In El Dorado County there were, at one time or another, over 100 post offices with some 120 different names. Some had a short life and some apparently never even existed at all, although history books make reference to them. The latter were appropriately called phantom post offices. Many others, once established, continue to operate until this day.
CAMP SACRAMENTO: This summer or seasonal post office was first established at this location in the American River Canyon, twelve miles east of Kyburz and three miles southwest of Vade (Phillips), on June 17, 1929 with Pearl Chapell as postmaster. Originally it was at Lover’s Leap, one mile to the west, before being moved to this location.
The Lover’s Leap Post Office, named for the legend of an Indian girl who plunged from the adjacent 1,285 foot high rock because her love was unrequited, was established on October 30, 1919 with Annie M. Scherrer as the postmaster. As previously mentioned, it was discontinued in mid-1929 and moved to Camp Sacramento.
The Camp Sacramento Post Office was discontinued on October 31, 1940 and the mail moved to Kyburz.
CANYON (CREEK): The Canyon Post Office was located five miles to the southeast of Shingle Springs, and named for its location on Big Canyon Creek, once a trading center for the mines in the area. It was established on August 27, 1897 with William A. Green as postmaster. Less than nine years later, on May 14, 1906, the post office was discontinued and the mail moved to the Shingle Springs Post Office.
CEDARVILLE: The Cedarville Post Office was established on November 22, 1853, probably seven miles northwest of Indian Diggings where the road crosses Cedar Creek. The exact location is unknown as there is no record of that in the archives of the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C.
It was discontinued on November 12, 1863 and the mail probably moved to Indian Diggins. Because of the lack of solid information, the Cedarville Post Office is often called a “ghost post office.” The first postmaster was Joseph M. Hawley.
CLARKSVILLE: The post office at this early mining location on the main east-west immigrant road, near the western edge of El Dorado County (25 miles east of Sacramento and 7 miles west of Shingle Springs), was established on July 14, 1855. This post office was discontinued on August 30, 1924 and then reestablished a short time later on February 24, 1927. On May 31, 1934, service was discontinued and the mail moved to Folsom City. The first postmaster was David Cummings.
COLD SPRING: This early post office at a location six miles northwest of Placerville, which is now called Cold Springs, was established prior to January 21, 1852, that being the day that its first postmaster, John M. Goetschines, was finally confirmed by the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C. Like many early mining camps, this one soon became a ghost town and on June 11, 1874 the post office was moved to the southeast and renamed Granite Hill with William P. Vernon serving as the Granite Hill Post Office’s first postmaster.
On February 29, 1908 service at the Granite Hill Post Office would be discontinued and the mail moved five miles north to the Coloma Post Office.
COLOMA: Jacob (John) T. Little came to California (Coloma) in 1849 and established one of the first stores for general merchandise. The first post office was operated out of Mr. Little’s store, with him serving as the first of twenty-five postmasters that would serve this post office over the next 150 years. It was officially registered with the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 1849, however, the earliest known postmark from Coloma bears a manuscript marking of October 20, 1849, proof that Coloma had a post office established earlier than the official record (Special Agent Allen’s letter of August 29, 1849 places him at the site in the latter part of June or first part of July of 1849 when he established the post office).
The early postmarks spelled Coloma as “Culloma” and added “Alta Cal”, for Alta California. After California was admitted as a state in 1850, the “Alta” was no longer used.
The Placer Herald for 1853 indicated that Coloma was then the principal post office in California. There were six different “pony expresses” running between Coloma and surrounding mines to deliver the semi-monthly arriving mail, charging one dollar per letter for delivery. The Empire County Argus also reported on April 15, 1854 that over 4000 letters and packages left the Coloma Post Office for the Atlantic States. The Argus periodically published a list of names of people who had letters waiting unclaimed at the post office. This list frequently contained several hundred names. As a result wagon loads of unclaimed letters were sent to the Dead Letter Office in San Francisco.
Many of the post offices in gold rush towns discontinued service and were closed as the miners and prospectors moved on to new gold fields. They were reopened as people came back to the areas and the towns became viable again. The Coloma Post Office has never closed. The service has remained uninterrupted since 1849, when it was the first post office in what would become El Dorado County.
Mr. Little’s store, and the first post office, was located on the north side of the river, across from the present town. subsequently the office was located in various buildings around Coloma and is currently on Main Street (Highway 49) in the heart of Marshall Gold Discovery State Park.
A “First Day Cover” with a stamp celebrating the centennial of the discovery of gold was postmarked and issued at the Coloma Post Office on January 24, 1948. On November 8, 1999, a special cancellation was applied to letters to celebrate the sesquicentennial of this historic post office.
Note: Much of the above information was provided by the Coloma Post Office.
Sources for this story include, “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “The Gold Rush Mail Agents to California and Their Postal Markings”, by Theron Wierenga” (1987); “California Town Postmarks, 1849-1935”, by John H. Williams (1997); “Short Stories Regarding The History of South El Dorado County”, by D. A. Wright (undated); the “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); and the archives of the Mountain Democrat, Empire County Argus and Placer Times (on microfilm at the El Dorado County Main Library).