Sierra Gold Rush History
Purpose: sierragoldrushhistory.com provides a brief bio of my patchwork life and work, and an electronic trail of crumbs leading to a few of the more recent published writings -- namely, the books. The past and present newspaper articles and essays are primarily archived in my overstuffed filing cabinet. Perhaps the essays will be published eventually in chapbook form, but until then the most recent ones, including a series following the Chippewa lunar calendar, can be read at www.voiceoftherivervalley.com
Five years after the turbulent events depicted in Sierra Summer, 1874, Debbie Whitney is plunged into severe new trials and tribulations as her mother struggles with mortal illness. Not always with good grace, Debbie assumes the mantle of primary care-giver. She has never truly accepted moving in from the family’s sawmill at Shady Flat to live in the closest small Sierra village—the county seat, Downieville. Now, being cooped up at home as Eliza Whitney’s nurse brings on a series of existential crises.
At that time (1879-80), radical changes were taking place in the community and in American culture generally, and Debbie reflects upon these changes with her friends, neighbors, and especially her father, David. They often don’t agree with her position. She is a bit of an eccentric, sometimes lagging behind, sometimes boldly out in front of the controversial transition to “modernity.” This is seen in her attitudes toward religion, deportment for females, clothing, marriage, the vote for women, racism, and environmental concerns—just to name a few. In her wish to be freer than women had been in the past, she draws the ire of some influential people and support from others, both in and outside of her family.
This is a “coming of age” novel, depicting how young persons of that particular era struggled to negotiate the pressures to conform, meanwhile trying to figure out who they were uniquely destined to be. It is a tale of love and friendships, imbedded in a strong love of the land, and an abiding sense of place.
The cost of the book is $24.95 plus tax and mailing (insurance and packaging.) Sold only at independent book stores, museums, and shops or directly from the author. Direct queries to email@example.com.
Sierra Summer, 1874, is the award-winning* sequel to Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat. As the story resumes in the second half of that summer, Deborah's usual style of learning -- by blundering, repenting, and closely observing grownups, less impulsive young friends, and by absorbing Nature's lessons -- continues at Shady Flat. Soon the action moves to Whitney's Upper Mill, her father's other sawmill high on a flank of the towering Sierra Buttes. In many respects, Debbie encounters a very different world there.
The social and moral dilemmas posed by that rugged frontier milieu, a largely male, adult circle of laborers (both exemplary persons and a collection of misfits among the emmigrant timbercutters and miners from many different countries and states), are instantly recognizable. Types of people and dilemmas that test humans today and in every age remain strangely constant.
Sneak preview of a few events: Debbie enjoys a reunion with hip big brother, Sam... enrages her family by committing a serious act of disobedience...unexpectedly makes friends with an exotic gentleman who greatly expands her understanding of human nature...forges deep bonds with an animal...deepens friendships with two neighbor boys..conducts an ink-splotched correspondence with her orphaned friend, Selena...suffers a near-fatal accident while alone in the woods ... carouses with beloved Aunt Deborah...attends a women's rights tea party...witnesses a famous comet...increases her knowledge by being the bold, alert, question-asking girl we've come to expect. Much natural history of the Sierra is woven into the story...and "receipts" (recipes) for some oldfashioned goodies.
An Epilogue recounts how the principle historical characters spent the remainder of their lives so readers will not be tormented by wondering what happened to these endearing folk.
*I am pleased to announce that The Midwestern Independent Publishers Assn. (MIPA) 2010 award for history was bestowed upon Sierra Summer, 1874. Read more details on the Reviews page. Click to read more about this book and read its reviews.
Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat: A Dauntless Girl of the Golden West
A slightly fictionalized historical adventure story for "children of all ages", Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat is the mostly-true tale of a pioneer child born and raised in an historic gold and lumber camp along the North Yuba River in the mountains of Northern California. As the book opens, we see Debbie Whitney -- daughter of early emigrants -- as a fearless tomboy, impulsive, and also rather spoiled!
At that age, Debbie's ardent desire to test mental and physical boundaries clashes frequently with her parents' protectiveness. Her mother, especially, fears for Debbie's safety and reputation. Fixated on fairness, the girl condemns prejudice and other mean-spirited behavior around her -- and is blind to her own failings. A series of unexpected events shakes up Debbie's and her parent's lives, helping them to grow in understanding and goodness of heart.
This book examines burning issues and changing cultural values that were front and center in 1874 (when the story takes place), as seen through the eyes and actions of a child. They are essentially the same challenges parents, children, and whole cultures still wrangle about today and in every age. It's a book for lovers of history and adventure, ages 10 and up, including adult readers who are young in spirit.
Like A Leaf Upon the Current Cast
Like A Leaf Upon the Current Cast explores the history of life along a section of the North Yuba River from pre-Gold Rush times to the present. In it local events are nestled into the larger picture of the region, the State, the Republic, and the planet.
By using Sierra County as representative of what happened in the goldfields all over California, I sketch how the Gold Rush destroyed the sleepy, balanced world of the Native Americans and replaced it first with anarchy and then with a quirky, independent subculture that still holds sway today.