Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sources: Secondary Books and Articles

A lot of ink has been proverbially spilt over the history of Santa Cruz County. There are hundreds of non-fiction books that have been written and thousands of journal and newspaper articles on the history of the area. Most of these bring something to the table. But each author comes with their own agenda, their own set of beliefs and biases, and their own methods of interpreting history, some of which are more professional than others. The task of parsing fact from fiction and quality research from drivel is an ongoing process every historian has to deal with throughout their research. The hardest part of this task is that sometimes a historian really wants speculation to be fact or the fiction to be real, but that's not how history works.

A selection of local railroading books' covers.

Secondary sources, as in books and articles written by historians, are the lifeblood of historical research, but they also can be the bane of good research. Historians really want to trust those high-quality works produced before us. We aspire to mimic them in some ways, but we also have a need and even obligation to surpass them. Every researcher in any field should build upon what came before to provide a new foundation for the next generation. The easiest visualization is a tall building: each floor is needed to support the floor above it, and each floor is important to the overall structure. That being said, not all historical sources remain relevant over time. Different interpretations, new or updated information, and changing societal views can all render earlier works less useful even if their impact on the subject area remains unchanged.

Ways of using this type of source:

As stated above, secondary sources are the lifeblood of research. In many cases they form the basis upon which further research begins. As such, it is a good idea for any historical researcher to seek out the major secondary sources on a subject before venturing on to add to it or make your own interpretation of the data. Indeed, most university postgraduate programs require students to produce historiographies or literary analyses to situate their work and prove that they have done the requisite reading before they embark on their own research. It is a useful, if sometimes tedious, task and can often reveal important, different perspectives.

Continuing on from using a secondary source for information, they can then be expanded upon. This is the most important function of secondary sources: they provide the basis for further research. Most historical pieces are not written in a void—they are building off of previous knowledge and expanding upon that in some way. Sometimes it is by consolidating information from several secondary sources. Sometimes it is by infusing previous information with newly-found evidence or a new interpretation. And sometimes it is by spinning-off from a loose thread in a source.

Depending on the circumstances and type of secondary source, a book or article can also establish a basis for a counter-argument. In these cases, the secondary source usually makes a statement about something: for example, the Ocean Shore Railway was destined for failure. In response, you as the researcher argue against that source's premise: for example, the Ocean Shore Railway failed through bad luck, not inevitable circumstances. These types of response pieces more often appear in academic journal articles than books, but they can also appear within books as chapters.

The most common use of a secondary source, however, is as a citation. This is a simple acknowledgement often in footnotes or endnotes that a piece of information has come from a specific source. Just like primary sources, secondary sources can be cited as places for information. This is most relevant in two cases: 1) when a primary source has become lost or is otherwise inaccessible; and 2) when the specific thing being cited within the secondary source is an opinion, argument, or other statement by the author. The reasons why secondary sources should not excessively be used in lieu of primary sources is discussed below.

Downsides and problems with this type of source:

The biggest potential problem with secondary sources is reliability. This is not an issue unique to secondary sources. Indeed, primary sources can be terrible one-sided and biases, and other common sources such as maps, photographs, government documents, etc., also all have their faults. But the fact that secondary sources are derived from other information and brought together, analysed, and interpreted by someone who generally did not experience the events depicted often leads to misinformation or misinterpretation.

While there are certainly valid reasons to use secondary sources throughout the process of researching—for that matter, a researcher is for all intents and purposes producing their own secondary source—it is best practice to minimize the use of secondary sources to avoid replicating or producing errors. A somewhat recent example of this in Santa Cruz County history circles is the history of Gharky's Wharf (for the full correction, see this article). Essentially, historian Leon Rowland, while preparing for his Annals of Santa Cruz book, misinterpreted a newspaper article and then later smoothed over his own uncertainty to assert that Gharky's Wharf (built in 1857) at the Santa Cruz Beach became the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad's Railroad Wharf in 1875. They were in fact two entirely different wharves that coexisted for seven years. Subsequent historians including Bruce MacGregor, Donald Clark, Margaret Koch, and Rick Hamman all replicated Rowland's mistake, leading to its perpetuation into the twenty-first century.

There is also the problem of misinterpretation or jumping to conclusions. The reality of researching local history is that new information is always becoming available while simultaneously there are a tremendous amount of gaps that may never be filled. It is a problem with history in general, but local history suffers from an overabundance of some types of sources (e.g., genealogical, newspaper, oral histories) but sometimes a dearth of other resources (e.g., personal writings, governmental or business documents, photographs). This forces local historians to often make some less-than-supported conclusions based on their available evidence, which in turn can lead to some gross misinterpretations. For example, the closure of the Southern Pacific Railroad's route through the mountains in 1940 is often attributed to a fear of Japanese invasion. Yet there is simply no contemporary evidence to support this. The conclusion is based more on ideas regarding the specific period in question (the pre-World War II years), a lack of evidence to the contrary, and the occurrence of events one would expect in such a situation (demolition of tunnels, the Army Corps of Engineers with explosives, building shore defenses). But a researcher should never allow their expected outcomes to drive the story.

More generally, though, the main reason not to rely too heavily on secondary sources is because doing so does little to advance a field. If you are just regurgitating what others have written before you without adding anything novel, you are less a researcher and more of a compiler. Granted, a lot of the most popular historians build their entire careers on consolidating other peoples' works, which can be useful in moderation, but true advancement comes only through primary source research, either to push the field forward or to correct what has come before. Thus, secondary sources are vital parts of the researcher's toolbox but should be used cautiously.

Local history resources:

The following authors and their books are considered prolific staples in Santa Cruz County historical circles. Most of these books also touch on railroading or railroad-adjacent topics. For the record, every single one of these books deserved to be read; however, the quality of some works is better than others.

John Young

Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains by John V. Young is one of the earliest non-contemporary secondary sources of Santa Cruz County history. First published in 1979, its origins are actually San Jose Mercury News articles published in 1934. This makes Young the only author who wrote while the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains still operated, which is relevant since his book includes several communities that were once patronized by that train.

Overall, this book is a unique look into life in the mountains before Highway 17 and mass commuting over the hill. It includes chapters on about a dozen mountain communities, many of which no longer exist and the rest of which exist but are now decentralized. He also discusses several important early settlers and personalities, as well as major events in the Summit area such as destructive fires. Now in its third edition, Ghost Towns is one of the most important secondary sources for the history of the Summit area.

There are nonetheless some items to be aware of when reading and using Young's work. First, his book makes the same mistake as many of those below: he does not cite his most of his sources. This problem is particularly bad with works that were originally serialized (i.e., in newspapers or magazines) but even later authors often trust exclusively in a bibliography, making it exceedingly difficult to determine from where a particular fact or idea derives.

Second, and also like several of the more general books below, Young does a very poor job of recounting local Native American, Spanish, and Mexican history. This is partially a product of his time, partially due to a lack of sources, and partially from disinterest or ignorance. In truth, accurately and fairly telling the history of indigenous peoples and earlier settler groups is something nobody is very good at, but the earlier the source, the poorer the depiction. 

Third, Young picks and chooses the stories he wants to tell based on his evidence, which was likely a combination of newspaper sources, oral histories (i.e., talking to people who lived there), and his own experiences. The problem with this approach is that it leaves a lot out. For example, he barely talks of the ghost town of Wright, except when noting the construction of the Summit Tunnel. He barely talks about Laurel at all. And the resorts on the south side of the Summit in Santa Cruz County are only relevant if they have a direct connection to Summit peoples, so places like Hotel de Redwood and Olive Springs are left out. This is mostly a problem of premise: Young claims his book is about ghost towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but what he really means is ghost towns on the Santa Clara County side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, specifically the ones he has a personal interest in.

Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains (2nd edition, 1984) is available for loan from

Leon Rowland

Leon B. Rowland is frequently noted as the first proper historian of Santa Cruz County, and for good reason. His five short books, Old Santa Cruz Mission, Villa de Branciforte, The Story of Old Soquel, The Annals of Santa Cruz, and Los Fundadores (collected together in Santa Cruz: The Early Years [1980]) were for many Santa Cruzans their first peek into the early history of the county. Rowland was most interested in the Spanish, Mexican, and early American periods of the county's history, and dug deep into mission records, newspapers, and early government documents in an attempt to unravel the long neglected history. Like Young, much of his research was serialized in the Santa Cruz Evening News and the Santa Cruz Sentinel in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rowland was a persistent researcher who left no stone unturned. He extensively cataloged every possible fact of early Santa Cruz history that he could find and placed the information on cards that he could reference at will. This is now stored in the archives at UCSC. Overwhelmingly, his information is accurate and can be cross-referenced with the catalog, but he followed the pattern of most local historians of the time and did not include footnotes, endnotes, or in-text citations, making verifying his facts tedious. Nonetheless, Rowland's books are important foundational texts on Santa Cruz County history, despite their flaws.

Rowland's works suffer from some of the same flaws as Young's. His focus on the Spanish and Mexican periods do no favors for the earlier Native American history, and minor inaccuracies are dotted throughout the books intermixed with legitimate facts. This reflects his strong desire to tell a good story despite not having the evidence to support it. His writing style is also rather static, which can make things both seem more factual but also less interesting. More problematic, however, was his habit of taking things at face value. He taught himself to read Spanish, so accessing the Spanish and Mexican sources was not difficult, but he was a newspaper reporter at heart and left little room for interpretation or analysis. While this isn't in itself a bad thing, it meant that he doesn't always look for why something was the way it was, he just accepted that it as fact.

Santa Cruz: The Early Years is available for loan from

Bruce MacGregor

The modern era of local railroad history began a scant 28 years after the closure of the Mountain Route and only three years after the formal end of all permitted passenger service in Santa Cruz County. Bruce MacGregor's first book, South Pacific Coast (1968), provides a photographic and descriptive history of the South Pacific Coast Railroad and the line's continuation under Southern Pacific ownership until about 1908, when the line was standard-gauged. He followed this with a pictorial, Narrow Gauge Portrait: South Pacific Coast (1975), derived mostly from unused photographs for his first book with a few corrections, clarifications, and elaborations scattered throughout. A Centennial (1982), written with Richard Truesdale, was partially a revised version of MacGregor's first two books and partially a new book focused more on the stations and stops along the South Pacific Coast's route. Finally, MacGregor's magnum opus is The Birth of California Narrow Gauge (2003), which shifts the focus to all California central coast narrow gauge operations, although MacGregor still retains a specific fascination with the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

MacGregor did something none of the other local historians have really done: he learned from his past mistakes and corrected for them. His first book was unique when it released, but it perpetuated many of the earlier mistakes and also introduced some of its own. In fact, the photo on the cover is a mistake, conflating Camp Teller in northern California with Tank Siding above Mountain Charlie Gulch. Narrow Gauge Portrait addressed a few issues but was not very blunt in its corrections and included most relevant information in photo captions. A Centennial, on the other hand, was a great leap forward, streamlining MacGregor's original text into a more topical approach. The downside of this is that it lost some of its focus. Whereas the first two books were overwhelmingly interested in only the narrow-gauge tracks between Alameda Point and Santa Cruz, A Centennial pushed beyond those dates and even included some trackage that was never part of the South Pacific Coast's line. MacGregor returned to his roots, therefore, with Birth, and it is by far the best researched and most academic of any history of Santa Cruz County's railroads, although it's focus is very narrow—only 1875-1887.

The four books that MacGregor produced are a clear progression of ideas, focus, and methodologies. Each book improves on the previous in key ways, but the earlier three also introduce some problems. Nonetheless, any local railroad enthusiast should read all four books and especially the last. The extensive use of photographs and maps alone should attract readers, but MacGregor's research is also high quality and Birth also adds a vital academic quality that many local history books lack.

The Birth of California Narrow Gauge is available for sale on

Margaret Koch

Margaret Koch is one of the most well-respected general historians of Santa Cruz County history. The descendant of Charles Martin of Glenwood, she worked as a reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel for decades and also served as the last postmaster of Glenwood. The history of the county was personal to her in a way that it wasn't to many of the other historians. Her major contribution to local history is Santa Cruz County: Parade of the Past (1973).

In many ways, Parade of the Past is an attempt to update Rowland's book and correct many of his mistakes. Not all of them, though, as several of the assumptions he made are repeated in her work and she relies on his and other early historians' works to inform her own. Despite at least six reprints, Koch never substantially updated her text to address these mistakes. The style Koch adopted was of vignettes. Although largely chronological, each chapter is broken up into variably-sized sections linked to specific themes, some more relevant to the county's history than others.  In this way, she was able to tell a comprehensive history, but not entirely a coherent one. Her vignettes are informative and interesting, integrating photographs, quotes, and other information, but the somewhat haphazard organization leaves much to be desired.

Like other historians before and after, Koch did not use footnotes, endnotes, or in-text citations in most cases, relying instead on a bibliography. She did rely on newspapers articles a lot, which she noted even if not citing the specific date or page number, but other sources are more difficult to discern and much of it was probably gleaned from years of reporting and growing up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Parade of the Past nevertheless continues to be an important and influential work in Santa Cruz County history circles and the legacy of Margaret Koch should not be downplayed. She was the county's second-most prominent historian and she earned a right to that claim.

Secondhand copies of Parade of the Past can be purchased at

Jack Wagner

Almost as a counterpoint to MacGregor, Jack R. Wagner's The Last Whistle: Ocean Shore Railroad (1974) is an example how not to write history books. From its water-colored cover to its image-intense interior, the book is less a history than a photo album with detailed captions. The writing quality is fine and even much of the research is well done, but Wagner jumps to conclusions too easily and is far too heavily focused on the histories of a few specific places along the Ocean Shore's line. That leaves a lot out of the story.

Most importantly for Santa Cruz County historians, Wagner mostly neglects the history of the Ocean Shore within the county. He includes a few photographs and poorly-informed captions, but local researchers are more likely to come to the wrong conclusions if they read Wagner exclusively for information of the Ocean Shore within the county. Read Rick Hamman for a better account and supplement with newspaper articles when necessary. For those interested in the northern part of the Ocean Shore's history, then this is a good starting point, but it still is not comprehensive to any degree. Wagner was more interested in showing off photographs and fun facts than telling a detailed story, so other works still need to be considered.

Wagner actually presents a key problem with relying heavily on secondary sources: sometimes they simply don't exist. To this day, there has still not been a high-quality book on the history of the Ocean Shore Railway/Railroad. Wagner's failed in many ways. Western Railroader did a special issue, but most of it was just transcribing an old advertisement from 1907. Hamman covered the topic, but only the southern division and only in brief since it was part of a larger book. And Chris Hunter's Images of Rail: Ocean Shore Railroad is mostly a photo essay that, again, focuses much more on the northern division and is also limited in the amount of non-photographic material it can cover due to Arcadia Publishing's requirements. 

The Last Whistle is available secondhand on

Betty Lewis

Watsonville has not had as many historians as Santa Cruz or even Los Gatos, and Betty Lewis is inarguably the most best known. Much like Young and Koch, Lewis was a local reporter and worked for the Register-Pajaronian for most of her professional life. She was president of the Pajaro Valley Historical Association and Watsonville's City Historian, and was also won several awards for her writings and her impact on Watsonville's historical community.

Her first and most influential book is Watsonville: Memories that Linger (1976). Similar to other authors of the period, much of her writing is done in the form of short thematic chapters divided into vignettes with deep dives into very specific topics, such as events, people, or businesses. Her first book starts with the origins of Watsonville and moved slowly to the 1970s. A sequel, Volume 2 (1980), attempts to fill many of the gaps left by the first book, although this inevitably leads to it being a less cohesive work. 

Lewis is one of Santa Cruz County's only historians to use end-chapter citations, even if she is not thorough in her use of them. She also alternates her writing between quoting and paraphrasing, and she is not afraid to analyse her sources and make conclusions based on her findings. In this way, Lewis is undoubtedly one of the more academic historians within the county. She includes photographs but only sparingly. In the end, any researcher of Pajaro Valley history must read Memories that Linger and would benefit from reading Volume 2 as well.

A third printing of Memories that Linger is currently available alongside the second printing of Volume 2, both of which can be purchased from the Pajaro Valley Historical Association or obtained secondhand from The Betty Lewis Collection is housed at the Pajaro Valley Historical Association and can be viewed by appointment.

Charles McCaleb

Three books on Bay Area horsecar, streetcar, and interurban lines have been written by Charles S. McCaleb over the years, with Surf, Sand & Streetcars (1977) the most relevant for Santa Cruz County. McCaleb adopts a chronological narrative style that mostly works well and he included many dozens of illustrative images and maps that clarify his subject matter and really bring it to life. His writing style is fluid and accessible most of the time, and even his chapter organization mostly makes sense despite sometimes unclear chronologies.

McCaleb's only real difficulty is juggling coexisting narratives, namely the period between the formation of the Santa Cruz Electric streetcar line and end of the East Santa Cruz horsecar line. This period becomes complicated, with competing tracks, many different people involved, and strange behind the scenes politics that McCaleb does not always entirely grasp or depict clearly. That being said, the confusion does mimic the actual politics of the era, so it is not unwarranted. Otherwise, McCaleb follows the usual trend of the 1970s histories by not including any citations except a bibliography. And he also ignores the Watsonville Traction Company's line and downplays the importance of the Ocean Shore Railway in local streetcar affairs.

Currently, Surf, Sand & Streetcars is the only book on the topic of local horsecar and streetcar lines, but it does a good job at its task. A second edition that incorporated errata and an addendum was released by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in 1995 and can be purchased from their store.

Stephen Payne

Alongside Young, Stephen M. Payne's A Howling Wilderness (1978) falls into the category of essential reads for anyone who lives in, has lived in, or is researching the Santa Cruz Mountains. Payne has lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains since 1968 and taught history at San José State University and served as Command Historian at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey. He is slated to become the next president of the San Lorenzo Valley Historical Society in 2022. In other words, this history is also personal to him and he has spent much of the past fifty years learning about it.

Payne's primary book in many ways parallels and expands upon Young's earlier work by providing more thorough histories of the resorts, the roads and turnpikes, and various personalities on the Summit. It also benefits from a more narrative style that does not attempt to adapt old newspaper articles into prose. Beyond this, I (Derek) must confess I cannot comment further because I do not have the book available to me at the present time and it is not readily available online in any format.

Secondhand copies of A Howling Wilderness are available for a high price on A second heavily-revised edition is scheduled for release in the near future. Several articles based on his writings can be found at the Santa Cruz Public Libraries' website.

Rick Hamman

Rick Hamman's magnum opus, California Central Coast Railways (1980), came out shortly after the viability of reopening the railroad route through the Santa Cruz Mountains was proven by Lockheed. It quickly became the text on Santa Cruz County railroad history because of Hamman's expansive view of the history. Whereas MacGregor and Wagner each focused on their own focus areas, Hamman looked at the history of local railroads holistically, from the days before there were railroads in the county all the way to the present. He also had a broader geographic scope, including the whole of the South Pacific Coast Railroad's route (albeit in brief outside of Santa Cruz County), the Santa Cruz Railroad/Santa Cruz Branch, the San Juan Pacific Railway/California Central Railroad, the southern division of the Ocean Shore Railway, the Coast Line Railroad/Davenport Branch, the Felton & Pescadero Railroad/Boulder Creek Branch, the Loma Prieta Branch, and the Valencia Creek railway, as well as other short-lived and minor lines. Indeed, the only topic he didn't touch on was horse- and streetcars, likely because McCaleb had already written an excellent book on that topic a few years earlier.

Any local historian would benefit from reading Hamman. In addition to his primary book, he also cowrote with Horace W. Fabing Steinbeck Country Narrow Gauge (1985), which is the history of the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad, and he also wrote a short book on gold mining in Santa Cruz County. Both of these books were spin-offs of his original book that focused on areas that were either too large a topic or too off topic for inclusion. Overall, Central Coast Railways has withstood the test of time. It is largely a corporate and engineering study, but it integrates newspaper articles, personal accounts, timelines, and many photographs to provide a more rounded product in the end. Hamman also included custom maps, tables, and charts, many of which are included in an extensive appendix at the end of the book. And Hamman was no slacker—he went out in the field to verify his information and investigate what survives of the various lines. In fact, he became so enamored with restoring the route that he helped found the Eccles & Eastern Railroad and worked to reopen it throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

Nonetheless, Hamman still made some mistakes in his research. Like most local historians, he neglects to include sources for most of his information making it difficult to go back and verify. He also sometimes trusted too much in the writings of earlier historians, from whom he perpetuated several falsehoods. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Hamman wasn't afraid to speculate and analyse his findings, which is good, but he sometimes jumped to conclusions and some of his assertions have since been disproven. In the end, though, the biggest problem with Hamman's work is actually its sheer breadth. He wanted to tell the entire history of Santa Cruz County railroading, but he sacrificed depth to do so. This makes his work an important survey work but other sources must be consulted to dig deeper into the specific details of many items touched upon in the book. A second edition published in 2002 expanded the conclusion and made minor corrections throughout, but did not correct the earlier factual errors nor revise any arguments.

California Central Coast Railways is available secondhand on

Sandy Lydon

It is hard to argue that any local history book must be written, but Sandy Lydon has proven twice that some books need to be written. His seminal work, Chinese Gold (1985), paired with his shorter Japanese in the Monterey Bay Region (1997), are fundamental texts in understanding the history of Asians and Asian-Americans in the Monterey Bay area and their impact and influence on events. Lydon began his career as a teacher at Cabrillo College but also worked for KCBA Channel 35 news. He slowly gained a reputation as the "History Dude" and taught local history courses while writing and revising his books. He retired in 2000 but continued to periodically teach and lead educational field trips. He now runs the website Central Coast Secrets where he continues his tales of Santa Cruz County and Central Coast history.

Returning to Chinese Gold, the book carefully peruses all available known sources that discuss the Chinese presence in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties from the late Mexican period to the present. The book is extensive and highly detailed with detailed primary source quotes, photographs, proper historical contextualizing, and a high level of analysis. By the end of the book, a reader will realize just how vital Chinese immigrants and their descendants have been to the success of the coastal communities. For readers interested in railroad history, this is the only book that methodically discusses the important role Chinese workers played in building almost all of the railroads in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.

As with any of these books, Lydon's magnum opus is not perfect. His citation style tries to balance readability with academic techniques and does not quite succeed. Rather than including proper endnote citations, Lydon cites works in page ranges. This is better than simply including a bibliography but is difficult to use and still requires the researcher to do work to match textual content to its source. The only major problem with the work is that of scope: the scope is massive—it covers nearly 150 years and two countries—and understandably many vital details are absent because the sources have been lost or the information was never recorded to begin with. Lydon as a good historian confesses this at times and tries to not overly speculate about things when sources are missing, but the end result is that many parts of the book lack a satisfying finality or decisiveness. This is a constant problem with books of this nature.

Lydon released an updated and expanded second edition of Chinese Gold in 2005. The first edition is available for loan from Secondhand copies of Lydon's books are available on

Donald Thomas Clark

The type of history Donald Thomas Clark wrote was very different from that of other local historians. His two books attempt to consolidate the entirety of local geography-based history into two large tomes. The results are decidedly mixed. His Santa Cruz County Place Names (1986) is a far superior work than its sequel, Monterey County Place Names (1991). This is due in large part to the different sizes and populations of the counties in question. Whereas Santa Cruz County clocks in at 607 sq. miles, Monterey County encompasses 3,771 sq. miles. At the time that the former was published, Santa Cruz County had a population of 216,661, while Monterey County had 361,559 in 1991. Thus, while the premise was solid and the enthusiasm was there, the implementation was inconsistent.

For Santa Cruz researchers, it is fortunate that the better book is on their subject. Clark digs into the minutiae of maps spanning the entire history of Santa Cruz County and pulls from those maps intricate details that many people would have missed. Every map he used he cited using his own system that mostly works. His alphabetical approach, while less narrative-driven than other local history books, makes it an excellent reference book to add to the shelf. And it is useful. It serves as a great starting point for any local history research topic.

That being said, it is only a starting point. Clark enthusiastically cataloged details from maps, but most of the history he wrote was repeated from secondary sources. And he was not as good at citing his sources, although he was far better than most other authors at the time. However, since he heavily relied on secondary sources, he also replicated their mistakes. This has become an increasing problem with using Clark today since those mistakes have only become more obvious over time. A key reason for so many mistakes is that Clark often had to infer information from sources that were not specifically discussing the place name that he was explaining. Thus, via these inferences, he sometimes made massive leaps to conclusions or wild assumptions with no primary evidence support. He also sometimes misread maps or took for granted the fact that maps could be wrong. An example of this is a promotional auto map from the late 1910s that shows Gibbs as a station on the Southern Pacific Mountain Route. This was never actually a station—Zayante was the station that catered to Gibbs Ranch Resort—but Clark assumed since "Gibbs" was written in the same style as the train stations that it must be one, despite no other evidence for this assertion.

So while Clark's first book is an important work of Santa Cruz County history, it must be read cautiously and should be treated more as an entry point for further research than a source all its own. A second revised edition of Clark's work released in 2008 with edits he had made in the years after the book's initial publication. Secondhand copies of the second edition are available for a high cost at

Peggy Conaway Bergtold

Los Gatos has not had as many historians as Santa Cruz, but considering its size and inclusion within the Santa Clara Valley, that is not entirely surprising. In recent years, Peggy Conaway has emerged as the leading historian in the community with Images of America: Los Gatos (2004), Images of Rail: Railroads of Los Gatos (2006, with Edward Kelley), Images of America: Los Gatos Generations (2007), Legendary Locals of Los Gatos (2014), and Images of Modern America: Los Gatos (2015). Former head of the Los Gatos Library, Conaway spent years gathering historical documents, local secondary sources, newspaper clippings, maps, ephemera, and other items of importance to Los Gatos history. She has benefited greatly from keeping her area of specific focus very tight—only the history of the area along Los Gatos Creek from today's Highway 85 and south. And she is thorough in her depth of research whenever she can be. Indeed, the only author who rivals her is George G. Bruntz, whose History of Los Gatos: Gem of the Foothills (1971) was the only real history of the area prior to Conaway.

The significant problem with Conaway's approach is that she has decided to publish her works exclusively via Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia is a massive international firm that also owns The History Press and has dozens of different avenues of publicizing and selling its goods. As such, they eagerly encourage local historians to write books for them. It is not a bad deal at all and many Arcadia books are of a high quality with good information. Conaway's fortunately fall into this category. Yet there are three major problems with Arcadia books in general. First, they are image dependent. If an author does not have an image to illustrate a point, they only have a very small place at the beginning of each chapter to discuss their point. And the captions for the photos are also very limited in space, so there is not a lot of room for elaboration. Second, they cannot be footnotes or endnotes—the only place for citations is a section at the back for a bibliography. Like most other local history books, this reduces its usefulness as a secondary source. And third, they have a surprisingly low bar for acceptance by Arcadia. This is a reflection of Arcadia's constant need for new content.

Conaway does the best she can with the format and all five of her books are worthwhile reads, especially for the great abundance of local images included in each. Her research is also top notch and based on her years of research while working at the Los Gatos Library. All five books can be found at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.