Monthly Archives: May 2015

Where Did That Road Name Come From? W-Z

Washoe Street is named for the Washoe tribe of Native Americans that resided in portions eastern California and western Nevada. One of our adjacent counties in the State of Nevada is named Washoe in their honor.

Weber Creek Drive, like the creek itself, is named for a very early (1841) California pioneer named Charles M. Weber. He settled and named Weberville, a large active mining town located between Placerville and Diamond Springs. However, he is best known for developing and marketing the City of Stockton.

Because Weber was usually pronounced “WE birr”, the creek began to show up on maps and in journals as “Weaver.” Thus, to overcome confusion, many map makers apparently added an additional “b” to the name, making it “Webber”. It still shows up with that spelling on some maps.
Edward Gould Buffum, a soldier and journalist who wrote about the famous hangings in Placerville that gave it the name “Hangtown,” was mining in Weberville in early 1849 when the event occurred.

Wentworth Springs Road, which runs east from Georgetown is named for Nathan Wentworth who discovered the springs named for him. He sailed around Cape Horn to California from Maine in 1851, first mining along the Bear River and at Michigan Bluff, where he also operated a sawmill. When the sawmill burned, he concentrated on mining for six years and then moved to Georgetown, working as a butcher from 1876 – 1880. Then he farmed and operated a team for the Georgetown area merchants. After discovering Wentworth Springs, he built and operated a resort there. He died at the Springs on August 11, 1884.

White Fir Road is named for the common White Fir (Abies concolor), which can be found above 2500 feet on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and as far east as the Rocky Mountains. White fir makes a soft, second-grade lumber.

White Oak Road is named for the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) which often has a paler bark than the other oaks and was sometimes called the White Oak. An area south of Salmon Falls was once known as White Oak Flat because of the number of these trees that grew in there. Prior to that the area was known as Cart Wheel Valley, for a now obscure reason.

Wild Chaparral Road, a frontage road west of Ponderosa Road and north of Highway 50, is so named because of the large “chaparral” plant community, that exists in the area (manzanita, chamise, etc).

Wild Turkey Drive is named for the wild turkeys that thrive in the western part of El Dorado County.

Not native to California, turkeys were planted for sport hunting in the 1960s and have now increased in population to become, in many peoples’ minds, a pest. A group of turkeys moving along the ground is sometimes called a “raft” or “rafter” since they move together in a block, resembling a raft.

Wiloakpine Hill Road is a clever combination of willow, oak and pine, three common foothill trees.

Winnemucca Avenue and Court are named for the eminent Northern Paiute chief at the time of the Paiute War of 1860. Also known as Poito, Chief Winnemucca was the son of another famous Northern Paiute chief, Truckee. His son Natchez and nephew Numaga were known to the white man as Little Winnemucca and Young Winnemucca, respectively.

Wintun Court is named for the Wintun Tribe of Native Americans which resided west and north of El Dorado County, in the Sacramento Valley.

Woodchuck Court is named for the largest of the ground squirrel group, the Marmot, often called the woodchuck or, less often, the groundhog. Living at elevations above 6000 feet, it emerges from hibernation as late as May, quickly fattens up and returns to its burrow as early as September.

Wright’s Lake Road is named for Wrights Lake, which is some thirty-six miles east of Placerville and eight miles north of Highway 50. The area actually consists of several lakes, named for their shapes or color or after a historical family.

Wright’s Lake itself is named for two brothers, Bert and Ed Wright, who were looking for summer mountain dairy sites in the early 1850s, already having winter dairies near Galt. They came across a Sierra lake and since there was adequate water and grass, filed claims on two sections (640 acres each) of land near this lake that would be named after them.

Yellow Brick Road is named for…well, you’ll know if you follow it.

Yellow Pine Drive is named for the Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa), the most common and widely distributed western conifer. The lumber industry uses the term “ponderosa pine” to designate its fine and straight-grained, high-resin wood.

Yosemite Lane and Place are named for the famous river valley in north central California.

The derivation of this name has been a subject of considerable controversy over the years. Originally it was “Yo-sem-i-ty”, a name suggested by L. H. Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion in 1851 to perpetuate the natives they met in the valley. He believed it was their word for “full-grown grizzly bear”. There is also a reference from 1810 to the Jusmites and, around the same time, a Christian Indian village called Josimites, neither of which were near the valley. It is believed by some that the word actually means “a band of killers” the name outsiders called the Awani Tribe who lived in the valley. When Congress granted the land to the State of California in 1864, it was officially called Yo Semite Valley. In 1906 the valley became part of Yosemite National Park.

Zinfandel Way is named for what was once the wine grape most often identified with the foothill vineyards. Some foothill Zinfandel vineyards are nearly as old as the State of California and the wines made from those grapes are marketed as “old vine”, or other similar names.

For years the origin of this grape was a mystery, having just shown up in a shipment of vine cuttings from Europe. A few years ago U.C. Davis, using DNA testing, determined that was effectively identical to an Italian grape known as “Primitivo.” Further research has placed the origin of both of them in Croatia, where the “parent” grape is called Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Sources for this story include: “Atlas of California, by Donley, Allan, Caro and Patton (1979); “A California Flora,” by Munz and Keck (1959); “A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals,” by Frederick Pough (1953); “California Gold Camps,” by Erwin Gudde (1975); “California Place Names,” by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974); “Georgetown, Pride of the Mountains,” by Davis and Rambeau (1987); “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976,” researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “Mother Lode of Learning – One Room Schools of El Dorado County,” by the 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); “Six Months in the Gold Mines,” by Edward G. Buffum (1850); “History of El Dorado County,” by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); “Natural History of the Sierra Nevada,” by Storer and Usinger (1963); “The Wright’s Lake Story,” by the Wright’s Lake Summer Home Association (1962, revised 1994); the Mountain Democrat, 1854-present; the Empire County Argus (Coloma), 1853-1856; the Californian (Monterey), 1846-47; and the Alta California (San Francisco), 1849-1850

Steppin’ Out – London Best Fish & Chips, Placerville

austinRuss Salazar emailed me last week and said he had Thursday free for lunch. He followed that with a list of restaurants, asking where we should go. I hadn’t been to London Best Fish & Chips in some time, so we decided to meet there.

It is located at 1216 Broadway in Placerville, next to the Japanese restaurant, Teriyaki Junction. After parking we walked up to look at the pictures of the dishes posted in the window. After somewhat deciding what to try, we walked in just to find a “Under New Ownership” sign.

Normally I don’t review restaurants in their first week or so because they are always going through a time of “discovery,” but we decided to try it anyway since we were there and, besides, I wanted fish and chips.

A nice young lady took our order, which was a seafood sampler, with an extra piece of fish and a small bowl of their homemade clam chowder.

We found a table near the window and shortly our food was delivered.

The sampler consisted of one piece of fish (that’s why we ordered and extra one), two oysters, two scallops, three shrimp and some thicker cut fries.

I started with the chowder, since it is best hot. It had a lot of clams and a very buttery taste, but was a bit on the thin side. I found that to be okay since a lot of places over thicken it with corn starch. Russ is not a real chowder fan, but he enjoyed it (with oyster crackers) and only commented on its thinness.

Next I tried the fried shrimp, a dish I have loved since childhood. They were sweet and tasted very good. I dipped them in their homemade cocktail sauce, which had a nice horseradish bite, but wasn’t overpowering.

Fried oysters are not high on my list, since the Army used to serve them to us after dipping them is sand before frying. These were not sandy and nicely fried, but still not my favorite food.

The scallops were very fresh and sweet, but only about the size of a quarter before breading and frying. They were so good I wish they had been bigger.

The fish was probably the best of the sampler. Large moist fillets of nicely cooked, very fresh fish and a very nice homemade tarter sauce in which to dip it.

The tarter sauce was also my favorite for dipping the fries, although I did try some of the cocktail sauce on them – yum!.

Best of all, THE FOOD WAS NOT GREASY, so the new owner knows what she is doing. Greasy food is the biggest turn-off for me at a restaurant like that.

They are still working on the menu, which includes lots of different dishes with chicken and a large selection of seafood. I had hoped to get a to-go menu, but that will have to wait.

Restaurant hours are from 11 until 8:30 daily. Stop by, welcome the new owner and enjoy the food. For more information call 530-642-0777.


Russ and I split an “El Diablo,” the newest burger at Carl’s Jr. It is a charbroiled 1/3 pound Black Angus “Thickburger” with jalapeno poppers, pepper-jack cheese, fiery Habanero sauce, bacon strips and sliced jalapenos on a fresh baked bun.

Russ commented that it was “too busy,” in other words, two many different flavors. But, he did add that the flavors all seemed to work together.

We both liked it, and it was not too spicy However, it is not high on the list of burgers I would order. I still like lettuce, tomato, pickles and some kind of sauce on my burgers. Otherwise I don’t get my “veggies.”

Steppin’ Out – Burgers, Burgers, Burgers

burgersOne of the questions I often get is, “Doug, where can I find a good burger around here?” My answer is usually, “There are a number of them, what are you looking for?” You can get just about any kind of burger from one of our fast food, cooked to order or sit down restaurants. So, as requested by several people, here are a few I especially like.

First I should tell you that I love everything on my burgers: cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and whatever sauce they put on it. I also like black pepper and mustard on fries, which must be hot when I get them or they go back.

Going back a few years, I remember when for a dollar you could get several burgers, a shake and some fries from McDonald’s (and those were the good fries, cooked in animal fat). Now and then I go back and get a burger for old time’s sake. They have a very different taste that brings back a few memories. The same goes for the Big Mac when it is properly put together (I think it has shrunk over the years).

A couple of weeks ago I was going to the grocery store and realized I hadn’t eaten in a while, so I dropped in to McDonald’s had a Jalapeno Double, something new on the menu. It has both slices of jalapeno and crunchy jalapeno chips on it. Interesting.

Having been born in southern California, for another nostalgia burger I go to In-n-Out Burger. Their burger also has a unique taste that I can remember and their fries, made with Kennebec potatoes, are great, but soften rapidly (I liked them better when they tossed them in a towel to get off some of the fat). The Diamond Springs Hotel, Sportsman’s Hall and Danette’s Brick Oven Pub also use that potato for their fries.

I believe the best deal on a fast food burger is at Carl’s Jr. It is their Famous Star, which is often on sale. It has a nice sized meat patty, lots of vegetables and a good tasting sauce. Carl’s Jr. recently had a Natural Burger that I also though was very good and several of their turkey burger and chicken sandwiches are tasty. A lot of guys like the half pound “Thickburger,” which is featured in their “nearly naked, beautiful girl who is a sloppy eater” ads.

The problem with the big burgers is that they contain more fat and sodium than a normal person should consume in a whole day.

In Pollock Pines, the Burger Barn makes really good burgers, ranging from their regular quarter pound one to stuffed half pounder and a quadruple patty full pounder. They also serve shakes in a huge number of flavors along with beer for you “burger and a beer” folks.

The pastrami burger at Shoestring (both on Broadway in Placerville and Black Oak Mine Road in Garden Valley) is my present favorite burger. Try it with Swiss cheese. Take a friend to lunch and split one, along with a half or whole order of chili-cheese fries. Yum!

Because now and then my friend Russ Salazar and I make a run to Sacramento, while there we try a burger or hot dog.

Cinco de Mayo – What is it all about?

5-de-mayoEach fifth of May we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and while each year more and more Americans are celebrating it, few know exactly what they are celebrating. Most seem to believe that it is a celebration marking the Independence of Mexico from Spain in 1821, but that is celebrated on September 16.

Actually, Cinco de Mayo commemorates a small battle fought on May 5, 1862 called the Battle of Puebla. If it was just a small battle, then why such a celebration and why is it so important to both Mexico and the United States?

After gaining its independence from Spain, Mexico was in serious trouble. Not only was their economy in shambles, but by 1850 they had lost California and Texas, along with other territory, to the United States and much of the southern part of their country had become part of Central America. Faced with hard decisions, as a result of all of this, Mexican President Benito Juarez declared a two year moratorium on the payment of Mexico’s foreign debt. Needless to say, this did not go over well in Europe.

Spain, Great Britain and France held much of Mexico’s debts and on October 31, 1861, the representatives of these governments signed the Convention of London by which they agreed on a joint occupation of the port of Veracruz to collect their claims through the customhouse. The Convention text stated that they were there only to collect what was due them and that they were not to interfere with the right of Mexico to form its own government.

Soon England and Spain reached a settlement with the government of Mexico and withdrew from Veracruz. However, Napoleon III, taking advantage of their leaving, immediately landed 4,500 trained troops and began a march towards Mexico City, where he planned to occupy the country and establish new Mexican Empire with a Hapsburg prince named Maximilian as emperor, and his wife Carolota as empress.

Normally the French would not have been so bold, especially with the United States just to the north. But, in 1862 the United States was in the midst of its own civil war and not prepared to come to the aid of their southern neighbor, in spite of the fact that France had been supplying arms and other military equipment to the Confederacy.

Napoleon’s French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and trained soldiers. Mexico’s army, on the other hand, was ill equipped and believed to be unable to fight such an army.

Under the command of General Latrille the French Army set out for Mexico City, believing Mexico would be theirs if they could take the capital of the country. After all, this was what always happened in European wars and why should Mexico be any different.

Some report that the French were told that they would be welcomed with open arms at the town of Puebla, some 100 miles from the capital, so they set out in that direction. Little did they know that they had been duped.

The “welcoming committee” at Puebla was under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, who had at his disposal a troop of well trained cavalry led by Colonel Porfirio Diaz, a man who would later be Mexico’s president and dictator. Some 4000 strong, the Mexican Army quietly awaited.

On May 5, 1862, over the horizon came the French Army, which, including Mexican “traitors,” had grown to some 8000 in strength. Leading them were the brightly dressed and very elegant French Dragoons, quite a contrast to the unstylish Mexican Army.

Under orders from General Zaragosa, Colonel Diaz and his cavalry attacked the flanks of the French Army. The French cavalry responded by going after Diaz and his men. Not realizing that Diaz’s cavalry were some of the best in the world, the French cavalry was soon butchered and driven off from the battle site.

With the flanks of his army now exposed, General Latrille sent his infantry charging forward towards the Mexican defenders, in an attempt to drive them from the town. Unfortunately, it had recently rained and the land was muddy, making progress difficult. To add to the problem, the French infantrymen found themselves in the middle of a cattle stampede created by Indians armed only with machetes.

The battle was soon over and the vastly outnumbered Mexican Army was victorious. Unfortunately, one year later the French Army would take Mexico City and install its puppet government.

Because of the Mexican victory at Puebla, and the need for the embarrassed French to rearm and resupply their military in Mexico, the supplies flowing to the Confederacy were substantially reduced. Fourteen months after the Battle of Puebla, the Union Army defeated the Confederate Army at Gettysburg, essentially ending the Civil War.

It is interesting to note that after the surrender of the Confederate Army, General Sheridan rushed Union soldiers to the Texas/Mexican border to supply weapons and ammunition to the Mexicans so that they could throw out the French government. It is also said that American soldiers were discharged with their uniforms and rifles if they promised to join the Mexican Army to fight the French.

How much of an effect those brave 4,000 Mexicans who defeated an army twice their size had on the outcome of our Civil War is often debated by historians. But, that, and our aid in expelling the French, does give us a reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, along with our Mexican friends.