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Guide to the California Gold Rush Sermons
Wyles Mss 22  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: California Gold Rush Sermons,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1852-1863
    Collection Number: Wyles Mss 22
    Extent: .4 linear feet (1 document box)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
    Physical Location: Del Sur
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    California Gold Rush Sermons. Wyles Mss 22. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchase, 1985

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains 18 handwritten sermons and other theological notes by a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Silas Solon Harmon, who established and maintained a church in Sonora, California from 1852 to 1863. Harmon came from New York State with his wife and children, as part of the American Home Missionary Society efforts to instill the unruly gold rush settlements with a more New England Puritan model of society.
    Most of the sermons are numbered, have titles, and apparently many were used several times at various churches over the years, since Harmon provides lists of dates and places for each. Generally they focus on theological issues, emphasizing moral rectitude and only referring obliquely, at best, to the problems of the day. His final sermon, however, is entitled "Farewell at Sonora," May 3, 1863, and it reflects frankly and in detail on the often trying circumstances of establishing and maintaining a church in such a setting.
    UCSB history professor Richard E. Oglesby, who closely examined the sermons, recounted his findings in the UCSB Libraries annual publication Soundings (1998). In his article, Oglesby provides useful historical context for the tumultuous times in the southern California goldfields in general, and Sonora in particular. He describes at length the animosity and violence of American miners, particularly against other Mexican and Chinese miners, the general lawlessness, drunkenness, gambling, frequent fires, thefts, murders and lynchings, as well as the economic hardships brought on by the high cost of staples.
    According to Oglesby, after they left Sonora, Silas and Frances Harmon became the first principals of the Female College of the Pacific in Oakland, and later Silas was a founder of the First Presbyterian Church in Ventura. In 1869 the Harmons helped establish an academy in Santa Barbara, one of the predecessors of today's University of California, Santa Barbara.