ValleySpringsCA Helping those who help Valley Springs



Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History


This article is reprinted at the request and with permission from Betty Snyder



Before the white man came, the Valley Springs area was inhabited by Miwok Indians. The Indians wintered in this valley as evidenced by the grinding stone rocks on various ranches. The Indians, as late as the 1930s, traveled by foot and horse drawn wagons over Ebbetts Pass to trade their acorns, etc. with the Carson Valley Indians for pine nuts. The first habitation by white settlers was about two miles east of the present town on Highway 26. The settlement at that time was not regarded as a town — but there was a store owned by T. J. French and the Post Office addressed as “Pattee Place.” Its serenity was not disturbed until 1884 when the town was moved in a west­erly direction to the Late place, which is the large two-story stone house on Highway 12 at the western edge of Valley Springs. That year a townsite of 18 blocks was laid out and many attractive buildings were erected. Valley Springs is the only town in Calaveras County laid out in such an even grid pattern. The streets were named for various trees and flowers. Valley Springs had been a shipping center of the county ever since the rail­road was established. The old depot building is still standing. However, today it is used for several retail businesses. In the early days, people were driven to Valley Springs by horse and buggy to meet the train for travel to distant points. When Calaveras Cement Co. was formed in the late 1920 s, the railroad was extended to Kentucky House near San Andreas, so that they could receive supplies and ship cement to distant cities. A line was built to the Mokelumne River so supplies could be delivered for the construction of Pardee Dam, from 1924 to its completion in 1929 to serve the water needs of the Oakland Bay area. The dam was named after Gov. George Pardee. You can still see the old railroad right-of-way cuts on the rail­road bed near the Watertown Road as you go toward the Calaveras-Amador county line. The first and only train wreck was in 1946 when workers in a railroad hand­car collided with a large locomotive. Needless to say, the men and handcar came out second best. The men were pensioned off after receiving a settlement. The mishap took place near Robbers’ Bend, which is the deep cut just beyond the present day Toyon Middle School, where you can look south to see the water from Hogan Reservoir. George Late was the first settler. He had reached San Francisco after a trip “around the Horn” on Aug. 22, 1849. He returned to the east and married Miss Rebecca Shaffer in 1854. The youthful couple embarked for California on June 22nd and traveled by the Panama Route arriving in California in August 1855. Their home of limestone was quarried from a hill near town. It served the Late family for many years and is still in excellent condition. Warren Lamb was among the first to build in Valley Springs. He built and owned a restaurant, saloon and feed stable. In those days mule teams, freighters, and stages halted for the night in Valley Springs. The first hotel was built by John Plummer , who later sold it to Chester Meyers. A second hotel was built by Henry Purdy. Harvey Smith built the first blacksmith shop. Smith was a wheel­wright, building buggies, carts, and light spring wagons to sale. Many horses and mules were shod for the teams that came to haul freight from the depot to the mountain towns. The first school was held in a quarry building below the Late house until their own school was finally built. The first teacher was Amy O’Neal. T. J.. French was the first merchant. Later. F. L. Johnson built a second store, which was a two-story building with a town hall over the store. Church and Sunday School were held in the hall before the church was built. In later years, Johnson sold it to a man named Manner, who then sold it to T. J. French. French moved his merchandise to the Johnson building. French sold to T. J. Pliler, who was an em­ployee in the French store. Pliller’s partner was his brother-in-law Joshua Lillie, hence the name Pliler and Lillie. In 1939, Pliler had the old building torn down and a new one-story building was erected. The store in 1990 was still operated by the daughter-in-law, Mrs. Bonnie Pliler. The Plilers also raised foxes commercially at the end of Sequoia Street, where today there is a mobile home park. While Frank Pattee was still a small boy, he peddled meat in town and its immediate vicinity. Soon, as an accommodation to his customers, he was carrying more groceries from French’s store to customers than his meat from the Pattee place. The Pattee Ranch is located on the northeast side of Valley Springs, where the tree growing out of the large stone bluff is a famous landmark called Castle Rock. The oldest brother John Pattee concluded that the business of general merch­andising might prove a more profitable business than stock raising. A short time later a store was opened under the name of Pattee Brothers. This building, at the corner of Laurel and California streets (Highway 12) was later sold to Pete Ormes, who had it torn down and a new building erected for a modern restaurant. Ormes was a very colorful figure, having been a horse jockey in the east. Legend has it that he came out to Valley Springs to hide out from gangster mobs who were out to get him for fixing horse races. Pete’s Cafe was famous for its gourmet food such as pheasant under glass. People who travel to Valley Springs, the enticement of course were the fine food and hospitality. There was also gambling and many slot machines in full view of the restaurant and bar. This operation was highly illegal; rumor has it that the local law enforcement officers only confiscated the machine in the establishment belonging to others. Pete had paid his “dues” to the “Widows and Orphans Fund.” Another rumor was told that Pete kept buckets of money in the base­ment, and if you wanted to cash a check he would go down under the bar to the base­ment to retrieve some moldy money in exchange for your check. This money was supposed to have come from the gambling and restaurant-bar cash, which was salted away in order to avoid paying income tax. Perhaps this tale was told around the bar one too many times, as in 1973 he met his Waterloo. Three people were involved in beating him to death, trying to make him tell where the money was hidden. One of the thugs hid in the restroom after the closing hours, then turned off the burglar alarm and let the others inside. Pete lived in living quarters inside the restaurant building. The thugs quickly tied him up and tortured him trying to find where the buckets of money were hidden. He never told, perhaps it was just a bar room story but it cost him his life. Those criminals were never apprehended. In the early days Valley Springs received water from the Mokelumne Hill Canal Company, which can still be seen at the northerly confluence of Paloma and Watertown roads. Water also was sent to Campo Seco and Burson through another fork in the ditch; the areas were a garden paradise with many fruit and nut trees and vegetable and flower gardens. When water was no longer available from this source, John Pattee supplied the town with water from a large tank northeast of the town, which may still be seen on the hill overlooking town. The water came from three shallow wells. In the summertime in the 1940s the water shortage was so bad that the men coming home from work at the lumberyard near the present-day Toyon Middle School had no water in which to bathe. The tanks were dry by early afternoon and it wasn’t until around midnight there was sufficient water. About that time a lease was negotiated between the town and John Snyder to take water from the Deep Blue Gravel Channel on his ranch two miles north of town. A pipeline was built and a large metal tank installed for water storage. The system was expanded in about 1980 and another well put into the McCord Shaft on John’s property. An old school building was moved from Burson to Valley Springs, which was used for the Community Methodist Church, which began in 1884. It was replaced by a concrete block church in the 1960s, which is at the corner of Laurel and Sequoia streets and the “A” frame holds a very beautiful stained glass window. Valley Springs had been the hub from which the ministers worked. In the past the Methodist minister had preached in 14 different locations throughout the county earning the title of circuit rider. Many places were reached on foot, and those further reached by horseback. The Valley Springs Methodist Church is the only Methodist Church in Calaveras County today. When yours truly came to Valley Springs in 1945, there were six saloons and one church; today there are only two bars and six churches. On Sept. 4, 1885, a fire burned down the greater part of the town. The hotel that burned stood on the property next to Pliler’s store and was located where the Valley Springs Pharmacy is today. The first doctor to live here was a woman named Dr. Wall. She visited her patients on horseback. When the town was moved from the Pattee Place to its present location it needed a new name. The people wished to call it Spring Valley - since the Spring Valley Hotel located three miles east on the road toward San Andreas had burned down. Since there was another post office by that name already in existence they simply changed the name around and called it Valley Spring. There was originally no “s” at the end of Spring. Perhaps the entrepreneur who started bottling and selling water from the springs on the Pattee place was responsible for the adding of the “s”. The city of Stockton built the old Hogan Dam. It was completed in 1931 with a capacity of 78,000 acre-feet of water for flood control for Stockton. In 1964, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the new Hogan Dam with a present capacity of 318,000 acre-feet; at the same time the park was made available to the public. Several large ranches totaling 6,000 acres were combined to form Rancho Calaveras. It was put on the market in 1965 and all of the 4,000 subdivided one-half to three acre parcels were sold within 18 months. The capital investment of six million grossed the developers thirty-six million dollars in return. La Contenta followed in 1975, with the 650 homesites having all been sold. The La Contenta golf course is noted for having the finest putting greens in Northern California. Since 1975 there has been community involvement in food booths, arts & crafts and gems & minerals at the Snyder’s Valley Springs Pow-Wow, held annually the first weekend in May. The Valley Springs Area Business Association was founded in 1984. Their high­lights each year is the Christmas Parade & Craft Faire. Sources: Ida M. Wimer, “Valley Springs”, Las Calaveras - Quarterly Bulletin of the Calaveras County Historical Society, April 1956 John & Betty Snyder, Residents since 1945

 

Betty Snyder, March 1990

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    Anonymous's picture

    VOLUME TWO OF “SOMETHING FROM NOTHING” MAGAZINE FEATURING WEST CALAVERAS HISTORY NOW AVAILABLE

    Did you know that the 1960s “Big Valley” TV series was inspired by a woman rancher in West Calaveras? Or that both the first and the most famous olive orchards in the entire region were in Wallace? How about Capt. Messenger during the Civil War or Catts Camp or the San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad or the area’s connections with Charles Darwin and Old Ironsides?

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    Phil Weaver's picture

    MOTHER LODE’S ONLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL WAR VETERAN TO BE HONORED FOR THE FIRST TIME

    Calaveras County Ceremony Set For Weekend Before Veterans Day

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    Anonymous's picture

    “SOMETHING FROM NOTHING” MAGAZINE FEATURES WEST CALAVERAS HISTORY

    Do you know that the first California native to become an admiral was born near Valley Springs? Or that Wallace was named after the older brother of one of the most famous naturalists of the modern era? Or that a poet-soldier of the Civil War was a Burson postmaster?

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    Anonymous's picture

    New television show, Calaveras Gold,

    Press Release

    For Immediate Release

    Date: 1/21/09

    New television show, Calaveras Gold,
    comes to Community Television, Channel 7

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    Anonymous's picture

    WALLACE MAKES “CALIFORNIA HISTORY”

    Articles related to Calaveras County in “California History,” the scholarly magazine of the California Historical Society published quarterly since 1922, are rare. But the lead essay in Volume 85, Number 4, available this month, not only partly concerns West Calaveras but was written by local author Sal Manna, President and Founder of the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History, and monthly "Something From Nothing" columnist for the Valley Springs News.

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    Anonymous's picture

    VALLEY SPRINGS TRAIN TIMES THANKS YOU!

    The Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History thanks everyone who helped make the inaugural Valley Springs Train Times such a tremendous success, including all of our vendors, and especially Mike and LeAnn Jurek, Dave Valladao, Linda Belli, Valley Springs Area Business Association, Valley Springs News, Sheng Chi Kung Fu, Toy Train Operating Society, Recreational Railroad Coalition, E Clampus Vitus, The Train Gang, Never The Same, Patricia Jackson & Jason Smith, The Paul Wood Express and Joe Doris, Calaveras Gunfighters, Glenn Wasson, Bill Renwick, Bill Claudino, Russ Thomas, Dann

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    Anonymous's picture

    MODEL RAILROADS, CLAMPERS, AND MORE TO HELP CELEBRATE VALLEY SPRINGS TRAIN TIMES

    One hundred and twenty-three years and one day after the first train of the San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad pulled into Valley Springs, the town will celebrate that event with a rededication of its historic train depot, a huge model railroad layout, and more. The Valley Springs Train Times event at the intersection of Highways 12 and 26, on Saturday, April 26, 2008, free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History (SPWCH), the Valley Springs Area Business Association and the Historic Valley Springs Train Depot.

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    Anonymous's picture

    First history book on Northern Calaveras County published!

    Judith Marvin, Julia Costello and Sal Manna have written the "Northern Calaveras County" volume in the Images of America series for Arcadia Publishing, released August 27, 2007. The book is filled with some 200 vintage photographs spanning Burson, Wallace, Valley Springs, Jenny Lind, Campo Seco, Paloma, San Andreas, Mokelumne Hill, Mountain Ranch, West Point, Rail Road Flat, and more. To obtain a copy, please send $23.95 (includes sales tax and shipping) to the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History (SPWCH), PO Box 714, Burson, CA 95225.

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    Anonymous's picture

    "WHO REALLY SHOT BLACK BART?" PRESENTATION MAY 24

    The only eyewitness account ever written of Black Bart’s last holdup will be revealed and recreated for the public for the first time at “Who Really Shot Black Bart: The Untold Story,” presented at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 24, at The Metropolitan (59 Main St.) in San Andreas by the Calaveras County Historical Society.

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    Anonymous's picture

    VALLEY SPRINGS RAILROAD EXHIBITION

    The Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History will present the first-ever exhibition of photographs of the San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad not only in the last remaining depot of that rail line in Valley Springs but also on the 122nd anniversary of its first train pulling into town. The exhibition will be unveiled on Wednesday, April 25, at a mixer sponsored by the Valley Springs Area Business Association which will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m at The Ice Cream Depot (25 Highway 12/California St.).

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    Anonymous's picture

    WEST CALAVERAS HISTORY EXHIBIT GOES TO MURPHYS

    The “Something From Nothing” photo exhibition of early West Calaveras history will be at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys from Saturday, February 17 (the first day of Presidents’ Day Weekend) through Sunday, March 18 (the day following the Murphys Irish Day and Ironstone’s Daffodils Day festivities). Along with the exhibition at the Ironstone museum and gift shop, a wine-tasting reception on February 17 from 1-3 p.m. is also free and open to the public.

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    Anonymous's picture

    EXHIBITION OF EARLY WEST CALAVERAS PHOTOGRAPHS

    The public is invited to view "Something From Nothing: An Exhibition of Early West Calaveras Photographs," currently on display through November at Countrywide Mortgage in Valley Springs (in the Valley Oaks Shopping Center). The office is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit was created by the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History. Experience rarely seen photographs from the 19th and early 20th centuries depicting the people and places of Valley Springs, Burson, Wallace, Jenny Lind and more.

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    Anonymous's picture

    HONOR THE MAN AFTER WHOM WALLACE IS NAMED

    One hundred and twenty-five years after its founding, residents of the Calaveras County town of Wallace and their neighbors will for the first time in history honor the man after whom the town is named. In 1882, John Wallace surveyed the railroad line that went through the area; his son, John Herbert Wallace, then surveyed the townsite itself.

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    Anonymous's picture

    Article On The Man After Whom Wallace Is Named

    For those who are interested in learning about the man after whom Wallace is named..."Las Calaveras," the quarterly journal of the Calaveras County Historical Society, has published an article that encompasses the entire current issue (July). You may obtain a copy at the CCHS in San Andreas ($8 each) or via the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History ($10, including shipping and handling). For the latter, send a check to: SPWCH, PO Box 714, Burson, CA 95225. All contributions to SPWCH, Inc. are tax deductible.

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    Anonymous's picture

    WEST CALAVERAS HISTORY GROUP AWARDED GRANT

    "Something From Nothing," an exhibition of photographs chronicling the early history of West Calaveras, will become a reality thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History by the Calaveras Community Foundation. When completed, the traveling exhibit, and an accompanying brochure, will be available to schools, service clubs, selected businesses, other organizations and community events. The exhibition is scheduled to be completed and available by the end of September.

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    Anonymous's picture

    VALLEY SPRINGS ON TV!

    A feature on the efforts of the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History will be on Channel 10 (ABC) on the Six O'Clock News on Friday, June 2. The report by Jonathan Mumm will include the old Burson School at Valley Springs Elementary, the Late House and the Valley Springs train depot. Lots of local folks were interviewed, including John Huston--who is seen entering the school for the first time since 1941!-- and Elaine Evans-Anberg, who was one of the last two graduates of the school (1957). This is probably the first time ever that the Burson School has been on television!

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    Anonymous's picture

    Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History

    The towns of Burson, Wallace, Valley Springs, Campo Seco, Paloma, and Jenny Lind have a long and colorful history that needs to be preserved, cherished and made available to its citizens as well as to the citizens of the rest of Calaveras County, the State of California and elsewhere. The Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History (SPWCH) was formed in 2006 as a nonprofit educational corporation to celebrate that history in an effective and educational manner. The SPWCH is empowered to acquire items of historical interest (from photographs and memorabilia to ephemera and buildings), to preserve and restore such items, to disseminate knowledge of the area’s history to the general public and to function as a resource for students, historians, governmental agencies and others.