Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cornish Bring Mining Technology to Gold Fields

Cornish Miners

Cornish Miners

Every year since its founding in 1991, the California Cornish Cousins has an annual gathering to celebrate the group’s Cornish heritage.

In the past few years the cousins have gathered at Grass Valley, Sonora and Soulsbyville, Nevada City and Paso Robles. This year’s gathering will be from June 3 to June 5, at the Placerville Best Western Inn, 6850 Greenleaf Drive in Placerville

The California Cornish Cousins is a state-wide group of about 200 descendants of the hard-rock miners, merchants, fishermen and farmers who came to California from Cornwall, England during the Gold Rush.

The California Cornish Cousins was founded in November 1991 to stimulate interest in Cornish culture, to preserve Cornish heritage, and to share the related family histories and genealogy. To answer the often asked question — they always point out that they have nothing to do with Cornish game hens.

Who are the Cornish?

Some of the Cornish names that one can find in the local telephone books include: Barnes, Combellack, Davey, Davies, Dodge, Eddy, Edwards, Gilbert, Harry, Harvey, Hicks, Hocking, Jenkins, Jewell, Kitt, Knight, Lamb, Lawrie, Liddicoat, Lory, Lowry, Lowrie, May, Nicholls, Oates, Oliver, Osborne, Pascoe, Passmore, Pearce, Polkinghorn, Quick, Retallack, Richards, Rickard, Roberts, Robins, Rouse, Rowe, Symons, Trelaeaven, Tremain, Trevarthen, Trevethick, Trewarthas, Tyack to name a few.

Obscure history

In reply to a question regarding if many people of Cornish descent knew of their heritage, Catherine Quayle, president of the association and local resident recently replied, “Many old grave markers will say something like ‘Native of England,’ when the surname is obviously Cornish, but even now many people have never heard of Cornwall, so the immigrants probably found it easier to say they were from England, rather than Cornwall.

“My mother was pure Cornish and the traditions were kept very much alive in our family, whereas some of our members found out rather by accident of their birthright as their parents either didn’t know or care. With the new interest in genealogy, more and more people are tracing their family trees and we are seeing an influx of members in our organization, as well as other Celtic Nation groups in the state. It’s awesome.”

Cousin member Doris Berryman Keeler, who was born in Grass Valley and now lives in Cameron Park, has been with the group since it started. She and her sister from Grass Valley have attended all of the northern California meetings.

“My grandparents are all Cornish,” she said. “Three of them, the Berrymans, Nettells and Ellerys, came from Cornwall to California by working their way across the country mining. The fourth, the Best family, went to Australia around 1852 for their gold rush, the husband first, followed later by his wife and four or five children. The trip to Australia took 13 weeks on a fast packet ship, which was a long time. My grandmother was born there, probably in a tent. One of the children got sick, and they couldn’t find the proper doctor, so they went back to England. Later they came to California.

“My brother started writing a book about our family. He traveled all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa –  talking to relatives and poring over records. He died before it was finished, so my sister and I finished it. It is called ‘The Family, Relatives and Ancestors of Edwin James and Caroline Nettell Berryman – A History.’ We made 100 copies and sold them all. It is really a history of the family and has some real interesting stories like the one about a relative who went to New Zealand when there were still cannibals and another who was escorted to Australia by the government.”

Celtic Nations



Cornwall has its own flag and language and is one of the six Celtic Nations, along with Brittany, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland.

It is an area at the tip of the south-western peninsula of Great Britain, administered as a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon. Including the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall includes a land area of about 1,376 square miles (about 20 percent smaller than El Dorado County) and today has a population of a bit over 500,000. The administrative center and only city is Truro.

Mining history

Tin mining was important in the Cornish economy, becoming significant during the Middle Ages and expanding greatly during the 19th century when rich copper mines were also in production. In the mid-19th century, about the same time that gold was discovered in California, there was a significant decline in the mining industry of Cornwall.

The Cornish miners were highly skilled in the hard-rock mining techniques and how to pump water from deep mines, talents in need where gold was still held in deposits deep in the ground.

With the mining industry declining in their home country, by the thousands the miners and their families left Cornwall for California, braving the sea trip and the dangerous trek across America to the gold mines.

When more miners were needed in California, the Cornishmen working in the mines always had a “Cousin Jack” back home who would be more than glad to come over to work. As a result, Cornish miners were and still are often referred to by that name.

Tools of the trade

Cornish Miner's Lunchboxes

Cornish Miner’s Lunchboxes

With them came not only centuries of mining knowledge, the miner’s candlestick, their unique three or four part lunch boxes and the pasty (PAST- e), a baked meat and vegetable pie they carried into the mines for their lunch.

As a part of their annual gathering, the California Cornish Cousins include interesting speakers, banquets and a special “pouncing on a pasty,” where they enjoy a bit of their heritage. The “pouncing on pasty” will be part of a visit to Coloma on June 4.

Pasties for this event are being provided by Rucka-Chucky Pasty Hut in Georgetown. “I was glad to find they made a proper pasty, many places don’t,” said Quayle. “Julie Oates does a good job.”

Trust and knowledge

Unlike other nationalities that migrated to America, the Cornish were not simply economic migrants; their contribution had a profound impact as their expertise was founded on centuries of hard rock mining. Since they had a common heritage, they possessed an innate trust in each other, knowing they could depend on brothers, uncles, wives and daughters, people they lovingly referred to as “’Cousin Jacks and Jennies.”

Membership in the California Cornish Cousins is open to any person of Cornish heritage or any person in full accord with the stated purposes of the Society. Membership is only $12 a year and an application form can be downloaded at


Post Offices of El Dorado County, Part 6 – “E” – “F”

In El Dorado County there were, at one time or another, over 100 post offices with some 120 different names. Some had a short life and some apparently never even existed at all, although history books make reference to them. The latter were appropriately called phantom post offices. Many others, once established, continue to operate until this day.

EL DORADO HILLS: The post office at this real estate development was established on Sept. 16, 1962 as an independent rural station of the Folsom Post Office. As the population in the area increased, in 1966 it was upgraded to a branch of the Folsom Post Office and later received its own zip code. Around 1997 a new facility was built on Post street to served this growing area.

EL DORADO MILLS: This post office was established on May 6, 1891 at an unknown location, according to the Post Office Department archives. The postmaster refused the appointment and the post office was discontinued on Sept. 29, of the same year.

EL DORADO RANCH: This was the original name for the post office located eight miles west of the townsite of El Dorado and eight miles east of Clarksville. It was established on June 19, 1857, with Lyman A. Hoyt serving as the first postmaster. This post office was discontinued on Sept. 14, 1858, when its name was changed to DuRoc.

Duroc 1860

Duroc 1860

Service at the DuRoc, later Duroc and then Durock, Post Office, where Theron Foster was the first postmaster, was discontinued on Nov. 23, 1864. Service at the nearby Shingle Spring Post Office had been discontinued on Mar. 30, 1855, but it would be reestablished on October 10, 1865, with an “s” added to spring, and serve this area.

EMERALD BAY: This Lake Tahoe post office was named for the nearby bay in the lake and was established on Dec. 17, 1888 with Lucy N. Kirby as its first postmaster. On Aug. 28, 1899, it was moved one mile to the northeast, to a location reported as being seventeen miles south of Tahoe City. On Feb. 28, 1959, service at this post office was discontinued and the mail moved to the summer post office at Homewood, in Placer County.

Fair Play 1877

Fair Play 1877

FAIR PLAY: This post office was established on Apr. 13, 1860, with George Merkindollar as its first postmaster. The post office derived its name from the rule of conduct of the miners who founded the town itself. Located eight miles south of Pleasant Valley and seven miles west of Mendon (also known as Brownsville), according to the archives of the Post Office Department, it was active until Feb. 15, 1944, when the mail was moved several miles north to the post office at Young’s.

The Young’s Post Office was located one mile north of Somerset at a vacation resort on the North Fork of the Cosumnes River owned by Morgan W. Young. It was established on Mar. 7, 1924, with Morgan W. Young as postmaster, and discontinued some time later when it was moved one mile south to Somerset. On August 1, 1950 it was renamed Somerset Post Office.

Aimee Hicks was appointed the first postmaster of the Somerset Post Office. It is still an operating post office.

Fallen Leaf

Fallen Leaf

FALLEN LEAF: Named for the lake by that name, which resembles a leaf which has fallen to the ground, this summer post office was established on May 13, 1908 to serve a vacation and recreational community, which has since become a year-round, residential area in the Lake Tahoe basin. William W. Price was the first postmaster. On May 19, 1967, it was changed to a rural branch of the South Lake Tahoe Post Office.




Fiddletown 1853

Fiddletown 1853

FIDDLETOWN: This post office, at an 1849 mining camp, was established on Dec. 13, 1853 with Dennis Townsend as its first postmaster.

The name, which is memorialized in Bret Harte’s “An Episode of Fiddletown”, came from the founding Missouri miners who were addicted to fiddling.

Located six and one-half miles northeast of the City of Plymouth, it became a part of the new county of Amador when the boundary was moved from Dry Creek to the South Fork of the Cosumnes River in 1854, a fact that the Post Office Department did not find out about until Feb. 6, 1864.

On May 24, 1878 the name of the post office was changed to Oleta, and then changed back to Fiddletown on July 1, 1932. It is still an operating post office.

Sources for this story include, “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “The Gold Rush Mail Agents to California and Their Postal Markings”, by Theron Wierenga” (1987); “California Town Postmarks, 1849-1935”, by John H. Williams (1997); “Short Stories Regarding The History of South El Dorado County”, by D. A. Wright (undated); the “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); and the archives of the Mountain Democrat, Empire County Argus and Placer Times (on microfilm at the El Dorado County Main Library).

The El Dorado Fire of 1923

Hill Hotel

On Monday, September 17, 1923, a fire at the California Door Company in Diamond Springs got out of control and before it was finally extinguished, it had burned over 1,000 acres of cattle grazing land and most of buildings in the town of El Dorado, two miles away.

The “Mountain Democrat,” in its Saturday, September 22, 1923 edition, provided in-depth coverage of the fire and the many who volunteered to save the town in a story titled, “El Dorado Nearly Wiped Out – many residences and business houses burned during heavy wind. Prompt aid by Placerville saves many others.”

The opening two paragraphs of the story set the stage for what was one of the worst fires in many years.

“Monday morning brought apprehension and uneasiness in Placerville because with a high wind blowing there was evidence of fires in almost every direction. There was a call for men early in he morning.

“Soon after noon the fire siren blew and the word was passed around that El Dorado was burning and needed help. Inside of half an hour every available automobile and at least a hundred men had left for El Dorado. The heat was so intense with fire on both sides of the highway near El Dorado that cars were all turned to Diamond Springs and compelled to reach El Dorado over the Springs road.

“Just out of Diamond Springs the fire was burning fiercely along the road opposite Supervisor Schroeder’s farm but men were at work preventing its spread across the road. From Diamond Springs to El Dorado between the state highway and the dirt road was a roaring furnace fanned by the highest wind known in years.

“El Dorado was an inferno and enveloped in smoke, but on every corner, in every alley, and about each building were men fighting as best they could with the implements at hand. Apparently everything was on fire.

“Every pump and well in the town was manned and every pail and tub and pan was in use to convey water and to wet sacks and coats used to smother the fires as they started. One cottage that was saved was on fire eleven times in twenty minutes and working around it and on the roof were day laborers, county officials, farmers, merchants and even newspaper men. At one time we noticed in the yard and about the Hill cottage that was saved, all working with zeal, Hugh Beason, Philip Frost, Sheriff Wood, Jim Dixon, John Tinney, Max Mierson and as many more whom we did not know. Chas. Baumgardner was one of the men on the roof of the cottage when a gable at one corner began to burn. He crawled to the burning gable, tore it loose and hurled it to the ground, but a shingle had caught fire and being without water he actually laid flat and spit out the tiny blaze and then smothered it with his hand.

“About five o’clock in the afternoon the worst was over as far as El Dorado was concerned and a survey of the situation showed that only the Hill Hotel and garage opposite, the homes of Mrs. Savilla C. Shinn, Mr. J. Williams, Fred Schance, W. J. Moore, Wm. Barbee, Thos. Davidson, Harvey White, Mrs. Lillie E. Hill and Mrs. Martha White had been saved. About thirty buildings were burned. The foundations and walls of seven brick buildings are standing.

“Among the buildings destroyed were the Masonic Temple built in 1861. When this building first caught fire Jos. Windel, assisted by Morey and others from Placerville saved the records of the lodge.

“Very little was saved from any building that burned because once started the fire was too swift and hot and anything brought from a burning building would be ablaze before it could be taken to a safe place.

“One of the heaviest losers was George Askew, proprietor of the big general store. Mr. Askew lost his home and stock of general merchandise saving only his automobile and one trunk.

“While Seymour Hill saved the Hotel Hill and the El Dorado Garage he owned several residences and the opera house and dance hall that burned.

“Ed Redemski owned two dwellings that were burned.

“Chas. E. Sackett lost his fine 6-room cottage and garage and outbuildings.

“The postoffice was located in the Askew store and everything was burned, mail, money and all records and fixtures.

“The only church in the town was burned and the fire swept the cemetery.

“The soft drink parlor of G. F. Boon, next door to the Masonic temple, was a total loss, several cases of soda pop were rescued and enjoyed by a number of small boys.

“The old Wells-Fargo building, property of A. M. Drew was a total loss.

“Several vacant store buildings and the bakery of Mrs. Roy White were burned.

“Joe Wells lost his automobile as well as his home.

“Roy Sherman, who rented of Mrs. Roy White, was burned out.

“Angelo Perri, who occupied the dwelling owned by Lucy H. Thomas, lost everything.

“The home of Postmaster Drew was a total loss.

“El Dorado is certainly a forlorn looking place and there is ruin where stood happy homes surrounded by gardens and flowers.

“The fire passed through the town and spread and swept on before the wind, and the fire fighters went to the rescue of the farmers and while buildings on the farms were saved the pastures were burned over, the range ruined and wood and fences burned.

“Among the farms that suffered were those of Supervisor W. S. Biggs, Dr. L. G. Stevenson, Mrs. Mary Davidson, H. E. Cheney, J. M. and V. W. Strickland, John Albers, Mrs. Cappleman, F. M. George, Harvey Spears, Antone Pavia, J. F. Nelson, Orrin M. Sackett, J. P. Dunlap, John Chapman, Seymour Hill, J. C. Forni, Geo. E. Miner, Stark Bros., J. E. Windle, Cantrel Bros., W. J. Stone, E. G. Jones, G. A. Carsten, C. E. Gillett an the Bartholomew ranch.

“The loss sustained is not know at this writing, in fact can not be estimated. There was little insurance.

“The depot at El Dorado was saved by the section crew and an engine and crew from Placerville.

“El Dorado was one of the oldest towns in northern California and while it had been considered a has-been for years, both mining interests and fruit growing and stock raising have been developing and attracting capital, and this year the first carload of Bartlett pears was shipped directly from El Dorado to the east.

“Undoubtedly some of the burned buildings will be replaced by modern structures but it will be some years before many business houses will be in demand.

“Everyone in El Dorado county is ready to extend the helping had to those who have had the misfortune to be burned out and the homeless on Monday were quickly cared for.

“While the fire was still burning the ladies of Placerville with Secretary Shanklin and Chairman Atwood of the city and county committee of the Chamber of Commerce were busy getting relief for those who were being made homeless and provisions were sent early in the evening. A fund was raised and everything done to make the unfortunate ones as comfortable as possible.”

If that wasn’t enough, the story ended with these two lines:

“A destructive fire also swept parts of Green Valley and at one time threatened Folsom.

“A forest fire raged between Kelsey and the Mosquito district.”

Steppin’ Out – Mr. Pickle’s

Mr_Pickles_Logo2“We looked at the Mr. Pickle’s company for some time before deciding to purchase a store,” said Claude Sutherland, new owner of the Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop at 4601 Missouri Flat Road. “I first looked at one in Modesto, and when this one came available, we went for it. As far as I am concerned, their sandwiches are second to none.”

A couple of weeks ago I stopped by this very clean restaurant in the late afternoon and spent some time talking with Colleen Sutherland, who is the manager, operator and one of the owners of this family business.

She has a lot of prior experience in the restaurant business, both in the kitchen and in what the industry calls the “front of the house” and, on this day, was working a very long shift as she often does.

“When we got the business, a few months ago, there were four employees,” she told me, “we kept those that wanted to stay and now we have eleven.

“Before they work independently, they are tested on all of our products. They have to know all of the sandwiches by name and by number (there are over 20 of them) and how to make each of them correctly. We also teach them about the proper sanitary practices and that just putting on a new pair of gloves to make a sandwich is not enough. They have to wash their hands properly before putting on the gloves. I have watched people working in other restaurants and I want us to be the best.

“We bake all of the rolls for our sandwiches, make almost all of our dressings and bake all of the cookies that come with each sandwich. The bread we bake in small batches during the day to make sure what you get is fresh, while first thing each morning we bake 160 cookies and then more when needed.

“We only use top of the line ingredients like Jimmy Dean. We hand cut all of the meats here and make our tuna and chicken salads daily. We are very proud of our food.

“In addition to the 20 specialty sandwiches that all Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shops sell (there are 36 independently owned and operated franchises in California), we have three specialty sandwiches; The Reuben, the Snowboarder and the California Hottie. The last two I designed myself,” adding a smile.

“I should also add that since opening we have expanded the drink line and also added the Snapple products.”

I decided to try the Snowboarder and the California Hottie, and they were kind enough to make be a half of each one. They were both very good and quite different from each other.

The Snowboarder – hot turkey, bacon, melted Swiss cheese and avocado – was a great sandwich. The combination works really well together. The California Hottie – hot chicken, pepper jack cheese, Baja sauce and jalapeños – was my kind of sandwich. The chicken was in thick slices and, again, everything worked well together. Yes, it was a bit spicy, but, I love spicy. I ate both halves and the cookie, crumbs and all.

The sandwiches include the Golden Gate – chicken breast, teriyaki and jack cheese; Hang Loose – hot pastrami, bacon, cream cheese and avocado; Italian Stallion – ham, salami, pastrami, jack cheese and Italian dressing; Tom Turkey – turkey, bacon and Swiss cheese; The Manhattan – hot pastrami and Swiss cheese; House Combo – turkey, salami, ham and American cheese; The Hot ‘T’ – hot turkey, melted pepper jack cheese, Baja and cranberry sauce; The Club – turkey, ham, Cheddar & bacon on triple decker toast; Chicken Ranch – chicken breast with melted jack cheese and ranch dressing; Fast Eddy – hot roast beef with bbq sauce and melted Cheddar cheese; BLAT – triple-decker of bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato; Reggie-Reggie – chicken breast, pepper jack cheese and Baja sauce; The Mr. Pickle – chicken breast, bacon, avocado, and jack cheese; Big Easy – chicken salad with Swiss cheese and avocado; Tuna Tuna  – tuna salad with Swiss cheese, avocado and cucumber; L’Michele – chicken breast, melted jack cheese and cranberry sauce; BBQ Melt – chicken breast, bbq sauce and melted cheddar; Got Beef – roast beef, pastrami and melted jack cheese; Very Vegi – choice of cheese, cucumbers and avocado and the Big Jake – turkey, cream cheese and avocado.

If that isn’t enough, you can create your own from quite a list of breads, meat, cheeses and extras.

Oh, you should also know they have a list of salads and sides and you can get most any sandwich on lettuce or as a wrap (several wrap flavors to choose from). And, of course, there is a kids menu.

“We are open later now, daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m, because we found there are a lot of people driving home looking to get some great sandwiches or salads for dinner,” added Colleen. “But, if you see the open sign is lit before that, come on in. If it is lit, our restaurant is open and our drive-through is open.

For more information give them a call at (530) 642-1677. Oh, you can also order online in advance at Enjoy.