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Taking You Back in History: A Snapshot in Time, Part 2

Republication of Jean McClish's 1975 article on the centennial of Groveland's renaming and our downtown history continues.

Forefront right - distant left - Granite Store (Iron Door), Pioneer Saloon, Groveland Hotel c. 1880 (STCHS- photo, Bruce DeBoer)

“1901 found Groveland booming. A resurgence of mining activity throughout the Mother Lode was prompted in part by new money from eastern investors and local stock companies, and partly from the development of more sophisticated mining methods. The Mt. Jefferson, mainstay of local mining activity, was building a new sulpheret house and a structure to house an assay office. Older buildings were being refurbished and new ones built. H.M. Stanley erected a new blacksmith and woodworking shop, the Buckhorn, in the east end of town and “engaged competent mechanics to do blacksmithing, horseshoeing, and build wagons.” W.A. Forbes occupied a newly constructed building and advertised flour for $4.80 a barrel, sugar at 13-1/2 lbs. for $1. There was a new barbershop in the Gem Saloon. T.C. Reid was proprietor of Tannahill’s old store with the iron doors. His post office store stocked stationery, pens, pencils, mourning notepaper, cigars and men’s furnishings. It boasted a new coat of paint. W.A. Smith’s new cash store business opened in December 1900 offering choice groceries and provisions.


Miss Fannie Blackwell, a graduate of McDowell’s dressmaking school in San Francisco, announced she would do dressmaking at the McSwain residence. The Sierra Gorda Union No. 39 WFM was organized in 1900 and by 1901 had 135 members that met alternatively in Big Oak Flat in the Odd Fellows Hall and in Groveland at the Foresters’ Hall every Thursday evening. Oro Fino Hive No. 49 and Oro Grande Tent, Knights and Ladies of the Maccabees met at the Maccabees’ Hall in Big Oak Flat across the street from the Big Oak marker. Court Mt. Jefferson No. 8239 AOF, organized in 1894, had 55 members in 1901 and met weekly in Groveland. Yosemite Lodge No. 97 I.O.O.F. was constituted in 1860 and the Rebekah Lodge No. 259 was established in 1901. Much of the social life of the two communities was generated by these groups. Grand Balls were popular at the turn of the century, and nearly every week one of the organizations sponsored a ball.


The Opera Hall in Groveland, across the Main street from the Groveland Hotel was decorated to depict the theme, musicians hired - usually Vic Repetto and McCarthy or Prof. Steele’s orchestra from Sonora, and a gala evening ensued. At midnight, following the “supper dance,” the revelers adjourned to the Groveland Hotel and Schroeders for a midnight supper and then returned to the hall to dance until dawn. In the early 1910’s when Charlie Baird was running the Groveland Hotel, he once put up 54 head of horses one snowy night. “I put the rigs outside, the horses tied heads together so they couldn’t get to kicking one another. That’s the kind of crowd we had: “When there was a dance at Coulterville Charlie Baird would “take a 6-horse stage, everybody free. And they’d all come when we had a dance.” But it was during the Hetch Hetchy days of 1915 to 1925 that Groveland had her heyday.


Headquarters for the railroad operation during the building of the railroad and construction of O’Shaughnessy Dam and the mountain tunnels was in Groveland. This occasioned a sudden influx of a great number of men, some with their families. The City of San Francisco built a hospital, office building, bachelor quarters, and homes for upper-echelon employees. Once again old buildings were refurbished and new ones constructed: the Charlotte Hotel; Sal Ferretti’s new butcher shop, now occupied by Mel Lutt’s Pharmacy [now Serendipity]; the Cassaretto Mercantile, today’s Community Hall; Charlie Baird’s Hotel, dismantled in the slack years after the mountain division of the Hetch Hetchy project was finished and the facilities and personnel moved to Livermore.


Those were the days. There is a significant number of old timers who can remember the Groveland and Big Oak Flat of 1901. Even more recall those Hetch Hetchy days. They retain a fierce pride in the heritage of Groveland. We salute them. We celebrate with them the centennial of the name of Groveland and the town’s beginning 125 years ago as a camp of gold seekers.”


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.