El Dorado County Historical Society Logo

El Dorado County Historical Society Retrospective

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 – Mountain Democrat

This article was prepared with the assistance of Kris Payne President of the El Dorado County Historical Society and the Mountain Democrat

A meeting of great interest and importance to the public-minded citizens of El Dorado County will take place at the County Court House on Friday, August 5, (1938)” as written in the Mt. Democrat.  So began the legacy of the El Dorado County Historical Society that has endured the past 78 years.  Thirty-six representatives of the 23 separate fraternal and civic organizations met at the court house on that Friday, August 5 for the expressed purpose of forming a county historical society in El Dorado County.  The object and purpose of the organization was [and continues to be] to collect and preserve historical relics, historical items and information about El Dorado County; and to provide a suitable home for these items.

Throughout the years leading up to the formation of the county Historical Society, many citizens of  the community realized the necessity of a building, which would house the relics, many of which were fast getting away either through theft or by purchase by neighboring counties   Further delay it was felt would result in-additional inroads into our pioneer relic stores until within the near future, suddenly we would find ourselves literally stripped of the materials which link us with our historical past.  As the years advance the relics as it was believed then [and it is still considered] become more and more valuable to collectors.


Mountain Democrat “Historical Society May Be Formed”

More than forty civic and service organizations of the county have been asked to send representatives to a meeting called by the historical committee of the County Chamber of Commerce to be held at the courthouse on Friday August 5, in furtherance of proposals to form a county historical society and to support plans for a county museum.

The following statement calling the meeting was issued by the Chamber of Commerce: a meeting of great interest and importance to help the public–minded citizens of El Dorado County will take place at the county courthouse on Friday, August 5th.  Through its historical committee, the Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the organization of a County Historical Society which will have for its object the acquisition of a suitable site and the erection of a pioneer historical building.  It has been suggested that the proposed building should provide fireproof protection to the many valuable relics and mementos of the early mining days and also provide a home for the Chamber of Commerce which could act as guardian of the building.

Invitations are now being mailed by the chamber of Commerce committee to over forty civic and service organizations in the county inviting each of them to send a representative to the meeting on August 5th.  The committee consists of Ernest Van Harlingen; chairman, Henry Lyon, M. T. Kelly, Joseph Quigley, Don Goodrich, Lloyd Raffetto, and L. J. Anderson.



Placerville Times “Historical Groups Will Form Historical Society”

Thirty-six representatives of 23 separate fraternal and civic organizations Friday evening met at the courthouse for the purpose of forming a county historical society in El Dorado County.

So unmistakable was the response to the suggestion that the entire group voted unanimously to form the organization.

It was later announced that the second meeting of the series will be held Thursday evening, August 11, when the committee of fifteen appointed by Chairman E. E. Van Harlingen, will present plans for the forwarding of the movement which is an outgrowth of the work on the sponsoring committee of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.

Among the distinguished visitors of the evening introduced by Van Harlingen were Joseph Ghitto, noble grand arch of the Druids and Edward H. Mossi, grand secretary.

This society, it is believed, fills a long felt need within this county for the collecting of much valuable historical data and for the preservation of many of the priceless relics that yearly are finding their way into other sections.

A further and eminently important goal in which such relics may be deposited for safe keeping.

Further recommendations will be made Thursday when a suitable name for the society will be presented for consideration.

Those organizations represented Friday, included the Druids, Lions, N.S.G.W. , Chamber of Commerce, Eagles, Eagles Auxiliary, American Legion, Foresters of America, Hangtown Grange, Smith’s Flat P.T.A., Episcopal Church Guild,  N. D. G. W. Leona Rebekah Lodge, Rainbow girls, Coloma-Lotus-Gold Hill Farm Centers, Shakespeare Club, Boy Scouts Troop No. 57, Placerville P.T. A., O. E. S., U. S. V. W., and DeMolay.

A committee of fifteen was named to make recommendations. They were Wilder Immel, Mrs. Verna Brame, Mrs. Mary O’Connell, Mrs. Nora Gray, Mrs. Ethel Wickes, Joseph Quigley, Emmet Golden, Miss Jane McCusker, T. F. Lewis, Henry S. Lyon, H. E. Dillinger, Cecil Barker, Mrs. Amy L. Drysdale, and E. E. Van Harlingen.


9/14/1938 Placerville Times “County Historical Society Lays Foundation for Active Permanent Organization”, “Constitution and By-Laws Drafted; Opportunity for Everyone in the County to Participate Under Three Types Membership”

The executive committee of the El Dorado County Historical Society met at the Court House on Monday evening to make their recommendations for an emblem, incorporation and to name a membership committee as well as to make preparations for a booth in the County Fair.

On Thursday night a general meeting will be held at the Court House  in the Superior Court rooms to decide upon these recommendations.  All interested are invited to attend this general meeting.

At the meeting of the El Dorado County Historical Society Thursday evening, Sept. 8, the constitution was adopted and the following officers elected: President – Wilder Immel, Vice-President – Mrs. Ethel Wicks, Secretary – Miss Metie Jamison, Treasurer – Lester McKenzie, Directors –Reuel Whigam, Mrs. Nora Gray, Mrs. B. C. Celio, and Wm. Breedlove.

The purpose of the Society and its aim is to purchase a suitable lot and construct a building in which to house the pioneer relics of El Dorado County.

The finances will be raised by means of popular subscription and memberships.


9/29/1989 Mountain Democrat Time passages/Melbourne Z Myerson “The Fountain Tallman building”

There’s this little stone building at 524 Main St. just west of the Chamber of Commerce building that has a history worth relating.  As a matter of fact there is often confusion between the two buildings because of the similarity of their addresses.  The chamber is located at 543 Main.  To accountants that’s called a transposition of numbers that has no bearing whatsoever on the subject of this piece.

Last year it became necessary to close the building, which is used as a museum for the El Dorado County Historical Society, for a period of time due to nearby construction which was inundating both the building and the artifacts with dust and dirt from the stones and mortar  It has been reopened now, rearranged, redecorated to some degree, and awaits the multitudes of visitors that should be walking through its doors.

The Fountain Tallman structure was built in 1853-1854 and financed by either John Fountain or Benjamin Tallman, who relocated their soda factory from across the street.  It may be the only building that survived the disastrous fire of 1856 that engulfed Placerville.  While most buildings in the area were destroyed, the Fountain Tallman building remains as a monument to our past.  The façade of the original structure is virtually intact.

Some of the stones used in erecting the building were quarried from the hillside directly behind the building.

A variety of interests owned the building until in 1960 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. deeded the building to Roger Darrow and his wife with the stipulation that it would be maintained as an historical landmark, and a plaque was placed on the building by the Native Daughters of the Golden West.  On Feb. 2, 1981 the building was transferred to the Historical Society, which opened it as the Placerville City Museum on Oct. 23, 1983.  The society also operated the main El Dorado County Museum at 100 Placerville Drive.  As you enter the front display area you can see the now-plugged holes in the wall where soda was piped.  Water for the soda mill was taken from a rock spring behind the building, and the upstairs were living quarters in the olden days.  The[s]e are times I truly wonder if miners who came to Placerville were really the hard-drinking, hell-raising men they are written to be when I consider the amount of soda manufactured, and apparently imbibed, in the city!

Between 1983 and 1988 the society spent $18,600 in making necessary changes for maintenance purposes and to make the structure safe for visitors.

Today the ground level display room has many interesting items from the Gold Rush days; an old hand powered washing machine, Chinese artifacts and hundreds of other fascinating items.  The upstairs room is mostly filled with donated items from the estate of Stella Tracy –furniture, personal items, dishes, books, etc.  A walk through this room is a visit to the past.

While the building was reopened a short while back, the Historical Society is having a formal open house noon-4 p.m. Oct. 8 to celebrate the reopening.  Some nearby good neighbors are assisting to make the party even more inviting to the public.  Round Table Pizza, which allowed use of their parking lot during the reconstruction period has offered to provide pizza for the party.  For the “sweet toothers” among us, the Chamber of Commerce will provide the same “dollar” chocolates which you enjoyed at the county fair recently.  Further Randy and Michelle Anderson of the Sunday Times are offering ice cream samples to the attendees.  Much work was accomplished during the closure, and a good part of the expenses incurred in cleaning the building and the artifacts have been defrayed by the law firm of Dosh and Sample, our next door neighbors.  Many of our own members contributed a great number of hours to see the work to completion, and without their dedicated help, we might still be waiting for the doors to open.  Those members are Joe and Bev Cola, Bob Harvey, Irene Barton, Maxine Chard, Shirley Grosche, Mary Mendenhall, Bud Blair,  Peter Peters, Jack Clough, and Tom Mahach.  If I have omitted any names I apologize sincerely and if you will let me know, I’ll get those names in another column.