Monday, July 28, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Group tours historical downtown

DSC_3361

TOUR GUIDE DON UELMEN , left, speaks to a group of approximatelly 30 people visiting from Fort Lauderdale Florida in front of the El Dorado County Superior Courthouse on Main Street Friday April 19 during a historic tour of downtown Placerville. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

By
From page A1 | April 26, 2013 |

A tour group from out-of-town got a snapshot history of Placerville last Friday.

Sponsored by the El Dorado County Historical Society, the tour was led by Don Uelmen and Debbie Hunger Lightfoot. Dressed in period costumes, the duo took a group of 28 members from the Daytona Ski and Travel Club on a quick 60-minute tour of the long and colorful history of downtown Placerville.

Starting at the elegant Cary House Hotel, where many of the tour group were staying, Uelmen noted at one time it housed the Wells Fargo Office and was a stage stop. It was also the site of a presidential campaign speech by Horace Greeley, a famous newspaper editor, in 1859. Greeley’s ride over Echo Summit in a stage driven by Hank Monk was immortalized in Mark Twain’s “Roughing it.”

Walking up Main Street, Placerville Hardware seemed to be one of the most popular stopping places of the tour. The oldest continuously operating hardware store west of the Mississippi, Uelmen directed the people to note its wooden floors, original bins, rolling ladders and floor-to-ceiling merchandise. However, from the comments it appeared that many of the tour members had already discovered the hardware store and had visited it — repeatedly.

Uelmen went on to note that at one time, the east side of the building was the home of the Mountain Democrat — the oldest newspaper in California. Its presses were operated with a water wheel located in Hangtown Creek. He also told the story of a previous owner’s son who put his foot through the ceiling. Rather than repair it, the leg of a mannikin was put in the hole — where it remains to this day.

Another point of interest was the site of what used to be the Hangman’s Tree Bar and how Placerville got the name Hangtown. Now a registered landmark, Uelmen said the story behind the site dates to 1849 when a gambler named Lopez came into some big winnings at the local saloon. Later in the evening, several men tried to rob him but were caught and taken to what used to be a hay barn to be whipped. During their flogging, three of them were accused of being wanted for murder and robbery. After a short 30-minute trial, the verdict came back guilty and they were hung. The stump of the hanging tree and a dummy hanging from a rope still remain at the site, which is currently undergoing restoration.

Uelmen concluded his story by saying that two things happened after the hanging: crime dropped and the name of the town was changed from Dry Diggings to Hangtown.

The role of fire in shaping the city was a constant theme of the walking tour, with Uelmen noting that the city had burned down several times, with the foundation of one building still showing signs of being charred.

The ongoing threat of fire was the main reason for the erection of the Belltower, one of Placerville’s most famous landmarks. In 1856, Placerville suffered three fires which destroyed a good part of the business section of town. Realizing the need for an alert system, the townspeople erected the Belltower at its current location in 1865. Later it was moved to a hilltop but returned to its original location in 1910 after the Court House fire.

During the tour Uelmen said that Placerville has been home to many famous people, including Thomas Kinkade and John Studebaker. A Kinkade gallery still exists on Main Street and many of his paintings feature the beautiful Victorian mansions scattered throughout the city.

Studebaker, on the other hand, came to Placerville as a young man seeking gold. However, Studebaker didn’t make his money mining but instead by building and selling wheelbarrows to miners who before then had to haul their loads out on their backs. With the money he made, he returned to South Bend, Ind., in 1858 and invested in the family wagon business that made millions during the American Civil War. Later the family founded the Studebaker Automobile Co.

Placerville still honors the role Studebaker played in the city’s history with an annual John M. Studebaker Wheelbarrow Race held during the county fair.

The tour included many more stops and anyone interested in local history is encouraged to join one of the public tours that are scheduled for the third Saturday of each month from May through August at 11 a.m. Contact Marilyn Ferguson, the manager of the Fountain-Tallman Museum, at 530-626-0773, regarding where the tours meet and for additional information.

Groups can also schedule a personal tour by calling Ferguson on Wednesday through Sunday, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Tours last 60 to 90 minutes and are free, although donations are welcomed.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or dhodson@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Comments

comments

.

News

County’s chief lawyer: No Brown Act violation

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

 
General Plan workshop today

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

Two growth control initiatives get green light

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

 
Sand Fire burns more than 4,000 acres

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Fatal accident in Camino

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report released

By Ross Branch | From Page: A3

 
35 people displaced in Tahoe hotel fire

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A3 | Gallery

.

Opinion

The balancing act: Toxic waste spreads

By Larry Weitzman | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Bee-ing silly

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Want more water?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Refugee crisis

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Letter to Speaker of the House

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
GDPUD misinformation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

At the crossroads

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

Schedule: July 28 – Aug. 2, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Roundup: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Camp experience is ‘priceless’

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Speedway races cancelled

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

El Dorado doubles up on Pro Players

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Under the Scoreboard: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Local spiker shines

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

 
Sports Scene: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

.

Prospecting

A beautiful day at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm

By Cathy Barsotti | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Foothill gourmet: Things get corny

By Donna Brown | From Page: B2

Bipolar Insights: From point A to point B

By Marcia Rose | From Page: B2

 
Cool time at Cowboys and Cornbread

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
As we were: Recreation district grows

By Ken Deibert | From Page: B4

Cantare names new director

By Cantare Chorale | From Page: B10

 
After 5 Club to meet

By Senior Day | From Page: B10

.

Essentials

DUI Log: June 25-July 9

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: July 14-16

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Divorces

By Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa | From Page: A2Comments are off for this post

 
.

Obituaries

.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
American Profile Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Monday, July 28, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8