Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California by Remi Nadeau

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California
by Remi Nadeau

Hardback: 278 pages
Publisher: The Ward Ritchie Press
Released: 1965

Source: Library used book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Using letters, journals, newspapers, reminiscences, and other original papers from various libraries and museums, author Remi Nadeau gives a view of the Gold Rush and the mining towns the way the miners saw them. He includes many rare photos from private collections and maps and directions for finding even the remotest ghost towns.

Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California is an entertaining history of the Gold Rush towns and mining camps in California based on letters, journals, newspapers, and more. The stories were mainly from 1848 to 1856, though he'd briefly tell the rest of the town's history if it lasted beyond that. The author gave a brief history of the gold rush and then shared amusing tales about what life was like in each of the main camps and towns. The stories included Christmas balls, racial clashes, and tales of local robbers. He also described what the towns looked like, how & why that changed, and what's left of them (even the smallest ones) now. He included black and white photographs of the towns, digs, and miners as well as maps and information on what's left of each camp or town today and how to find them.

The book didn't really describe how the mining was done but focused on the towns and social interactions. It's an entertaining read for anyone remotely interested in the subject, but it'd also be a great research resource for authors who want to set their novel during the Gold Rush. This is also a good book for anyone who'd like to track down the old mining camps and towns, though the information given in my 1965 version is probably a bit dated.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 156-157
In the earliest days, Shasta was a town of frame buildings, made of yellow pine lumber lined with cotton cloth. Fire struck this veritable tinder box on June 14, 1853, and in thirty-three minutes the whole business section went up in cinders.

But Shasta in her prime was too tough to burn out. In the next four years a fireproof Shasta rose from the ashes. With twenty-eight new structures, she was claiming the longest row of brick buildings in California. Prosperity returned in full force, and it was Shasta that provided the first shipment of gold received at the San Francisco Mint.

The golden treasure flowing through this thriving camp was not overlooked by California's knights of the road. Among the first of such gentry to arrive were five members of Rattlesnake Dick's gang who were fascinated by a shipment of $80,000 worth of gold being packed over Trinity Mountain in the summer of '56. Since pack mules over the route were plainly branded and easily identified if stolen, Dick himself was to meet the gang with fresh animals for carrying off the loot.

At an abrupt bend in the trail, the robbers descended on the pack train and quickly overpowered the muleteers, whom they tied to trees. Then they unloaded the gold and hurried off to a secret hiding place.

But Rattlesnake Dick failed to show up with the new mules, and was, in fact, resting in the Auburn jail on a charge of mule stealing. After seven days' wait, one of the outlaws grew restless and was killed in a fracas with the leader. The remaining four buried half the gold and lugged the rest across Sacramento Valley to the Mother Lode country. But on the road near Auburn a Wells Fargo posse was waiting for them. In the fight that followed, the leader was killed and the other three captured. Half the loot was recovered, but the other $40,000 hidden on Trinity Mountain stands high in the lore of California's buried treasure.

No comments: