Monica and I headed up to Weimar to continue the Lincoln Highway logo project. Weimar is located just above Auburn and below Colfax, along present day Highway 80.
Sierra Nevada History
Just outside of Truckee we found a Trails West "T" marker, located at Old Greenwood Golf Course and housing development. T-35 is the number printed on the marker, which means it's the 35th marker describing The Truckee Trail. There are 34 markers before this one, each representing an event or remembrance of that particular spot. Marker T-35 is titled "Truckee Trail-Magnificent View." This marker sit's in the middle of the old trail, as you can see the wagon ruts that have left their impression, still visible after 150 years.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Trails West Organization, who has marked many of the old immigrant and wagon roads across the west. If these historic trails are not marked and mapped, they will disappear into the mists of time. Imagine trying to find those old wagon ruts if not for the marker or trail guide. To be able to stand in the middle of such a famous trail that carried thousands of emigrants to California in the 19th Century is a thrill. You can imagine the covered wagons and people marching over this un-familiar land headed to their new lives in the west.
Map of location.
Monday found Monica and I heading up to the Big Bend area, specifically Hampshire Rocks campground. Along the way in Weimar, we painted a Lincoln Highway "L" on the Union Pacific railroad subway. This particular subway, built in 1928, during the last year of The Lincoln Highway.
We had intended to head to Prosser Reservoir, just outside Truckee for a night of camping, but instead found ourselves staying at The Hampshire Rocks Campground, near Big Bend. This particular campground had only recently opened two week earlier, due to the massive amount of snow that was still on the ground. The snow was all gone in the camp, so we found ourselves a beautiful spot right next to The South Fork of The Yuba River. Everything about this place is great, except your only a hundred or so yards from Highway 80, so traffic noise is a constant unless you get down next to the flowing river. This place's location among the natural beauty and incredible history, is what makes it so desirable. The Lincoln Highway runs right through the camp if you know where to look.
Just a few hundred yards west of the camp entrance, on Hampshire Rocks Road, is a most unusual structure. What looks like a fireplace chimney, but has no flue, has kept locals mystified since it's origins, whenever that was. One local say's it's related to The Overland Emigrant Trail, which passes right in front of it. While looking at the mystery obelisk, we almost tripped over a "C" marker, as we call it. These concrete posts are what is called a "right of way" marker. The state would bury them, and I'm told they are 4 feet tall, to mark their area of influence along the road. Someone else had put some "marking tape" around it, but the three or four other times we had stopped here, it eluded us.
The next day found ourselves heading to Truckee and hunting down some Trails West “T” Markers for The Johnson Cut-Off Trail of the 1850’s and some Nevada sections of The Lincoln Highway. More on that in the next post.
It was on July 7th, 1919 that The Army's Motor Transport Corps convoy left Washington DC headed towards San Francisco. The trip was to see if the military could move men and machines across the country using the recently "completed" Lincoln Highway as the route. They almost didn't make it, arriving in Oakland seven day's behind schedule.
The convoy included, "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, including a young, Bvt Lt Col Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Tank Corps, and 258 enlisted men." The experience Eisenhower had on the trip helped formulate his plan as President for an Interstate Highway System, still in place today.
The National Archives has a video of some of the trip. It's fascinating to watch, and at the 18:47 mark we start to see the mountains of Nevada and California, and the climb up Meyers Grade, across the summit, and down into Kyburz at the 21:45 mark.
Pictured here is an excerpt from a small guide that was published in 1914 advising potential Transcontinental Tourists on The Lincoln Highway, of hints and suggestions for making the trip. Here is a page from the little booklet concerning provisions that should be taken along for the journey. I find it fascinating to see what folks had to bring with them before the advent of plastics.
Love the “gauntlet gloves,” which look so cool. How about the specific brand “Ingersoll” watch, and the pair of “yellow” and “white goggles.” Don’t forget a package of “bachelor buttons,” which I assume are not the flowers, but replacement buttons?
The next paragraph recommends what types of food to pack along including, “Slab Best Bacon,” “10 lbs Potatoes”, and of course “surgeons plaster” for sealing those tin cans. As mentioned in the pamphlet, these provisions are to be kept with the car at “…all times, west of Omaha Neb.”
There is more to the book, which I’ll cover in the next issue. This booklet comes to you when you join The Lincoln Highway Association here: Lincoln Highway Association
Gold Discovery Centennial Celebration in Coloma, California filmed in 16 mm, 1948. Participant filmed vignettes of the 1948 centennial celebration of the discovery of gold. Scenes mostly in Coloma, CA with a couple snippets from Placerville CA. Parade floats, speakers, participants, spectators. Gold panning.
From the California State Archives. https://archive.org/details/caclmmgd_000010
Monica and I had the privilege of visiting the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge, located in Georgetown, California. The Odd Fellows are ubiquitous in the gold country, having been an early fraternal society in the state. The Georgetown Parlor has been meeting in the 1855 IOOF Hall since the 1880’s and their meeting room is like stepping back in time. The lower floor of the building, which is rented out by the lodge, has been used for various events for years. It’s a local landmark that has become a symbol of Georgetown and the surrounding region.
The historical photo above shows the Native Son’s of the Golden West on parade, holding their banner. The Native Son’s (NSGW) have used the IOOF hall as their meeting place since the beginning. The IOOF and NSGW are tied at the hip when it comes to Georgetown’s History and The IOOF Hall.
The NSGW Banner is in need of repair. The fabric is starting to come apart, as seen in the above photo lower left, blue fabric. Costs estimates to bring it back to museum standards is approximately $5000, of which the NSGW and IOOF are lacking at this time. The insurance on the old building just went up, and the difference will have to be made up somewhere. I wonder how we could gather the monies necessary to fix this treasured piece of Georgetown and California History.
Spenceville is more a name on the map than an actual town. Our interest in the townsite arose from our research on The Emigrant Trail. That trail passed this way after leaving the village of Rough and Ready headed downhill to Johnson’s Ranch, near Wheatland. We have found bit’s and pieces of the route between Wheatland and Rough and Ready, and are trying to put those pieces together into one path.
The following map is interactive. Click it to move it around or click the Orange squares for more info. We will add to the map as the adventure continues. Double click to zoom in.
The former town of Spenceville lends its name to the Spenceville Wildlife Area which encompasses over 11,400 acres around and including the townsite and is protected by the California Fish and Game. Driving on the roads in the wildlife area is a treat, as the landscape is low rolling hills, dotted with many Blue Oaks and Grey Pines. Few people are living out this way, so you get a feeling of being away from it all, which we find exciting but some might find “lonely.”
Driving towards the old townsite, we spotted an old rock retaining wall for a road on the other side of Dry Creek. We wondered if this was the old wagon road, but why was it on the other side of the creek? Further on we came to a concrete bridge on our side of the stream. Soon we came upon another bridge, then another and soon we had counted five separate bridges. With all these bridges this must have been a vital crossroads back in the day.
There are no interpretive signs anywhere near the Spenceville site, so any history will need to be drawn out later at home through research. Until then we'll explore the area and take photos and video of the site. We were visiting in December, during the week, so it was very quiet, and we didn’t see another soul out there. The ground and pathways in the area are copper-red, a result of the copper mines that gave Spenceville an economic boost in the 1860s.
A resident of Purtyman's Ranch, which is what Spenceville was called in earlier days, was digging a well for drinking water and came upon the copper in 1863. Mining commenced, but only lasted until 1865 as the copper was a poor grade and working it after the costs of labor and materials was just too high. The mine lay dormant until The San Francisco Mining Company bought the property in 1872 and invested $15,000 in equipment to better extract the copper. A document from 1875 states,
“Work is being prosecuted on the copper-mine at Spenceville, in this county, under the superintendency of Mr. G. P. Deetkin, with every prospect of success. The shaft is down 100 feet, and the ledge at that depth is 70 feet in width. The rock is richly impregnated with native copper. The ore is taken out and roasted in a large furnace, after which it is turned into three large vats, upon which a stream of cold water is turned, and the copper, in a state of solution, is then conducted from the vats into a large cylinder of about 12 feet in diameter. In this is placed old or refuse iron, for which the copper has an affinity. The cylinder is made to revolve rapidly by steam, by which means the copper is collected on the iron. The superintendent thinks the process of separating copper from the ore in which it is contained is no longer a matter of experiment. There are many other ledges in the vicinity equally as rich, and are awaiting the success of working this one.” Raymond, Rossiter W (1875) Statistics Of Mines And Mining In The States And Territories West Of The Rocky Mountains; Being Тhе Seventh Annual Report United States Commissioner Of Mining Statistics, Government Printing Office 1875
Looking at documents and maps from the late 1800’s we found out that copper was another mineral that was mined extensively in “The Mother Lode,” and especially in The Spenceville area. This site utilized 150-foot shafts to remove the ore for processing. In 1880 a cave in occurred and the mine started to dig an open pit instead of putting in new underground shafts. The open pit eventually reached 300 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 75 feet deep. One hundred fifty thousand tons of ore, averaging about 5% copper was removed, bagged, and shipped to Boston, MA. for final processing.
1888 was the year The San Francisco Copper Mine and Reduction Works ended their mining activities on the site. The company had removed all the easier to mine copper, and the prices of copper had dropped on the market. They sold the property to the Imperial Paint Company and Copper Works that made a Venetian red paint pigment from the leftover copper. More on that company and the rest of the story of Spenceville at my next post.
The goal on our most recent trip was an exotic sounding place in Yuba County, Timbuctoo. Other than an unusual name we knew little about it. We leave with the idea that we would try and find any signs of the old emigrant trail that once passed along this general direction. Other than those goals we left ourselves open to whatever the road would reveal to us on that day.
Camp Far West is a few miles east of Wheatland, a small town on the east side of the Central Valley. It was an army outpost during the emigration days in the later 1840s and early 1850s. Located just a few miles from Johnson's Ranch, which was the fabled end of the trail for many California bound travelers. Once you reached Johnson' Ranch, you’d made it! We wanted to try and follow as much of the old trail as we could, as it wound its way in the general direction from near Timbuctoo. We would keep our eyes open for wagon ruts, trail signs, or any other indication we were on the right path.
We visited the Truckee trail "T Marker" and sign for Grahams Hotel by Lake Camp Far West. At this place, the wagon ruts can be seen headed down the hill. We would try and follow the trail back from here so we headed up Camp Far West Road which we felt would give us a view of the wagon ruts on the other side of the hill. They were easy for us to spot as we knew they were coming our way, and we've gotten better at detecting these old trails. Often they are more of an impression of a trail than an obvious path, as they have generally not been traveled on for well over 15 years. Sometimes erosion wears the track into more of a gully, and other times the ruts are still quite visible. The ones coming over the hill here are in between easy to see and hard. More of a swale than a path actually, but quite obvious when we know the trail came over the hill this direction.
Now we headed up Camp Far West Road towards a name on the map, Waldo. Waldo was known initially as Cabbage Patch, named for the cabbages that were grown to sell to travelers. We had read that Waldo or Cabbage Patch was a way-point along the old wagon road. We found out after the trip there is even a Cabbage Patch Cemetery, which we will try and find on our next trip.
At Waldo, we decided to take a side trip, which is something we do all the time. Our destination is more of a hope than written in stone. If we don't make it because something else has come up, that's OK. The secret to finding these old sites and what they hold is a willingness to change plans during the adventure. We decided to check out another name on the map, Spenceville, located down that road.
In my next post we’ll discuss Spenceville and the finds we made there!
In 1850 Timbuctoo, like most Gold Rush towns, built itself from the wealth generated by gold panning. It is located on a bluff above The Yuba River, close to the gold bearing sand bars, but high enough to avoid flooding. Once the easy gold was panned out, they moved on to hydraulic mining of the bluffs around 1854. It's through this method of extraction that Timbuctoo gained its fabulous wealth.
As the town grew, it built a theater that could house 800 people, a bank, bakery, hotels, even an ice skating rink! The wealth continued to flow until 1884 when downstream farmers sued to end all hydraulic mining in the state. The hydraulic mining was causing massive amounts of sediment to move downstream causing flooding and a loss of agricultural land. It was also making riverboat travel difficult as sandbars would form and re-form making navigation tricky. The District Court in San Francisco agreed and shut down all hydraulic mining. Timbuctoo was doomed!
The court ruling putting an end to hydraulic mining caused Timbuctoo to decline as miners their families and the businesses that grew up to support them moved away. Soon there was very little left of the town. During the 20th Century, there was an effort to preserve what little was left. Stewart's Wells Fargo Store was the most robust of what was still standing. The remaining townspeople had it preserved with a new roof and commemorative signs.
During the early part of the 20th Century, Timbuctoo enjoyed something of a revival as a historic stop on the road. It became quite popular with people looking for the story of California's history. Before 1980 the main road passed through town, thus making it much easier for people to stop and check it out. When Highway 20 was re-aligned in the 1980s, it bypassed Timbuctoo, and like so many other Gold Rush communities that have had the main road realigned away from town, it faded away.
Soon the impetus that had driven the people to try and save the remaining structure(s) also died, and rumors of gold in the walls of the old building brought vandals, and they tore the old structure down. Now there are no standing structures from the early days, just a crumbling mass of bricks. You have to see the old photos and drawings of the town to get a feel for how wealthy and busy Timbuctoo was.
There is so much to explore near Timbuctoo. The road coming in from the west passes over the Yuba River, where you can see the support of the old bridge that crossed the river. The Town of Samrtsville is just a mile or so from Timbuctoo and has a great story of its own. Is it spelled with a "s" or not, Smartville? A little further lies Rough and Ready, a town that also built itself from gold, as well as it's spot on the old Emigrant Trail to Johnson's Ranch in Wheatland.
Here is a short video, less than 5 minutes, concerning our adventure at Timbuctoo.