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.

Working with Flatirons

Wash day was a consuming task in frontier days when the only machines were a woman’s hands and arms and washtubs were filled with hand-drawn buckets of well water, instead of flowing through a network of pipes. White laundry such as bedding, shirts, and petticoats were boiled in soap-filled kettles over a fire. Continue reading Working with Flatirons

Meals on the Trail West

Most people in the 19th century called their mid-day meal “dinner,” and their lighter evening meal “supper.”  While it was not unusual for any given repast to take hours of preparation time at home, the members of westering wagon trains had no such luxury. They couldn’t afford to waste travel time waiting for bread Continue reading Meals on the Trail West

August in the Valley

August in California’s Sacramento Valley, a place larger than some Eastern states: hot days, cooler nights, ripe corn and watermelon.  Gold-rushers and other intrepid pioneers settled here some 150 years back to create farms and industry, and raise their families. August, 1909: “The Sacramento Valley is as rich as the valley of the Nile,” boasted the Sacramento Union.