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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Edmund Booth: Deaf Pioneer

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In all of Edmund’s writings, there is little mention of his ability to speechread (lipread). He must have had limited but intelligible speech, for how else would he have been able to converse with so many different people?

E D M U N D’ S first year in California ended with one more discouraging event. He was offered a half share in a damming company on the condition that he work until the dam was finished. After nearly two weeks of the most laborious work he had ever performed, heavy rains destroyed or damaged every dam on the river. The company members waited a week for the water level to drop and then decided to hold the work until spring. Instead, they built two temporary coffer dams, but the first dam was on ground too high, and the second one, in the middle of the river, could not withstand the pressure of the water. They were forced to abandon it.

Edmund read in the Sacramento City newspapers that similar misfortunes had happened in the northern mines. Some of the dams were repaired. To make things worse, at Hawkins’ Bar he saw two rockers take out $3,000 in a single afternoon from a spot 3-feet long, 1-foot wide, and 6- or 8-inches deep. He wrote to Mary Ann from Sonora on November 3, summarizing his travails with the dams and the difficult and heart-wrenching decision he had to make:

Probably you are thinking that I am now on my way home; and so, in Sept. last, I expected to be; and doubtless should be had the fates been propitious. Alas! it was otherwise; and I am now in Cal. for another winter. . . . It was a most bitter disappointment all along. We had all expected to make our thousands and go home this Autumn.37

He also missed the children. “I often wish Thomas was with me,” he wrote. “That would be something like home; but the mining country is no place for boys. He could do nothing, while there is a vast amount of bad talking and no schools at all.”38

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