Town History - Gold Discovery, Early Citizenry, Legends

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      • Watts & Tannahill Building / Iron Door Saloon
      • The Groveland Hotel

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Town History

      Was the man hanged from a tree or merely choked to death by a strong miner? Stories conflict. Was he executed for stealing $200 in gold dust, or someone’s horse; for jumping a claim, or killing a fellow miner? Stories conflict. Originally known as “First” Garrote (to avoid confusion with nearby Second Garrote), the name appeared in contemporary newspapers as: Garote, Garotte, Gerote, and Garrotte. Spellings conflict. About the only thing that didn’t conflict was the meaning of Garrote; which is Spanish for execution by strangulation.
      The mining camp was founded in late 1849 or early 1850 by Mexican miners. By June of 1850, an estimated two thousand Mexican miners were working the rich placers, so rich that mining claims were restricted to ten feet square. An incident between Indians and white men occurred the following year which, according to the “Mountaineer” in the December 16, 1851, issue of the San Joaquin Republican, caused the Mexicans to leave in fear, drastically reducing the area’s mining population.
      That same year, the local mining laws were amended and each miner was allowed fifty yards in length up and down a prospective creek. The town’s post office was established on November 29 of 1851, under the name Garrotte. The camp remained a lively place through the 1860’s, after which it began to dwindle in size; by 1875 the population struggled to reach one hundred. Those few citizens who remained; however, decided their town’s name had too bloodthirsty a ring to it and on January 11 of 1875, the post office and town name was changed to the more dignified Groveland. I prefer the first appellation.
      The stretch of road between Big Oak Flat and Groveland winds through forests of tall pines; second growth as most of this area was heavily lumbered during the Gold Rush. A close look through the trees will reveal traces of the extensive mining operations that occurred here during the early days, traces that nature is just now beginning to conceal.
      Groveland is located two miles east of Big Oak Flat on Hwy 120.

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