|Tales & Trails
"TALES AND TRAILS OF THE OLD WEST"
Delta has produced for syndication thirteen television episodes.
- Grass Valley, Calif. (Wells Fargo)
- San Andreas, Calif. (Black Bart)
- Leadville, Colorado
- Jerome, Arizona
- Carson City Nevada
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Virginia City, Nevada
- Indian Tribes and Sites
- Coloma, California—Site of the first Discovery of gold in 1848
- The Painted Desert Arizona
- The Petrified Forest Arizona
- Tombstone, Arizona
- Bisbee, Arizona
The Westward expansion of the United States was anchored by the Wild West towns where the adventures of those thrilling times were played out. Places like Tombstone, Virginia City, and Carson City played host to some of the most colorful characters involved in opening up the West and making it part of the great history of America.
A LOOK AT THE OLD WEST
|Gold Hills, Nevada
"TALES and TRAILS of the OLD WEST" explores the history and romance of the places and people who lived, fought and died to settle the West.
This series of 26 minute films were produced on location in Virginia City, Nevada; Grass Valley, California; (Wells Fargo), Nevada City, California; The Donner Party, Truckee, California; Tombstone, Arizona; San Andreas, California, (Black Bart), Coloma, California; the site of the first Gold Discovery in California in 1848, Leadville, Colorado; Jerome, Arizona; Carson City Nevada; and The Painted Dessert, the Petrified Forest, Arizona; and key Indian sites and the historical towns surrounding these areas.
V&T Locomotive No. 29
The stories flow like a trip in a time machine, from the towns and places as they are today, back to the events and people in the past that shaped their history.
The Petrified Forest Arizona & Bryce Canyon
Life during the Gold Rush was a high risk enterprise. A fortune could be found in the morning, squandered by afternoon. But through boom times and bad, Wells Fargo grew to become a symbol for the undying, optimistic spirit of the Old West.
It was the pioneers' most persistent enemy, the most dreaded word in their vocabulary. And on the night of September 13,1855, it roared through the California town of Grass Valley with a vengeance.
In 30 minutes," Grass Valley" tells how Wells Fargo agent Alonzo Delano helped his town overcome total disaster. It is a mini-documentary, based on documents in the Wells Fargo Archives.
On June 29, 1854, an article in the Grass Valley Telegraph described the town as "... one of the most flourishing of all mountain localities. Situated... in the midst of the richest quartz veins in the world..:" Burrowing into the nearby hills, miners uncovered fabulous deposits of gold ore. But extracting gold from quartz required massive equipment. As a result, gold mining around Grass Valley developed into a business instead of an individual enterprise. And business was booming. The Empire, Idaho-Maryland, Pennsylvania North Star and Golden Center were among the deepest, most productive hard rock gold mines in the world.
From 1850 to 1855, Grass Valley expanded at a "Gold Rush" pace. But like all boom towns, it was pieced together with wood, canvas and cardboard perfect kindling after the long, hot foothill summers. And fire fighting hadn't yet evolved into a community responsibility. So when flames first appeared in the United States Hotel, the outcome was painfully easy to predict. According to records kept in the Nevada County Historical Society, the flames "rapidly spread to adjoining buildings. The hoarse cry of fire roused sleeping citizens from their beds and they rushed out into the streets to meet and combat the enemy. All was confusion; the flames were crackling and roaring, licking up the tinder-dry buildings in their pathway, and all the undirected efforts of the excited people were futile" It was like trying to stop a stampede with a stick. The town was simply overwhelmed.
Within hours, over 300 shops and homes burned to the ground on that dreadful night. Gone were the stables and saloons, the stores and homes, the blacksmith shop, the laundry, the assay office and the Wells Fargo office.
Recreating that catastrophe proved challenging. There aren't too many towns just waiting to be burned for the cameras. But there was one, in the high desert outside Sedona, Arizona.
Called Bitter Creek, it was originally built as a Western movie set on land that has since become federal property. The government wished to remove the set and return the land to its natural condition. So the film company agreed to burn the "town" and cover the ashes with a layer of topsoil.
Production crews began by nailing up additional false fronts and painting the signs and buildings to resemble the Grass Valley of 1855.
Next, the moves of each actor, wrangler, extra and stuntman were carefully choreographed by a stunt coordinator. Black powder explosives were set to "blow up" a supply shed. A wagon load of hay was prepared to careen down Main Street with its cargo in flames. Water buckets were filled, faces blackened, hands coated with protective gel.
Just after midnight came the call for "Action!" It was the moment everyone had worked long and hard to set up.
Tension and fatigue were etched in every face as the whole town went up in flames.
"It was a night of fear, total destruction ... and broken dreams" Chaos and panic filled the night air, mingled with fire and smoke. By daybreak, the destruction of Grass Valley was complete. About all that remained were a few isolated chimneys and the great brick vault standing amid the smoking rubble of the Wells Fargo office.
The Wells Fargo agent, Alonzo "Old Block" Delano, was well known to the people of Grass Valley. Not only as banker and express agent, but for his art and chronicles of life among the miners. But on the morning after the great fire, with the acrid smell of smoke still heavy in the air, Agent Delano was something else Grass Valley's best hope for the future.
Filming the events of the morning after required the full-scale burning of Bitter Creek. Then the Wells Fargo brick vault, built to the same specifications as the original, was moved into place to set the scene for the end of our story.
This vault became a symbol of hope for the people of Grass Valley. What drew them to it was the sight of "Old Block" with his team of oxen dragging a half-burnt wooden shanty that was to serve as the temporary offices of Wells Fargo & Co. The shanty was slowly rolled along on logs that were systematically rotated from back to front until they reached the spot where the Wells Fargo office once stood. An anxious crowd gathered to watch Delano clear the embers from around the vault. Would it still contain ledgers, documents and their savings or ashes?
Before the ground had a chance to cool, Delano unlocked the vault.
"It's all here. Every cent"
That announcement brought sighs of relief from the exhausted townspeople who had feared everything was lost. But opening the vault was more than a gesture. Agent Delano had come to do business as usual, or as usual as possible under the circumstances. He wasted no time erecting a hand-painted sign that read, "Wells Fargo & Co."
Delano's determination opened the way for the rebuilding of Grass Valley. But beyond that, it was one of the many events that helped brand the legend of Wells Fargo forever into the hearts of Westerners.
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