The Cooper’s Art

Woodcraftsmen who made containers were called coopers, and the use of particular woods to suit each need was the cooper’s special art because each wood reacted differently, both in the crafting process and also to items that might be stored within.  The wet cooper, also known as a tight cooper, made staved casks Continue reading The Cooper’s Art

The Sierra’s Masterpiece

California’s gold rush inadvertently led to the discovery of the Sierra Nevada’s masterpiece: the Big Tree. Soon after the 1848 gold discovery, brothers John and Daniel Murphy, both teenagers when they had entered California in 1844 with the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend Party, worked their way up the Stanislaus Continue reading The Sierra’s Masterpiece

Bitter Endings

James Wilson Marshall, the renowned discoverer of California gold, never profited from his find.  For a time he retained a one-third interest in the sawmill he had originally built for John Sutter,  until a series of altercations with miners, and lawsuits filed by his new sawmill partners, forced him to sell his other real estate Continue reading Bitter Endings

Redding or Reading?

Pierson B. Reading, the head fur trapper for Captain John Sutter in the early 1840s, was well known and respected in early California. He was the first known permanent settler in Shasta County, where he established a ranch on a 26,632- acre land grant awarded by Mexican Governor Micheltorena. Reading took part Continue reading Redding or Reading?

Cast Iron Cook Stoves

Advances in the manufacture of cast iron made possible the invention of the cook stove in 1820, women’s first labor saving device. Small by later standards, this stove put the cooking surface at waist height for the first time, eliminating the need to stoop and bend and pivot while lifting and moving heavy pots inside an open hearth…and the need to always hold her skirts back from the open flames. One popular model from 1820 – 1860 was the step-top design, looking somewhat like a tiered cake on legs. Some California-bound pioneers loaded these in their covered wagons, only to abandon them along the trail when their weight proved exhausting to draft animals. After the 1848 gold discovery and subsequent rush for riches, these stoves were shipped around Cape Horn, arriving in San Francisco as early as December 1849. Quite likely they were very expensive, as was everything else imported from “the states” that year.