed, the locations of a number of mines, which had been lost for many years, were revealed.

For what it's worth, the Manchester town site is scarcely a few hundred yards from the main Las Chance gold mine tunnel.  Alder Creek, which ordinarily carries at least a trickle of spring-water throughout the year, is directly below both those sites, and very proximate.  

The US Forest Service primitive campsite beneath a great oak tree near the stream is one of my California (and Big Sur) favorites.  Getting to the Alder Creek campsite is itself something of an epic in itself, demanding some eight miles of steep, gnarly uphill dirt road to the Coast Ridge summit, then another couple of miles even steeper, and much rockier, much less travelled, down the far side. I regard Alder Creek access as daunting and spectacular. Don't even think about getting there in wet weather.