What we know of Valley Springs History is that the area was originally enjoyed by Native American Yokut and Miwok people long before westerners ever ventured to California. Archaeological evidence including grinding stones and cave pictographs have been found. But little is known beyond the fact that for possibly hundreds of years, these early people annually spent at least some of their winter here, before returning to higher elevations in spring.
The history of western settlers, in contrast, is well documented due to the big news of the California Gold Rush which reverberated around the world. Valley Springs, although not part of the gold mania, was an important stage stop for getting supplies from the cities to the hopefuls working gold camps and for farmers and ranchers to get their produce to the cities. Eventually, a train depot was built in 1885. This accommodated not only the goods and services moving back and forth, but also the burgeoning Calaveras tourism industry that started with the discovery of Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
The railroad was built on land belonging to George Late, a prosperous farmer, who sold 45 acres to the San Joaquin and Sierra Nevada Railroad for $2,250 plus $1 for the railroad’s right-of-way.
Farming and ranching was a big part of Valley Springs history, with farmers providing their wares to Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco.
With the opening of the Pardee Dam in 1928, named for Governor George Pardee, who was the founder and longtime President of the local water utility, lake recreation became a new attraction to the area. Meanwhile, with the opening of Calaveras Cement Company (which provided cement for the construction of Pardee Dam) and a timber industry developing in the lower sierras, freight was being shipped out of Calaveras into the cities.
A large fire devastated most of historic Valley Springs in 1895, but the railroad depot can still be seen at the intersection of Highway 12 and 26.
You can find out more about Valley Springs history and the history of the nearby towns of Wallace and Burson from the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History. The website is maintained by local historian, Sal Manna, who is an enthusiastic researcher and recorder of West Calaveras history.