County Superintendent of Schools

History of Placer County

The Placer County Office of Education has acknowledged its sesquicentennial- marking 150 years of providing educational services to the people of Placer County. Placer County was home to the peaceful Nisenan Native Americans for hundreds of years before the discovery of gold in 1848 brought hordes of miners from around the world, making Placer County a wonderful place to live. Just as in 1849, Placer County is the fastest growing county in California. The county reaches from the borders of Sacramento to North Lake Tahoe. The current population is 260,000.

The discovery of gold by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma in 1848 brought about the largest population migration in history. The 49ers- mostly men and mostly miners – recognized that the richness of the region far greater than its gold deposits brought their families to settle. Communities grew up around the gold fields. Schools were established for the children of the settlers.

Claude Chana
Only three years after the discovery of gold, the fast-growing county was formed from portions of Sutter and Yuba counties on April 25, 1851 with Auburn as the county seat. Placer County took its name from the Spanish word for sand or gravel deposits containing gold. Miners washed away the gravel, leaving the heavier gold, in a process known as "placer mining."

Gold mining was a major industry through the 1880s, but gradually the new residents turned to farming the fertile foothill soil, harvesting timber and working for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Auburn was settled when Claude Chana discovered gold in Auburn Ravine in May 1848 and later became a shipping and supply center for the surrounding gold camps. Auburn is the home of the Placer County Office of Education administrative facilities. Auburn Union Elementary (six schools), Ackerman Elementary (one school), and the Placer Union High School District PUHSD (four schools) serve the students of the Auburn area.

Roseville, once a small agricultural center, became a major railroad center and grew to the county's most populous city after Southern Pacific Railroad moved its railroad switching yards there in 1908. Students and faculty of the Roseville area are served by the Roseville City, Dry Creek Joint Elementary, Eureka Union, and Roseville Joint Union High School Districts.

Loomis and Newcastle began as mining towns, but soon became centers of a booming fruit-growing industry, supporting many local packing houses. Loomis Union has four schools in this community. Newcastle Elementary, Ophir Elementary and Placer UHSD provide services to students K-adult with one school each. 

Rocklin began as a railroad town and became home to a number of granite quarries. Rapidly growing Rocklin now vies with Roseville for the honor of being Placer's largest city. The Rocklin Unified School District is rapidly expanding its existing thirteen schools and building new schools to accommodate this growing community.

Lincoln and Sheridan continue to support ranching and farming. Lincoln also is the home of one of the county's oldest businesses, the Gladding McBean terra cotta clay manufacturing plant established in 1875. The Western Placer Unified School District has seven school sites in the Lincoln area.

Foresthill was a lively gold mining town for many years, but gradually the timber industry grew, and was until recently the major employer. Recreation is now the major industry in this area of sparkling reservoirs, pristine trails, and ample camping facilities. Foresthill Union School District provides for students K-8 on two school sites. Placer UHSD is currently building a new high school that opens in the fall of 2004.

Colfax began life as railroad construction camp in 1865. The following year gold was discovered. The Rising Sun, Montana and Meda mines were rich gold producers. Colfax Elementary School District meets the needs of students K through eighth grade while Placer UHSD serves the high school students. Just above Colfax is the smaller community of Alta Dutch Flat which has its own one-school district.

Weimar was established as the timbering center of New England Mills and later became the home of the Weimar Institute, a regional tuberculosis sanitarium. When a cure for TB was discovered, the medical center closed, and is now a health and nutrition center. Placer Hills Union School District has three schools in this area; Placer Hills and Sierra Hills (in Meadow Vista) and Weimar Hills.

Lake Tahoe (North Shore) and Truckee residents are served by twelve schools in this mountain region bordering the lake and the Cal-Neva state line.

The Placer County Office of Education provides a multitude of services for the diverse demographic, topography, and socioeconomics of this county, early childhood to adult lifelong learners.

All the historic information above was provided by the Placer County Information Office and the Placer County Museums. You can relive much of the history of Placer County by visiting the six museums in Placer County.