Month: December 2021

Cory’s Historical Corner

By Cory Peterman

Downieville – 1861

Photo of Downieville and footbridge

I thought it would be interesting to once in a while share historic photographs that were taken in Sierra County, and then to describe them. To start out, I am sharing the following photograph, courtesy of the California Historical Society in San Francisco, which depicts a view of Downieville in December of 1861, looking south down Commercial Street. This is one of the earliest known photos of Downieville.

At first glance, one may notice a temporary footbridge erected across what is now the Downie River. This photo was taken after the flood of December 1861, which took out the Jersey Bridge (along with several others along the Yuba River, including the bridges at Goodyear’s Bar, Foster’s Bar, and Bullard’s Bar). The Sacramento Union reported that Downieville flooded on December 7th and 8th, with seven inches of rain on the 8th, and 12.5 inches of rain on the 9th. This mass accumulation of rain lent to the Great Flood of 1862 (which took place in December 1861 and January 1862), which was the largest flood in recorded history in the states of California, Oregon, and Nevada.

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“Probable Cause” Found for Prosecution of J.T. Conway at Preliminary Hearing

By Carl Butz

The wheels of justice move slowly. Almost a year and a half has elapsed since Dr. Ari Gershman was shot and killed while driving with his son near Poker Flat in the northwestern sector of Sierra County on July 3, 2020. John T. Conway was arrested as a suspect for the crime on the following day, after he drove rapidly through a law enforcement roadblock on Saddleback Road towards Highway 49. 

During the ensuing time, Conway, after recovering from a gunshot wound received during his apprehension, has remained incarcerated at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada City. Local and state investigators have amassed information resulting in a set of nine charges being levied against Conway in October 2020. In July of 2021, the court, in the person of Sierra County Superior Court Judge Yvette Durant, following a series of exams by psychiatrists, ruled against the defendant’s claim that since he cannot recall anything about the days before his arrest, he should be exempt from criminal prosecution. The state, however, stated while they would prosecute, they would not be seeking the death penalty. 

Thus, on this past Thursday, December 2, Conway appeared at the Downieville Courthouse, handcuffed, shackled, and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, to attend the next prelude to his trial, a preliminary hearing of the charges against him. 

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Cory’s Historical Corner

By Cory Peterman

Madam Romargi

Photo of Madam Romargi

While casually browsing through some old newspapers not long ago, I came across a remarkable photo that is said to depict Madam Romargi, the keeper of the infamous roadhouse known as the Sierra-Nevada House. For those of you not familiar with the story of Madam Romargi and her wayside inn, you can find my series on it online. The place was said to be “sinister, undesirable, and rugged” and “was known as the resort of the worst band of desperadoes in the country” according to early newspapers. It is written that everyone passing by the Sierra-Nevada House “was expected to stop and patronize their bar. Indeed they found it safer to do so. If Madam Romargi was not pleased with anyone, she would take a shot at him – a ‘gentle’ reminder to do better by them” and that “several miners, who had been known to be ‘headed’ for this place, rather well supplied with ‘dust’ or coin, had mysteriously ‘disappeared,’ but probably, having no relatives, nothing was ever done about it.” Madam Romargi was known to carry “in the folds of her dress, an ancient dagger and also a fully-loaded six-shooter.” So considering the fear people had of Jane Romargi, how did someone manage to capture her on camera?

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Bears At Play

We were saddened to learn about the death of OR-93, the grey wolf from northern Oregon who traveled south for the past couple of years, making its way into California in 2020 before being struck and killed by a vehicle near I-5 in Kern County sometime early in November. In response to loss of OR-93, who traveled the farthest south into California (historically a bastion of wolf habitat) since a wolf was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922, we decided it was best to show our respect for our native wildlife by showing a little happiness in our forests: bears hanging out in the Butte Creek Canyon as captured by Chris Wemmer, a local camera trapping friend.

Check out the excellent four-minute video below. We also suggest our critter-loving readers might enjoy checking out Wemmer’s well-produced, almost three-minute long video, of a ring-tail cat and its den in a tree, which is under the bear video.