A lot of us Californians like to hit the open road, explore miles of highway and venture off onto some back roads. Sometimes, we come across towns with some pretty bizarre and surprising names. For this installment in our series “A Place Called What?!” we head to You Bet in Nevada County. Know an unusual place name in California? Tell us about it in the comments below, or send a note to email@example.com.
Dan Brady has deep roots in the Gold Rush town of You Bet, California. So he’s known for a long time how the town got its name.
“Well, the story goes that there were people, mostly miners; they established a town around a local bar, and they decided they needed a name for the town,” Brady explains.
“The senior gentlemen of the town got together and met at the bar. After a period of time, the gentlemen couldn’t agree on what the name of the town would be. The bartender was getting a little tired of having to pour so many drinks and said, ‘Look, the next thing anybody says, that’s the name of this town.’ One of the fellows piped up and said, ‘You bet!’ They said, ‘That’s it! The name of the town: You Bet’.”
Brady’s grandfather and father both worked for the hydraulic mines that dominated You Bet’s landscape and industry from the 1800’s to the 1930’s.
He has fond memories of going to visit You Bet for the holidays.
“My dad would take us around and we’d hike all over the place and have quite an adventure,” Brady recalls. “We’d go and cut our Christmas tree at Thanksgiving.”
But the scars of hydraulic mining were always visible.
“Well, it looked like the moon really,” Brady says. “It was gravelly, rocky, very little vegetation.”
He lives in San Mateo now, but goes to You Bet at least once a year. He recently started helping his sister and uncle lead tours of You Bet. Anywhere from 25 to 75 visitors come on these tours each year to learn about the history of You Bet’s mines, gold rush era, and natural ecosystem.
“They want to know how much gold was found. They want to know if there’s still gold out there. [That’s] a common question,” he laughs.
One would think that after so many years of exploring, Brady would have seen all there is to see of this tiny town. But he says it’s quite the opposite.
“I usually discover something new every time I go out. There’s another sink hole someplace, or a tunnel I didn’t know was there.”
One of the things he’s most excited about is seeing the landscape recover from the mining.
“Animals are coming back,” Brady says. “There was a long time when there weren’t any animals out there. Now you can see deer and bear and mountain lions and foxes because the forest is reclaiming it. It’s coming back.”