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Artists: Gitanjali Basu-Shein & Jenya Newman

Writers: Zach and Molly Franklin

Completed in 2018
Link to full Interview audio

Jennifer Price Wolf’s family has been in California since the days of the Gold Rush. That’s when Jennifer’s great-great-great grandfather came here. His name was Oscar Backus. Oscar took a boat from New York to San Francisco when he was a teenagers. He was looking for adventure and opportunity. 


Oscar brought along a suitcase of newspapers. People who had come to California for the Gold Rush were very eager for news from the east. So Oscar sold the newspapers for a few dollars each. That’s the equivalent to almost a hundred dollars nowadays! This is how Oscar earned enough money to open his own business. He sold goods to the gold miners.


Jennifer’s other great-great-great-grandparents came to California in covered wagons from the East around the same time. They had been very poor. They had scraped together enough money to pay for the trip. They wanted to build a better life in California.


Back then they didn’t have photographs to remember the people they left behind. Instead, Jennifer’s great-great-grandmother was sent to California with a book of braided locks of hair cut from the people she left behind. They still have the book to this day!


These great-great-great-grandparents settled down in the town of Grass Valley, near the Sierra Nevada mountains. Their son, Malcolm Stone, moved to Berkeley in 1871 to attend the brand-new University of California. Malcolm then moved back to Grass Valley and became the superintendent of schools.


Malcolm was the first of five generations of Jennifer’s family to attend UC Berkeley. His daughter moved to Berkeley for college and graduated in 1904. At that time most women didn’t attend college. She stayed here in Berkeley. Jennifer’s grandmother and father also attended UC Berkeley. Jennifer followed in their footsteps as well. 

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