Note: This is just a short look at the history of the town of Rescue. For a complete history on the area and its pioneer residents, see: “History of a Place Called Rescue,” by William Teie and Francis Carpenter (2011). It is available through Deer Valley Press and local bookstores.
Rescue was not the original name of this small El Dorado County community at the intersection of Green Valley Road and Deer Valley Road. According to the many documents on the subject, like many other settlements in early California it was originally called Green Valley. The reported source of the name Rescue adds a bit of interesting color to this rural community.
The story goes that sometime around 1895, the U.S. Post Office Department decided that they wanted to do away with this town’s name of Green Valley because there were already too many towns with that name in California and elsewhere. The Department requested the owner of the building that would house the post office, one Dr. Hunter, to submit a list of new, one-word names for the town from which the Department would choose the one they liked.
One proposed name on the list was given to Dr. Hunter by Andrew Hare, who had a nearby mining claim called the Rescue Claim. His claim had “rescued” him from poverty and he thought it would be a fine name for the town.
Apparently the Post Office Department agreed with Mr. Hare and, thus, on June 12, 1895, the Rescue Post Office opened with Merritt A. Hunter as postmaster (like many other pioneers of this area Mr. Hunter is buried in Jayhawk Cemetery, just north of the center of town along Deer Valley Road).
Rescue, or Green Valley at the time, had been an important way station on the wagon road from Sacramento to the “diggins” in the 1840s and 1850s. During the active mining years, many heavy wagon loads of mining equipment wound their way along what is now Green Valley road, through the middle of this small community working their way to the mining claims around Coloma and Placerville and then returning with ore and even passengers to the towns of Folsom and Sacramento.
In 1849, with the inception of California’s first stage line from Sacramento to Coloma and Placerville, Green Valley was chosen as one of its stops.
For many years in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Rescue remained a quiet, sleepy town with a store and post office and not much more.
Much of the land was just vacant or used for grazing or other agricultural pursuits. Businesses built up along Green Valley road, including the Skinner Winery (corner of Cameron Park Drive and Green Valley Road) and, west along Green Valley Road, several lodging places, coach and Pony Express stops were constructed. However, Rescue remained relatively quiet.
Even in the mid 1960s, when the communities on all sides of Rescue started seeing new residential development, most of Rescue continued to maintain its rural look.
On July 1, 1962, the post office changed its location to the Rose Springs Literary Society Meeting Hall, with Mrs. Ila Wing Brazil as acting Postmaster (she was officially appointed Postmaster on October 23, 1963).
The entire upstairs of this historic structure, dated 1896, has a magnificent dance floor where once great celebrations were held. Downstairs contains the Post Office and areas that could be used meeting rooms.
The building is being caringly restored to its original magnificence by the Rescue Volunteer Fire Association, using private funds collected from all kinds of events, including golf tournaments, rummage sales and their famous “Hot August Nights”.
Unlike its two cities, El Dorado County’s many communities have no real legal boundaries other than those that might be artificially created by the local Post Office or fire department. In spite of this, people residing for miles around the center of Rescue claim it as their community, honoring it with a well attended, huge celebration every year, complete with games, events and even the “election” of an honorary mayor.
Unlike many other Gold Rush towns, and in spite of being on the edge of several developing areas, Rescue is one place that has succeeded in preserving its rural lifestyle.
Sources for this story include: “History of California”, by Theodore Hittell (1897); “California Gold Camps”, by Erwin Gudde (1975); “California Place Names”, by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974);”I Remember…, Stories and pictures of El Dorado County pioneer families”, researched and written by Betty Yohalem (1977); “Mines and Mineral Resources of El Dorado County, California”, California Division of Mines (1956); “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); the archives of the Mountain Democrat (1854-Present); and the wonderful people at the reference desk of the El Dorado County Main Library.