Sarah Pellet in the Mining Camps

Sarah Pellet came to Bidwell Bar to lecture in the Fall of 1855. The Butte Record of November 3rd noted her plans for a tour of mining camps:

SP Issue Date NOVEMBER 03 1855 page 2Miss Pellett delivered a lecture at the Court House in Bidwell, on Tuesday evening last. The attendance was unusually large, and all expressed themselves well pleased. This was her first visit in Butte County. She lectured in Thursday Evening, at Spanish Ranch, on Friday at Quincy, and this evening will lecture at Elizabethtown. From thence, on Sunday evening at Nelson Point, and the balance of the week at different places in Sierra County, arriving at Forbestown, on Sunday November 11. She will again lecture at Bidwell on Monday Evening, Nov. 12, and at Ophir on the evening of the 13th.

Elizabethtown has disappeared under the debris from hydraulic mining, and Bidwell Bar is drowned under Lake Oroville, but Quincy is still there where she would have found it, and Ophir has changed its name to Oroville.

This is an ambitious schedule. Most of her traveling would have been on muleback, and while the distances are not all that long, the terrain was rough and mountainous. It would have been slow-going. She would have spent her days riding a mule (maybe she wore her brown linen bloomers), her evenings lecturing, and her nights on a cot in a tent or a shack.

Dame Shirley described conditions at Bidwell Bar just three years earlier:

As there was nothing to sleep in but a tent, and nothing to sleep on but the ground, and the air was black with fleas hopping about in every direction, we concluded to ride forward to Berry Creek House, a ranch ten miles farther on our way, where we proposed to pass the night.

Bidwell Bar does not sound very inviting, and they got lost on their way to Berry Creek House, and spent the night on the trail.

But Miss Pellet braved the dangers of the trail and the discomforts of the mining camps. Men were glad to see her, no matter what she proposed as her topic. The sight of a woman, even one lecturing on temperance, abolition, and political reform, was a welcome one. I wish she had written an account of her experiences in California.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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