Christmas in the Mines

When Christmas came during the early Gold Rush years, thousands of predominantly male, mostly young gold-seekers were far away from ordinary comforts and the familiar faces back home. A number of preachers in the gold camps or town saloons offered short holiday services, and some miners dodged the pain of Continue reading Christmas in the Mines

Celebrating Christmas

Before the Gold Rush, Christmas was just another working day tending livestock or repairing equipment for those Americans who had settled in California, although many took time out for a few hours of quiet celebration. On December 24, 1845, Captain John Sutter’s logbook records that a worker completed a pump Continue reading Celebrating Christmas

Founding San Jose

Now the largest city in northern California, San Jose was founded November 29, 1777, twenty years before Mission San Jose was built, as a farming community to provide food for Spain’s presidios in Monterey and San Francisco Bay. Its original name was El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (the Town of Saint Continue reading Founding San Jose

News from Home

During the California Gold Rush, lonely miners in remote regions were often desperate for letters from home, but leaving their claims for a long journey to post offices at San Francisco, Sacramento or Stockton wasn’t practical. An enterprising young man named Alexander Todd came up with a solution, which he Continue reading News from Home

A Holiday to Give Thanks

President Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in September 1863. Prior to that, the observance was sporadically celebrated, mainly in New England, as a day of feasting and merriment after the autumnal harvests. California was not yet a state when military governor General Bennett Riley proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in November 1849 during the turbulence of the Gold Rush. It is unlikely, however,  that very many gold miners abandoned their prospecting to sit down to a groaning table.