Placerville was called Dry Diggins because the miners had to cart the dry soil down to the running water to wash out the gold in 1848 but was quickly known as Hangtown. The story of old Hangtown really begins at Coloma, where James Marshall built a sawmill on the South Fork of the American River for his employer John Sutter. On January 24, 1848, Marshall discovered flecks of gold in the tail race of the mill, and when the news spread, the great Gold Rush began.

By 1854, Hangtown had become the third largest town in California, surpassed only by San Francisco and Sacramento. With the increasing population came desire for a less morbid name. Placerville had been suggested as early as 1850 and became official when the city was incorporated in 1854 and  the county seat was moved to Placerville 1857.

Today Placerville remains the hub of the Mother Lode and is famous for its vineyards and production of fine wines. Placerville remains the location of the offices of the El Dorado County government, but when the city and its rich history are recalled, it is the colorful name of Hangtown which has endured.

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Marian Tankersley
Marian Tankersley