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As nights come earlier and evenings grow cooler, the lights of Placerville’s Main Street glow a bit brighter.
At the junction of Cedar Ravine and Main Street there’s one light that has been glowing off and on for 87 years. Commonly known as the Druid Monument, the glass lamp—in the shape of a torch—sits atop a 20-foot pillar. The monument stands in memory of Frederick Sieg, the founder of California’s first Druidic Lodge.
Sieg was born in Germany in 1815 and eventually settled in Missouri. In 1853, like many other men seeking opportunity, he packed his things and headed west to Placerville where he became a respected businessman. Sieg founded California’s first Grove of Druids in Placerville; soon after, he founded the second Grove in Coloma and the third in San Francisco. The first Druidic Lodge in California originally stood where El Dorado Savings and Loan sits today on Main Street. Sieg, who brought the United Ancient Order of Druids to California, passed away in 1888. He is buried in the Union Cemetery in Placerville; on his headstone, the title “Past National Grand Arch” is inscribed.
Very little is known about the original Druids of ancient Europe. Historians believe that our modern holidays of Halloween and All Souls’ Day originated with Samhain, an ancient Gaelic and Druidic festival. As Christianity spread in the Middle Ages, Druidic practices became associated with witchcraft and dark magic. In 1770, during the Age of Enlightenment, Henry Hurle founded the first modern Druid Lodge in London. By 1830, interest in the Druidic Order had spread to America. The modern Druidic Order is very similar in history, liturgy and theology to that of the Masonic Order. They are considered a fraternal organization with separate auxiliaries for ladies.
In September 1926, the Grand Lodge of the United Ancient Order of Druids erected the Druid Monument to honor Frederick Sieg. On the day of the dedication, a special train was used to bring members from the Lodge in San Francisco to Placerville in their ceremonial robes. The monument itself was presented by the Noble Grand Arch to the Mayor of Placerville, Albert Simon. A band, comprised of members of the Fraternal Order of Druids, played music and the Grand Arch Druidess sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The monument quietly stands today in the same place it has for 87 years, and has been restored twice—once in the ‘70s and again in 2007. The pillar originally had fountains around the base, but they’ve since been replaced with plaques. Inscribed on the monument are Druidic symbols of oak leaves and daises, topped with a glass lamp in the shape of a blazing torch, which stands for the Druidic practice and belief in “Truth, Justice, and Righteousness.”
According to some sources, Druids still gather at times, late in the night, around the old Druid Monument in Placerville.