Gold Rush Stories: 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss, and Luck

Gold Rush Stories: 49 Tales of Seekers, Scoundrels, Loss, and Luck
Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5, with 49 black-and-white photographs, 336 pages.
ISBN: 9781597143844.

By Gary Noy

This volume explores the deeply human stories of the California Gold Rush generation, drawing out all the brutality, tragedy, humor, and prosperity as lived by those who experienced it. In less than ten years, more than 300,000 people made the journey to California, some from as far away as Chile and China. Many of them were dreamers seeking a better life, like Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, who eventually became the first African American judge, and Eliza Farnham, an early feminist who founded California’s first association to advocate for women’s civil rights. Still others were eccentrics—perhaps none more so than San Francisco’s self-styled king, Norton I, Emperor of the United States. As Gold Rush Stories relates the social tumult of the world rushing in, so too does it unearth the environmental consequences of the influx, including the destructive flood of yellow ooze (known as “slickens”) produced by the widespread and relentless practice of hydraulic mining. In the hands of a native son of the Sierra, these stories and dozens more reveal the surprising and untold complexities of the Gold Rush.

Published in collaboration with Sierra College Press.


“This fascinating book offers readers something new. Gary Noy brings together, appropriately enough, 49 tales drawn from familiar and unfamiliar sources, each rich with something compelling and memorable.... A satisfying representation of California’s Gold Rush, complex, unruly, appalling, uplifting, and, as we come to understand, ultimately never quite what we thought it was.” Terry Beers, Professor of English and American Literature, Santa Clara University
“What a remarkable collection! An original and lively look at all the usual suspects, plus bears, weather, women, Joaquín, disappointment and dissipation, a veritable glory hole of highly polished nuggets from life on the frontier. Exhaustively researched and highly entertaining.” JoAnn Levy, author of They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush
“Gary Noy’s collection of standalone, standout nonfiction stories of the Gold Rush underscores once again the continuing role of this epoch as a catalyst for good writing. Again and again, we Californians return to this era to rediscover the breeder-reactor of literary energy set in motion by the first decade of American California. Noy has the ability to make old stories seem new and new stories seem like they have always been part of the Gold Rush canon.” Kevin Starr, professor of history at the University of Southern California; California State Librarian emeritus; and author of the multivolume Americans and the California Dream
“Seamlessly fuses academic rigor, original reporting and emotional intensity into one meditation on an era.... If the task of the historian is to be faithful to lost truths, then Noy's latest exploration succeeds on every level, and does so in a way that will keep readers wanting to dig deeper into the past.” Scott Thomas Anderson, Sierra Lodestar
“Excitement, surprise, and revelation in every chapter.” Goldfields Books
+ Show all reviews
Category History

About the Author

Gary Noy

Gary Noy

A Sierra Nevada native and current resident, Gary Noy has taught history at Sierra College from 1987 until the present. He founded the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies and served as its director until 2012. His previous titles include Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues (Heyday, 2014), which won the Gold Medal for Best Regional Nonfiction from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology (Heyday, 2010), which he coedited, and Distant Horizon: Documents from the 19th Century American West (University of Nebraska Press, 1999). Visit his website

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