Gold Country History

The Sacramento Valley Railroad; Part 6 – The Rails Reach Placerville, But at a High Cost

Lawsuits and Lawsuits, But Success at Last

In 1873, the holders of the P&SVRR bonds sued the County of El Dorado and the City of Placerville, to recover the entire amount due in principal and interest. The county defended the suit but lost in lower court. Finally, through the efforts of H.S. Morey, A. Mierson, and Judge Williams, the whole of the bonds and coupons, with accrued interest, amounting to $239,135.37 were surrendered for the sum of $200,000, which was paid in new bonds running 20 years but only bearing 5 percent interest. The city of Placerville had a simpler solution to the problem.

City Council disappears

When the telegraphed news of the bondholders winning the suit reached the City Council, they all simply resigned, leaving no one in charge or responsible for the payment. The pages of the minute books of the City Council of Placerville are empty from that point into the 1900s, when apparently, the whole problem had become forgotten history and the City Council thought it safe to return.

Placerville finally gets its railroad

The Central Pacific through the Shingle Springs & Placerville Railroad (incorporated May 10, 1887) gave a bond of $100,000 to continue the tracks to Placerville. The county had finally won a railroad to Placerville but at a high cost to its taxpayers.

Community Profiles – Caldor

Caldor Railroad -

Caldor Railroad -Courtesy of Steve Crandell Fine Art, Placerville

Caldor was a small, but very important, town near Grizzly Flat that was built by the California Door Co. Located on Dogtown Creek (also known as Dog Creek), a tributary of the Cosumnes River, it was the center for the lumbering operations of this company and ultimately, the eastern end of a narrow gauge railroad known as the Diamond & Caldor Railway.

The history of the town and the company goes all the way back to the days of the Gold Rush when a sash and door manufacturer on the East Coast received word that a large shipment of goods had not reached a customer in San Francisco. The company immediately dispatched a Mr. Bartlett Doe with instructions to search out and find the missing shipment. After a three-month journey, he arrived in San Francisco where he found the goods still on the ship, the crew having deserted for the mines.

While trying to located the needed manpower to unload the shipment, Doe observed that this “frontier town” might be just the place to open a new woodworking business. In 1850 his brother John sailed through the Golden Gate and the two then formed the B. & J. S. Doe Co. In the 1860s another brother, Charles F. Doe, acquired a nearby millwork company and, during the 1870s, the three brothers consolidated their interests, while retaining their individual companies. Finally, in 1884, the brothers formed a single company under the name of the California Door Co. and built a new door, window and blinds manufacturing plant in Oakland – the largest then in the West.

In 1900, to assure a continuous supply of ponderosa and sugar pine lumber for the business, the company acquired some 30,000 acres of timberland in El Dorado County, which included an old sawmill at a ghost town known as Dogtown, 30 miles southeast of Diamond Springs (The state archives indicate there was a school called Dog Creek School in this area between 1860 and 1864).

The old sawmill was soon replaced by a larger one that used water power from Dogtown Creek to saw the needed lumber. This new mill was capable of cutting into lumber 60,000 board feet of logs daily. After pondering for a time, the directors of the company renamed the site of the new sawmill Caldor, since Dogtown wasn’t quite the image the owners wanted for their company.

The company had built a planing mill and box factory at Diamond Springs, and now had to figure out best the method to get the lumber from the sawmill at Caldor to the mill at Diamond Springs, from where the railroad would carry the finished lumber to the Oakland factory.

Criminal annals, Part 135: Rancher robbed of $4k from beneath his pillow

Continuing with the October 4, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we return to the “From the Interior” articles from Shasta, Sonoma and San Jose.

“SHASTA.

HEAVY ROBBERY. –  It has been reported that Mr. L. H. Sanborn, of Sanborn’s ranch. Was robbed a few nights since of $4000. His house was entered about ten o’clock at night and the money was taken from beneath his pillow. We have seldom heard of such a bold and daring robbery.”

“SONOMA.

“ The Bulletin, speaking of the improvements in that delightful region, says that Gen. Vallejo has completed a beautiful cottage on what is known as the “spring property.” The spring from which the bath-house is supplied furnishes from 20 to 30 gallons of water per minute, irrigating a fine garden and vineyard of about 30 acres. The willows around the spring afford a pleasant retreat in warm weather, and is much visited by citizens and strangers.”

Note: Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1807-1890) was the Mexican military commander of Northern California in 1846, when a group of Americans showed up at his home and, after devouring most of his food and wine, took him prisoner. This was the famous “Bear Flag Revolt,” in Sonoma which took place on June 14, 1846. Once the United States defeated Mexico in the war, Vallejo proved his allegiance to his new country by persuading wealthy Californios to accept American rule. An influential member of the state’s Constitutional Convention, he was elected as a member of the first session of the state Senate in 1850.

The Vallejo Estate in Sonoma, also known as Lachryma Montis (crying mountain), is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park. The Rancho Petaluma Adobe, the largest example of the Monterey Colonial style of architecture in the United States, is part of the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. Due to financial restraints, both of these parks have limited hours of operation.

Continuing with the article: “A panther weighing 200 pounds was killed last Saturday at Mr. Spence’s farm, about two miles from Sonoma. He had been prowling in that neighborhood for some time, and it is supposed killed several colts belonging to Mr. Spence.”

“SAN JOSE.

“From the Santa Clara Register [1852-1853, San Jose. Preceded by the Visitor, 1851-1852, and ultimately became part of the San Jose Mercury News] of Thursday, we extract the following:

“STABBED. –  Last Sunday night, about ten o’clock, an Indian was found on Market street, near the Plaza, with a dangerous knife wound in the left side, and several other severe cuts in other parts of the body. It is not known by whom the deed was committed, the Indian being too drunk to give any account of the affair.

“On Monday morning last, the body of an Indian was found on a vacant lot on the south side of Santa Clara street, in a shockingly mutilated state. It is supposed that the Indian was killed on Sunday night, but as yet we have no clue to the murderer.

“An American, name unknown, was killed on Tuesday night, two miles above this city, near the Townsend House. Particulars not known at present.

“A man by the name of Porter was shot by the guard of the county jail on the night of the 19th inst. It seems that Porter had gone near the guard and upon being hailed several times and failing to answer, the guard very naturally suspected his motives and fired upon him. We are pleased to state that the wound though severe is not dangerous, and that the unfortunate man is now convalescent. It was only through Porter’s inadvertency in failing to answer when hailed, that he was shot.

“On Monday morning, a Pennsylvanian by the name of James Blair, was found murdered in the south-eastern portion of San Jose.”

Following this article is the usual, but often entertaining report from the Recorder’s Court.

“Recorder’s Court. – Before Judge McGrew. Saturday, Oct. 2

“Attendance slimmer than usual this morning and not so many colors to variegate the scene.

Jonathan Harold, for assault and battery on the person of Levi Welber. Found guilty and fined $10 and costs – in all $30.

Harry, from Bombay, for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. This was Harry’s first offense, and didn’t amount to anything, at that; so he was permitted to vamos [Spanish – leave hurriedly. Anglicized to “vamoose.”]

“James Hinnessy, for threats made against the person of Blanch Ellis, one of the frail daughters of Eve. Found guilty, and bound over in the sum of $500 to keep the peace for three months.”

Amongst the advertisements in the latter pages of the paper is an article entitled, “From the South,” meaning information from Southern California. It starts with the hearings on the claims for land issued by the Spanish and Mexican governments, but then adds additional information.

“We are indebted to the Alta [Alta California, San Francisco, 1849-1891. Descended from the California Star, 1847-1849] for the following summary:

“LATER FROM THE SOUTH. – The steamer Sea Bird, arrived here yesterday evening after a passage of three days from San Diego. Hon. G. W. Cooley, U. S Law Agent, and several members of this bar who attended the sittings of the Commission were among the passengers.

“Jeronimo [Geronimo], the celebrated chief of the Yumas, was killed at Santa Isabel by the Indians living in that neighborhood. He was enticed there and then treacherously murdered according to the usages of Indian warfare. His scalp and one ear were sent to the American authorities.

“A correspondent who has crossed the plains writes to the Star[Los Angeles, 1851-1879] that the Camanches, Yumas or Shacos, did not show their faces either in the day or night, and not an animal was stolen from their train. Some of the emigrant trains have met the fate of the careless and unconcerned. The southern route is far better for horses and mules than oxen, and the Santa Fe route is the best for those coming to California.

“Nicholas Blair, for several years a resident of Los Angeles, committed suicide on Saturday evening. Mr. Blair came to California as a member of Col. Stevenson’s regiment [New York Volunteers who fought in the Mexican War], and married a native if the country. He was a native of Hungary.”