Part of Butte County’s culture and identity is its history, and that history is preserved in a kind of reverence in its smallest unincorporated communities.
In its earliest stages, the county was a prime stopover point for stagecoaches and rails, with its primary industries comprising mining and sawmilling. As other industries developed in other parts of the county, the need mining and sawmilling faded away and, with it, the primary economic source in mining towns like Inskip and Cherokee or farm towns like Nord did, too. That didn’t stop small vestiges of the communities from staying, though—while the major industries that once supported the towns were gone, the residents remained, albeit in much smaller numbers.
Stirling City, for example, originated in 1903 as a milling destination for the Diamond Match Co. from Ohio, despite early fears that the local wood would be inadequate to support mass production. For 70 years, Stirling City’s major driver was its sawmill and some small-scale farming; in the 1970s, though, the mill closed. Today, the town is home to just about 300 people, but visitors can—and should—enjoy a visit to Clotilde Merlo Park in the spring and fall.
Nearby Inskip is a gold rush destination most famously supported by its inn. A popular stop for miners traveling through in its heyday, the town now has only a few small buildings, one of which is the rebuilt (and, if you believe the rumors, haunted by an arsonist-hunting ghost) Inskip Hotel that’s now on the National Register of Historical Places. A population so miniscule it doesn’t move the census, Inskip may be a true ghost town in several senses of the word, but when it gets cold enough in the winter, it has snowy hills, making for a more rugged weekend exploration without frills.
Cherokee, similarly deserted (population about 70), was once home to Maidu Native Americans before gold miners set up camp. Thanks to one of the state’s most productive hydraulic mines, the town once had a population that reached the thousands. But the mine was short lived, closing before the turn of the 20th century; today, all that remains is a museum and cemetery. Twice a year, Cherokee holds small festivals.
On the Butte-Yube line in the southeast corner of the county, Bangor is home to just under 700 people. Founded in 1855 as a mining boom-town by homesick travelers from Maine, today Bangor is enjoying a mini-wine industry boom. The particularly fertile agricultural region has a well-deserved place on the famed North Sierra Wine Trail. You can enjoy a day tasting at a variety of wineries in the Bangor Wine and Spirits Region.
Lastly, just about 300 people call Nord home. Once a prominent farmland at the time of its founding in the late 1800s, Nord was a productive agricultural area and exclusively reachable by rail. This made it an attractive place to farm and live--until, of course, the advent of the automobile. Soon, residents found it more convenient to travel to more developed Oroville and Chico for their goods, and eventually pulled up their roots to those places, too. The farmland still remains in some areas, but ultimately, Nord is another Butte County place with a once-bright history that time still hasn’t quite forgotten.