Glencoe, a small town of around 100 voters with a school, a post office, and store, is situated about nine miles east of Mokelumne Hill.
In the early days it was known as Mosquito Gulch. The early settlers mined the gulch and on account of the marsh-land and so many water holes the mosquitoes flourished and there seemed to be more mosquitoes here than anywhere around. There were steep hills all around running down to the gulch. The first locations were taken up and the houses built right along the creek.
George W. Berry operated a store on the south side of Mosquito Gulch in 1879.
Jerome Burt and son, Bill, operated a store on the north side of the Mosquito Gulch about the same time and on, until after the turn of the century. Burt’s General Store was a two-story wood structure with a post office and store room on the ground floor and a dance hall upstairs. The stairs leading up to the dance hall were on the outside of the building.
At one time the Mosquito Gulch School in the 7th District took in all the land to the east, including Rail Road Flat and Independence. This District No. 7 was divided on November 7, 1866, under Dr. F. D. Borston, and the eastern half was called Eureka School District, which later became Rail Road Flat School District.
The gravel was very rich along Mosquito Gulch and many thousands of dollars were taken out with the crude hand mining of that day.
After the placer mining, came the hard rock mines– Norwich, Valentine, Banner, San Pedro, Mexican, Poor Man, Wolverine, Mondani, Fannie Marie, Stonewall Jackson were developed.
Frank Matson worked a mine with an arrastra in Wet Gulch at the junction of Pennsylvania Gulch, about three miles from Glencoe on the Independence Road. An old Mexican by the name of Breeto had a mill and mined near the Alfred Porteous home of today. Mr. Gillespi was an early day superintendent of the Valentine Mine.
On Three-Cent Flat, about two miles from the main town, there were coal pits where coal was made by burning oak wood under the ground for several weeks. The coal was used by blacksmiths for sharpening mining tools.
A man by the name of Benj. Franklin Woodford, nicknamed “Old Jerd,” had several coal pits on the Orion Ames ranch. After the mining had slowed up many people homesteaded small farms and ranches. This was about 1880. These names of ranchers are familiar to all old-timers: Wm. Woodcock, Bartolo Malaspina, Orion Ames, Paul Kenner, Butcher John Etcheverry, John Ames, Francis Fairchild, Swen Danielson, Pete Albers, Stodzer, Richard McNamara, Henry Prackel and the Green Meadow Farm, now owned by the Wilcox family. All these ranches raised an abundance of fruit, especially pears, apples, quinces, plums, cherries, peaches, grapes, berries and walnuts. These thrifty farmers raised almost entirely everything they ate. All of them raised cattle. It behooved them to do so as the families were very large. The Danielsons had 13 children, the Orion Ames 11 children, the Francis Fairchilds 5, the John Ames 8 and the Geo. W. Berrys 8. Joe Woodcock entered the lumbering and sawmill business and used oxen to do the logging.
Numerous Indians roamed the hills at this time and in the fall and spring of the year bands of 300 to 500 Indians, men, women, and children, would camp on the Orion Ames ranch near what they called “cold spring.” They gathered acorns for winter. There are still the big ledges of slate rock on the old Orion Ames ranch upon a high hill where the Indians left round deep holes in which they ground the acorns to make acorn bread. The pestles are all packed away but the holes in the big rocks are still there as mute evidence of Indian camping grounds. Just down on another side hill on the Green Meadow Farm was the Indian burying grounds. When my father would plough these side hills the children would find loads of Indian beads, arrowheads, and other Indian relics. Old Emma, Old Indian Susie, Indian Dick and some others were more civilized in later years and would come to the white man’s house to beg food which was always given to them.
Bachelors [included] Humbug Henry, Jim Trainer, who was deaf but recited poetry, Andrew Willets, George Harker, Dick Chapman, Pete Leyden, Bartolo Malaspina, George Monroe. Ed Locasse, Jim Morrison, Alex Wright, Lorenzo Giles, who stabled the stage horses. He hauled mail to Rail Road Flat and West Point at one time.
Another mineral in this section was soapstone. A long mountain of soapstone is on the old Orion Ames ranch about two miles southeast of Glencoe on the Rail Road Flat Road. This soapstone was sawed into blocks and sold to miners and sawmills to encase the boilers. Many ranchers used it to make fireplaces in the early homes.
Francis Fairchild’s wife, Helen, began teaching a Sunday School in Glencoe about 1887 and kept it going faithfully as long as she was able. The trustees of the school gave her the use of the school house for her Sunday School and she was always very grateful. She was a very remarkable woman and would walk the 3 1/2 miles to and from church every Sunday, rain or shine. Her influence on the boys and girls in that community was felt all through their lifetime. A history of Glencoe would not be complete if I didn’t mention the home of the late Abe Bayles (the old Stoezer ranch). Mr. Bayles was a plasterer, and after he retired he decorated his house with colored plaster. One bed room has a ceiling like a birthday cake. Other rooms have birds and scenes of many colors, all made out of plaster. This place is called “Flowers of Gold” and the house is well-worth visiting to see what this artist had accomplished. It is really unique.
By Ruby E. Taylor, Las Calaveras 6(4)::3-4, July 1958