Once Upon a Town: Legends of Lotus
In 1849, the town of Marshall sprang up just west of Coloma and around the bend on the South Fork of the American River. Named in honor of the discoverer of gold, the little town grew as the 49ers made their way to California and the gold fields. When the state was admitted into the union in September of 1850, the patriotic townsfolk renamed it Uniontown. In 1881, after the United States Postal Service opened an office there, the name was changed to Lotus, since another town had already laid claim to the name Uniontown.
By 1857, the town boasted several stores, a carriage shop, a library, and Poague’s Bridge, which connected the inhabitants of Uniontown with Michigan Flat, Magnolia Ranch, and Georgetown Road and was estimated to cost $8,000. A young man by the name of Stephen Wing helped repair and build toll gates for it. According to Wing, it had “one long span of 150 feet and two short ones about 50 feet each. It is well built and a good job of work every way.” It was one of only two bridges in the area that connected gold seekers with the rich mining areas along the Georgetown Divide. With tolls from 12.5 cents for pedestrians to $6 for a wagon with a six-horse team, gatekeeper W.Y. Poague likely made back his investment in short order.
By the mid 1850s, civilization in the form of women and churches began to appear in the gold fields. In order to raise money for a Baptist church with a “large fine toned bell,” the town issued subscription papers and hosted church benefits. On February 12, 1858, the church was dedicated in a ceremony officiated by Reverend J. Lewis Schuck of Sacramento. According to The Sacramento Union, the reverend also “preached to Chinamen in their own language” at 3 p.m. that afternoon.
By 1871, most of the parishioners had moved away, services had ceased at the church, and the building fell into disrepair. The fine toned bell rang no more, although it still hung in the belfry. Learning of this, a former minister of the church came and took it—without consulting the remaining trustees—and put it on an express wagon from Coloma to Sierra County where he lived.
The citizens were outraged and followed the minister to Coloma where they contacted the justice of the peace. The justice instructed them to hire a lawyer to draw up papers on the affair. The offending minister, who had apparently thought this through, had already retained all the lawyers in town to thwart such an effort. However, one young lawyer was found who wrote up the required papers and presented them to the constable. The bell was arrested and put in jail, the offending minister quietly disappeared, and the bell “remained in jail, probably awaiting its trial.”
by Jerrie Beard
History of El Dorado County, California by Paola Sioli
Daily Journal 1852-1860 of Stephen Wing
The Sacramento Union, February 12, 1858