Table of Contents

After the Gold Rush

     is the epic story of the building of San Francisco as novelized history, told by the real people who built it, in their own words, from original source material such as newspapers, letters, court documents and the novels they wrote themselves.

After the Gold Rush brings to life California’s rarely discussed and constantly surprising Civil War and Reconstruction years. The characters are familiar American icons like Mark Twain, Governor Leland Stanford and mining baron George Hearst—and many more real historical figures who deserve to be equally well known, for better or worse:

-      Mary Ellen Pleasant, Black entrepreneur, conductor on the California end of the Underground Railroad, civil rights activist, key supporter of San Francisco’s Executive Committee of Black journalists and businessmen—and voodoo queen.

-      Phoebe Apperson Hearst, teenage bride, mother and mentor to William Randolph Hearst—who educated herself to become a significant builder of the University of California, and one of the state’s most important philanthropists.

-      Theodore and Anna Judah, the couple who conceived of and pushed through the country’s first transcontinental railroad.

-      Ina Coolbrith, the beauty who escaped an abusive marriage to compete head-to-head with the state’s leading literary men and become the first poet laureate of California.

-      Her best friend Charles Warren Stoddard, who wrote the first acknowledged gay novel in a time that had not yet heard the word homosexual.

-      Southern transplants Asbury Harpending and Senator William Gwin, who fought to turn California into a slave state—and nearly succeeded. Abolitionist Jessie Frémont, celebrity wife of legendary Pathfinder John C. Frémont, who mustered literary and clerical forces to stop them.

-      Author Ambrose Bierce, who fought with honors in the great battles of the Civil War until he took a Confederate sniper’s bullet in the head —then captured his horrific wartime experiences on the page.

-      Moy Jin Mun and Dr. Yee Fung Cheung, the Chinese servant and doctor who were intimately involved with the powerful Stanford family and the building of the railroad.

-      Michael, Charles, and Gus de Young—the troubled children of a prostitute, who built a newspaper empire while still in their teens.

-      Joshua Norton, the gentle lunatic who declared himself Emperor of the United States (and Protector of Mexico) and was not only indulged by the press but allowed to rule the city from its streets.

And many, many more. California’s pioneers, dreamers, barons, immigrants, californios, civil rights leaders, villains. They knew each other, married each other, fought each other, and killed each other in “the most picturesque city, in the most romantic state, at the most dramatic moment in the history of the Republic.”

Full Cast of Characters


San Francisco

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Bibliography (in progress)


Staking Claims

     Chapter 13 - Mary Ellen Pleasant

     Chapter 14 - Los Californios: General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton

     Chapter 15 - Theodore and Anna Judah

     Chapter 16 - The Barbary Coast: Mary Ellen Pleasant and Lisette Flohr

     Chapter 17 - Black San Francisco: Mary Ellen Pleasant and The Executive Committee

     Chapter 18 - Adolph Sutro in the Comstock

     Chapter 19 - Jessie Benton Frémont rallies the troops: Bret Harte, Thomas Starr King


  • Chapter 20 - The Knights of the Golden Circle (with Mary Ellen Pleasant, William Ralston, Selim Woodworth, Asbury Harpending, James Madison Bell, JJ Moore, Peter Anderson, The Executive Committee)

  • Chapter 21 - Ted & Anna Judah, Senator William Gwin, and the Transcontinental Railroad

  • Chapter 22 - Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, General Mariano Vallejo: The Squatters and the Don

  • Chapter 23 - Mary Ellen Pleasant, Lizzie Ralston, William Ralston—La Plaçage

  • Chapter 24 - Bohemians Risiing: Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte, Philip Alexander Bell, Emperor Norton

  • Chapter 25 - Ted & Anna Judah and Doc Strong find The Route

  • Chapter 26 - The Election of Lincoln—Mary Ellen Pleasant and the Executive Committee



  • Chapter 27 - Secession Begins: Jessie Frémont, Bret Harte, Thomas Starr King

  • Chapter 28 - Asbury Harpending and the Knights of the Golden Circle

  • Chapter 29 - Ted & Anna Judah and the Transcontinental Railroad

  • Chapter 30 - Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton Goes to Washington

  • Chapter 31 - The Inaugural Address of President Lincoln Inaugurates Civil War

  • Chapter 32 - Ted & Anna Judah Meet The Associates

  • Chapter 33 - The Civil War in San Francisco: Michael, Charles & Gus de Young

New chapters weekly in September! Check the After the Gold Rush website for updates.