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Lot 159

A School Principal in the Gold Rush

159. WESTON, Silas. Life in the Mountains: or Four Months in the Mines of California. By S. Weston, Many Years Principal of a Public Grammar School in Providence, R. I. Providence: Published by E. P. Weston, B. T. Albro, Printer. 1854. 34, [2] pp. 8vo, original blue printed wrappers, cover title within ornamental border, bound in new dark blue morocco over light blue paper-covered boards. Light marginal chipping to original wrappers, light scattered foxing, creased at center where formerly folded, occasional contemporary pencil notes (including some very critical of the treatment of Native Americans in California, and other commentary that is satirical). Old blue ink stamp of the Rhode Island Historical Society on upper wrapper. Contemporary ink ownership inscription of Benjamin G. Pabodie, alderman of Providence, Rhode Island.

     First edition. Cowan I, p. 246. Cowan II, p. 676. Cf. Graff 4613 (citing second edition of same year which came out under title Four Months in the Mines of California). Howell, California 50:928. Howes W292. Littell 1101. Norris 4166. Rocq 16146. Sabin 103054. Streeter Sale 2774. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 27. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 224: “[Written] on the spot for the edification of the home folks”. Weston, as noted on the title page, was a school principal in Providence, Rhode Island, and served as the first principal at the Rincon school, one of the schools established under the first state school ordinance passed in 1851 and adopted by San Francisco in September 1851. Weston also served in the Civil War.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 672a:

The note on the verso of the title page (dated January 1, 1854) reads: “The following pages were written during the Author’s late sojourn in the mountains of California. He was an eyewitness of the facts narrated, and recorded them at the time of their occurrence.” Rather than providing daily entries, however, Weston summarized his experiences. Weston began his narrative on April 10, 1853 in Sacramento en route to the Auburn mines. After a short stay, he proceeded to Kelly’s Bar where he described a dreadful, one-sided battle against the local Indians. On May 16, Weston and his companions decided to abandon the mines for other business opportunities and headed back to Sacramento and thence by steamer to Marysville. Mining still caught his interest and he went off to Stingtown [so named because of the abundance of scorpions and snakes] on the South Fork of the Feather River. He joined a mining company for the purpose of turning the river but met with little success. When not telling of his unsuccessful efforts looking for gold, the author devoted considerable text to the flora and fauna of the area, river travel, and his sympathy and interest in the Indians. Weston concluded his observations with a summary of Stingtown’s moral conditions, gambling, and the hanging of a gambler.


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