Community Profiles

Community Profiles – Georgia Slide


Georgetown to Georgia Slide envelope.

Georgetown to Georgia Slide envelope.

Many history books paint the incorrect picture that until Marshall picked up a few flakes of gold at Coloma in 1848, gold mining was unknown in the United States. But this is far from true.

In Southern California, at a place called Placerita Canyon, gold had been discovered and mined, to some extent, several years before Marshall even arrived in Coloma. But, even before that, in 1828 a significant gold discovery had occurred in the state of Georgia, near a town named Dahlonega. This town had its own gold rush and soon became the center for gold miners in the southeast.

It was the discovery of gold on Cherokee lands in Georgia that resulted in the Cherokee being forced to moved to Oklahoma and the “Trail of Tears.”

The discovery of gold at Coloma drew almost all of these miners west, leaving Georgia and its gold almost forgotten.

These experienced Georgia miners were some of the earliest in the gold fields of California and who brought with them, and fortunately shared with others, much of the needed mining knowledge and experience. It is also these men who left their name on numerous mining towns in California’s Mother Lode – Georgia Slide, northwest of Georgetown, being but one of them.

The town of Georgia Slide (originally known as Georgia Flat and Georgia Flatts until a large landslide occurred at the site), had its beginning in the fall of 1849, when several miners from Georgia staked out claims along Canyon Creek, planning on working them the next spring.

By the middle of 1850 Georgia Slide had become a lively mining camp with a saloon owned by one Yankee Sullivan and a store first owned by B. Spencer, a brother to Patrick Spencer of Georgetown, and later, G. F. Barklage, who also had a saloon and a large warehouse.

The community never reached the size needed to have a Post Office or a school of its own, relying on other communities in the Georgetown area for these services.

Community Profiles – Georgetown, Part 2

Sacramento Daily Union - May 31, 1869

Sacramento Daily Union – May 31, 1869

The first school in Georgetown was taught in J. W. Slette’s store, one of the few buildings saved from the fire of 1852. Mrs. Dr. Ray was the first teacher. On May 22, 1854 the first Public School in town was established with Miss Minerva A. Horsford as teacher and S. Knox, William T. Gibbs and B. C. Currier as Trustees.

By 1859, the town had grown large enough that several fraternal and other organizations had been established there. These included a Temple of Honor, No. 11; the Odd Fellows Lodge No. 37; Georgetown Lodge No. 25, F. and A. M.; a Lodge of the Ancient Society of E. Clampus Vitus and a military company that went by the name of the Georgetown Blues.

Like many of the rapidly growing towns in the Mother Lode, Georgetown was always faced with a continuing danger from the scourge of wooden towns – uncontrolled fire. As a result of the 1852 fire, a hook and ladder company had been organized and boasted a very large volunteer membership.

On July 7, 1856, within a month of the very suspicious and quite large fires at Placerville and Diamond Springs, flames mysteriously appeared at the rear of a saloon on the east side of Main Street. Despite the efforts of the brave fireman, all that was saved was the Knox and Sharp dwellings and the buildings on the west side of Church Street. Two years later another fire again destroyed most of the buildings on the east side of Main Street. For obvious reasons, only some of the buildings were rebuilt this time.

May 28, 1869 brought with it a fire in the Miner’s Hotel, which some believed was set to possibly cover up a murder. Although the proprietor, Mr. Stahlman, escaped with his eldest child, it took as victims his wife, three of their other children and a Miss Stanton.

On July 13, 1869, Mr. Stahlman was tried on suspicion of arson before Judge Charles F. Irwin. The trial lasted two days and the jury could not reach a verdict. A second trial was held on February 1, 1870, and the jury handed down a verdict of not guilty.

Community Profiles – Georgetown, Part 1

Georgetown - July 4, 1890

Georgetown – July 4, 1890

The first miners in the Georgetown area were a party of Oregonians led by a Mr. Hudson. They arrived in June of 1849 and, although they found deposits of gold at both “Hudson’s Gulch” and “Oregon Canyon,” for some reason they soon moved on.

By August of 1849 several hundred miners that had come from Coloma in search of the golden deposits had located their claims at the north side of the head of Empire Canyon.

Because they found rich deposits, more miners soon arrived and a town was established on the slope downhill from today’s location. First it was named George’s Town and then Georgetown after the first miner to pitch a tent at that location, a sailor named George Phipps (there is controversy about this, since some report that it was named after another 49er, George Ehrenhart). However, for many years the miners continued to call the place Growlersburg after the sound made by the large gold nuggets that “growled” in their pans.

The first log house in young George’s Town was erected about September 20th of 1849. From there the town grew rapidly – it would soon have dozens of stores built of logs, shakes and canvas – as it spread north and east.

With the completion of the “Georgetown Cut-Off” road, travel thorough the town increased and there were added several hotels, the Missouri, Illinois and Alabama, and The Round Tent, a gambling saloon near to the apparently “notorious” Bee House.

Community Profiles – Garden Valley

Black Oak Mine - 1932

Black Oak Mine – 1932

During the early days of mining in California, it was very common to name communities after a person, a landmark, a local group of Native Americans or often even a hometown or state important to a group of settlers. But one town in El Dorado County is unique, its name coming about as a result of a dinner in celebration of the independence of the United States of America.

It was only natural that the early gold miners would start exploring the ravines that drained into the American River near Coloma. They knew the gold found there was being washed into the river from other places and, who knows, one of these many ravines might be the source of all of the riches, the often sought after “Mother Lode.”

In late 1848 several miners started exploring northward from Coloma, along Johntown Creek near a place known as Stony Point. There they found good quantities of gold and by 1850 a permanent mining camp had been established, a camp that included a saw mill being operated by some gentlemen named McConnell and Cody.
When the fourth of July came around that year, the miners were invited to a vegetable dinner in celebration of the day, hosted by the owners of the saw mill. They had planted a large vegetable garden the previous year and wanted to share their abundant crop with the others. Needless to say, this was a welcome change from the quite boring, “beans and something they shot,” normal diet of the miners, and nearly everyone must have attended.

After dinner the conversation turned to the fact that their town had no name and that it should be given one. With the delicious meal still on their minds, it was voted to name the place Garden Valley – a name that still remains to this day.