So as I've mentioned before, in order to graduate docent training, we have to give a 5-minute presentation on something specific to the California Gold Rush... hopefully Columbia... and hopefully 1850-1870.
I chose to do my presentation on "the children of Columbia" since close to nothing is mentioned of them. Well, we know there had to be children here because there was a two-story brick schoolhouse built for them in 1860. There are children's graves in the cemetery. There must have been children in Columbia! So why don't we hear about them in books about the Gold Rush?
Well, it was a "man's world". Plain and simple. A google search for children in the Gold Rush came up with squat, but my research in the Columbia archives came up with a few things of interest.
I like to think of the Dagner family as the "First Family" of Columbia. William Dagner was a well trusted and respected Wells Fargo agent and lived with his Prussian wife and 4 children. Unfortunately, their 3 younger children died of scarlet fever within 2 days in January 1863. William Jr. was 4 years old, Emma 2 1/2, and Paul was 11 months old. Hattie their eldest died a few years later of diabetes at 14 years old. What a blow that would have been.
While looking through the schoolhouse archives, I found a few interesting photos. The first is of the class in 1890(?). Only one child and the teacher is named. Julie Conlin (teacher) was one of the sisters of Tom Conlin. Tom was the last of three Wells Fargo agents on Columbia. In the picture most of the children aren't wearing any shoes.
Next is some-sort of newspaper clipping with the photo and names of all the children who attended Columbia school in 1880(?) and 1891. It was so neat to have all the names for a change and gave me a decent list of last names to look for while researching families.
Lastly, I found a picture of a family posing for a photo in "the garden and stable behind the Fallon House" in 1880(?). I thought this was particularly interesting because there are three children of different ages in this photo and the boy on the far right is sitting on a rocking horse. A rocking horse! I haven't seen any photos of American children with rocking horses.
I wanted to find some lesser known toys that were popular in 1850-1870. The toy I found was clay marbles. Glass marbles were being made in Italy in the early 1800's, but weren't largely produced until the late 1890's. Clay marbles began being produced in large quantities around 1870. The clay marbles in my presentation are probably very similar to the clay marbles Columbia children may have played with since I made them from local clay found in Murphys.
Now I just have to come up with a witty way to end my presentation. Think of a good one for me and *insert here*.