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Destination Nevada County

Premium visitors magazine for Nevada County produced by the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce

Penn Valley - Colorful

Penn Valley - Colorful Past - Remarkable Future By Steve Cottrell Nevada County Historian Penn Valley, located eight miles west of Grass Valley, was named in honor of a woman known simply as Madame Penn, who, with her husband, owned a 320- acre ranch near the confluence of Squirrel Creek and Grub Creek. The Penns sold the ranch in 1852 and in time the pastoral area became known as Penn Valley. In 1867, when Edwin Bean wrote the first detailed history of Nevada County, he noted that the Penns arrived in what is now Nevada City in 1849 during a brutal winter. “Madame Penn is remembered for her determination to make money if hard work would do it,” Bean wrote, adding, “She took her turn with her husband carrying dirt to wash (in Deer Creek) and rocking out the gold. In the spring of 1850, she built a boarding house on the site of the present Union Hotel.” (That 114 DESTINATION Nevada County would have been lower Main Street, not far from where the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce office is located). In the early 1850s, before dependable roads were constructed, waterways were critical for transporting people and supplies from Sacramento to the goldfields—with the jumping-off spot for Nevada County being Marysville. Penn Valley became the gateway to Grass Valley and Nevada City because it was squarely on the route from Marysville to Nevada County’s two principal towns. Other communities and mining camps also developed west of Grass Valley, to include Rough & Ready, Bridgeport, Anthony House and Indian Springs. Rough and Ready is best known as the defiant town that seceded from the Union in April 1850, but relinquished its independence three months later as July 4th approached. The mining camp was founded in 1849 by men from Wisconsin who had served with General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor in the Mexican War. During its heyday, the town had a population of over 3,000— mainly miners. Penn Valley also served as the gateway to North San Juan and Downieville—as well as Henness Pass and over the Sierra Nevada mountains to Virginia City in the State of Nevada. The old wagon road, known as Pleasant Valley Road today, took miners and mining equipment from Marysville to camps along the South Fork of the Yuba River, including Bridgeport— where, in 1862, the longest still-surviving single-span covered bridge in the world was built. On its way to Bridgeport, present-day

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