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Town History

      A young man named Hudson is credited with discovering the rich diggings here in the summer of 1849. Arriving with a party of prospectors from Oregon, Hudson dug out more than $20,000 in gold within a six-week period, by the end of which time the place was crowded with miners. The gold nuggets found in the streams were so big, they supposedly “growled” in the gold pans; it seemed only natural to nickname the camp “Growlersburg.”
      Close on the heels of the Oregonians was a company of sailors under the leadership of George Phipps. Working the stream at a spot below the present townsite, they uncovered rich placers and took out a fortune in gold. Besides panning the streams, miners found working the seam deposits at Georgia Slide to be quite profitable. According to the December 15, 1849, issue of the Alta, the camp was by then known as Georgetown Dry Diggings; apparently the name was changed to honor George. But was it George Phipps, the sailor or George Ehrenhaft, the popular miner? I don’t know. At any rate, by this time there were scores of tents, shacks, and frame and canvas structures lining the creek, prospects were great and the camp was booming. It continued to grow and prosper, and then, in 1852, the tent city was totally destroyed by fire.
      According to the History of El Dorado County, published in 1885, a traveling photographer set the Round Tent Saloon on fire during an attempt to capture the likeness of a dead miner. It is not recorded if or how the picture turned out because “the flames spread with such rapidity that it was only under difficulties that the corpse could be saved from cremation, and in one half hour the business portion of the town was almost entirely laid in ashes.”
      As the placers were still full of gold, the miners weren’t going anywhere and the people of Georgetown set out immediately to rebuild their camp. The town planners decided to make sure that they would never again lose their town to fire. Moving the townsite from its original place in Empire Canyon to its present location, they made the streets much wider than before to keep any future fires from jumping from block to block. Main Street is a full one hundred feet wide and the side streets measure sixty feet in width. In addition, many of the new buildings erected were made of brick and stone and then fitted with fireproof iron doors. When they were finished, Georgetown was a substantial and beautiful town. It quickly rose to prominence as one of the richer camps in the region and came to be known as the “Pride of the Mountains.”
      By 1855, the town was firmly established on the mountain, and although it was a bit remote, its citizens didn’t lack for any social or cultural institutions. A local school provided education, and the church took care of their need for religion. A town hall, Masonic Hall, Sons of Temperance Hall, and of course, several saloons and gambling halls, provided meeting places for the townsfolk. In addition, a theatre, three hotels, four restaurants, two meat markets, four blacksmiths, two jewelry stores, three drug stores, eight clothing stores, one tinshop, one soda factory, nine grocery stores, two banking establishments, two express companies, one cigar store, and one dauguerrean provided the goods, services, and entertainment that made Georgetown as fine a place as any to live in during the Gold Rush.
a place as any to live in during the Gold Rush.

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