I’ve had it in mind to write a piece of fiction set in Victorian San Francisco. I grew up in that area and in our history classes we had learned about the gold rush. And in some small towns, their whole attraction is that they were once a mining town. They are actually quite proud of it, erecting statues to commemorate those times and even selling you trinkets to allow you to pan for your own gold.
But the thing about setting stories in the Guilded Age of San Francisco is that there are more than a few novels based in that time and place. After all, it was a very exciting time and a much documented time as well. There are plenty of resource materials from books to web sites to the original newspaper articles dating back to the mid-1800’s.
So I thought, since I live in Florida now that I could very well set a story here. My preliminary research was quite shocking, though I don’t know why it would be. Florida is the southernmost state in the lower 48, after all.
There were many items regarding Florida. The most exciting time seemed to be in the 1600’s. There are lost merchant and pirate ships strewn about the southern coastline currently. Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth and all that. But my interest lay in the 19th century.
What I discovered is that Florida is indeed the south. There is a saying here that you actually have to go north to reach the south, but Florida has it’s roots very much in Southern history.
You see Florida was a plantation culture in the 1800’s. Out of the population of 140,000, nearly half were slaves. During the Civil War not only did Florida secede, but they were also the first to be one of the confederate states.
In the 1900’s there was a series of lynchings. It became so frightening to live in Florida that there was a mass exodus to find a better life elsewhere.
In guidebooks about the south, Florida is never included. But I think that has more to do with the influx of New Englanders. They don’t call it the Fifth Borough for nothing. It’s probably the only thing that keeps Florida from feeling like the south completely. Not that there is anything wrong with the south. I just wasn’t intending on writing a story about plantation life.
It would be a distinctly different story if I set it in Florida. There would be southern belles, land owners, and slaves. That is not the story I wanted to tell. At least not this particular story. There is always a chance that I will set another story here.
So I have decided that the story will remain in San Francisco,. After all, there are railroad barons, bonanza kings, corruption, mayhem, and secret underground tunnels not to mention the rich diversity of people that settled there. And of course, earthquakes!!