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The following is from the program of a special event in Smartsville in 2008 celebrating the official return of Smartsville’s name. Famed television producer and host Huell Howser was here to film a segment on Smartsville and Timbuctoo and he returned a few months later to film the party.
“After the placer mining community of Rose’s Bar had been flooded several times and the Yuba River became choked with hydraulic mining debris, the entire town moved to higher ground. The new town was named Smartsville after James Smart who constructed a hotel there in 1856. Smartsville was on the stage coach route between Marysville and the foothill mining communities and it became a town of some importance during the time when hydraulic mining flourished. After the Sawyer decision in 1884 the town lost much of its population of mine workers and their need for commercial services.
In those days, unique names for post offices were not mandatory, and throughout the United States there were multiple post offices with the same name - some even in the same state. Consequently a problem with mail delivery had developed and President Benjamin Harrison created the United States Board on Geographic Names to see what could be done.
The new board made some suggestions regarding post office names that led to a series of formal orders. In addition to prohibiting identical names, the orders contained recommendations on how the spelling of post office names should be simplified.
In 1909, following these recommendations, the U. S. Post Office Department changed the name of Smartsville to Smartville. Although there was no other town in California named Smartsville, the name change was made, apparently, in the spirit of compliance with the orders.
Of course the town of Smartsville was not happy with the name change. Neither were the residents of thousands of other towns throughout the United States when their names were changed. Some of these towns were successful in petitioning the board to have their original names reinstated. Others, like Smartsville, were not. Until last year the most recent attempt by Smartsville was made in 1947 but the request was denied. Despite this and similar disappointments, generations of Smartsville residents never lost their dream of regaining their original name.
Last year (2007) while Kathleen Smith and Lane Parker were gathering data for their new book Smartsville and Timbuctoo, they encountered a virtually unanimous insistence on spelling Smartsville correctly. Kathy thought to herself “I wonder if there is a way to get the correct name reinstated.”
Apparently there was a change in the attitude of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names since 1947. There certainly was a change in personnel. When Kathy called them and asked about their procedure to request a name change she was pleasantly surprised - even encouraged.
Buoyed by this encouragement Kathy called Kit Burton, President of the Smartsville Church Restoration Fund, Inc., the non-profit group that is working to restore the historic, former Catholic church in Smartsville. Working together, Kathy and Kit contacted media outlets and local organizations, historic societies, and civic groups to request that they write letters in favor of the name change. Not surprisingly, the organizations were already well aware of the real name of Smartsville and enthusiastically gave their support. After witnessing this sentiment the Yuba County Board of Supervisors readily agreed to pass a resolution favoring the name reinstatement and even assigned a county official to the project.
Backed by a thick stack of supporting letters and the Yuba County resolution, the California Committee of the U.S. Board voted to reinstate Smartsville’s name on July 16, 2008. Then, apparently overwhelmed by the favorable support, the U.S. Board unanimously granted, on August 14, 2008, what Smartsville had desired for the past 99 years.
As sweet as such a victory is, there is more to savor. Smartsville lost much of its vigor after hydraulic mining was discontinued, but the town did not disappear. Will Smartsville rise again? Just ask us.”