So on Saturday my husband and I took our two granddaughters to San Francisco to visit the Museum of the Society of California Pioneers (and the Walt Disney Family Museum) at the Presidio. What a beautiful day! Gorgeous view of the Bay!
The museum display is small, but has a choice selection of artifacts from the Gold Rush era. Some were common items that miners and pioneers would have used, like revolvers, children’s toys, money belts, a tin cup and a battered hat. Another group was made up of items from the high life in San Francisco—gold and ivory-topped canes, an invitation engraved on silver, a gold toothpick.
One item that caught my eye was labeled “Amputation Kit of Dr. James O’Brien, Butte Co. physician, 1849. Gift of Dr. Rafael G. Dufficy.” I couldn’t take a photo of the kit, but here is a similar one. It contained several knives, a tourniquet with a brass turning device, and a large bone saw about the size and shape of a meat cleaver. (Which indeed is what it was.)
Who was Dr. O’Brien? The only record I have found is in Wells & Chambers History of Butte County, which states that he was the first superintendent of the Butte County Hospital, appointed on August 12, 1858. I wonder when he first came to Butte County?