Garden Valley Overview
and History

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Garden Valley is a vital part of The Georgetown Divide, located primarily off of Marshall, Greenwood, Black Oak Mine and Garden Valley Roads roads, nestled in the chaparral between Greenwood and Kelsey. The Divide itself got its name because the whole area is divided by the South and North Forks of the American River, setting if off in a very private, scenic setting. Garden Valley is about 4 beautiful miles above the gold discovery town of Coloma and 4 equally scenic miles to Georgetown, and about 8 easy miles to Cool and Pilot Hill about 20-25 minutes through more rural beauty to Placerville off Hwy 50 and about 30 minutes to Auburn off of Hwy 80. Previously a booming mining town, now Garden Valley is a community with a shining and very active "community spirit" featuring activities such as its famed People's Mountain Market in the Summer, 4th of July Parade, October Harvest Festival, Community Forums, Easter Festival, and also  Hot August Picnic & Dance,  Christmas in the Park and a New Year's eve celebration (often featuring live bands and open mike at the Grange). Most of these activities take place in Garden Valley Park and Marshall Grange and often have live music and always lots of neighborly residents.

The community also gathers for home-baked goodies and open mike at the Bistro held at the Grange Hall on the 1st Saturday night of the month on Marshall Rd, above Sierra Foothills Realty and Rose's Cafe. The noted Garden Valley Staging area for horse trailers is off of Meadowbrook Rd., from Hwy 193 and has trails leading all over the Divide to Georgetown and include the Western States Trails. These are just a few of the things that make Garden Valley so special to its residents.


Crafted at a community meeting with about 20 residents
participating in 2002.

We are a thriving community
that values sustainable rural living.
We are giving and loving folks
who nurture the diversity of individuals
and the strength of the whole.
And we have fun doing it!



From its earliest days, Garden Valley has a been noted for its stately stands of oak trees --Black Oak, White Oak, Spanish Oak and Live Oak and its fruit and vegetable gardens that helped feed the 49ers--and many residents today.

It all happened around the fall of 1849 when a group of men from New York climbed out of Coloma, past the falls of Dutch Creek. The went up the first branch which was soon named Johntown Creek for about 5 miles until they came to a rocky dyke which they named Stoney Point. It is here, a short distance above Stony Point that the stream divides into branches--Empire Creek and Manhattan Creek. The group split. Part of the group went right with George Phipps up Empire Creek and formed George's Camp (Georgetown). The remaining explorers followed the left , Manhattan Creek. Some camped at the flat where the two creeks joined. This was John's camp, hence Johntown, just a stone's throw above Garden Valley.


A saw mill was built about 1/2 below the Johntown site by John Cody and Samuel and Thaddeus McConnell. This was the second saw mill in the mining region. The saw mill stood on a reef of rock on the north-side of Johntown Creek, a little below the present Community Hall. In 1851 a larger store was built by the McConnell's on the hillside above the mill. Most of the merchandise sold in their store came around the Horn, and they had a very good grade. Lumber from the mill was sold locally and any surplus found a ready market in Sacramento, where it sold for $300 per thousand. Most of the lumber was sawed in boards 30 inches wide. The two story store burned in the fire of June 1857 which destroyed most of Garden Valley.


About a mile south of the mill,  (and 1.5 miles south of Johntown) George and Stephen Pierce, two brothers, took possession of a piece of land and planted vegetables. This was called "Happy Flat Ravine." That fall they sold to the McConnel brothers. Thaddeus planted another garden there the following springs, and built a house, one room of which as used as a trading post. This location was referred to as "the Garden" and vegetables were sold to the neighboring camps.


At a July 4 celebration dinner, vegetables were served from the McConnell and Cody gardens (owners of the saw mill), and it was at this time the name of Garden Valley was proposed. When the post office was established there in December 16, 1952, Garden Valley was the named used.

Also, the name of the adjacent camp of Johntown persisted for many years and was listed as the voting-precinct through-out the 1850's.

William Gibbs, who arrived at Garden Valley August 25, 1850, described the camp at Johntown:

There were a few miners there working the creek, and a store and boarding house kept by a man named Fog Baty. The building was located on that beautiful flat at a point where Manhattan Creek enters Johntown Creek. We camped there one night on our way to Georgetown. . . .Soon afterwards the town began to build up. Large oaks stood all over the flat. Johntown Creek was very rich from its junction with the Manhattan Creek to Alabama Flat.


Garden Valley was destroyed by fire 1857. 


First established in early 1850s, Bill Tell's store was one that was rebuilt after the 1857 fire by Wm. Pedrini. In 1859 Rinaldo Filippini, a nephew, arrived from Switzerland and was given a job in the store and later  when it was reorganized in 1875, the store became known as the Filippini store. A sign out front said: 

R. Filippini & Co. (Groceries, Provisions, Liquors, Dry Goods, Boots, Shoes, Blasting Powder, Fuse, Etc) and "Choice butter and cheese always on hand" and in small print:  "interest will be charged on all bills after 60 days."

Rinaldo Filippini died on September 22, 1909. His widow and others continued to operate the old store until 1948 when it was gutted by fire. Today, only a few stone walls remain to remind area residents of the time when Filippini and Co. was Garden Valley's leading business.


The first school was built on top of Dry Creek Hill. In 1881 a new building was located nearer Garden Valley, on what was later known as the "Black Oak Mine" road (near the old Chinatown). At the time J. M. Miller was the teacher and there were 55 students.  When the Taylor mine reopened in 1888, the enrollment stayed high for a number of years. It is said the favorite playground was across the road under an old apple tree and it was not uncommon for the children to find small nuggets in the ruts in the road after a rain had washed them up. The school property was later part of the Black Oak Mine. In 1930s the enrollment rose again because of renewed mining activities. In 1934 Warren Russel, one of the students, said there were 35 students and Margaret Kelly was the teacher.

After finishing grammar school on the Divide, it was necessary to go to Placerville or Auburn to attend High School and this meant boarding in town as there were no buses to transport the pupils until many decades later. 

Most of this information Taken from "Hidden in the Chaparral" by Phyllis Gernes, long time Garden Valley Historian.
This is a chronicle from 1848 to 1942 of the Gold Rush towns of Spanish flat, Kelsey, American Flat and Garden Valley, copyright 1979.

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