A Buckeye in the Land of Gold : The Letters and Journal of William Dennison Bickham
Ham, Randall E.
Arthur H. Clark Co.
"Lively, detailed and reflective, William Dennison Bickham's California Gold Rush letters and diary are among the finest writings about the California Gold Rush. His account includes topics and characters largely ignored in other gold rush accounts. Bickham provides a detailed and intimate record of one man's experience enroute to, in and out of the mining camps. Bickham's account is now published for the first time in book form. His recounting of the voyage to San Francisco and his first months in the mines were described in letters sent to and originally printed in the Cincinnati Gazette. The second portion of his account is a journal, kept for his sisters in the east, of his experiences as a miner during the winter and spring of 1851 and as a customs inspector in San Francisco during the following summer and autumn of that year. Unique topics covered include friction between the Missouri "Jumpers" and the "Gentlemen Miners," the turmoil created by the Vigilantes, the San Francisco fire of June 22, 1851, the presence of Mormon families in the Northern Mines, and the lives and duties of San Francisco customs inspectors. An active member of the Whig party, Bickham records the electoral process in California from a local party meeting at Murderer's bar to the Statewide election of September 1851.Gold Rush frontier characters make regular appearances in Bickham's narrative, and epitomize his uncommon ability to bring to life events, places and people. His descriptions of jolly mountain man Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Amazonian Mrs. Tubbs, hoydenish Sally Mayfield, saloon keeper/politician E. C. Cromwell, Sam Brannan and other frontier characters are vivid. Reflective musings allow a unique glimpse of the real Gold Rush experience: depression and stubborn optimism, longing for his family and keen interest in his surroundings. His is a vivid self-portrait by an intelligent and lively gold-seeker. Bickham was more articulate in his writings than most of his contemporaries, but shared the same moods, aspirations and experiences in a most dramatic era in frontier history." [Publisher's abstract]|Letters