Originally, Groveland and nearby Big Oak Flat were both called Savage’s Diggings. James Savage discovered gold there in late 1848. Savage’s Diggins became Garrotte in 1850, named for the area’s swift and harsh justice from a large Oak tree in what is now Big Oak Flat.
Soon Garrotte was a boom town. But by the 1870′s, the easy pickings were gone and Garrotte was transformed from dozens of bars and bordellos to a quiet community catering to cattle ranches and…even back then…a trickle of tourists taking the new Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite Valley.
In 1875, citizens changed the name of Garrotte to Groveland and soon thereafter, Groveland experienced a second gold rush with the advent of deep shaft mines and milling operations.
The second gold rush was over by 1914 but, by then, a third boom period was about to begin. In 1914, San Francisco had received congressional approval to build the Hetch Hetchy Water Project and Groveland was selected to be the construction headquarters. Ironically, while the water project’s construction headquarters was in Groveland, it received none of the water.
At the end of World War II, there was yet another boom, but it was short-lived. Twenty-two lumber mills opened. Periodic improvements in the Hetch Hetchy system brought in new workers, but the lack of water to Groveland itself meant that every summer, private wells and springs dried up. This lack of water meant that this boom was soon over.
Finally, Groveland citizens united and formed their own water system. That opened the way for developer Boise Cascade in the mid 1960s to begin development of a new resort — Pine Mountain Lake, a planned community with over 4,000 residential lots and its own golf course, country club, airport, and stables. The die had been cast. Groveland now charted a course of steady growth that continues to this day.
Today, area residents are assured that, while their community is steeped in history, its best days are straight ahead as visitors discover this very special Sierra town that’s also the gateway to Yosemite National Park.
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