Genealogy Trails History Group

Placer County, California Genealogy Trails History Group

Voulnteers Dedicated to Free Genealogy
Submit Data Submit Obituary California Trails Genealogy Trails Join The Mailing List 

Placer County, California Genealogy Trails
Towns & Their Histories
ALTA – Situated in dense forests, Alta was created by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1866 as a depot for freight and passengers bound for Dutch Flat about two miles away. It was named for the newspaper “Alta California” which was pro-railroad. A post office was established in Alta in 1871. By the 1880s, the town was home to prosperous saw mills, store houses, box factories, a fine hotel, and the usual stores, saloons, and residences of a flourishing village. Today, Alta has the character of a quaint little mountain town.
APPLEGATE Applegate was settled in 1849 by Lisbon Applegate and originally was called LISBON in his honor. When a post office was established in the 1870s, the settlement was renamed Applegate to honor both Lisbon and his son, George A. Applegate, who was the town’s first postmaster as well as a local fruit grower and manufacturer of wine and brandy. Besides being a station on the Central Pacific Railroad, Applegate was known for its orchards and vineyards. In connection with the vineyards were cider-mills, wine-presses, tanks, stills for brandy-making, wine cellars, and store-houses. Lumbering was also a big business in the area.
AUBURN – On May 16, 1848, gold was discovered in the Auburn Ravine, this being the first gold discovery in Placer County. The diggings, originally known as both NORTH FORK DRY DIGGINGS and WOOD’S DRY DIGGINGS, quickly developed into a mining and supply camp. It became officially known as Auburn in 1849. By 1850, the population had grown to 1,5000, and by 1851 Auburn became the seat of Placer County. A post office was established in 1853, and the city was first incorporated in 1860. The Central Pacific Railroad came to Auburn in 1865. Besides mining, fruit-growing and wine-producing became very important industries to the area. Today, Auburn is an affluent city and boasts one of the best preserved historic downtowns in the state.The town of Auburn is one of the oldest in the State, having "been a mining camp" of considerable importance early in 1849. Of the first discovery of gold upon its site, or in its reliable account; but when the writer of this article passed the spot in the first days of July, 1849, the ravines, which converged in what is now the Plaza showed signs of having been wrought to some extent during the previous rainy season. The only persons at work, however, at that time (July) were two Chilenos "panning" in Rich Ravine, a short distance above where the American Hotel now stands, and a white man with a rocker upon the Main Auburn Ravine, near the present bridge on the turnpike. About the middle of July, Wm. Gwynn and H. M. House started trading-posts here, and a considerable population began to accumulate, Up to this time the place had been known as Wood's Dry Diggings; its new name of Auburn was adopted during the following winter. In the spring of 1850 it had assumed quite an important position as a mining town, and was the trading-point of a very extensive mining district. The principal traders were Bailey & Kerr, Disbrow &. Willment, "Walkup & Wyman, Parkinson & Leet, Wetzler & Sutter, Wm. Gwynn, H.M. House, and Post & Ripley. Of these pioneers, Mr. Willment alone remains a resident of the town, and is doing business at the old stand. In the first division of the State into counties,  Auburn came within the boundaries of Sutter, the county seat "being at Nicolaus on  Bear River, some thirty miles distant. The mass of the population being in the nearer vicinity of Auburn upon the North Fork of the American, and among the various dry diggings adjacent, the removal of the county seat was demanded and an order obtained for an election submitting the question to the people. Four ambitious precincts entered the lists for the honor—Auburn, Nicolaus, Ophir and Miner's Hotel (Franklin House). The favorable location of Auburn, its preponderance of population and the inexhaustible powers of voting possessed by its citizens and partisans, decided the contest in its favor by majority considerably  exceeding the entire population of the county.
BATH – Located about one and a half miles from Foresthill, this area was settled in the summer of 1850 by a merchant named John Bradford. He erected a house and brush fence, mainly as a place to store goods for his store at the nearby diggings of Stony Bar. Later that year, miners purchased the homestead from Bradford and soon discovered gold in the surrounding gulches. This, of course, brought more miners to the area, and they named the settlement VOLCANO after nearby Volcano Canyon. However, since there already was a place named Volcano, the name was changed to SARAHSVILLE in honor of the wife of one of the settlers. When the residents of Sarahsville petitioned for a post office in 1858; however, they changed the name to Bath. (I don’t know why.) The post office was discontinued in 1859, re-established in 1891, and discontinued again in 1899. Unfortunately for Bath, the rapid growth of nearby Foresthill had drained Bath’s population and importance. At one time, the village consisted of a hotel, store, butcher shop, and saloon. Since then, forest fires have devastated the area, and only the diggings and a few old locust trees remain of Bath today.
BAXTER – Baxter is a village located three miles east of Dutch Flat. The name comes from a travelers stop at the place in the early days. A post office was established here in 1935.
BLUE CANYON – Blue Canyon started out as a California Pacific Railroad stop about 42 miles east of Auburn. The name is derived from blue smoke that hung over the canyon during the days of extensive lumbering, although according to one account, the name is from Old Jim Blue, a miner from the 1850s. A post office was established in Blue Canyon in 1867. By the early 1880s, the town also had a hotel and general store. The post office was discontinued in 1964.
BUTCHER RANCH – Butcher Ranch was a farming settlement situated on Stony Hill Turnpike about 10 miles from Auburn. A post office was established here in 1871. By the early 1880s, the settlement also included a drug store, hotel, and blacksmith shop. The post office was discontinued in 1935.
CISCOCisco is in the snowy region of the Sierra, about fifty-six miles northeast of Auburn. Originally it was called HEATON STATION, and a post office was established there in 1856. In 1865, the town was surveyed into lots and renamed Cisco, in honor of US Treasurer John J. Cisco. In November 1866, the Central Pacific Railroad ran to this point. The settlement then became a very busy place, crowded with freight wagons and teams, stages, and travelers. This remained the ter­minus of the road until 1868 when the summit tun­nel was completed and the road extended out into Nevada. By the early 1880s, Cisco had a hotel and general store. The post office was discontinued and re-established several times over the years until its final closure in 1908.
CLIFTON – see Last Chance
CLIPPER GAP – Clipper Gap began in 1865 as a railroad station about six miles northeast of Auburn. A post office was established here in 1866. Besides being a fruit region, it was the depot of the Hotaling iron mines, the Holmes & Co. lime works, and a black powder works. A directory from the early 1880s indicated that the settlement had a boarding house and saloon. From 1894 to 1950, the name was spelled Clippergap. The post office was discontinued in 1960. Nowadays, Clipper Gap is a sleepy little community.
COLFAX – Beginning in 1849 as a small settlement consisting of traders and miners, it was first called ILLINOISTOWN, the name coming from the fact that most of its residents were from Illinois. The vast forests in the region led to the building of two saw mills that produced millions of feet of lumber each year. By the mid-1860s, the town had become a railroad construction camp and the site of a gold strike the following year. Illinoistown was renamed Colfax after Speaker of the House (and later Vice President) Schuyler Colfax visited the town in 1865. By the 1880s, the business section of Colfax consisted of dry goods and grocery stores, two hotels, a drug store, a wagon and blacksmith shop, a bakery and restaurant, saloons, a lumber yard, a meat market, a shoemaker, etc. For many years, Colfax was known as a railroad town and agricultural center, and flourished as such in the early part of the 1900s. It was incorporated in 1910. The city was at the southern end of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad from 1876 until the railroad's removal in 1942, and was the eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad for many years.
DAMASCUS – Damascus was an old mining town that began in 1852 when gold was discovered between two branches of Humbug Canyon and Damascus Branch. It was located about five and a half miles from Last Chance. The area originally was known as STRONGS DIGGINGS and DAMASCUS DIGGINGS. A post office was established here in 1856. The little village eventually grew to support a hotel, store, and school, but was mainly a mining operation. After being discontinued and re-established several times over the years, the post office of Damascus was finally closed in 1908. The town, with its scattered cottages, little garden plots, and a few stores, was completely destroyed by a forest fire many years ago.
DEADWOOD – Situated about three and a half miles above Michigan Bluff, Deadwood came about when gold was discovered in the area in 1852 by a party of prospectors. This brought a large influx of people into the area, and by 1855 the population of Deadwood had grown to about 500. Soon after, though, the diggings panned out and the settlement was in its decline. Today, all that is left is a cemetery and some old wells. Ironically, the name Deadwood was an old-time slang expression that meant “a sure thing.”
DUTCH FLAT - Dutch Flat is situated in the northeastern part of Placer County on a ridge which divides the Bear River from the North Fork of the American. German brothers Joseph and Charles Dornbach founded the town in 1851. In 1854, a water-ditch was constructed to convey the waters of Bear River to the tops of the ridges for mining purposes. Prominence as a mining center as well as being a stage station encouraged the settlement of Dutch Flat, and it greatly increased its population and import­ance. In fact, Dutch Flat had the largest voting population in the county in 1880. At that time, the town had one newspaper, three churches, one school house, a number of dry goods and gro­cery stores, a drug store, a hotel, a livery stable, a fire company, and a brewery, besides the usual quota of lawyers, doctors, etc. Its secret societies numbered Masons, Odd Fellows, Red Men, Good Templars, and Ancient Order of United Workmen. These days, the town (population about 330) is a mix of retirees, families, and professionals who commute to nearby jobs. Unlike many of the other early towns in Placer County, Dutch Flat is pretty much historically intact, never having completely burned down. Consequently, the Methodist Church, the Dutch Flat Elementary School, the Odd Fellows Building, and the Masonic Hall survive to this day.
ELIZABETHTOWN – Situated about two miles from Iowa Hill, Elizabethtown was settled by miners in 1850 and took its name from the wife of one of the early settlers. The diggings were good, and the place grew to be a considerable town. It had several provision stores, saloons, and hotels at one time. By 1854, Elizabethtown’s rivals – Wisconsin Hill and Iowa Hill – eclipsed the fledging town until it dwindled down to nothing today.
EMIGRANT GAP – At about 35 miles northeast of Auburn, postal authorities established a post office here in 1865. The name then was WILSON’S RANCH after a stage stop operator on the Emigrant Trail. In 1868 the name was changed to Emigrant Gap, derived from when emigrants lowered their wagons through a gap in the ridge. Being in the middle of prime forest land, lumbering was the area’s chief resource. By the early 1880s, the settlement had a post office, hotel, livery stable, saloon, and general store. It was also a station on the Central Pacific Railroad.
FORESTHILL In the spring of 1850, miners came to the Forest Hill Divide in large numbers. As the junction of several routes to the gold country, the Forest House hotel and trading post were built in this prime location. The town was named for its beautiful forests. The height of mining activity in Foresthill began in 1853 after a winter landslide exposed numerous nuggets of gold. The combined production of all the mines in the Foresthill area was estimated at $10 million by 1868. In the 1860s, there were about 125,000 feet of hard-rock tunnels dug into the hillsides in, around and under the town. By the early 1880s, Foresthill sported grocery and hardware stores, breweries and saloons, hotels, a doctor and dentist office, a blacksmith and livery stable, a jewelery store, a dry goods store, a meat market, bootmakers, and clothing stores. As gold mining in the area panned out, the timber industry gradually became Foresthill’s chief industry and was, until recently, the major employer. Recreation is now the major industry in this area with its reservoirs, trails, and camping facilities.
FORT TROJAN – Fort Trojan was located on the Auburn Ravine about three miles from the present town of Lincoln. It began in 1858 and featured a hotel, general store, meat market, blacksmith shop, and two saloons. It was a lively place until the establishment of Lincoln which attracted businesses away from Fort Trojan. Today, there is noting left to denote the existence of this town.
FRYTOWN – see Ophir
GOLD HILL - Gold Hill was situated in the Auburn Ravine about seven and one-half miles west of Auburn. The first attempt at mining was in 1851, and by 1852 the village was organized and received its name. The diggings were on the surface where a miner could get some gold, and in some spots rich deposits were found. The village was quite active at the time. As mining decreased, orchards, fields, gardens, and vineyards became more profitable. However, gradually things declined until the town of Gold Hill was no more. The area is considered part of Ophir now.
GOLD RUN - A post office was established called MOUNTAIN SPRINGS in 1854, a few miles southwest of Dutch Flat. The town was founded by O. W. Hollenbeck who was also its first postmaster. Later on in 1863, the post office moved one mile north, and the town’s name was changed to Gold Run. In July 1866, the Central Pacific Railroad was completed to this point, making Gold Run an important stop. The town was known mainly for its hydraulic mines. A total of $6,125,000 in gold was transferred out of Gold Run between 1865-1878 due to hydraulic mining. By the early 1880s, the mining town had a fancy goods store, a meat market, saloon, grocery store, hotel, drug store, post office, and a bootmaker. When hydraulic mining was outlawed in 1884, Gold Run became almost deserted.
HOTALING – In the 1850s, ranchers and farmers moved into this area located about five miles north of Auburn. As the village grew, a fine hotel, mail delivery station, and stagecoach stop were added. In 1880, the California Iron Company founded an iron ore smelting works here. Employees from the company built homes in the surrounding hills which had become known as HOTALING, after Richard M. Hotaling, the company owner. When the smeltery closed, however, Hotaling became just another name in the history books.
IOWA HILL – Located about 26 miles northeast of Auburn, the first discovery of gold was made at Iowa Hill in 1853, and within two years it had become a principal town in the eastern part of Placer County. The total value of gold produced in the Iowa Hill area has been estimated at $20,000,000. Before long, the town’s businesses extended to three large grocery stores, four hotels, five dry-goods and clothing stores, one fancy store, three variety stores, one brewery and soda factory, two hardware and tinware stores, two butcher shops, as well as a number of bowling alleys, billiard rooms, and saloons. They also had a Catholic Church building, a Methodist Church edifice, a Masonic Lodge, an IOOF lodge, a public school, and a theater. Undermining caused many of the town’s buildings to sink; plus three large fires – one in 1857, another in 1862, and the last in the early 1920s – were the beginning of the end of the boon times of Iowa Hill.
Our Town – Its Appearance

Iowa Hill was first laid out as a town in the spring of ’54, at which time the existence of several rich claims located a short distance from the place first became publicly known. This place, at that time, was no exception to the different localities in the country at which rich diggings were said to abound. Large numbers of persons, representing every class of society, flocked here, and in a few days the town of Iowa Hill assumed a business like and thriving appearance. The town continued to prosper and improve, and few engaged in business up to Feb. ’57 had any cause to complain or feel disappointed that they had made their homes this high in the mountains. But this could not last. That destroyer of everything combustible came like a “thief in the night” and swept from those who had accumulated a competency by hard toil and strict attention to business thousands of dollars. Iowa Hill was then in a much better condition than other places that had not been favored with rich mining claims and a prosperous commercial business. Nearly all of those engaged in business had lost their all. But in true California spirit, the citizens went to work and in a few days Iowa Hill, phoenix-like, rose from the ashes more beautiful and grand than at first; since which time it has continued gradually to improve and is one of the best business places the county can boast of. Whilst the mines in other places are deteriorating in value, ours are steadily advancing, and we venture the assertion now that the mines at Iowa Hill and vicinity yield a greater profit to the owners than and others in this section of the State, while our merchants, mechanics, and laborers are realizing as much from their operations and labors as any others on the Pacific Coast. [Iowa Hill Weekly Patriot, Saturday, 1-15-1859. Submitted by KKM]

JOHNSON’S CROSSING – see Johnson’s Ranch
JOHNSON’S RANCH – Located about 25 miles northwest of Auburn, Johnson’s Ranch (also called JOHNSON’S CROSSING) was one of the mining camps that sprung up in Placer County soon after the discovery of gold. There was a bridge across Bear River that came to Johnson’s Ranch, and it became a popular stopping place for many of the teams hauling freight from Sacramento to the mines. By the mid-1850s, the settlement supported a hotel, two blacksmith shops, two stores, two saloons, and about thirty dwellings. In 1862, floods nearly destroyed the place; however, it was debris from the hydraulic mines up river that completely wiped out the little settlement for good.
JUNCTION – see Roseville
LAST CHANCE – The village of Last Chance was situated high up in the mountains and about eight miles southwest of Michigan Bluff. Gold was discovered here in 1850, but there was no permanent settlement until 1852. As an interesting aside, gold was discovered by accident by a party of prospectors taking a “last chance” at locating gold in the area. One of the men spotted a flock of grouse and quickly raised his rifle, shooting one. As he went to retrieve the bird, he noticed next to the carcass a rock spotted with gold. By 1852, the little settlement of Last Chance had slowly grown, although the heavy winter snowfall discouraged too much settlement. There were the usual businesses, such as a saw mill, general store, blacksmith shop, etc. A post office was established here in 1865, discontinued in 1869, re-established in 1909, and discontinued in 1919. Last Chance was also known as CLIFTON and CAROLINE DIGGINGS. Today, Last Chance is but a ghost town, having only a handful of scattered cabins and an old cemetery.
LINCOLN - The original townsite was surveyed and laid out about six miles east of Gold Hill in 1859 along the proposed line of the California Central Railroad. Lincoln was named in honor of Charles Lincoln Wilson, one of the organizers and directors of the railroad. In the early 1870s, rich clay deposits were discovered nearby. This led to the establishment in 1875 of the business of Gladding, McBean & Co., the pottery for which Lincoln was and is famous still today. The countryside surrounding Lincoln is agricultural, primarily orchards and vineyards. The town’s first church was built in 1864, and a Catholic Church was built in 1880. By the 1880s, Lincoln had one drug store, one express office, two hotels, two grocery stores, one dry goods store, three blacksmith shops, one butcher shop, one tele­graph office, one bakery, five saloons, two doctors, one lawyer, one notary public, and two school teach­ers. Lincoln was once home to a significant Chinese American community, but its Chinese American residents were violently driven out of town in 1886. The city was incorporated in 1900.
LISBON – see Applegate
LOOMIS – One and a half miles from the present location of Loomis was a mining town called PINE GROVE, later known as SMITHVILLE. In the early days, the majority of the village’s population was made up of transient miners, but it still managed to support a trading post, post office, hotel, race track, and dancing hall. Eventually, the Pine Grove/Smithville village moved its population and base of operations to the present location of Loomis and called it PINO in deference to Pine Grove. The name was changed to Loomis, in honor of one the of town's pioneers, James Loomis. At one time, James Loomis was the whole town—saloon keeper, railroad agent, express agent, and postmaster. Coal was discovered here in 1874, and the coal mining industry boomed for a decade before a fire wiped out the mines. Loomis soon became a center of a booming fruit-growing industry, supporting many local packing houses. In the early part of the 20th century, it was the second largest fruit-shipping station in Placer County. These days, Loomis retains its rural character with its large residential lots, an old-fashioned downtown, and woodlands with rolling hills and natural streams.
MICHIGAN BLUFF - Some eight miles beyond Foresthill is Michigan Bluff, the oldest of Placer’s mining towns and once the center of vast hydraulic mining operations. It was founded in 1850 and originally named MICHIGAN CITY. The flourishing town grew to include two clothing stores, five provision stores, three hotels, two restaurants, four barbers, two lawyers, three doctors, two bakers, fourteen(!) saloons, five shoemakers, two tailors, six blacksmiths, one watch maker, five billiard and gaming saloons, two livery stables, two tinmen, two druggists, Masons, Odd Fellows, one Methodist preacher, one school teacher, one music teacher, two judges, one sheriff, two constables, and one auctioneer. In 1858, due to aggressive and ill-conceived mining practices, the town became undermined and unsafe. It was moved one half mile away and renamed Michigan Bluff. Today the site is marked by a handful of residences.
Michigan Bluff Rich in Historic Lore and Color
Among those who remained over at Michigan Bluff to enjoy the day and get an additional thrill out of visiting the famous old surroundings were Supervisor and Mrs. Wm. Haman, and to the latter The Tribune is indebted for the following interesting account of one of the hikes made on Sunday: Sunday morning, the guests divided up into squads to visit some of the many places of interest, among which was the Gorman ranch, among which a range of mountains overlooking Michigan Bluff, not far away in an air line but some little distance around the road. Mr. Gorman, Sr. was among the earliest miners in this region, coming there in ’52. He was personally acquainted with Senator Stanford. After prospecting a time, Mr. Gorman bought the ranch and later built the home where his three sons and daughter-in-law and family now live. The house is a fine two and a half story building, large and well built. A broad porch extends across the entire front. The garden made one almost believe he had arrived at a perfume factory, for the air was redolent with the perfume of roses. There were roses everywhere, all along the front garden and a hedge that bordered the large side and back yard. These roses were the old-fashioned variety seen everywhere around the pioneer places. They were brought here in early days by the pioneers and were plentiful in their gardens. At this season, they were a mass of bloom and for the time the breath of the pine trees was entirely overcome. Mr. Gorman carried all the supplies on his back from Auburn to his place up these steep mountains. The house and garden are shaded with wonderful oak trees. Instead of these trees branching like most of our oak trees, the trees grew very high before the branches began. The branches of one oak tree extended over the very tall house, making a marvelous shade. Just the number of years this fine old place has been built is not recalled, but one of the old freight wagons was secured by Mr. Peterson for the ’49 museum at Sutter Fort, Sacramento, it being considered one of the finest specimens that came to his notice. This old freighter was used by Mr. Gorman as he afterward did much freighting in that region along with his mining. This old freighter had stood under the shed of an immense barn for thirty-nine years and had never been moved during that time. Many a freighter and team had been stabled in this old barn, as it was an early stopping place. It is needless to say the Gorman men are still mining. The Gorman mine, in the process of development, is down the mountain from the house. Mrs. Gorman, Jr. has one of the finest nugget necklaces that could be found. Every piece is of a fern pattern and looks like a small gold fern leaf. We saw many rich specimens of gold from this region. Next we went on to the Wills homestead. It is said that gold was discovered in this state first, just below the Wills house in the ravine, but it was not made generally known until after the Coloma strike although it was known by some parties in that region. The present Mr. Wills was born on this place 73 years ago, his father coming there when that region was full of Indians. Mrs. Wills, who has many interesting stories to relate, recalls the canyon below her house as being full of Indians and watching trains of them climbing the mountain. On the Wills place there was a spring of wonderful ice cold water. This old home site would rival many a famous summer resort for sheer beauty. A flowing stream runs below the house. In the yard is an old rose bush the old father brought from Ireland in early days, for these pioneers not only brought flowers but many fruit trees. On this place are some of the oldest and largest cherry trees in the state. One cherry tree is larger than many oak trees. Only half the original tree stands, for part was broken off in a heavy snowstorm. The standing tree is over two feet in diameter. Some of the branches were larger than large trees. This tree bore loads of immense black cherries. The house was shaded by another large tree which was loaded with cherries. Mrs. Wills took great delight in showing us stacks of crochet work on which she had spent many happy hours. The house contains a great deal of interest, with its old braided rugs, picture frames made of pine cones, and on the walls was the famous old sword that had done service in this country in Revolutionary War times. A tunnel in the side of the mountain was the old store room. Here supplies were kept and one didn’t need any ice for cooking. As we left the place, we looked down on a fine vegetable garden, and we were sorry not to be able to tarry here for days and review all this pioneer history. No wonder one of the evening speakers dwelt on the danger of mountain fires, for we visited the place where once the IOOF hall stood in all its glory and then we gazed across the hill where a tall, gray monument marks the site of the old Masonic hall. A fire swept through here and burned down many of the old buildings. There are three cemeteries -- the Protestant, the public, and the Chinese. The Chinese would bury their dead here and at the end of a year many of the bodies were shipped back to China. On the slope of the bluff, surrounded by the grandest scenery, stands the little old school house. We sat in the little old seats, leaned on the teacher’s desk, and gazed out of the windows down the mountain. On the wall, high up, was written in a fine, clean hand with a red pencil – “21 cu. in. in a gal.” The guide received his education in this little old school house. A porch extended across the side, facing the ravine and ends of the building. At one time this school was filled with children. Michigan Bluff is a perfect storehouse of wonderful historic stories and dreams of early pioneer times. [Roseville Tribune and Register, Friday, 6-8-1928. Submitted by K. Marynik]
MICHIGAN CITY – see Michigan Bluff
NEWCASTLE – Newcastle is located about five miles southeast of Auburn. Freight and passenger trains began operating over the first 31 miles of Central Pacific's line to Newcastle in 1864. Known more for its orchards than for gold mining, Newcastle was once the shipping center of Placer County’s thriving fruit industry. It boasted upscale hotels and a large Chinese-American population. In the early 1880s, the town supported a blacksmith and wagonmaker, dry goods and clothing store, a post office, a grocery store, a bootmaker, a liquor store, etc. With its sculpted ridges, 1,000-foot elevation, and fine view across the Sacramento Valley, Newcastle became known as the “Gem of the Foothills.”
NEWTON – Located on a side ravine about five miles northeast of the present town of Lincoln, Newton was founded about 1855. Gold mining started out profitable in this ravine but quickly panned out. At one time, the village consisted of a large hotel, grocery store, saloon, dance hall, and livery stable. Nothing remains of Newton today.
OPHIR - In early 1850, a lone log cabin marked the future town of Ophir (then known as SPANISH CORRAL) which was situated about two and a half miles east of Auburn on the Auburn Ravine. After gold was spotted in the creek cascading through Spanish Corral, it became a village of prospectors. When a Mr. Fry became part owner of the camp’s general store, the settlement became known as FRYTOWN. The abundance of gold quickly turned Frytown into a wealthy burg. In the fall of 1850, the miners and merchants living there decided to give their growing community a formal name. The name Ophir comes from the Bible’s reference to gold adorning the temple of Solomon, and needless to say, the name was a popular appellation by miners to various diggings. Within two years, Ophir was the largest and most prosperous town in Placer County thanks to its rich mining. However, in 1852 the whole town was consumed by fire. Ophir never really recovered afterwards because the surface diggings were deemed nearly worked out, and it was thought there were no other viable resources, although the quartz mines in the area helped keep the town from disappearing all together. In addition, the area was heavily planted in vineyards and orchards which help support the residents. In the early 1880s, the town featured general merchandise and liquor stores, saloons, boarding houses, a hotel, a blacksmith and wagon maker, and a butcher shop. Today Ophir remains an unincorporated hamlet with an elementary school among rustic residences. A home-based nursery, a few service businesses, small herds of livestock, and several fruit farms can be found along its winding roadways.
PENRYN – Located about eight miles southeast of Auburn, Penryn began in 1864 when a Welsh immigrant by the name of Griffith Griffith established a granite quarry on land leased from the Central Pacific Railroad. The railroad designated the quarry GRIFFITH’S GRANITE STATION; however, Griffith preferred the name Penryn after the Welsh word “penrhyn.” The town of Penryn was officially so named in May 1871. By the mid 1870s, Penryn was an established community with a schoolhouse, hotel, at least one blacksmith shop, two or three stores, and an equal number of saloons. The granite works were going strong -- at peak times employing over 200 men and would so continue until Griffith Griffith's death in 1889. The granite works then operated on a somewhat smaller scale until 1918. By the mid-1890s, fruit raising had edged out granite quarrying as the area's leading industry.
PINE GROVE – see Loomis
PINO – see Loomis
ROCKLIN - Most of today's Rocklin occupies the southern 12,000 acres of the former SPRING VALLEY RANCH which was founded by George Whitney in 1855. The area's industrial development started in the mid to late 1850s as prospectors abandoned gold mining to quarry granite instead. Boom times for Rocklin began in the mid-1860s as Rocklin quarries supplied stone for construction of the transcontinental railroad, and the railroad located a roundhouse in Rocklin to service the extra engines needed for the trans-sierra run. Rocklin's granite industry survived lean times in the 1870s and early 1880s but began to really flourish in the late 1880s and 1890s. At the time, as many as 30 quarries were operating in Rocklin. Labor strife and competition from cement-based concrete permanently decimated the industry in the early 20th century, although one quarry continued to operate until 2004. The town now vies with Roseville for the honor of being Placer's largest city.
ROGERS SHED – see Union Shed
ROSEVILLE – In 1850, the area that would become Roseville was settled by a few ranchers, some of whom were ex-miners. The Central Pacific Railroad’s east line crossed that of a smaller line in the vicinity, so the crew named the area JUNCTION. In 1864, postal authorities established a post office here under the new name of Roseville. The exact origin of the name has never been positively established, but one historical reference cites the neighboring ranch of Rose Spring as being Roseville’s namesake. By the 1880s, the town businesses extended to saloons, a barber shop, liquor stores, a billiard parlor, blacksmiths and wagon makers, a restaurant, a livery stable, hotels, a general store, post office, and meat market. In 1906 the Southern Railroad moved to its round house from Rocklin to Roseville. The city was incorporated three years later. Business and development came fast between 1900 and 1912, especially fruit shipping which was a great boost to Roseville’s economy. In 1913 the need for ice for the fruit shipping was so great, the biggest ice plant in the world was built in the city. Roseville carried on as a leading railroad yard throughout the post-war years, but during the 1950s, the city experienced major competition from planes and trucks. By 1972, the local depot finally closed.
SHERIDAN – Named after Civil War General Philip Sheridan, Sheridan was settled in 1855 and became the trading point for a large population of farmers and ranchers. It was also a station on the Oregon Division of the Central Pacific Railroad with the depot building being constructed in 1866. Sheridan is located about 20 miles northwest of Auburn in the southwestern point of Placer County. A church and Sunday school were organized in 1865 and a post office in 1868. In the 1870s, Sheridan had the only operating flour mill in the county. By the early 1880s, Sheridan had three stores, one drug store, two blacksmith shops, one shoe store, two hotels, three saloons, two clergymen, one doctor, one school teacher, and a post office.
SMITHVILLE – see Loomis
STRONG’S DIGGINGS – see Damascus
TAHOE – see Tahoe City
TAHOE CITY – Located about 14 miles southeast of Donner Pass, the town was surveyed in 1863 and originally called TAHOE. A post office was established here in 1871. In the early 1880s, the town supported a hotel, boarding house, livery stable, lumber yard, fishery, and steamboat business. The name was changed to Tahoe City in 1949.
TODD VALLEY – Located about 20 miles northeast of Auburn, Todd Valley was first settled by Dr. F. Walton Todd, who built a log structure to be used as a store and hotel at his ranch in the lower suburbs of the town in June 1849. Dr. Todd’s place became a general stopping place for the many travelers to and from the mines. The town didn’t really grow until 1852 when rich diggings were discovered near the doctor's house. The discovery of gold drew the attention of many miners and traders, resulting in a town being laid out on the ridge. After a fire destroyed most of the business district in 1859, Todd’s Valley was rebuilt and better than before. It now had two hotels, three grocery and provision stores, several dry goods and clothing stores, one bank, one livery stable, three variety stores, two butcher shops, one brewery, etc. With the improved appearance and growing population, a Masonic Lodge, an Odd Fellows Lodge, and two Temperance orders were built as well. A post office was established here in 1856, discontinued in 1884, re-established in 1885, and discontinued in 1901.
UNION SHED – Union Shed (also known as ROGERS SHED) was built by E. C. Rogers in December 1857 and was located a half mile south of present-day Sheridan. At that time, Union Shed consisted of a one-story house, an unenclosed shed, a large barn, and a corral. Due to its ideal location at the junction of several well-used roads, many travelers would stop for dinner, supplies, or overnight lodging. In addition, nearby farmers would bring their hay and barley for marketing to the teams here. Eventually, the settlement became a place where people from the valley and mountains congregated for fun, especially once a dance hall and racetrack were added to the mix. To attract additional people to settle in the area, Mr. Rogers was successful in petitioning for and establishing a school district for the area in 1864. The ballroom doubled as a schoolhouse. The following year, a church and Sunday school were started, both of which also used the ballroom. By the 1880s, Union Shed was composed of three stores, one drug store, two blacksmith shops, one shoe store, two hotels, three saloons, a schoolhouse, two churches (Baptist and Methodist), and several society orders. The building of the California Pacific Railroad from Folsom did away with staging and teaming up and down the Sacramento Valley. This was the beginning of the end for Union Shed. Today, it is part of Sheridan.
VIRGINIA – see Virginiatown
VIRGINIATOWN – Founded in 1851 and commonly called VIRGINIA, the settlement is located about seven miles west of Auburn along the Auburn Ravine. Over 2,000 miners worked rich deposits here. It was here in 1852 that Captain John Bristow built California’s first railroad. Today, the region is full of attractive homes.
VOLCANO – see Bath
WEIMAR - Weimar is named after a local Maidu Indian chief. Located about four and a half miles south southwest of Colfax, a post office was established in this place in 1866. Weimar was a timbering center and the home of the Weimar Institute, a regional tuberculosis sanitarium in 1907. When a cure for TB was discovered, the medical center closed and is now a health and nutrition center.
WILSON’S RANCH – see Emigrant Gap
WISCONSIN HILL – Wisconsin Hill was situated about two miles from Iowa Hill. It came into being in 1854 when gold was discovered on the hill upon which the town was built. Eventually, the resultant influx of miners supported six saloons, two hotels, several restaurants, clothing stores, grocery stores, etc. By 1856, the mining tunnels no longer produced, and the population of Wisconsin Hill declined as quickly as it had bloomed.
YANKEE JIM’S – About 18 miles northeast of Auburn is the old mining town of Yankee Jim’s which was settled in 1850. The name comes from an Australian criminal with the nickname “Yankee” and who held stolen horses at the site before the discovery of gold there. During its history, Yankee Jim’s was one of the largest towns of Placer and the leader in many enterprises, such as hydraulic mining, large fruit orchards (trees shipped around the Horn from Philadelphia), and some of the earliest newspapers in the county. The Democratic Party Convention of 1857 was held in Yankee Jim’s, in fact. By the early 1880s, the town supported a post office, two general stores, a hotel, a saloon, a doctor’s office, and a carpentry shop. The eventual decline of the town is not attributed so much to the failure of the mines as to the building up of adjacent towns, such as Foresthill and Todd Valley, in its day. The post office that was first established in 1852 was discontinued in 1940. Today, all that remains of Yankee Jim’s are a few residences.
YORKVILLE – The village of Yorkville sat on a narrow ridge about a mile and a half northeast of Yankee Jim’s. Gold diggings were discovered there in 1853 and have been extensively mined by both tunnel and hydraulic methods. Yorkville was popular enough at one time to support a store, a billiard saloon, and a boarding house.

Copyright © Genealogy Trails 2006 -
All rights reserved for original submitters.