Hangman's Tree Placerville California


Hangman Tree Placerville
hangmens tree building

 previous < unique California > next



Hangman's Tree Tavern, 305 Main St., Placerville Hangman's Tree, Placerville


Hangman's Tree, California Historical Landmark NO. 141Hangman's Tree's significance stems from its notorious heritage originating from the 1849 Gold Rush Days. The tree, which grew in a place called Hay Yard, was a sturdy structure used to bring swift justice in the form of death by hanging to those who stole, killed, lied, cheated and generally made the majority population upset. Placerville was originally named Dry Diggins but due to the number of hangings, the name Hangtown was adopted for the justice meted out by "Judge Lynch." Immediate punishment could include whipping, banishment or worst yet, hanging.


In a brief 20 to 30 minutes a mann's life could end with the sentence of death by hanging. The famous hanging tree once stood in Elstner’s Hay Yard next to the Jackass Inn but today, the stump is in the cellar of The Hangman’s Tree tavern on Historic Main Street, Placerville.

As you drive into Placerville, which exudes the charm of over 150 years of formation as a city, the lifelike dummy  with a plaid shirt, a single suspender, work pants and  boots noticeably hangs near a second story window of the Hangman's Tree Tavern. Stop by the Hangman's Tree saloon to have a drink and talk with the locals. You may event feel the cold breeze of the ghost who lingers there


It is likely that two or three men who were charged with robbery and then hanged in a hay field behind the Jackass Inn at the intersection of Coloma and Main streets provided the impetus for the town's name change. Formal law simply did not exist at a time when hundreds of thousands had poured into California's gold mine regions as California sent troops to aid in the efforts of the Civil War. With no formal system of justice yet established, some arrived in California hungry and broke and of those, some stole or even killed for money or gold claims. It became such a problem that in 1851 the California State Legislature of the newly-formed US state passed a bill that made the death penalty legal for crimes of stealing property worth more than $100.