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image of the Cool SignCool - A Town Once Up For Sale
By Richard Hughley, Mountain Democrat Columnist
Published: January 20, 2001

"At one time the entire town was listed Cool on the real estate market at $850,000, marked down from $1 million.
Apparently, there were no takers."

Cool is located in northwestern El Dorado County at the junction of Highways 49 and 193, just before the Auburn Grade slides precipitously into the canyon where the North and Middle forks of the American River conjoin just south of Auburn. It’s about four or five miles north of Pilot Hill.

image of an Old Barn in CoolCool in the Early Days

Before the Gold Rush, Cool was the site o  f a Maidu Indian village. Gold was discovered in the region as early as 1848, and Cool became the site of active placer mining in the 1850s when prospectors from Georgetown and Greenwood came looking for virgin placers. Cool quickly became the commercial center for surrounding mining camps such as Hogg’s Diggings and Wild Goose Flat. The site developed later into a stage stop on the road to Auburn from Georgetown and Coloma.

A ferry over the American River was established in 1850 connecting Auburn and Coloma, with Cool being the first or the last stop on the road, depending on the direction of travel.

image of No Hands BridgeA Vital Bridge

Commercial traffic from Georgetown and Placerville on the road was substantially increased in 1865 when W.C. Lyons constructed a suspension bridge just below the confluence of the North and Middle forks of the river. Lyons had initially built the bridge downriver at Condemned Bar, but when traffic there waned with the evacuation of the placers, he moved the structure to the 1865 location. The bridge was a vital link between Cave Valley and Auburn, where quarried limestone products could be taken for transshipment elsewhere. 

Today it is a small roadside village with a service station, store, restaurant and miscellaneous enterprises with a population of about 1,200 people, most of whom live in surrounding areas and at the Cherry Acres subdivision. At one time the entire town was listed on the real estate market at $850,000, marked down from $1 million. Apparently, there were no takers.

image of horse in Cool looking at the bridgeCool is nonetheless a fairly thriving community, due no doubt to its strategic location at the junction of Highways 49 and 193. And a few miles down the latter is the very upscale community of Auburn Lake Trails.

Like Rescue, Cool has a rather pedestrian and undescriptive name compared with other Gold Rush communities, such as Condemned Flat, Murderers Bar, and Placerville’s early moniker, “Hangtown.” 

Why is it called Cool?

Cool, located in the lower western Sierra Nevada foothills is quite hot about six months of the year; so the name hardly reflects the town’s temperature. Also like Rescue, Cool got its name when it acquired a post office in 1885. The Postmaster’s job is the result of political patronage, and public officials have never been accused of imagination or creativity in selecting town names.

The renaming Cool and Rescue should stand as an object lesson that Postmasters and their buddies should never be permitted to select names for California historic towns.

The ’49ers did their part, they called the camp and the surrounding community “Cave Valley,” in honor of the limestone caverns they found in the area. Only the fact that there already was a Cave Valley in California when the post office was established caused a change of name to “Cool.” “Alabaster” and “Coral Valley” were available, but the Postmaster favored the historic but bland “Cool.”

“Cool” was chosen to honor Aaron Cool, a New England cleric who came overland to California during the Gold Rush with a band of prospectors for whom he held Sunday services alongside a wagon for the travelers. He did his part during the journey: Besides ministering to the sick and praying for the dead, he did not hesitate to exchange his Bible for a six-gun when Indians attacked.