This month's Taking You Back in History shares a previously written historical article which presents a snapshot in time of Groveland's history. It was originally published almost 50 years ago in the April 1975 PML News, and was written by Jean McClish who was one of the early historians of this area. Jean was on STCHS first Board of Directors. It is well worth a read so, with PML News permission, we are sharing it with you this month with a few minor updates or corrections in brackets. We know some of you will remember Jean McClish who preserved so much of our history in her writings about our local history.
“CENTENNIAL YEAR FOR GROVELAND CHRISTENING" By Jean McClish
Groveland celebrates the centennial of its name at OLD WEST DAY, June 15, 1975. It was in 1875 that the township citizens rejected the early gold camp name and chose one more fitting for the community. Groveland lived out its first quarter of a century under the colorful, if somewhat repulsive, name of Garrote. Names of gold mining camps were inclined toward the descriptive picturesque, Swift Justice at the end of a rope, punishment for a Mexican miner who stole a compatriot’s horse, was reason enough, so the story goes, to establish the name of the camp. By 1875 the settlement had a permanent, stable population of about 100, and together with Big Oak Flat was the hub of activity for surrounding ranchers in Moccasin Creek, Deer Flat, Spring Gulch, Big Creek and Second Garrote.
These two sister communities supplied goods and services to south-of-the-river inhabitants. Despite the county’s financial panic of 1873 and the depression that followed, responsible businessmen of Garrote optimistically looked forward to a long and fruitful future. In casting about for a more propitious name for the community, Benjamin Savory, proprietor of the Savory Hotel, offered that of his hometown, Groveland, Mass., and his suggestion was adopted. The UNION DEMOCRAT of January 23, 1875 reported, “Among recent postal changes made is the name of Garrote post office to Groveland."
Garrote is not a handsome name, besides it has unpleasant association, yet for all that, the pioneers of Tuolumne will stick to it and still call Jim Tannahill’s post office Garrote.” In 1875, business establishments in Groveland included Matt Foot’s Garrote Hotel (Groveland Hotel), the Savory, (torn down years ago, earlier called the Washington, stood where the Charlotte Hotel is today), Tannahill’s store and saloon (Iron Door Expresso) [in 2022, Firefall Coffee] and the Cassaretto store (originally Reboul’s trading post now Groveland Community Hall building), all built in the early 1850s. [A correction - actually Raboul’s trading post was where Helping Hands is, not the Community Hall built about 1900, which was Cassaretto's second store.] Mullen’s blacksmith shop was on the west of Cassaretto’s store and Shoup’s Livery stable was on the east. Allen’s saloon (Garrotte Saloon which burnt down 1990’s) was across the street, east of Hammond’s blacksmith shop. Homes were strung out up and down the road. One, at least, still stands - the red bungalow flanked by the colorful garden tended by Bernice Laveroni Workman, [Mountain Sage]. It was built over 100 years ago.
Mines were flourishing throughout the area. These were what sustained the economy. Woodcutters were kept busy supplying the cordwood needed to fuel the steam engines that supplied the power to work the machinery. The Big Oak Flat Road had been completed all the way to Yosemite in 1874, and more traffic was finding its way along the dirt track through town. To be sure, the road was usually impassable in the winter and during spring rains - even after the turn of the century. Loaded wagons pulled by as many as 14 or 16 mules, if the load was heavy, passed through town. Four-horse 12-passenger stages made regularly scheduled trips from Groveland to Chinese Camp. Herds of cattle going up country for summer range or back down in the fall were driven into town, bypassing the “downtown’ area by following the creek behind the Cassaretto store and coming back out to the road beyond the Groveland Hotel.
Although an early automobile came (Mother Lode Memories by Nancy Perry & Debra Durai) up the hill as early as 1901, four-footed horsepower was the preferred mode of locomotion into the 1920’s. Condition of the road was a constant source of irritation and occasionally made news in the local paper, the TUOLUMNE PROSPECTOR:
“A force of men are engaged this week in repairing the road between Big Oak Flat and Groveland, especially the “whirlpool” which was a very bad mud hole.” (March 2, 1901) “The road crew has at last reached Groveland and a new culvert put in above the Mt. Jefferson office. A spring-rocking, profanity-breeding hole has been wiped out, and the traveling public is duly grateful.” (April 13, 1901).”
What else does Jean tell us about what lined Groveland's early downtown streets? Don’t miss the continuation of Jean's article next time.
Taking You Back in History is provided by the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS) and the Groveland Gateway Museum. The Museum is open Friday - Sunday 10a - 2p.