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El Dorado County

El Dorado ~ Diamond Springs ~ Placerville
Shingle Springs ~ Coloma ~ Pilot Hill ~ Cool ~ Georgetown

El Dorado ~ el doh-rah'-doh; Spanish: The Gilded One

El Dorado County was founded February 18, 1850 as one of the original 27 counties making up the new state of California. The gold discovery at Coloma in 1848 sparked one of the biggest gold rushes ever, and changed the region quickly and drastically. Elevations range from 200 feet to over 10,000 at the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Industries include lumber, mining, pears, apples, cherries, plums, wine grapes and wineries, cattle, sheep, light manufacturing, and tourism.

Places of interest, in addition to the mines listed below:


Coloma ~ [Indian "Culluma", Beautiful or Happy Valley] On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the tailrace at Sutter's Mill here. He never gained wealth from his discovery, but ended up blacksmithing in Kelsey, a few miles from Coloma, and supplemented his income by selling his autograph. He is buried beneath his monument in the State Historic Park that bears his name. The Vineyard House was the site of a prize-winning vineyard. It's original owner committed suicide and the second owner is said to have gone mad. The Sierra Nevada House III is a replica built on the former site of two other hotels. The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is located here, as are antique shops, art galleries, restaurants, and campgrounds.

Cool ~ Much digging took place here, not for gold, but for limestone.

Pilot Hill ~ Just down the road from Cool, Pilot Hill is the site of the Bayley House. A.J. Bayley built a wonderful three-story mansion in 1862 in anticipation of serving passengers from the Central Pacific Railroad. But the railroad was routed elsewhere, and the mansion became known as "Bayley's Folly". It sits almost on Highway 49 in this tiny community and has been used as the first Grange Hall in California. Save the Bayley House!

Georgetown ~ George Phipps and some sailors discovered gold here in 1849. It was originally called Growlersburg because gold pans were said to "growl" with nuggets. The nearby village of Kelsey is where Marshall had his blacksmith shop. Garden Valley was the old Johnstown Camp. The Black Oak Mine in Garden Valley was extremely rich. Georgetown was rebuilt with a 100-foot wide Main Street to combat the all-too-common wild fires.

Placerville ~ [Placer (American Spanish): gravel or sand containing precious metal deposits; Ville (Old French): village or small rural town; hence Placerville - Little Town at the Gold Deposits] The first major camp to spring up after Coloma, it was known as Dry Diggins in 1948. Water had to be hauled to the paydirt, but it was well worth it. Three ranchers, William Daylor, Jared Sheldon, and Perry McCoon from Sacramento Valley came to the foothills in 1848. They employed Indians and mined Weber Creek about 300 yards below the crossing of the road now leading from Diamond Springs to Placerville. Famous Civil War General William T. Sherman was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army stationed in California when gold was discovered. In the summer of 1848, he was part of the official inspection party that toured the gold discovery area. Colonel R. B. Mason made the report to Washington, D.C., even sending samples of gold. Although it was official, it took a long time to circulate, so the "official" gold rush didn't get into full swing until 1849. James Carson from Monterey finally got gold fever and headed for the Old Dry Diggins. The camp became known as Hangtown due to "miners' justice" but was officially changed to Placerville in 1854 for more respectability when families gradually replaced single miners. Still remaining are the Combellack-Blair House, the Fountain Tallman museum, City Hall (1857), the County Courthouse (1863), the Cary House Hotel, Gold Bug Mine, and numerous other buildings and homes of historical interest. The County Historic Museum is housed at the County Fairgrounds, and the Hangman's Tree stump is said to be in the cellar of the historic spot bearing the same name. There are the Pony Express, Studebaker, and other monuments and plaques throughout town.

El Dorado ~ [Spanish:The Gilded One] In 1858, the building that now houses Poor Red's was built by Wells Fargo here in "Mud Springs", it's original name. This spot was the center of rich placer diggings, and a stop on the Carson Emigrant Trail. It was unnamed until miners arrived in 1849.

Diamond Springs ~ This was a stop on the Carson Emigrant Trail and one of the richest spots in the area. It was named for its crystal-clear water supply.

Shingle Springs ~ To the east of Diamond Springs and El Dorado is Shingle Springs, named for a cool spring that flowed near a shingle mill that predated the gold seekers. There is a marker on a fine old stone building at the west end of town that designates it as the original shingle mill, but the jury is still out on that one.

El Dorado County Now-a-Days



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