Sadly, we can no longer hang out with George any longer around the Hangman’s Tree Bar, the building was condemned and shut down and its ultimate fate is still in the air. ‘George’ was the name for the dummy stuffed in old clothes that for years has been hung from the second story roof at the very spot of the infamous and long chopped down tree that was one of the more popular hanging spots in a town that conducted over 1000 hangings in the 1800’s.
As one might think, there are a load of ghost stories tied to this spot and tethered to the bar, a local institution since the 1930’s, with a variety of tales strung out through the years. Still, when it came to tying up a new song about this obvious choice among the landmarks, a slightly different course was used; the ‘hangtown fry,’ still found on many a breakfast menu in the region. There are two stories of how it came about; one was that the meal was the ‘last meal’ request of a convicted man before wearing the noose, and the other was that a miner who had just made a strike came into what eventually was called the El Dorado and ordered a meal made up of the most difficult to acquire ingredients in the booming mining village….eggs, bacon, and oysters. Cost of this feast was about six dollars, which was a lot of money then and it became a badge of success of the miner who’d made it after living off what he could hunt, fish and supplement with canned beans.
The Hangman's Tree is in the upper left of this 1850's photo.
Hangtown, cir. 1860 - OAC photo
This little slide blues number written in April 2011 is what could be called a first cooking song.
HANGTOWN FRY © Radio Flier Music
Let me tell you clampers how it all begun
They called it Hangtown then, they call it
“Boys I struck the lode and it ain’t no joke”
Pulls a one pound nugget from his leather poke
“I’m a hungry miner, been livin’ on beans”
“Cook up the most expensive food you’re offer’in”
Chorus) You ease in some eggs, big slice of bacon
Slip in the oysters, get the pan to shakin’
Roll ‘em up and flip that omelet, to the sky
You’ve got the Hangtown Fry, the Hangtown Fry
Mining town justice when you play it loose
Was a dance with Satan from the hangman’s noose
When desperados choose to kill and steal
They order this concoction for a last meal
Plaque inscription: NO. 141 HANGMAN'S TREE - In the days of 1849, when this city was called Hangtown, vigilantes executed many men for various crimes. This was the site of Hay Yard, on which stood the 'Hangman's Tree.' The stump of the tree is under the building on which the plaque is placed.
Google maps: 38.728384,-120.802381