I've been in California for the past couple of weeks, very busy with a series of lectures and family commitments, so have not posted anything recently.
This past week, though, I spent a day in the Gold Rush region of northeastern California, visiting the town of Placerville and also Sutter's Mill, where the first gold was found that sparked the 1849 Gold Rush. (I stayed at the "Motherlode Motel".)
My friend Francesco Spagnolo, of the Magnes Museum in Berkeley -- which has an extraordinarily rich collection of Jewish history and culture in the American West -- had mentioned to me that there was a Pioneer Jewish cemetery in Placerville -- so of course I found it and took pictures. A tiny plot with about 18 markers, very well maintained, in a shaded corner of a residential neighborhood just off Highway 50.
In fact, there are about half a dozen Jewish cemeteries in the Gold Rush region -- in the towns of Jackson, Mokelumne Hill, Sonora, Placerville, Grass Valley, and Nevada City. The Magnes Museum has a wonderful collection of photographs documenting them. Taken by the photographer Ira Nowinski in the mid 1980s, these have been posted online as a Flickr gallery. They show some charming iconography -- including one carved image of a wife and children mourning at the tomb of the father/husband.