When Groveland was first established in 1848, it was part of the Savage Diggins area, settled by James Savage. Several Mexican bandits were notorious for robbing miners as well as stealing from and burning area trading posts. They also were reported to have stolen horses, and they were guilty of murdering miners. Savage hunted down the bandits and they were eventually hanged at an oak tree near the trading post. The mining camp became known as “Garrote,” the Spanish word for “death by strangulation.” Shortly after the first hanging, there was another one a few miles away. That camp was named Second Garrote, because of the second hanging.
The population of Garrote grew quickly after 1851. The Miwok Native Americans settled into a reservation, while the Mexicans and Caucasians lived in town. Bustling with saloons and bordellos, miners visited on Sundays to enjoy a day filled with drinking and gambling.
The gold rush slowed during the 1860s and 1870s, leaving a population of only 100 people. Cattle ranching had replaced gold mining. Specialty cooking and catering took the place of saloons and dining halls. The remaining residents decided to give their town a more respectable image with a new name. They took the name Groveland because it was the Massachusetts hometown of one of the town’s prominent citizens.
Gold rush fever returned to Groveland in 1875 when the price of gold increased. Miners returned to recover the gold that remained deep under the ground. This time mine workers dug deep shafts into the mines and the boom lasted for the next 40 years. Even as the second gold rush was ending, Groveland was gearing up for yet another “boom.” This time workers rushed in to set up headquarters for building the Hetch Hetchy Dam, a number of other reservoirs, canals, mountain tunnels and the railroad.
Building new Hetch Hetchy Dam was vigorously opposed by John Muir, an activist, writer and founder of the American conservation movement. Losing the battle for Hetch Hetchy was his worst defeat. He died in 1914 and the dam construction began the following year and continued until 1925.
Groveland is home to the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. The historic Groveland Hotel, built in 1849, provides luxurious accommodations for guests traveling to and from Yosemite National Park, 26 miles away.
Groveland is located on Highway 120. The historical marker is located on the northeast corner of Main Street (State Highway 120) and Back Streets. This town is part of the Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail.
A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the county, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the gold rush.