History of Rescue

History of Rescue, El Dorado County, California

By Fred Wessels in 1964

Indian History – Rescue

Like the white man who came after him, the Indian must have enjoyed the ideal climate of the lower foothills of the Sierra Nevada, for as late as the early 1850s, there were hundreds of them in the Rescue area. They belonged to the Maidu Tribe.

The early whites called them Digger Indians, for a good deal of their food and medical ingredients were dug out of the ground. The Digger Pine was also named after them, for they would take the seeds or nuts of the burrs of this pine tree (the crooked ones), and roast them for food. They would gather the berries of the Manzanita and crush them on a platter-like stone, blow off the outside skin, and use the inside for sweetening. They would use the underground bulb of the soap weed for cleaning. This is a remarkable wild plant. South of our farm it will look like a forest, growing to a height of six feet, having white star-like blossoms. It will dry up during the summer, to return in late spring. Of acorns the Indians made flour, they roasted grasshoppers, and there was plenty of wild game. They owned the land in common and, as conservationists, never killed more than they could use.

Indian camps were scattered throughout the region, the biggest one being located at the foot of Pine Hill in beautiful White Oak Flat where one big rock contains thirty two grinding holes, besides other locations in the Flat, smaller rocks; with holes. The camps were located as a rule on higher grounds near good springs where they had a good view of the surrounding area and could see anyone coming. At the big camp, they would hold an annual pow-wow, when hundreds of them would gather from far and near. We have been wondering whether they ever thought at that time, 70 or 80 years later, the white man would also have his pow-wows on that same beautiful spot with a broad view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in the form of good roads, Countywide Farm Bureau, and Mother’s Day picnics, with hundreds of white people coming from far and near.

Some of these Indians made beautiful baskets. Typical of smaller Indian camps were three in Gray’s Flat, along Kelly Creek. The first one at Hodgkin’s Spring where the water is as clear as crystal, and two more between there and Rescue.

In the 1800s, there were anywhere from 25 to 50 persons. The chief rode a white horse. The camps were their winter quarters. In the summer they would go to the mountains. They would pile their equipment on a travois, which they dragged behind the horses. The chief always took the lead. When they returned in the fall they never asked for permission to camp; they considered it their land and just moved in. At Hodgkin’s Spring, there grows arrow wood, from which they made their bows and arrows. When the chief died, they would dig a hole, 12 x 14 feet, and bury everything with him that he owned. We recall that in the 191O-20s, an Indian woman would come to the vicinity of our farm in June, and gather the young shoots of the redbud bushes to make baskets.

Pioneer History – Rescue

Before gold was discovered at Coloma, white settlers arrived in the Rescue area. Martin Ebbert came to the Deer Valley section in 1847. (Henry Ebbert of Newtown Road is a descendant of William Ebbert, brother of Martin). When Martin arrived, someone had already hoisted the Stars and Stripes on top of Pine Hill.

The early settlers had to pioneer, start from scratch. Regular fencing material had to come from the east, making it very expensive, so they took a clue from the Indians and used the pasture lands in common. When more settlers arrived, they had to confine their livestock, so they erected fences of brush, split wood rails, and stone. Remains of stone fences can still be seen on the Dennis O’Brien place, also a stone corral and stone wall. They were erected by Peter Fleming, earning him the nickname of “Stonewall Pete” in early days. The stone fence builders killed two birds with one stone by clearing their fields and making use of the stones.

Peter Fleming was the grandfather of Archie Fleming. Peter and the grandfather of Archie’s wife, Helen Friedman Fleming, homesteaded the Jay Hawk country, later on dividing it in two. After living in Sacramento about 40 years, Archie and Helen recently retired to a new home on the old homestead. There are two creeks, Jay Hawk No.1 and No.2. Both places show how the miners turned the earth upside down. In the Jay Hawk cemetery are many pioneer graves. Legend has it that the first Ten Commandments were inscribed in stone.

On the headstone of one Otto Frederick Sundberg (born in Finland in 1824, died in Deer Valley in 1905), these commandments were also inscribed in stone, in simpler form:

‘His Maxim was the Golden Rule
He learned it in his boyhood school
In after years, it was his pride
To practice it until he died’

Jay Hawk has an underground mine, “the Rose Kimberly”, now the Rose Kimberly ranch, home of Franz and Louise Lingnau. His sister and brother-in-law, Joe Brigl, also have built a home there. And so the miners’ cabins are giving way to modern homes. And there is “Deadman’s Flat” and the Boneset mine. Some of the tributaries in the Rescue area have peculiar names like “Lagerbeer”, “Sweetwater”, and “Pinchem”. In the case of “Lagerbeer”, it is thought, some German settler or miner used its water for home-brewed beer and when some neighbors and friends praised its flavor, the brewer shouted, “It’s the water, it’s the water.” Pinchem Creek was well worked over for gold and when miners traded at nearby stores, the storekeepers would take a pinch of gold for a certain amount of coin. Miners were in the habit of chewing the leaves of the Indian herb, Yerbecinta, and then taking a drink out of a creek. It tasted sweet, and so they called it “Sweetwater”.

In the Jay Hawk-Deer Valley section, there are only five pioneer homes left: the Fleming, now Dennis O’Brien; the Etzel Holden, now Howard Roach and &.ill Lewis; the Kipp, now the Vinton, and Regina Veerkamp. Regina is a descendant of the Kipps. The Wulffs, still owned by Wulff, and the Zentgrafs, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Gerken. Across from the Zentgraf home is an interesting work of brick masonry, a curved ceiling without any upright support. The wine cellar was built by pioneer George Zentgraf. The home has inside partitions on hinges, so when early parties or dances ~ were held, the walls were hooked to the ceiling.

At the west corner of Starbuck and Green Valley roads stood a Catholic church at one time. The cemetery was behind the church and is still used once in a great while. It is on the Engesser property. When the church was abandoned, George Zentgraf bought the building and used the lumber to erect a saloon at the corner of Green Valley and Bass Lake roads.

Two well-known men in the past were born and raised in this area. One was Judge Post, a noted jurist in San Francisco, after whom Post Street there was named. His parents lived a short distance west of the Salmon Falls road. The other was Bob Bence, a well­known radio announcer in San Francisco, when that industry was still young. If we remember right, it was KFRC. His father raised vegetables below Bass Lake Dam and sold them to the miners. Charles Loraine (whose wife was a member of the pioneer Rust family), traded merchandise to the farmers for farm produce, and erected and owned the first telephone line in the community. The line was later taken over by the farmers, who organized the Green Valley Telephone Company, a mutual organization. It is still in operation, along with the Bell System. Charles Loraine’s retired son, Dan, and his wife are living at the home place.

When we see someone “pulling the rope” on a balky chain saw, it reminds us of the first electricity that came to this community in 1925 in the R.S.L.S. Hall (Rose Springs Literary Society Hall), a “one lung” plant, and at times it took every Tom, Dick, and Harry pulling the rope to keep it going. The second electricity came to the Tennessee School, an automatic Kohler plant, four-cylinder automobile motor, which was very satisfactory. It was greatly appreciated by the late Ellen Holden of Deer Valley, who was the teacher. When in 1931, the electric line came to the community, this plan. was sold to the Craigs (now the Shubin Farm), and the money used to bring modern electric facilities to the schooL This line started at Shingle Springs, serving the farms along the Upper Shingle Road (now Ponderosa), leaving this road at Hodgkins, going down to the lower road where it served a few farms, ending at the Pyramid mine;a branch line going to Rescue, and ending at the Litten-McDonald farm (now the Cridges).

About 1870, James Wing built a toll road through White Oak Flat, from about Rupps to Wings, consisting of heavy planking and a dirt layer on top. The late Julia McDonald, then Miss Litten, being the first customer, riding over it on horseback on a Sunday morning. There was no charge.

Before the store and post office were located in what is now Rescue, Green Valley was at the west; Rose Springs to the east; Jay Hawk and Deer Valley to the north; and Gray’s Flat to the south. The Green Valley Post Office was at the Dormody ranch, now owned by the Greenhalgh family. The Rescue Post Office came into being through the efforts of DeCourcy Hodgkin (father of Howard Hodgkin of Gray’s Flat), and his brother-in­law, Andrew Hare. Not being permitted to use the name “Green Valley”, a new one had to be found. Hare operated what was known as the Rescue mine, a short distance below the Pyramid mine, about a mile below the Dry Creek bridge, at the junction of Green Valley and Lotus roads. As far as was known, there was no other post office in the state known as Rescue, so this name was adopted. Speculation is that Hare’s predecessors in the mine operation may have found provisions running low, and were saved by the finding of gold, and therefore named the mine “Rescue”. Later the Green Valley Post Office was moved to the junction of Green Valley and Bass Lake roads, and still later was combined with the Rescue Post Office.

The Rescue Union School District is a consolidation of five one-room one-teacher schools: the Tennessee School was at Rescue; Green Valley at Cameron Ranch (known earlier as the Skinner Ranch); Deer Valley; Live Oak Flat on what is now the Malcom Dixon Ranch; and Salmon Falls now inundated by the waters of Folsom Lake. Andrew Hare was a teacher in the early days at the Tennessee School, which was then located on the hill across from the Turpin home on the Dunning Ranch.

The Dunning place was a stopping point for early day teamsters and at one time was operated by Howard Hodgkin’s grandfather, on the same hill is an old cemetery. Hare is reported to have been a school teacher for a couple of years at Clarksville, and an accomplished banjo player. During summer vacations he had the gold fever, and mined around the Rescue area. There was a post office at one time at the east corner of the junction of Green Valley and Ponderosa roads, where a Mr. John Carre operated a general store.

The first post office at Rescue had as postmaster Dr. Merritt A: Hunter. Hunter was a man of many talents. Besides being a physician, he was a dentist, assayer, surveyor, jeweler, chemist, and storekeeper. One of the area’s pioneers, he worked his way from the east, across the Isthmus by repairing watches. Before locating to Rescue, he ran a store at Shingle Springs and opened a quicksilver mine near the Bonetti ranch, the Fort Yuma mine. He also printed a small newspaper at Shingle Springs for a while. The quicksilver ore was of a grade too low to be profitable and, with mining activities on the decline; he sold his store and moved to the southern part of the state, where he lost his money in a land promotion scheme.

Hunter returned to El Dorado County and was hired as a chemist by DeCourcy Hodgkin, who had reopened the Pyramid mine. Hunter tried to find a way of separating the gold from a coating of copper, but had no success, and the mine closed after two years. It was through the kindness of Hodgkins, who had operated a store at Shingle Springs, that the Hunters were established in their business at Rescue in 1893. By that time Dr. Hunter was aging, and he died three years later.