California Authors


Book Review: "Early Auburn"

By Art Sommers, John Knox and April McDonald-Loomis,

Review By C. MacDonald

Auburn, east of Sacramento, is where gold was first discovered in what became Placer County, California. Because of its strategic location, it became a significant freighting, transportation and political center. It was the link to remote mining camps in the Sierra, bringing much-needed supplies on pack mules for up to $40 per hundred pounds.

The hustling and bustling hub also had a reputation for tolerance. One miner wrote he had dinner at a French restaurant "run by a mulatto from Louisiana, who rented the building from a Jew," hired a Chinese cook, Irish bartender and an Australian waiter. Auburn is still a diverse, beautiful, fascinating community proud of its past, which has been captured through intriguing photos and well-chosen words by three volunteers at the Placer County Archives-- Art Sommers, John Knox and April McDonald-Loomis-- in their new Arcadia "Images of America" book, "Early Auburn."

Pictured: Esther Birdsall Darling, a wealthy Auburn heiress, married an expedition outfitter from Nome, Alaska, and became fascinated by sled dog teams. For years, her champion sled dog teams dominated the All Alaska Sweepstakes.She spent her last years in Auburn, passing away in 1965.

Many of the photos are from the incredible collection of Sommers, whose work has been featured in Sierra Heritage Magazine. Others are from the Placer County Archives, California State Library and additional treasure troves. The captivating pictures bring you up close to the Native American Nisenan, Frederick Ferdinand Low (the local miner, who became Governor of California and established the state park and university systems), numerous other prospectors, the once-famous Birdsall Olive Oil Ranch (which started in the 1880s and lasted nearly 100 years), Esther Birdsall Darling (a local heiress, whose sled team dogs dominated the All Alaska Sweepstakes for years), stagecoaches and whips (like Hank Monk), mules and horse teams, the Central Pacific Railroad (which reached Auburn in May of 1865), the Auburn Brewery (established in 1856 by two brothers from Switzerland and shut its doors in 1908), Chinatown, Placer County Courthouse, Churches, firefighters, football and baseball teams, prominent women and so much more.

This book is full of gold nuggets, including a priceless photo of the gallant chaps from the Rock Creek Tug of War Team, who took part in a three-day tourney at the Auburn Opera House in 1892. Teams from Sacramento, Rocklin, Newcastle and other areas showed their brawn with Auburn winning the heavy team pull by half an inch after 50 minutes! Some other stunning photos show 15 women at a Young Ladies Social, an Ice Cream Social, the Long Valley School kids, the Sheriff's Posse on Horseback, a horse-drawn water tank (for tamping down the dust), Empire Hotel Owner "Carrie" Kittler, Caroline Ludwig (a moneylender and multiple-property owner), freight teams (showing gridlock on the Auburn-to Foresthill Road) and the first known image of Auburn in 1851 by Thomas Armstrong.

"Early Auburn" features chapters on the Nisenan, Before the Rush, Discovery and the Forty-Niners, Mining, Grain over Gold, Moving Goods and People, Business, Making and Breaking the Law, the Social Fabric and Entertainment.

Congratulations to the authors/creators of this book for forever preserving the spirit of Early Auburn through photos exposing a peek at its "soul."

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