May 17, 2009

Guest Author - Paisley Kirkpatrick

GOLD RUSH STORIES

Ever since I was a child I’ve been intrigued with the Gold Rush Era. My grandfather used to love to tell us stories about the miners and mines in the Nevada City, California, area where they lived. Lucky for me, I now live where gold was discovered in 1849 and stories of ghosts and hangings, mysterious tunnels, and original buildings from that time still exist. I put a hero hunk and spirited heroine into my stories and then toss some of the adventures from the gold rush at them to see what happens.

On January 24, 1848, in the tiny hamlet of Coloma, in Northern California, James W. Marshall, a skilled carpenter and partner in a sawmill, looked down into the tailrace to notice two small gold nuggets sparkling in the water. He scooped them up and put them into his pocket. Gold had been discovered. Once the secret was out almost every able-bodied man in San Francisco had hurried to the gold fields. The fever spread throughout the country and abroad as homes and shops were abandoned, crops were left in the fields to rot, and newspapers suspended publication. What businesses remained were primarily conducted by women as their men set out to make the fortunes. Between 1847 and 1850 the population of California increased from 15,000 to 92,497. (As per The Gold Rush Ghosts written by Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert.)

Miners spent back-breaking months with gold pans dipped into the rivers and streams, sluice boxes and tunnels looking for the elusive gold. But the largest amount of gold came from hydraulic hoses sending pressured forces of water against hillsides to flush out the gold. Placerville got its name from the process known as placer mining.

Some came not to look for gold, but to provide services or to prey on the tired miners. There were gamblers and prostitutes, store-minders and saloonkeepers. Operators of general stores became very wealthy, as an egg for example, could easily sell for five dollars.

There are ghosts – several which I have personally had dealings with. The building where Chablis Gallery existed (where I worked for five years) was built over a creek and stood as a saloon in 1849. During Christmas when the tenants upstairs were gone, I’d hear a man’s heavy footsteps and doors slamming overhead. My boss would check out the upstairs and come back swearing the place was empty. One day I showed up at work to find several paintings scattered around the floor and tags that were taped on the wall next to the paintings on the carpet next to them. The only time our ghost showed violence is when my boss and friend were behind the counter on one side of the main room and a huge vase (about four foot tall) was mysteriously thrown so hard against the wall it shattered and put a deep gash in the decorative table’s leg.

The most famous ghosts are the two at the Cary House Hotel (pictured left) that stands across the street from the gallery. Stan worked the desk in 1857 and had an eye for the ladies. One night he’d been drinking and didn’t pay attention to the lady’s boyfriend giving him a jealous eye. Stan was shot and bled to death on the lobby floor. He still rides the elevator at night and checks all the doorknobs of the rooms where lady patrons sleep. One night Stan locked one of the tenants out on the balcony and the tenant had to scream down to the street to get someone to come up to his room and let him back inside. When I was at the hotel taking photos for my third story, Stan absolutely would not let me open the elevator door so I had to walk up the three flights of stairs. Had no problem riding the elevator down, though. He was anxious to have me leave his hotel. The other ghost is George. He was a gambler and used a room in the back of the hotel lobby to play cards. One night a man came in and George thought it was the gent who had cheated him at poker the night before. He pulled his gun and shot the man dead, then realized he’d made a mistake. He was hanged for his mistake. They’ve had a replica of George hanging over the entry door of the Hangman’s Bar in Placerville for years and years (pictured right).

Placerville also has tunnels that travel under the township. One Victorian house has a beautiful dining room where a finely crafted dining room table sits on a rug over the tunnel entrance that could take them under the road to the house across the way. Another building was a hotel that had the entrance to a mine in the bar area. To this day you can look down into this black hole (about four foot diameter), feeling the rush back of cold, damp air daring you to venture into the bowels of the earth.

At one end of Placerville there is a building called the Soda Works (pictured left). In 1849 men walked through the bar, entered a tunnel and walked quite a distance to find the entrance to the Chinese bordello (pictured below, right). I had a chance to visit the building and saw cubbyholes cut into the walls. They looked about two feet wide and maybe five foot long. These were the “comfy” places where men fulfilled their lust with the prostitutes. A whole new meaning for “hole in the wall.” Up until a few years ago the tunnels remained clear and usable. Since then, a rockslide has closed the main section. I was able to walk several yards into the entrance from the Soda Works entrance – it was small and damp and not a place I wanted to be.

This exciting town and even more exciting era gives my imagination a run and I have a lot of fun exploring and learning about the strong men and women who lived the life. Putting them into stories is the best part. I do keep an eye out over my shoulder while sifting through some of the places just in case another ghost has something to explain.

Paisley Kirkpatrick
http://www.paisleykirkpatrick.com/

41 comments:

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Paisley. Welcome to my blog. I just love the stories and the pictures. I can just see the ladies of the evening hanging over the balcony, beckoning the men to come on up and spend a dime, er time with them.

A.K.

Anne-Marie said...

Oh, Paisley, I loved reading about where you come up with your stories. The Gold Rush had to be one of the most interesting eras.

I've always found ghost tales interesting and even watch ghost stories on TV every Friday. :)Awesome post. Like Anna Kathryn, I can see the ladies enticing the men.

LuAnn said...

What a fun post! I can just picture the ghosts wandering the halls in these buildings!

Karen Rose Smith said...

Hi, Paisley--I love the gold rush era. Your pictures and stories are fantastic. I can imagine how much they inspire your writing. Thanks for sharing it all with us.
Karen Rose Smith

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks Anna Kathryn for inviting me to share my ghost stories. I love the old town and all the stories from the past. Spicing my stories with actual events from those long-ago times is a pure delight and stirs my muse along the way.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Anne-Marie. You have to be a believer when you've seen and heard some of these ghosts in person. Cary House Hotel is so ghost populated that my boss wouldn't step inside unless absolutely necessary, but left as soon as possible. I always wave to the ghosts when I walk through the alleyway.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi LuAnn, Thanks for stopping by. It is fun to imagine the long-ago times and the ghosts that stay behind because they either can't or don't want to leave. Rumors are that Stan still guards his hotel and frequents the old book store where he spent a lot of time when he was alive. He always enters through the back wall of the used books store because that is where the original door was.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Karen Rose. Glad you could pop by to see the photos and read my ghost stories. They are always fun!

Caroline said...

Hi Paisley,

Loved your post. As you know I grew up around Placerville, El Dorado and Shingle Springs and so I’ve heard many a ghost story form those areas. Personally, I worked as a teenager in Coloma at the Sierra Nevada house, a restaurant, soda parlor and hotel. We served up gold strikes, sluice boxes and banana splits—yummy ice cream creations!!! It was a wonderful time in my life and I hold Placerville one of my favorite places to visit.

Thanks for the great post…..
~Caroline
PS-love your new web-page!

Kris said...

Hi Paisley, what a great blog. I love the pictures and the stories that go along with them. Makes me feel like I was there too. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Keli Gwyn said...

Paisley,

What fun to see a post on my hometown. I love to stroll Main Street and soak in the atmosphere. With the many historic buildings still standing, it's not hard to imagine what life was like in Placerville's early days. The sights. The sounds. And the not-so-glamorous smells.

I look forward to the day when your stories are on the shelves and I'm in line at your book signings.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Caroline. I know the hotel you are talking about and have often thought what fun it would be to stop and take a peek inside. Now I know it is a must.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great to see you here, Kris. I thought you might like to see where my stories are created.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Keli, we do live in a great and exciting place, don't we!! Thanks for dropping by and sharing some thoughts. Book signings sound like fun.... :)

Caffey said...

Wow, loved this! So great to chat with you Paisley and to find out so much I didn't know about the Gold Rush!! Love this.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Caffey. Nice to meet you. It was a very exciting time here in the Sierra Mountains and I love putting my stories here.

Virginia said...

Hi Paisley, I have always found ghost stories to be intriguing! I love to watch the Ghost Whisper on Friday nights. Thanks for sharing your stories with us!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Virginia. I've always loved ghost stories as well.

Tawny said...

Hi Paisley :-) What a fascinating time period and how incredible that you live in such a historic area to feed your writing inspiration.

I love the bordello LOL - so not the posh, fancy place of my imagination.

Terri said...

You know how I love a good ghost story, Paisley! Love the photos, too - they take you back in time!

Anna Sugden said...

Checking in late, but wonderful tales and pics, Paisley. What a fabulous era. As a Brit, I tend to find US historicals more fun than English (or Scottish *g*) ones!

Can't wait to see your book in print.

Betty Hanawa said...

What a fascinating place. Love the ghost stories and the tunnels to the different buildings. Your commentary made it really come alive. I can't wait to read your books.

debjulienne said...

Love the stories....gives me chills to read them...makes me want to go find your ghosts.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Awesome article, Paisley. I think I saw an image of a ghost hovering over the soda factory. :-)

Susan Macatee said...

Great stories, Paisley! Watch out for those ghosts, though.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Tawny,

I know, I was shocked when I saw the inside of the bordello. Amazing what people will put up with for pleasure. ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Terri, One of the reasons I loved working five years in Placerville was being able to go inside some of the old building. I never failed to at lease say hi to any ghosts hanging around.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Anna. I seem stuck in historicals of all kinds. It's the ghosts and wild tales that make this particular time period so much fun for me. The actual place where the first nugget that started the gold rush is a state park now and so fun to spend time in.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks Betty. There are so many places yet to explore. I hope to go to a place called Gold Bug Park this year. I've heard you can actually go down inside a mine and get a real feel to how they felt working underground.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Deb,

Come on over and we'll go ghost hunting together. Or better yet, you can go to Gold Bug Park with me if you dare.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Carolyn. I wouldn't doubt you saw a ghost over the Soda Works building. From one accounting I heard, they party in there and two ladies of the night are fighting over one patron. ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Susan - thanks, I have never really been scared by a ghost, not yet anyway. Wish one would sit down and talk to me sometime.

Linda A. said...

Hi Paisley - great blog! I love ghost stories too. Here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I live, we have plenty dating from the Explosion of 1917, and from the earlier days of piracy and privateering. Thanks for sharing your stories!

Ashley Ludwig said...

Paisley -- first off -- I love your name. I love stories about the American West, and the gold rush era! amazing what lengths people would go to for the American dream!

We grew up with a cowboy ghost in our house in Arizona...a cold spot in the guest bedroom, footsteps down the tile hall, my sister and I had the same dream about him as kids... spooky!

Thanks for this fun, informative post!

~Ashley

Beth said...

Love your stories, Paisley! I had a chill just from reading them *g*

I'm not surprised your imagination runs wild from all of this fascinating history! Thanks for sharing your stories :-)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Linda A. WOW pirate ghosts sound interesting. Love pirates and stories of their adventures.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Your cowboy ghost sounds interesting, Ashley. Strange how you and your sister both had the same dream. Maybe it wasn't a dream... ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Beth. I'm surprised I didn't have chills with the ghost we had at the gallery. I wish we could have learned who he was and why we only encountered him during the Christmas holiday time.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks for inviting me to come and share stories and ideas today, Anna Kathryn. I had a great time.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Great blog, Paisley! I got chills reading about your ghostly encounters.

Carol L. said...

Hi Paisley,
Love the name. :)
It was a great interview. Learn so much through these blog posts.
Thank you
Carol L.
Lucky4750@aol.com