November 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts







Bill Becher, L.A. Daily News outdoor writer and photographer went to Bodie with us. Read what he wrote about the trip. Click the photo to link to the story.



By God, to Bodie and Golden Leaves trips, Sept. 2004. Click the photo to go to the  gallery

Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.



Don't have a 4X and want to visit historic sites in Eastern California?

Capture the spirit of the past as it comes alive with true tales of pioneer families, prospectors, muleskinners, hero's and gunslingers. Listen to legends of lost gold, found wealth and superstitions. Journey back in time with Terri Geissinger - Historian, Interpreter and Guide

Click on Terri's yellow van for Terri's Ghost Town Tours or contact Terri by clicking here:


Please Pass the Jackrabbit

by Cecile Page Vargo

The first citizens of the newly created state of California were probably too busy to celebrate holidays, particularly those working hard in the mining camps hoping to become wealthy. Governor Peter Burnett didn't let that stop him from declaring one, however. Amongst his many great duties, he set aside November 30 of 1850 as the legal holiday for Thanksgiving. All official business was stopped, and at least those from New England , who had memories of their loved ones and days of thanks in the past, felt obliged to observe, if the news got around to them in time for them to do so.

Immigrants from the southern and middle United States, and from Europe thought the holiday purely Puritanical and didn't cotton much to the idea. In their minds the whole thing was ridiculous and many considered it hypocrisy. Still, the New Englanders showed determination to follow Governor Burnett's proclamation and many others decided to join in when they realized the holiday mainly meant eating and drinking all they wanted to.

"Yankee" Traditions

Reportedly, there were about 50 Thanksgiving celebrations that first year. The old-timers talked of "Yankees" throwing down their picks and shovels and having a good old time. The traditional turkey was rather scarce, unless someone lived where they could find and kill a wild bird. For the most part even a little fresh beef was satisfactory for a day of thanks. If one was lucky enough to kill a deer and serve it, that was considered a fine luxury. In most miner's cabins, however, jackrabbit took the place of honor as the main entrée. Some, like Alfred T. Jackson of Litchfield county, Connecticut , enjoyed quail stew and dried apple pie. Although Alfred, apparently missed Governor Burnett's official holiday date announcement, and celebrated his holiday December 1st.  

The Governor's Feast

Of all the celebrations that first year, Sacramento probably had the grandest. As soon as they heard Governor Burnet's announcement, the town population of men from New England banded together to form The Sons of New England. They put together plans for a banquet to be held in the dining room of the Columbia Hotel. The walls were adorned with bunting. Flags and shields containing the names of each of the states formed a frieze. Everyone was invited to the feast, even if they weren't New Englanders. Governor Burnett, himself, even showed up, just in from a funeral from Monterey . Mr. K. M. Berry was presided over the event, Rev. Benton blessed the food, and Mr. W. Cartwright made the toast. Forty different dishes, including the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie, and eight different wines, were served. Many dishes were as elegant as any served in the best restaurants around the world. The feast and festivities went on until midnight .

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The Making of a Golden State

by Cecile Page Vargo

          The cry, "gold!" was shouted from Sutter's Fort in January of 1848 and the rush to California was on soon after. Within three years the non-Indian population swelled from 18,000 to 165,000. Immigrants from the eastern United States , Mexico , South America , Europe , Asia , Hawaii , Australia , and more, journeyed by land and by sea, enduring great hardships along the way just "to see the elephant". Some turned back after seeing the elephant's tracks or tail, and claimed that just the view was enough for them. Others struggled with a new way of life and helped to build the California that we know today.

Dreams of Statehood

          With the on rush of argonauts, it became inevitable that the golden land that had been seized by Americans during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 would begin dreaming of statehood. The first U.S. military governors happily left the acaldes in rule, but the new American Californians soon decided the Mexican system was not sufficient for them. On June 3, 1849 , military governor, Brigadier General Bennet Riley, called for a state constitutional convention.  Forty-eight delegates were chosen to convene at Colton Hall in Monterey on September 1, just for that purpose.

          Amongst the 48 delegates to this constitutional convention,  37 were Americans, seven were Californios of Mexican descent, and four were foreigners. All were males, primarily between the ages of 30-50. Dr. Robert Semple, the founder of the city of Benicia and of Bear Flag Revolt fame, was elected to preside over the convention. Other notables were: John Sutter, the owner of the sawmill where the gold rush began; native Californian and former Northern California Mexican military commander, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo; rich land speculator and former Mississippi congressman, Dr. William Gwin; Don Abel Stearns of Southern California, and Henry W. Halleck, Secretary of State under the military regime and future commander of Union armies during the Civil War.

Issues of Importance

          Some of the issues the delegates discussed during the convention were: slavery, suffrage, state boundaries, women's properties rights, dueling, and where the state capital would be. It was unanimously decided that slavery would be prohibited, and free African Americans would be allowed in the state. The decision was easily met, primarily because miners in the gold fields firmly believed that every man should dig for his own future, and did not want to compete with slaves. So far as suffrage, only white males would be allowed to vote, although Indians or their descendants could be granted the right by special legislature act. Women could not vote,  but they were allowed to hold their own separate property, provided that they were married, of course. Dueling was voted against, and all persons charged with criminal offenses, be it dueling or any other, were to be tried by a jury of their peers. After argument over whether the state boundary should be the great Rocky Mountains , or somewhere near Utah 's Salt Lake , the more natural boundaries of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Colorado River were favored.  Although the state capitol would be moved a few times in the future, the pueblo of San Jose was chosen at this particular time.

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Our Tours with Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures

Our 2004 tour schedule is complete and

we're doing some less strenuous driving!

Please check back  for our 2005 tour schedule.

Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway. Click your mouse through our website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please visit our ECOLOGICAL 4-WHEELING ADVENTURES.

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 16 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

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