As the wagons and emigrants struggled toward the Sierra Nevada passes, a brief respite was offered in Martis Valley. With lush meadows of grass and water from West, Middle and East Martis Creeks, the pioneers had a welcome break before the oxen trains took on the arduous granite ascent before them.
In 1863, silver fever came to Martis Valley when a number of quartz outcroppings or ledges were found. The patriotically named Red, White and Blue mining district was formed.
The first digging site was called Modiosho – reported to be the Washoe Indian word for “quartz”. Modiosho would soon become the town of Centerville on a trail that would later become Highway 267. The “town” did not amount to much more than brush roofed log structures.
The most promising site was named Neptune City. By July of 1863, the name was changed to Elizabethtown. There was a saloon, barber shop, butcher shop, restaurant and a population of 50 people! Elizabethtown was located near the entrance to Northstar.
At one time it was reported that 700 hopeful miners were tunneling and digging in Martis Valley. It must have been quite a sight.
The “diggings” presented a curious spectacle. Groups of sourdoughs, having dug their separate holes, were hard at work hidden from sight in the shallow excavations, when suddenly some unusual noise or excitement would occur, causing heads to pop out of the ground all over the hillside, creating a ludicrous jack-in-the-box sight. This type of mining was described as “coyoting”, the pits or shafts being “coyote holes”. 1.
Almost overnight, the “diggings” and the towns were abandoned and the ever hopeful miners moved on. A plaque dedicated to the Red, White and Blue Mining District is located at the entrance to Northstar.
While the mining never played out, there was true treasure in Martis Valley and the great forests of sugar pine, ponderosa and cedar became the objects of the next “gold rush”.
1. The Saga of Lake Tahoe, Volume II, 150.