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Nevada County People: Author explores local 1800s death sentences

Orval Bronson’s love of history has led him to write three books, two about life in Nevada County.

Well, make that one about life and one about the end of life.

“Launched into Eternity” takes a look at the final days of 13 men whose lives ended shortly after the hangman’s noose was secured around their necks between 1850 and 1884, a time when justice was swift and brutal.



Bronson, a 69-year-old retired law enforcement officer, previously wrote “Nevada City,” which was published in 2002 by the Nevada County Historical Society.

The inspiration for both books was to fill a niche while the perspiration happens at the Foley Library where he tirelessly researches old newspapers.




“Basically, I wrote this because it hadn’t been done before, and I enjoy writing about subjects that haven’t been written about,” he said on the eve of his self-published book.

Of the 13 executions chronicled in the book, seven were done by vigilantes and six carried out by miners’ courts, which were notorious for their efficiency.

“The miners didn’t want to waste time on these miscreants because there was gold to be had,” Bronson said. “If you were taken to a miners’ court, it was tantamount to being found guilty.”

Bronson and his wife, Judy, live just outside of Nevada City. He will do his first book signing on Saturday when “Launched into Eternity” is released. It will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at Inner Sanctum, 308 Broad Street in Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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