Community Profiles – Mt. Aukum

Aukum Post Mark 1899

Neatly divided by Mt. Aukum Road (County Road E-16), and lying just north of the Amador – El Dorado County, line is the town of Mt. Aukum.

This has not always been the name of this town, at times it may also have been known as Aurum, Oakum, Orcum, Ockum, and once even as Mt. Auburn. If fact, the mountain from which the town gets its name rarely shows up as Mt. Aukum on maps, but usually as Mt. Orcum or Mt. Aurum (it is the mountain with a microwave/radio relay station and Mount Aukum Winery, atop its 2615 foot summit).

No one knows for sure the origin of the name, which may be why it changed so often. Some believe it may have been a Miwok word, Ochum, which we are told meant village. But then, some also put forth the idea that it was named by some sailors after the tarred rope called oakum, often used to calk the planking of early sailing ships. However, in 1961 the U. S. Post Office solved the problem for everyone by officially changing the name of the town from Aukum to Mt. Aukum, mainly because the Aukum mail was getting mixed in with the mail bound for Auburn.

Unlike most of the other towns in the region, Mt. Aukum was not really known as a mining town, but more as a farming and ranching area. Hay and grain were widely grown around Mt. Aukum, and raising beef cattle was a big business. That is not to say that mining did not occur in the area. The many streams and creeks, along with the South Fork of the Cosumnes River, gave up fair amounts of gold to those willing to work for it.

The first reference to Mt. Aukum appears in the June 1860 minutes of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors. They ordered the Coyoteville School District to be divided and the north portion to be called the Mt. Ockum School District.

A new school was soon built on the Flynn Ranch, located on the west side of the mountain, about a half mile north of the town. In April of 1921, the school was dismantled and moved to its present location on Mt. Aukum Road (near the fire station). Due to a lack of students, the school was closed from 1921 to 1925 and 1927 to 1932. In 1958, the Mt. Aukum, Fair Play, River, Willow and Mountain school districts were unified into the present Pioneer School District.

The Mt. Aukum Post Office opened in 1895 as the Aukum Post Office with Lydia A. Wrigglesworth (Wigglesworth?) serving as its first postmaster. It would close from 1914 to 1920 and the mail directed to the town of Uno. That post office would close in 1920 and the mail would come back to Aukum again.

The story of Uno is controversial, to say the least. Some point out that it must be near Mt. Aukum since post offices are rarely moved a great distance, but others contend it was on the other side of Indian Diggings, far from Mt. Aukum. Unfortunately, it rarely shows up on maps, old or new, and when it does, it is in different locations.

Reliance on the first opinion would put Uno about two miles to the southeast of Mt. Aukum, on a ridge north of Cedar Creek. It wasn’t a small community, since it was large enough to have a post office of its own from February of 1892 until 1920, when it closed.

There were only three postmasters at Uno, the first being Leander Morris (1892), who was followed by Sarah Farnsworth (1892-1914) and Nancy Giles (1914-1920). Apparently the only business in town was the Farnsworth store, in which the Post Office was conveniently located.

Adding to the Uno controversy is a belief that the reason there is so little information on Uno is that at one time it may have been known as Coyoteville, which some early maps show at this same location near Cedar Creek.

Coyoteville was one of the first settlements in the area and believed to be the source of (or perhaps named after) the mining term “coyote-ing”, a process of digging into the ground and throwing the dirt and rock around the mouth of the shaft, where it was later worked for gold. It obviously had a school in 1860, when its school district was divided by the Board of Supervisors, and we know that in 1876 it had a boarding house owned by Henry Monsees and that two men by the names of William Donahue and Daniel Bowman were owners of a nearby mine. Nothing much remains of Coyoteville, or for that matter, Uno.

To the west of Coyoteville/Uno and south of Mt. Aukum, on the South Fork of the Cosumnes River was the town of Bridgeport. It would show up on maps until the middle 1900s when its name was changed to River Pines and it became a site of vacation homes.

As early as 1852 the town consisted of cabins, a saloon, and the Hall & Nelson Mill. In 1854 all that portion of the town on the south side of the river would be removed from El Dorado County and become part of the newly formed Amador County.

By 1874 the area had enough population for the Bridgeport School District to be formed and the Bridgeport School built (it was known as the “Evening Shade” School). The district was merged with the Mt. Aukum School District in 1953, which in 1958, became part of the Pioneer School District.

Bridgeport had no post office until 1948, again by which time the name of the town had become River Pines. It had only three Postmasters, Blanch Steinsick (1948-1961), Frances Spring (1961-1971) and Louise Travers (from 1971 until it became a branch of the Mt. Aukum Post Office 1985).

Except for an occasional foundation, building stone or shallow mine shaft, only Mt. Aukum and River Pines remain today, as a small but important reminder of the early activities in this part of our county.

Sources for this story include “Cosumnes River Country”, by Steve Ginsburg (1979, 1995); “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); 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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