Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Well Worn

Aug 28, 2014 04:30PM ● By Jerrie Beard
Green Valley is perhaps one of the oldest roads in the county. It roughly follows the route of Old Coloma Road, a trail first marked out in 1847 between Sutter’s Fort and the future site of Sutter’s Mill. Following the discovery of gold, Old Coloma Road became a major thoroughfare between Sacramento and the mines.
In 1850, using timbers shipped from the East Coast around Cape Horn and hauled by wagon from San Francisco, Rufus Hitchcock built the Pleasant Grove House as an inn to serve miners heading east to the mines and emigrants heading west to Sacramento and points beyond.
County assessor records describe the house as a 20-by-60-foot, two-story building with seven bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, bar, and a 60-foot dining hall that also served as a sleeping area for travelers. The property included a blacksmith shop and two barns that could house up to 100 horses; the upstairs barn even boasted a 1,160-square-foot dance floor.
In April 1860, Pony Express riders began thundering through the county on their way from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento and back. The original route wound through Placerville, El Dorado, Clarksville and onto Sacramento. When the Sacramento to Folsom Railroad was completed in 1861, the Pony Express was rerouted to follow Old Coloma Road, and the Pleasant Grove House became a remount/relay station.
In 1864, William Rust purchased the 320-acre Pleasant Grove House and surrounding ranch. Originally from Massachusetts, he came to California by ship and arrived in San Francisco in 1850. Initially, he worked in the mines and averaged $10 a day. In 1852, he became a blacksmith, and in 1856 married Louisa Pitt from Missouri who had traveled overland to California.
In 1878, the Rust family remodeled the house, converting it from an inn to a home to accommodate their 13 children. William lived in the house until his death in 1913. He and Louisa are buried, along with five of their children, in a small cemetery just east of the house across Green Valley Road.
Members of the Rust family lived on the property until 1952 when it was purchased by Elvin C. and Lillian Dixon. Mrs. Dixon, who occupied the house until her death in 1999, worked tirelessly with the Pony Express Association to establish the barn as a Pony Express Museum and to have the property registered as a historical landmark. Sadly, she died before either was accomplished.
The Dixon family maintained ownership of the property until 2006 when it was sold to co-owners Linda Parisi and Mahmud N. Sharif. The Dixon’s granddaughter leased the property and housed wagons for the Highway 50 Association Wagon Train in the old barn until May 2012.
The Pleasant Grove House now sits vacant and encircled by a chain link fence—the physical remains slowly fading into history.