Head to Hangtown for a Taste of the Old West
The discovery of gold in California in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill set off the migration of thousands of fortune-seekers to the foothills of the northern Sierra Nevada mountain range. Today, if you’re looking for the flavor of the Old West there’s no better place to go than Hangtown, now known as Placerville.
Placerville sits along U.S. Interstate 50 (the first road to link the East coast of the United States to the West coast); it is just about 10 miles south of the town of Coloma where you can still tour Sutter’s Mill.
Not all those in search of gold were willing to perform the back-breaking labor required for mining. Murders and robberies became frequent. Before long, many miners had lost their gold at knife point. After one such crime early in 1849, an impromptu citizens’ jury met to consider the fate of the three accused. The jury wasted little time reaching a verdict, “Hang ‘em!” The word spread quickly and the town became known as Hangtown.
By 1854, Hangtown was the third largest town in California, surpassed only by San Francisco and Sacramento. With the increasing population came agitation for a less morbid name. So, when the town incorporated in 1854 it was named for the sand and gravel gold particles called placer deposits.
Placerville’s heritage is reflected in the historical, nineteenth century architecture of its downtown core along Main Street. An important historic landmark that remains on Main Street is the Bell Tower, standing as a monument to the city's volunteer firemen.
Main Street is still lined with saloons, dining establishments, art galleries, leather goods and clothing stores and other shops offering useful as well as unique purchases. If you visit Placerville Hardware be sure to look for the “miner” stuck in the ceiling...