Masters Thesis

Ephraim Willard Burr: a California pioneer

This thesis is a culmination of my research regarding one of California's early pioneers. He was a gold-seeker, a financier, a politician and a doting husband. Ephraim Willard Burr arrived in San Francisco in 1849 clad in New England virtuosity and an ambition that would help shape the developing west. Toward the closing of his life he thankfully left a cryptic account of his life dictated by himself to a clerk, and this and a few other documents were later deposited for safekeeping in the Bancroft Library. It is this retelling along with 18 boxes of family letters and ephemera housed in the California Historical Society that create the first part of this thesis. The second segment of this project will focus on the creation of historical fiction in the classroom. Educational materials relating to the national, local and personal historical frameworks during Ephraim Willard Burr’s life will serve as an introduction for the process of writing historical fiction. This unit is designed to build upon research and documentation skills learned through the history and social science curriculum. Using letters, diaries, newspaper accounts and standard historical texts, students will explore the art of weaving fact and fiction. Students will fill the silences and spaces of history with their own imaginations and in doing so will learn to cherish that which is fact and that which is commentary.

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