Living “on the hill,” as the Groveland and Big Oak Flat population refer to their area, has always been a rich experience with diverse opportunities, challenges, and activities. Building on the area’s natural advantages and their own skills and energy, the people of southern Tuolumne County created a rewarding way of life.
Raising a family was a cherished but demanding task. Despite the tough mining life, early settlers established a school in Big Oak Flat shortly after gold’s discovery. Additional schools emerged in Groveland and outlying areas almost everywhere a handful of children lived.
Enjoying the outdoors has always been important for southern Tuolumne residents – whether hunting, fishing, swimming, walking in the forest, or just exploring. For excitement-seekers, local roads also offered the chance for motorsport adventure. There were many opportunities and venues for eating, drinking, and being with friends. Women often gathered to socialize and pursue a variety of needlework.
A popular form of entertainment for the whole community was attending the local baseball team's games. Men and women alike joined community benefit organizations such as the Rebekahs and Odd Fellows, to help their neighbors and to socialize. They stayed informed about local life by reading the town newspaper.
Life on the hill also brought challenges. The area’s dry summers have long caused destructive fires both in town and in the forest. After a fire destroyed Big Oak Flat in 1863, Groveland also experienced devastating town fires in the 1920s and 30s. Forest fires repeatedly burned the surrounding area. Conversely, severe winter weather often brought deep snows that seriously disrupted local life. But these did not hamper the townspeople's “can-do-it” spirit
Walking the Dog near Groveland
(Photo, Graham Family Collection)