Home>Articles>Placerville City Seal Noose Controversy Ramps Up as Some Equate it With Modern Racial Strife

Placerville city seal (Photo: City of Placerville)

Placerville City Seal Noose Controversy Ramps Up as Some Equate it With Modern Racial Strife

Committee formed to adjudicate ‘Old Hangtown’ history

By Evan Symon, February 4, 2021 6:07 pm

Officials in the city of Placerville formed a subcommittee this week for recommendations over removing a noose from the city seal.

The seal, which includes a miner panning gold, also includes a noose hanging from a tree. It references the city’s growth from the California gold rush in 1848, as well as the frontier justice that gave the city it’s original name in 1849: Old Hangtown. The name and symbol came directly from an incident in 1849 when 3 men were hanged in the city over attempted robbery and murder charges. Old Hangtown continued to be the city’s name until 1854 when it was changed to Placerville. In the following years it became the county seat of El Dorado County and was, at one point, the third largest city in the state. Today, the city remains the county seat with around 11,000 residing there.

Calls to replace or alter the seal have increased in recent years due to problems over the imagery, most notably by modern day connections of lynchings to the African American community. A major effort to change the seal was launched last year in the wake of the George Floyd protests but stopped due to COVID-19 matters taking precedence.

“It is quite controversial, and I think there is a big divide within the community about what we ultimately do,” noted council member and former Mayor Michael Saragosa. “I do think we will have a more healthy and vibrant discussion if we have it in person.”

This week, the matter reached a council committee, which is now weighing how to move forward with public debate and council voting over the matter, as continued pandemic social distancing makes public comment difficult.

“Is this a council action, is this a vote of the community, do we take polling of folks, all of those items are going to be discussed,” added Saragosa. “I want to make sure we have a thorough enough conversation where people feel like they were heard, that we actually had a real conversation and didn’t rubber-stamp something.”

A divide in Placerville

Placerville residents remain divided on the city seal issue; some want to move away from the negative modern day connotations, and others want to keep it because of the history of the hangman’s noose and the fact that it was not used racially in Placerville.

“You know, that was always the divide there,” explained former Placerville resident Kenneth Stevenson, who helped groups raise the issue in the 2000’s before the city council.  “It is a non-racially charged piece of history of the city and was a big part of it’s early history. The city’s name was even Hangtown for like 5 years I think.”

“But today, the noose is becoming more and more of a symbol of violence against black people. It’s so powerful now that after all those suicides last year of black men hanging themselves in California, calls for lynching investigations happened in a snap.”

“El Dorado isn’t the biggest county in the state, and Placerville isn’t exactly widely known in the U.S., but you still see that city seal everywhere, including in legal documents. There are a lot of people who want to keep it and a lot who don’t, so the question really should be ‘Does it represent the city?’ We couldn’t figure that out 20 years ago, and based on how people there still feel today, there is no clear answer now.”

“The story of old Hangtown really begins at Coloma, where James Marshall built a sawmill on the South Fork of the American River for his employer John Sutter,” HistoricPlacerville.com reports. As the burgeoning gold rush grew towns in the region, “murders and robberies became frequent in isolated camps along the American River, and before long, several merchants and miners had lost their poke of gold at knifepoint. After one such crime early in 1849, an impromptu citizens jury met to consider the fate of the three accused. The jury wasted little time reaching a verdict.”

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Evan Symon
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9 thoughts on “Placerville City Seal Noose Controversy Ramps Up as Some Equate it With Modern Racial Strife

  1. Ridiculous! History and context is important and educational. If the city council votes to change the seal, the only appropriate representation for Placerville is a “Safe Space”.

  2. If you dumb everything down for the snowflakes nobody will ever need to do any research and they will lose the ability to reason on their own…

  3. This is actually fascinating and the debate is more interesting than the outcome. I kind of hope they keep the noose because it’s a “conversation piece” that forces you to think about things and discuss history.

  4. The noose is representative of frontier justice as the article states. It would be a tragedy if the noose were
    were to become a sole reference to black Americans. Culture appropriation of its theme?

  5. I think its absurd that history can be undone!.why do we even have things that represent importance to a certain time and place when someone can vote on it being removed anyways? Its been the city seal before the offended ones were even born!

    1. Decent folks were always offended by the noose. The folks with the money had the power to label things. Just like then, people with money believe that they are above everyone else. No decent person would want to live in a place called Hangtown. It was a threat then just like it is a threat now. It had nothing to do with justice. It was all about intimidation, control and murder. If the townsfolk in power felt that someone would stand up against their bullying and control then they would be accused of a crime and lynched. Just like the Salem witch hunts. If a woman was independent then she must be a witch so she was murdered by lynching and burning. If a person of “status or class” told a person of lesser class to do something degrading and they refused, then the person would be lynched. Placerville’s noose had nothing to do with justice. It was all about abuse of power.

  6. The termite leftists are really working overtime to infiltrate historic Placerville with their nonsense, aren’t they? We can’t have any reasonable cities left in California, can we?

  7. Just say no. The noose has nothing to do with lynching black people so tough beans if it triggers some snowflakes. Remember when Trader Joe’s said they weren’t renaming their products because they weren’t racist?? The 14 year olds pushing that agenda quickly went to find a softer target…

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