Coming soon: The biography of civil enginer, Jasper O'Farrell.
What is "history?" The 2010 edition of the "Oxford Pocket American Dictionary and Thesaurus," defines it as, "1. the study of past events. 2. the past considered as a whole. 3. the past events connected with someone or something. 4. a continuous record of past events or trends. SYNONYMS: 1. the past, former times, the olden days, yesteryear, antiquity. 2. chronicle, archive, record, report, narrative, account, study. 3. background, past, life story, experiences, record. *"be history," informal-"be about to be dismissed or dead" *"the rest is history" the events following those already related are so well-known that they not be told again.
The above dictionary definition is fine, as far as it goes. However, a respected history professor who I will not name here once told his grad students that history "really doesn't include anything that happened less than one hundred or two hundred years ago. However so much happened in the twentieth century and these first years of the twenty first that this view may seem antiquated itself to many.
In other words, I've spent the greater part of my adult years trying to discern, study, research, and publish information about the past that I consider essential to understanding what happened and how it affects where we are today and, hopefully, where we are going. Everything on the internet today really is only something someone has put there very recently. Therefore our past has been omitted. it is my role and, I am pretty certain, the role or job of most historians and writers to provide some of that "continuous record of past events or trends" (#4) above.
Back in the 4th grade I read in our history book about settler families riding ox or horse-drawn covered wagons across the Great Plains to Oregon and California. I wondered what made them do it? What was the "American dream" all about? Why endure such loneliness, perils, and hardships just to get to places where life was such a hard struggle? What kinds of dreams did folks have? Deeply buried in my little preadolescent psyche, amidst notions of owning a T-bird or Corvette, one question persisted: what motivated settlers? Nothing I read really answered these questions.
After a dual career as a high school science and history teacher/practical nurse I finally had enough time to return to research. The mysteries of California history, like what happened to the region's Indians during the 1850s and 60- forced onto a journey that involved the federal government's policies,and the realities on the frontier, genocide and unplanned murders have always fascinated me. With the support of my wife Jeannette starting in about 1998 I began digging through archives, newspapers, letters, diaries-the records left by real settlers, Army personnel and Indians. As anyone who has done such work in the past will tell you, one fact or story led to another, to another, and so on.
After over five years of research, I wrote "Killing for Land in Early California Indian Blood at Round Valley 1856-1863" in 2005. I wanted to find out about coastal exploration and settlement along the Mendocino Coast. Who founded the lumber industry? Where did the Oregon Trail end? How did California's founders get here? What other groups beside the Euro-Americans settled on the northern California coast?
Resulting from that endeavor is the just published (September, 2010) "Yanks in the Redwoods Carving Out a Life in Northern California." Hope you enjoy it as much as I did in researching and writing it!