Weimar's name a history mystery

By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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A fair amount of history depends on whom you want to believe. This is a tale of two stories ? apologies to Mr. Dickens. Nestled in the Sierra foothills, partway between Colfax and Auburn, is a little hamlet. Some will tell you it is named after a man whom the indigenous people called ?Weyma.? He was the headman of all the native peoples of the region at the time the gold-seeking Argonauts invaded these woodlands. Evidence of numerous Native American villages has been identified within a two-mile radius of the Country Store near the Paoli Lane exit off Interstate 80. The 1898 topographical map calls the area below the store Indian Valley. The Paoli Lane exit is named after Frank J. Paoli who was Placer County Supervisor from 1947-72. Enter the pioneers, particularly George Geisendorfer, in 1850. A vintner from Germany, he knew the area would be perfect for growing grapes. He planted his vineyards and built a processing house and distillery for wine and brandy. On the second floor of that building, he had a hall that housed many festive events through the years. Geisendorfer also knew a school was needed. To initiate the schoolhouse and provide for other settlers, he erected a steam-driven sawmill to produce planks and shingles. He named the lumberyard New England Mills and soon the school and entire region was referred to by that identification. At first, the area was too small to qualify for its own postal station. Mail was delivered from the Colfax post office three times a week with the butcher?s deliveries. In 1885, the vicinity had enough population to warrant its own station; however, federal officials said the New England Mills name was too long for a postal station. According to Geisendorfer family descendants, it was George Geisendorfer who chose to name the station Weimar, after the town and region of his birth in Germany. The whole area took on the name, but all the locals pronounce it after the famous Maidu headman. The old one-room New England Mills schoolhouse, which served the children of the area into the early 1920s, was replaced by a two-room tile structure that was destroyed by fire in 1948. Like most of Weimar's other oldest remaining structures, the Geisendorfer winery was demolished in 1956 to make way for I-80. In 1919, Dr. Robert Peers assisted 13 counties in founding a tuberculosis sanatorium in Weimar. As the treatment of that dreaded disease became successful, the installation was converted to a general medical clinic. Under then California Governor Reagan, during the early 1970s, major funding cuts were made to public hospitals. Jim Henry, once Colfax Mayor and Placer County Supervisor (1973-80), and a 15-county board of directors attempted, unsuccessfully, to save the center. After the Vietnam War, a humanitarian organization used the facility to shelter displaced refugees, informally naming it Hope Village. A few years later, it became the campus of the 457-acre Weimar Institute, which continues to offer nutrition and education programs based on the tenets of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.