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Editorial Review
Book takes a peek at the lives of Gold Rush pioneers

By Guy Keeler / The Fresno Bee07/12/07 04:19:12

Ric and Jody Hornor of Pilot Hill have created a fascinating illusion of time travel in their new book on the southern region of California's gold country.

"The Golden Highway: Highway 49, Volume II" (19th Century Books, $22.95) offers a glimpse of Gold Rush history in Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties through the eyes of people who lived it.

Instead of telling readers what happened from a 21st- century perspective, the Hornors have compiled a narrative from words and photographs created in the 1800s.

With the exception of a brief introduction and photo captions, everything in the book is taken from letters, diaries, newspapers and books written during the period. The Hornors, who worked on the book 60 to 70 hours a week for six months, reviewed 5,000 pages of primary-source material to find entries.

The result is history that crackles with immediacy. Snippets flow from the page like news from yesterday's newspaper or letters from friends or relatives in the gold fields.

Stories are told in the language of the day and have not been edited to make them politically correct. The same bias toward immigrant ethnic groups that was common during the Gold Rush, for example, is reflected in the text.

By relying exclusively on primary-source material, the Hornors have humanized the pioneers who left their mark on California's gold country. 

Readers can vicariously experience the heartbreak and heroism of these individuals and are left to wonder how they might have fared if fate had destined them to live in that colorful era.

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