A History of Tuolumne CA

"Like the recession of a wave we wait in anticipation for the next rush that will
cover us with what once was."

This is merely an attempt to conserve the truth. I did find discrepancies in the
recordings of these events and where necessary used romantic license to bind
the story.

Act 1

In 1850 the Township of Tuolumne was established by the newly formed
California Legislature. That same year at the age of 24 Franklin Summers,
would travel “Round the Horn” to visit his 3 brothers in the gold fields of
California. His oldest brother George a doctor, his older brother James and his
younger brother Jack (John) who is just 18 had already staked their claim in
Shaw’s Flat during the gold rush of 1849. The following year Franklin returns
home to Missouri with the intention of bring back his young wife Elizabeth and
their 2 year old daughter Lee Ann. Before leaving he orders and pays for
enough lumber to build his new family home on his return. Traveling with him
will also be his parents and the rest of his 9 brothers and sisters. This time
they will be going overland along the Oregon Trail and in the spring of 1852
the Summers family set out for California. During their journey the family
experiences the loss of Frank’s younger sister Emily and then his father
Samuel. Finally, after 6 months of traveling the family arrives at Shaw’s Flat in
November of 1852. Time passes quickly and in 1854 Franklin sells his claim.
Looking for greener pastures the young couple decide on a place in the
Tuolumne Township, a 2 day, 10 mile journey into nowhere. Packing up their
worldly possessions in an oxcart Franklin, Elizabeth and Lee Ann make the trip
to the west bank of Turnback Creek. Sparsely populated at the time of their
arrival, the Summers’ chose a location in the vicinity of what is now Crowbar
Lane on Tuolumne Road North. Their new log home was a simple structure
with a dirt floor and a fireplace to provide heat during the unusually cold
winter of 1854. The following spring they planted a garden with the seeds
they had brought from Missouri. Later on that year Elizabeth would bare a son
calling his name John. For just a moment all was right in the world.

Now if you're hoping that our story takes this brave couple from these humble
beginnings and somehow catapults them into riches, comfort and  living
happily ever after you will be disappointed. For the violence and injustice that
marks this period in California History is preparing to cast its shadow over our
hero's. In the course of the following year their family would suffer a
devastating loss.

Enter the villains, the James Dickinson family. On a cold day in March of 1856,
Frank Summers and his brother George made the 40 mile journey to the Fifth
District Courthouse in La Grange to settle a land dispute with the Dickinson’s.
La Grange with its' new found wealth had just become the new seat for
Stanislaus County. The Dickinson's were an influential family in La Grange
running the local ferry. Ill feelings had been brewing between the two families
for years and finally they were going to have their day in court. After a day of
arguing their cases it was just about sundown when the court was adjourned.
James and his friends consisting of some 15 men had left the courtroom and
were thought to have started home. George and Frank Summers remained
conversing with each other. When the 2 turned to leave the building the group
reentered and began to brutally attack them. The brawl that ensued ended in
gunfire. George Summers was knocked down and shot at six times while lying
on the floor. Frank was shot in the thigh then his right arm which broke into
splinters above the elbow. Another ball entering his chest traveled through his
left lung and exited under his left shoulder blade. The final shot hit him
square in the chest killing him instantly. George Summers tells it like this, ’"I
was struck in the face. I thought one man took hold of me by the hair of the
head, pulled me about half-bent, and held me in that position, whilst some
others gave me blows. After some little tussling they jerked me to the floor.
About this time I heard the report of a pistol, several others in quick
succession. I could see no one for the men over me. I was stamped, beaten
and shot at I suppose, as I have been creditably informed that six ball holes
were in the floor near where my head lay, endeavoring to blow my brains out.
The firing ceased, they drew me out of the house by the hair of my head,
believing me to be dead, without a doubt, and still continuing to stamp me.
My deceased brother was by my side when the row commenced. I saw him no
more until I saw him a corpse." There are no records indicating any justice for
the Summers Family. The altercation seems to have been considered an act of
self defense.

The hopes and dreams of 24 year old Elizabeth Summers had been shattered.
"Oh, the awful sorrow and desolation of that bereft home" recalls Lee Ann
Summers who was just 7 years old at the time. The woman who had left the
comforts of civilization and traveled months across Indian territory was now
alone with 2 small children in the middle of nowhere.

That Spring, Men began pouring in from all over the world seeking their share
of the unclaimed  riches that were scattered across the Mother Lode. The
Summers home on Turnback Creek becomes the stage for a wild gold rush,
littering the landscape with pans, rockers and sluice boxes that were the
implements of gold fever. Almost overnight the nearby towns of Long Gulch
and Cherokee sprang into existence. With no means of support, the widow
Summers would eventually turn what once was her family home into a
boarding house. Elizabeth took in strangers and treated them as her own
family, most of the time she provided miners with food and shelter until they
could afford to pay her.

Act 2

Now gold is gathered in many ways and placer gold is found in places where
water was or is flowing. These deposits are the result of erosion that occurs
over many years as the rain washes bits and pieces of gold from the mountain
sides and gathers them into streams and rivers. Basically, it's the stuff that
you can find right on top of the ground or with a little digging. Since the creek
is not the source but the repository, there remains a limited supply.

At this point I must introduce 2 vital characters in our story, William Connolly
and Charles H. Carter. You will remember I mentioned that other settlements
had sprung up as a result of placer gold being discovered in Turnback Creek.
Located two miles south of Summersville, out what is now Apple Colony Road
and Baker's Ranch, stood the town of Long Gulch. Here Charles H. Carter, had
just purchased the General Store was enjoying the fruits of entrepreneurial
bliss. As was often the custom in that day Carters Store was the site of a
meetings held by local miners. One night in 1857 the topic of discussion was
whether or not to allow Chinese into the area. The debate raged for hours into
the night and ended when several miners went outside, got their guns and
proceeded to shoot up Mr. Carters Store. One eye wittiness said "it looked like
a slaughter-house". The assault left one man dead and several wounded. One
of the injured men was William Connolly.

Remember how I said Elizabeth Summers would help miners until they could
get on their feet? Well, Mr. Connolly was one of those men. It took months for
him to mend and as Elizabeth cared for him her heart began to entertain
feelings of love once again. About the same time, as fortune would have it,
brothers William and James Blakely needed a place to stay and someone to
take care of them. Elizabeth did so with the expectation that when they were
able she would be compensated. She didn't have to wait to long for the two
coal miners from Cornwall England eventually discover a massive quartz lode
about two hundred yards off present day First Avenue. Christened the “Eureka
Quartz Mine“ the 600 foot wide, 1200 foot long claim would revitalize the
community and make the Blakely brothers very rich. This event came at a very
critical time in the towns history. You see by 1857 it was becoming apparent
to everyone that the placer gold deposits were running out. What had taken
nature years to accumulate in the streams and creek beds around Tuolumne
Township had been almost fully harvested.

Men from all over poured in and some of the miners begin to call the area
Quartzville. The Blakely brothers, now the most influential men in the area
would have none of it. They went to Mrs. Summers who had been so kind to
them and asked her permission to call the new town "Elizabethville". Mrs.
Summers declined the honor suggesting the settlement be named
“Summersville” in memory of her late husband and so it was.

Meanwhile, Charles Carter seeing an opportunity to expand his interests as
well, moves his entire operation to Summersville, just a few hundred yards
from the site of the new Eureka Mine. Mr. Carter built his new store on the
Northeast side of the Town Plaza located on what is now the North corner of
Buchanan Mine Road and Carter Street. The Plaza or The Commons as it is
called now became the center of the business district.

The love between the widow Summers and Mr. Connolly continued to grow
during this period and in August of 1858 they were married. The couple would
eventually move out on Apple Colony Road and start a ranch. They would have
4 sons, William Jr, Charles, Frank, George and a daughter Alice. William Sr
was eventually elected to the State Assembly and died while away in
Sacramento. Elizabeth spent her remaining years at her son Charles' dairy in
Long Gulch and passed out of this life on December 5th of 1901 at the age of

The Blakely brothers didn't fair so well. Shortly after selling their interest in
the Eureka Quartz Mine they be came involved in a plot to swindle Jim Lyons
out of his land near Sullivan's Creek. The normally good natured Lyons was an
illiterate but trusting soul. However, upon finding out that he had actually
signed away his interests in his valuable estate he shot and killed William.
James would lose an arm in the incident and not much is recorded after this.

Over the years, little by little, Summersville grows into a thriving community
with stores, hotels, saloons, a doctor, a lawyer, butcher shops, drug stores, an
express office, fraternal organizations, several churches, a cigar manufacturer,
livery stables, barber shops, milliners and dressmakers. Mary Francis
Summers, Sister to Frank and George had married William Gibbs and in 1860
they along with their 11 children moved to Summersville. Eventually their boys
James and Jessy would open Gibbs Brothers General Merchandise.

Thirty years come and go and in 1888 Summersville residents petitioned to
have their own post office. Fearing confusion, the Postal Service denied the
town’s petition because an existing post office called “Somersville” in Contra
Costa County. Later that year it was agreed that since the post office was
located at the store of Charles Carter, the town would be called “Carters”. The
request was subsequently affirmed and on December 14, 1888 Carters was

Act 3

On January 1st 1897 the Sierra Railway of California was incorporated. New
York entrepreneur Thomas S. Bullock along with banker William Crocker of the
Sierra Pacific Railroad and Polish Prince, Andre Poniatowski who represented
wealthy French investors begin to lay the first forty-one miles of track from
Oakdale to Jamestown. Bullock, who had been competitively forced out of
Arizona brought the rails and engines from his original railroad investments on
the Prescott and Arizona Central. By November 10th at the end of the line the
new Jamestown depot hosted a roundhouse and the operations central
maintenance facility. The connection line to Sonora was completed in February
of 1899. No, I haven’t taken you off on some wild tangent, this is going

In March of 1899 the group purchases 600 hundred acres from Frank Baker, a
Canadian immigrant who with his wife Delia had set up a ranch on Turnback
Creek in 1882. Then in May of 1899 with the help of Henry J. Crocker,
Wellington Gregg, and Charles Gardner forms the West Side Flume & Lumber
Co. From the depot in Sonora they add another 12 miles to reach the outskirts
of Carters and the portion of land they purchased from the Bakers. By February
1 of 1900 the project is complete. At the end of the line sits the newly
constructed lumber mill, rail station and corporate offices. The Depot Plaza at
New Town becomes known as the “Tuolumne Station” and later that year the
WSFL&LC incorporates the Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite Valley RR (narrow gauge).
In 1901, Bullock opens the Turnback Inn and establishes a post office in the
WSFL&LC corporate offices. Two devastating fires in 1905 and 1906  pretty
much level the “Old Town” taking with it the Carters store/post office. The
only buildings left standing are Lord’s Butcher Shop and The Templar's Hall.
1908, the Old Town and New Town post offices are combined at one location.
However, the official name for the area was resolved in a different way and
the community was officially named Tuolumne in 1909.

More to Come...

Copyright © 2011 Tony Krieg All Rights Reserved
Sources of Information:
Tuolumne City Memorial Museum
Tuolumne County Historical Society
Sierra Rail Road
California State Rail Road Museum
Online Archives of California
Sierra Logging Museum
Goby's List of Historic Sites

Special thanks to Rick and Lynn
Jerome of
The Tuolumne City
Memorial Museum and Ron Parker.

Photographs used with the permission of the
TCMM and can be purchased at the Museum.
Tuolumne Station
WSF&LC corporate offices
Westside  Lumber Company
Gold Rush Cabin
Summersville Hotel
Carters Store in Summersville
Connolly's Dairy in Long Gulch
Frank and Delia Baker
Early Prospectors
Gibbs Brothers Store