Copiously Illustrated History of Victorian Tehama County, California

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610. [TEHAMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA]. ELLIOTT & MOORE (publishers) & E.J. Lewis (contributor). Tehama County, California, California Illustrations Descriptive of Its Scenery, Fine Residences, Public Buildings, Manufactories, Hotels, Farm Scenes, Business Houses, Schools, Churches, Mines, Mills, Etc. from Original Drawings by Artists of the Highest Ability. With Historical Sketch of the County. San Francisco: Elliott & Moore, Publishers, 1880. [i-iv], [ix]-x, [11] 12-166 pp. (printed on heavy paper), frontispiece portrait, 4 maps, 1 geological chart, 42 plates (8 folded), many sheets with multiple images, mostly lithograph but a few wood-engravings (scenery including Yosemite Bridal Falls, farms, ranches, residences, architecture of public buildings, industry such as the North Star Flouring Mill, portraits, etc.), text illustrations. Folio (38 x 31 cm), later gilt-lettered black cloth spine (neatly rebacked), original marbled boards and black leather corners, original marbled endpapers, a.e.g. Binding rubbed, corners worn (some losses), hinges reinforced with later cloth tape, title page and frontispiece reinserted with old gauze. Occasional light foxing (heavier on title and frontispiece, frontispiece mounted and with few tears and chips (not affecting border or image), first few leaves lightly soiled and with a bit of marginal chipping. Plate at p. 84 bound upside down. Overall a very good copy of a rare book. Copies located by OCLC: Huntington, Bancroft, University of California at Santa Cruz, Yale, Harvard, and University of Alberta.

     First edition. Howes T87. Rocq 15082. At pp. 11-24 are “Historical Reminiscences of Tehama County, California” by E.J. Lewis. Unless you can book a ticket on the time machine, this book is the best way to learn a great deal of detail in word, iconography, and maps about Tehama County in 1880. The illustrations present a perfectly bucolic Victorian view of the area, complete with beautiful houses with gingerbread, farms, and ranches, and thriving livestock and orchards. As for its history prior to that time, E.J. Lewis, who lived there beginning in 1849, also enlisted other early settlers for their memories, including John Bidwell and the first Anglo settlers who were in the 1844 Bidwell party. Lewis pays special homage to “Uncle” Peter Lassen, for the trail established by him, his grand ranch at Red Bluff, and what is now the Lassen National Volcanic Park. Included is an account of the Bear Flag revolt. Great attention is shown to Ranching and Farms, including vineyards.

     The first permanent settlers in the area that is now Tehama County were five Anglo men who married Mexican wives and received land grants from Mexico in 1844. Early visitors were Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, John Frémont, and William B. Ide, the first and only president of the California Republic. In 1856 Tehama County was formed from parts of Butte, Colusa, and Shasta Counties in Northern California. In 1849 the area was right on the way to the Gold District, and Lewis describes the “News of Discovery”:

The great event of Nineteenth century broke upon us, the effect of which was felt in the remotest portion of the globe. Gold in great quantities had been discovered by a man by the name of Marshall on the American river. I think it was in February, 1848. The news reached this section of the State in the month of April of that year. At first it was regarded as a hoax, the stories told concerning its quantity, were as extravagant and absurd as the story of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp. At last Mr. Toomes arrived from a short visit to Monterey, and he had actually seen the gold, and if I am not mistaken had some with him. The reliable information was like a spark to the magazine, all was excitement, horses, cattle, and ranches, were all left, and away upon a wave of enthusiasm went our sturdy pioneers to delve amid the sand bars of Feather river for gold, which they found in great abundance, and returned in the fall with mules actually loaded with the precious metal. I think I can state with safety, that ninety-nine out of every one hundred Americans then in California started for the mines and nearly all realized large fortunes.

     Among the early interesting inhabitants profiled by Lewis is “Captain Jane”:

There was one woman of the world, however, who from her strange idiosyncrasy and unaccountable characteristics cut an important figure, and was a decided character in the early history of Tehama. Her name was Captain Jane—as strange in nature as her name was contradicting and absurd. I don’t remember of ever seeing her in female apparel; she usually adopted the costume of a sport, and would handle a Colt’s navy revolver with all the experience and dexterity of a Texan desperado. She was a charitable and benevolent as the Good Samaritan, and as vile and degraded as a fishmonger of Newmarket. In money matters her word was as sacred as the best man’s bond; her language was respectful and always free from profanity; she never drank to excess and her outward appearance was that of an imprudent female, but honest and virtuous. Yet she peddled the virtue of a child of twelve years, whom she claimed as her own, from Yreka to Tehama, and at last left her to the usual fate of women of her class.

Captain Jane conducted a farm on Thomes creek with skill and profit, and was as prominent in the streets of Tehama in an early day discussing matters of public importance as the most active politician of the present day. Good deeds and honorable transactions were blended with the most revolting vice and horrible sin in this woman in such astounding medley that almost induces me to believe that opposites will mingle in perfect harmony if centered within the person of an abandoned woman. Perhaps I have written too much about the Captain, and if an apology is necessary, I must say that Captain Jane was an exceedingly prominent person in the early history of Tehama county, and facts are what must characterize history, and not over-drawn pictures of ideal conception.


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