Title: Bookstore owner publishes Concord history
Author: André Gensburger
Publisher: The Concordian
Date: June 2009
Clayton Books owner Joel Harris has just published a book on Concord, part of the Arcadia Publishing Images of America series.
"People kept coming in and asking for one on Concord," Harris said, "and were not happy that there wasn't one."
With cooperation from the Concord Historical Society, which allowed Harris access to more than 300 photographs, Harris undertook the task of identifying each before researching their importance. In all, 216 photos made it into the book.
Leah Pels, a Concord photographer, scanned all the images and corrected flaws. "She even removed creases and tears," Harris noted.
The book details in near chronological fashion the rise of Concord from its roots as a Mexican land grant given to Don Salvio Pacheco in 1834 and the transformation by the American settlers during the Gold Rush in the 1840s and 1850s.
"There are a lot of familiar names people will recognize - from streets to local landmarks like the smoke stack," Harris said.
"There are interesting facets that people may not know," he added. "There was such an issue with renaming the town (from Todos Santos) to Concord, against the wishes of the Pacheco family, that it was even suggested that it be called Drunk Indian after a local native American who was always loitering intoxicated and became a fixture."
Harris detailed opposing advertisements in the same issue of the local paper, one announcing the new name and the other rebutting it.
"It's fun and exciting," he said, launching into a story about one of Concord's more fascinating characters. "There was a teacher names Charles Bowles who taught for three or four years. What no one knew was that he also went out as Black Bart and robbed the Wells Fargo stagecoaches 28 times over an eight-year period. He would also leave behind poetry verses. Wells Fargo offered him a lifetime pension if he would leave the country and he did. Concord lost a good teacher."
Adding the stories into the body of the book proved to be a challenge for Harris. Although Arcadia books follow a formula structure, he wanted to inject as many of the stories as he could along with the imagery. "The rest I will share at book talks," he said. "An interesting side note is that the founder of Concord, Salvio Pacheco, was a soldier in the Mexican Army in Monterey in 1848 and was asked where the local assay offices were. It was the start of the Gold Rush."
Harris and his wife Christy are big supporter of authors, both established and local, and hold many events at the bookstore in Clayton Station. "When we bought the store in 2007, we started holding events and signings," Harris said. "Our size and sales have doubled since then and our events schedule has also increased."
There are times when the store holds daily events, not to mention the various book clubs that patronize the store including the Homeschool Book Club and the American Girls Club. The most recent addition was the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, which generated a lot of interest from the community.
Harris' family has been in the area for 30 years, and Christy is a Concord High School graduate.
Harris feels "quite a sense of accomplishment" about the book. Despite the many hours he spent researching the imagery, he is concerned about inaccuracies and hopes that the public will let him know if they have additional information.
The book will be released June 1 and a book reading and signing is scheduled at the store at 3 p.m. June 28. "It's nice to offer something that is in demand and I'm happy that our store was instrumental in getting it published," Harris said.