Friday, January 23, 2015


Placerville, California 1920s

If I could turn the clock back,
And live my life once more,
I believe I’d take a slower pace,
Not hurry like before.

I’d spend my life in Placerville,
When the Ivy House still stood,
When the whole town smelled of doughnuts
And storefronts of weathered wood.

When school was taught with chalk on slate,
Each hour marked by a bell,
Luncheon served from paper bags,
And a pint of milk was swell!

When horse and buggy still raised dust,
And little Fords were few,
When little girls weren’t exempt from lust,
But little boys had no clue.

When belts were worn with shirts tucked in,
And Pomade clogged our comb,
When we took our best girl to the dance,
And our palms caressed as we walked our sweetheart home.

I know it’s just a silly dream.
I know it can’t come true.
I know it just sounds foolish now
To share it here with you.

But my wish for every one of us
Is that we’ll live each minute,
Treasure every hour of life,
And every loved one in it.

Hold tight to your memories
Of those days when life was good,
When Main Street smelled of doughnuts,
Little Fords and weathered wood.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chains required from Camino to Tahoe

The little Ford is all warmed up
& we've got doughnuts and coffee!
Grab your jacket and let's go!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gruß, Freunde!

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
© Max Ehrmann 1927

Salutations, chers amis!

Zdravím vás, drazí přátelé!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Hangtown/Placerville, 1910


 To my beloved ancestors, and the faith and fortitude 
that drove them to pursue their dreams, 
this innocuous little parable is affectionately dedicated.


We headed for Hangtown in ‘49,
But never showed till ‘50.
Between us we had nary a dime.
Suffice it to say, we was thrifty!
The Sierra Nevada’s are god-awful high!
And the dang trail rugged at best.
Ma took one look and groaned, “Oh my!
We should have stayed home with the rest!”
The creek ain’t iced up all the time.
August heat is quick to thaw it.
It’s just for wading. That's the crime.
If there’s gold, I never saw it.
The housing in Hangtown leaves much to desire.
That’s the case ever’where we went.
But Ma and me’s tough. There ain’t much we require,
And we had a luxurious tent!
The tent’s mighty cozy though lacking for room.
With a dirt floor infested with mice;
Damp as the dickens and cold as a tomb.
The first year I froze to death twice!
The wood stove was nice if ya sat on the lid.
A bonfire would be better I’m thinkin’.
When it dropped below thirty as often it did,
It froze finials right off of the Franklin!
Flatlanders are welcome despite what you hear.
You won’t hang. I can’t even conceive it!
We’ve oodles of room and we’re known for our beer.
Bring plenty of cash and please leave it.
If you’ve got a hankerin’ for livin’ on beans,
Out west where it’s generally sunny,
Then check out the gold camps and by all means,
Visit Hangtown and bring lots of money!

Hangtown 1849

The sun was high, the humidity low, and the air hung heavy with the scent of Manzanita, the drone of insects, and the obnoxious screech of valley jays. We trudged on with determination all day long and right at dusk we reached the crest of a pine-covered ridge. “Over the mountains of the moon, down the valley of the shadow, ride, boldly ride, the shade replied, if you seek for El Dorado.”  So says ol’ Edgar Allan, and Lord knows Poe is well acquainted with shadows. There below, basking in the last red rays of the rapidly setting sun lay the storied metropolis of Hangtown. A small tormented creek meandered through a series of deep, pine-lined ravines, and clinging tenaciously to each bank, at close intervals and in no apparent order, squatted several dozen shake roofed structures reminiscent of the clapboard shanties that graced the Irish community back home. In addition to the rustic, wooden framed structures were numerous log cabins, and on the periphery of the settlement and lining Main Street on either side, an endless sea of tents glowed hospitably from the lamplight within.  The oak scented smoke of countless campfires hung thick in the motionless evening air, and the entire hollow twinkled in the light of countless lamps and flickering candles.  Laughter and jocularity rose spasmodically from a number of well lit gatherings down below, and a melancholy rendition of “Little Annie Laurie”, scratched out hesitantly on a pair of slightly flat fiddles, rose plaintively from a massive canvas covered structure in the center of the scene. We eventually found access to the main street and proceeded slowly and deliberately in the waning light until we reached a large open area in front of the crowded tent.  This was evidently the heart of downtown. Main Street, lined on each side with false storefronts, dropped in a gentle grade from the east; widening and splitting as it approached a long row of canvas covered shops.  At the east end of this row of shops stood a bell tower as high as any building in town.  Main Street proceeded west, past a number of dimly lit but well patronized saloons, and Center Street led quickly toward a row of barns and stables which faced the rear of the shops to their south and hung precariously over the banks of scenic Hangtown Creek to the north.

Hangtown bell tower

Twilight arrived early that evening. The storm abated, and despite occasional flurries the moon shone down at intervals through a partly cloudy sky, lending an eerie translucence to the scene and casting curious shadows on the glimmering snow. The breathtaking beauty of the mountains once more overcame me.  The magnificent ponderosa pines leaned and swayed precariously, each bow hanging heavy, laden with a mantel of white.  The air was still and silent, with only the occasional pop of an overburdened limb disturbing the quiet as it echoed from the canyon beyond. Smoke boiled and billowed from a forest of stovepipes, and the sound of kindling being chopped rang at intervals from a series of locations and echoed from the ravine. I stood for a long time, shivering and staring awestruck across the snow-covered Sierras.  I’ve never experienced air fresher, shadows deeper, or a scene so extraordinarily quiet and pristine.  You’ll laugh and think I’m crazy, but it seemed as though I could almost hear the stars.  On the afternoon of the fifth day, a bitter north wind whipped down from the high country. The storm returned with a vengeance and the temperature dropped to around thirty degrees.  I pulled my chair closer to the potbellied stove and poured myself some coffee from the gray graniteware pot. As twilight approached I sat staring out the window and listening to the moan of the howling wind as it tore at the shingles and rattled the chimney cap.  I could hear the hiss of sleet as it began filling the ruts and hoof prints in the muddy street, and icicles began to form and hung in profusion from the eaves. The sleet came down fitfully against the window and periodically a gust of wind would find its way down the stovepipe and the old cast iron heater would belch smoke from around its dampers and red hot lid.  After a while the rough plank roof began dripping and leaking like a sieve, and one by one a strategically placed company of pots and kettles joined in a chorus of plinks, plops and piddles as they filled quickly with their captured leakage and began splashing rhythmically on the floor.  Clearing a spot on the frosted windowpane, I squinted and peered outside. The snow was coming down in earnest now, and the street was entirely abandoned, with the exception of a few hardy souls on the boardwalk by the bell tower. I warmed a blanket for myself, kicked back in my chair and leaned against the wall.  The stove dampers were wide open, and I remember watching the firelight dancing on the wall. Then the cobwebs came and darkness took me in.

Hangtown, 1890


The Ivy House & Federated Church, Main and Cedar Ravine


Sometimes in the evening 
when the sun is sinking low,
And the pines are silhouetted 
And I’ve nowhere else to go,
I remember good ol’ Placerville 
In the distant days of yore,
And I’d very nearly sell my soul 
To walk its streets once more.
When its avenues were dusty 
And its storefronts weathered wood,
When the girls were thin and lusty 
And the Ivy House still stood;
When Main Street ran a rutted course 
And blooms were yet a bud,
The only ride to town, a horse, 
And gold was in our blood;
When the Hangman’s Tree served nickel beer, 
The Cary House was new;
Lamp-lit saloons exuded cheer 
And frosty mugs of brew,
The three mile house was always full, 
Lake Tahoe days away,
And folks who stopped at Hangtown 
Almost always came to stay.
Father in Heaven, hear my prayer. 
Dear God, please grant my plea.
If I could just awaken there. 
If time could set me free.
If once more I could stroll its streets 
And once more breathe its air,
I know there’s soul’s aplenty Lord 
Who could benefit from prayer.

Bell Tower festivities, 1898

Once upon a time, the world rang with bells.  There were cowbells, school bells, dinner bells, train bells, doorbells, ships’ bells, fire bells, church bells, hames bells, Christmas bells, the rhythmic ringing of the blacksmiths anvil, and of course, The Bell Tower. Every single season tolled melodiously with bells.

Placerville, 1910
The early 1850s found old Hangtown up one minute and down the next but always hanging tough.  The irrepressible ravine city was forever booming or busting.  In 1852 the little metropolis was thriving and rapidly gaining renown as the bustling hub of activity in the heart of the mother lode. The spring rains in Hangtown are long and leisurely, but once they quit they’re done! By June of 1852 Hangtown was bone-dry and cactus thirsty.  The higher elevations held a deep luxurious snow pack and the creeks were running high, but below three thousand feet the purple vetch was drying up, the roads were dusty, and the creeks were choked with mud. Even the poppies were peaked. The mountains became open range. Pigs rooted for acorns, chap-clad cowboys searched the ridges for strays, the lush mountain meadows became home to dairies, and a melancholy chorus of cowbells filled the air. The picturesque structures along Main Street were in a constant state of metamorphosis.  The tinder dry buildings were forever burning down, abandoned, or completely renovated. Main Street itself, for whatever reason, never seemed to change.  The real estate changed hands and the ramshackle, rough-sawn facades were gradually replaced by brick and iron, but the dusty, rut-riddled boulevard held tenaciously to its steady, time-honored course, past the courthouse, down the grade, and widening for its familiar promenade at the belltower before narrowing at the Round Tent and making a beeline passed the cozy inns and the dimly lit saloons. The already infamous settlement gradually spread northward into Bedford’s tent city and eastward up Hangtown Creek. Eventually referred to as upper and lower town, the long narrow settlement was bisected by a crossing near Blair’s Lumber Yard where upper town proceeded eastward along the creek until gradually petering out just short of Smith Flat, home of Three Mile House and the Blue Lead Mine. 

Placerville, California 1900


Soft through the pines the summer breeze is blowing,
Sweet, solemn music to me.
Lightly through my mind old memories are flowing,
Tender thoughts of what life used to be.
Souls called away, golden days amid the tall grass;
Laughter lingers deep in my heart.
Pleasant moments shared, vibrant dreams of youth are ageless.
Hope unites though time may bid us part.
Shadows of time when the hours passed in moments,
Tender moments priceless to recall;
Futures to share, happy destinies awaiting,
Summer slipping gently into fall.
Seasons quickly pass. Our memories turn to treasure,
God’s gift to those who remain.
Sorrow slips away while our hearts preserve life’s pleasure.
Grief fades, but joy we retain.
Mosquito Bridge, 1914

Mosquito Road winds along ridge top and ravine and eventually crosses a lava strewn flat.  Here in the midst of pine needle covered hillsides of red clay and granite, some ancient, unrecorded volcanic action has created an unlikely landscape of unearthly geological formations and conglomerated lava.  In the middle of this desolate and unlikely location, for some reason known only to them, a handful of Chinese immigrants have established a unique and isolated community.  Here these peculiar, standoffish Argonauts prepare their ceremonial teas and enjoy the euphoric contents of their noxious clay pipes beyond the scrutiny of a disapproving society and with little fear of interruption. Finding the occupants entirely sociable, we struck up a conversation and visited for about an hour. And then, our lightly steeped libations consumed and the need for cordiality satisfied, we climbed back in the wagon and hames bells jingling continued on our way. Reaching the summit of a pine covered ridge, we rested the mules briefly and then began our cautious decent into the rugged canyon of the American River’s renowned south fork.  The already treacherous thoroughfare soon lost all semblance of a road and gradually took on the unmistakable characteristics of a dry creek bed!  Arriving eventually at the foot of a thickly wooded hill, we rode apprehensively to the edge of a deep precipice and stared in awe. At this point the prehistoric gorge was spanned defiantly by a picturesque but unnerving little suspension bridge.  Constructed of gigantic, rough sawn timbers, and suspended by equally impressive cables, the primitive little conduit proceeded courageously out into thin air, and then extended precariously at a dizzying height, over a tumultuous rush of rampaging fury.  The river was running high with the frigid runoff from the mountains generous and rapidly melting snow pack, and the reverberations of its unbridled onslaught resulted in a primal roar that literally shook the bridge. The midpoint of this remarkable swinging bridge afforded a spectacular vista of the riverbed some thirty feet below.  Beneath us, the gut wrenching force of the rampaging river boiled and bounded through a series of violently rolling rapids and unique cylindrical formations which long eons of gradual erosion had carved into the solid granite base.  The road swung immediately to the left at the opposite side of the gorge, supported by an outcropping of granite whose overhang provided home to a community of tiny bats.   Below us the restless current intermittently exhibited a fleeting streak of silver as a rainbow trout would erupt from the surface in a frenzied attempt to surmount the foaming falls.  Irrigated by the rising mists, lush growths of moss clung tenaciously to the rugged bluffs, and here and there a maidenhair fern found a hold and spread luxuriously in the canyons filtered light. Here in this unexpected haven we parked the rig and spread a quilt for lunch. Steller’s Jays piped from the canopy of Live oaks, and as the summer sun shone intermittently from behind a wispy sea of cumulous clouds, the mist that rose from the tumultuous rapids below periodically burst into a brilliant rainbow.  The temperature warmed into the low eighties, and we sprawled on our blanket luxuriously full and absorbed the summer sun. Following a long, leisurely lunch, we proceeded across the swinging bridge and began our laborious ascent.  The narrow trail ascended the cliff face in a series of narrow switchbacks, which zigzagged back and forth in a gradual climb and periodically afforded an unobstructed view, almost perpendicularly from the trails edge, one hundred feet to the boulder-buffeted torrent below. Negotiating the barely maneuverable switchbacks we eventually approached the top of a pine-covered ridge.  The distant roar of the river dissipated and grew silent, replaced by the chattering of the gregarious nuthatches and chickadees which darted in and out of the cone clad bows that hung in profusion from the pine and Douglas fir.  Gradually the incessant drone of insects and the familiar but indescribable sound of the breeze in the towering evergreens lulled us into a drowsiness which left us nodding and semiconscious in the gently rocking wagon.  The mules set their own casual pace, occasionally addressing a persistent fly with a leisurely swish of their tails, and pausing briefly from time to time to brose on a tempting morsel along the way.

Hangtown, 1860
1859 sounded a sweet note in old Hangtown’s colorful history.  As California’s neighbor to the east, Nevada had benefited as easterners poured through the arid, inhospitable country in route to California and its gold.  Now the tables turned.  Some 100 miles from the Sacramento Valley the remote and previously benign outpost of Virginia City, Nevada all at once exploded on the scene. With the discovery of silver, Nevada’s Comstock Lode began drawing a new generation of Argonauts. They came from far and wide enticed once again by fame, fortune, and unprecedented wealth.  Placerville would once again benefit by its fortuitous location.   As Hangtown prospered as people poured into El Dorado County for its gold, they would now find themselves strategically located along California’s route to Virginia City’s booming Comstock Lode.  The tenacious little city in the ravine would now find the traffic flow reversed, but a rush is a rush. Hangtown’s boom was back. The lure of the Comstock represented an irresistible draw to spectators, prospectors, and speculators of every conceivable kind.  Starry-eyed optimists were drawn out of southern California in droves, and the route of choice was the Placerville stage road. Old Hangtown was fast becoming civilized.  The city fathers were passing a new ordinance every week.  We knew we’d reached a new level of sophistication when they posted an ordinance which prohibited a feller from relieving hisself in the street.  The idea, though well received, soon proved impractical and was later amended to apply to Main Street only.  That was a relief!  Finally they whittled her down just right by adding the clause, during business hours. By 1860 traffic through old Hangtown was thicker than flatlanders at a water rights revolt.  You literally risked your life to cross the street. From Hangtown to Tahoe the stations and stage stops were open twenty-four/seven, but if you dared pull off you lost your place in line, and it often took hours for another chance to merge.  During the summer the dust was so deep it was like walking through sifted flour, and when it rained the mud holes could claim a horse.  It took a good forty-five minutes to drive the length of our booming metropolis, and very few managed the dust-choked travail without stopping in town for a frosty mug of beer. Many colorful saloons graced the now booming metropolis, with each establishment much like the next. The floors were strewn with numerous and sundry containers, strategically placed for the purpose of capturing leakage, and a company of tarnished brass cuspidors stood at the ready along the base of a well polished and ornate bar.  Coal oil lamps flickered determinedly from within their soot-choked chimneys, and the atmosphere was permeated with a thick cloud of noxious smoke which belched from the dampers of well-stoked wood heaters and countless cheap cigars. Against the rear wall of the establishment a humidity-ravaged piano bravely plinked out a barely recognizable medley of Irish tavern tunes, in competition with an unsympathetic chorus of clanking utensils and beverage induced jocularity.

Happy Tom's, 1899

Seasons are a wondrous thing, but time is resolute, and with time, each season will pass. Spring and summer are favorite seasons in Placerville. The foothills are alive with budding orchards and absolutely inundated with blooms.  Purple vetch climbs the fencerows, lush vines of sweet peas transform the roadsides into luxurious displays of pastel pink, opulent spires of china blue lupine and magnificent golden poppies carpet the hillsides, and the lazy drone of honeybees fills the air. Oh to be barefoot, youthful and free, and intoxicated with summer.  Dear God, thank you for life’s seasons. Through the seasons much of old Hangtown has been lost to the passage of time, but thanks to the tireless efforts of many dedicated people, shades of Hangtown survive today in Placerville. In my mind’s eye she still exudes the uncivil scent of sawdust floors and canvas. The rustic, rough-sawn facades glow hospitably in crimson shades of long spent sunsets, and rows of tents glow pleasantly, flickering with myriad lamps.

The Sierras

I remember sitting by a crackling fire high in the Sierra Nevada’s and listening to the ill-tempered Jerseys filing past with their cowbells clanking, their babies bawling, and the old bull curling his lip and looking for work. I remember standing on the rough plank sidewalk outside the Ivy House, inhaling the aroma of grilled ribs sizzling over Manzanita coals, and watching the massive freight wagons lumber by with harness squeaking, hames bells jingling, and the iron-clad rims of hickory-spoked wheels smashing the gravel to dust beneath their cumbersome tonnage of crocks of butter and barrels of fragrant cheese. I remember believing that my whole life would be a long and wondrous adventure.  And it was.


Up on the hill where the pines grow dense;
Where the fields are green and the sky immense,
Scatter one day my last remains,
To be drawn in the earth by the gentle rains.
Gladly did I tread this place
With the gentle breeze upon my face,
A faithful dog for company,
And benevolent sun beaming down on me.
Thank the Lord for the time we had,
When rest was blessed and toil was glad,
When joyous hearts rejoiced in truth,
And we shared our hopes and dreams and youth.
Look to the heavens bright and blessed.
See me satisfied, caressed.
Know at last I’m free from care.
My dust is here, but my spirit there.

Laura Ellen Oldfield Camp, Asa Steven Camp & children
By way of introduction my name is Shannon Thomas Casebeer. I was born in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California and raised on a little piece of paradise called Reservoir Hill.  Idyllic childhoods are mighty few and mighty far between, and I didn’t deserve one, but some of us just get lucky. Near the top of Reservoir Hill on the banks of historic South Fork ditch and overlooking the snowcapped Sierras to the north, the coastal range to the west, the Sacramento valley to the south, and Miller’s pear orchard to the east were the homes of my mom’s parents and her dad’s mother, Meda Eliza Camp Daniels. 

Meda Eliza Camp Daniels & Asa Wilder Daniels

Meda’s Husband, my great grandpa, Asa Wilder Daniels arrived in Placerville in 1888, purchased 40 acres on Reservoir Hill, and served for some time as Justice of The Peace. Her father, Asa Steven Camp, arrived in Hangtown with his father, Clark, in 1849, filed several claims in order to try their hand at prospecting, and then after accompanying his father safely home, returned to Placerville in 1854. 

Camp/Daniels Home, Reservoir Hill, 1910

I have many vivid memories of walking the tree lined lane from my home on Mosquito Road, up the hill past my great grandma’s home and on to the home of my grandma and granddad Daniels. Passing Great Grandma’s window I was occasionally waved down and invited inside to warm myself by her wood range and snack on the candied figs which she’d dried in the sun before steaming and coating with sugar.  My favorite room was the kitchen.  Even now I can close my eyes and picture it in every detail just as it looked those long years ago. I can see the old wood range in the corner of the cozy kitchen and hear the clanking of its lids as great Grandma painstakingly brought the range to life. I remember how the nickel handles and black cast iron stovetop shone in the flickering light of the coal oil lamp as she polished them with a wax covered bread wrapper. I smell the sulfur and see the flash and flutter of the wooden match as she lit the crumpled newspaper. I hear the cast-iron clanking of the dampers being open and the crackling of the fire as Grandma carefully fed kindling to the growing flame. I remember peeking in through the open dampers at the glowing embers on the grate, watching their light dancing on the wall, and gazing up at the warming oven in expectation of the golden brown treasures that would soon be steaming inside. On a few occasions I recall sitting in her lap in the old rocking chair.  The wood range would crackle and pop pleasantly from the corner of the cozy kitchen, and great Grandma would carefully unfold and read aloud from the same little muslin book that had mesmerized my granddad as a child. 

Time with Granddad was always a special treat and rarely did a summer pass without Granddad seeing to it that the entire family enjoyed a series of camping trips high in the Sierras, where Granddad had camped with his family all his life.  All variety of kith and kin accompanied us on these woodland adventures, including Granddad’s brother and sister and of course his mom, who camped with us until age 93.  As a little girl, Great Grandma’s mom, Laura Ellen Oldfield Camp, had crossed the plains by covered wagon, making the trek from Wisconsin to old Hangtown back in 1854 when the rut riddled boulevard west was often impassable, and Native Americans still thrived on vast herds of migrating buffalo. Camping was in our blood. We camped much as the family had for generations. Granddad had built red wooden sideboards for his 1941 Chevy, so the little pickup was well prepared to house all the essentials of camping, and with the addition of a canvas cover provided snug sleeping quarters at night.  I remember well crawling from my own sleeping bag at first light, in order to join my grandparents in the cozy bed of the old Chevy. I remember Granddad’s beaming smile and mass of disheveled gray hair as he peeked from under the covers. I recall how snug and warm it felt crawling under that down comforter after kicking off my moccasins on the tailgate, the feel and smell of the canvas cover rustling in the mountain air, and gazing at stars through silhouetted pines. Once the fire was lit, Sis and I would dress quickly and join the rest of the family, warming our backsides at a stone lined campfire and anticipating the smell of coffee brewing in the graniteware coffee pot, and the debilitating aroma of pancakes and bacon sizzling on Great Grandma’s griddle.  Stellar Blue Jays called from the canopy of old growth pines. The welcome sun cascaded down through the lush boughs of evergreen. Off in the distance rainbow trout snatched Mayflies from the cobalt blue surface of pristine mountain lake. And my mind’s eye envisioned my granddad’s granddad crossing the country by covered wagon long ago when Indians roamed these hills. Such were the days of my childhood, when life seemed simple, summer was perennial, and childlike faith assured tomorrows joys.  Treasure your memories, keep them fresh and never take them for granted.  Even our memories can fade with the harsh glare of time. 


When our hopes and dreams grow faded,
And we miss the friends who cared,
And old times are consecrated
By the golden hours we’ve shared;
When the streets we tread so long ago
Come back to haunt our dreams,
And we treasure those we used to know
And conjure up old schemes;
When old associates fill our heart
And refresh our weary mind,
And we feel as one though miles apart
And old woes wax sublime,
When our flesh at best contains us
And we’re far from hearth and friend,
May fond memories then sustain us
Till we meet at last again.                                                           
All rights reserved
With special thanks to the El Dorado County Historical Society

Shannon Thomas Casebeer

Thursday, January 1, 2015


My resolution, as always, is to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. I encourage others to do likewise. If we each do that, 2015 has tremendous potential for peace and prosperity for all.