PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – A piece of Placerville history has mysteriously returned after a three year absence but you could say there is a hung jury over whether its reappearance is a good thing.

For years, a gold rush-era clad dummy hung from a noose in front of the historic Hangman’s Tree Bar on Main Street. At one point, during California’s Gold Rush, Placerville was called Hangtown because of the numerous hangings that took place in the town.

Hangman’s Tree Bar sits on the site of Placerville’s original tree where vigilantes would execute men without judge or jury.

“The actual tree stump is in the basement of that building where they used to hang people there,” said Placerville resident Stephen Tapson.

The site is even listed as #141 of California’s Historical Landmarks.

The Hangtown dummy was taken down in 2008 when the bar was closed down and now the old building’s has been red-tagged as too dangerous to occupy.

The mannequin’s whereabouts for the past three years is a mystery. Rumors range from the dummy being stolen to just being stored in a closet.

Recently, the dummy mysteriously re-appeared back in its precarious position hanging above Main Street.

A piece of Placerville history restored. But not everyone is happy with the hangman’s return.

City Manager Cleve Morris says they’re getting numerous complaints.

“You see a man hanging in your downtown…that’s probably not the visual you want to portray,” said Morris.

Annette Schoonover owns the Winterhill gift store next door to the graphic symbol of Placerville’s past. She says it’s bad for business.

“I don’t like it all. It’s very upsetting to people. It’s racist we believe. It’s offensive. It’s grotesque,” said Schoonover.

Still many Placerville residents are glad to have their mascot back…morbid or not.

“The dummy is a symbol of Hangtown,” said Tapson. “I missed him.”

However, the city is looking into whether they have the authority to remove the dummy from the historic building.

Comments (26)
  1. pumpkinpie says:

    Nice to know some things never change this dummy has been hanging around Placerville for decades lol, glad hes back again

  2. Lola says:

    What’s wrong with it??? It is Hangtown isn’t it????? And for sure not racist!!!!!

  3. Paula MackWow says:

    how it is Racist??

    1. revheart says:

      She doesn’t know. She just knows that the term is used often and without regard as to why.

      1. JIm Williamson says:

        It’s racist because the white man is a minority, that’s why.

  4. Aimeejoy Janzen says:

    Is the dummy too blatant as a reminder of the past? So, should the sign come down, too? Does “Hangtown” need to be removed from every bumper sticker and group name associated to Placerville? Where does it end? We cannot erase history, but some are soooo good at ignoring it. I guess next, we’ll see hanged people’s relatives ranting? Oh wait, no, they haven’t. But, I suppose there’s still time 🙂 If there’s money involved, they will come.

  5. dakotarobins says:

    I sure hope they leave it up. Hes part of the town. we are new to town just about a year here and are very glad to see this. Leave the Dummie alone!!!!!!

  6. Jerry says:

    As a white person, I certainlly feel the racial undertones, toward whites, when I see a dummy of a white person hanging. Leave him hang and I will just have to live with it.

  7. Sparky says:

    The hanging dummy was never a problem until the other dummies (bay area yuppies) moved in. Why is it those who often consider themselves open minded and liberal have no problem imposing their values on others as they see fit?! The hanging dummy has been a Hangtown symbol and conversation peice for half a century or more and long before the over sensitive yuppies moved to the area. In my opinion the dummy should stay and the dummies should go!

  8. redneckwriter says:

    I think it’s great, I hope it stays through the holidays.

  9. JIm Williamson says:

    Are you kidding me? “I don’t like it all. It’s very upsetting to people. It’s racist we believe. It’s offensive. It’s grotesque,” says who? Its OK to have this sort of stuff on Halloween but now its upsetting? Really!!! Get a life people or move back to the politically correct and perfect town you came from.

  10. j says:

    Leave it. I alwyas looked forward to seeing the dummy hanging as we drove through Placerville on our way to Strawberry and Lake Tahoe. It is part of the town. Let ‘im dangle.

  11. Ball-less nation says:

    OMG we have a such PSY generation…Its racist? Some folks just need to keep their pie hole shut if they can’t offer a more eductated opinion. This is the direction the country is going…Psyfied!

  12. Is the Bluebell Cafe still there??? says:

    I grew up in Pollock Pines and moved to the big city of Placerville. That hangman’s dummy has been hanging around since I was a child. Glad he is back where he belongs. That dummy needs to be recorded as part of Placerville’s history too. Because, it is…… One of these day’s I will have to make the trip up there to see it. Hope they decide to keep him hanging.

  13. Do we need to get a petition started? says:

    They better leave it hanging there. It indeed needs to be registered as a piece of history. The building needs to be restored, and made into a local museum. I am sure other locals would have some artifacts to donate if they just go into their attics and take a look at what Grandma stored away. Just a thought. Anyway, my vote is to keep it. People just need to get used to it again.

  14. hometowngirl since 1969 says:

    hey, while we’re at it, let’s put an electric chair with a fried person in it, then a bloody corpse who appears to be shot. Tourists with money will really feel welcome. They’ll be very happy to hang around with their children while explaining why a dead guy is overhead. Oh, and what an appetizing reason to eat at one of our restaurants. Any wonder why our downtown businesses can’t make a profit? Visitors with money can almost hear the backwoods banjos from Deliverance… It’s time to evolve. Tear down that ugly box of a building and create something beautiful – something meaningful – We’re worth it.

    1. Sparky says:

      Bloody corpses, electric chairs?! Pretty drastic comparisons don’t you think? Why not use more realistic town symbols such as Boot Hill, the Bucket of Blood Saloon and suicide table in Virginia City? Also maybe you didn’t notice but some of those posting positive comments are out of towner’s. The hanging man has been around longer than both you and your parents and most of the re-located yuppies who oppose it. So be a good hometown girl and just lighten up and get over it.

      1. hometowngirl since 1969 says:

        I’m over it – doesn’t bother me.. I’d just like to portray the hard working people who are striving to keep their businesses open. The “relocated yuppies” (do people even use that word any more?) … are the ones keeping our town alive. Did you know that there have been several tragic suicides by hanging lately? I know of at least two young people and one dad. No, my comparisons are not drastic. death is death Our downtown is working so hard to create a “stay awhile” atmosphere: art panels, galleries, blooming flowers, restaurants, interesting and unique shops. I want to support them and I want Placerville to be known for being a welcoming place. And who cares if the hanging man has been around longer? Duration doesn’t mean anything. Bad things endure to the detriment of humankind.

  15. Cmore says:

    This is like people who build next to an airport then complain about the airplanes. This town is known for its history and this was a mascot. Stop complaining about it. Watching all the television shows that are on is more traumatic then a dummy. Get real, folks.

  16. sassafrass says:

    Hangtown hometowngirl would like to see hangtown turned into another yuppiefied boring tourist disappointment. People hang themselves everywhere it is a statis semble for young guys for some reason and Cmore is right turn on the TV or go to the movies, horrible violence and look what some parents are buying for their little kids monster collectin tee shirts. I did have a fourth cousin hung for horse theft by the way(in Texas however). Dummy had no emotional problem for me(as a child)nor for our kids or grandkids. Leave him hang. He is one well made dummy to last so long lol. Also if the restaurants and other businesses are popular they will have customers, if they are not popular they won’t have customers no matter how ya beautify(?)the downtown.

  17. Millicent Bulstrode says:

    Move to Davis!!
    Kids need to know about history. Reality is that people in the wild west lynched horse thieves and the like. Why is Halloween so popular? It’s because people love things that are a little bit creepy, especially kids! When I was a kid I visited the gas chamber in Carson City. It was creepy, interesting and stands out as a vivid memory regarding our history. Winchester Castle sure makes a lot of money. Maybe Placerville needs more things like this to attract tourists.

  18. Becky Barrentine says:


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