Community Profiles

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.

Community Profiles – Coloma, Part 1


Sutter's Mill

Sutter’s Mill with James Marshall (possibly)

Some ask why it turned out that Coloma, which gets its name from a nearby Southern Maidu village with the name of Culloma, was the site of the California gold discovery. After all, there were many, many places in the Mother Lode where such a occurrence could have easily taken place. Gold was in streams and rivers everywhere along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. But there were several reasons, including luck, that Coloma would have the destiny to become the site of this discovery that would immediately change the the world.

Coloma lies on the South Fork of the American River, a place with sufficient water power for a sawmill, a place with great stands of timber and a place only a day or two ride upriver from John Sutter’s fort, which lay to the west at a place he called New Helvetia (now Sacramento), in honor of his Swiss heritage. It was for these reasons that John Sutter and James Marshall selected this site for Sutter’s sawmill and in doing so, established the first real permanent camp in the foothills of the Sierra. That is what set the stage for the discovery of gold in the Mother Lode to take place at this location.

For the first few years after James Wilson Marshall’s famed discovery of gold, Coloma was where everyone headed. They might end up somewhere else but Coloma, “Sutter’s Mill” or just “The Mill,” was their original destination.

People arrived from all over the world. Most came up the river from San Francisco to Sutter’s Fort and then headed to Coloma through what is now Folsom, Rescue and Lotus. Later, as the word of the  “Gold Rush” reached the east coast, they came by boat to San Francisco or over the Sierra Nevada by wagon.

Community Profiles – Cold Spring

Letter with both Cold Spring and Placerville postmarks. Forwarded to St, Louis - 1852

Letter from Placerville (10 cents), forwarded to St. Louis (5 cents more)

Cold Spring (often Cold Springs) was a short-lived mining community about six miles north of Placerville, upstream from where Cold Springs creek now crosses Cold Springs Road. Its name was derived from a spring of good, cold water located near the edge of Cold Spring creek, in the upper end of the town.

Gold was first discovered at this location in 1849 and soon a road to both Coloma, to the north, and Placerville, to the south, was constructed. This road, that still bears the name of Cold Springs Road, soon became the main travelled road between those two places, with Cold Spring being at the half-way point.

By the summer of 1850 some 600 to 700 miners pitched their tents or built cabins on the flat below the town, each working a 15 foot square claim on the bed of the creek. The stream bed was so rich with gold that the possibility of the camp becoming permanent led to the almost immediate construction of a business district to serve the miners and the numerous travellers along the road.