Peachstone Gulch Trail

This is a great time of year to go hiking and the wildflowers will be spectacular this year! Here’s a great hike, from GetOffYourGass:


Peachstone Gulch Trail

(Western States Trail)                                                                          MAP

20 miles from Auburn Courthouse. Easy-steep 15 miles, one way.

If you enjoy hiking where you aren’t likely to see anyone except during the Western States run this is the place for you! This is one of the most remote sections of the entire trail and because it is more difficult to access, seldom used. With 15 miles of trail between Foresthill and Ford’s Bar you get great views of the Middle Fork Canyon with some easy walking stretches high above the river, but it does drop 2000 feet overall. Southern exposure means hot and dry in the summer but it also crosses some creeks that run wet all year. The trail can be reached as an extension of Driver’s Flat, from Foresthill, or from Todd Valley estates. You could also camp at Ford’s Bar and stay for days or, until State Park rangers notice you.

Directions: Go 20 miles from Auburn to Foresthill. The trail is accessed from California street or from Mosquito Ridge Road right out of town. Otherwise you can get on it closer to Ford’s Bar from Todd Valley estates using Nugget to Alton Road. Or my favorite, go to the end of Oakwood, park and take the trail south that winds around the ridge to drop in 8 miles from Foresthill.

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Wine Adventures await in El Dorado County

Passport 2017

The El Dorado Winery Association invites wine adventurers to a wine tasting sojourn through the Sierra foothills featuring great wine, music and food at the annual Passport Wine Event on April 22 and 23 and April 29 and 30 with a special wine-maker dinner on April 21 and 28.

Guests will enjoy touring through the spectacular foothills and visiting the participating El Dorado Wine Association members’ tasting rooms and vineyards.

“Each year sets a new tone and theme at Passport. This year we are offering Adventures in Wine,” said Carey Skinner, owner of Skinner Vineyards and president of the El Dorado Winery Association. “We love opening our doors and setting the stage for the new theme each year.”

Tickets are on sale at passporteldorado.com

With more than 150 years of history steeped in gold and agriculture, the El Dorado region is poised for its new found resurgence in viticulture. Unique vineyard soils and a high elevation create a superior environment for a vast array of varietals. The region is gaining recognition for its ability to grow quality grapes that exhibit a sense of place.

For more information about El Dorado and its wines, visit eldoradowines.org

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Luck: The Only Lady Present – Part One

by Sheryl Rambeau

Gold, discovered in the tailrace of a mill under construction in Coloma, January 1848, set off a fever that eventually spread around the world as anxious gold seekers began to converge on the new western territory looking to make their fortunes.  By ship, by wagon, by horseback, on foot — would-be miners from all walks of life and from multiple countries converged on the California Mother Lode, looking to make a fortune.

The 1849 California Gold Rush could be looked at as an early version of the state lottery: file a claim in the right spot, make a fortune..  Many prospective miners arrived in the gold fields thinking they would spend six months or so, get filthy rich, and return to civilization as wealthy men.

Some actually did.  But while the odds of “finding the big one” were better than current odds of picking the right numbers, fate – or Lady Luck– often played a major role in the decision between instant riches and failure.

The find at Sutter’s Mill wasn’t actually the first time that someone had come across the precious metal in California:

In 1842, Spaniard Francisco Lopez was riding across one of the Spanish land grant ranchos forty miles north of Los Angeles when he stopped for lunch and dug up some wild onions to add to his meal.  Gold particles were clinging to the onion roots.  The word spread and a mini-Rush ensued.

Over the next two years approximately 1,000 gold seekers worked the general area, until the Mexican government saw a chance to capitalize on the industry and told the rancho owner he was required to collect fees from the miners and taxes from the sale of any necessities to these miners.

The patron was reluctant to risk collecting money from the would-be miners, so discouraged them as ‘trespassers’ instead.  Available gold had greatly diminished anyway, and by 1845 the placer mines were deserted.

A wagon train coming to California from the Midwest in early 1847 stopped at a tributary stream of the Yuba River to allow their animals to graze and the immigrants to rest.  Three women, Mrs. Adna Hecox, Mrs. Joseph Aram, and Mrs. Isaac Isbell were doing their laundry, when Mrs. Hecox noticed shiny specks clinging to her towels and sheets.  When she showed them to her minister husband, he guffawed and told her she was a fool and it was no such thing.  In a fit of temper, she tossed her flakes, determined to say nothing more.

Meantime, Mrs. Aram, working slightly downstream, reached into the water and picked out a small nugget.  Unwilling to face the ridicule her friend received, she tucked the nugget away until the wagon train arrived at Sutter’s Fort.  There the nugget was assayed and was indeed pure gold.

Some of the wagon train members recognized their missed opportunity and  attempted to return to the spot after the news of the find at Sutter’s Mill spread, but found many others there ahead of them.  None of the three ladies’ husbands were successful at searching for gold.

It should be noted that some of the early pictures of the placer mines sometimes show women carrying water for the operation of a rocker, or doing other light physical tasks in the recovery of gold, but no picture ever shows a woman panning, the final step in the separation of the valuable metal.  Presumably, she could not be trusted not to spill some of the valuable mineral over the edge of pan while getting rid of the last few grains of the unwanted sand.  Additionally, superstitious miners refused to allow any females to go into the lode mines, claiming it made for very bad luck.

Luck: The Only Lady Present – Part One is an excerpt from the article “Luck: The Only Lady Present” by Sheryl Rambeau.

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

Pioneers of The Divide: Shannon Knox

The Story of Shannon Knox

Shannon Knox arrived in Georgetown very early in 1851 and started to dig for gold.  Although a carpenter by trade, he built a small crude log cabin close to the commercial structures of the original George’s Town encampment, west of what is now Lower Main Street.  He lost this cabin to fire, started in the canvas sided Round Tent Saloon {which was a common name throughout the Mother Lode for such saloons] when a photographer attempted a photo of a dead miner in July 1852.  Flames spread throughout the entire village, burning it to the ground.

Construction of a new community was promptly begun just southeast of the original, the current location of Georgetown.  Knox, returned to his original trade and built a number of new homes and commercial structures.  Using the funding from these sources, he began construction of a grand two story home on the corner of Sacramento Street (Highway 193) and Main Street.  Lumber used in the outside walls was two feet wide, with no knots.  The stair rail, downstairs parlor arch and interior sliding doors were shipped around Cape Horn by sailing ship.  This home is the oldest surviving structure in Georgetown, enduring all subsequent town fires.

Shannon Knox House, circa 1960

 
Knox left Georgetown in 1862 for the Nevada silver rush.  With partner John Keiser from Mamaluke Hill, he established a claim for high grade silver in Squaw Valley that started a minor rush there.  The mining camp was named Knoxville for him.  The deposits were not very rich, rumors of ‘salting’ the mines surfaced and the town disappeared.  Knox returned to Georgetown and lived his life out.  Family members remained in residence until 1938.

Shannon Knox House on February 22, 2007

 

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

Black & white photo courtesy of Sheryl Rambeau. Color photo courtesy of vntghippy

Pioneers of The Divide: Ellen Mason

The Story of Ellen Mason

California gold attracted many women.  The chances of “striking it rich” induced any number of females that had no other chance to earn large sums of money to brave the conditions and seek their fortune.

Ellen Mason was born a slave on a southern plantation.  She was fortunate to have a tolerant owner and she wasn’t afraid of hard work.  Ellen did extra domestic chores and eventually earned enough money to purchase her own freedom.  She promptly came west on the heels of the gold seekers.

Ellen chose to settle in Georgetown, the first recorded female (other than Indians) to settle on the Divide.  She set herself up as a laundress, washing miners’ shirts.  In the very early days of the Gold Rush, it wasn’t uncommon for miners to send their dirty laundry on schooners to be laundered in the Sandwich Islands and China, because no one wanted to leave a potential strike long enough to take care of such a mundane chore.

Ellen made enough money to buy freedom for two sisters she had left behind in the South and move them West.  Ellen lived in Georgetown as a woman of means until 1878, then moved to Oakland where she died in 1908.

The above is an excerpt from the article “Georgetown Divide Women” by Sheryl Rambeau

Georgetown Pioneer Cemetery

“In the midst of life we are in death.”

From “The Book of Common Prayer”

by Sheryl Rambeau

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Although most of the early gold seekers to the California Gold Country thought of the California experience as merely an adventure, planning to return to their respective homes within a year or so, death was still a regular fact of life for them.  Illness and accident claimed lives.  Those dead were buried in a site chosen for that purpose.

In nearly every case, a cemetery site in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was chosen overlooking the main town region.  [There are a variety of thoughts about the reasoning behind the hilltop choice, ranging from arranging for the departed to ‘watch over’ those left behind, to the more prosaic option of choosing a spot that was likely to remain above the water level and drain well.]  Georgetown’s first cemetery overlooked the original townsite, George’s Town, a mining camp established at the headwaters of Empire Creek, just beyond (and running parallel to) the current Lower Main Street.  A disastrous fire in 1852 wiped out the entire village, prompting the town fathers to lay out a new official townsite using extra wide streets to slow further depredation by flames.

Already established as a burial site, lot number 3 of block 15 was set aside as a cemetery dedicated to public use on March 30, 1868, as part of an official township survey.  Nearly twenty years later, a public meeting on May 9, 1887 appointed an official cemetery committee of three – Justice of the Peace E. L. Crawford, Frederick Schmeder, and C. M. Fitzgerald – to “take charge” of the cemetery business.  They were to oversee proper road lay-out, attend to having fences repaired, superintend burials, and keep track of all the records.  The resolutions were formally adopted by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on June 1, 1887.

Thomas Warner died July 1, 1848 and is believed to be the first person buried in the Georgetown Cemetery.  There is no longer a marker on his grave.  The oldest existing headstone still standing in the cemetery belongs to Isaac Green, a native of Illinois who died August 4, 1850.

The earliest markers were often simple wooden stakes, with names and dates carved on them.  Age, weather, fire and vandals have destroyed most of them.  Occasionally, simple aluminum stake markers put in place by cemetery managers, intended as markers waiting for more elaborate headstones, have remained in place.

Some of the marble used in headstones may have been shipped in by wagon, from Penryn, Omo Ranch quarries or the Cedar Ravine Quarry near Placerville.  The “Sierra White” marble from Penryn is used extensively as coping material in Georgetown’s Pioneer Cemetery.  Several of the older, simple white marble headstones were carved from marble slabs carried in ships as ballast, then abandoned near the San Francisco piers during the Gold Rush.

Georgetown has several elegant monuments made of rose quartz, a very expensive stone imported for that purpose.

There are also a number of “pot metal” markers.  Imported from Midwestern foundries before the turn of the century, these are poured metal markers.  The foundries simply dumped scraps and slag into a large foundry kettle, heated the contents, then poured the molten result in brass molds.  The resultant fumes were often deadly, and the practice was discontinued after less than two decades.

In 1888, a full burial lot cost $10.  A half lot sold for $5 and a single grave was a mere $1.  All expenses were to be paid “before occupying the lot”.  It was understood the plots would be maintained forever.

If a member of a local fraternal organization died, there were often complicated rituals for his/her burial.  Masons or Oddfellows in good standing were likely to be found with large, clear markers, as those organizations took it upon themselves to maintain given portions of the cemetery and to assist with burial costs if necessary.  The organization’s symbol is usually inscribed on the headstone.  The more modern stones in the New Masonic section are far simpler in design.  And, far more likely to accommodate lawn mower usage.

Scattered throughout the cemetery are many historical rose plants, many of them over 100 years old.  The Divide Garden Club has made lists of the type and location of many of the plants.  Some of the roses were named for the person they were planted to commemorate, such as the Little Fanny Shepherd rose, near the main gate.  The historic rose bushes have small metal tags attached, identifying the plant variety and the name.

In late January 1984, vandals upset tombstones, breaking some, tearing out copings, displacing some headstones, defacing others.  Some of the damage is irreparable.

Maintenance within the cemetery itself is primarily volunteer labor.  Some families endeavor to keep their family plots tidy and repairs done.  Bill and Chris Butts did much of the maintenance for years, aided by work crews from Growlersburg Conservation Camp.  Larry Anderson currently supervises repair and maintenance, assisted by interested community members.

There is no room left in Georgetown Pioneer Cemetery.  Although some plots are still vacant, they have been purchased by persons still living.  Voters approved a new cemetery site in 1984, 15 acres of land on Georgia Slide Road.  Burials are now done in that cemetery, currently called the Georgia Slide Cemetery.

Copies of burial records are available at the El Dorado County Museum in Placerville.  The museum has copies of burial ledgers, probate papers and sometimes, of wills.


Photos courtesy of: Sheryl Rambeau, countrygirl and georgetowndivide