Monthly Archives: April 2014

Post Offices of El Dorado County, Part 9 – “I”- “J”

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. Others existed, but nobody was sure of their exact location. These were called ghost post offices. Many others, once established, continue to operate until this day.

Indian Diggins Last Day Postmark

Indian Diggins Last Day Postmark

INDIAN DIGGINGS: This post office, four miles south of the town of Omo Ranch, in the southern portion of El Dorado County, was established on Nov. 22, 1853 with Jacob Wolf as the first postmaster. The name came from miners finding a group of Indians mining along the creek.

Service at the post office was discontinued on June 15, 1869 when it was moved one and one-half miles to the northeast and the name changed to Mendon.

The Mendon Post Office had been first established on Dec. 2, 1857 with J. Edmondson as postmaster. The community was generally known as Brownsville, but Mr. Edmondson wanted to name the post office after himself. The Post Office Department would not allow him to do that, so he rearranged some letters from his name and came up with Mendon.

The Mendon Post Office was discontinued on Feb. 15, 1869 and then reestablished on June 15, 1869 when the Indian Diggings Post Office was closed and moved there. On Mar. 23, 1888, the post office was again closed and moved back to Indian Diggings.

With the closing of the post office, the name Mendon was dropped and the town was again called Brownsville.

When the post office was moved back to Indian Diggings, the last “g” was dropped renaming it Indian Diggins. The Indian Diggins Post Office was discontinued on Nov. 30, 1935 and the mail moved to the post office at Omo Ranch.

JAY HAWK: This short-lived post office was named for the area which had been first settled by members of the ill-fated “Jayhawkers Party”, a group of 1848 gold seekers (not from Kansas, but from Missouri, since Kansas wasn’t a state yet). It was established on Aug. 29, 1860 with John S. Tipton as the first postmaster.

There is no specific location for the post office in the federal archives (ghost post office), but it is known that it was about ten miles southwest of Coloma and twelve miles northeast of Folsom City. On Dec. 26, 1863 the post office was discontinued and the mail moved to Folsom City.

JOB’S STORE: This was a phantom post office, for which there are no official records. The Aug. 2, 1858 issue of the “Sacramento Union” erroneously reported that the Postmaster General had appointed Mosses Job as the postmaster of a post office by this name near Lake Tahoe.

JOSEPHINE: Located fifteen miles northeast of Georgetown, the Josephine Post Office was named for the Josephine Gold Mine, which was nearby. It was established on Aug. 12, 1895 with Jerome C. Akley serving as the first postmaster. On Oct. 31, 1917, the post office was discontinued and the mail moved to Georgetown.

JurgensJURGENS: Named for its first postmaster, Annie G. Jurgens, this post office was located six miles southeast of Rescue. It was established on July 1, 1903 and discontinued on the last day of December in 1914. The mail was moved to the post office at Rescue.





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).   

Lake Tahoe – “The Lake of the Sky,” Part VIII – The Sailboats Arrive

Washoe Chief's Family near Lake Tahoe - 1866

Washoe Chief’s Family near Lake Tahoe – 1866

The first visitors to the Tahoe Basin, the Native Americans, probably did not venture far out on to the lake in boats. Neither did the early explorers and mountain men. There was no need to do so, since there was plenty of food on the shore and fish could be easily caught where the many creeks entered the lake.

Asa Hawley, of Hawley’s Grade fame, attempted to measure the size of the lake by rowing around it in a skiff made from local materials. Although his math was incorrect and he calculated the lake to have twice the circumference as it really had, he is believed to be the first to circumnavigate of the lake in a boat of any kind. Like the many later visitors and tourists that brought canoes, rowboats and sailboats to the lake, he also did not venture far from shore.

The first real sailing craft to appear on the lake was the “Edith Batty”, a seven ton, gaff rigged sloop. She was built at Glenbrook in the 1850s by Homer Burton. Although designed as a sailboat, she also had long oars, or sweeps, used when the wind died, which it often does in the Tahoe Basin.

During the warm summer months, the “Edith Batty” was available for charter and afternoon or evening parties and often carried passengers, freight and even the mail to and from different places around the lake. With a good wind, she made excellent speed, but because the winds were fickle, it often took a full week to make a trip around the lake.

In the 1870s, after years of hard service, the “Edith Batty” was beached at Glenbrook Bay and abandoned to the harsh elements of the Tahoe Basin.

Lake Tahoe – “The Lake of the Sky,” Part VII – The Basin Begins to Fill

Friday's Station

Friday’s Station

There was only one road that entered the southern end of the Tahoe Basin from Sacramento and Placerville. However, once it entered, it split into two roads just east of Yank’s Station. One branch passed along the southern end of the lake through the marshlands created by the Upper Truckee River, somewhat close to the present alignment of Highway 50. This branch is often referred to as the Placerville-Virginia City Road and even “Johnson Route”, in honor of John Calhoun “Cockeye” Johnson, who pioneered a route over the Sierra from Placerville.

The other branch had many names: the Placerville and Carson Valley Route, the “Bonanza Road” and sometimes the “back road,” simply because of its location. Serving as the main road much of the time, it passed through the heavy forest further to the south of the lake than the other road and then veered back near the California-Nevada border, where it met the Placerville-Virginia City Road and the Kingsbury-Daggett Pass Road. This road is now know as Pioneer Trail.

Along both of these roads, other way stations and hotels were built, mostly to serve the travelers during what was called the “Bonanza Days,” the time when the freight wagons stretched end to end over the road from the railroad station in Shingle Springs to the mines at Virginia City. Many would ultimately be expanded, rebuilt or replaced to serve tourists and other visitors to the Tahoe Basin.

The first inn or way station east of Yank’s, along Pioneer Trail, was the Sierra House, at Cold Creek, built by Robert Garwood Dean in 1859. A few months after it was built it was sold to William Mac (Mack?), who renamed it “Mac’s Station”.

Further east and near what is now Heavenly Valley Creek (formerly Miller Creek), in 1862  John G. Miller, a native of Pennsylvania, built the Miller House. Years later it became a dairy center.

Six tenths of a mile further east was Dixon’s House, built by R. P. Rainery in 1861, and renamed in 1865 when bought from Terry and Hiram Brown by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dixon.

The next inn along the road was McComber’s, which was a large, two-story clapboard structure. Freeman McComber had arrived in Tahoe in the fall of 1865 and acquired 2000 acres, including the “State Line House and Ranch.”

At that time the state line was believed to be to a half-mile west of its present location, so this inn was thought to have straddled the line. The line, McComber told people, passed through the middle of the dining room, a tale that brought in tourists. There is even a legend that McComber’s first son, George Lincoln, was only a Californian because he was born on the west side of the house.

In 1882 McComber’s was purchased by George Washington Chubbuck, who ran it for two years. Chubbuck would be better known for his lumber railroad with unique wooden rails that he would later build from the lake to Meyers, generally along the Pioneer Trail route.

Just a short distance to the west of the present state line, at the junction of the Placerville-Virginia City Road was a hostelry and settlement established in 1860 by William W. Lapham. Over the years it was known as Lapham’s Fish Market and Landing, Lapham’s Hotel and Landing and Carney’s Stateline House.

The inn burned in 1876 and was replaced in 1892 by E. B. Smith’s Lakeside House or Tavern, later renamed Lakeside Park. By 1915 “The Park” had become a choice summer residence area

Lake Tahoe – “The Lake of the Sky, “Part VI – The “Yanks” are Coming

Yank's Station from the East - 1866

Yank’s Station from the East – 1866

In 1868 the tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad reached Truckee. From there a narrow gauge railroad, built from the remnants of the lumber railroads that had proliferated in the Tahoe Basin during the lumbering years, connected it to Tahoe City at the north end of the lake. This resulted in development of summer resorts at the northern end of the lake, but there was no similar railroad connection to the southern end of the lake.

The southern end of Lake Tahoe was still only connected to the outside world by the roads that had carried the emigrants into California and the freight and passengers from Sacramento to Virginia City. Because of this traffic, some inns, along with eating and drinking establishments had been built along these roads in the middle and late 1800’s. Amongst these would be one located closest to Echo Summit, a place that everyone had to pass by, no matter which of the two routes they took south of the lake. Its progressive development is in many ways typical of all others in the Tahoe Basin and worth looking at. It was known as “Yanks Station”

As mentioned before, the first white settler in the area at the southern end of the lake, a place known as Lake Valley, was Martin Smith. An real entrepreneur, he arrived in 1851 and built a simple way station at a place along the main road, seven and one half miles south of the Lake. When it burned down he, and a partner named Jim Muir, rebuilt it and added barns, a corral and stables.

When the first stagecoach crossed the Sierra into the Tahoe Basin in 1857, Smith and Muir’s way station was where they stopped. Although it was nothing more than simply a place to get minimal food and drink, a reporter of the time is said to have described it as “a spacious, well-kept hostelry…with obliging proprietors and…a respectable air about he place.”

Soon Muir would sell his interest to George Douglass, who ran another way station nearby. In 1859, Smith and Douglass would sell out to a very interesting character by the name of Ephraim Clement.