Sunday, April 2, 2017

What's in Fair Play - Gold Rush History # 2


I was thinking about what to write for this post. I’m not sure why, but I reviewed the 2014 posts when I came across the Gold Rush History # 1. I concluded there must be more Gold Rush history in Fair Play than just one short essay about the Gold Rush.  In my 2014 post I provided a pretty detailed history of Fair Play and the environs. So today I will expand upon that post with some information about other aspects of the Gold Rush time around Fair Play and some recent history most of you don’t know.

Let’s start with how and why there is a Fair Play. Obviously, many 49ers came from around the world to find their riches in gold. Some, very few, found the riches of their dreams; most went home broke and broken. Some stayed behind because they were smart enough to find their riches in other ways. That’s what started Fair Play. Fair Play became an important mercantile center for this region of the foothills, selling everything from wheel barrows made by Studebaker in Placerville to becoming the distribution center for the lumber from Indian Diggings - now known as Omo Ranch.

The center part of the building is the old original part.

At one point about 1860 Fair Play had a population around 10,00 with a hotel, many saloons, a general store and other shops and services for the 49res. The general store still stands today and the Pub at Fair Play is the current occupant. Across the street is the hardware store that recently ceased operation, but operated as one from about 1870. The E16 Winery Tasting room, the old Winery by the Creek tasting room, was the first firehouse in Fair Play. At the top of the hill at the entrance to the Iverson Winery was the location of the hotel. I have copies of old photographs from the Fair Play early days.

This Fair Play Hardware building hasn't changed mush since it was built, and the paint job shows it.

You history buffs know the Pony Express riders came right through this section of the foothills on their way to Sacramento in 1860 & 61. To this day there is a Pony Express Ride reenactment all the way from St Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento.  Another interesting and fun thing to do and watch is the Highway 50 Wagon Train Association’s June wagon train trip from Zephyr Cove, NV to Placerville on Highway 50 – the route of many wagon trains during the 1860’s to the 1880’s. Cindy and I did a day ride on the wagon train in 2010. Great fun; it’s fun to watch all the vehicles going by with eyes and mouths wide open taking picture of the wagon train. Yep we had to wear wagon train grab like the pioneers. 

Cindy & I sat in the back wagon on the wooden bench; just like the pioneers did.

We’ve been asked many times about how Fair Play got its name. See the post of February 10, 2014 for the detailed story of naming Fair Play. Somehow the name stuck. I only mention this because through the years the name has been a great source of discussion. At one point, right after the people starting calling the town Fair Play the name was two words. Later it became one word – Fairplay. The main road into Fairplay is spelled that way. A few years ago, the businesses in Fairplay started a marketing group called Discover Fair Play, which later became Fairplay California. At that time the spelling of Fair Play became a hot topic. Fair Play as two words means something different than Fairplay. As two words, it means a destination and as one word it is only a name. Those of us in Fair Play who want it to be a destination use the two words – Lucinda’s Country Inn in Fair Play, CA 95684.

When we bought our property there was an old "miners cabin" that was in shambles. The wood was obviously very old and dark like a lot of the old Gold Rush period building we are familiar with. We also were familiar with the stories about the 49ers and their properties and events. The legends if you will, about how deep and rich the history is of the Gold Rush era in the nooks and crannies of the Foothills. Almost any old building has a Gold Rush story to go with it. Yes, some buildings around Fair Play on people's property are in fact Gold Rush era, I just couldn't find any truth about our shack. It went out along with the the other rubbish that had "accumulated" over the years of no one living on the property.

There is a dam from the late 1800's or very early 1900's, that the historian inspector of our property  found, in Perry Creek at the beginning of the crevasse in the granite out cropping at the end of the trail down to the creek. There are four all thread studs about 1 1/2" long sticking out of the top of the dam. Story goes, people used to use long rods to hold wood planks in place to back up the water so the pond would fill with gravel and silt. They'd then remove the wood and pan for gold. Apparently some people did find some because they continued to use the dam until after the Great Depression; according to stories we've been told.

A few factoids about Fair Play, CA 95684: I start this sentence this way because there was a post office in Fair Play in the old hotel and then general store from 1860 until 1944. It then moved to the Somerset Post Office because more residents were in Somerset than Fair Play. Today both communities use the same Post Office and therefore the same zip code. (For Lucinda’s I had to fight tooth and nail to have Fair Play as our address on most internet activities. Their computers recognize Somerset instead of Fair Play. I had to go into the post office website to get a copy of the two communities using the same zip code so all those websites will recognize Fair Play.) In Fair Play we are at about an average of 2,300 elevation, with some wineries at 2,000 and a few at right about 2,600. Yep, we do get snow sometimes. It mostly melts in a few hours, but about every ten years we get a doosy, about 2-3 feet. That creates havoc. If we get roads plowed it is long after everywhere else. Our summer temperatures are at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the valley. So here in Fair Play we like to say we are above the fog, below the snow and a world apart, but only an hour away.

….’Til Next Time

Daryl

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