The present Swansboro Country, which is located some nine miles northeast of Placerville, is part of an early mining community known as Mosquito.
Originally called Mosquito Valley, placer (gravel) mining occurred there as early as 1849 and soon there were two villages, one known as Nelsonville and the other the Big House or Lower Town, the latter built and inhabited principally by people of Spanish descent.
The mines in the area were quite rich and provided a good living for a large number of miners. One mine, the Little Mosquito, was noted throughout the Mother Lode for producing chunks of gold ranging in size from two ounces to half a pound.
As mining continued and more people moved to the area, around 1851 or 1852 a sawmill was built in One Eye canyon (named after the first miner at that location) by Benjamin Summerfield and John Bennett. With the lumber produced there, two or three stores were constructed in Nelsonville, one being owned by John D. Skinner.
Mr. Skinner’s store remained open for many years while miners came and went and mining shifted from placer to underground (quartz) and hydraulic operations. Like many Gold Rush buildings, Mr. Skinner’s store was ultimately consumed by a fire in the town.
In 1853 the Mosquito Ditch Company was formed to provide the miners with a reliable stream of water. Setting to work they built a remarkable, sixteen mile long ditch from Slab Creek to the mines at the cost of some $20,000 in 1850’s dollars.
Soon thereafter, some settlers recognized the excellent quality of the soil and, with this water available nearby, extended the ditch from the mines in the canyon and started planting crops.
Two men by the names of Brown and Palmer were the first to attempt farming in the Mosquito Valley by planting a crop of potatoes. Little more is known about them, but soon two other gentlemen, one a Mr. Dickinson who owned the Little Mosquito Mine, and the other a Peter Robinson, planted the first orchards.
Because the area received little snow in the winter, a number of large orchards where soon established and producing, adding to the local agriculture which also included many herds of cattle and sheep and fields of grain and clover.
The first school was opened in 1862 by Oliver Chubb. In 1881 a public school district was formed and the first public school opened. The same year the Mosquito Valley post office was built with Mrs. Dickinson serving as its first postmaster. The post office would close a year later, then reopen in 1892 for another three year period and then close for good.
In the early days of settlement and mining, Mosquito was only connected to Placerville and the rest of the world by a trail that ran in the direction of Kelsey and intersected with the Placerville to Georgetown road (now Highway 193). To reach Placerville on this road, one had to cross the South Fork of the American River at Chili Bar by ferry. The ferry could only handle travelers on foot or horseback and pack-trains, so, in 1853, the owners of this ferry, E. and H. George, built a strong and quite substantial bridge to replace it. The bridge opened on December 1 of that year, but it wasn’t until the middle of 1854 that the roads leading up and down the mountains on both sides were well enough constructed to allow for the passage of the freight wagons for which the bridge was built.
In order to shorten this trip to the County seat, a narrow, winding wagon road and a suspension bridge across the South Fork of the American River were soon constructed.
The trail has been replaced by Rock Creek Road and the often rebuilt, one-lane suspension bridge still exists as a part of Mosquito Road.
For many years Mosquito remained as a relatively undeveloped and very rural community. In the 1960s and 1970s the development of the residential community known as Swansboro Country occurred on a portion of the land, increasing the population substantially. The development gets its name from an early family in the area, Swansborough.
A trip to Mosquito by way of the winding Mosquito Road and suspension bridge is a must for many visitors to our County. It adds to the charm and history of a visit to this early Gold Rush town.
Sources for this story include: “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); “Mines and Mineral Resources of El Dorado County, California”, California Division of Mines (1956); “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); the archives of the Mountain Democrat (1854-Present); and the wonderful people at the reference desk of the El Dorado County Main Library.