As hydraulic mining died, so did towns
Gold mining by the new hydraulic process was enjoying great success in 1855. Towns with strange sounding names like Walloupa, Gouge Eye, Humbug, Grizzly Hill, You Bet and Red Dog dotted the landscape of Nevada County. Each town boasted many mines of varying size and productivity. Each little town provided for life’s necessities and also provided a fine assortment of lodges and secret societies.
In October 1855, Brooklyn Lodge No. 46, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized in the booming hydraulic mining town of Red Dog, five miles east across Greenhorn Creek from Nevada City. The optimistic organizers, a group of miners from New York, mounted a campaign to rename the town.
Fate in the form of the United States government dealt the Brooklynites a blow when, in November 1855, a post office was established with the official name of Red Dog, Calif.
By 1857, the ranks and treasury of Brooklyn Lodge swelled to a point that the loft over the blacksmith’s shop was no longer large enough to conduct the business of the lodge. It was decided that a hall suitable for the important functions of the order would be built.
An imposing two-story, wood-frame building of the latest design complete with wall-to-wall carpeting was built on the town’s main street. The lodge brothers moved the ritualistic paraphernalia into the new hall while the ground floor was rented to the school district. Red Dog boasted the newest and most modern schoolhouse and lodge hall in the Northern Mines.
In the early days of mining in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, almost all construction was of wood, a material at hand and readily available. Fire was the scourge of all towns large and small and Red Dog was no exception. In 1863, the town was partially destroyed by a fast-moving fire. The Brooklyn Lodge, due primarily to the foresight of the builders, was on the outskirts of town and escaped destruction.
By 1870, mining activity at Red Dog had come to a standstill. An exodus of population began and with it a decline in lodge membership. Many residents moved to nearby You Bet and along with them went Brooklyn Lodge No. 46 – lock, stock and barrel.
To facilitate the move, the second floor was removed from the building. You Bet already had a schoolhouse, so the lodge occupied the ground floor.
In 1884, federal Circuit Judge Lorenzo Sawyer rendered his infamous decision that spelled doom for almost all hydraulic mining operations. Both Red Dog and You Bet were economically dependent on the operation of their hydraulic mines. Judge Sawyer decided that this type of mining must cease unless it could be shown that debris created by the process did not reach the Sacramento Valley and inundate the farmland.
By this time, most members of Lodge No. 46 had moved to neighboring towns or had left the area completely. Consolidation with Nevada City’s Oustomah Lodge No. 16 was affected in 1904, and that lodge continues today with an active membership.
That old building stood vacant for some years when in 1915 the former two-story lodge building was once again on the move, this time to a new location at Peardale on the line of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. Brooklyn Lodge No. 46, I.O.O.F., then became the Peardale Farm Center.
Here it served another 50 years as a community meeting hall until the late 1960s. The building has seen service as the Peardale Baptist Church, a home to a square-dance group, and for many years the meeting place for the Peardale Pines 4-H Club. It stood in the area behind the present day Peardale-Chicago Park firehouse.
Today, the weathered frame building is just a memory. Only pictures remain of the sturdy structure that, many times recycled, served generations of Nevada County residents in myriad roles for more than 110 years.
Bob Wyckoff is a retired newspaper editor, an author of local history, a lifetime student of California history and a longtime resident of Nevada County. He writes history stories twice a month. You can write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User