California’s Gold Rush Country, text and photography by Leslie A. Kelly, Les Kelly Publications, Huntington Beach, Calif., 1997, $29.95.
This coffee-table book provides a nice picture of the so-called Gold Rush Country–almost 500 current color pictures, along with 25 historic pictures, make up the bulk of the 233-page work–as California and the rest of the nation get ready to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the discovery made by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill (Coloma). The text, for the most part, covers the period from the January 1848 discovery to 1858, when silver was discovered at the Comstock Mine in Nevada. Historians will appreciate the index and enjoy the tidbits about such gold-rush towns as Coloma, Angels Camp, Sonora, Columbia, Grass Valley and Nevada City; the so-called Northern Mines (from Auburn in the south to Trinity County in the north) and Southern Mines (from Mariposa County in the south to Auburn) are covered. All the photographs will inspire travelers, even those who are not argonauts. Most of the towns and state parks with historic ties to the California Gold Rush are conveniently located in the vicinity of California Highway 49, named in honor of the Forty-Niners. Sites of many of the abandoned 19th-century mining camps have been lost to regrowth and floods, but there are places where the land will take much longer to recover (as at Nevada County’s Malakoff Diggins, where some $3.5 million of gold was taken between 1851 and 1884). The major rush (by land and sea) didn’t actually begin until 1849–thus the name Forty-Niners, even for those who came in the 1850s. The sesquicentennial celebration will continue through 1999 and beyond (the 150th anniversary of statehood is in 2000). Kelly’s timely book just might get you in the mood to celebrate, whether you are from California or not.