The second edition of 20 Tales of California: A Rare Collection of Western Stories is a boon to family historians and genealogists who appreciate fascinating information about prior generations. A new feature of the second edition is an extensive index that includes over 100 family names of the people depicted in these masterfully written stories which take place in over 100 locations in California.
The drama, adventure, intrigue, and humor in these 20 tales are both enjoyable and educational for teenagers and adults alike. In the appendix, educators and various group leaders will find discussion questions for each tale, and ideas for classroom research and/or field trips to story sites where the imagination of students can recreate the exciting action of the stories. The book contains a Chart of Locations by Story to help readers find where the stories took place.
Drawn from the folklore and local history of California, most of these intriguing and romantic stories are about real people and real life: a mysterious painting, a devastating fire, murder, bandits, sacred mountains, romance and more. Essentially true, they are based on historical facts, but some are folklore, too, as folk remembered the truth or have fashioned it into local legend. In any case, the tales are fascinating, enjoyable, and fun to research. For example, the publishers have traveled to Sawyers Bar, Paradise Flat, and Scott Valley to experience the setting of Father Florian’s Secret and to view the mysterious painting which now hangs in the little Catholic church in Scott Valley. They also found the remains of the vanished town of Luffenholtz near the town of Trinidad (Last Train from Luffenholtz). Just south of Willits at the Ridgewood Ranch, they stood at a site of a stagecoach robbery by Black Bart (Black Bart, Shotgun Poet). And at Fort Ross on the Sonoma County Coast they viewed the area where The Russian and The Lady took place. “It was great fun to stand where these historical stories actually took place in these beautiful parts of California,” said publisher Barbara Ray.
Author Hector Lee (1908-1992) was professor of English at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California when he wrote the stories appearing in this book. Lee was also past president of the California Folklore Society and thoroughly enjoyed hearing and telling engaging stories.
LAST TRAIN FROM LUFFENHOLTZ . . . Their town burned by a forest fire, and sixty desperate people waited for the last train that would carry them to safety or to certain death. [Eureka, Trinidad]
FATHER FLORIAN’S SECRET . . . Sawyer’s Bar was a rough and tumble mining camp in the 1850s until the little padre of Paradise Flat came with his secret bundle. [Sawyers Bar, Weaverville, Marysville, Trinidad, Cecilville, Scott Valley, Paradise Flat, Coffee Creek, Somes Bar, Happy Camp]
THE RUSSIAN AND THE LADY . . . In early San Francisco this star-crossed romance was to become California’s first tragic love story. [San Francisco, Benicia, Fort Ross, Santa Clara]
HATFIELD THE RAINMAKER . . . The people of San Diego can laugh at it now, but they are careful how they pray for rain. [San Diego, Santa Rosa, Yuba City, Guerneville, Los Angeles]
DIAMONDS IN THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAINS . . . California’s most brilliant hoax was pulled on the West’s most clever financiers by two simple old prospectors. [San Francisco, Butte County]
BLACK BART, SHOTGUN POET . . . There is a legend about this California bandit who never hurt anybody and didn’t make much money at his trade. [Columbia, Copperopolis, Covelo, Fort Ross, Guerneville, Oroville, San Francisco, Sonora, Stockton, Ukiah, Willits, Duncan’s Mills]
ONCE UPON A WINTER NIGHT . . . It was Christmas Eve and something wonderful was about to happen; some people might call it a miracle. [Goose Lake, Mendocino Coast, Fort Crook]
THE DREAM AND THE CURSE OF SAM BRANNAN . . . The Prince of Calistoga was hounded by a Mormon curse, and California’s first millionaire died in poverty, misery, and solitude in Escondido. [Calistoga, Sacramento, San Francisco, Yuba City, Escondido, Napa Valley]
THE SPIRIT OF JOAQUIN . . . The folk still talk about Joaquin Murieta, California’s dashing Robin Hood, who was mostly fiction spiced with imagination. [Carmel, Cecilville, Marysville, Mt. Shasta, San Jose, Stockton, Sierra Nevada]
THE SIEGE OF SEBASTOPOL . . . The Russians and the British fought a war, two crusty Californians fought a duel, and a town got a new name. [Sebastopol, Fort Ross, Bodega, Russian River, Pine Grove]
LOLA MONTEZ AND LOTTA CRABTREE . . . These two fabulous women were once well known in California; when their paths crossed, one was going up and the other was coming down. [Grass Valley, Weaverville, Sonoma, San Francisco, Oroville, Quincy, Rough & Ready, Eureka]
A MOUNTAIN THAT WAS NAMED BY FATE . . . This magnificent mountain in Northern California was named by three different people at three different times; they spoke three different languages, yet each gave it the same name. [St. Helena, Calistoga, Clear Lake, Fort Ross, San Rafael, Sonoma, Bodega, Russian River, Altimira]
FIFTEEN SECONDS TO KILL . . . The historic fight at the O-K Corral was just a Sunday School picnic compared to this fast and bloody gun battle in Willits. [Willits, Mendocino County]
WILLIAM B. IDE, THE HERO OF SONOMA . . . He was president of the Bear Flag Republic, the Commander-in-Chief of its little army, and the most versatile official of old Colusa County; yet he died in poverty, mysteriously and in secret. [Sacramento, Sonoma, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Martinez, Red Bluff, Monroeville, Sierra Nevada]
WHEN MALAY PETE WENT UP . . . A heroic little man with grand ideas became what might have been California’s first balloon casualty. [Oroville, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, Sierra Nevada]
SONTAG AND EVANS . . . A fight with the railroad forced two ordinary San Joaquin Valley men to become very extraordinary outlaws. [Chico, Fresno, Oroville, Porterville, Visalia, Collis]
YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL . . . A good angel and a bad angel gambled, and the stakes were Dr. John Marsh, the squire from east of Mount Diablo. [San Jose, McKinleyville, Napa Valley, San Gabriel, Los Angeles, San Quentin, Mt. Diablo, Sonoma]
LYNCHING AT LOOKOUT BRIDGE . . . Folk retribution, justice, and an unexpected touch of irony make the difference in this true story of violence in the Old West. [Alturas, Adin, Bieber, Lookout, Fort Crook]
HIGH SPIRITS . . . The old man thought he could hide the keg of liquor, but the old lady always got to it one way or another. [Healdsburg]
ISHI — THE MAN . . . An incredible story of survival, the story of an Indian who was the last of his people. [Redding, Oroville, San Francisco, Butte County]
APPENDIX . . . 20 Tales of California‘s appendix includes suggestions for further exploration of these stories physically and intellectually, including several discussion questions for each tale.
There is also a chart of locations by story. Some stories involve several towns and some towns appear in more than one story.
BONUS #1: Use chart of locations by story for classroom research or for venturing to the story sites as families, classes or groups.
BONUS #2: Appendix includes suggested discussion questions for each story.