Mountains and Molehills is essential reading for anyone wishing to build a mental picture of San Francisco and the Sacramento areas during the period of the Gold Rush from 1850 to 1852.
With wit and charming powers of description, Marryat paints a picture of American entrepreneurial genius in this rich land—rich in virgin soils as well as gold—for the busy immigrants building a new life in this recent addition to the Union.
Marryat arrived in San Francisco on May, 4 1850 to witness the last burning embers from a disastrous fire—the second out of seven which would devastate the infant city between December 1849 and June 1851. With manservant and three dogs he made his way north via Benicia, Napa and Sonoma until he reached Don Raymond's estate where he was an honored guest.
Continuing to Russian River he finds a small paradise to build a small farmstead, taking in hunting and exploration as he goes. Eventually returning to San Francisco he arrives in time to witness the sixth fire—that of May 3-4, 1851, which killed a friend and also destroyed all of his possessions stored in the friend's warehouse, including his journals, paintings and sketches—for apart from being a skilled narrator Marryat was an artist of considerable ability.
The narrative then takes in the diggings and with rich description gives witness to the drinking, gambling, lawlessness and the lynching of the gun law society.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Frank Marryat (1826-1855) was the son of novelist Captain Frederick Marryat. He joined the Royal Navy as midshipman and served on HMS Samarang in the Far East. In 1850, he left England for California via Panama. He returned to England in 1853, married, and prepared to return with his new bride to California that same year. However, he had contracted yellow fever onboard ship, which forced him to cut the trip short and return to England where he died before his book was published.