Museums & Cemeteries in Placerville

We had all wanted to go to the El Dorado County Museum, which houses diverse collections and programs that focus on the rich history of our county.

There are exhibits inside and out. The outdoor equipment was pretty grand: a five-stamp mill used to crush rock, a large flywheel powered by a steam engine, ore cars, an orchard sprayer and antique farming tools, showing what it was needed to get the job done.

I love this old sign from the now gone Blue Bell Coffee Shop (c.~1930-1970), which famously served the strangely famous culinary delight called the "Hangtown Fry". The story goes that a miner who struck gold came booming into the El Dorado Hotel and wanted to buy the most expensive dish on the menu.  The cook explained that his most expensive ingredients were eggs, bacon and oysters, so the miner directed the cook to make him something out of those ingredients. The result was an omelet of bacon and breaded oysters, a dish that was easy to make but not necessarily easy to swallow.

The museum begins, as it should, with baskets and tools made by skilled artists of the Maidu, Miwok and Washoe Native American people who lived in the area before and after the Gold Rush.  Finely made feasting baskets in the traditional designs and portable grinding rocks are just a few of the artifacts on display.
There were several presentations of how life was for the various people who resided here, in the day.

Artifacts from the past such as a sheepherder’s covered wagon, a parlor from a fine home, and this General Store (c. 1900) are also on display. All gave us a great glimpse into El Dorado County's very storied past. So dang cool.
Bob had heard about a "lost" cemetery so we all ventured forth. There is a lot I could say about our visit there (if you want to know more ask me), but I'm going to quote the find-a-grave website instead. "Missouri Flat Cemetery is a pioneer cemetery from the 1850s. Burials are dated from 1850-1960. It is located off Headington Rd behind the Kmart shopping center. It is surrounded by a homeless camp. A four year resident there was a very nice guide and knew quite a bit about the area. It was heavy in brush and poison oak. Please be kind and ask before going through the area. The residents will help you find it. Do not go alone. This is an isolated area."



Leaving our 'county' lessons, we headed into town to learn more about the city of Placerville (aka Hangtown and Dry Diggings) at the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building.
The two-story masonry structure was built as a soda water factory in 1852. The brick walls of the building are more than 2 feet thick so ice and soda supplies could be kept cool. These construction materials also have protected it from fires that destroyed surrounding buildings, and as a result it is the oldest building in town.
Docent Beth, combined with the exhibits, informed us about what life was like here. The Museum's first floor displays are dedicated to 1850's history when it was a gold rush town with miners' tools and photographs on display. There is also a display of early fire fighting equipment, Snowshoe Thompson's skis, and a piece of the hanging tree - from which Placerville's nickname of "Hangtown" derived. On the second floor, the Museum displays highlight some of the history of the businesses downtown, such as Pacific Gas and Electric ownership of the building, a Hangtown Band drum, an early jeweler's lathe, a uniform from Placerville's winning Bartlett Baseball team, and furnishings belonging to the Tracy family (shoe sellers). While an intimate museum, it was very interesting.
For our last cemetery stop for the day, we visited Placerville's largest- the Union Cemetery. This was my first time picnicking in a graveyard, but its park-like setting and peacefulness was ideal for our dining al fresco.
Originally developed in 1871 by the F. & A. Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Independent Order of Red Men, and the California Grove of United Ancient Order of Druids, it was laid out on 2.45 acres on the south side of Bee Street. Currently it encompasses 4.75 acres and includes over 6,000 ground plots. Approximately 95% of the plots are in use or have been purchased for future use.
Many graves were relocated here when other cemeteries had to be built upon.
There were quite a few of the Celio family interred here.  This is a famous Tahoe family who have had a farm in Lake Valley since 1863 (I have written about them before). Interestingly, all of their grave markers read, "At Rest at the Tahoe Ranch".
Each cemetery seems to have a surprise. In Park City it was a snowboard tombstone and here it was this replica of a tire for a Mustang loving man.

Museums and cemeteries really are quite the same things. They are a place where we learn who and what came before us. Today's history lesson was incredible and has left me wanting more!

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