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Over The Old Back Trails
by Sadie Culbert Tibbitts

by Bill Baccus

I first happened upon this document in the early days of 1963. It was buried among memorabilia, personal effects, and papers collected and handed down by members of my family over the years. At the time it was in the possession of my mother, Jean Culbert Mack. I had always been both interested and fascinated by the stories told by aunts and uncles in the family about "life on the ranch," in the California Gold Country.

It was not until 1975 that I actually visited the region mentioned in this account, to personally view the land that had provided for the Culbert family for over one hundred twenty five years, and five generations. I was immediately overtaken by the pastoral beauty that had remained in the hills, for all those years. The aura of the Argonaut spirit could be felt in the small graveyard, and among the ruins of bunkhouses and barns. Evidence was still easily visible of a lifestyle so brief, yet so rich in adventure. It was buried in the massive mounds of tailings, in the sounds of the breeze moving slowly through the old mine head frames, and in the creaks and moans that drifted out of the old structures still standing among the hills.

The immense shadows of the monumental California oaks provide a haven for today’s traveler, just as they did for the Indians, Vaqueros, and Miners of more than a century ago. The wind still whispers of fortunes and failures that occurred among these golden hills that lazily roll over the horizon. As I stood and viewed the lands of my ancestors, I began to form fantasies in my mind of the events and activities that once caused the hills and villages of Lower Rancheria to be filled with hard working miners and their families. I felt a strong compulsion building that has since driven me to delve deeper into this period in time that produced men and women of enterprise and innovation, as had rarely been witnessed before or since. The road toward the discovery of the history of both the period and the area has been made easier by the benchmarks and clues provided by my great-grandmother, Sadie Culbert Tibbitts in this, her personal account. It is presented, as written, with no effort made to provide citations or to verify dates of events stated. It is my hope that the reader will allow for any small errors. It is also hoped that the reader will be thankful, as I am, that such an account exists at all. That the reader will realize its value as a cornerstone for a more detailed and annotated account of life in Amador County in the late nineteenth century, to be written by another, at another time.

Sadie Culbert Tibbitts was the first born of five children of Matthew McElwain Culbert and Ann Mary Parsons. Matthew had made the trip overland to California from Callaway County, Missouri, while Ann Mary did not arrive from New Hampshire until 1859. Sadie Culbert was born October 3, 1860, in Lower Rancheria, near Amador City. This account was written in 1950, when she was age 90 years. This is her story.

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Chapter 1