Frenchs Hotel 2016 - Passport in Time

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California - Plumas NF
Closed! The Search for French's Hotel

Featherriverroutetowardsbeckwourthpass By Moabdave (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Looking east towards Beckwourth Pass

July 11-14, 2016

Must commit to entire session
Join us this summer as we sleuth into the Plumas National Forest’s past to try and puzzle out an archaeological anomaly! According to historic public records and written accounts, French’s Hotel was established in the high, mountainous country of Plumas County during the early 1850s. It was located on a well-used pack trail, and was a popular stopping point along the Beckwourth Emigrant Trail. However, despite its convenient location and alleged popularity, it is believed to have been open for only a few years, and then all but disappears from history! A deed indicates that the hotel was sold by one Albert Filts, Jr., in April of 1856 to a Jacob Rest for $600. The document included what was described as the “House known as French’s Hotel,” and “that Certain House, outbuildings and lot apon [sic] which the same are situated.” In 1858, The California Pictorial Almanac listed it as a stop along the road from Marysville to the American Valley. However, there are no known references for its operation or ownership after that time, and the spot upon which it and its outbuildings once stood is now no more than a “clearing” in otherwise wooded terrain.
Nevertheless, we do have some clues to follow. For example, the establishment was mentioned in at least one emigrant diary when a James Woodworth noted on 17 September, 1853:

“Started early and moved on to the foot of the mountain. We found the ascent very difficult having some very bad hills to get over. We had to take every thing [sic] out of the wagon and pack on the loose mules. We passed French’s Hotel a public house high up among the mountains and stopped to noon a mile or two beyond. The descent we found not near as bad as that of Grizzly Mountain.”

After he reached the Sacramento Valley, which appears to have been around October of that same year, Woodworth provided the following entry:

“We shall not meet again on earth. Overton is dead! He returned across the mountains, for the horses that had been left at Sherwin’s Ranch, and, sickening on the way, died at French’s Hotel, passed by us, September 17th, among strangers, far away from his home, and all held dear by him, and was buried in a lonely grave, high up on the mountain side, where the autumn winds sighing sadly through the pines gave all the requiem [sic] sung above him. Who will be the next one?”

Well, we intend to find French’s Hotel this year, and we need your help! Our PIT project will focus on two possible locations for the Hotel. Using metal-detectors to locate subsurface artifacts, mapping surface artifacts and features, and through archaeological excavation, PIT volunteers and Forest staff will endeavor to solve the “mystery” of French’s Hotel. This will be a unique and intriguing project, set against a backdrop of mountainous beauty. So, join us in July, time detectives – help us identify the spot where this early hotel once stood, and let’s put it back on the historical map!

Number of openings: 10

Special skills: Previous archaeological survey and/or excavation, mapping, sketching, photography, historic artifact identification experience, and/or knowledge of area history helpful, but not required

Minimum age: 8 years old, under 18 with a responsible adult

Facilities: Tent and small RV (pop-up, trailer, etc.) camping available at no charge at Roger's Cow Camp Campgrounds (~20 minutes from project area); pit toilets, no potable water; no hook-ups; volunteers responsible for personal camping equipment, food, water, and daily transportation to work site; carpooling is suggested, and most roads are paved save for a small section of dirt road to access the campground

Nearest towns: Quincy, 32 miles; Oroville, 33 miles

Applications due: May 23, 2016

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