According to the historical monument next to the old Valley Springs railroad depot, the town we know today as Valley Springs was, at one time, called Valley Spring and was an aspiring railroad town.
The monument titled “Valley Spring” tells the tale of the arrival of the railroad to the town.
The original 3-foot narrow-gauge line was built by the San Joaquin and Sierra Nevada Railroad, extending from Brack’s Landing on the Mokelumne River east to Valley Spring. The depot and a turntable were built around the time of the completion of the last section, which was finished in April 1885 at a cost of $405,570. The line was converted to a standard-gauge railway by the Southern Pacific Railroad around 1904. It was then extended 13 miles east to Kentucky House to service the Calaveras Cement Co. in 1925. The line continued to serve as a freight line until the closure of the cement plant. The last rail shipment of cement was completed in 1983.
As towns often carried the names of post offices, the first choice for this spot was rumored to be Spring Valley, after the nearby Spring Valley Hotel, yet that post office name was already taken. With a little switch of names, the town became Valley Spring or Valley Springs, depending upon which historian authored the research text. What cannot be argued is whether that little slice of land at the depot showed grand potential.
In 1855, George Late arrived in Valley Springs with his young bride Rebecca and began construction of a home out of limestone that was quarried from a hill near town. The family name is prevalent in the Double Springs Cemetery.
Warren Lamb was an early entrepreneur in Valleys Springs who built a saloon, restaurant and stables. At this time the railroad had yet to reach Valley Springs, but it was the perfect location for mule teams and stagecoaches that were headed for mountain towns to stay the night.
Conveniently, the blacksmith shop, owned by Harvey Smith, was open for business and was a very busy place, as the horses and mules that used to draw stages and then the freight from the new railroad to various other locations required attention.
What began as a small settlement began to boom in 1884, when the town moved about two miles west of Pattee’s Place in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival. That same year a townsite of more than 20 blocks was laid out, lots were quickly sold and building began in earnest. The few buildings that remained at Pattee’s Place were relocated to the new town, including the post office, a general store and a saloon. Soon a hotel was built, as well as Paulk Bros. and Johnson Farmers’ and Miners’ store.
On April 25, 1885, the first San Joaquin and Southern Nevada Railroad train pulled into Valley Springs. Later that year the depot was constructed.
The railroad did not uphold its promise of extending to Calaveras Big Trees, which cast Valley Springs as the freight distribution center for the county. The railroad discontinued passenger service in 1932 and freight in the 1980s.
Today Valley Springs is not just a residential hub; it has become a destination offering water recreation, golf, restaurants and a jump-off point to reach many attractions in the foothills.