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The Goddess of Excelsior
by [?]

When the two isolated mining companies encamped on Sycamore Creek discovered on the same day the great “Excelsior Lead,” they met around a neutral camp fire with that grave and almost troubled demeanor which distinguished the successful prospector in those days. Perhaps the term “prospectors” could hardly be used for men who had labored patiently and light-heartedly in the one spot for over three years to gain a daily yield from the soil which gave them barely the necessaries of life. Perhaps this was why, now that their reward was beyond their most sanguine hopes, they mingled with this characteristic gravity an ambition and resolve peculiarly their own. Unlike most successful miners, they had no idea of simply realizing their wealth and departing to invest or spend it elsewhere, as was the common custom. On the contrary, that night they formed a high resolve to stand or fall by their claims, to develop the resources of the locality, to build up a town, and to devote themselves to its growth and welfare. And to this purpose they bound themselves that night by a solemn and legal compact.

Many circumstances lent themselves to so original a determination. The locality was healthful, picturesque, and fertile. Sycamore Creek, a considerable tributary of the Sacramento, furnished them a generous water supply at all seasons; its banks were well wooded and interspersed with undulating meadow land. Its distance from stage-coach communication–nine miles–could easily be abridged by a wagon road over a practically level country. Indeed, all the conditions for a thriving settlement were already there. It was natural, therefore, that the most sanguine anticipations were indulged by the more youthful of the twenty members of this sacred compact. The sites of a hotel, a bank, the express company’s office, stage office, and court-house, with other necessary buildings, were all mapped out and supplemented by a theatre, a public park, and a terrace along the river bank! It was only when Clinton Grey, an intelligent but youthful member, on offering a plan of the town with five avenues eighty feet wide, radiating from a central plaza and the court-house, explained that “it could be commanded by artillery in case of an armed attack upon the building,” that it was felt that a line must be drawn in anticipatory suggestion. Nevertheless, although their determination was unabated, at the end of six months little had been done beyond the building of a wagon road and the importation of new machinery for the working of the lead. The peculiarity of their design debarred any tentative or temporary efforts; they wished the whole settlement to spring up in equal perfection, so that the first stage-coach over the new road could arrive upon the completed town. “We don’t want to show up in a ‘b’iled shirt’ and a plug hat, and our trousers stuck in our boots,” said a figurative speaker. Nevertheless, practical necessity compelled them to build the hotel first for their own occupation, pending the erection of their private dwellings on allotted sites. The hotel, a really elaborate structure for the locality and period, was a marvel to the workmen and casual teamsters. It was luxuriously fitted and furnished. Yet it was in connection with this outlay that the event occurred which had a singular effect upon the fancy of the members.

Washington Trigg, a Western member, who had brought up the architect and builder from San Francisco, had returned in a state of excitement. He had seen at an art exhibition in that city a small replica of a famous statue of California, and, without consulting his fellow members, had ordered a larger copy for the new settlement. He, however, made up for his precipitancy by an extravagant description of his purchase, which impressed even the most cautious. “It’s the figger of a mighty pretty girl, in them spirit clothes they allus wear, holding a divinin’ rod for findin’ gold afore her in one hand; all the while she’s hidin’ behind her, in the other hand, a branch o’ thorns out of sight. The idea bein’–don’t you see?–that blamed old ‘forty-niners like us, or ordinary greenhorns, ain’t allowed to see the difficulties they’ve got to go through before reaching a strike. Mighty cute, ain’t it? It’s to be made life-size,–that is, about the size of a girl of that kind, don’t you see?” he explained somewhat vaguely, “and will look powerful fetchin’ standin’ onto a pedestal in the hall of the hotel.” In reply to some further cautious inquiry as to the exact details of the raiment and of any possible shock to the modesty of lady guests at the hotel, he replied confidently, “Oh, THAT’S all right! It’s the regulation uniform of goddesses and angels,– sorter as if they’d caught up a sheet or a cloud to fling round ’em before coming into this world afore folks; and being an allegory, so to speak, it ain’t as if it was me or you prospectin’ in high water. And, being of bronze, it”–