When lumber mills first began sprouting up along the 19th century Mendocino coast, Native Americans were still a constant presence. Many indigenous place names were adopted by settlers and remain with us to this day. Others have faded into obscurity. We know, for instance, that the area now known as Mendocino village was originally called Bool-Dam or Buldam by subgroups of the Northern Pomo. Bool-Dam meant “big holes” and referred to the blowholes on the Mendocino headlands. Early maps created after California statehood refer to Big River as Bool-Dam River. Continue Reading →
One of the biggest challenges in writing historical fiction is managing the facts. Sometimes those facts are inconveniently arranged. Other times, there is a paucity of information. The former requires careful structuring of the story. The latter, however, presents a perfect opportunity for the historical novelist to exercise a little freedom in shaping the story. To illustrate this point, we’ll look at two real people who appear in my story, how I used reliable facts, and how I invented history for the gaps or stitched seemingly unrelated facts together. Continue Reading →
The idea for a historical novel set in 19th century Mendocino County first came to me in the small town of Albion, California. I was spending a weekend in an old converted water tower and reading about William Richardson’s first lumber mill in Albion. Three years later, after extensive research that has led me as far afield as Saint Louis, Nicaragua, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Hong Kong, I am halfway through the second draft of the story. In that time, my eyes have been opened repeatedly to the breadth of the saga I’m attempting to write. Continue Reading →
Why would loggers carry guns? They worked in small crews alone in the forested mountains of Mendocino County. At the time, the area was crawling with black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, and mountain lions, not to mention bands of indigenous Pomos who, even by the early 1850s, still scuffled from time to time with settlers intruding on their territory. So what firearm were they likely to keep handy? Continue Reading →
Even by the mid-1850s, trouble was brewing for people of color in California. There were frequent skirmishes between settlers and the local Pomo communities. Chivalry Democrats, who were pro-slavery Southern sympathizers, passed California’s own version of the Fugitive Slave Act and, by 1870, would take aim at the large Chinese population with the Chinese Exclusion Act. White workers were up in arms that jobs were allegedly going to the people of color who would work harder, longer, and for lower wages. Given that social and political backdrop, it is remarkable that Nathaniel Smith not only survived but seems to have thrived. Continue Reading →
How Cuffey’s Cove, a once thriving town on the Mendocino coast that is now a ghost town with 3 cemeteries, became the inspiration for the historical novel, The Relentless Harvest. Continue Reading →
My discovery of 19th century African American lithographer and painter Grafton Tyler Brown began with a search for a character for my novel-in-progress. Little did I know I would uncover such an intriguing story about an important and overlooked figure in northwestern art. Little did I know that the story would be found in a book that had yet to be released.
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