Downieville, the county seat of Sierra County, is located on Highway 49 at the fork of the North Yuba and Downie rivers.
Gold was discovered here in the summer of 1849. By May 1850, Downieville had 15 hotels and gambling houses, 4 bakeries, and 4 butcher shops. 5,000 men wintered in Downieville that year.
In the following spring, that population scattered into the surrounding hills and canyons in search of gold. As the population of the area grew, Downieville served as a trading center for the Northern Mines.
By the mid-1850s, Downieville was California’s fifth-largest town. In 1852 Downieville lost the bid to be the State Capitol to Sacramento by 10 votes. Today, Downieville retains much of its former character and many of its traditional functions.