In their names, many of the streets, avenues and alleys of El Dorado County retain the flavor of the early years of California. These names record forever people, places and even events in our history.
A number of the streets have obvious names that indicate the communities or places that they connect. In other cases, some of the private, and even public, roads that have been named more recently have nothing to do with much of anything and even show a bit of humor, such as the names “Costalotta” and “Pineoakyo.”
Here are a number of our common and obscure street names and their origins:
A & A Road (or alley) is a small piece of what appears to be old State Highway between Placerville Drive and Green Valley Road in Placerville. Records show that in our less politically correct days, it was actually named Amos and Andy Road.
Argonaut Drive, in Diamond Springs, is named for the early gold seekers, who were called Argonauts after the famous myth of Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.
Bacchi Road is named for the Bacchi family, a very early ranching family that still runs cattle on large spreads of land in the Coloma area, where this road is located.
Bee Street, in Placerville, is named for Frederick A. Bee, who owned much of the land to the east of the high school.
His Victorian house on that street was the Elk’s Lodge for many years and has now been restored as the Sequoia Restaurant.
Colonel Bee, as he was known, pioneered the telegraph from Placerville east over the Sierra Nevada. Badly sagging from pole to pole and tree to tree, it was often called Bee’s grapevine. It is believed to be the origin of the quote, “Heard it through the grapevine.”
Bassi Road gets its name from an early dairyman and rancher from Valle, Switzerland named G. Bassi. He had a large land holding on the South Fork of the American River, where he and his wife Virginia (Forni) Bassi kept their large herds of dairy cattle and raised their children.
Big Cut Road, south of Placerville, is named for the large cut in the hill made by miners using the hydraulic mining process. It is still quite visible and was a landmark of Placerville in the early part of the 20th century.
Big Oak Road, east of Diamond Springs, was named for the large, centuries old Canyon Live, Maul or Golden Cup Oak tree (Quercus chrysolepis) that stood on the south side of that road. At one time it was thought to be the largest of its species in California, which turned out to be untrue when a few other, larger examples were found. Unfortunately, it fell down about two decades ago. Fortunately, a cross-section slab of it is now at the County Museum.
Bigler Avenue, at South Lake Tahoe, is named for John Bigler, an early Governor of California after whom the lake now known as Lake Tahoe was once named.
He headed an early rescue party into the Sierra Nevada and was honored by having the lake named after him.
It wasn’t until 1945 that someone discovered that although the lake was shown on most maps as Lake Tahoe, it was still officially named Lake Bigler.
Blair Road and Blair Mill Road, in the Camino/Pollock Pines area get their names from some very early settlers in El Dorado County, John and James Blair, two of four brothers who immigrated to America from Scotland in the 1850s. Under the name of J. and J. Logging and Lumber Company, the two owned and operated a lumber mill near Sly Park. For a while the were also the owners of Sportsman’s Hall. The family had a lumber yard in Placerville into the 1970s.
Brandon Road, south of Shingle Springs, is named for Zar P. Brandon, who was born in Ohio, first moved to Wisconsin and then, in 1850, to California where he engaged in mining. In 1851 he returned to Wisconsin and a year later came back with his family, establishing a 320 acre farm on Indian Creek.
Buckeye Road, Buckeye Lake Road and Buckeye Court, get their name from the very common California Buckeye (Aesculus californica), a tree that flowers early in the year, fruits and then, to protect itself from dehydration, drops its leaves in summer. It often ends up looking somewhat like a dead pear tree, due to the shape of the drying fruit. All parts of the tree are toxic to humans and many animals.
Bullion Bend Road, east of Pollock Pines, is an extension of Pony Express Trail named for the horseshoe bend in this early immigrant road where a famous robbery took place on the night of June 30, 1864.
At the Somerset House, many miles away, several of the robbers and Deputy Sheriff Joseph M. Staples would confront each other and Staples would become the first Deputy Sheriff of El Dorado County killed in the line of duty.
Sources for this story include: “Atlas of California,” by Donley, Allan, Caro and Patton (1979); “California Gold Camps,” by Erwin Gudde (1975); “California Place Names,” by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974); “Mother Lode of Learning – One Room Schools of El Dorado County,” by the Retired Teachers Association of El Dorado County (1990); “I Remember…, Stories and pictures of El Dorado County pioneer families,” researched and written by Betty Yohalem (1977); “History of El Dorado County,” by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998) and numerous early California newspapers.