The Mosquito Valley
High on the ridge of the Georgetown
Divide, about 10 miles north of Placerville along the Mosquito Road, is the community of
Mosquito. It is about six miles east of Garden Valley, and has about the same elevation as
Georgetown, which gives it a generally pleasant and moderate climate. The land is also
rich in natural amenities making it ideal for upscale suburban development, which began in
the 1960s. The Mosquito community is now the center of a semi-exclusive, 5,000 acre
residential development known as Swansboro Country, complete with its own lake and
only a modicum of hype, the Swansboro developer offers in its sales brochure a picturesque
image of Mosquito Valley: "Deer stand and watch you pass, gray squirrels flick their
bushy tails and chatter in concern. In springtime, dogwood and buckeye bloom and Scotch
broom scatters its gold across the hillsides in breathtaking brilliance against the
verdant green. In autumn, oaks and sycamores splash red and yellow through the forest, the
madrone curves its tattered trunk between the towering fir and pine, and manzanita spreads
a gray-green cover over the rich El Dorado earth. Through the multi-greens of summer or
the snow-trimmed fields of winter, streams play their crystal way across the rocks, and
waterfalls leap down seal-brown boulders or moss covered ledges."
C. Fremont was the first white man to traverse Mosquito Valley in 1844 on his trek west
along the north bank of the South Fork that took him and his expedition to the vicinity of
Pilot Hill and then on to Sutter's Fort at what the Spanish called Nueva Helvicia.
region was first mined in 1849. There were two major camps in the area. Nelsonville, the
more active camp where several stores were located, and Big House, also known as Lower
Town, which was inhabited mostly by "Spaniards," a Gold-Rush term that covered
about any Spanish-speaking ethnic group. The district known as "Little Mosquito"
became notable for the relatively large number of nuggets and chunks of gold that were
found, ranging in weight from 2 to 6 ounces.
was not a major gold mining district. Placer mining paid well at first but gave way to
quartz mining relatively quickly after the first strike, and quartz mining soon gave way
to agricultural uses and fruit growing. The first crop grown at Mosquito was potatoes,
however. Agriculture in the area was greatly aided by the Mosquito ditch that brought
water over a 16-mile stretch from Slab Creek; built in 1853 at a cost of $200,000 for the
miners, the canal soon became the major source of water for irrigation.
the only major commerce in Mosquito was the sawmill built in 1851 in One-Eye Canyon, so
named for the disability of its pioneer discoverer. The sawmill continued in operation for
many years after the placer and quartz mines played out. Mosquito was made a voting
precinct for the 1854 election. The first classes for school children were held in an
abandoned granary, and the first school house at Mosquito was built in 1862, the same year
a post office was established in Mosquito.
Paolo Sioli wrote, "Mosquito has always carried the name of being a quiet, peaceful
settlement," but he also notes that an Indian was lynched at the camp for killing a
visited Mosquito in the early 1880s and found "large and fine-looking orchards
producing excellent fruit of the harder varieties." He also was astonished "to
find in this hidden place so many enterprising and well-to-do farmers, as may be seen
without inquiry, observing the fine dwellings, fine barns and thrifty fields of grain and
Mosquito Road was first built to Mosquito and then extended on to Pino Grande, which
became the center of a significant timber region. The suspension bridge over the South
Fork about halfway between Placerville and Mosquito built in 1867 is still in use. It has
become a county historical landmark.
north on the Mosquito Road on the way to Pino Grande the traveler will find the ruins of a
massive resort hostelry built by A.P. Elder in the early 1920s. Though known as the Deer
View Lodge today, the building was called the Bret Harte Hotel by Elder.
Deer View Lodge was actually a much smaller structure located nearby. It had been built in
San Francisco for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. After the exposition
closed, Elder had the lodge disassembled, crated, and hauled to the Georgetown Divide,
where it was reassembled and used again as a lodge.
the years local historians and newspaper writers confused the two buildings and engrafted
the lodge's name on the hotel. The error was perhaps to be expected, as Elder called the
surrounding country "Deer View," which he further described as "Forest
Primeval." It lies just east of Little Soapwood Creek.
had planned the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, and he saw the Bret Harte Hotel
as a sort of vacation Shangri-La for the socialite millionaires of the Bay Area with
bountiful fishing, big-game hunting, and peaceful nature walks. Elder had a sense of
literary history, and he also saw the hotel as a preserve for busy, creative artists.
builder wrote, "There is nothing more transcendently beautiful on this planet than
this Hotel in its lines of Colonial and French architecture, with the giants of the forest
in perpetual green as its constant and loyal companions ... The sight of these giants of
the woods seems to set you up good and strong on your legs, and you breathe deep and full
... No other place like it in the world."
died in 1924 before the hotel was finished, and his heirs lacked his enthusiasm for the
project, allowing it to languish and deteriorate into dilapidation, a process which
culminated in its collapse following a severe winter snow storm in 1936. All that remains
now is the stonework. The hotel never opened; it never had a guest. It joined A.J.
Bayley's Pilot Hill hotel as another of El Dorado's magnificent failures.
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