One thing about history: looking back, it’s easy and almost scary to see how the tiniest change could have derailed entire destinies.
One of my favorite stories of serendipity is that of Mary Catherine “Mollie” Gortner. In 1890, she and her family moved to Colorado Springs from the gentle, rolling hills of Iowa. Her husband was on the scout for new opportunities and challenges. Mollie was always up for an adventure. She and her children, who were older, were eager to see some new sights.
After the Gortners were settled, the announcement of a massive gold discovery in Cripple Creek beckoned to her oldest son, Perry. He took a job there in the spring of 1891 as a surveyor. The burgeoning boom town turned wild and wooly almost overnight and Mollie worried about her young, innocent son. She arranged a visit for the fall, packed up some care packages for him and headed up the mountain. A 4-day wagon trip.
During one of Perry’s surveying jaunts over the summer, he had spotted a huge herd of elk and knew his mother would want to see the magnificent animals. They often hung about only three hundred or so yards beyond the first gold strike in Cripple Creek—the Gold King Mine. Perry and his mother packed a lunch and struck out for a warm, September hike up to what had become known, ironically, as Poverty Gulch.
A worse name no one could have imagined.
A bit winded after the high-elevation walking, Mollie sat down on a rock to wait for the herd to pass by. Nothing in particular drew her to that spot. In fact, she gave it very little thought.
Then, glancing around, she noticed a rock that “winked” at her. Curious, she took another rock and struck off a piece.
A chunk of pure gold cut through with bits of quartz fell into her hand.
Has any discovery of gold ever been easier or more serendipitous?
Hearts pounding, hands sweating, she and Perry hammered free a few more chunks, hid them in her skirt, and raced to the assayer’s office to file the claim. The clerk balked at handing the paperwork to a woman. Perry was a little befuddled on how to respond to this objection. Mollie solved the problem for both men. Without a second’s hesitation, she snatched up the forms, signed her name on the dotted line and raised her chin defiantly.
In Colorado in 1901 a woman had the legal right to own land and file a claim. The clerk didn’t have a leg to stand on, other than his chauvinism. He had a choice at that moment. He saw the fire in Mollie’s eyes and filed the claim in her name. Henry, her husband, didn’t give a wit about whose name the mine was in. He was supportive of her ownership and, to say the least, delirious about the lucky discovery.
The Mollie Kathleen mine is still in operation to this day. Perry ran it for Mollie from 1901 until his death in 1949.
Mollie died in 1917 but she will forever be known as the first woman to discover gold in Colorado, and the first woman to own a mine in the state.
Just think, what if she had sat on a different rock?
Have you ever had a moment like Mollie’s? The kind in which the slightest hitch could have redirected your life from where it is now? What do you think about her serendipitous discovery?
Comment for your chance to win one of two copies of my book, A Lady in Defiance, which was recently optioned for a television series. One of the characters in the book is named Mollie. It’s a bit foreshadowing.
Thanks for reading!
A LADY IN DEFIANCE
Charles McIntyre owns everything and everyone in the lawless, godless mining town of Defiance.
When three good, Christian sisters show up, stranded and alone, he decides to let them stay. The decision may cost him everything, from his brothel…to his heart.
Naomi Miller, angry with God for widowing her, wants no part of Defiance or the saloon-owning, prostitute-keeping Mr. McIntyre. It would seem, however, that God has gone to elaborate lengths to bring them together. The question is, “Why?” Does God really have a plan for each and every life?
A romance based on true events, A Lady in Defiance deftly weaves together the relationships of the three sisters and the rowdy residents of Defiance.
The Fillies welcome Kaitlene Dee to our little neck of the woods. She has some fascinating history of an old mining town that she built a story around. Scroll down for her giveaway.
Thank you for having me. I have always been fascinated with small towns, especially ones with a place in history and one such town is Julian, California, which is an official California Historical Landmark. This small mountain town was the only place in San Diego County to have its own gold rush in the late 1860s, early 1870s.
Julian started as a small mining camp that was set up virtually overnight, shortly after Fred Coleman discovered placer gold at a creek in the area in 1869. Many miners rushed to stake their claim at the creek. The summer of 1872 would’ve seen the miner population grow to about 300, the tented mining camp had grown into a bustling town of 50 houses, 4 stores, a couple of restaurants, a schoolhouse, and nearly a dozen saloons.
Later, when the placer gold dried up, the town still survived because of hard rock mines that continued on and yielded nearly $5 million dollars in gold ore.
Julian’s climate also made it ideal for growing orchards, specifically apples. Mr. James T. Madison first brought apple trees to Julian in the early 1870s. Eventually, ranchers moved cattle onto the rolling hills and ranched in the mountain area.
Today, Julian is known for its apple pie festival in the fall (and the aroma of baked apple pie fills the air throughout the town), as well as the numerous cozy, romantic bed & breakfast inns dotting the outskirts of the town.
Currently, a couple of the hard rock mines can still be toured, and the town boasts the fascinating Julian Pioneer Museum with many incredible pieces from history.
Is it obvious that I absolutely love this town? What I haven’t touched on is how amazing the people who made Julian were—and they made it rich in history. These founders and citizens are the true treasure of Julian. For instance, Julian’s first mayor, was in trouble with the residents after a dance at the town hall. During the dimly lit evening dance, the babies were all sleeping in a very dark room, where the mayor went in and switched all the babies around, so the families of the town didn’t discover, until the next morning, that they’d each brought home the wrong baby. Silly mayor!
There is too little space here to share more about them, but they have inspired my heart to write an entire series called the Brides of Willow Creek series (currently, 8 of 10 novels are either written in rough draft or heavily plotted). Originally, the series was to be called the Brides of Julian Creek, but I had to change the name with my new penname for historicals (vs the contemporary westerns I write). The first book, Josina, will release in December 2022 (though the pre-order will have a temporary release date of 3/2023).
As the first book in Brides of Willow Creek series, Josina is about a young lady who is helping friends run their store while the owner’s wife is bedridden. A miner places an order for a rocker cradle for his placer mining work and she mistakenly orders a baby cradle. The encounter between them, when she goes to right the wrong, is hilarious and full of growing romantic tension.
Josina has only a sister, who is currently serving time at a women’s prison for cattle rustling, which has left Josina to fend for herself. When help arrives from the store owner’s family, Josina sets off for adventure and to make things right with the customer, Henry. He turns out to be a handsome grump with an old prospector sidekick who befriends Josina and seems bent on helping her find the adventure her heart’s looking for by way of matchmaking her to the handsome but cranky Henry.
A lighthearted, Christian mail-order bride romance set in gold mining town of Willow Creek, Josina is part of the Brides of Willow Creek series. All books in this historical Christian romance series are stand-alone novels and can be read in any order.
For a chance to win a signed paperback of Josina, please leave a comment
on the trope you love best in historical fiction.
Order your copy of Josina and read how a gold miner discovers a treasure worth more than her weight in gold—the zany lady with her blonde curls and uncontainable adventurous spirit! Pre-order your copy of Josina, available at the special pre-order price of 99 cents for a very limited time only! Order HERE
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Kaitlene Dee lives on the west coast, not far from Julian CA, and writes contemporary Christian romances as Tina Dee. Kaitlene and Tina’s books can be found on Amazon.
As a thank you, you’ll receive a sampler containing the first couple of chapters for the first 4 books in the series—yes, it’s just a teaser but I hope it will whet your whistle to give my new series a chance for a place in your reading stack.
I’m thrilled to be with you today to talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s the place I’ve lived for most of my life and where my family roots run deep into the famous red clay. It’s my home state of Georgia, and while you may be wondering what the Peach State could possibly have in common with the rootin’, tootin’ wild west, let me tell you—more than you’d think!
At one time, in the early years of our country, Georgia was considered just as wild and free as the western states to come, and it became more untamed when gold was discovered in 1828.
That’s right, Georgia had its very own gold rush!
In the summer of 1828, Auroria, Georgia was a quiet little town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where the waters of the Etowah and Chestatee Rivers met. Across the river lay the Cherokee nation, led by Chef John Ross. Under his direction, the Indians had acclimated themselves in the ways of the new country, living in houses and educated their children with the help of Quaker missionaries. A border dispute between the Cherokee and the state of Georgia had sent John Ross to Washington D.C. in January of that year. Both communities had been on edge, but things had settled down with the spring planting and summer harvest.
It is said that the Georgia gold rush started one August evening when a young man by the name of Benjamin Park stumbled on a rock as he was walking along a deer path. He had just left a friend’s house after celebrating his birthday and didn’t think much of it until something sparkled at his feet. When he bent down to inspect it, he realized he hadn’t tripped over a rock but a large nugget of gold.
Word spread, first to adjoining counties then throughout the state and the southern region. People began pouring into the area—miners from the first American gold rush in North Carolina, gamblers and thieves. Plantation owners sent their slaves after the crops were harvested, some promising freedom for gold. Over the next year, people from the northern states as well as the Irish, Scots and English invaded the small community, setting up their stakes along the riverbanks. Food was scarce, but liquor was plentiful and with it, crime and fighting. Some towns had sheriffs but most left law and order up to the Georgia Guard. Most miners panned at night because the state had declared ownership of the rivers’ mineral rights though in truth, it belonged to the Cherokee.
For ten solid years, miners dredged the river of significant amounts of some of the purest gold ever recorded on earth. In 1838, Congress decided to establish a mint in the area. Auroria and Dahlonega were both considered but Dahlonega was awarded the mint. The mint signaled the beginning of the eviction of the Cherokee from their native land and sent west on what is commonly known as the Trail of Tears, one of the saddest chapters in Georgia history.
In 1840, the gold along the banks of the Etowah was almost gone and with it came the demise of Auroria. The mint in Dahlonega produced gold coins well into the 1860s when the confederates took it over, printing gold confederate coins instead. After the war, the mint was closed down permanently.
The gold rush continues today in the area. Every weekend die hard miners are in the water, some with pans, a few with sluice boxes. It’s mostly for fun but hard work! I tried it once and my muscles hurt for a solid week! But I did manage to find a few flakes of gold!
Gold Dust Bride –Abigail Matthews’ lifelong ambition is to run her family’s iron mines alongside her father. With the company in trouble, she heads to the north Georgia mountains where iron and gold are rumored to be found. Abby is certain the mountains hold the iron ore their mining company needs to survive but the task is made more difficult by the influx of miners and the interference of Micah Anderson, the town’s blacksmith and acting sheriff who hinders her progress. . .and steals her heart.
Micah Anderson doesn’t understand the mad rush of people searching for gold. He sees them as gamblers no better than the father who lost him in a card game. That someone as lovely as Abigail would take such a risk grates at him but doesn’t diminish his attraction to her. Working alongside her to provide food for his adoptive mother’s boarding house, Micah discovers the hidden depths of Abigail’s character. But when Abigail is put into danger after witnessing a crime against a Cherokee Indian, will Micah be willing to gamble his heart on the woman he’s come to love?
Patty is giving away a copy of Crinoline Cowboys to two readers who leave a comment today. What is something you love about your home state?
Multi-published author Patty Smith Hall lives near the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Danny, her two daughters, her son-in-law and her grandboy. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.
Admittedly, the history of mining isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or researching. And then I happened to include a setting of mines in not one but two stories and dove into researching hard rock mining in the Baker City, Oregon, area at the end of the 1800s.
I knew before I started that there were many, many mines in the area from the 1880s through the 1890s and on into the new century. Dozens of little mining towns popped up on the horizon and just as quickly faded one the mines closed.
From 1880 through 1899, Oregon produced more than $26 million dollars in gold and silver with more than $18 million of it coming from Baker, Grant and Union county (which are all in the Baker City region).
To say mining was a big deal at the time is something of an understatement. It was a huge business.
Thankfully, the Baker County Library has an incredible digital library of thousands of old images. I found many that illustrated the mining business and aided my research more than I can even say.
As a visual person, it was fantastic to look at these images, read the descriptions and picture how things would look at my fictional mines.
This advertisement was such a help to me because the illustration lets you look inside the various levels of the mill and see how they were built into the hills.
This is an image of the Eureka & Excelsior Mine mill building in the Cracker Creek District, Oregon. You can see how it’s built into the hill, quite similar to the illustration in the advertisement.
This image shows the vanner room at the Bonanaza Mine, which was one of the top producing mines during the mining heyday in the Baker City region. It was located four miles from Greenhorn City which straddled both the Baker and Grant county lines.
Vanning is a process of separating the material of value from that which is worthless. Typically, a powdered sample of orestuff is swirled with water on the blade of a shovel and then given a series of upward flicking motions. The heavier ore is tossed up through the water and appears as a crescent shaped patch at the top of the charge with the lighter material that is unusable below. In the 19th century, the process was automated and used to separate ore on an industrial scale. The Frue Vanner was a widely-adopted machine, invented in 1874 by W.B. Frue in Canada.
With a Frue vanner, a continuous rubber belt (usually 4 feet wide and about 27.5 feet long, shown in the center of this photo) passed over rollers to from the surface of an inclined plane. The orestuff was concentrate on in the belt and the belt traveled uphill from three to twelve feet per minute while being shaken anywhere from 180-200 times. Crushed orestuff from the stamps fed onto the belt. As it traveled uphill, it met small jets of water which gradually washed the gangue (the commercially valueless material in which ore is found) off the bottom of the belt. The heavier ore adhered to the belt as it went over the top roller and passed into a box containing water where the ore was deposited. To make this work, anywhere from three to six gallons of water per minute was required. One machine could treat approximately six tons per twenty-four hours of orestuff.
This is a photo of the stamping room at the Golden Gate mine, also located near Greenhorn City. There are ten stamps shown here. The stamp is a large mechanical device used to crush ore and extract minerals. Repeatedly, the stamps and raised and dropped onto ore that is fed into the mill, until the coarse ore is reduced to a finer material that can be further processed. The number of stamps used depended on the size of the mill and the amount of ore being taken out of the mine.
The Red Boy Mine (also located near Greenhorn City) boasted it’s own laboratory, at least in this 1902 photo. On-site labs were considered to be a strategic value to a mine. Among the work done there was testing and sampling to derive critical operational, metallurgical, and environmental data needed to make the most of mining and mineral processing production.
This amazing photo (undated) was taken at the Bonanza Mine. Five men are working in a tunnel wielding four-pound hammers that were called “single jacks” and steel drills. Note the candles on a wire stuck in cracks in the walls to provide light. Total production at this mine from 1899-1904 was just shy of a million dollars. It was mostly a gold mine, although they did find some silver. Reports show total production from the mine totaled $1.75 million dollars.
And this awesome image is taken inside the superintendent’s cabin at the St. Anthony Mine in 1901. One might assume the woman in the photo is the superintendent’s wife. Many of the mines refused to allow women in the camp and were called a “boar’s nest.”
If you’d like to read more about mining in this region of Oregon, there’s a lot of detail in this digital report.
And if you’d like to read about the adventures of my characters at the fictional mines that exist only in my head, you’ll find Graydon (Grady) Gaffney at the Lucky Larkspur Mine in Gift of Hope.
When his affections are spurned by the girl he plans to wed, Graydon Gaffney rides off in the swirling snow, determined to stay far away from fickle females. Then a voice in the storm draws him to a woman and her two sweet children. Despite his intentions to guard his emotions, all three members of the DeVille family threaten to capture his heart.
Giavanna DeVille holds the last frayed edges of her composure in a tenuous grasp. In a moment of desperation, she leaves her sleeping children in her cabin and ventures out into a storm to release her pent-up frustrations where no one can hear her cries. Much to her surprise, a man appears through the blinding snow. He gives her a shoulder to cry on and something even more precious. . . hope.
Can the two of them move beyond past heartaches to accept the gift of hope for their future?
You’ll also find the characters of my latest book Dumplings and Dynamite (releasing tomorrow!) at the Crescent Creek Mine, up in the hills out of Baker City.
Widow Hollin Hughes doesn’t care how long it takes or the depths of deception required to discover how her husband really died. She’s determined to unearth the truth and unravel the mystery surrounding his death. Then a new dynamite man arrives at the mine and throws all her plans off kilter.
With a smile that makes females of any age swoon, Deputy Seth Harter can charm his way into or out of almost anything. When he’s sent undercover to Crescent Creek Mine, even the cranky cook seems entirely immune to his rugged appeal, making him wonder if he’s losing his touch. Eager to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained deaths, Seth counts on catching the criminals. He just didn’t anticipate a tempestuous woman claiming his heart in the process.
Brimming with humor, tidbits from history, and a sweet, unexpected love, don’t miss out on a heartwarming romance packed with adventure.
And here’s a little excerpt from the story:
A flash of pity swept through him for the baby’s mother who lost her husband and was now working for the contemptible Eustace Gilford. He had no doubt the woman had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to be able to cook a big breakfast for a camp full of miners. It had to be challenging to cook and care for such a newly-born child.
Mrs. Parrish hurried back into the kitchen, saw him holding the baby, and her pale skin blanched white.
“What are you doing?” she asked in a harsh, quiet tone. She moved across the room and took the baby from him with such haste, he had no idea how she’d managed to reach him in so few steps. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought maybe she’d forgotten about her limp.
“I hoped if I held her, she’d stop crying. It worked,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, although he moved a step closer to the widow. “What’s her name?”
“I’ve never met anyone named Keeva. Is it a family name?” he asked.
The woman merely nodded. “It was her great-grandmother’s name.”
“Then I’m sure she’d be proud to have a beautiful little granddaughter to share it with.”
The woman looked at him over her shoulder with an uncertain glare, as though she couldn’t quite figure him out, before she turned back to the baby. “Breakfast is on the table. The men will be in soon. If you want something to eat, you best get out there. If Mr. Gilford didn’t mention it, the men pack their own lunches from the food on the tables near the door.”
“He did say something about that. Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.” Seth tipped his head to her then made his way to the dining room where men began trickling inside.
Eustace directed Seth to a chair at the far end of the long table. When everyone was seated, he pointed to Seth. “Meet our newest employee, Seth Harter. He’ll be drilling and blasting.”
Mrs. Parrish nearly dropped the pot of coffee she carried at this announcement but quickly recovered. Seth wondered how hard he’d have to work to charm the truth out of her. In spite of her appearance, something about her made him look forward to trying.
The past several weeks, I’ve been working on a new book in my Baker City Brides series which is set in the 1890s in Baker City, Oregon.
The town got its start from gold mines in the area back in the 1860s. The gold played out, or so people thought, then enjoyed another boom around 1890.
The story, titled Dumplings and Dynamite, takes place for the most part at a mining camp.
This is a photo of the E&E Mine out of Baker City. It appears much as I envision the mine where my story takes place.
I’m fascinated with the mill buildings that sprung up against the hillsides at mines like this one – the Golden Gate Mine near what once was called Greenhorn City.
It’s hard for me to envision what it was like working in a mine because I wouldn’t have lasted a day. Probably not even an hour. I don’t like dark, enclosed spaces. At all. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to get up day after day and spend hour after hour in the bowels of a mountain digging out some other man’s fortune.
The image above shows mine workers from the Bonanza Mine (one of the most successful of its time) near Baker City.The men are wielding “single jacks,” four-pound hammers, and steel drills. For light, the miners had candles on a wire stuck in a crack in the wall.
In my story, the hero is working as a powder monkey (a new term I learned in my research), also known as the brave individuals who worked with the explosives at a mine. The powder monkeys, or powdermen, were in charge of rotating the explosives to ensure older explosives were used first, ordering explosives, transportation of explosives, and keeping up the area where the explosives were stored. And in my story, he also sets off the charges, although, in reality, this job was often left to the miners who were digging out the ore.
It was while I was trying to dig up research on dynamite usage in the early 1890s that I happened across an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s fun reading, anyway. The source is from Richard Dillon’s book Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward, 1961.
According to the story, a young man named George Banks had a job working on the portage railroad at Cascade Locks, Oregon. It was the mid-1890s and shanghaiing was a rampant sport at the docks in Portland. In fact, it was a known fact the port was one of the worst places in the world to be kidnapped around that time.
One day, George (known as a confident, upright, rock-solid fellow) was in Portland picking up a load of freight and he missed his returning sailing on the riverboat. Stuck on the wharf with crates of merchandise for work, he didn’t want to have to wait for morning to leave.
A few friendly fellows approached George and offered to help him out. They made a deal for George to pay them for transporting him and his crates, and the men soon returned with a boat. The men helped George load his crates and they cast off, heading the wrong direction. At first, George merely puzzled over what they were doing. Then one of the men explained to him he was a sailor now and they were taking him to their ship where he’d be stuck working for them as little more than a free laborer.
George took exception to this plan.
“You ain’t gonna shanghai me,” George informed his kidnappers, reaching into his pocket. “I’ll blow you to hell first.”
His hand came out full of blasting caps.
All those crates the men had loaded were full of dynamite and George had the nickname among his friends as the “Dynamite Kid.”
Needless to say, the boat turned around and took George where he wanted to go. After he unloaded his cargo, he paid the men as he’d originally agreed to do, then went about his work.
I think I would have liked to have met George. Talk about pluck and determination!
Although I’m not quite ready to do a cover reveal of Dumplings and Dynamite, I will share a little excerpt with you today:
Seth gathered an armload of wood and carried it inside the cookshack where mouth-watering aromas filled the air.
Long tables and benches filled the room. Through a doorway, he could see a woman and the two younger boys he’d noticed earlier scurrying around the kitchen, scooping food into bowls and dishing it onto platters.
“Need some wood?” Seth asked as he walked through the doorway.
The woman glanced up at him in surprise, but quickly recovered. She waggled a gravy-coated spoon in the direction of the wood box then went back to scraping gravy into a large bowl.
“I’m Seth. Mr. Gilford just hired me,” he said after he dumped the wood he carried into the box by the stove. He stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from snatching a golden flapjack off a platter one of the boys carried out to the table.
“I’m Mrs. Parrish, the cook,” she said, not meeting his gaze as she handed the gravy bowl to a boy then picked up two platters full of bacon.
“Allow me,” Seth said, taking the platters from her. The woman might have been twenty or fifty. From her stringy hair, rumpled dress, and bedraggled petticoat hanging an inch below her skirt hem, she looked rather unkempt, but she smelled clean and her eyes were bright.
In fact, they were an unusual shade somewhere between gray and green that made him think of the sagebrush that grew so prevalent to the south and east of Baker City. In spite of circles beneath her eyes and smudges of flour on her cheeks, her skin was smooth, without the wrinkles age brings, and dusted with a generous helping of freckles.
He glimpsed her hands. Although rough and red from hard work, they looked young, almost delicate.
Yet, the woman moved slightly humped over with the hint of a limp and when she smiled at him, he couldn’t miss the absence of her two front teeth. He stepped back and followed the boys out to the dining area, setting the platters on the table. Something about the woman bothered him and it had nothing to do with the lack of teeth. If he was a gambling man, he’d bet she was hiding something. He had a feeling Mrs. Parrish was not at all what she seemed.
Eureka! It’s the GOLD DIGGERS come to Pistols & Petticoats, and Jewel Jones—of JEWEL’S GOLD—is from a long line of gold diggers! Her daddy (Joshua Jones) and his daddy before him (Moses Jones, first met in book four SINS OF THE MOTHER of my Texas Romance Family Saga) mined gold in California all the way back to the 1850s during the Gold Rush of 1849. God blessed them, and the family is set financially for generations.
But Jewel’s father wanted to make it on his own, find the mother lode for himself on the claims he’d purchased on Troublesome Creek in Alaska. He just hadn’t found enough gold to warrant opening a mine before he perished. He had faith the mother lode was there though. Jewel loved traveling north with him, helping him in the wilderness in her teen years.
It’s 1895, and now Jewel is a grown, intelligent, headstrong Daddy’s girl bent on proving he was right about the Alaskan mine. Her mother’s dead set against the whole dreadful idea of going there again, but had made the bargain…
Why, you ask, did I decide to organize a collection for Gold Diggers?
So, back in December, my husband Ron and I took off on a research journey to ride the Oregon / California Trail for a covered wagon story. It was indeed a fabulous trip I highly recommend for western history lovers! But towards its end, we made a surprise stop at Sutter’s Mill on the American River. It was an unplanned treasure trove of fun and information.
It’s a park and museum with old buildings and replicas. Seeing the place where the California Gold Rush started in Coloma was awesome! When I talked Ron into going, on the map it only looked like twenty to twenty-five minutes. But the road winding around the mountain down to the beautiful river was an experience in itself!
The place was originally John Sutter’s lumber camp back in 1847. His foreman building the sawmill for him, John Marshall, discovered less than an ounce of shiny metal in January 1848. Some of the other workers started finding gold in their off hours. Rumors were first confirmed in the San Francisco newspaper that March, and by December that year, President James Polk made it official in an address to Congress that gold had been discovered in California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 was on!
The S.S. California was one of the steamships that made the voyage. She left New York in early January 1849 on her maiden mail run, scrambling to fill their vacant rooms with passengers. By the time the steamship got around Cape Horn and to Panama City on the Pacific, there were seven hundred people waiting to board to get to California.
In 1849, 40,000 miners took about ten million dollars in gold; the next year, forty-one million worth was mined. And the following year, that amount doubled to EIGHTY-ONE MILLION taken by a hundred thousand miners! After that year, mining levels declined until by 1865, mining brought in less than eighteen million. Isn’t that amazing?
Jewel’s father Joshua (born in book four SINS OF THE MOTHER of theTexas Romance Family Saga) had mining in his blood and passed it on to his daughter. I fell in love with Jewel. When writing, one needs to remember “unity of opposites” which is a nice way of saying the villain needs to be almost invincible, stronger, and more cunning than the heroine. This man we found in the character of Boaz Branson, the son of a con man set to salt Jewel’s mine to increase its value as his father had won a percentage of it in a poker game, but will he turn into a hero? And if he does, then who’s really the bad guy? It is a story that includes adventure, gumption, high stakes, murder, and mystery . . . oh, yes, and romance of course!
JEWEL’S GOLD is Book Four in a wonderful multi-author collection, including Amy Lillard, Chautona Having, Jennifer Beckstrand and myself! If you love the history of the wild west, you’re sure to enjoy the Gold Diggers Collection, launched this past month! JEWEL’S GOLD is book four in the 2019 Gold Diggers Collection.
Caryl’s offering a free e-book copy of JEWEL’S GOLD to one of the commenters who answer this question:
Would you have followed your husband or want to go yourself to prospect for gold?
Best-selling author Caryl McAdoo is all about loving God and giving Him glory! Though western historical Christian romance is her favorite genre—especially family sagas—she also writes contemporary Red River Romances, Biblical fiction, and young adults and mid-grade readers. The prolific hybrid author loves singing the new songs the Lord gives her, too. (Take a listen at YouTube) Caryl counts four children and sixteen grandsugars life’s biggest blessings. She and high school sweetheart-husband Ron (fifty-plus years) live in the woods of Red River County about five miles south of Clarksville in the far northeast corner of the Lone Star State, waiting for God to open the next door.
Gold is found in tough clay. To dissolve the clay the miner fills a pan made of sheet-iron or tinned iron, with a flat bottom about a foot in diameter, and sides six inches high, inclining outwards at an angle of thirty or forty degrees. At a river bank, he squats down, puts his pan under water, and shakes it horizontally. Once the mass is thoroughly soaked, he picks out the larger stones, mashes up the largest and toughest lumps of clay, and again shakes his pan. When all the dirt appears to be dissolved, allowing the heavier gold to move to the bottom, he tilts up the pan a little to let the thin mud and light sand run out, until he has washed out all except the metal, which remains in the pan.
The arrastra, a Mexican contrivance, rude, but effective, was used in the early days to pulverize the ore. Winnowing, or “drywashing” was also practiced by the Mexicans where the ore was found too far away from a sufficient supply of water to make any other practice possible. The wind bears away the dust and light particles of earth, and leaves the gold dust, which is heavier.
The rocker resembles a child’s cradle. On the upper end is a riddle, made with a bottom of sheet-iron punched with holes. This is filled with pay dirt and rocked with one hand, while, with a dipper, the miner pours water into the riddle with the other. Being agitated, the liquid dissolves the clay and carries it down with the gold into the floor of the rocker, where the metal is caught by traverse riffles, or cleats. The mud, water, and sand run off at the lower end of the rocker, which is left open. The riddle can be removed, allowing the miner to throw out the larger stones mixed with the clay.
The chief want of the placer miner was an abundant, convenient supply of water not always readily available. One resolution was an artificial channel about two miles long. After eight years, six thousand miles of mining canals supplied water to all the principal placer districts of Nevada and furnished the means for obtaining the greater portion of the gold yield.
Where the surface of the ground furnished the proper grade, a ditch was dug. Where it did not, flumes were built of wood, sustained in the air by framework that rose sometimes to a height of three hundred feet in crossing deep ravines, and extending for miles at an elevation of 100-200 feet. Aqueducts of wood, and pipes of iron, were suspended upon cables of wire, or sustained on bridges of wood; and inverted siphons carried water up the sides of one hill by the heavier pressure from the higher side of another.
In Nevada, a total length of 6,000 miles of canals and flumes were created. The largest mine, the Eureka, had 205 miles of ditches, constructed at a cost of $900,000. As placers were gradually exhausted, the demand for water and the profits of ditch companies decreased. Flumes, blown down by severe storms, carried away by floods, or destroyed by the decay of the wood, were not repaired.
The sluice was a broad trough from 100-1000 feet long, with transverse cleats at the lower end to catch the gold. With a descent of one foot in twenty, the water rushes through it like a torrent, bearing down large stones, and tearing the lumps of clay to pieces. The miners had little to do save throw in the dirt and take out the gold.
In Hydraulic mining a stream of water is directed under heavy pressure against a bank or hillside, tearing the earth down and carrying it into the sluice to be washed. The force of a stream of water rushing through a two-inch pipe, under a pressure of two hundred feet perpendicular caused hills to crumble as if piles of cloud blown away by a breath of wind. When dried by months of constant heat and drought, the clay becomes so hard, not even the hydraulic stream, with all its
momentum, could steadily dissolve it. Often the miner would cut a tunnel into the heart of his claim, and blast the clay loose with powder, so that it yielded more readily to the action of water.
The erection of a long sluice, the cutting of drains (often necessary to carry off the tailings), and the purchase of water from the ditch company, required capital; and the manner of clearing up rendered it impossible for workers to steal much of the gold. Thus, the custom of hiring miners for wages became common in placer diggings.
Even today, men continue to search for gold and some manage to find enough to keep them going. Others give up and return home. I found gold once, at Knotts Berry Farm in California. I was eight years old. I wish I still had that miniscule vial of gold flakes, but it was lost long ago.
Priscillais Book 1 in The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series. It is on preorder now and will be released on 9/15. There will be 17 books (or more) released the first and fifteenth of each month. Book 2, Blessing, by Caroline Clemmons is also up for preorder. There are ten authors: Charlene Raddon, Caroline Clemmons, Zina Abbot, Tracy Garrett, Christine Sterling, Linda Carroll-Bradd, Pam Crooks, Kit Morgan, Margaret Tanner, and Kristy McCaffrey. The series is about a Utah gold mining town in which the mine has been destroyed, killing off most of the men and leaving the women and children destitute and at the mercy of a greedy mine owner who also owns the town. To save their town they must remarry. Forty-six strong, determined women set out to save their town and find love at the same time.
After losing her father and husband in a mine disaster, Priscilla Heartsel faces poverty and eviction from her home by a heartless mine owner. Tricked into a bank robbery gone wrong, Braxton Gamble finds himself shot and unconscious in Priscilla’s bed.Can they survive long enough to find a love more precious than gold?
Charlene will be giving away two e-books.
One will a be copy of her brand new release – Priscilla (delivered 9/15). Another will be the winner’s choice of any of her backlist titles.
You can find all of her books listed on her websitehere. Leave a comment for a chance to win!
Hello Petticoats & Pistols! I am honored to help Linda Broday by joining you today. (Have fun at RWA, Linda!) For those you don’t know me, or may have forgotten, I’m western romance author, Julie Lence, blogging about a subject I knew nothing about and had fun researching: Mules Working in the Coal Mines.
In the summer of 2016, the Pastor of our church retired and our other priest was transferred to a different parish. We welcomed a new Pastor and another priest and looked forward to getting to know them. During their sermons, each priest will sometimes mention something from their childhood or personal experience to tie into the day’s Gospel. One such Sunday, one of them began talking about mules living in coal mines. My first thought was comical, and my second thought was this would make for a great blog. I’ve never heard of a mule living in a coal mine and wrote a quick note to research.
Throughout civilization horses and mules have been used to help man with lifting or hauling something heavy. This practice was carried over in Montana when it came to working in a coal mine. Pulling carts laden with ore was hard labor for man, so mules were brought down into the mines to help. Horses couldn’t be used, as the cages used to get to the bottom of the mine were small. A typical cage proved difficult trying to cram in six men, but could hold one mule. To get the mule onto the cage and to the bottom required a few days planning. The initial step involved not feeding the mule or giving him water for three days because there was a risk the mule would succumb to a ruptured bladder or suffocation while being lowered. Before being led into the cage, the mule was blindfolded so he wouldn’t spook and his legs were bound in a leather truss to keep him still. The mule was placed inside the cage on his rear and lowered to the bottom. Sometimes, he tried to kick, but usually he settled down to the quiet of the mine and rode the cage just fine.
Once down at the bottom, mules were put to work pulling the ore carts. They worked their eight-hour shift and then were taken to a lit stable inside the mine for food and rest. Muleskinners cared for the animals, and along with their food, made sure the mule had a tub of ice water to drink each night. The muleskinner also scrubbed the mule’s hooves with soap and water to rid him of the deadly copper water he plodded through during the day. The copper was capable of eating away at the hoof and if this happened, the mule would end up useless.
Mules adjusted well to the mines, with many knowing the mine better than the minors. Tales abound of many a mule saving miners from fires and other dangers. One such tale involved a miner who made a hole through a wall the size of his head to see what was on the other side. He discovered a lake but thought nothing of it until the next day. His mule began acting strange, and cutting him free from his job, the mule took off for higher ground. Knowing a mule’s instinct was good, the minor and his coworkers were able to escape quickly when, at the same moment the mule dashed off, the hole the miner had made crashed open, with water gushing toward them from the lake.
Though a mule labored beneath the ground, he wasn’t left there his entire life. If a mule was injured or sick, he was brought above ground immediately. The same applied to the duration of the mine shutting down for vacation or the miners going on strike. And mules weren’t treated cruelly. Miners and mule skinners learned early on to care for the mule. If treated poorly, the mule usually got even with either kicking a man in the ribs or head, or squeezing him against the wall. Trained mules were valuable, worth as much as $200, and always received medical treatment and rubdowns when needed.
The use of mules in mines pulling ore carts came to an end in December of 1965. An Act of Legislature outlawed the underground stable, making it illegal to house animals in mines.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by and read about the mules. They truly were exceptional in that time period. To connect with me and learn more about my writing, you can catch me here:
As an added bonus, I’m giving away 3 ebook copies of my 1st book, Luck of the Draw. To be eligible to win, leave a comment here regarding your favorite thing about the old west. Until next time, have a great day.
I’ve been busy working on the next book in my Baker City Brides series, set in historic Baker City located right along the Oregon Trail in Eastern Oregon.
The series begins in the early 1890s when Baker City was experiencing its second gold rush period. (The first came in the 1860s). Baker City was the geographic center for booming gold, copper, and silver mines. It became a center for trade and commerce and was the second city in the state to boast electricity and paved roads. In fact, it’s said Baker City almost became the capital of Oregon.
During the heyday of Baker City, new buildings and businesses were popping up all around. The town had earned the name “Queen City of the Mines.”
And one of those new buildings just happened to be a wonderfully luxurious hotel named Hotel Warshauer. Merchants Jake and Harry Warshauer opened the hotel in 1889. Built in an Italianate Victorian style, the building was designed by architect John Bennes and constructed using mined volcanic tuff from the region.
The hotel featured a four-story clock tower and a 200-foot corner cupola. Supposedly, the hotel cost $70,000 to build and included 80 guest rooms as well as seating for 200 in the elegant dining room.
A second-floor balcony overlooked the dining room’s marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and mahogany paneling. Presiding over it, was a beautiful stained glass ceiling (reportedly the largest in the Pacific Northwest) that allowed light to drift into the interior.
The Hotel Warshauer was innovative and ahead of its time. It offered electricity in every room along with hot and cold running water and bathrooms! The hotel also boasted the third elevator built west of the Mississippi River.
They even had a little gold tasseled cloth that hung in each room with a list of rules.
Rule #2: “Fires in rooms charged extra.” Presumably, this was the fire in a stove to warm the room, not setting the room ablaze.
Rule #6: “We will not be responsible for boots and shoes left in the hall. Guests desiring them blacked will please leave with the porter.” I love this one because in Corsets and Cuffs (book 3 in the series) the heroine leaves her shoes in the hall to be cleaned and polished, and they disappear. I wonder how many people had that happen back then?
The hotel was eventually purchased by the Geiser Family of the Bonanza Mine fame. They renamed the hotel the Geiser Grand Hotel, a name it carries to this day.
Baker City and the hotel did well through the 1920s, up until the depression. After that, the hotel began to lose business and fell into a state of disrepair. One highlight was the cast of Paint Your Wagon staying at the hotel when the movie was filmed in 1968. (The movie starred Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. Several fun tidbits about the filming of the movie and even a few costumes are on display at the Baker Heritage Museum.)
The hotel was closed in 1969, though. The exterior cracked, the interior sustained massive damage and decades later, the threat to tear it down was real.
In 1978, the Baker Historic District was added to the National Register of Historical Places, including the hotel. Attempts were made to preserve the hotel, but it wasn’t until Dwight and Barbara Sidway purchased the Geiser Grand Hotel in the early 1990s and poured millions into a restoration and renovation that brought the hotel back to life.
Today, guests can step inside the hotel and find that it looks much as it did back in its days of glory. The stained glass ceiling still floods the restaurant with light, and the opulence of days gone by prevails from the mahogany wood in the lobby to the chandeliers in the guest rooms.
To enter for a chance to win a digital copy of Crumpets and Cowpies, the first book in the Baker City Brides series, please post your answer to this question:
If you were traveling in the year 1890, what luxury item or amenity would you want to find in your hotel room?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths. Yes, that’s right. The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.
Do you know what that means? Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like.
Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II. Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.
These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica. Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task. They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.
Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next?
I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption. Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?
Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems. Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world.
It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days. Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows?
And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849. Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.
Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks. Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up. If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever.
I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you?
Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?
Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.
So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?