Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Researching the PNW by way of California
"California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900 is one of the topical collections from the Library of Congress' American Memory site. Northwest historians know that the early histories of California and the Oregon Country were intimately connected. The wagon trail west from Missouri was the California-Oregon trail until the paths parted ways in Missouri. The California Gold Rush drained off much of the white population of the fledgling Oregon Territory, and when the gold didn't pan out many a failed California miner found his way to Oregon.
So it is no surprise that "California as I Saw It" has a substantial amount of Northwest material. A search for "Oregon" under the descriptive information box reveals 11 documents, including The Gold Seekers of '49 by Kimball Webster, a New England forty-niner who ended up a surveyor in Oregon, and Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer by Peter H. Burnett, an important figure in the government of early Oregon. A full text search turns up an even 1oo references to Oregon throughout the collection.
I was going to analyze one of those references here--and amazing and perhaps unlikely story about an elderly Klamath man. But the tale deserves a post of its own.
(By the way, the "special presentation" Early California History: An Overview offers a decent thumbnail history of the state.)