Sunday, December 04, 2016
"The Road To Cherokee: A California Epic"
"September 23, 1880, was a gala day in Chico. … President Rutherford B. Hayes and a party … were entertained by General Bidwell at the Mansion. … The next day, the party visited Cherokee where there was … a great banquet served in the Company's blacksmith shop."
"By 1880, the Spring Valley Company had at Cherokee one of the most completely equipped and largest hydraulic mines in California. This was the giant that Sam Morris and the valley farmers were fighting, in which they spent over ten years of unremitting battle, and success was still not yet in sight."
Sam Morris is the fictional creation of Mary Ray McIntyre King, poet and "the first female attorney in Butte County," who at her death in 1949 in Oroville was working on the final draft of a novel.
"The Road To Cherokee: A California Epic" ($24.95 in paperback from ANCHR, anchr.org) is that novel. It's available at The Bookstore (Chico), My Girlfriend’s Closet (Paradise), Discount Books (Oroville), the Butte County Historical Society (Oroville), and the Gridley Museum. My advice: Get it now.
"The Road" was brought to the attention of the Association for Northern California Historical Research by Jean Whiles, King's granddaughter, and was edited, with explanatory footnotes, a biography of the author, historical introduction, and numerous photographs, by Nancy Leek, Ron Womack, Charles Copeland, and Josie Smith.
It's the first work of fiction published by ANCHR but so rooted in the historical record that it's a must-have not only for fans of historical romance but local history buffs. Why was it that, in 1884, "the whole prosperous system of hydraulic mining went broke overnight"?
The novel begins in 1857 with two intertwined families setting out for "Californy": Sam Morris (who seeks land of his own) and his bride, Becky; and Sam's brother-in-law Tom Norman (who wants gold) and his wife, Cynthia.
King writes in an Afterword that "the Road to Cherokee is now only a country road, … a forgotten road back into the past, and the saga of gold and hydraulic mining, and bitter old feuds and personal tragedies." King brings that emotional story to life. It is a triumph.