by Heather Blanton
In my new book, A Good Man Comes Around, the hero Oliver Martin is a shiftless, mischievous no-account. But he wasn’t always. Jilted at the altar, he takes nothing seriously anymore and now spends his days looking for a drink or trouble, whichever comes first. John Fowler, Oliver’s friend, and business partner spends his time trying to keep Oliver out of trouble. Tired of rescuing the young man, Fowler decides a wife might bring back the old, steady Oliver. He applies for a mail order bride for the lad—but secretly.
Oliver Martin and John Fowler were indeed best friends who hit the gold fields in California in the 1850’s. Oliver was a good-for-nothing slacker, though, who didn’t even own a pan. History says his friend John wasn’t much better. The two knocked around gold rush towns such as El Dorado and Yuba, panning, drinking, doing odd jobs, but mostly, drinking.
On the night of November 7, 1854, the two were meandering drunkenly from one mining camp to the next when a storm hit. They managed to hole up in an abandoned miners shack on Grizzly Mountain.
They couldn’t have picked a worse spot.
The peculiarly heavy rain triggered a flash flood and a sudden, roaring wall of water hit, washing both men down river. Oliver managed to lodge himself in a stand of oak trees till morning. John was not so fortunate.
The next day, Oliver was obliged to bury his friend. He had not dug down two feet when he found a nugget of gold that weighed in at over eighty-five pounds. One of the largest ever found in California. Oliver sold it for nearly $650,000 (in twenty-first-century dollars).
|Not Oliver’s nugget, but it gives you an idea of the size of what he DID find.
The nugget made him more than rich. It made him responsible. Convinced the Almighty expected him to do something with his life, Oliver sobered up, invested in various mining businesses, became a philanthropic citizen, and died in New Orleans, a millionaire several times over.
He was always quick to tell people his good fortune had come from God… and his best friend.
If you’re curious about how I fictionalized this story, please pick up a copy of A Good Man Comes Around,
book 8 in the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs
To whet your, appetite hop over to Excerpts
and read one of my favorite scenes. 🙂