Community Profiles

Community Profiles – Fair Play

Fair Play Store c. 1900

Fair Play Store c. 1900

Not much was written about Fair Play and the surrounding communities during the early days of California. It was not because there was nothing going on in the southern part of El Dorado County during that time, but because most of the world’s attention was focused on the feverish mining activities nearer Placerville, Coloma and Sacramento, where the population was larger, the roads were better, communication was easier and, of course, where the newspapers were published. Because of this, we have only bits and pieces of information on the little, but very important towns like Fair Play.

The settlement of Fair Play and the many other communities in the area was a result of the discovery of gold in and along many of the nearby streams. This occurred only a few years after the first discovery of gold in Coloma as newly arriving miners found the good claims taken and set out to search for new, undiscovered deposits of gold. As in most other communities founded by miners, the gold soon gave out and many of the miners left to search for new deposits. But the region around Fair Play had attributes that much of the rest of the county lacked – like large stands of timber and deep, well drained, fertile soils. So, as time progressed the population remained fairly stable, the departing miners soon being replaced by farmers, ranchers and lumbermen.

The original settlement of Fair Play is attributed to two gentlemen, Charles Staples and N. Sisson, who arrived there around 1853. The story goes that some time after that the two apparently fell into a disagreement that grew into what must have been a not-too-gentlemanly fight. The fight ended when some of the other newly arrived residents appealed to them to “play fair.” Thus, we’re told, the town became known as Fair Play. Some time later, the name was shortened to one word – Fairplay – mostly for the convenience of various government agencies. But, that would change.

Community Profiles – El Dorado Hills

Mormon Tavern - about 1860

Mormon Tavern – about 1860

Most of the early history of the El Dorado Hills area occurred on and along two of the earliest major immigration and trade routes in early California, Green Valley Road to the north and to the south what is now generally Highway 50, but was historically known by many names including the Carson-Immigrant Trail, the Overland Trail, the Sacramento-Washoe Road and White Rock Road.

Green Valley Road is the oldest of these two and a major portion of it was the old Coloma road, which led from Sacramento via Folsom, Mormon Island, Green Valley, Rose Springs (Rescue) to Uniontown (Lotus) and Coloma. There were also important branches of this road, including one forking off at New York ravine, crossing the South Fork of the American River at Salmon Falls into the northern part of the county and running up to Greenwood Valley and Georgetown. From there the road branched out in all directions, even back to Placerville via Kelsey’s, Spanish Flat and American Flat.

The old immigrant road on the south entered California State from the east and followed the Carson River up the Carson Valley. After crossing the Sierra Nevada it descended along the divide between the headwaters of the American and Cosumnes rivers. It followed this divide through Sly Park, Pleasant Valley, Diamond Springs, Mud Springs (El Dorado) and Shingle Springs, Clarksville and White Rock Springs into Sacramento County. This was the “Carson immigrant route” listed in all of the guide books.

From its main route through the county, it branched at places like Grizzly Flat south to Brownsville, Indian Diggin’s and Fiddletown; at Diamond Springs via Placerville to Coloma, Georgetown and the northern mines; at Mud Springs south to Logtown, Saratoga, Drytown and the southern mines; and at Clarksville to Folsom. The main part of the emigrant route is loosely approximated today by portions of Highway 50, Mother Lode Drive, Pleasant Valley Road, Mormon Immigrant Trail and Highway 88.

For years these two roads were indisputably the most traveled in California, one bringing tired but excited immigrants westward into the state and the other filled with anxious miners heading in the direction of Coloma and beyond. Both roads were also heavily traveled by the wagon loads of supplies needed to support the quest for gold, numerous stage lines and, for a short time, the Pony Express. Even with all of this going on, most of the land now known as El Dorado Hills remained as a quiet place where wildlife browsed — with a few exceptions.

Community Profiles – Diamond Springs


Diiamond Springs - 1854

Diiamond Springs – 1854

Is it Diamond Spring or Diamond Springs? And, is it named for the crystal clear springs where the immigrants watered their livestock or for the diamond-like quartz crystals that were found nearby?

The first question has an easy answer. The name of the townsite was written both as Diamond Spring and Diamond Springs until July 1, 1950 when the “s” was officially added by the U.S. Post Office Department, making it from that day forward Diamond Springs.

The crystal springs answer to the second question is the reference that shows up in a large majority of the early histories of El Dorado County, so we can probably go with that one, although the quartz crystal option is somewhat more interesting.

We do know that the group of springs in the middle of this Gold Rush community were a favorite stopping and camping place for the immigrants who reached here by way of the old immigrant road (Carson trail) that followed the course of the Carson River up over the Sierra Nevada and then down towards this spot passing Silver Lake, Sly Park and Pleasant Valley along the way.

It was an ideal location to stop since it was at this point that the immigrants had to make a choice, either take the road to the north, towards Hangtown, Coloma, Georgetown and the northern mining camps, continue west for about two miles and and then turn south to Jackson, Sonora and the southern mining camps or just stay on the road going west to Sacramento and what was commonly known as the “plains.”

Although the Diamond Springs area would later prove to be quite rich in gold, no one realized it at first and there was no real settlement here – save one log cabin – until late in the summer of 1850. Prior to that time most who arrived stayed only long enough to rest, water and feed their stock and then continue their trip. But, as we will see, not everybody moved on.

Community Profiles – Coloma, Part 2


Dedication of Marshall Monument - 1890

Dedication of Marshall Monument – 1890

There are obviously many tales that can be told about early Coloma and its citizens. After all, as a former publisher of the Mountain Democrat aptly put it, “…civilization here was young and the reign of law, a fiction.” One of the most intriguing stories involves its bid to obtain and retain the county seat of El Dorado County.

When El Dorado County was organized by an act of the state legislature on February 18, 1850 (yes, before California was a state), Coloma was the largest town at that time and, with the large number of voters living there (males over 21), it was easily chosen as the county seat.

Four years later, when the center of population had shifted, a number of towns jealously showed a desire to replace it as the county seat. Thus in 1854 another election was held with the following results: Coloma, 4,601; Placerville, 3,745; Diamond Springs, 2,073; Mud Springs (El Dorado), 685 and Greenwood Valley, 441.

This did not set well with the citizens of the new city of Placerville and they started an unfruitful movement to divide the county (around that time many of the original 27 counties were being divided and, in fact in 1854 Amador County was created from portions of Calaveras and El Dorado counties). Subsequently, the Board of Supervisors ordered another election to move the county seat to be held on May 17, 1856. The results were very interesting, to say the least.

In this election, the official returns gave Coloma 7,413 votes and Placerville, the only other candidate, 5,895 votes. Because of the results of the 1854 election, the citizens of Placerville had feared the possibility of fraud and thus obtained returns at the close of the polls, prior to the “official returns.” These showed that Coloma had received only 5,280 votes, some 600 less than Placerville. It was also noted that there had been 2,038 votes cast in the townsite of Coloma alone, over a thousand more than had been cast in the previous presidential election and, some say, far more that the number of eligible voters plus all of the dogs and chickens.

Quite a fuss resulted and, finally tired of the antics of the local citizens, in January of 1857 the state legislature permanently solved the problem and firmly established the county seat at the city of Placerville, where it has remained since.