California Travel Tips

One Last Time – Studebaker Returns to Placerville to Pay His Final Respects

Published on: July 13, 2019


Left photo: John Studebaker wheelbarrow in El Dorado County Historical Museum | right: John Studebaker | Wheelbarrow Races at El Dorado Count Fair

In June 2019 El Dorado County Fair marked the 75th Anniversary of the John M Studebaker wheelbarrow races named after John Studebaker, more famously known as “Wheelbarrow Johnny.”

It is an intense competition and participants train hard. The contestants traverse through obstacles such as mud pits, railroad ties, balance beams, humps and bumps, all while carrying a heavy load in their homemade wooden wheelbarrows. There usually are one or several competitors who even dress like Studebaker.

Most people have heard the story of John Studebaker who “made his pile” building wheelbarrows for the miners and invested his fortune in the family wagon business (that became a famous car manufacturer).

But few have heard how and why the millionaire returned to Placerville more than 100 years ago, to pay “his final respects” to the men who helped him get his start.

According to historians Craig & Franklin MacDonald, Ph.D., in April of 1912, 79-year-old “Wheelbarrow Johnny” (as his friends called him) made a sentimental journey from his Indiana home to Placerville. This time he left the East by ship, instead of wagon train. He came back to honor “his boys” and talk about old times at a gala party he threw in the Ohio House Hotel. Read the story about Studebaker’s “Last Time”…>


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