Murphys (formerly, Murphy, Murphy's, Murphy's Camp, Murphy's Diggins, Murphys New Diggings, and Queen of the Sierra) is a census-designated place (CDP) in Calaveras County, California, United States. The population was 2,061 at the 2000 census.
John and Daniel Murphy were part of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, the first immigrant party to bring wagons across the Sierra Nevada to Sutter's Fort in 1844. They earned a living as merchants, but like many others, began prospecting when the California Gold Rush began. They first started in Vallecito, which was known as "Murphys Old Diggings," before moving to another location in 1848 which became "Murphys New Diggings," "Murphy's Camp," and eventually just "Murphys."
The placer mining in this location was wildly successful. Miners were limited to claims of 8 square feet (0.75 m2) and yet many were still able to become rich. The Murphy brothers themselves, however, made far more money as merchants than as miners. In fact, John was so successful that he left town at the end of 1849 and never returned, having a personal fortune of nearly $2 million. Roughly $20 million in gold was discovered in Murphys and the surrounding area. Two of the richest diggings were named Owlsburg and Owlburrow Flat.
Murphys was also a popular destination as a tourist resort, as the nearby giant sequoia trees in what is now Calaveras Big Trees State Park were a major draw, and they continue to be so today. After visiting, John Muir wrote in his book, The Mountains of California (1894):
"MURPHY'S CAMP is a curious old mining-town in Calaveras County, at an elevation of 2,400 feet (730 m) above the sea, situated like a nest in the center of a rough, gravelly region, rich in gold. Granites, slates, lavas, limestone, iron ores, quartz veins, auriferous gravels, remnants of dead fire-rivers and dead water-rivers are developed here side by side within a radius of a few miles, and placed invitingly open before the student like a book, while the people and the region beyond the camp furnish mines of study of never-failing interest and variety."
Like many other mining towns, fire was its bane and the town was destroyed three times by flames, in 1859, 1874, and 1893. After the second major fire, there was little gold left to mine, and so the town was never rebuilt to its boomtown condition. However, Murphys continued to thrive as a merchant center, supplying many of the silver mines in Nevada with provisions via Ebbetts Pass. The town is registered as California Historical Landmark #275. A "Hall of Comparative Ovations" built by a chapter of the clampers still stands in Murphys.
Murphys is rapidly becoming a popular tourist attraction and there are many wine tasting rooms popping up.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 10.3 square miles (26.7 km²), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,061 people, 945 households, and 611 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 200.0 people per square mile (77.2/km²). There were 1,094 housing units at an average density of 106.2/sq mi (41.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 94.27% White, 0.34% Black or African American, 0.97% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 2.38% from other races, and 1.07% from two or more races. 5.63% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 945 households out of which 22.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 6.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.71.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 19.6% from 25 to 44, 28.0% from 45 to 64, and 28.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49 years. For every 100 females there were 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.3 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $42,344, and the median income for a family was $58,194. Males had a median income of $44,125 versus $31,394 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $24,567. About 6.6% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.4% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.
In the state legislature Murphys is located in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Dave Cox, and in the 25th Assembly District, represented by Republican Tom Berryhill. Federally, Murphys is located in California's 3rd congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +7 and is represented by Republican Dan Lungren.