Jonathan Clark House Museum, pantry area, June 29, 2022. Photo by Reed Perkins.
Yesterday was the annual “Pie on the Patio” fundraising event for the Jonathan Clark House Museum. I made the drive up to Mequon and had a great time visiting and talking history with many old—and new—Clark House friends.
I’m taking a bit of a break and have nothing new for you today. I have been doing a good bit of garden work around the house, and that reminded me of this post from April, 2021. Now we’re just finishing the first week of June, 2022, and it’s almost summertime. In southeastern Wisconsin the first spring flowers are done, and the next round of blossoms have been blooming for weeks. The tomato, bean and pepper seedlings are in the ground and doing nicely (although the rabbits have been nibbling on far too many green bean sprouts), and the roses are beginning to unfold. So even though this was originally an early-spring essay, I hope you enjoy this garden-themed repost from last year.
Planning the garden
It’s early April, and the growing season is not far off. For a farmer like Jonathan M. Clark, it’s a little early yet for plowing and sowing, but not too early to make plans and sharpen the tools. For a farmer’s wife, like Mary (Turck) Clark, it’s not too soon to think about the farm garden, its crops and layout.
I don’t know if Mary and Jonathan were regular readers of the popular and affordable farmers’ almanacs of their era; I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. There were many to chose from. Perhaps they had a copy of something like:
The Cultivator […], New Series, Vol. VII, Albany, 1850, title page. Click to open larger image in new window.
Our last two posts focused on the evidence we have that documents the Bonniwell family’s two-part trip west to the gold fields of California: by the Panama shortcut in 1849 and by the overland route in 1850. Today I’d like to focus on the members of Bonniwell company after the end of their westward voyage(s), and give you a sense of their experiences as newly-arrived prospectors in the California gold diggings through period drawings, lithographs, photographs, and a substantial excerpt from the Bonniwell Gold Rush diary.1
Currier & Ives. Gold mining in California. California, ca. 1871. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress. As always, click the images to open larger versions in new window.
This colorful Currier & Ives lithograph presents a somewhat idyllic view of “Gold Mining in California” as imagined in 1871 by a New York artist who, most likely, had never been west of the Alleghenies. On the one hand, the lithograph does give us an hint of the splendors of the Sierra Nevada, and some idea of the typical activities of California miners. But as we’ll see, life in gold country when the Bonniwell party arrived—in the early, frenzied days of 1849 and 1850—was much less bucolic.
“Working the bar”
Much of early California gold prospecting involved looking for smaller and larger bits of gold found within the loose alluvial soils and sediments of the rivers and dry riverbeds of the Sierra Nevada. In particular, the miners spent a lot of time “working the bar.” And no, my fellow Wisconsinites, this does not mean they were strenuously pub-crawling in El Dorado county, circa 1849-1850.