After barn chores and the two of us bringing more firewood up to the porch (cold weather has returned; twenty-six degrees this morning), Dolly and I headed to town in our search for history. Our first stop was the Fountain & Tallman Soda Works Museum on Main Street in Placerville. The tiny, two-story building is the oldest original building in town, being made of stone. The rest of Placerville burned to the ground three times in the 1800s, being rebuilt with brick or stone. Supported by the El Dorado County Historical Society, the welcoming docents were full of information about the building, the area, and Hangtown (the old name for Placerville). They are particularly proud of a piece of the Hanging Tree that had been cut down for city expansion, and an intact bottle from the original soda works.
We went next to the El Dorado County Museum next to the county fairgrounds, where Mark, another volunteer, greeted us and walked with us to explain the exhibits. Much larger than the other, this museum is filled with memorabilia. I had no idea that John Studebaker, of the family that later made automobiles, built handcarts and wagons for miners during the Gold Rush and never lost his connection to Placerville. I was very interested in the roster of naturalization in the county, filled with the names of men from many nations who came to work the hills for gold and decided to stay in America. There were beautiful woven baskets, some so fine there were thirty stitches to the inch, made by Miwok Indians. The tribes suffered greatly from the influx of miners. Information on Charley Parkhurst was fascinating. Charley drove a stagecoach for Wells Fargo and was known as a rough, tough, son-of-a-gun. On his death, it was discovered that Mr. Parkhurst was, in fact, a woman. Outside, Mark pointed out a huge copper "bowl," probably four feet deep and six or more feet across. No, not a cooking pot. This was a vessel in which placer miners would swoosh down the water flues to clean the sides. That must have been one wild ride! It is said that the noise from the rock-crushing stamp mills could be heard for two miles. In addition to larger mining equipment and wagons, there is a small plot devoted to tombstones for which the graves have been lost. The headstones had been stolen or otherwise vandalized, found by or donated to the museum, and respectfully given a dignified and touching resting place. With the sun and temperature dropping, we thanked Mark for our tour and headed home.
I urge everyone to visit their hometown museums. I should have done this long before. I've got a much better appreciation of the local history. It was a great way to spend an afternoon with a good friend. It was a good day.