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Gold Country


(Above: Historic Angels Camp Downtown, Calaveras County) California Gold Rush is one of the most important defining moments in American history and culture. Much of the literature from this period comprises of a variety of storytelling forms: newspaper reports, published letters and diaries, such as those by Dame Shirley; traveler’s guidebooks; short stories and poems by Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and Jack London; popular legends; and, more recently, films and cartoons. Of particular note is the extent to which Gold Rush writing developed alternately as a literature of humor and as a literature of grief-acquired wealth was a relatively rare aspect of the experience.

Many Gold Rush titles are in stock at Sustenance Books & in Murphys, CA. Of course, most famous is Mark Twain. Born Samuel Clemens, who headed West for the Gold Rush and became a famous writer of his experiences. Mark Twain’s second-best book draws not on the Missouri towns he made so famous, nor on his long attraction to the Middle Ages, but on his little-known sojourn in the Wild West. Roughing It, published in 1872, deserves to be better known. So does Samuel Clemens’s literary apprenticeship in the gold rush mining camps of California and Nevada and the frontier newspaper offices of Nevada City and San Francisco.

1mark1(Above: Reconstructed Mark Twain’s Cabin, Calaveras County) In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the California gold rush comes Gold Rush: A Literary Exploration by Michael Kowalewski, a definitive literary anthology. Another jewel of a find is Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow, an excellent story on the California Gold Rush and growth of San Francisco 1848–1851. The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands is the story of the California Gold Rush, its impact on the American people then and now, and its contribution to the Civil War and the ultimate forging of the American nation.


(Above: Columbia Historic State Park in Calaveras County) To experience the period of history in person would be a visit to Columbia State Historic Park. It is a living gold rush town featuring the largest single collection of existing gold rush-era structures in the state. Visiting Columbia is like traveling back in time to the sights, smells, and sounds of a nineteenth century mining town—merchants dressed in 1850′s attire, a whiff of coal smoke from the blacksmith shop, and the rumble of a stagecoach pulling into town!


3 Responses

  1. Hi Matthew- I have a story about Columbia. My mother, sister, and other relatives have lived there over the years. Sometime in the 1800s (I don’t have the exact date with me right now) one ancestor was walking near the bank when there was a huge explosion inside. It blew out the bank’s iron door into the street and it unfortunately hit my relative. He died three days later from internal injuries.
    I went to high school for a time in Sonora and enjoyed time spent hanging out in Columbia- especially the old fashioned candy store! But dang, it sure gets hot in the summer!

  2. Thank you for sharing your family story! I stayed in Angels Camp and drove to Columbia, Murphys, Arnold, Sonora, and Jamestown. I was glad the state put an effort to preserve the historic town of Columbia. I had fun exploring the museum where they showcased the tools for gold panning, the lives of the Chinese people who came to search for fortune and the history of exploration of the West. Murphys is such a charming gourmet town. Jamestown is quiet and quaint. Calaveras County is very pretty. I have to go back and explore the high alpine and Ebetts pass.

  3. Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.

    Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just bookmark this web site.

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