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Editorial Review
"The Golden Hub: Another gem from the Hornors

Mountain Democrat
Michael Raffety
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 the mountains."

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. 

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