Jennie Carter was a free black woman who moved from New Orleans to Grass Valley around 1860.
Between 1867 to 1874 she wrote essays, from her Nevada City home, that were published in The Elevator, a San Francisco black newspaper.
When Carter first began writing for The Elevator, her intention was to publish material for young readers. “Children, you hear a great deal said about color by those around you, see attention given white persons by your friends that is wholly unmerited, while those of darker skin are treated with cool neglect. Such are wrong, and that you may avoid like mistakes I write this for you to read. Let your motto be, civility to all, servility to none. Those reminders of bondage we must get out of the way as soon as possible; and while we would treat all with respect, we should not talk about color, light and dark, black and white.”
It wasn’t long before her writing was composed for a general audience. Carter’s essays provide a detailed and lively peek into Nevada County life—after the Civil War—when black men were working to establish voting rights, (white) women’s suffrage was in its infancy, the Central Pacific Railroad was under construction, and resentment against Chinese immigrants was building.
Since Carter wrote under several pen names—Ann J. Trask and Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)—her body of work was lost until 2007, when a historical researcher discovered their connection and put the pieces together.
“She was a skilled cultural critic and as such her observations about race and racism, discrimination, and a host of social issues have important ramifications for today,” comments Eric Gardner, editor of Jennie Carter, A Black Journalist of the Early West.
The Jennie Carter book should be on recommended reading lists for every nineteenth-century history class in Nevada County (California).
FDC Editor Notes:
I discovered this book in a reference on a Wiki page. Exciting! Connecting with Jennie’s words, I felt a sense of admiration and deep respect for this intelligent, spiritual woman who bravely spoke universal truths that would go unrecognized for at least a century or more.
As I read, my ears were tuned for the echos of Jennie’s voice. When she described drinking water out of Deer Creek, Carter’s inclusion in the Deer Creek Project went from vague imaginings to composing detailed plans for a script, actress, locations, and props.
Equally engaging are Gardner’s footnotes and commentary. It’s like a book within a book that includes a code-breaker for every reference and antiquated expression. The research, alone, requires its own focused read.
How fortunate we (as readers and history buffs) are to have this thoughtful and carefully composed work available in one volume!
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“Oh, that we might awake to the importance of a thorough, universal education.” – Jennie Carter, 1867
To learn more about Jennie Carter, check out these posts;
Jennie Carter was an esteemed Nevada City essayist who wrote and published articles in a San Francisco newspaper between 1867-1874.
She was a free black woman born in 1830 (or 1831). *Free people of color first arrived on the North American continent in the French territories and with the Spanish and Portuguese. They were highly educated and successful in business.
To gain a deeper understanding of Jennie’s opinions and writing, it’s important to know where she was living before moving to Nevada County and to understand what might have triggered her relocation.
In Jennie’s lifetime, the following events occurred;
1846 Mexican American War
Westward Expansion – Manifest Destiny
1849 California Gold Rush
1850 Fugitive Slave Laws were passed to provide the return of escaped slaves (a danger for free blacks – they could be captured/kidnapped and entered into slavery)
Tensions mount between Northern and Southern states
1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States
** Historians suggest this is when Jennie and her first husband, Reverand Correll, a Campbellite minister, relocated to Grass Valley, California from New Orleans, Louisiana. [Jennie married Dennis Carter in Nevada City after Reverand Correll’s death.]
January 1861 Louisiana votes to secede from the Union
March 1861 Louisiana vows allegiance to the Confederate States of America
April 12th, 1861 Civil War begins
January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free”
April 1865 Civil War ends — one week later Abraham Lincoln is assassinated
December 1865 Congress ratifies the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery
1867 Congress passes the 14th Amendment granting citizenship and civil liberties to freed slaves
1869 Congress passes the 15th Amendment granting African American men the right to vote
1870 African American men in California gain voting rights when 2/3 of the states ratify the 15th Amendment
Social movements taking place;
Abolition (eliminating slavery), temperance (sobriety), and sufferage (voting rights for black men and white women)
Human rights and individual betterment
Prior to Jennie’s move, New Orleans hosted the largest population of free black people in the United States.
Mid-Nineteenth Century American Attitudes
History and Happenings in New Orleans in the early 1860s
A time of extraordinary hope and political progress followed by a terrorist backlash.
If you liked this post, learn more about Jennie Carter in these posts;
Project Gutenberg | downloadable public domain books in multiple formats
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1863) was a Harvard Educated American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. His goal was to put an end to white supremacy.
While reading Eric Gardner’s book—Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West—in the spring of 2019, Deer Creek Project Coordinator, Lisa Redfern day-dreamed about highlighting Jennie Carter in a historical video. Upon reaching Carter’s temperance segment (page 25, 1868) describing drinking water out of Deer Creek, Redfern found the connection she needed to go-for-it.
Video production took the entire summer to execute;
pieces of Carter’s writing were selected
Katrina Thompson was asked to portray and voice act for Jennie Carter’s part
filming location permission, costumes, and props were secured
scene planning was mapped and detailed
a delightful evening was spent at Randco Studios recording Jennie’s writing
filming took place on one long day (July 5th) starting early in Colfax and following the light to the Pine Grove Cemetery in Nevada City
Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans related to shrimp, lobster, and crabs. They’re all decapods—having ten legs.
Fossil records show crayfish have been in North America for millions of years.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the native range for the Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) is the Columbia River’s lower estuary. The range goes northwest and through tributaries that reach into British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.
Historical records say crayfish were first introduced to the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe sometime between 1895 and 1909. They were placed there for fish food, bait, and human consumption. Crayfish are currently planted in ponds and on fish farms to control aquatic weeds.
Crayfish live in a variety of freshwater environments from backwater pools to large rivers, streams. and subalpine lakes. Favorite places include hiding among rocks and in stands of partially submerged plants. They are temperature and pH-sensitive.
Anything and everything…
rotting leaves and twigs
animals and insects (younger crayfish are most attracted to these)
live plants and algae (older crayfish are most attracted to these)
other crayfish (large crayfish are most likely to cannibalize other crayfish)
Crayfish breathe through gills. They can survive on land as long as gills remain moist. In water, gills also collect small food particles.
Most activity and feeding occurs at night.
Crayfish have two sets of antennae, one set for touch and the other for smell.
Body armor—or the exoskeleton—is a crayfish’s main defense, though pincers are also used for battle.
The exoskeleton is made up of calcium carbonate (limestone), taken from the water. It builds up in layers. When the animal grows, it sheds its exoskeleton. At this time, it is at its most vulnerable until the new exoskeleton hardens.
Molting occurs most often as young grow to adulthood. Once crayfish are fully grown molting only happens a few times per year.
Crayfish have the ability to regrow claws if they are lost. Claws are also used for eating and mating.
Photo Credit: David Perez
Depending on food availability and water temperature, breeding can begin between three to six months of age. Mating usually occurs in the spring and summer months.
Mothers can hold sperm until conditions for egg-laying are right, usually in fall.
Females lay somewhere between 200 – 400 eggs. These are attached to her swimmerets under her tail. Young remain with their mother through several molts. As they grow, they separate somewhat, staying attached by thread-like tethers. Once fully separated, the mother secretes a pheromone that keeps the young close for protection.
Average is about 3 years. In captivity, some have lived up to twenty years.
Photo credit: Andrea Westmorland
Anything living in or near the water.
Crayfish Consumption in the West:
Washington, Oregon, and the Sacramento Delta are the main crayfish food consuming areas on the west coast. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, over ten-thousand pounds of Signal Crayfish were taken out of the Sacramento Delta in 2018.
Dangers to Crayfish:
oil or fuel
changing land use activities that alter water flows
Crayfish Species Where They Don’t Belong (Shipping Crayfish to Classrooms):
Carriers of a Plague Organism:
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “crayfish plague, caused by the fungus-like organism Aphanomyces astaci Schikora, is listed in the top 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.”
Like the Asian Ladybug, Signal crayfish can live in a balanced host-parasitic relationship. If they are brought into places where that balance hasn’t been established, ecosystem havoc can result.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Recommends Eating Some Invasive Species
This is a story of murder and assumptions. The first murder happened in October of 1944, when a young WWII veteran was shot in woods near the north fork of Deer Creek. The finger of guilt pointed squarely at the local scapegoat, an oddball mountain man.
Murders on Deer Creek
Two months after his homecoming from World War II, 24-year-old Henry Lewis organized a hunting party with his family and friends. Henry was a Purple Heart and Bronze Star decorated veteran.
Unbeknownst to Henry, this day would be his last. Did he stumble upon the hiding place of an eccentric neighbor and school buddy? Or did Henry see something or someone who was involved in an illegal cattle selling operation running in the area?
William ‘Bill’ Ebaugh was someone Henry had known for years. He was the fugitive hiding from the law that day.
How ‘Wild Bill’ Earned His Name
At age 21, he was committed to Napa State Hospital (1928) after an affair with a young woman from a prominent family. He was released, ‘cured,’ and agreed to voluntary sterilization.
young William Ebaugh
Frequently walked around barefoot
Sung Irish ditties from treetops ‘broadcasting’ through an old Victrola horn
Many women were attracted to him
Running naked through the woods
Sneaking up on young lovers and bursting into song
Good aim when shooting
Participated in an armed stand-off with sheriff outside Ebaugh’s home (1935) – peacefully resolved
Sheriff searches Ebaugh’s room and confiscates a double-barrel shotgun, an automatic shotgun, a revolver and an automatic pistol (1935)
Arrested for disturbing the peace (1937) – Willow Valley Road
In public, Bill boasts that he won’t be taken alive
Charged with the rape of neighbor (1939) – acquitted
Charged with buying a miner’s wife for $20 and holding her captive (1937) – charges dismissed
Charged with stealing cows (1943) owned by Charles Morandi
Hiding from Sheriff
Broke into cabins stealing food and trinkets
Local Culture of the Time
Young men were away at war. Newspapers touted articles about spies and communism. Food and necessities were rationed. To buy beef, a special coupon was needed.
To better understand the local culture during World War II, watch the video below.
In Nevada County, it was said that women and children were afraid of the ‘wacko’ living in the hills.
Local Sheriffs were on edge, having multiple run-ins with Bill Ebaugh.
There may have been an illegal beef selling operation (not requiring government issued red-dot coupons) in the Willow Valley area.
As a miner, Bill built a rock crusher. With it, he helped disguise gold pocketed by hard rock miners working for local mines. He kept their identities secret.
Tension Inciting Language about Ebaugh Published in the Newspaper
Hermit of the hills Phantom of the hills Bad Character Desperate character Man long feared Eccentric resident Terrorizing neighbors Reign of terror Menace to society Killer Alleged to be an escapee from a State Hospital Threatened the Sherriff Crafty and resourceful fugitive People in his home section will breathe easier once he’s behind bars
Finding Lewis’s Body and the Hunt for his Killer
After hearing two shots and a multi-day search, Henry’s body was found by his Uncle Jack. It was face down in the Snow Mountain Ditch.
A Boyscout troop discovered Ebaugh’s mine tunnel living quarters about a mile away. Inside, Sheriff Tobiassen recognized items belonging to Ebaugh, including a Victrola horn and wet clothes. The Sheriff directed the search party to change course from looking for Henry Lewis to hunting for Willliam Ebaugh.
Uncle Jack commented that he didn’t think Ebaugh was dangerous. He and Henry had been friends for years and Bill probably didn’t know Henry had been killed.
Blood spots, a rifle, and a bullet with bone and hair were discovered about 15 feet from Ebaugh’s tunnel. It was determined that this is where Henry had been shot in the back.
A fear-drenched community with mob mentality contributed to flawed decision making for public protection and private gain.
Armed volunteers combed the hills for weeks looking for Bill Ebaugh. If Bill wasn’t the shooter, then the killer had ample time to disappear.
For nine days, the Grass Valley-Nevada City Morning Union published a Dead or Alive Notice on page two. The Reward offered by a citizens committee headed by Grove Celio.
Bill Ebaugh’s executioner was 24-year-old Irvin Woodrow Davis, a P.G. & E. Carpenter. He wasn’t part of the posse group photographed above but lived near the old cabin where Ebaugh had been hiding since his tunnel was discovered.
Early one morning, Irvin moved into a sniper position.
Bill was unarmed and standing on the front porch; he’d just finished his morning wash-up. Bill must have seen or heard the man holding him in his gun sight because he was diving for cover when Irvin’s shot hit its mark, killing Ebaugh on the spot.
A coroners jury decided that Irvin’s actions were “justified and excusable.”
While citizens appalled by the mishandling of the case were concerned about retribution, they sent an inquest petition to the Attorney General.
The Attorney General sent an investigator to review the case. No additional action was taken.
Bill had no family to hold authorities accountable; no one paid a price for painting a bulls-eye on Bill’s back and opening a free-for-all.
William Ebaugh didn’t have a chance to answer the charges or defend himself in front of a jury of his peers.
The Lewis family lost a beloved son.
A misunderstood mountain man was gunned down by a carpenter.
The reward money was unlikely adequate compensation for a life lived with that memory (Irvin Davis), and
the community would harbor lingering doubt about the men working to protect and serve in Nevada County.
Liberties with the law were taken and those entrusted to guard it looked the other way.
Editor’s Note: When viewing history through your own place and time, it’s impossible to fully comprehend. Research revealed that it was common to have citizen groups assisting the Sheriff’s department, similar to Volunteer Fire Fighters.
This editor would like to believe if William Ebaugh lived today, he may have had social support services and he might not have become an instantaneous target.