Ione is located in the fertile Ione Valley, which is believed to be named by Thomas Brown around 1849 after one of the heroines in Edward Bulwer Lytton's drama "The Last Days of Pompeii." During the days of the Gold Rush, the miners knew the town by the names of "Bedbug" and "Freezeout." Unlike other communities in Amador County, which were founded on gold mining, Ione was a supply center, stage and rail stop and agricultural hub.
The Town of Ione continued to grow and prosper after its gold rush founding. The first school was built in 1853. The historic Methodist Church was organized in 1853 and the structure was completed in 1862. The first flour mill was built in 1855. The first brick building was built by Daniel Stewart in 1855 for his general merchandise store and is still owned and operated by the same family.
At the centennial of 1876, Ione had a population of about 600 which included about 100 Chinese who lived in Ione's Chinatown. The town included one public school, 4 churches, 4 general stores, one meat market, one laundry, one brewery, a resturant, millinery shop, an art gallery, six saloons, a drug store and barber shop, and many other business establishments. The centennial also celebrated the completion of the railroad to the town of Ione. The centennial celebration was the beginning of what is now known as the Ione Homecoming. This annual celebration has been held during the month of May almost every year since that first Centennial celebration in 1876 and is now held on the first weekend in May every year.
The City of Ione was incorporated as a General Law City in 1953 and is now the largest city in Amador County.
Ione has many interesting landmarks and historical points of interest:
The Preston School of Industry, known as The Castle, was built between 1890-1894 to serve as a school for juveniles referred by the courts. The Castle is currently not in use, but the Preston Castle Foundation is working to help restore The Castle.
Dave Brubeck, the famous jazz pianist, lived in Ione and in 1998 scored a video tour of the castle called "A Castle's Song", sold through KVIE to help fund the restoration efforts.
The Castle and grounds are not open to the public, but there are several vantage points in Ione for photographing this famous landmark. Photos of the castle interior can be viewed at the Amador Country Film Commission website.
The Ione Community Cemetary, next to Howard Park on Church Street, reflects the pioneer history of Ione and dates back to 1852. The Catholic Cemetary is across the street. "Iron Ivan", located in a park behind City Hall on Main Street, was the seventh and last steam engine used by the Amador Central Railroad.
"Iron Ivan", located in a park behind City Hall on Main Street, was the seventh and last steam engine used by the Amador Central Railroad.