Saturday, June 30, 2018


The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest ever recorded in Oregon, Nevada and California's history. The flooding occurred from December of 1861 until January of 1862, drowning the state of California in water and leaving much of the Northern Valley unlivable until the summer months of 1862.

The weather pattern that caused this flood was not from an El Niño event. From the existing Army and private weather records, it is thought that the polar jet stream was to the north. The Pacific Northwest experienced a mild rainy pattern for the first half of December 1861. In 2012, hydrologists and weather experts concluded that the precipitation was likely caused by a series of atmospheric rivers that hit the Western United States along the entire West Coast, from Oregon to Southern California, in this case a “Pineapple Express,” so named because it came up from the equator. An atmospheric river is a narrow band of water vapor about a mile above sea level and about 400 to 600 kilometres (250 to 370 mi) wide.

In late 1861, Northern California experienced a cold winter with heavy snow in the mountains and rain in the valley. In November of that year, the snowpack was unseasonably large and the valley floor was saturated with rainwater.

Then on December 9th, the "Pineapple Express" hit Northern California with a fury. The warm, tropical rain of the storm melted and flushed down the lower snowpack, running down into the watershed and carrying it all the way down to Sacramento. It would be the first of four warm storms through January of 1862 that would completely flood the valley.

By early December, the Native American tribes, who had lived in the area for 10,000 years, saw the early warning signs and left the region for higher ground. The European settlers, who insisted on building their cities along rivers for transportation and drinking water, experienced tremendous flooding and devastation.

The flood created a lake down the center of the state that was 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. It's estimated that thousands of people were killed in Northern California during the event.

There is quite a bit of information on how this flood affected Sacramento, California’s state capitol, which was prone to flooding due to its location at the joining of two big rivers. However, I wish to narrow down the impact of this flood on a small San Joaquin Valley community which was part of the inspiration for my upcoming story, Millwright’s Daughter, which will be published next month as part of the Under a Mulberry Moon anthology. 

In Knight’s Ferry, a mill had been built along the Stanislaus River. However, as the flood along that river reached it heights, it destroyed not only most of the town of Knight’s Ferry, but took out most of the mill except a section of stone wall. The mill stones ended up being buried in the mud of the river bottom somewhere between Knight’s Ferry and where the river joined the San Joaquin River.

The owner of the mill was bankrupted and sold the property to Mr. Tulloch (a topic of a future blog post, I will not go into detail here). Even though the communities of the San Joaquin Valley are near the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their large sections of granite rock, there is more to creating quality grain milling stones than hard rock. Before Mr. Tulloch could get his mill up and running, he needed new stones.

Mill stones from Tulloch Mill. They have been degraded by use, weather, and the acid from surrounding oak trees.
How Mr. Tulloch acquired his stones and how Joseph Wells in my story acquired his are entirely different. However, the event that triggered the need is the same – the great flood of 1862.

Millwright’s Daughter is one of nine novellas in Under a Mulberry Moon. To get a hint of what this anthology is all about, please watch the following book trailer:

Under a Mulberry Moon is currently on preorder on Amazon at a special preorder price of $.99. The regular price is $2.99. To purchase, please CLICK HERE.

To give readers a flavor of what they may expect in this anthology, the authors put together a preview book.

Medleys and Musing from the Authors of Under a Mulberry Moon is available at no cost. To download it, please CLICK HERE.


  1. Sounds great, looking forward to it!
    Lizzi Tremayne

  2. Zina, what a great video! Thanks for sharing. As a child from one to seven I lived in the San Joaquin Valley at Bakersfield. I can't imagine the flood you described. The Kern River runs through the section in which I lived. Great post and I'm looking forward to next month's.

  3. I knw that California has forest fires and landslides, but I never really thought about floods. I was shocked to learn all of this. The pictures certainly helped show the devastation. An interesting blog, Zina.

  4. Zina,

    This brought back memories. I was ten years old and living in Fort Morgan, Colorado when the South Platte River flooded. I remember the awful, dirty, brown-foaming water and the debris that floated along and eventually caught and piled up on other things in the water.

    Your new anthology endeavor is intriguing. Best of luck with it.

  5. FLoding is so devastating. Having grown up along the Mississippi River and lived in areas where run-off can create flash floods, this resonated with me. That the devasation was so large is mind boggling. Thank you for sharing another piece of useful history. Doris


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