Pioneers Of The Divide: The McConnell Brothers

The Story of The McConnell Brothers

Brothers Samuel and Thaddeus McConnell, in partnership with John Cody, built a sawmill approximately ½ mile below the Johntown camp. The brothers also purchased a large nearby plot of land that had been used to grow vegetables.  Thaddeus planted more garden and built a house there.

They began to sell vegetables to the surrounding mining camps. One of their customers, a Mr. Devine who ran a boarding house in Georgetown, angrily complained one day that his turnips arrived minus their tops and he demanded to know why.  He was assured it wouldn’t happen again and the following week he received his turnips, complete with leafy tops, for 30 cents a pound.  (Mr. Devine was shortly thereafter hanged, for killing his wife.)

A third McConnell brother, Thomas, joined the partnership the following year (1851) and they all prospered.  Thomas took over the management of the newly established trading post, and often slept in the store with a couple of loaded pistols by his side.  They added another 160 acres in the area known as Johntown Flat and the brothers continued to expand their commercial enterprises. Several peach orchards sprang up, the trees bearing fruit quite quickly.

At a Fourth of July celebration in 1852 that prominently featured vegetables from the McConnell and Cody gardens and tasty peaches from the orchards, one of the McConnells suggested Garden Valley as an appropriate name for their gardens, sawmill, and expanding Miner’s Store and the name was unanimously adopted for their properties.

Johntown continued to prosper, but was quickly overshadowed by the rapidly expanding Garden Valley.  When a post office for the area was established in December of 1852, Garden Valley was the name used.

John Cody sold out his interest in December 1853 and died the following year.

A fire started in the sawmill in 1857 and burned the town of Garden Valley. The McConnells were offered money to reopen their businesses, but they declined assistance.  The lumber mill was not rebuilt.

The above is an excerpt from the article “The Movers and The Doers” by Sheryl Rambeau.

photo of Thaddeus C. McConnell via: usgennet.org

Related articles:

Sacramento County Biographies: Thaddeus C. McConnell

RootsWeb: McConnell Family History

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