A cluster of cool, clear springs surrounded by oaks and sugar pines made this spot a natural stopping point for emigrants traveling along the Carson Emigrant Trail. One such traveler was David B. Scott, who left Monroe, Michigan in 1849 to cross the plains and come to California. He was so impressed with this area that when his party disbanded in Sutterville, he returned here with a group of men in 1850 and erected a shingle machine near the springs, from whence the town took its name. Operated by horse power, the shingle machine produced sixteen thousand shingles a day, worth between $800 and $900 delivered at Sacramento.
Mining began in the area in 1850 and met with varying degrees of success. The canyons and gulches surrounding the camp were fickle, some hardly worth working, while some were extremely rich. Grizzly Gulch was reported to be one of the richest spots in the county, paying at one time up to $200 per rocker per day. Slowly, the camp grew, and miners’ cabins stretched out along the gullies and creeks.
Several of the earliest buildings in Shingle Springs were put up as stopping places for travelers; the Shingle Spring House built by one of the Bartlett brothers in 1850; the Missouri House built in 1851; the Planters House erected by R.S. Wakefield in 1852.
The post office came to town in 1853, four years before the general store. Up until 1856, the settlers and miners had to travel to nearby Buckeye Flat for supplies, as no store was located in Shingle Springs. The first store in town finally opened in 1857. Located near the Planters House, the store was an instant success, thanks to the patronage of the local miners.
Shingle Springs is located five miles west of El Dorado via Mother Lode Highway.
The Wells Fargo & Co. Building is (was) located on the south side of the Mother Lode Highway. This handsome, two-story structure was built with semi-dressed native stone and features deep-set, arched doorways in both the lower and upper stories. The peaked, wooden roof once common throughout the Gold Country is still intact, unlike many of its contemporaries. At one time an elaborate balcony stretched across the face of the building; it has long since disappeared. Besides the Wells Fargo & Co. office, the building once housed the Phelps Store. At the time of this writing (1995), efforts were underway to restore the old “Stone House.”
I haven't been back to this area since I took the above picture. Unfortunately, recent research leads me to believe this amazing building has suffered the same fate as many of California's Gold Rush era historic structures. I believe it is gone. If anyone has any knowledge, one way or the other about it still being in existence, please let me know.
The Phelps Store, circa 1930s.