I love reading old books about California history, tales of “The days of old, the days of old, the days of ’49.” And here is just such a book.
Ghost Town, by G. Ezra Dane, is a collection of incidents, mostly true, from the history of Columbia. Today Columbia, “the Gem of the Southern Mines,” is a State Historic Park, with many visitors. But when Dane published these stories in 1941, it really was a “Ghost Town.”
Dane begins his tale with this caveat:
Warning to unwary readers: Here is where we tell you what not to expect from this book. Do not expect historical accuracy — this is not a history. There is some history in it; there are even whole pages of what we know to be plain, honest truth. A great deal more of it may be true; we shouldn’t be surprised if it was. Some of it we know to be absolutely false, and that is the best part of all. In another sense it is all true. It’s “genuwine.” What there is of invention in it is the natural product of three generations of story-telling in a country where that art has flourished.
Although the entire book is related as if by a single “Old-Timer” it is actually made up of stories from a number of storytellers, all of whom are given credit at the end of the book. The chapters have headings such as this one:
Wherein we learn why Life in the Diggins produced such remarkable characters; are introduced to several of them, including Nervi the Hieroglyphographer; the comparatively learned Mr.Matt Brady; George Foster, the Jovial Host & Joker; and J.B. Harmon, the Water-Walker; and are told of the Cook that was Too Good for Columbia,, or, the Black Cat in Rabbit’s Clothing.
How can you resist wanting to read more about them? and many more, including Pitch-Pine Billy and his Golden Frog, the Valiant Washer-Lady, the Battle of Hardscrabble Gulch, the Loves of Diamond Bill, and Women, Plain & Fancy. This is pure entertainment, and “mostly true.”
I have another reason, besides its sheer entertainment value, for recommending this long out-of-print book. I checked it out of the Butte County Library. It is labeled copy 3, and is the only copy left in the system. Since it was rebound at some time, it doesn’t look like much. It’s the sort of book that could be carelessly discarded, but not if it has a history of frequent checkouts.
So read it and enjoy!