Highway 50

Roads from the western county line to Lake Tahoe

Along Green Valley Road, Part 1 – County Line to the New York House

The Rolling Hill House

It should be noted that this series of articles is just a quick look at Green Valley Road. Much of this area is covered in greater depth in a recently released and fantastic book,  “History of a Place Called Rescue,” by William C. Teie and Francis M. Carpenter. It can be purchased online at www.deervalleypress.com.

There were two distinct and separate east-west routes through the western part of El Dorado County during the early years of the Gold Rush. One was called the White Rock Road route and the other, Green Valley Road.

White Rock Road, the predecessor of Highway 50, was one of the major routes for the California immigrants traveling west by land. Many came over the Sierra Nevada and picked up the road in the Tahoe Basin, following it to Placerville and then, possibly to Sacramento and points west, north or south.

On the other hand, nearly all of the traffic that moved west to east (Sacramento to the mines) followed the other route – Green Valley Road (also known as the Overland Trail).

Green Valley Road was one of the earliest roads in El Dorado County. The first miners, those who arrived by ship or overland from Oregon and from towns along the coast of California,  blazed this route to get to Mormon Bar, New York Creek, and, ultimately, Coloma only a few months after James Marshall picked up those first few flakes of gold.

As with other busy roads, there would soon be many places or stations along the road where a hungry or tired miner or teamster could find food, supplies or a place to rest for the night. Some of these places lasted only a short time and some went on to last a century or more. Therefore, not all of them may have existed at the same time.

Along White Rock Road – Part 4, Mud Springs (El Dorado) to Placerville

Diamond Springs 1856

Diamond Springs 1856

At the eastern end of the town of Mud Springs a toll road owned by Michael O’Keefe left the main road and proceeded north towards Placerville. This road was probably along a portion of Forni Road, which at one time was part of the state highway system, before being replaced by the extension of Mother Lode Drive.

The only roadhouse on the toll road was one owned by William Madison Tanner. It was located about three miles north of Mud Springs and two miles west of Placerville. Some years later, a slaughterhouse was constructed on that site.

Eastward from Mud Springs along the main road (Pleasant Valley Road), about half way to Diamond Springs, was “Doc” Bradford Hammill’s (B. Hammel?) roadhouse and stage station. There is little information about this stop, other that it and its supporting barns were located on the south side of the road and were operated by Hammill in 1869. It then passed into the hands of a William Voss (“Van Voss”?).

Another mile to the east the road enters the mining town of Diamond Springs.

Known by this name because of the crystal clear springs that made it a favorite camping place for immigrants (some contend the clear quartz crystals found in the area were the source for the name), Diamond Spring (later Diamond Springs), was a major stop along the immigrant trail.

Early on gold was discovered in Diamond Springs and in a short time buildings of all kinds sprung up. The first was a log cabin built in 1849, followed the next year by the first roadhouse, which was built by Andrew Carbly Bloom.

In 1855 he sold this hotel and bakery and, like many of the early immigrants, simply moved on. The place was operated by different people until it and most of the town were destroyed by what became known as the Great Fire of 1856. Luckily, one roadhouse survived the fire, the California House.

Along White Rock Road – Part 3, Forty Mile House to Mud Springs (El Dorado)

California House before changing to Hill Hotel. Courtesy of Steve Crandell Fine Art, Placerville

California House before changing to Hill Hotel. Courtesy of Steve Crandell Fine Art, Placerville

Before we leave Forty Mile House, just west of Frenchtown Road, we should note that the original 1848 – 1849 Carson Emigrant Road passed a hundred and fifty feet or so south of the existing Mother Lode Drive (old Highway 50).

About one-hundred yards west of where the original road crossed the Latrobe road (now  Frenchtown Road), was located a small grave of a young girl who died here after a long overland journey across the plains and mountains to California and only forty miles from Sutter’s Fort. Unfortunately, the wooden fence and marker that her grieving parents erected at her final resting place were destroyed by a brush fire many years ago.

About a half mile east of the Forty Mile House was the Mountain House, which stood at Greenstone (Road?), the intersection the main road and the road to Latrobe.

This roadhouse marked the eastern end of Johnson’s or Davidson’s toll road, which was several hundred feet north of the present Mother Lode Drive. There is some indication that Mr. Davidson may have run this roadhouse, but that is all that is known about it.

Three quarters of a mile further east was the Kingsville House, at a place known also as Kingvale or Kingville (across from Taeger’s Firewood just east of Summit View Subdivision).

In 1853, the proprietors of this roadhouse claimed they were “erecting the largest building in the state”, a statement that seems to have little factual information to support it.

In 1862 another proprietor, Withers King, prepared an advertisement for the newspapers offering it and the ranch, consisting of about 600 acres, for sale. He also offered for sale the nearby Slate Creek House and 50 acres, about which little is known.

Along White Rock Road – Part 2, Clarksville to the Forty Mile House

Duroc House PlaqueUp the hill towards Placerville and to the east of the Margaret Tong’s Railroad House at Clarksville, was Samuel Freeman’s place and the Atlantic House. Nothing is known about these two stops other than the fact that they were at the junction with a road heading north which passed by Bass Lake, a reservoir for the Diamond Ridge Water Company. This road, which has its northern termination at Green Valley Road, would become today’s Bass Lake Road.

About a mile and a half east of the Atlantic House was the Ohio House (a fairly common name for hotels and inns), located on the north side of the road just west of Deer Creek (just east of today’s Cambridge Road).

In 1858, Sebastian Zimmerman purchased this land, which had on it only a log cabin built in 1849. There he erected several buildings including the hotel. Until the railroad reached Shingle Springs in 1865, the Ohio House was a very important overnight stop for teamsters.

About a mile further to the east was another one of the inns about which little is known, Daniel Hate Holdridge’s Deer Creek Hotel. Strangely, only a half mile further was a place much is know about, the DuRoc House.

The earliest record owners of this inn that stood at the top of a hill on the south side of the road, were Lewis and Sarah Ann Holdridge. They owned it in 1857 and 1858, and sold “the DuRoc house and ranch” to E. S. and Maria Hanshett. Later it was acquired by Theron and Mary Foster, Foster at one time being a member of the California Assembly.

On November 20, 1860, Frederick Gustavus Crawford, a teamster who was a frequent visitor to the DuRoc House, married Theron and Mary’s daughter, Mary Lanette Foster. In 1867 he joined Theron in operating the inn.

After helping Theron plant a vineyard, Crawford would move to Davisville and then Willows, where he and Mary Lanette built and ran hotels. One of these hotels, the Crawford House in Willows, was rated by some as one of the best appointed hotels in northern California.