A Rose By Any Other Name

Was it really  “Growlersburg“?

by Sheryl Rambeau

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Part of the horde flooding the Mother Lode, a New York based group led by George Phipps and John Cody started from Coloma in the autumn of 1849 to look for the rumored (and real) pockets of wealth to be found in the streams and canyons above. They followed Dutch Creek, and a tributary stream (later named Johnstown Creek) that came from the southeast. The main stream divided and the group split, John Cody following Manhattan Creek to establish a camp at ‘John’s Town’ (Garden Valley).  George Phipps and his party followed the creek they dubbed Empire Creek to its headwaters and settled into a base camp there. The soon-to-be thriving community was named ‘George’s Town’.

By December of 1849 there were 460 persons living in George’s Town, with a tributary population of over 5,000.  Gold seekers drifted in and out, but the bustling little community, with its name shortened to Georgetown, continued to expand and grow as a major supply center to an area that very soon boasted over 700 identifiable and separate communities.

According to several very reliable sources, one of those separate identifiable sites was a small cluster of miners’ cabins a quarter mile or so beyond Georgetown.  Actually, according to pioneer miner, businessman and local area historian Thomas Gibbs, they were really less hospitable than cabins, but were really “canvas hovels, distributed in one of the least hospitable areas to be found in this beauteous county due to constant spring seepage” and separated from Georgetown itself by a gully.  The miners who lived there griped so frequently and so vociferously about the area, that it came to be called “Growler’s Gulch” and the cluster of shacks “Growlersburg.”

A book called Sioli’s Souvenir History of El Dorado County (published in 1883) mentioned that a group claiming to be the town’s first settlers and the only link to their portion of the community – “Growlersburg” – lived on the lower end of Georgetown.  Other than Sioli’s account, none of the early chroniclers of the area’s history ever mentioned Growlersburg.

Almost a century later, in 1948, a public relations man resurrected the name of “Growlersburg” for some publicity releases extolling the virtues of Georgetown, but added some spice by attributing the name to the “nuggets growling in the pan”.  The notion caught on and the Growlersburg designation has been perpetuated through many geographical and organizational names.

The Growlersburg story is a lot more interesting than just a boring descriptive name for a home base site.  Through repeated tellings, “Growlersburg” has been romanticized well out of proportion.  The Growlersburg nugget story adds to the lore of the area, but is not based on historical fact.  “George’s Town” it was, and “Georgetown” it is.

Click image to download a copy of Sioli’s Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County

Download Pioli's Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County

Article by Sheryl Rambeau
Also contains content from: The Pollock Pines Epic and Pan For Gold

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