Sly Park Road, which connects Pleasant Valley and Pollock Pines with Sly Park and Jenkinson Lake, is named for James Calvin Sly, a private in Company B of the Mormon Battalion. He was part of an exploring party who were searching out a new route over the Sierra Nevada in 1848. Finding deep snow at Iron Mountain, they camped in the meadow awaiting warmer weather.
Smith Flat Road, Smith Flat Cemetery Road and Smith Flat School Road are all part of the early town known at various times as Smith’s Flat, Smith Flat and Smithflat. Located just three miles east of downtown Placerville, the town was not only an important stop along the Placerville wagon and stage road (3 Mile House), but also a mining town of some renown and one of the few places were diamonds were found in El Dorado County. It is believed to have been named after a pioneer farmer or rancher named Jeb Smith (not to be confused with the famous trapper and explorer Jedediah S. Smith), who was the first person to settle there. Until the freeway was constructed, Smith Flat Road was Highway 50.
Snow’s Road, at one time the major connector between Pleasant Valley, Newtown and what is now Camino, is named for Samuel Snow, and early pioneer who owned land in the Newtown area and ran a store there.
Snowshoe Thompson Drive is named for Jon Torsteinson Rue, better known as John “Snowshoe” Thompson. He carried the mail between from Placerville to Genoa, Nevada, from 1856 until 1876, using a pair of long skis which are now in the El Dorado County Historical Museum. He was not the first to do this but the most famous, having being preceded by Jack C. Johnson, from Johnson’s Ranch. Johnson carried the mail up and down the American River Canyon, crossing the summit over a route known as “Johnson’s Cut-off.”
Soapstone Road is named for a form of the mineral talc that is found in several deposits in El Dorado County. Soft, and easy to carve, it was often used by the local Native Americans to make bowls and other utensils. Now it is most often used for artistic sculpturing. It can contain asbestos fibers.
Somerset Road gets its name from the town by that name at the intersection of Buck’s Bar and Mt. Aukum Roads, between Pleasant Valley and Mt. Aukum. It was first settled in 1856 by some former residents of Somerset, Ohio who probably searched for gold in the nearby North and Middle Forks of the Cosumnes River, along with local streams and ravines. Often the town showed up on maps spelled Sommerset or Summerset.
Sourdough Lane, Trail and Flat honor the “sourdoughs” or early miners who carried their yeast to make bread in the easily transportable form of a piece of unbaked dough, saved from the previous night’s batch. They and the French bakers in San Francisco cooperated to produce the famous San Francisco Sourdough bread.
Gold miners in Alaska were well known for the use of sourdough and also the ability to distill the liquid that forms from the fermentation process called “hooch”, into a high alcohol beverage. The effect of a long winter existing on sourdough bread and the distilled “hooch” produced a condition sometimes referred to as “a bad case of the jim jams.”
South Street shows up in many early mining towns as the name for the first street south of and parallel with the main street.
Spanish Dry Diggings Road, Spanish Flat Road and Spanish Ravine Road are not named for miners from Spain, but for groups of early Spanish speaking miners who explored or settled in these areas. Most of the “Spaniards”, as they were known, were Mexican citizens (Californios) who were in California when it was ceded to the United States. The name was also applied to those miners that came from almost any of the countries in Central and South America.
Stamp Mill Road is a reference to the steam or water powered mills that usually worked in groups to crush the tons of quartz to get at the trapped gold. Some were so large that their vibrations could be felt great distances away.
Starling Court and Lane are named for the European Starling, which was introduced into New York City’s Central Park in 1890. Ancestors of the original 100 birds have spread out over most of temperate North America.
Starthistle Lane refers to the imported Yellow Starthistle (Centaverea solstitialis), a major agricultural pest, which invades lawns, fields and most of the open space in the foothills.
Steely Ridge Road, like the Steely Fork of the Cosumnes River, is named for (Dr.?) Victor J. W. Steely, a real mining entrepreneur in the Mt. Pleasant Mining District near Grizzly Flat. He built several water-powered stamp mills and even a short railroad to serve his many mining claims.
Studebaker Road pays tribute to John Mohler Studebaker who arrived in Placerville in 1853 with fifty cents in his pocket. Soon he became known as “Wheelbarrow Johnny,” because of the strong, reliable wheelbarrows he built for the miners. Five years later, with $8,000 in his money belt, returned east to join his three brothers in building Studebaker wagons. Later the company would graduate into building Studebaker cars and trucks.
Sugar Pine Drive and Road refer to the Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana), a large native pine tree the wood from which is highly resistant to rot. The tree is easily recognized by the large long cones that hang from the branches like ornaments.
Sweeney Road, near Indian Diggings, is named for James Sweeney, an Irishman who arrived in California in 1852, spending the next six years mining in White Rock, Frenchtown and Indian Diggings. He then purchased a farm where he and his wife, Honora Donovan Sweeney raised cows, fruit and several children.
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); “History of El Dorado County,” by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); the Mountain Democrat, 1854-present; the Empire County Argus (Coloma), 1853-1856; the Californian (Monterey), 1846-47; the California Star (1847-48) and the Alta California (San Francisco), 1849-1850.