The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1972, Volume 18, Number 3
James E Moss, Editor

Book Review

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

Ghost Towns Of The West. Text and photographs by William Carter. Menlo Park, Ca: Lane Magazine and Book Company, 1971. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 256 pages. $11.75.

Reviewed by Mack Sugg, former Illinois School Administrator, and current Chairman of the Historic Tours Committee of the San Diego History Center. He received his M.A. degree from Northwestern University, Evanston. He was an educational advisor for the CCC prior to World War II, served with the Naval Architect’s Department building Liberty Ships, was administrator of the Cost Code Department of the Atomic Energy Commission Plant at Richmond, Washington, and was also associated with Convair in San Diego before his retirement in 1962.

Pick up this most interesting volume, turn to any page, and you will be a captive reader immediately. The dust jacket tells you that the author, William Carter, is amply qualified to produce this book. It states, “he traveled more than 20,000 miles, took more than 10,000 photographs and examined an estimated 50,000 historical prints in archives of every western state” in producing Ghost Towns Of The West. You will enjoy over 375 photographs and maps, with fifteen pages in color and seven pages in sepia. For your help you will find two pages of suggested selected readings and an adequate index.

It has been the happy experience of this reviewer to have visited a great many of these ghost towns, and there is no hesitation in recommending the book highly. Those members of the San Diego History Center who have been on one of the Society’s four annual visits to the Mother Lode Country will enjoy finding the Gold Rush towns and camps in the first section — almost fifty pages devoted to California.

You will find photographs of James Marshall pointing down to the river where he discovered gold in January, 1848, of Lola Montez who was the alleged mistress of the King of Bavaria, and also of Lotta Crabtree who was trained by Lola and became a world famous concert artist. There are excellent photographs of the old towns and their old buildings, and the maps will be an aid in finding them.

There is an interesting picture of Angels Camp annual frog jumping contest relating to Mark Twain’s famous story of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

By careful estimate this volume of 256 pages has more than 60 percent of its space devoted to photographs and maps and with just enough text to tell the story. This is truly a Sunset Pictorial.

The book states that “. . . until publication of this book, there had never been a full panoramic portrayal of that heritage; there had never been an adequate guide to help you find the ghost towns and the mining camps . . .” The series of nine or ten books authored by Lambert Floren and published by Superior Publishing Company, Seattle, is far more complete and detailed. Every little camp is included. However, the Sunset publication is complete enough for the average reader, and the interesting pictures are far superior to others on this subject.

In the arrangement of Ghost Towns you will note that there is a lengthy introduction with these sections following: California, almost fifty pages; the Great Basin; Rocky Mountain States; the Northwest; and the Southwestern States. California has the best coverage but other states have many interesting locations such as the two named Virginia City in Montana and Nevada; Georgetown, Colorado; Bannock, Montana; Silver City, Idaho; Shanico, Oregon; Tombstone and Jerome, Arizona; and, of course, old Bodie, California. The author states that Bodie is the outstanding ghost town of all.

At the end of the volume are two pages with the heading, “Good Guys, Bad Guys and a Bad Girl!” The largest photograph has a caption, “Pearl Hart: disguised as a man, allegedly committed the West’s last stagecoach robbery in 1899.” Eighteen hundred and ninety-nine? Women’s liberation movement working in 1899?