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The Golden Highway Vol. II

Book takes a peek at the lives of Gold Rush pioneers

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.

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


Hwy. 49 focus of second tome of Gold Rush series

"The Golden Highway, Highway 49, Volume I," reviewed here last November, has won a Bronze medal from Independent Publishers Association. Volume II of the series - "The Golden Highway, Highway 49, Volume II, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera Counties" - released this June, covers the towns and counties along the southern portion of Highway 49 during the California Gold Rush. 

Jody and Ric Hornor of 19th Century Books in nearby Pilot Hill continue their chronicle of the Gold Rush years in the manner of their earlier work, with a compilation of the words and photographs of the miners and others who lived, mined and died in their quest to "strike it rich." Gleaned from documents and personal histories, the narrative comes alive in the language of the 19th Century.

As the text and photographs point out, two absolutes in the search for gold were a dependable source of water and an abundant supply of timberland. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada had both, but the forests and rivers paid a high price. A comment from the book: "Even now, after the lapse of a third of a century, and the desecration of land, the defilement of water-courses, and the annihilation of forests, . . one may lament the work of the pioneers that has destroyed so much of beauty while building up a great and glorious State."

The book is a banquet of information best enjoyed in several courses, county by county, along Highway 49. The bibliography is a veritable gold mine of personal sources, and the photographic restorations are superb. Visit or call (800) 989-8112 for more information.

By William Clark 12:01 a.m. PT Jul 12, 2007


Highway 49 history book released

The Golden Highway, Volume II, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera counties has been released, just two weeks after Volume I, covering the northern portion of Highway 49, won a bronze medal from the Independent Publishers Association, competing against 70 other books in its category. 

This is the third award for Publishers Ric and Jody Hornor of Electric Canvas on their “Golden History” series. The Golden Corridor also won an Independent Publishers award, and The Sacramento Historical Society awarded the publishers for “Excellence” in all of their historical works. 

This series of “Golden History” books take a unique approach to the area’s history. They are compiled from dozens of 19th century original source documents, preserving the unique language and style of each contributor. Compilation, versus rewriting history, which is done in most history books, also eliminates errors in interpretation or facts that may be inadvertently introduced by authors. 

“The language of the 19th century pioneers and miners is much more colorful than today’s language,” said Jody Hornor. “Whether it’s Sir Henry conveying his disgust at spittoons . . . the very sight of which invites discharge from an American mouth, or John Bidwell having a coyote’s “lights” for breakfast, these books reflect real events by the people who actually experienced them.” 

Once the content is compiled, hundreds of carefully selected 19th century photographs are restored and added, one on each page, to complete the reader’s experience. The Hornors go to great lengths to find photos at smaller archives and libraries that haven’t been in the public’s view. 

“Photo restoration is a lot like being an archeologist,” said Ric Hornor. “When you clean off the dirt and grime, fix the cracks and tears, and correct fading and discoloration, the discoveries are interesting and rewarding, as well as looking great.” 

The Golden Highway, Volume II, is a 296-page book that chronicles the 19th century life along the southern portion of Highway 49 (Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties) and the cities, towns and areas that are served by Highway 49. The “Golden History” books are available in most Raley’s, book stores, gift shops, and museum stores, online at:  or by calling (800) 989-8112. 

Valley Springs News ______________________

"The Golden Highway: Highway 49" compiled by Jody and Ric Hornor. Feel the spirit of the hardy and adventuresome miners and pioneers who settled California. This is a collection of incredible stories found in actual historic documents and journals as well as hundreds of restored photographs taken by some of the first photographers to document the settling of California. Indexed, with a photo on every page, a must have for the local history buff.

The Union (Nevada County)


The Golden Quest chronicles life and times in the Lake Tahoe region during the 1800s.

Profusely illustrated with historic black and white photos and highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library American History collections, The Golden Quest And Nevada's Silver Heritage chronicles life and times in the Lake Tahoe region (including the Western Mining districts of Nevada) during the 1800s. Incorporating more than 130 personal stories from the men and women who lived and worked in the region, The Golden Quest And Nevada's Silver Heritage is enhanced with more than 130 personal stories drawn from journals, diaries, and letters. These stories and anecdotes showcase the humor, anguish, and determination of the people who settled the country. From tragedy to triumph, from hijinks to heroics, The Golden Quest And Nevada's Silver Heritage provides modern readers with a "you are there" perspective on what life was really like so long ago with all of its joys and tragedies, its hardships and successes. 

Midwest Book Review 


The Golden Highway Vol. I

I love history. And, I really love the early history of the Mother Lode of California – the communities that generally lie along the appropriately named Highway 49. Best of all if I find a book that is well based on accurate information, well illustrated and also fun and entertaining to read, that is a real plus. “The Golden Highway, Volume I,” is one of these books. 

Like many others, I write history, which is what historians do. I have been doing it for a dozen years or more for this paper, which is the oldest continuously published newspaper in California. 
I point out that historians write history, and rarely report it, because most do not search out the original or earliest documents relating to the event or events about which they are writing. What happened then, and still happens, is that several people wrote about an event and many decades later someone writing a new story or book about the subject finds just one of these accounts and stops searching. Thus, it becomes “truth.”

Years later historians pick up this information and it continues to be the “truth,” whether it is or not. Unfortunately, most all other versions of the story are forgotten or simply ignored if discovered. To report accurately, one must bypass these later writings and go directly to the basic information or, better yet, the actual words of those who were there and experienced what happened. That is what Jody and Ric Hornor have done in their previous books and in this exciting book, “The Golden Highway Volume I – El Dorado, Placer, Nevada and Sierra Counties.”

I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to review a number of books on the subject of early California and the West, including both of the two previous books by the Hornors, “The Golden Corridor” and The Golden Quest and Nevada’s Silver Heritage.” What impressed me then with both of these books, and now with this third book, is the length to which the Hornors have gone to find and relate to the reader as accurate information as possible.

As with their previous books, the Hornors have done a wonderful job of putting the book together. They don’t claim to be the authors; the modestly point out that they are but the researchers, compilers and editors. They credit the very early photographers who took the hundreds of vintage photographs. These they have either themselves or with the assistance of Steve Crandell, a talented restorer of photographs in Placerville, painstakingly brought back to life and included to illustrate the books. In other words, this is 19th century history written and photographed by those who made and lived it. As a result, when reading it you will become involved and actually feel the joy, anguish and determination of the brave people who settled this land and created the State of California. 

“The Golden Highway, Volume I,” covers those counties that make up the northern part of the Mother Lode along Highway 49: the counties of El Dorado, Placer, Nevada and Sierra. For ease of reading and to maintain continuity, each county is given a separate chapter, starting with El Dorado and working northward to Sierra County. The history of each of these counties and the cities and towns within them generally served by Highway 49 is provided to the reader in the Hornors’ unique way – in a fun and interesting manner. 

Like their books before, “The Golden Highway Volume I” tells the history of a region in an interesting and exciting way that involves the readers completely as if they were there, and with carefully selected photographs from the era to complete the experience. 

If you are interested in the history of California and its growth from simple beginnings into the great state it is now; if you are interested in the adventure and intrigue of the early days of California; or if you just enjoy reading well written and well thought out, interesting history books, you too will love this book.

Doug Noble, Mountain Democrat

"The Golden Corridor," compiled and edited by Jody and Ric Hornor (19th Century Books, $21.95, 202 pages), is a captivating study of 19th century people who helped shape the times. Gold miners, pioneers, emigrants and American Indians commingled for different reasons to form what would become a melting pot of ideas and ethnicities, from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. The authors draw largely on journals and letters of the day. Adding depth are vintage black-and-white photos.

Allen O. Pierleoni, Sacramento Bee


Fans of old photographs, like me, will love "The Golden Corridor." The book is filled with amazing black and white photos that bring early Northern California to life. Because I'm from Sacramento, my favorite ones are in Chapter 5: one of the State Capitol under construction - minus its dome, and the other of Old Sacramento with residents rowing up and down the flooded streets. 

Each of the 10 chapters is devoted to a region, including one on "Nevada City, Grass Valley, Auburn." Sidebars on each page give fascinating quotes from diaries, journals and newspapers, as well as anecdotes. The main body of the text is difficult to follow in places, such as Chapter 3. Focused on the Donner Party, it begins with a bracketed sentence, announcing "[The words of survivor Eliza P. Donner Houghton]." At some point, though, it's clear that the text switches to another voice - perhaps those of the editors - but exactly where is not clear. The lack of attribution and quotation marks in places is somewhat off-putting to scholarly types.

I am a lifelong resident of Northern California, and I learned from this book. For instance, the estimated production of gold in California from 1848 to 1873 was $1,083,075,000. This was quite a haul, even by today's standards. "The Golden Corridor" is well worth checking out.

The Union (Nevada County)

The Golden Corridor Reviews

I love books about history, especially local history. And, what makes them even better, is when they have lots of authentic, historical pictures. This book has both and the pictures are not the grainy scratched photos often found in history books. These have been carefully restored by Ric Hornor and Placerville’s Steve Crandell.

The full title to this book is “The Golden Corridor: 19th Century Northern California from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe by the people who lived and made Northern California’s history.” And, that is a perfect description of what is contained between its covers.

Jody and Ric Hornor did a wonderful job of putting this book together. They don’t claim to be the authors: they are the researchers, compilers and editors. The real authors are the people who wrote the letters, journals and books that they used as the text and the photographers who took the nearly 200 photographs that they have included in this book. In other words, this is 19th century history of Northern California written and photographed by those who made and lived it. As a result, when reading it you will actually feel the joy, anguish and determination of the brave people who settled this land of ours. 

“The Golden Corridor” is beautifully organized, starting with a look at the origin of gold in Northern California. This is followed by chapters on the European explorers, the actual discovery of gold, the Donner Party and then the towns and cities of 19th century Northern California, including San Francisco, Folsom, Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley and more.

To make reading the book even more enjoyable, the compilers have added visual clues for additional information. A picture of a quill pen identifies text from personal letters; stories about crime are identified by a hangman’s noose; quotes from diaries and journals have a picture of President Taft’s personal journal beside them and call outs, text that is highlighted for emphasis, appear with a magnifying glass.

If you are at all interested in the history of our part of California, this is the one book you need to have. You will spend hours reading the writings of those who were here and delight in the restored pictures of that era.

Doug Noble, Mountain Democrat Placerville, California


“...educational and entertaining. Profusely illustrated...”

Auburn Journal


The Golden Corridor is an anthology of writings from journals, books, and letters written by California's early settlers. Nineteenth century black-and-white photographs illustrate this amazing collection of firsthand testimony, allowing the reader to see the same breathtaking sights these hardy pioneers saw. Sidebars offer amusing quick vignettes from the era! Enthusiastically recommended reading for anyone driven by personal curiosity or professional research needs to gain insight as to what nineteenth century life in California was truly like.

Jim Cox, Midwest Book Reviews


The Golden Corridor
This is an interesting read on the history of Northern California in the words of the people who pioneered and settled the regions between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. I especially enjoyed it because most of the book’s dialogue comes from letters and journals of the pioneers themselves. These firsthand accounts give the reader insight into what it was like to travel through and settle these then wild lands. Although poor choices were made in some of the fonts used, making reading a bit cumbersome, the photos of the California Gold Rush are so marvelous that I am willing to forgive the graphic designer. —Robert Ray

True West Magazine


[Emails directly to publisher]:

I just picked up a copy of "The Golden Highway, Highway 49, Volume II." 

All of the content appears to be very interesting, but I especially like the quality of the black and white photos. Too few publishers take the time to restore and revitalize the historical images, I suppose to make them look more "historic." I consider this to be a great disservice to the original photographers who worked very hard to make high-quality images. Thanks for putting in the extra effort.

C.S. Publisher/Reader

I bought your Golden Highway on Saturday and absolutely love it!  My wife is reading it to.  But, I
wanted to buy a copy for my father. Would you sign one copy To El...

Jerry P, Cool

Hello, we just discovered the Golden books about our area and think they are just fabulous! Can you please add me to your contact list. 


Just finished the Golden Corridor, and I LOVED IT! I was in the camps, in the streams, in the snow, on the train, on the dusty trails--I was everywhere this collection of period writings and the incredible photos took us. A BIG BRAVO and a Masterful job to you and all those who collaborated with you.

I love local history, and I just moved from Nevada County (15 years) to Alta/Dutch Flat, Placer County. (I'm originally from Philadelphia, so it feels like I have been roaming around historic sites and devouring artifacts & reproductions, photos, writings, especially Quaker, all my life!) I quickly discovered the Museum in Dutch Flat (what a treasure!) and found your book there. I have had a glorious time roaming through your pages accompanied by the maps I have collected (current or period) of the area. 

Since I am a map fanatic, the only thing I could recommend, if a second printing is in the works in the future, add maps to your book. I would probably suggest both period with helpful current maps to further inform the old map reader.

Thanks again for your wonderful book!



[Personal note from reader] We are so enthusiastic about your series of historical books! We are familiar with many books about California history and photos that show up repeatedly in various books. Your research and photo restoration have resulted in many new photos not before seen, and they are a delight. We love the oral histories placed on the sides of the pages. Your format is readable and interesting. You've done a great job in searching out diaries, letters and personal histories. We just can't say enough praise for your extensive research and developing of old photos! Thank you! We have friends who will be thrilled, too, when they receive the book as a Christmas present. Good luck with marketing these extraordinary books!

Marilyn & Wally Bragdon


Fun stuff for tourists, September 6, 2005
{Amazon] Reviewer: Cathy (Michigan) 
This book is great! The writing was just a hoot! It's the most fun history book I've ever found. We used it as a guide while we traveled Northern California and it gave us great information and old pictures to compare to today's version of N. California.


A Refreshing New Look at the old Gold Country , June 7, 2005
[Amazon] Reviewer: Gretta (California) 
I picked up The Golden Corridor, drawn by the photo's on the front cover, and the extensive photo's within the text of the book. When I began reading, I was delighted to find that the text is comprised of actual letters that the authors had compiled from the original settlers who made the trek into the gold country. And the text isn't just random. The Hornors organized the letters into chronological chapters that made reading this book anything but dry and tedious. Written in the vernacular of the day, the writers come alive in the most colorful history of the gold rush days I've ever read. An added benefit is the amazing collection of original photo's that have been restored, and are featured throughout the book. 

The Golden Corridor is NOT your average history book! It is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the Gold Country, or even for the casual vacationer wanting to know more of the land they're traveling through.


Thank you! The book {The Golden Highway] exceeded my expectations. I look forward to using your products and services in the future.

Dr. GK
Senior Historian
Wells Fargo & Company


More Reviews, Features &  Radio Interviews

Craig Sheumaker, Author

Mountain Democrat, 1/15/09

Sacramento Bee, 1/3/09

Modesto Bee, 8/26/07

Amador Ledger Dispatch, 7/20/07

The Union, 7/12/07

Fresno Bee, 7/12/07

Sacramento Bee, Placer County 11/16/06

Audio - Play KFBK Interview on The Golden Highway

Folsom Telegraph 10/06

Roseville Press-Tribune 10/06

Reno Gazette-Journal 09/06 

Links  Folsom History Museum  w Living in & History of El Dorado County

© 2009 Electric Canvas / 19th Century Books w 1001 Art Road, Pilot Hill, CA 95664 w 916.933.4490 w Contact