Darling Clementine and the Gold Rush
“Hey bear, come back. That’s my shoe,” yelled Clementine. The bear had taken a muddy shoe off her porch. She chased the brown bear right into Lola Montez’ house. The world-famous European dancer was practicing her Spider Dance. “M’am, your bear took my shoe.”
“I’m sorry,” said Lola. “Brownie has ruined it. I’ll give you gold for new shoes, and I’ll get a stronger rope to tie Brownie up.” That’s how Clementine became a friend to Lola Montez, who lived in Nevada City.
That night Clementine went to Lola’s show. Clementine had “the time of her life” dancing with the miners. There were few women in the mining camp, so miners usually danced with each other. That night they all danced with Clementine.
Clementine was already living in California when gold was first discovered. In 1845, Jim Weber, Clementine’s father had taken his darling daughter Clementine across the country in a wagon train. They joined Jim’s friend, John Sutter, in the Sacramento River valley where Sutter had become rich.
Darling Clementine and her 'Pa', with miners
Clementine and her father settled down at Fort Sutter. The local Indians were friendly, so Clementine spent most of her time with them. They taught her how to hunt and fish, to gather greens and roots in the spring. Clementine liked all this food, especially dried sunflower seeds. But she never got used to eating acorns, the main food for some Indians.
Fort Sutter village grew. They needed lumber to build houses and stores. In January 1848 Sutter built a sawmill on the American River, which flowed through his land. One day the foreman saw a nugget in the river the size of a pea, “too yellow to be silver, but bright enough to be gold.” He ran back to the Fort. “Look sir,” he said to Sutter, “when I hit it with a rock it bends, but doesn’t break, a sure sign it’s gold.”
“Let’s keep it a secret so we won’t attract fortune hunters,” said Sutter. But that kind of secret can never be kept.
In 1848, gold was discovered in California. The news traveled like lightning, and the Gold Rush began! People came from all over the “world, looking for adventure and gold. California’s population grew from 14,000 to 100,000 by 1849. Many stories and songs were written about the period. “Darling Clementine” which appeared in 1883 is the best known song. Clementine is a fictional character, but other persons in this story are real.
The discovery of gold in California sped the settling of the whole continent. Many people who did not find gold stayed anyway, to become settlers, merchants and farmers. Some of the most interesting, wildest, bravest, but reckless and dangerous people from all over the world came to California.
1. Name another incident in history where people traveled far to get rich fast?
2. Would you rush somewhere for gold? Do you buy lottery tickets? Is the Gold Rush related to buying lottery tickets? How?
“GOLD DISCOVERED” was in the news by March 15. When that news reached San Francisco, there were 600 men in town; three days later there were only 200 left. Four hundred had left for the gold field. Sutter predicted that “gold would be a curse, ruining more than it saved.” One person ruined by the gold rush was Sutter himself, even though he didn’t prospect for gold.
Thousands of fortune hunters sold everything they owned and rushed to search for gold. Stories, true and false, brought them. One story said a man sat on a big rock, then realized it was solid gold.
People came by land and sea. Some journeyed by steamer, 17,000 miles around South America. Others sailed to Panama, walked across the isthmus, and boarded another ship. Gold seekers rushed to the fields, looting and ruining Fort Sutter. The workers left to hunt gold. Sutter’s cattle, worth $60,000, were stolen by lawless men.
After Sutter’s ruin, Clementine’s father said, “Clementine, let’s try our luck.”
“Why not, Pa? We’re so close, we should stake a claim too.” They carried flour and sourdough starter to bake their own bread. Clementine could hunt and fish for food. They lived in a cavern in а canyon. Jim Weber found very little gold but dreamed of a large fortune.
In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine...
When Clementine got tired of the “digs,” she found work in Nevada City. It was on one of those visits that the bear stole her only good shoes.
Clementine took a trip to San Francisco to buy some new shoes. Clementine didn’t find any ladies’ shoes big enough for her number 9 feet, but got her “Pa” some new pants. She bargained with Levi Strauss: a gold nugget for the heavy work pants Levi made out of canvas.
Levi became famous for making miners’ pants out of the fabric normally used for tents. He’d brought the heavy material to California to make tents for the miners, but they said they wanted thick pants, strong enough to last in the mines, so he used the canvas for that.
Prices were shocking: a hat – $10; a pair of boots or a blanket – $100. Food was high priced too because all the farmers were mining. Bread was $1 a slice, an egg $3. Sugar, tea, and coffee were $5 a pound. Clementine bought her father’s favorite: boxes of herring.
Walking along the waterfront, she saw 500 ships abandoned by crews “gone a-mining”.
Clementine returned to her father’s “digs”, happy to bring him the new Levi Strauss pants and the herring. She was proud of her new dancing dress. But unfortunately, she never danced again...
One morning she was doing her chores. Using some herring boxes for shoes, she led some baby ducks to the river. She hit her foot against a splinter in a herring box, stumbled and fell into the river. It was high, freezing with the melting snow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She bobbed up and down like a cork for a while. She yelled and fought the river, but couldn’t swim.
Her father heard her cries, ran to the river, but he wasn’t a swimmer either. Oh, dreadful! How sorry he was! He sat down with his guitar and sang “Oh My Darling Clementine.” He lost his true treasure, his daughter, looking for gold.
The Miners had to dance with each other
|“the time of her life”||most fun|
|wagon train||group of wagons traveling together|
|acorn||the seed or fruit of the oak tree|
|sawmill||a mill where timber is cut into planks|
|nugget||small lump, small rock|
|fortune||good luck, success, prosperity|
|curse||a call for evil to come down on a person|
|prospect||to explore in search of something|
|isthmus||narrow neck of land between two large areas of water|
|boarded||to get on (a ship, train, bus, plane)|
|stake a claim||to claim or obtain a right to something|
|cavern||a large cave, or hollow in the side of a hill|
|canyon||a long narrow valley between high cliffs|
|“digs”||a mining area|
|chores||jobs in a house or on a farm|
|splinter||small sharp piece of wood|
Routes to California, Overland and by Sea
1. IN YOUR OPINION
1. Why did Clementine’s father move to California?
2. Why did Clementine go to Nevada City?
3. Why did Sutter predict that gold would be a curse? What happened to him?
2. MATCHING COMPREHENSION
Match two parts to make a correct sentence.
1. Clementine and her father traveled
2. Sutter’s farm was ruined
3. More than 500 ships were abandoned
4. Gold was discovered near the sawmill
5. Levi Strauss was making
6. The Indians taught Clementine
A. overland to California.
B. how to hunt and fish.
C. on Sutter’s land on the American River.
D. in the bay when the men left for the gold field.
E. because of the gold rush.
F. heavy pants from canvas cloth.
Choose the word from the list that best fits in each space.
1. Many lawless people went to California and were guilty of _________________ property.
2. In the spring when the snow melts, the water is ___________________.
3. When a miner found land he wanted to dig in, he would ____________________.
4. Many of the ships were left by the crews, _________ ______________in the harbor.
5. Clementine would do the _____________________, like feeding the animals and cutting the wood.
6. Sutter needed _________________ to build houses and stores.
7. An old piece of wood can have many _______________________.
8. The ____________________ was a term the miners used to refer to the area where they were digging.
|stake a claim||chores||lumber||splinters|
4. CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER CHECK
Number 1. is an example; number the items according to time sequence.
1. ___С___ A. Clementine learns to hunt and fish from her Indian friends.
2. ________ B. The looters ruin Fort Sutter.
3. ________ C. Clementine crosses the country with her father.
4. ________ E. Sutter’s foreman finds a nugget of gold in the river.
5. ________ F. Clementine drowns in the river.
6. ________ G. Clementine and her father go to stake a claim at the “digs”.
7. ________ H. She buys her “Pa” some new canvas pants in San Francisco.
8. ________ I. Clementine sees Lola Montez dance in Nevada City.
5. DISCUSSION OR WRITING TOPICS
1. How do you think roles changed for the women who went out to the California gold fields?
2. Which route would you want to take to get to California from New York?
3. What would be the hardships in a wagon train crossing 3,000 miles in 1845?
4. Which would you do: stake a claim, be a merchant, or a hotel keeper in San Francisco? Why?
6. ROLE PLAY
Students take parts. Plan the dialogue or improvise on the spot.
A. Lola and Clementine: shopping in Nevada City, trying to find food for a party.
B. Clementine and two miners: both want to dance with her at the same time.
C. Clementine and Levi Strauss: Clementine bargains for a better price on the canvas pants.
D. John Sutter and looter: Sutter tries to stop him from taking his horses.
E. Clementine and Indian girl: Clementine tries to talk her into going to San Francisco with her.
2. 1. A; 2. E; 3. D; 4. C; 5. F; 6. B
3. 1. looting; 2. freezing; 3. stake a claim; 4. abandoned; 5. chores; 6. lumber; 7. splinters; 8. “digs”
4. C, A, E, B, G, I, H, F
Starting with the miners of the California Gold Rush, in 1849, this nonsense song has been popular all over America.
Light she was and like a feather
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes, without topses
Sandals were for Clementine
Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine
Stubbed her toe against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine
Ruby lips above the water
Blowing bubbles soft and fine
But alas I was no swimmer
So I lost my Clementine
By Myrtis Mixon
From Americana Historical Spotlights in Story and Song