Hello folks who wonder if this blog should be called California Historian diaries instead,

This post is a continuation discussing the roles some people played in history. No animals will be discussed in today's post. If reading about history is not your cup of boba tea, no worries - I'll see you on the next post. For those still reading, let's dive back in.

As thousands of miners swarmed California in the 1850s gold rush, a handful of enterprising newcomers saw opportunity beyond the glittering flakes. Most people who made any substantial wealth during this period were not the miners but people who provided supplies, food or accommodation to these desperate miners.

One entrepreneur decided to pursue their talent in creating an industry that had never existed before in California.

Silk drove the same craze in the fashion industry during the 1850s that Lululemon drives these days. People were willing to shell out big bucks for the lustrous shine and intricate weaves of silk. One pioneer left his homeland of France, leaving behind the land of the baguette to eat the greatest bread humanity has ever created: Wonder bread.

While that might or not be true, what holds true is that Louis Prevost is credited to be the first person to successfully rear silkworms in the state of California. Louis believed that San Jose could be one of the greatest centers of the silk industry.

Louis Prevost holding a moth

He wasn't interested in weaving silk though, he wanted to just provide the raw material for silk: Silkworm eggs and Mulberry trees. To share this enthusiasm with his fellow community members and get someone to buy what he was selling, he wrote a book titled California Silk grower's Manual.

Recommended reading for starting your own silk farm

People at that time could see nothing wrong with his approach just as people today who think Taylor Swift can do no wrong. (Please excuse Karan, he is acting all salty because he did not get the concert tickets). So much so, that the state government promised to give away hundreds of dollars to people between 1862 to 1869 who could successfully grow mulberry trees or raise silkworms. Tens of thousands of mulberry trees were planted in San Jose and Los Angeles to help with this endeavor. For a while when other European countries were struggling to raise silkworms because of pepper disease that covered the worm in brown dots and prevented them from spinning any silk, Monsieur Louis (see what I did there, since he was French.. I know, I know, I am linguist, what can I say) made a fortune exporting the silkworm eggs to other countries.

Well, by the time Louis went underground (literally), the other foreign nations established better sanitation protocols to prevent this pepper disease that was plaguing them. Thus causing the entire California silk industry to crash since there was no more demand with all the suppliers that sprouted in the state.

I stumbled across his headstone in the same cemetery I covered in the last post. No, I am not going to that cemetery for weekly picnics now, I just had to cover this topic but the previous post ran too long.

Btw the image of Louis Prevost I shared earlier is fake, since Golden Gate Bridge wasn't constructed till the late 1930s. So it doesn't matter which portrait you see with the story, does it. You were not going to remember his face anyways.

Most of you might have screamed and squirmed at the iconic scene of a Grizzly bear assaulting Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Revenant. A local man with the name of Charles McKiernan got immortalized as "Mountain Charlie" in the area around Santa Cruz mountains when he survived a Grizzly bear attack while out on a hunt for deer.

Back then, anesthesia had not yet been discovered. So when a metal plate was surgically inserted into McKiernan's skull to repair the damage, he endured the agonizing procedure fully conscious which added to his lore.

McKiernan continued living for several decades after the attack. Interestingly, he had a history of hunting grizzly bears in the past. This fact probably changes your sympathy for him. It's funny how a single detail can shift your perspective.

Here is his headstone at that cemetery.

A week ago, I was in the state of Virginia and happened to visit the Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site that commemorates the first major battle of the Civil War between the Union and Confederate armies. This clash, known as the First Battle of Bull Run, resulted in just under a thousand soldier fatalities. But there was one civilian that had her house in the middle of the battlefield and died on the day of the battle due to being caught in the crossfire and hit by a stray artillery shell.

The Henry house after the first battle

84 year old widowed and bedridden Judith Henry was buried just outside her house after the battle ended. I came across her grave when I was walking around the battlefield. It served as a stark reminder that along with the soldiers, many helpless civilian victims are also swept up in the tragedy of war.

These days humans pop antibiotics as easily as eating a bag of Cheez-Its. During the Civil war, antibiotics were not invented nor was Germ theory well understood. This meant that any time a soldier was injured by a bullet on the battlefield, the army doctor, fearing the risk of infection and sepsis, would amputate the injured part of the body. And they did it without sterilization too, so stop whining when you can't find your hand sanitizer while getting into your car after shopping at Whole Foods.

This is the medical gear used by the doctors at that time in the battlefield.

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