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California: The Gold Rush Years

By Bruce Larson
Sequoia Ministry

8588 Oak Ave
Orangevale, CA 95662

This product is a study guide for Sequoia Ministries Historical Presentations. Sequoia Ministry is a Christ-centered ministry that provides programs in nature science and California history. These history programs can be taken at your location (home, school, church, etc.) or in Sacramento. Bruce Larson, the instructor and author of this guide, organizes groups that visit Sutter's Fort, Coloma (the first gold discovery site), and other places of historic interest. His California History program can be experienced live at any location and includes 1840s costume with flintlock rifle, furs, pelts, fire starting with flint and steel, and much more. From the Sequoia Ministry website, you can now order this class on DVD--California History: The Gold Rush Years. The cost is $12 plus shipping and handling.

The study guide, which covers the same material as the class or DVD, includes a history of Sutter's Fort and John Sutter, Coloma (the first gold discovery site) and James Marshall, and a history of the Donner Party. This includes the history of the tragedy of the Donner party and how God protected the Christians members of that group. As a supplement, there are two copies of the 1849 California Constitution, one in its original form and one in a modern readable form. The cost for the study guide is the same as for the DVD.

This guide can be read with or by your children. The reading level is appropriate for fourth grade and up. Probably the best way to appreciate the study guide is to be able to see and learn about Sutter's Fort and Coloma by actually taking a trip or tour there after reading the study guide. For those families who like to read about history and then see evidences of it in real life, this can be especially beneficial.

I found this guide very informative. Since I have not covered California history since 1997 (when I taught a unit study on the subject with my older children), it was useful in refreshing my memory as well as adding new insights to my understanding. The author seems to be quoting from primary sources although there are no footnotes or bibliography. There are a few minor grammatical and spelling errors but not enough to hinder my understanding of the material. In the back of the study is a glossary of 1800s terms. These actually helped me understand the material better. To conclude his study, Mr. Larson quoted John Bidwell from his book Echoes of the Past. Mr. Bidwell points to God's providential hand in the discovery of gold in California before the Civil War so that when the war took place, the gold from California was a major means in financially supporting and preserving the Union.

In summary, I would recommend purchasing the study guide if you have older children who enjoy reading about the history of our great state and/or are planning a trip to one of the historic sights mentioned. The study guide would also be helpful if any of your children are planning to write a paper on one of the listed topics.

Product review by Becky Voytek, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, September 2006

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