My information to this point came from old California newspapers imaged to the California Digital Newspaper Collection, a project of the Center of Bibliographical Studies and Research at the University of California, Riverside. The search engine on this site greatly speeds research.
Many more historical California newspapers have yet to be digitized. They are found in libraries, either in original form or on microfilm. I've wanted to visit the Auburn Library with its microfilm collection of Placer County newspapers. Figuring J.W. Beardsley's death would be a good search topic, today I went for a visit.
Of course I had to search for his name the old-fashioned way: page by page, column by column. No fancy computer search engines when dealing with microfilm. The rolls were kept in the drawers of a metal cabinet. Newspapers from 1876 included the Dutch Flat Forum, Placer Herald, and Placer Weekly Argus. I started with the first issue following his death, to an issue or two following the discovery of his body.
Here's what I found:
Dutch Flat Forum, April 20, 1876: "News was brought here this morning from Green Valley by J. Harper, which strongly indicates that Joshua Beardsley was accidentally drowned in the American river at that place last Monday night. He was seen by several of his neighbors where he expressed a determination to return home to the opposite side of the river, which it is evident he attempted to do so in a rudely constructed ferry boat, which was discovered next morning capsized in the middle of the river. All efforts to discover his whereabouts up to the present time have proven futile." (There was much mining activity in Green Valley in 1876. Nobody lives there today.)
Placer Herald, Auburn, April 22, 1876: "During the storm of Monday morning snow fell in the mountains as low down as Blue Canon." (This article was unrelated to J.W. Beardsley, but the storm may have raised the river level.)
Dutch Flat Forum, May 11, 1876: (This contains numerous errors, corrections are in brackets) "FOUND - in our issue of April 20 we stated that Goshua [Joshua] Beardsley was supposed to be drowned in Bear River [American River]. The conclusions were correct, as the body was found at Sacramento [downriver of Sacramento] about ten days afterward [J.W. Beardsley drowned on April 17 and his body was recovered May 3]."
Placer Herald, Auburn, May 13, 1876: "Early in the week a body was found in the Sacramento river, some distance below the city of Sacramento, which was identified by his brother, as that of J.W. Beardsley, who was drowned on the 17th of April, in the North Fork of the American river, at Green Valley, while attempting to cross in a boat. His body had been carried by the current at least 75 miles."Historical newspapers contain valuable information, but for those not yet digitized, finding a particular subject absent specific dates can be daunting, the proverbial needle in the haystack.