Community Profiles – Greenwood

Stereo view, Greenwood - c. 1866

Stereo view, Greenwood – c. 1866

Greenwood was originally called “Long Valley” and it was at this location, about five miles south of Georgetown on the road between Georgetown and Cave Valley, that Caleb Greenwood, with his sons Britain and John, opened a trading post in 1848 or early 1849.

Soon thereafter the first general store was opened by Lewis B. Myers, Nathan Fairbanks and Louis Lane. Unfortunately, Lane soon passed away and a butcher named William Crone was taken on as a partner to replace him.

On the 25th of March in 1850, a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Myers and for a time the town was called Lewisville (Louisville) after him, the first child born in the township.
The Louisville Post Office was established about six months prior to July 28, 1851, the date when the first postmaster, George C. Blodgett, was confirmed by Washington, D.C. On Oct. 9, 1852 the Louisville Post Office had its name changed to Greenwood to avoid confusion with other towns with the same name.

Much earlier than this, soon after gold was first discovered in Coloma, a gentleman by the name of Cuthbert Nattrass arrived in the area and found gold in Illinois Canyon, which lies to the north of Georgetown. A lead miner from Wisconsin, he had left his family with his brother and struck out to see what California was all about. He arrived in Los Angeles in late 1847 (quite likely in the company of Kit Carson) and had made it to Monterey by Christmas of that year. It was there that he heard of Marshall’s discovery and set out for Coloma. As winter approached he took his gold and headed back to Wisconsin. But that is not the last that California was to see of Mr. Nattrass.

In Wisconsin he had a hotel built and disassembled for shipping. In 1850 he, the hotel, and his family, including a newborn son, boarded a ship for Panama. Crossing the isthmus by burro, they caught a ship to San Francisco where they loaded everything and everybody on a riverboat which carried them up the river to Sacramento. Once in Sacramento, he traded the riverboat for wagons and teams by which they and the hotel reached Greenwood.

The hotel was soon up and in the fall of 1850, the Hoboken House opened for business at a location (now Sliger Mine Road) that Nattrass had selected on this first trip to California. Later the hotel became a school and, around the turn of the century, burned to the ground.

A second hotel, the Penobscott House was built in 1851 and, for the next three years, belonged to L. Myers. It was then bought by Page and Lovejoy, who also owned the line of stages from Georgetown to Sacramento, by way of Pilot Hill and Salmon Falls. Mr. Page had higher aspirations and a few decades later was the representative of the Second Congressional District of California in Washington D.C.

By 1854, the town had become quite populated and when the fight to relocate the county seat from Coloma commenced, the citizens of Greenwood added their town to the ballot and made quite a race of it. Coloma received the most votes, but Placerville ended up as the county seat because of some “irregularities” in the vote counting.

Between the years of 1851 and 1857, “Judge Lynch” made several appearances in Greenwood Valley, favoring one large oak tree that stood in the middle of town. His first victim was a James Graham who had shot a well respected Mr. Lesly. A couple of years later, he was followed by a Samuel Allen who had brutally murdered a William Shay that the townsfolk forcibly took him from the officer and hanged him forthwith.

In 1858, a fire started in an ash barrel in Charles Nagle’s (also Nagler) home, burning the entire business section of town. On February 3, 1876, a box filled with combustibles was found aflame in front of Felice (Felix) Ricci’s store. Fortunately, Charles Nagle’s watchdog awaked a sleeping clerk and the fire was soon extinguished. Arson was suspected because, a little over two years later, on June 3, 1878, the premises of both Nagle and Ricci were again set on fire and some $16,000 worth of residences, stores and contents were destroyed.

Filling pages and pages of history, only a few of which have been touched on here, the small town of Greenwood played an extraordinarily important part in the early history of El Dorado County.

Special thanks to my friend and former El Dorado County Supervisor, Joseph V. Flynn, for the information on his great grandfather, Cuthbert Nattrass.

Sources for this story also include: “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “History of California”, by Theodore Hittell (1897); “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 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); and the “History of El Dorado County, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998).

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