Nose to the Grindstone?

Even a crude grist mill was an important “machine” in 1840s frontier California, because without it, flour and bran had to be imported at considerable cost. Most were simple, out-in-the-open constructs. The grinding stones consisted of two individual stones: the bottom, or bed stone, which remained in place and the Continue reading Nose to the Grindstone?

The Most Beautiful Stagecoach

There were different styles of staging vehicles in Gold Rush California; a fact now all but forgotten as the image of a full-bodied stagecoach—glorified in paintings, museum exhibits and big-screen westerns—has become this century’s standard of what a stagecoach looked like. In the late 1820s skilled wheelwright Lewis Continue reading The Most Beautiful Stagecoach

Old Waterworks to Modern Museum

The history museum in Old Sacramento State Historic Park is housed in a replica of the City Hall and Waterworks Building, built in 1854 to answer the need for a better water supply system after Sacramento’s catastrophic 1852 fire. The two story brick and reinforced beam structure supported three water tanks on its roof, along with a network of pumping machinery and pipes. The interior housed offices for city council members, volunteer firefighters, and the city jail and police court. Eventually the weight of the tanks took their toll, and in the late 1860s the railroad installed tracks and a turntable adjacent to the structure. Constant vibration from the trains further affected the already weakened structure, creating serious concern for the safety of its occupants. The weakest forty feet at the west end was razed in 1880, and the water tanks reworked. Yet by the turn of the century the building obviously required extensive renovation, and the Southern Pacific Railroad wanted the property for a right-of-way to expand their freight handling facilities. The roof top tanks and connections were abandoned when the city sold the property to the railroad in 1906, on condition of continued use while a new jail was constructed elsewhere. Seven years later the Southern Pacific demolished the building. The re-creation of this historic structure opened to the public in 1985. Faithful in design to the original, the exterior accouterments include brick walks and a 113 foot flagpole topped with a gilt ball. Inside, visitors walk through modern, chrome and glass galleries filled with diverse exhibits.

The Magnificent Sierra

It was the obstacle that the California-bound pioneers feared the most: crossing the formidable Sierra Nevada. Stretching from just below Lassen Peak in the north to Tehachapi Pass in the south, the Sierra is a single mountain range about 400 miles long, varying in width from 40 to 80 miles. Except for the angle of the state of Continue reading The Magnificent Sierra