"The Golden Hub:
Another gem from the Hornors
January 15, 2009
The fifth in a series of "Golden" history books has
been out on the book shelves. Jody and Ric Hornor of Pilot Hill have
teamed up on some entertaining local history books. The latest edition
is "The Golden Hub, Sacramento." The subtitle includes, Folsom, Fair
Oaks, Galt and Elk Grove. The key to the value of the books is the photo
restoration work by Ric Hornor. Jody handles the copy and the book is
edited by Paula Bowden.
The arrangement of the 312-page book invites the reader to
browse, look at the pictures and captions and read sections and side bars. It
isn't even necessary to read things in order.
Many of the sidebars are diary entries. The best ones and
the most fascinating part of the book are the diary entries from John
Bidwell, after who Bidwell Park in Chico is named. He is a diarist par
excellence, including dialog, quotes and fascinating little stories from his
personal experiences in California before, during and after the Gold Rush
and the Bear Flag Revolt.
Bidwell in 1844 was working for John Sutter at his Hock
Farm when a Mexican working for him on Hock Farm told him he had seen gold
on the Bear River while on a trip to get back his Indian wife. "Senor, I
have made an important discovery; there is surely gold on the Bear River in
Pablo Guiterrez told Bidwell he needed a "batea." "...I
concluded it must be a complicated machine," Bidwell wrote. But it turned
out to be a wooden bowl for panning the gold.
"'Pablo, where can you get it?' I said. 'Down in Mexico,'
He responded. 'I will help pay your expenses if you will go down and get
one,' which he promised to do. I said, 'Pablo, say nothing to anybody else
about this gold discovery and we will bet the batea and find the gold."
Unfortunately the next diary excerpt has Guiterrez being
used as a messenger between Sutter and the Mexican Governor of California.
On the last trip he was sent to tell the governor "we were on the march to
join him at Monterey. This time he was taken prisoner with our dispatches
and hanged to a tree, somewhere near the present town of Gilroy. That, of
course, put an end to our gold discovery, otherwise Pablo Guiterrez might
have been the discoverer of gold instead of Marshall."
The photos of Sutter's Fort in 1880 are fascinating
including a horse-drawn trolley carrying passengers by it and a picnic of
ladies with umbrellas by Sutter's Fort. Only one building remained, but the
Native Sons of the Golden West bought the property and reconstructed it in
1890-94 to about two-thirds of its original size.
The book also contains a photo of Nathan and Charles Ray,
two black men associated with Placerville. Charles Ray earned enough money
in Placerville to buy his brother and his wife out of slavery and build a
home in Sacramento.
The story of Sacramento shows clearly how it was a major
transportation hub where ships docked two deep for a mile along Front
Street, bringing goods to the merchants who supplied the miners and shipped
goods to outlying areas. The book is full of pictures of merchants' shop
interiors and exteriors. Another entry by Bidwell notes that shipments of
gold from California helped back up the government bonds that financed the
union side of the Civil War. "California gold averted a total collapse (of
the bond market) and enabled a preserved Union to come forth from the great
conflict with only four billions of debt instead of a hundred billions. That
hand of Providence so plainly seen in the discovery of gold is no less
manifest in the time chosen for its accomplishment."
Perhaps Franklin Roosevelt made a mistake shutting down the
gold mines as an industry "nonessential" to the war effort.
Another item of interest to me in the Golden Hub was the
train depot in Fair Oaks shown in an early 1900s photo. "The railroad spur
was off the Placerville line for the purpose of getting produce from Fair
Oaks and Orangevale to the eastern markets. That was the Sacramento Valley
Railroad, the first railroad in California."
The book is the fifth in a series produced by the Hornors.
It is a quality publication. I can be found at most Sacramento Area Raley's,
Bel Airs and independent book stores, including the Placerville Newsstand.