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History of Indian Diggings

Located 25 miles southeast of Placerville near the El Dorado-Amador county border, Indian Diggings was founded in 1850 by prospectors from Fiddletown who happened upon some Miwok Indians panning for gold in the nearby Telegraph River. By the end of that year there were over 50 cabins, a store, and a saloon/gambling house. In 1853 the first post office opened. The population reached 2,000 in 1855 and there were nine stores, five hotels and numerous saloons. That same year it vied with Placerville to become the county seat which it lost by only a few votes.

Indian Diggings had a dubious reputation. And many interesting if not violent anecdotes surround the history of the town. The colorful history was partly recorded by a series of correspondence from Indian Diggings which were published in the Weekly Ledger Newspaper, printed 23 miles away in Placerville, regarding news from the town. These were signed “Miner”. In another letter to a newspaper a miner who signed himself “Flat Broke” describes his visit to Indian Diggings and raves about the water system.

  • An entire stretch of road known as “Whorehouse” gulch was ordered burned to the ground by Justice Jinkerson, hoping to somehow clear out the naughty night life.

  • A Captain Cleghorn, a Civil War Veteran with mental challenges was revered by local Native Americans and when he died his ghost was seen many times by locals.

  • The father of the Birdman of Alcatraz Robert Stround lived in the town.

  • In the summer of 1855 a man working on the Cedarville and Indian Creek ditches was caught in Nevada City after stealing the company’s money and another man’s wife. He gave back the money but kept the woman.

  • In another situation, a man took another man’s wife to a travelling circus performance. Confronted by the angry husband the man shot the husband in the leg who survived but was crippled for life.

  • Two miners arguing over a gambling game (ten pins) decided to settle it over pistol duel in the middle of the street. Unable to hit each other one of the men went back to his cabin for his rifle. Friends intervened and stopped the men.

  • Dr. White killed two miners living on Cedar Creek when they tried to destroy his dam. News reached Placerville and Coroner Eckalroth and a man named Mike Welch left for Indian Diggings. Arriving at Bucks Bar on the river late at night, Welch was washed down the rapids and never seen again; his body was never recovered. Dr. White fled to Tennessee where, when the Civil War came, he lost his life there.

The ban on hydraulic mining spelled the end of Indian Diggings in the 1870s and today it is a very small community. Only a few buildings remain including the Indian Diggings schoolhouse.

The cemetery is located on the road before the town site which is on private property.