Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in Nineteenth Century California
Jun 09, 2022 12:00 PM
Jo Haraf, Author
Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in Nineteenth Century California

Jo M. Haraf’s fiction and poetry have been published in the California Writers Club Literary Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Ragnarok. She edited and co-authored Journal Across the Plains, a history of the Verdenal family’s 1852 journey from Missouri to California. Her current work-in-progress (due 2021) is The Black Family Chronicles-Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in 19th Century California. Jo earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Pacific University. A regular speaker on the craft of writing, she is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society and the Biographers International Organization. She recently moved from Marin, California to Florida’s Suncoast with her husband and a scruffy terrier whose adoration sustains her through revisions and rejections.

About Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in Nineteenth Century California  — In 1832, the captain of the brigantine Catalina ordered Scotsman James Black, dying of typhus, abandoned at Monterey, California. Nursed by J. B. R. Cooper's wife, Black survived to hunt the last of California's sea otters, defend San Francisco from invading Russians under General Vallejo, and drive cattle to feed gold rush miners. Black's ranching and dairy empire, founded on a single Mexican land grant, ultimately encompassed 20,000 Marin County acres. Black, his wife, and daughter enjoyed the privileges of the landed gentry until January 1864 when his cherished wife died in their son-in-law's dental chair. An obsessive resentment, excesses of whisky, and a scheming second wife consumed Black's bereavement. Augustina learned after her father's death that she had been written out of his will. For four years and across two counties, she fought her stepmother for a fair portion of her father's $15,000,000 estate. After multiple notorious trials, Augustina gained a partial victory--but would she receive the land and gold the jury awarded her?