website of Katie Willmarth Green writer/historian/genealogist

Some (Flattering) Reviews

Reviews for Shall We Gather at the River?

“You don't have to have lived in or even visited Downieville in Sierra County, California to appreciate and enjoy Katie Willmarth Green's most recent volume of historical fiction... For history buffs – and particularly Gold Country aficionados – this book is rich in facts, details and photos... For those less interested in the past, instead preferring a good human interest tale, Green has styled her saga as a coming -of-age story... Even if you haven't read the previous two volumes of the trilogy, which were set five years earlier, this third tome has sufficient references to those previous stories to stand on its own.

Green's writing is fluid and stimulating. When I'd arrive at the end of a chapter, even if the hour were late, I'd say to myself, “Oh, just one more”, and then I'd read two or three chapters. I felt involved and invested in the people and places...”

- Hindi Greenberg, The Nevada Union

“Green's newest novel is not be missed. A good book to curl up with is a treasure. Katie Green's new novel, Shall We Gather At the River?,is one such book...Meticulously researched, the pages of the book include fascinating period graphics. ...Green's own great-grandfather went west to explore the gold rush. That knowledge became a story just waiting to be told.”

- Linda Schwanke, The Home News

“[The author] writes beautifully. I especially appreciated all the historical information included so unobtrusively in the story. [She] made Debbie come alive as a fifteen-year old. I feel that I have known her personally. Will [she] write a next story? I don't want to lose Debbie!”

- Minerva Montooth, surviving member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship at Taliesin

“I’m thinking of returning from the dead to file a suit for defamation of character.”

- Reverend John Appleton, Methodist Minister in good standing (deceased), in a letter to the Methodist Church Ministerial Association of Northern California

A coming-of-age novel — and much more! Shall We Gather at the River? teems with fascinating details, based on family information gleaned from the main character’s great-grand-daughter, about a girl born to gold rush settlers in Sierra County, California. Set in the mid-19th Century, it is a “novelized treatment of their lives”.  Green’s stated goal is “to depict the culture of that time, to paint the atmosphere and reflect the probable mindset of the characters,”  and she succeeds beautifully in this.  In addition to the story itself, we get maps, photos, drawings, and fascinating end notes for each chapter.  This is historical fiction stretched on a frame of actual family history and realistic details — and well worth reading!

- Elizabeth Champney, poet, teacher, therapist

Reviews for Sierra Summer, 1874

"Sierra Summer, 1874" was a fascinating book for one who has camped and hiked in nearby areas of the Sierra mountains but had limited knowledge of the history of that era.

The book comes alive through the eyes of Debbie Whitney, an independent and lovable young girl, full of mischief but also compassion.  Her adventures and interactions are vividly described, giving an excellent sense of the diversity of work and people surrounding the Shady Flat area along the Yuba River and points further north.

Information about the lumber industry of that period is heightened by Debbie’s unexpected presence at the mill in the high country.  The relationship she establishes with the Chinese cook, Wong Sing, is especially endearing. Numerous woodcuts and pictures of the era are spread throughout the book to illustrate the life style of the people and the flora and fauna of the mountains.

This book would appeal to young people, both girls and boys, who relish unusual adventures, as well as to adults interested in learning more about California’s adventurous past.

-Franklin D. Dryden, P.E., Consulting Engineer

If you loved "Anne of Green Gables" or "Little House on the Prairie", this story is for you and your children. Debra Whitney embodies the struggles of growing up that we all experience, placed in the unique time and place of the California Gold Rush era. Using the vernacular of the day and amazing illustrations, author Katie Green paints an authentic picture of a family's entertaining and instructive summer. Sharply-drawn characters help 10-year old Debra learn childhood lessons while becoming aware of larger issues that we still grapple with today. The author focuses her naturalist's eye on animal and plant life around the Sierra logging camp, which adds to the charm of her lyrical writing style. This story is a brilliant amalgam of human relationships, history, nature, and survival seen thru the adventure-seeking eyes of a child.

- B.J.Douglass , R.N.

What better role model could any reader have than Debbie Whitney? Others call her “little firecracker,” “tigress,” and “scamp,” but they compare her also to a mountain quail, acknowledging that she is “a small creature with a big impact.”

Debbie is independent, brave, curious and resourceful. We watch her mature (reining in her impulsivity, learning to modify her “rants” when appropriate) during the course of one summer. She relates with kindness and empathy to herself, her family and her friends and neighbors, including those in the natural world. A serious thinker, Debbie is “greatly bothered” by the unequal and inconsiderate treatment of Chinese immigrants and of wild creatures as well. She is an environmentalist and a feminist before these terms became common: she engages issues like the morality of clear cutting timber (though her much loved father owns a saw mill) and the challenges the restrictions of “ladylike” clothing (while her mother is scandalized by shorter skirts and bloomers). A (very young) woman for the ages, Debbie Whitney is someone I’d be proud to grow up to be. Readers will not soon forget this “an agile speck in the radiant landscape” of 19th century Sierra County, California.

As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and never felt conscious of reading a "children's book."

- Elizabeth Champney, Family Therapist

Although the school year ends, summer is not a time to stop learning, and it has never been a time to stop learning. Sierra Summer, 1874: The Further Adventures of Deborah Whitney tells the story of soon-to-be young woman, Deborah Whitney [who is] coming to terms with her life and its challenges as her world rapidly shifts around her and she learns more about America and its people as it does. A story of family, friends, and life, Sierra Summer, 1874 is a fun read for younger readers and is highly recommended.

- The Midwest Book Review's Small Press Bookwatch, February 2011

"Sierra Summer, 1874" is a delightful story, transporting the reader beyond Katie Green’s first novel, "Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat" , rejoining young Deborah Whitney and following her adventures throughout the summer of 1874. Katie Green weaves into her tale, not only various characters of differing ethnic origins, but also the wide variety of animals who resided in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Also woven into this adventurous tale are the environmental concerns expressed by young Deborah Whitney over excessive logging for the insatiable gold mining industry. One is drawn to the toil of daily life where fresh fruit and vegetables are delicacies; and laundry day is dreadful. The reader encounters, with Deborah, the exaltation of viewing a bald eagle and the fright of encountering bears, cougars and wasps. We are thrilled, along with various characters over the beauty of spring and summer wildflowers and devastated with the destruction of fire. We forget, in the present day, that communication via stagecoach was a lengthy process and letters were a prized possession. Katie Green expertly immerses the reader, transporting that reader back in time - creating an empathy between the reader and the characters in the tale.

- Suzanne L. Burr, drafhorse trainer, events coordinator

Reviews for Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat


Some girls always want to get their way, and will go out of their way to make that happen. Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat: A Dauntless Girl of the Golden Westis the story of a starry-eyed daughter of gold rush pioneers. Looking at the American West's high society during the end of the nineteenth century through the eyes of a rebellious tomboy (who has her own set of severe weaknesses), Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat is an intriguing story of historical adventure for [young] teens, and is highly recommended."

— Children's Bookwatch: May 2009, The Midwest Book Review

"It's a clever writer today who can engage both pre-teen and adult readers. Katie Green effectively weaves the story of Deborah Whitney's ongoing adventures with a detested schoolmate, poor Selena, into the realistic background of early California mining communities. Prejudice and violence involving Chinese, Negroes, Mexicans, Italians, and virtually anyone who didn't fit into the rough and ready citizenry and who wasn't strong enough to defend him or herself was rampant in this time of few women (as a civilizing force) and a laid back law and legal system. Debbie Whitney, fleshed out delightfully by the author, enjoys the full attention of her parents since her brother Sam is grown up and moved away. She is drawn naturally to her adventurous father who, though settled down in the lumber business, still enjoys gold mining and a drink or two with his friends at the local tavern. However, it is Debbie's frail but determined mother who effects a change in the family's life that opens the girl's eyes to the truth about people and the world they live in. It's a book for the whole family to enjoy."

—Anne D. Bachner, retired middle and high school English teacher and author of Prairie Legacy, The Thomas Family, Their Farm and Stone Barn

"Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat" is an exciting story of the California Gold Country, set in a place that the author knows well from her childhood. The historical background is carefully researched, imparting a vivid feeling of what life was like when California was sparsely populated and people held to ethnic and religious identities they brought with them from the East or abroad. Those identities were much more important to them than to most people in today's heterogeneous society. Nonetheless, the characters in the book treat one another with kindness and respect -- and an interest in one another's cooking recipes.

—Jeffrey Burton Russell, Prof. of History Emeritus, UC Santa Barbara, author of A History of Heaven and Paradise Mislaid

This is a really good book, informative and well-balenced[sic]. Thank you for letting me read it.

—Marley Crews-Hill [age 12]

Katie Willmarth Green was raised at Shady Flat, just like her protagonist, which gives an intimate and appealing quality to her storytelling. While she spins her yarn, you feel like she's reading aloud to you in front of a cozy fire in a cabin in the Sierras, where the story is set. The author's passion for this place rings through every word like the sound of bells on cattle in the high country.

As we follow the exploits of the spunky Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat, we are transported into the inner and outer landscape of her life. We witness her adventures and explorations into relationships with classmates, family, the wider circle of townspeople, as well as the land she loves and the creatures that inhabit it. It is striking how the joys and sorrows and growing pains of this girl from another century are so similar to those of boys and girls of today.

From beginning to end the reader will find the book, set in the Gold Rush era, a gold mine of treasures: an engaging story spiced up by likable characters, detailed maps, photographs, songs, drawings, catalogue advertisements and recipes which create a genuine flavor of the historical period. Children and adults alike will find Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat interesting, informative and a joy to read.

—Georgia Weithe, author of Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death

"Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat" is a very enjoyable book to read, the setting and characters are well developed and always interesting -- you feel that you are there with all the people. The characters are so likable, with the common faults we all have, so that you want to find out what happens next. Debbie's exposure to some of the hazards of that time -- wandering tramps, mining holes, prejudices -- all serve to help her learn about life and herself. I enjoyed the leisurely pace in the beginning, making it mimic the wagon journeys between Downieville and Shady Flat. I liked how the illustrations are placed within the text to augment the story, and the removable map is extremely useful in following the action. With the author's skill at writing dialogue and local color, there is much to look forward to in continuing the saga of Debbie and her family in a sequel.

—Tad Brillhart, popular culture historian and archivist, classic car restoration specialist

This is a family story combining history, race issues, character, integrity, and values in a beautiful, dynamic web of life. Encounters with bullies, challenging adventures, consequences of behavior -- all are part of Deborah's growth and examination of what she truly believes and values. Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat is a tale that keeps the reader looking deeper into what makes relationships loving and honest, with family, self, others, especially those different than we are, and the relationship we all have with the earth. All ages can relate to the meanings intertwined in this delightful story of the 1800's which have relevance in the 21st century.

—Dr. Carol J. Visser, Psychologist and Family Therapist

"In Deborah Whitney of Shady Flat", author Katie Willmarth Green takes us to a place she both understands intimately and loves intensely. Northern California in 1874, as viewed through the eyes of 10 year old Deborah Whitney, is a land of fascinating flora and fauna, wild mountain streams, loving parents and colorful local characters -- also endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. A spirited tomboy, Deborah prefers outdoor wanderings to cooking and needlework, and her determined quest for independence often clashes with family and societal expectations for young females of the time. Following Deborah through her tenth summer at Shady Flat, one grows to love her adventuresome ways and to understand and appreciate the natural beauty and fascinating history of Gold Rush country. With the inclusion of well-researched historic details and authentic illustrations, the author transports the reader to a time and place unique in all the world. Go, join Deborah as she explores California's beautiful Sierra mountains -- it's a journey you will not soon forget!

—Anita Zipperer, Reading Specialist, M.S. Edu.

Reviews for Like a Leaf Upon the Current Cast

Like a leaf

This book brings to life the peoples and places of the Yuba River country. Depicting communities, places, sites and structures and following the region's waters, trails and roads, it introduces us to the place's ethnic groups, families, and individuals. We learn in telling democratic detail about their migrations, aspirations, dreams, adventures, mishaps, foibles, follies, and basic humanity. Generous photographs, maps, sidebars, and just plain good witty writing make this fine local history. Indeed, by breadth of insight, passion for subject, revealing anecdote, and use of gentle humor and kind disposition, author Katie Willmarth Green proves that when it comes to understanding a people and a place, local history need not concede an inch of ground to the explanations and generalizations of professional history.

—Joseph A. Amato, Dean and Professor of Rural and Regional History at SW Minnesota State U, principal founder of the Society for Local and Regional History, author of Rethinking Home: A Case For Writing Local History Beatty Image

This is a rewarding book, filled with otherwise obscure information,based on the breadth and depth of [the author's] knowledge and research! Indeed [she] has produced a record of that region which is invaluable.

—J.S. Holliday, former President of the CA State Historical Society, author of The World Rushed In, Rush For Riches

The author has panned more nuggets (albeit of local history and lore) from the Yuba River country of the Sierra Nevada than all of the prospectors and miners, both Anglo and Chinese, of the Gold Rush days.

—Richard H. Dillon, formerly Director of the Sutro Library in San Francisco, lecturer and author of many popular and scholarly histories about the West

Katie serves up well researched history with a side dish of regional pride and a dollup of love. Thank you, Katie, for an important contribution to Sierra County and a good model for regional history.

—Hank Meals, archeologist, photographer and renowned author of Yuba Trails and many other regional writings

This book is ...a treat not to be missed. Katie W. Green has written much more than just about cultural resource management and protection...It is a socio-political, ethnic, religious, environmental, gender, genealogical, transportation and recreational history all wrapped up into one...She also included meaningful observations about timely women's issues such as prostitution, dress codes, suffrage and loneliness.

—Knox Mellon, Founding Director of the CA Office of Historic Preservation, and a consultant in the area of California cultural resources

"...a personal and insightful blend of historical facts and anecdotal stories of the Gold Rush, an ethnic and political history of early California."

—Sierra Heritage magazine

Pineneedle Press Wins Midwest Book Award

Pineneedle Press was awarded a first place award at the 21st Annual Midwest Book Awards on Wednesday, May 11. Their book, Sierra Summer, 1874 by Katie Willmarth Green, won first place in the History category. Entries in the award competition included a record 213 titles from publishers in the 12-state Midwest region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). Books were reviewed by judges for excellence in independent or non-profit publishing in 35 categories.


The Midwest Book Awards are sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, a nonprofit professional association that serves the upper Midwest publishing community through education, networking, and peer recognition for independent, non-profit, and academic publishers.


Katie Green's latest book wraps up a series set in post-gold rush California which not only resurrects the stories of intrepid pioneer families to that region from all over the globe (including the Midwest), but uses the local history to explore the critical issues and crises, and also the joys, common to individuals and societies in every age.