Where Did That Road Name Come From? W-Z

Washoe Street is named for the Washoe tribe of Native Americans that resided in portions eastern California and western Nevada. One of our adjacent counties in the State of Nevada is named Washoe in their honor.

Weber Creek Drive, like the creek itself, is named for a very early (1841) California pioneer named Charles M. Weber. He settled and named Weberville, a large active mining town located between Placerville and Diamond Springs. However, he is best known for developing and marketing the City of Stockton.

Because Weber was usually pronounced “WE birr”, the creek began to show up on maps and in journals as “Weaver.” Thus, to overcome confusion, many map makers apparently added an additional “b” to the name, making it “Webber”. It still shows up with that spelling on some maps.
Edward Gould Buffum, a soldier and journalist who wrote about the famous hangings in Placerville that gave it the name “Hangtown,” was mining in Weberville in early 1849 when the event occurred.

Wentworth Springs Road, which runs east from Georgetown is named for Nathan Wentworth who discovered the springs named for him. He sailed around Cape Horn to California from Maine in 1851, first mining along the Bear River and at Michigan Bluff, where he also operated a sawmill. When the sawmill burned, he concentrated on mining for six years and then moved to Georgetown, working as a butcher from 1876 – 1880. Then he farmed and operated a team for the Georgetown area merchants. After discovering Wentworth Springs, he built and operated a resort there. He died at the Springs on August 11, 1884.

White Fir Road is named for the common White Fir (Abies concolor), which can be found above 2500 feet on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and as far east as the Rocky Mountains. White fir makes a soft, second-grade lumber.

White Oak Road is named for the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) which often has a paler bark than the other oaks and was sometimes called the White Oak. An area south of Salmon Falls was once known as White Oak Flat because of the number of these trees that grew in there. Prior to that the area was known as Cart Wheel Valley, for a now obscure reason.

Wild Chaparral Road, a frontage road west of Ponderosa Road and north of Highway 50, is so named because of the large “chaparral” plant community, that exists in the area (manzanita, chamise, etc).

Wild Turkey Drive is named for the wild turkeys that thrive in the western part of El Dorado County.

Not native to California, turkeys were planted for sport hunting in the 1960s and have now increased in population to become, in many peoples’ minds, a pest. A group of turkeys moving along the ground is sometimes called a “raft” or “rafter” since they move together in a block, resembling a raft.

Wiloakpine Hill Road is a clever combination of willow, oak and pine, three common foothill trees.

Winnemucca Avenue and Court are named for the eminent Northern Paiute chief at the time of the Paiute War of 1860. Also known as Poito, Chief Winnemucca was the son of another famous Northern Paiute chief, Truckee. His son Natchez and nephew Numaga were known to the white man as Little Winnemucca and Young Winnemucca, respectively.

Wintun Court is named for the Wintun Tribe of Native Americans which resided west and north of El Dorado County, in the Sacramento Valley.

Woodchuck Court is named for the largest of the ground squirrel group, the Marmot, often called the woodchuck or, less often, the groundhog. Living at elevations above 6000 feet, it emerges from hibernation as late as May, quickly fattens up and returns to its burrow as early as September.

Wright’s Lake Road is named for Wrights Lake, which is some thirty-six miles east of Placerville and eight miles north of Highway 50. The area actually consists of several lakes, named for their shapes or color or after a historical family.

Wright’s Lake itself is named for two brothers, Bert and Ed Wright, who were looking for summer mountain dairy sites in the early 1850s, already having winter dairies near Galt. They came across a Sierra lake and since there was adequate water and grass, filed claims on two sections (640 acres each) of land near this lake that would be named after them.

Yellow Brick Road is named for…well, you’ll know if you follow it.

Yellow Pine Drive is named for the Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa), the most common and widely distributed western conifer. The lumber industry uses the term “ponderosa pine” to designate its fine and straight-grained, high-resin wood.

Yosemite Lane and Place are named for the famous river valley in north central California.

The derivation of this name has been a subject of considerable controversy over the years. Originally it was “Yo-sem-i-ty”, a name suggested by L. H. Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion in 1851 to perpetuate the natives they met in the valley. He believed it was their word for “full-grown grizzly bear”. There is also a reference from 1810 to the Jusmites and, around the same time, a Christian Indian village called Josimites, neither of which were near the valley. It is believed by some that the word actually means “a band of killers” the name outsiders called the Awani Tribe who lived in the valley. When Congress granted the land to the State of California in 1864, it was officially called Yo Semite Valley. In 1906 the valley became part of Yosemite National Park.

Zinfandel Way is named for what was once the wine grape most often identified with the foothill vineyards. Some foothill Zinfandel vineyards are nearly as old as the State of California and the wines made from those grapes are marketed as “old vine”, or other similar names.

For years the origin of this grape was a mystery, having just shown up in a shipment of vine cuttings from Europe. A few years ago U.C. Davis, using DNA testing, determined that was effectively identical to an Italian grape known as “Primitivo.” Further research has placed the origin of both of them in Croatia, where the “parent” grape is called Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Sources for this story include: “Atlas of California, by Donley, Allan, Caro and Patton (1979); “A California Flora,” by Munz and Keck (1959); “A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals,” by Frederick Pough (1953); “California Gold Camps,” by Erwin Gudde (1975); “California Place Names,” by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974); “Georgetown, Pride of the Mountains,” by Davis and Rambeau (1987); “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976,” researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “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); “Six Months in the Gold Mines,” by Edward G. Buffum (1850); “History of El Dorado County,” by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); “Natural History of the Sierra Nevada,” by Storer and Usinger (1963); “The Wright’s Lake Story,” by the Wright’s Lake Summer Home Association (1962, revised 1994); the Mountain Democrat, 1854-present; the Empire County Argus (Coloma), 1853-1856; the Californian (Monterey), 1846-47; and the Alta California (San Francisco), 1849-1850

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