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The 49ers - “We're here - Now what?” (part 2)
Submitted By: XNGH Jason Thorn Date: May 08, 2010, 06:24:51 PM Views: 6433

Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry in May, 1999

   Last time, we gave you an overview of some of the living conditions found by the new arrivals in California. We will continue this time with more along the same lines. This will be done with a totally made-up, fictitious conglomeration of factoids, written in the style of a miner’s letter to home, by a totally made-up, fictitious miner living in California during the Gold Rush.

March 25 -

   My dearest wife and lovely children! I have written you several letters this winter, but have received no response, yet. Mail gets through very slowly up here. As you already know if you got my last three letters, I mentioned as how the last letter I got from home was in December. That is still true, sad to say. Word is that some mail has been received in Marysville for us up here in camp.

   I previously wrote you of the conditions we encountered coming across the trail to California, and how I partnered up with a decent young man from Ohio, named Adam Jacobsen. Our partnership has worked out quite well for us, as I look around at some of the other arrangements that have gone bust around here. There was a terrible fight among two partners over the hill last week, and one of them took a knife to the other and proceeded to cut him up fairly. There is no formal law up here yet, but some of the cooler heads in that camp took the two now former partners down to Marysville, where they are now hopefully arranging medical treatment for the one and jail time for the other. No one seems to know the reason for the disturbance, but it probably had to do with liquor, or the excess consumption of such. While the men are in Marysville, they are going to try to get hold of the camp’s mail shipment. Many of us would be willing to spend 2 ounces (some even more) of gold for a letter now.

   None of us around here were able to do much gold panning this winter, what with the snow and the frozen ground. About all we could do was work on improving our log house we had so hastily erected last October when we got here. I am glad that my partner, Adam, is an accomplished carpenter. With his skills and mighty tool chest, we have created a reasonably comfortable abode in which to stand the winter. We have plenty of firewood and no lack of food, yet. The wood we can get by going up from the creek some one or two hundred yards. There was a lot of fallen timber on the ground when we arrived, some good for firewood, and other not so seemly. To make the house, Adam and I got together with six other men and partnered a series of houses with the other men. We now have our own little settlement of four houses, nicely situated, made of fine logs, and Adam and I even can brag of having a window in ours. It makes it so much less dreary if we can let the light in, even when it’s quite cold outside. Our fireplace works well, but the upper chimney we hastily made of clay and sticks collapsed about a month into the rainy season. We had to replace it with one made of rocks. There were a lot of rocks around, many of the right size, so we had no problem with that. The mortar came a bit more dear, though, as we had to pay out several ounces of last October’s gold to get enough of the proper lime to make a suitable cement. After a break in the weather came, we were able to fashion a fine stone chimney.

   The weather seems to be clearing up enough for the partner and myself to get out some each week and dig some new gravel. We recently finished the pile we brought in before the rain and snows came last November. As to the amount of gold I have taken so far, let me only say that it is discouraging to think of my original plan to bring home 50 pounds of gold by the end of the third summer. I would guess that my total take so far, if I were to cash out, would amount to five pounds.

   Partner and I doubt that there is 50 pounds of gold a man here, or even 20, truth to tell. The worst part is that even when we turn some new gravel and get a couple of pounds of dust (only a few nuggets have been found around here), we have to spend a goodly sum of it to procure some of our basic needs. My original clothes that I came with are about all gone now. My fine boots that I started out with from home (the ones that our dear children helped me polish so carefully) lasted barely for the trip to California. My second pair, not even half as good as the first, lasted only until the end of December. Being constantly submerged in water is bad enough for our feet, but takes a most dear toll on boots. I have now gotten another pair and hope these will last through the summer.

   They came from a miner who died quite unexpectedly of a fall off the road last week. He had no partner, had not told anyone anything of his family or old home town, and had friends only among his immediate neighbors. Without knowing anything about him, or who to tell about his untimely demise, his goods were raffled off among the denizens of this camp (to pay for his funeral). I came upon possession of the boots with the help of a ticket I bought for a pinch of dust. The fit is quite good, if I put two pairs of socks on. Adam was lucky enough to win possession of two pairs of pants and a small barrel of flour from the decedent’s pack of stores left in his miserable shack. The mystery of this man’s past will probably never be solved, as there was nothing in his gear which gave even the slightest indication of his former home. We called him Jack, at his request, but doubt that was his real name, as he sometimes didn’t respond to it when first called. Some say they think he was a wanted man at home, and took the opportunity to escape to California. Believe me when I say: He would not be the first man to accomplish that deed.

   Old Calderson, the storekeeper just over the ridge, thinks that this little settlement is doomed, as no new finds have been made for over a month, now. Partner and I, among many others however, hold out hope that an excursion upstream only a mile or so will prove our theory that the gold we are finding now comes from a gold filled ledge upstream only a short distance. Some of the dust we are finding is fresh, showing little signs of having been in the ground for a long time. We will, of course, have to invest in some better equipment if we are to tackle a ledge of gold. Picks, shovels and pans will do for stream bed work, but to move any quantities at all of harder dirt or rock, we will need some drills and blasting powder. A Georgia boy in the next house says that he has much experience with blasting powder, and can make any size hole we need. Of course, if we go too far from the creek, we will have to transport our rock and gravel to the water to pan it. For that, we plan to utilize some of the abundant timber around here to make a flume to allow the rock and gravel to travel downhill to a central location, where several more of us can proceed with the breaking down of the rock and the separation of the gold.

   All this talk of gold has made me realize that gold is just about all any of us talk about around here. To be sure, there are occasions when other subjects arise, but most of us are so uninformed of the happenings back in the ‘states’ that we really don’t know what we are talking about anyway. We would like to sit about in the evening, having coffee and talking of our dear families, but family talk makes most of us melancholy, and we don’t have coffee that often anyway! I have been forced to limit my coffee to twice a day. Old Calderson sells it quite dearly. It is one of the things that I miss, beside the separation of myself from all of my loved ones, most acutely.

   I mentioned earlier that I have enough food, and that is basically true. I have improved my diet from the trip to California, to be sure, but I would be hesitant to call it a great improvement. One of the miners hurt his leg here early last summer, and has to maneuver around on a crutch. He has gone into a farm business with Calderson, and will be running a garden for him. Hopefully, there will be a greater variety of fresh vegetables than we have had during the winter, which is none. Some of the more perishable goods do get here. In fact, last week a wagon load of supplies arrived at Calderson’s and he was able to provide, at a price of course, vegetables that were picked only 8 to 10 days ago in the valleys south of San Francisco. I tell you, if I wasn’t so sure that Partner and I were going to get 10 or 15 pounds of gold each next summer, I might even consider raising some vegetables, myself. (Once a farmer, always a farmer. Ha! Ha!)

   More than a few of the men who used to mine in this area have given up mining altogether to do what they did when they were home. We heard tell of one fellow who is making more money than any of us by pushing mules. Supplies are what lets the miners work, and they all have to be hauled here. I know of two former miners from right here in this camp who are going into the business of building stone structures, like bridge abutments and stores. They have a lot of business in the bigger towns, as a lot of money is found there.

   Perhaps one day soon, dear family, I will return to you rich and experienced with the wisdom that comes with spending time pursuing one’s dream. I know that I pray constantly for the spirit to stay in me, and that I can retain my health and well-being long enough to succeed. I know that the gold is here, as I have found several pounds of it so far. It is just not enough to allow me to return to you at this time. It would cost me far more than I have collected so far just to get home.

   I will write you once again in 3 weeks or so, and I hope that the men returning from Marysville tomorrow or the next day bring all of us here, especially me, good news in the form of letters from home. Give all my love to the family. Your loving Abraham.

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  • hickey197234: i have moved how do i update my info and i lost my card how can i get a new one
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    September 03, 2016, 06:30:03 PM
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