Beyond Sacramento

You asked, we answered: Where did Rescue, California, get its name?

This story is part of our “Beyond Sacramento” series, a reader-driven initiative that lets you ask questions about our region that The Sacramento Bee explores and answers. Scroll to the form at the bottom of this article to submit your question.

The question, submitted by Twitter user Matt Buland, is “Where did the town of Rescue, in El Dorado County, get it’s name?”

There is a folk tale that goes like this: As the infamous Donner Party was stranded in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47, a rescue team assembled in El Dorado County. For their efforts, the area would later be known as “Rescue.”

While the story sounds good, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s true. For starters, the operations base for Donner Party-related rescues was on a ranch in modern-day Wheatland.

The more likely origin of the name harks back to the area’s mining history and burgeoning postal needs nearly half a century after the rescue of surviving Donner Party pioneers.

According to the Rescue Historical Society, the U.S. Postal Service needed a permanent post office between Folsom and Coloma, after more than 40 years of the Green Valley post office servicing the area out of several temporary locations. In addition, the name “Green Valley” was too common in California, and the two-word name was burdensome.

The community of Rescue was likely named after the Rescue Store and Post Office, which in turn was named after a nearby mine that had recently developed a new quartz ledge that would “rescue” it from bankruptcy. This picture was taken in 1916. Rescue Historical Society

Several enterprising businessmen in the area proposed a solution: An operator of the local quartz- and gold-focused Pyramid Mine and the former owner of an inn and stagecoach stop would invest in building a new store, one that could accommodate a new post office.

In 1894, the store was built near the major thoroughfare of Green Valley and Deer Valley roads, a requirement for the U.S. Postal Service.

“About this time, the Pyramid Mine had just begun to develop a new ‘ledge’ (a vein of mineral) that was going to rescue the mine from bankruptcy,” wrote William Teie and Francis Carpenter in their book, “History of a Place Called Rescue.”

Andrew Hare, who operated the mine and helped fund the store, submitted the name “Rescue” to the U.S. Postal Service and it was approved, with the post office officially opened June 12, 1895.

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Whether the post office (and subsequently, the community) was named after an actual mining claim called “Rescue Claim,” or was named to honor the spirit of this ledge’s financial benefit to Hare, is disputed among local historians.

According to Teie and Carpenter’s research, no El Dorado County mines bore the name “Rescue” prior to the post office. “Mines were named for the community — the community was not named for the mine(s),” they wrote.

And, within a few years, the new post office’s name evidently became synonymous with the surrounding area.

A 1897 article from The Sacramento Bee reported a new Pyramid Quartz Mining Company filed articles of incorporation, with one of the company’s directors hailing from “Rescue, El Dorado County.”

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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