Archive for the ‘Gold Rush’ Category

A Worn and Weary Soul

June 2, 2012

Image from EDSITEment

“I came, but they had passed away,
The fair in form, the pure in mind;
And, like a stricken deer, I stray,
Where all are strange and some are kind;
Kind to a worn and wearied soul,
That pants, that struggles for repose;
Oh! that my steps had reached the goal
Where earthly sighs and sorrows close!

“Years have passed o’er me like a dream,
That leaves no trace on memory’s page,
I look around me, and I seem
Some relic of a former age;
Alone, and in a stranger clime,
Where stranger voices mock my ear,
In all the lagging course of Time,
Without a wish — a hope — or fear!

“Yet I had hopes — but they have fled,
And fears — and they were all too true;
And wishes too — but they are dead,
And what have I with life to do?
‘Tis but to bear a weary load
I may not, dare not, cast away,
To sigh for one small, still abode,
Where I may sleep as sweet as they!

“As they, the loveliest of their race,
Whose grassy tombs my sorrows steep,
Whose worth my soul delights to trace,
Whose very loss ’tis sweet to weep;
To weep, forgotten and unknown,
With me to smile, to hear, to see;
Earth can bestow no dearer boon
On one whom Death disdains to free!

“I leave a world that knows me not,
To hold communion with the dead,
And Fancy consecrates the spot,
Where Fancy’s early dreams are shed,
I see each shade, all silvery white,
I hear each spirit’s melting sigh;
I turn to clasp those forms of light,
And the pale Morning chills mine eye!

“But soon the last dim morn shall rise;
My lamp of life burns feebly now;
Where stranger hands shall close mine eyes,
And smooth they cold and dewy brow;
Unknown I lived — so let me die;
No stone or monumental cross,
Tell where his mouldering ashes lie,
Who sought for gold, and found it dross!”

The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California) May 27, 1854

Rebecca Ann Dillon – Wife of a Forty-Niner

December 2, 2011


Short Sketch of Adams County Citizens of Advanced Age.


This Aged Lady Now Makes Her Home With Mrs. R.J. Bohanan in Corning, Iowa.

Mrs. Rebecca Ann Dillon, whose picture we present this week, was born in Guernsey county, Ohio, August 26, 1815, and is therefore about 93 and a half years of age. Her maiden name was Pulley. She resided in the county of her nativity for several years and on February 11, 1836, was married to James Dillon.

In 1849, at the time of the gold excitement in California, her husband, in company with relatives and friends, went across the great plains to the golden state to seek his fortune. He was gone fifteen months and returned by water. Mr. Dillon was more fortunate than any of the rest of his company, and returned with more gold than they. However, during his absence all the children of the family, five in number, had scarlet fever, and the eldest daughter died. Mrs. Dillon did not inform her husband of her trials during this absence, and he knew nothing of the death of his daughter until his return home.

In the fall of the same year Mr. and Mrs. Dillon moved Grant county, Indiana, where they erected a house in the woods and cleared off the timber for a farm, a no small undertaking in those days, as the timber on the land in that vicinity was very heavy. On this farm they made their home and helped their children get a start in life. One son was born there. When not engaged with his duties on the farm, Mr. Dillon worked at the gunsmith trade. In the spring of 1872 he died, and Mrs. Dillon remained on the home place until 1874, when, in company with her two daughters and their families, she came to Adams county. Her three sons were already here, and she made her home with her children until the daughters returned to Indiana, when she accompanied them, making her home mostly with her daughter, Mrs. Susan Veach. The latter died about two years ago, since which time Grandma Dillon has depended upon her grandchildren for care.

Image from Bygone Places Along the Hoosier Line

Mrs. Dillon’s mental qualities are better than her physical strength, although she last fall made the trip from Hamlet, Indiana, to Corning unattended. Previous to the world’s fair in Chicago she made a visit to this city along, returning to her home alone in September of the same year. Even as late as last summer Mrs. Dillon visited with friends and relatives in Grant county, Indiana; but at present she has not the strength to walk alone, and is cared for by her grand-daughter, Mrs. R.J. Bohanan, of this city.

Mrs. Dillon has three brothers living, Jonathan Pulley, of Chariton, Iowa; Jackson and Samuel Pulley, both living near Marion, Grant county, Ind. Two sons and one daughter are living. They are Mrs. Mollie Bowman, at the soldiers’ home in Lafayette, Indiana; Martin Dillon of Grant county, Indiana, and J.W. Dillon of Seattle, Washington state.

Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Mar 10, 1909


[Excerpt: some of the bio was repeated in the obituary]

Mrs. Rebecca Ann Dillon died at the home of her granddaughter, Mrs. J.A. Bohanan, in Corning, on Saturday, October 7, 1911. Her death was due to old age, she being aged 96 years, 1 month and 11 days.
To Mr. and Mrs. Dillon six children were born, three sons and three daughter. Mrs. Mollie Bowman and W.M. Dillon, both of Gas City, Ind., and J.W. Dillon, of Seattle, Wash., survive their parents, while Elizabeth Dillon, S.B. Dillon and Mrs. Susan Veach, preceded the parents in death.

After the death of her youngest daughter Mrs. Dillon made her home with her granddaughters, spending some time with Mrs. Jennie Barker and Mrs. Ida Roose, of Hamlet, Indiana, and nearly three years with Mrs. Emma Bohanan in our city. Beside the children Mrs. Dillon is survived by one brother, Jonathan Pulley, of Chariton, Iowa, and a number of other relatives. She has had thirty-five grandchildren, most of whom are living; several great grandchldren and one great great grandson.

Mrs. Dillon was  devoted Christian, joining the church at the age of 14 years. She desired that she might pass from from this life as a candle going out and her wish was granted. The funeral services were held in the Christian church Monday afternoon, at 1:30 o’clock, conducted by Rev. J.C. Hanna, and the body was laid to rest in the First Baptist church cemetery, eight miles north of Corning. The relatives from out of town Mrs. Addie Williams and two children, of Greenfield; J.F. Dillon and Miss Ruth, of Carl, and other relatives met the funeral party at the cemetery.

Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Oct 11, 1911

The Gold Rush of ’35

November 4, 2011

The chain letter craze sweeping the country reached proportions of a “gold rush” in Springfield, Mo., where crowds of which the above is typical, stampeded to join in more than a dozen schemes that flourished in the city, with all classes of society participating. stenographers and notaries are shown typing $2, $3, and $5 letters for the clamoring throng. In half a day more than $18,000 changed hands. Then the bottom fell out of the market, with many “holding the bag.”

Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Indiana) May 11, 1935

Dig for it at Home

September 8, 2011


Would you have the shining metal?
Do not o’er the wide world roam,
Following a fleeting phantom —
Stay and dig for it at home.

Do not heed the luring story,
Treasurers distant hillsides hold,
Ten adventures disappointed,
Stand for every ounce of gold.

Wishing still for something better,
Many fancies you will rear;
Mountains of the yellow mica,
In the distant gold appear.

And the longing is contagious,
Drinking from a leaded cup,
For the means for grander living,
On highways to pick it up.

But dame fortune is too fickle,
In her train afar to roam;
Would you dig her golden treasures,
Stay and dig for them at home.

In the land that lies before you,
Find your wealth by honest toil;
Never votary disappointed,
Rightly sought the generous soil.

Only faint, weak hearts repining,
Cast away the good at hand;
Fortune’s smiles will rarely crown them,
Sought for a distant land.

But success rides on before you!
Grapple it and you will win;
Lo! e’en now, the mists are lifting,
And the tides are rushing in.

Let no foreign expedition,
Lure your restless steps to roam;
Gold is nearer than the mountains,
Stay and dig for it at home.

Allen County Democrat (Lima, Ohio) Jul 6, 1876


It never pays to fret and growl
When fortune seems our foe;
The better bred will push ahead
And strike the braver blow.

For luck is work,
And those who shirk
Should not lament their doom,
And yield the play
And clear the way,
That better men have room.

It never pays to wreck the health
In drudging after gain,
And he is sold who thinks that gold
Is cheapest bought with pain.

An humble lot,
A cosy cot,
Have tempted even Kings,
For station high,
That wealth can buy,
Not oft contentment brings.

It never pays! a blunt refrain
Well worthy of a song,
For age and youth must learn the truth,
That nothing pays that’s wrong.

The good and pure
Alone are sure
To bring prolonged success,
While what is right
In Heaven’s sight,
Is always sure to bless.

Allen County Democrat (Lima, Ohio) Jun 24, 1875

Image from the State Historical Society of North Dakota website


(The following song we remember having seen in an English journal some years since, but it is well adapted to this country at the present time. — O. Call.)

Plow deep to find the gold, my boys!
Plow deep to find the gold!
The earth has treasures in her breast
Unmeasured and untold.

Clothe the mountain tops with trees,
The sides with waving grain;
Why bring over stormy seas
What here we may obtain?

Oh, Britain need not bring her bread
From countries new or old,
Would she but give the plowshare speed
And DEPTH to find the gold!

Earth is grateful to her sons
For all their care and toil;
Nothing yields such large returns
As drained and deepened soil.

Science lend thy kindly aid;
Her riches to unfold;
Moved by the plow or moved by spade
Stir deep to find the gold.

Dig deep to find the gold my boys!
Dig deep to find the gold!
The earth hath treasures in her breast,
Unmeasured and untold.

Alton Telegraph and Review (Alton, Illinois) Oct 4, 1850

Another Watertown Boy Writes Home

March 3, 2011

Interesting Letter from California

We are indebted to the kindness of L.A. COLE and L.R. CADY, Esqrs., for an interesting letter from Mr. A. STECK., dated at Amador Creek, a branch of the Dry Creek, which is a branch of the San Joaquim, 50 miles from Sacramento city — Jan. 15-24, 1850. some portions, of a private nature, we omit.

*  *  *  “Scurvy is caused by the use of salt provisions, and nothing else — and every mine in California, is more or less disposed to it. It is cured by the use of vegetables, fresh meat, vinegar, &c. It draws up the cords of the legs and swells the limbs — the gums rot away, and if bad, you have great difficulty in eating.  *  *  *

We ought a barrel of flour cheap at $75, but it was a little musty — $100 was the price, tho’ it did not cost over $10 to $20 at San Francisco. Potatoes here are worth $1.25 a pound, onions the same, beef 50, pork 50 to 100, sheet iron for a washer $2 a pound — other things in proportion. We can get enough to eat, such as it is.

Digging is the hardest work I ever tried — chopping is “no touch” to it. A man cannot average $6 a day in the rainy season. The water gets too high, and the miner cannot get the dirt to wash. All  the gold lies on bars, and in the sides of the banks, and in the beds of the creeks — nowhere else. It is found on the eddy side of the stream, and is evidently deposited there by the yearly wash of the hill sides for centuries. When disturbed by digging, and a freshet following, the gold is drivin down, and a new deposit made — but it is a poor one, and not worth digging. The dust is found amongst rocks, and it is nothing but quarrying. The washing part is not hard. They rainy season set in on the 1st of November, two months earlier than last year — stops a day and then rains a day — clears for a few days, then rains a few days — keeps clear perhaps a week, and when about fairly at work, when any thing can be done on account of the low water, it rains again and bursts the business.

This is just the rainy season, and you have a fair idea of it. The temperature of the winter season, is not quite as warm as that of summer, but is never colder than a fall day in Wisconsin.

A man would be laughed at with gloves or a coat on when working. The country is unhealthy, and is the first place that ever knocked me, yet. Hardel, son of Richard Hardell, who lives between Summit and Waterville, says mining is by far harder than any part of farming. He sometimes sleeps in our cabin on account of having none himself.

There are no great sums taken out at mining. Under very favorable circumstances, a man may, in the dry season, make from 16 to 24 dollars a day. None of us have done much — paid expenses, perhaps, and that is all. We had a great Christmas dinner at our neighbor’s. It cost perhaps $50. There were about 12 guests of us. We had roast venison, pudding, dip, mince pies, sauce, pickles, &c. and whiskey! We all did justice to the feast, and toasted our absent friends.

Plenty of butter here, kegged stuff, at $2.50 a pound — and rank enough. A man is not so strong here as at home. — The climate enervates him, I suppose.

Cattle mire on the tops of the hills. — The low grounds are the firmest, and the ranchoes have thousands on thousands of wild cattle on the streams.

Image from the  NoeHill Travels in California website.

Sacramento city has been several times under water, and the people ferried the streets in boats like the good people of Venice. The American river rose 32 feet in less than two days. The city is at the junction of that stream with the Sacramento, and on as large a scale as Philadelphia — the houses made of cotton cloth stretched on scantling frames. A few stores, hotels, liquor and gaming shops are frame and covered with shingles. Monte is the game played here. It is very simple, and the money staked is lost or won in a second. Sometimes a stiff fellow comes in and slaps down a pile, and its gone or doubled in a twinkle. — The highest bet I knew of, when in the city, was $2000. I have seen Mexicans who have a passion for this game, bet every time from 50 to 200 dollars, until I left the establishment, which was after midnight. There were at least 100 monte tables, with at least $3000 in coin, and twice as much more in dust, stacked up in the middle of each. The scales of gold are usually about twice the thickness of cap paper, and ordinarily from the size of the smallest perceptible speck, to the size of a barley corn. The ravines which contain gold in the beds of the water courses, are called gulches, a corruption of gulf. Stores are opened in all the mines, and goods are abundant, though at enormous prices. Our letters cost us $2 each, and this one will cost me $1 to Sacramento city.

You have long since heard that California has adopted a constitution with the Wilmot Proviso. I heard a rumor that a convention was in session at Monterey, making it, and the next thing I heard, was, that it was adopted. I venture to say that not 10,000 out of the 75, 000 miners, knew the day of its trial — and if they did, they did not know its contents.

Image of Native Americans at Sutter’s Fort from Hetch Hetchy’s Native Blog on The Hive website.

*  *  We have a great many Indians here — the most uncouth, ill-featured, gabbling, black, impudent rascals you ever beheld. They all wear pants, shirts and coats, but neither hats nor shoes. They squaws wear regular frocks. They are diminutive in stature, and lousy, all lousy, very lousy. We passed through a village of 800[or 300] Sioux lodges — the finest looking race I ever saw. “Bull’s-Tail,” the chief, is a little old man about 90 years of age. The whole of the band were gigantic, and much lighter in color than the Menominees, with clear, transparent skins, a lofty air as they moved, and a majestic mien as they saluted us with the usual “how’de’do.” They impressed me with my first idea obtained from books describing Indian character — the native dignity and majesty of the untutored red man. We lay by one day, and visited their camp. They had a horse, mule or pony for every man, woman and child, and I should think more. They were very neatly dressed, well armed, had good blankets and many fat dogs. I think there were full 1000 souls. Some of the young squaws were dressed in soft white fawn skins, as long as any American female’s dress — worked in flounces, with beads of every color tastefully arranged, with a band around the waist, and a kind of cape, ornamented. — Even the little children, many of them, were moccasined.

When the mines were first discovered, and during all last winter, miners made with machines that would not wash as much by one fourth as those they have now, from 50 to 100 dollars every day — and now, with improved machines, make not more than an average of $5 when they work, and that is not more than one half the time. The men who are making the money in California, are the traders and rancheros on the lines of travel from the cities to the mines. The keepers of hotels and eating-houses, are “coining money.” At the City Hotel, they charge $1.50 for breakfast and tea, and $2 for dinner. Regular boarders pay $32 per week. They have about 200 boarders — nine tenths of them monte dealers. The miners are by far the better part of the population. You will find an industrious sober and well behaved people, and in the city there is nothing but gambling and gambling night and day.

*  *  *  The Chilians and Mexicans dug the cream of the mines and made fortunes. In some places they chased out the black rascals — but still they go elsewhere, and will not leave the country.

*  *  *  There are here the largest, tallest and straightest pines in the world — hundreds of them 6 yo 7 feet through, and 100 feet without a limb, in the Siera Nevadas, and I have seen cedars 4 feet through and 80 feet to the limbs.

The hills here are covered with evergreen oak, pine, and other foliage. I presume the oak to be of the live oak species; it is a very stunted tree, but most gloriously green. I can’t think such stuff fit for ship building. There is but a very small part of Calafornia that is worth any thing, apart from its mineral wealth. It is only on the larger streams that the land can be cultivated; and the valleys are exceedingly narrow. Every spot is occupied by a Rancho, and indeed was before the gold was discovered. The mines as now worked will be abandoned in a year or two, for it won’t longer pay, and joint stock companies will do the work. The mines are now well rooted over, and the chances not half so good as last year.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Image by Wayne Johnson (with lots more pictures) in a post about Elko Hot Springs on the Elko County Rose Garden website.  Definitely worth a look!

I was so excited to run across the California Trail marker with a quote from Amos Steck! At the time I was searching for an image of the Green, Humboldt and Carson rivers for a previous Watertown Boys post.

I have kept a journal from the time I left the frontier until the day I reached Sacramento, and have noted a great many curious things. I have not time to give you any part of it in a letter. We crossed a desert of fifty-three miles without grass or water, and our cattle stood it finely. We drove through in the night, and reached the Green River next day at 2 o’clock, P.M., having stopped but an hour and a half to rest a little. We crossed another desert in the night, to Carson River, from the sink of the Humboldt, a distance of forty miles, and there the cattle done finely. We passed a spring at Bear River that was nothing else than soda-water, and deposits of the salt were made so high, as to form quite respectable little hills, fifteen feet say above the surrounding surface. Near by were many springs of a red color, called beer springs, and had a very singular taste. We all drank of them. A short distance from these was the Steamboat spring, of clear, hot water, which rose up and fell a foot or more, resembling the puff of  a high pressure engine. We observed the Indians had been boiling meat in it, and had left some by its side. We saw mineral springs of every variety; and in Hot Spring Valley, 500 miles, perhaps, west of the South Pass, we saw a number of hot springs — one so large as to form a decent creek, and hot to the boiling point. The steam rose from it as from a cauldron; close by is what is called Cold Spring, and cold it was, too. This was in the Basin. On the Humboldt were some springs that rushed like a cataract into the river, and were boiling hot. There was a lake of the same temperature about a mile off, but we did not go see it.

The Humbolt River is a creek, just about big enough to have a name, but not of a river. It is a miserable affair. All the waters of the Basin sink away in the earth — the springs sink most frequently within a rod from the point of issue. We drank from a number of sulphur springs, and saw thousands of salt springs. The whole country is impregnated with salt, from the Rocky Mountains almost to the foot of the Nevadas.

We saw lakes upon lakes of saleratus, as pure as ever was manufactured, and purer. We could have got ten thousand ship loads of it! A great many emigrants used it. It covered the waters of the lake six and eight inches thick. It was of course made from the water by evaporation, under the influence of the sun. It looked like ice. The Mormons get it in any quantity, and have always used it. The country in the neighbourhood of these lakes is nothing but ashes, as good ashes as were ever burnt from rock maple wood, but not quick, on account of the winter rains upon it.

We passed through some fields white as snow, and as good lime as could be made from the stone, or from sea-shells. Clouds of dust, lime dust, ashes dust, and other dusts, sometimes enveloped us and the whole sky. No thunder storm that you ever saw looked so fearful. We sometimes disputed whether is was rain or not, but it always turned out wind and dust. The cattle during half of the entire way, sunk into the dust to the fetlocks, and for days and days up to their knees. All the drivers had to do was to hold on to the ox-bow of the nigh wheel ox, and let it “swizzle.”  *  *  *  There is not timber enough from the Missouri River to the Nevadas, to build a railroad ten miles; and I have seen 500 miles without timber sufficient to build a chicken coop. Our fuel was willow and sage. The whole country from the Missouri to the Nevada is a prairie, and nine-tenths of it desert. We saw Buffalo, and eat them, as also antelopes, &c.

Democratic State Register (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 2, 1850


A number were received in town by Monday’s mail. Mr. STECK writes that he is employed in the Sacramento postoffice, at a salary of $200 per month. He had either seen or heard from most of our “boys” a short time previously. They were all well. Gen. GILMAN does not write very flatteringly. We judge from what we have heard of the tone of these letters, that our friends there are not realizing their expectations.

We also received a letter from the “Rothschild of Coloma,” inclosing some beautiful specimens, to the value of eight or ten dollars. Thanks, brother LITTLE!

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 16, 1850

California Letter.

The following letter, for which we are indebted to Mrssrs. COLE and CADY, from A. STECK, late of this village, we hope will prove interesting to our readers:

Sacramento City, Aug. 29, 1850.


*  *  *  *  I have abandoned mining, and am now living in the city and doing very well — much better than I could at mining. I advise every body who has a decent living in their States to stay there and not come here to mine. I can give you no better illustration of gold mining than you have in your own State in lead mining — the proportion of lucky fellows are now about the same; though in the earlier periods of gold digging, it was a certain and rapid road to fortune. The reason of this change is very plain. When first discovered, miners got out large quantities of the dust, not because it lay any thicker in the earth than it now does, but when the placers were first discovered the population was so spare, that every man was able to make out  his “lead” without any interruption from his neighbors; that is, if a man found a lead which would pay him 50, 60, or $100 per day, he could work it all out, because his neighbors had holes which paid just as well. Now, however, if a lead is found which will pay an ounce per day, before the sun sets the lead is cut off by others, who are only waiting such discovery to pounce right in. Fifteen feet is allowed the discoverer, and in some instances less — sometimes more — this may be worked out in a few days, and he is thus compelled to move about to get another place to work. In the mean time his expenses eat up the profits of his last hole, and he starts anew. Thus nine-tenths of the miners live, and many will tell you even a larger proportion.

Labor in the mines has always been approaching, and perhaps stands in the same relation to capital, and other occupations here, as it does at home. Occasionally a company, large or small, will get out a pile in a fortnight; all such cases are chronicled here in the papers. Nine out of ten of all the stories you hear are false; nobody believes them here, they are the work of speculators and others. You may get  correct idea of the change in mining prosperity from the fact, that business men are staggering under the load of responsibilities assumed under the belief, that the same success in the mines heretofore realized, would continue. Several bankers here have broken in a single fortnight, and others will break like pipe stems before another has gone by. Barton Lee, an Oregon emigrant, who settled here in May 1849, began trade with less than $500 capital, was actually worth, nine months ago, half a million dollars. No man here doubts it — he has often made 25 cents per foot on lumber, and turned the cash in three days. He has failed. The reason of this failure unquestionably was, a mistaken notion of the yield of the mines; the deposits in his hands were not equal to his expectations: the prices of real estate, lumber, goods, &c., had greatly depreciated, the enormous sums expended in the erection of buildings, the rents of which had fallen, all contributed to crush the man. Had he sat still and sold every alternate lot in this city which he owned, and improved the remainder, he would now be worth more than a million; but like most men suddenly rising into notoriety and importance by the accident of wealth, he could not take care of it. Waldron had nearly a thousand dollars in his hands, secured by the endorsement of Mayor Bigelow, who has not yet broken. Waldron is perfectly satisfied he will be paid in sixty days. I presume Lee paid off a million of deposits before his assignment. This amount, recollect, was in gold, and was paid to that portion of his creditors here and in San Francisco, who apprehended his real situation.

I see nothing in this city, (or at least not much,) that differs from cities in any western States, except the absence of females. A western man can more readily appreciate what is the state of society here, than the resident of a city in the States. All the excesses which are daily seen, is the result of the absence of intelligent and virtuous young women. Men who would be foremost in denouncing the “Public Hells,” so numerous in this country, had they their families here, would quietly “pursue the even tenor of their way.” These gambling saloons are the most costly and extravagant affairs in this extravagant country, — here, drinks of every kind, cooled with fresh Boston ice, are always to be had — sweetmeats, pies, fruits, and all the delicasies of this sunny clime, are here dealt out by the hands of familiar and voluptuous young females. Marvelously excessive quantities of strong drinks are here consumed nightly. Chandeliers, which cost extravagant prices in the cheapest markets of the world, sheds over the scene a dazzling light. — ‘Music soft as brooklet’s flow,’ is ‘floating, warbling, here below.’ — Bands of minstrels are pouring forth their melodies from ‘grave to gay,’ to seduce the passer-by to stop and drink, and venture for his fortune. — Crowds of persons throng around the tables, some venturing their little all — others gazing with little less excitement upon the hazard of the game — others again elbowing their way through the crowd, to catch the face of some familiar friend — while the bustle at the bar, the eternal jingle of money from more than a dozen ‘monte banks,’ and the occasional cry of ‘Eagle bird by chance,’ completes the picture of a California gaming saloon. I have stood and gazed upon the throng which nightly gather to these resorts, and wondered at the folly of the multitude. What monuments of magnificence built on the ruins of others! There are few distinctions in society, — men are nearly all of one rank, the wicked and the good stand up before the world as equal. We need the softly chiding and restraining influence of woman, to give rank to honorable and virtuous men, and break up these places that fatten upon sin.

I had written the foregoing late last night, and tumbled upon my kangaroo skins to dream of home and the friends who were ‘over the hills and far away.’ I resume this morning, that this letter may go out by this mail which closes before noon. I enclose you a rough sketch of what I will call a ‘Placer,’ — imagine it to be, say ten miles square, and this high up on the mountains — the only part of this country where gold is found that pays for the working. The main river contains no gold save in the bars, marked thus [ ] – the immediate bed of the streams are marked in spots, say one-fourth part of them — no more than that will pay — the balance contains very little gold. The aluvial diggings where I worked, averaged about six inches in either bank to the entire run of the streams — that is, suppose the deposit of gold to be found in each bank of the width of six inches, and from one foot to four feet in depth, from the source to the mouth — this “dirt” yielding 25 cents to the bucketfull (wooden pail), and you have a sort of idea of the proportion of alluvian diggings to other diggings; but the banks for many rods may not contain a single scale, and, again, the deposit may be found many feet in either bank. About one-tenth of the ‘dirt’ of the bars in the rivers pays; and this ‘dirt’ (I use the miners’ phrase) hes in strata or ‘streaks,’ as we say. Thus you can tell what proportion of the whole mining country contains gold. I have marked on this rough diagram the number of bars in the ran of the fiver for ten or twelve miles. I have made no calculation of the extent of the mines, but from my experience, observation, and information obtained from a thousand sources, I would estimate it in this way. — If all the earth in California, containing deposits of gold equal in value to 25 cents per pailfull, was spread upon a plain two fee in depth and twenty-five miles square, it would exhaust every dollar of gold dust in California. I may be widely from the mark, but it strikes my mind as approximating somewhat to the truth. You have seen letters, I suppose, stating the presence of gold even on the hill tops; this is true, but not the whole truth in the neighborhood of the city of Navada, there are one or two hills which are worked, and there is no water there nine months in the year to wash it, and the rest of the time it rains like fire and tow. Amongst 100,000 hills there are one or two that pay to work, and half the miners in this country could dig and wash them away in an hour before breakfast. On other hills the gold can be found like ‘two grains of wheat in three bushels of chaff,’ ‘few and far between.’ And on the rest of them a microscope which would magnify a Loco Foco’s conscience into being, or to any perceptible size, could not find a speck in an age as long as Methusalah’s. I would like to talk with you about gold hunting, and the way of doing up our ‘linen’ in the mines, and all the little fixing of keeping Bachelor’s Hall under a stunted hazel bush in the open air, but I have not the time now, and don’t know when I shall have. I have come to the conclusion that this is a very healthy country for a new country. Persons not engaged in the mining business enjoy excellent health; and miners who would expose themselves in the States as they do here, and must do, would die off like flies in a frosty morning. There are no diseases in this country of very malignant character; true, I had more sickness here than in the rest of my life, but it was incident to the occupation not the climate. In the mines there is scurvy, a disease which aided materially to hasten the death of old Hanson. I had attached something disgraceful to a man who had the scurvy, and probably derived this idea from Shakespeare, who makes some of his fools and others use the term as one of reproach; but its origin, or rather cause, is simply the want of vegetable acids in the blood necessary to give it a proper tone. No man dreams of scurvy when he lives in a city of on a Ranch, because he can get fruit of all kinds. It does not get so almighty hot here as you would suppose after all that is said about hot weather. I send you a copy of the ‘Times,‘ which contains a meteorological table made by one of the clerks in our office. You can see exactly how much heat I suffered every day. The sun pours down a glare absolutely scorching; the atmosphere is clean and healthy, no cloud ever darkens the horizon, yet one day there was a few, light, smoky looking clouds — mean since the rainy season closed, but they amounted to nothing more than the eclipse of the sun, foretold in every almanac to happen for the last ten years — it would have taken a smoked glass to find out the fact. You would think vegitation would dry up under such a blaze as it poured upon the earth every day; not one drop of rain has fallen since last April, (19th of the month). This is true of the mountain ranges, but not so of the valleys, they are as fresh as the ‘ivy green.’

Our city was the scene of great excitement, of which you have heard by the last steamer. The mail boat with he mail from this office, left the wharf just after the mayor and several of the citizens were reported to have been killed. You will see the difficulty detailed in the papers which I send you; it is but fair, however, to say that the papers are in the interest of the ‘Sutter title party,’ and may be looked upon as rather ex parte than fairly made. All is quiet now, and has been for some time; the last hopes of squatterdom have for ever fled, though hundreds of people strongly sympathize with them — this sympathy is principally in the mines. There are no apologists for their recent conduct in this city, although opinion as to the Sutter title, may be considered equal amongst those who ought to understand such questions.

The buckskin coats, red flannel shirts, and other outre habiliments, have generally given place to the neatly starched white shirt, with standing collar, in one of which I find myself up to my ears every morning. I board at a very excellent hotel for an ounce a week, payable every Saturday night; all the clerks, numbering some seven or more sleep in the office. The last mail from the States brought over 15,000 letters, and the next will be heavier still; I mean for this city office. We get the mail within one or two days of the time expected, and that too every two weeks; so you may suppose a berth in this office is no sinecure. I have seen Lieutenant Wright, John Levitt, Waldron, Stevens, Winders and Stimpson, within two weeks, and wrote to and received a letter from old Jimmy Rogan. Bracket and Bailey I know nothing about, although I have made inquiry for them very frequently. The postmaster, an old friend of mine from Penn., has gone to Washington on business, and left this office in charge of a very sociable and agreeable young man fully equal to the position. I received your letter, (written in last June), and sent it to Rogan. Stimpson has gone to Haughton, about fifty miles from here, and his health is very good, he is very fat, and feels sanguine of making his pile after all his ill-luck. Old Jim is in a dam company on the north fork of the American; the dam is not yet finished. I heard from him to-day, he says he will be into the bed of the river in a fortnight; I hope a fortune awaits him.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Remember me to all my Watertown friends.

And believe me,
Yours sincerely,

Democratic State Register (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 28, 1850

Letter from A. Steck, Esq.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle.]
SACRAMENTO CITY, Oct. 29, 1850.

J.A. HADLEY, Esq.:

DEAR SIR — *  *  *  My time is so much taxed, that I have hardly enough left me to carry on my private correspondence, else it would give me pleasure to Chronicle the items of California news for your paper once a month at least. I do not write this with the view that you will publish it, but merely  that you may state the correction of the error into which you were led with regard to Mr. blodgett in your own terms and not in my language.*

Considerable alarm pervades the public mind in this city concerning the cholera, and hundreds are leaving the town in hopes of escaping it. I shall weather it out, or fall a victim.

Image from the Apr 27, 1959 LIFE magazine on Google books.

You  may have read in Bayard Taylor’s notes on California, a description of the postoffice mania, or rather letter mania, when he was a clerk in the San Francisco office. —

It is literally true, and almost the same scenes are here witnessed on the arrival of every mail from the states. At the peep of day on any morning can be seen a line of men to each window of the general deliveries of the postoffice, anxiously awaiting the opening of the office at 8 o’clock, to get their letters; and many a time have I seen persons taking their breakfasts in the line — some sitting on stools which they had brought with them, sipping their coffee, whilst others called to a neighboring bar keeper for a stiff “eye-opener,” having just crawled out of their blankets and came to the postoffice to wait their turn to ask for letters.

The way they operate to prevent quarrelling amongst the outstanders, is to form into a line, and each man is served in order in which he stands in the ranks. As one is accommodated, he leaves the window, and another makes his inquiry. No more than one name can be asked for at one time, else those at the tail end of the line would never get their letters. If any man wants more than his own letters, he is obliged to go back to the extreme end of the rank and train up to the window. We have four general deliveries at this office, and the training up goes on every day from morning till night. In addition, we have two box deliveries, a ladies’ window, advertised delivery and newspaper window. That’s considerable for an office not much more than a year old.

There is no news of interest from the mines other than you will have seen by the papers, of which I send you several.

The Whigs will have a majority in the next legislature, and ought to elect an United States senator, but I fear they will be cheated out of it by the Locos.

I have written so many letters about the gold regions that what I would say here would be but a repetition of what I have written heretofore. As to all your acquaintances here from Watertown, you can call upon Mr. Cady and get information, if you desire it from him. Your acquaintances here are always calling on me for your paper, and I never get it myself. It don’t come to this office, if you have sent any more, they never came to hand. If you will send it, I will send you Sacramento papers every steamer. The principal items of Watertown news here come through the Milwaukee papers, and every item from your paper is seized with the greatest avidity by the Watertown boys.

The elections in this city lately were not contested on political grounds, but in another year the whole canvas will turn upon partisan questions. In San Francisco the party lines were drawn, but no where else in California. I think the Whigs have a clear majority in this state, and if they are not fools, they will assert it.

Yours, &c. AMOS STECK.

*The first part of Mr. STECK’s letter is devoted to a contradiction of the report that GEO. G. BLODGETT, Esq., formerly of Milwaukee, had had his head shaved and his ears cropped by the Mormons at Salt Lake. — Our readers will recollect that we made a like correction some months ago. We received the report from what we considered a reliable source; and our only object in publishing it was to acquaint the numerous friends of Mr. B. in this state, of the outrage which we supposed had been committed upon him.

+ If the Chronicle is not regularly received at Sacramento City, the fault is not ours. We have mailed it, almost every week, for the past year, either to Mr. STECK or to some of the other Watertown boys. Beside, we have two subscribers in that city, who emigrated from other sections of this state, to one of whom our paper had been regularly sent for six months past, and to the other for about two months. We cheerfully accept the offer of an exchange maybe by Mr. S.

[Ed. Chronicle.

Watertown Chronicle – Jan 1, 1851

Previous “Watertown Boys” Posts:

Forty-Niner Profiles:The Watertown Boys


The Watertown Boys Head for California


Arrival of the Watertown Boys: Letters from John C. Gilman

California Gold Poetry

February 22, 2011

The Grip of Gold.

Gold, gold, gold, gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold,
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled,
Heavy to get and light to hold;
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled;
Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old
To the very verge of the churchyard mold,
Price of many a crime untold.
Gold, gold, gold, gold!
Good or bad a thousandfold!

— Thomas Hood

The Gettsyburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 26, 1909


To Californy I will go,
Where lots of goold is found.
I’ll take my pick axe, spade and hoe
To excavate the ground.

Perhaps for years, I’m doomed to roam,
Till I quite rich have grown
A stranger from my native home,
“Solitary and alone.”

Sometimes of me, perchance, you’ll think,
When I am far away,
A digging for the shining chunk,
In Californi-a.

It grieves me much with you to part,
May be to meet no more
But on to morrow I must start
To seek the yellow ore.

But if I live, I will come back,
My goold with you to share,
And then will take a like time tack —
In wedlock we will steer.

So for a time, I must adjourn
Far o’er the mountains blue,
But with the shiners I’ll return,
My love, to marry you.

Yours till death, JACK —–

Alton Telegraph And Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) Jan 19, 1849

To my brother, on leaving for California.

To California’s rugged wild,
Where art refined, hath never smiled;
Where the uncultured savage rude,
Delights in scenes of crime and blood;

Thy daring footsteps soon must haste;
Before thee is the trackless waste:
Oh, brother! then, when far away,
Forget not thou, to “watch and pray.”

To watch — lest the fell tempter’s art,
From God, should lure thee to depart;
Fear more his dark and serpent tread,
Than bandit’s steel, or foemen dread.

Thy way lies thro’ a thousand snares,
Through perils, dangers, toils, and cares;
And pestilence, that stalks abroad;
But trust thou in the arm of God.

May health around thy pillow smile,
And hope thine every care beguile;
May’st thou be shielded from the brand
Of savage, and each hostile band.

Farewell, my brother! soon shall seas
Divide us — and each murmuring breeeze
That thro’ the waving woods shall stray,
Will whisper, thou are far away!
Forget not then — forget not then.
Thy sister! — may we meet again!


Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) Apr 19, 1850

The Returned Californian’s Song.

AIR — “Oh Susannah.”

I’ve been to Californy,
With my wash-bowl on my knee;
I’ve seen the tallest elephant
That ever mortal see —
He measures from one tip to tip,
About a million feet,
And from the other tip to top
The critter can’t be beat.

CHORUS. — Oh, California!
You’re not the land for me;
I’ve been and left the wash-bowl
I had upon my knee.

He ate the Liza’s cargo,
And then he wanted more,
He ate a man for dinner,
One day he went a shore;
He tried to eat another,
But the feller’s coat tails flew,
And he never stopp’d to tell the folk
A quarter what he knew.

Oh, California! & c.

The folks in California,
They drink a dreadful sight;
You see a fellow very loose,
And then you see one tight;
A loose one shoot’s a tight one
And then they write the folks,
That a grizzly bear devoured him!
And its a very bear-faced Hoax.

Oh, California! & c.

There’s plenty of people raises Ned,
And lots of music goin’;
There’s forty thousand fiddle men
A tootin’ and a blowin’.
The loafers drink and gamble,
And they don’t do nothin, more,
And they’re somehow disappointed,
‘Cause all their hopes is ORE.

Oh, California! & c.

I seen a right smart chance of hills
As full as they could hold,
Of pecks and pecks of silver,
And QUARTZ and QUARTZ of gold,
I filled my wash bowl with ’em,
But a Sidney chap from prison,
He took the bowl and shot at me,
Because the claim was his’n.

Oh, California! & c.

I’ve scap’d the mountains clear my boys,
And drained them rivers dry,
My pockets full enough of rocks,
The gold dust’s “in my eye.”
It ain’t so hard to raise the dust,
If a feller’ll only blow,
(‘Tis WINDY business, blowin’ is,
As whales and black-fish know.)

Oh, California! & c.

I can’t begin to count my gold,
But a feller did that knows;
It took a heap of figgers,
And I think they all wat O’s;
Them O’s is pretty figgers,
But then it seems to foller,
That when a figger’s circular,
It’s so etarnal hollar!

Oh, California! & c.

I jumped off from the ‘Liza ship,
And traveled up the river,
I caught the gue and the shakes,
(The shakes means when you shiver,)
I shook my teeth from out my head,
But then I didn’t need ’em,
I didn’t have them filled with gold,
And so I didn’t feed ’em.

Oh, California! & c.

And now I’m gwine to dig again,
And do it with a will,
But it’s gwine to be a dry diggin,
In another kind of hill!
I’ll dig the lumps and wsh ’em well,
And in the course of nater,
I know, some day, I’m bound to find
Some gold in every tater.

Oh, California! & c.

We’ll rest content with quiet lot,
In spite of lots in ‘Frisky —
And while we raise the taterses,
The fools may drink the whiskey.
Then here’s to California,
And luck to all who try!
And since we’re safe at home again,
Why, brothers, don’t you cry.

Oh, California —
You’re not the land for me,
I’ve been, and left the wash-bowl
I had upon my knee.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jun 24, 1851

More Gold Rush Poetry:

Miner Rhymes From the Gold Country

Poetry of Gold

Ho! For California

Going Ahead on the Yankee Trail

A Miner Rhyme

Arrival of the Watertown Boys: Letters from John C. Gilman

February 17, 2011

Previous posts about the Watertown boys:

Forty-Niner Profiles: The Watertown Boys

Watertown Boys Head For California


Good News From California

Sunday’s mail brought California letters from Gen. GILMAN, H. WALDRON, S. STIMPSON and Dr. MEYER. The gratifying intelligence is conveyed by these letters, that all the Watertown boys had reached the El Dorado of their hopes, after long and patient toils and privations, in good health and high spirits. We have been kindly furnished the general’s letter for publication. It will be read with interest by his numerous friends here.

Mr. WALDRON‘s letter states, among other things, that the oxen, wagons, &c., of the company which cost about $900, had been sold for something over $1,000.

SACRAMENTO CITY, Oct. 14, 1849.

Here I am in California, upon the bank of the Sacramento river, and in the city of Sacramento — a city four months old, whose buildings are mostly made of cotton cloth — a city containing from fifteen to thirty thousand inhabitants; nobody knows the exact number. A great amount of business is done here. Some thirty ships lie along the river opposite the town, many of them from Boston and New York. Every business and laboring man seems to be making money at a rate unheard of before. Prices of manufactured articles and labor are very high. — Common labor is $10 per day and found. Mechanics get from $20 to $25 per day. Pork per barrel $40, flour $9 per hundred, beans 8c per lb., potatoes $1.25 per lb., onions $1.25 per lb. I paid a few days ago 50c for one onion which weighed 7 oz! Board at the public houses is $4 per day. Women’s work is very high — washing, for instance, is $12 per dozen, and every thing else in proportion. In the common eating houses, (and there are many of them,) we can get a meal for a $1. Apple or grape pies, baked upon a common breakfast-plate, are 75c. I paid yesterday $6.25 for a new 5 gallon keg. I filled it with molasses syrrup, at $1.25 per gallon. I paid $16 per hundred for Sandwich Island sugar, a good article; 60c per lb. for dried apples, 75c per lb. for dried peaches, tea $6 for an 8 lb. caddy. Fresh beef sells at the butchers from 20 to 25c per lb.

The price of labor in this country is governed by the amount of gold realized by the miner per day. A laborer gets from $250 to $500 per month. Every body is willing to admit that a man in the mines can make his ounce per day. Some men who came here in July or August, have made and brought to the city 40 or 50 tons of hay, which they are now retailing out at 10c per lb. Oregon sawed lumber sells for from $350 to $500 per thousand. Shingles $50 per thousand.

I am preparing and am nearly ready to go to the mines. I intend to dig this winter — am going in company with Stimpson, Glines and a German from Milwaukee.

We arrived here on the 7th of this month, and after selling our team and all  traps, and dividing the money, I had about $100 for my share. My poney, which would have brought me $100 at auction, strayed from me a day or two before we came here. I had my health good all the way after I left Independence, except some slight affection of scurvy, a disease which prevailed among the emigrants in the latter part of the journey. We surmounted all the dangers and difficulties of the journey without the loss of an ox or any accident of any kind, except the breaking of an axeltree, and that was done near Independence. I kept a daily journal of the whole route, which when I have time I intend to write and send you.

I cannot advise any friend of mine who intends to come to this country, to take the overland route. There are too many dangers and difficulties to contend with. It requires the most indomitable energy, perseverance, watchfulness and incessant labor to effect the journey successfully. There is no lack of feed for stock until you come to Fort Laramie. From that to Green River, on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, the country is a barren waste. Feed for teams is scarce, frequently having to drive our oxen 4 and 5 miles from the road to get grass for them. From Green River onward until we got about one-third part of the way down the Humbolt, grass is abundant. From thence until we came to Carson River, the country is a dismal desert. The water is all bad, and in most instances poisonous to man and beast. The only safe water is the sluggish Humbolt, which continually grows worse as it approaches the sink. It then becomes so foul cattle which drink of it will die in a few hours. Men have dug wells at the sink, whose water is taken to last man and beast 45 miles, the distance from the Sink over the desert to Salmon Trout river, (the old route,) and that of the new one by Carson river, is about the same, 45 miles. This distance cannot be made in the day time. Cattle cannot stand the heat of the sun, when reflected from the surface of the sandy desert. Salt an inch thick lies upon the surface. — From Carson river we had grass until we came within about 60 miles of the western foot of the Siera Nevada. Thence to the foot of the mountains, our only feed for cattle was oak leaves, procured by chopping down trees and turning our cattle loose to them — thence dry grass to the Sacramento.

No rain falls during the summer season west of the Laramie; consequently a cloud of dust constantly enveloped man and beast, which was our greatest annoyance.
Now, my advice to any one and every one, who wishes to make a fortune in the shortest possible time, is to come here. I do not care what a man may set himself about; if he is prudent, he can clear from two to fifty thousand dollars in a year, provided he has his health. I intend to dig until spring in the mines, if I have my health — then I may do something else.


Watertown Chronicle – Jan 2, 1850

California — Letter from General Gilman.


MY CHILDREN — I am now in the mining region, and located for the winter. I am on the Calabarus river, about 20 miles from its mouth. You will see my location by referring to Fremont’s map. Our party consists of six, viz: Stimpson, Glines, Blaucher, (of Milwaukee,) a Dutchman, a Scotchman and myself. We have been digging gold about ten days. We do not get it as fast as many anticipated, or many at home suppose. The product of our labor has varied from 1 1/2 to 7 ozs. per day. Day before yesterday, we got the latter quantity — yesterday about 3 ozs.

Glines has worked but little. Stimpson has not been out of the camp since we came here. He has not yet got rid of the scurvy, and consequently is lame in his limbs. My own health is good, except that I feel the effects of the scurvy in my knees, but not to hinder me from working.

The whole country has gold. Every river and brook, every ravine and gorge of the mountains, has more or less of the precious metal. In prospecting, I find gold in every place. But the ravines, which are called “gulches” here, are where it is dug for. — That which we have obtained is called coarse gold. In size it varies from a three dollar piece down to a pin’s head, is round, and in every other possible shape. It has all been melted, and thrown out by the action of volcanic fire.

I would advise none of my friends to try the overland route. Tell them to go by way of Panama. *  *  *  I have not eaten from a table, or slept on a bed, since the 18th of May last. *  *  *  The largest piece of gold which I have seen, weighed five ounces. *  *  *  Provisions very high, and freights from Stockton to this place, (40 miles, and road good,) 50 cents per pound! *  *  *  Our currency is pounds and ounces, and not dollars and cents.

In haste,


Watertown Chronicle – Jan 30, 1850

1849  Stockton Main St. image from the San Francisco City Guides website.

California Letter.

The following is a letter from Gen. JOHN C. GILMAN, of Watertown, now in California, to our fellow citizen, Wm. M. Dennis, Esq. who has kindly handed it to us for publication, that the numerous friends of Gen. C. may know of his whereabouts and learn of his welfare.

January 9, 1850.

DEAR SIR, — I have located myself for the winter upon the Caladarus River, nearly due east from Stockton and San Francisco; Stockton is 45 miles distant. The winter here is made up of rainy days, and weeks of fine weather. It is the Spring of Wisconsin — April and May weather. The rainy season commenced about the middle of November. We expect it to cease about the middle of February. Vegetation commenced with the rain; and although I am among the hills, which form the base of the mountains, I have seen but few frosty mornings. I am upon the western verge of the gold regions.

The diggers in our vicinity make from five dollars to an ounce and a half per day. I have, since I stopped here, made two ounces in about half a day; it is not frequent that such an amount can be got in this vicinity. The ravines all have more or less gold — none very rich, and very few entirely destitute.

The one upon which we designed to dig for the winter was a good one. We found forty or fifty Chilinoes at work in the gulch (ravine). Soon other Americans came, and we have a village of tents and log huts of some twenty in number, each containing from two to four men. The men of Spanish descent, (Mexicans and Chilinoes,) are, in point of numbers, the dominant party in these southern mines. They not only assume the right to dig, but to dictate to Americans when they may or may not dig. This assumed right the Chilinoes commenced to practice upon with our own village.

Image from the Kidport Reference Library article on Gold Rush Law and Order.

Some three or four of our men went with their mining tools into a gulch, where a camp of about thirty Chilinoes were at work, our men were soon surrounded by the Chilians, armed with knives and pistols, who ordered them to leave, which they did, leaving behind their washers and mining tools, which the Chilians destroyed. A complaint was made to our Alcalda, who sent a force, and arrested the Chilians, and had them before him — fined them, and ordered them to leave the place. This was on or aobut the 18th of December. On the 28th of December, at ten or eleven o’clock at night, some detached camps of our village were assaulted by some fifty or sixty Chilinoes, all armed, and two of our most worthy men murdered upon the spot, and the ballance of the men of these camps were made prisoners and marched off, three or four of whom were badly cut and wounded — twelve prisoners in all.

These camps are about one-third of a mile from my tent, and where the most of the settlement is; we knew nothing of it until the next morning. I was upon the inquest held upon the bodies. Major Andrew Elliott, of Orlenas Co., State of N.Y., was one of the murdered men, and a Mr. Star, of the same place, the other. Their bodies had ghastly stabs and cuts made with large knives upon them; one dead Chilano lay near, with a bullet hole through the face and head. Our men mustered, and followed the Chilian band. They took the road to Stockton. The prisoners were all rescued, the whole band made prisoners and marched back to our camp; they were forthwith tried by a jury of twelve  men, (the Alcalda acting as judge,) sentenced — three were executed by shooting, one whipped and his ears cut off, and the remainder received from twenty to one hundred lashes upon the bare back, and ordered to quit the country. They obeyed the order without the least hesitation. I can tell you that Chilanoes and Mexicans hereafter will be mighty scarce in these diggings, I mean those that have whole skins.

With regard to the country generally, in my opinion, it has not been over-rated in any particular; its agricultural susceptibility, its now spontaneous productions, and its present herds. Why, the truth has not been half told, or if told, has not been understood. The common cattle of California are the largest and finest I ever saw; and as for fat and good beef, I never saw its equal in any market. I believe also, that the mineral wealth of California is yet to be developed in the main; all the gold yet taken is surface gold — not a vein or a lode has been found or worked, with the exception of two, one on the Maralumny River, found this winter, and the other is on the Maraposa River, and worked by Colonel Fremont’s indians.

Image of Chinaman in 1860 San Francisco from the San Francisco Images blog.

A man with some means can make a fortune here quicker than to dig for it; one or two thousand invested rightly in goods in N.Y., and sent round the Horn, is all that a man accustomed to trade wants. The common Stoga boots are selling this winter in San Francisco and Stockton from two to four ounces per pair, shoes of the same quality half an ounce. I am now wearing a pair of boots which cost in Stockton two ounces of pure gold, such boots as you sell in Watertown for $2.50. Pants, flannel shirts and drawers, are equally high in the mines; the common blue blanket sells at the mines for thirty or forty dollars per pair, and vegetables and eatables of all kinds are still higher. Flour $1.25 per lb., pork $1.00, beans $1.00 per lb., potatoes $1.00 per lb., onions the same, brandy per bottle $4.00. The man who travels the road from San Francisco to the mines, pays at the tents which are set up for entertainment $1.50 for a meal of victuals, $1.00 per quart for barley or corn to feed his mule, $1.00 for sleeping on the floor in his own blankets, and fifty cents for any kind of spirits per glass. Men cannot be hired to work for less than ten dollars per day, at the same time one half of them does not make five clear. I cannot particularise farther, the foregoing is true, and such is the chance to make fortunes; the prudent and industrious will make money, the idle, the dissipated, and those out of health, will be as poor here as in any other place.

If some of you speculators will come out, and bring with you a stock of goods, and open at Stockton, I will come in with you and operate in the mines.

Stimpson has left the camp, and gone to the Sandwich Islands sick with the scurvy. Glines has left our company for Stockton very much out of health, his lungs are affected, and some degree of scurvy; as to myself, the slight attack of scurvy I had on the Humbolt is wearing away, and my health is pretty good, and I have every confidence of enjoying good health in this country. The rest of the Watertown boys I have not seen or heard from since I left Sacramento; I think they must have gone up the American fork. I have not yet received the first letter from home. I cannot write to all I would wish. Please pass this round to Enos, Chappell, Besley, Ned and P.V. Brown, also to my children. If any of my friends come out, let them come by Panama, there is too many great dangers attending the overland route, waggons and pack mules are equally exposed, a correct idea of which I could not give you by letter without some more labor and time than I have at present to spare.

Gambling is done in the towns in this country on the big side; all the taverns and dogeries, and all saloons (and there are many,) are gaming houses. In the best house in Stockton, which is a tavern, there is one faro bank, three monta tables, two roulettes, and one billiard table, all in the bar-room.

Thousands of dollars lie stacked up on each table. I was at Stockton a few days ago, and stopped at this house for a day or two, and witnessed some of their operations. Money changed hands rapidly — thousands of dollars would be won and lost in a short time — all were cool, and no excitement — not a word of discord between the better and the dealer — one hundred eagles bet upon a single card.

The above is a fair sample of the business done in this line in California. Monta is the favorite game of the South Mexicans and Chilians, and they all bet with apparent carelessness.

Taft, of Milwaukee, U.S. House, and Robert Maloney, got up and opened a large tavern house in Stockton, some time in december, at an expense of thirty or forty thousand dollars, in about ten days from opening of the house, it took fire and was burnt down, all was lost — Taft has gone to the mines. I heard of Bristol at San Francisco, he was in the public hospital and not expected to live. Saw B. Crangle at Sacramento, he was home-sick, and talked of returning home. W.S. Hamilton and Olinger is on the American fork; O’Neal of Mineral Point is in our camp; Doctor More of Beloit is at Sacramento; Lieutenant Wright I cannot hear of.

As soon as the rainy season is over, I intend to explore some of this mining region; it is believed here that the Gold Region Proper is far up in the mountains to the east. I have seen a newspaper report of an Exploring Expedition which went out last Summer, they report the whole western slope of the Serra Nevada Mountains to be composed of quartz rock, and all bearring gold; their experiments and tests show that the least quantity of gold extracted from the pound of rock was one dollar, and that the best yield of pure gold to the single pound was fifty-four dollars and fifty cents.

Specimens of every variety of the rack have been forwarded to Washington by the senators elect from the State. All the gold taken in California is called by miners surface gold, it has escaped by some means from the place of original deposit, and has been scattered into all the ravines, brooks and rivers, by the agency of water, and that the places of the original deposit will shortly be discovered, I have no doubt.

Yours truly,


P.S. — I now think that letters addressed to me should be directed to Stockton.

Democratic State Register (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 9, 1850


A number were received in town by Monday’s mail. Mr. STECK writes that he is employed in the Sacramento postoffice, at a salary of $200 per month. He had either seen or heard from most of our “boys” a short time previously. They were all well. Gen. GILMAN does not write very flatteringly. We judge from what we have heard of the tone of these letters, that our friends there are not realizing their expectations.

We also received a letter from the “Rothschild of Coloma,” inclosing some beautiful specimens, to the value of eight or ten dollars. Thanks, brother LITTLE!

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 16, 1850

Image of San Francisco Harbor – 1851 from the Sparkle Tack blog.

From California.

Letters were received in town by Monday’s mail, from Gen. GILMAN, H. WALDRON, A. STECK, and J. ROGAN. We make the following extract from the letter Gen. G.:

The river turning business has proved total failure throughout the mines generally. Homeward bound vessels are filled with passengers, but still the increase of population is wonderful. Trade increases, and cities rise upon the plains. Thousands are turning their attention to agriculture and cattle growing, and yet the mines are overrun with diggers. Thousands will return home as poor as they came, and many much more so, while others will return rich. Many return without an effort to make money. A more disappointed lot of men I never saw, than those who came over the plains this year.

Watertown Chronicle – Dec 4, 1850

California Matters.

We have a letter from Gen. GILMAN, under date of Feb. 28th. We make an extract, from which it will be seen that the prospects of miners and business men in California, are gloomy enough:

“There has been but two rainy days since the  season for rain commenced — not enough to produce the usual vegetation. This dry winter is decidedly adverse to the interests of the miners. They have no water in the gulches to wash gold with. If the season should continue dry as it now is, there will be a general break down of the business men of California, and Stockton and Sacramento will almost cease to be places of trade. The success of all business men is this country depends upon the success of the gold digger. A great change in prices of almost every thing has already taken place. All necessaries are much cheaper than heretofore, and the tendency of prices is still downwards. — The forced sales of imported goods at San Francisco alone, is sufficient to supply the demand in the country. Comparatively few immigrants arrive this winter, and those mostly from Europe, while the homeward bound steamers are crowded with passengers — many of them poor.”

Watertown Chronicle – Apr 23, 1851

Watertown Boys Head For California

February 11, 2011

“We’re bound for Californy,
Our pockets for to fill!”

Yesterday morning seven of our own citizens and two of neighboring towns, took up their line of march for California. They are to proceed by wagon to Galena, thence by steamboat to St. Louis and Independence, and thence as “circumstances” may dictate to the “diggings.” Their names are —

Stephen Stimpson,       Louis Meyer,
Henry Waldron,        James Stevens,
Martin P. Glines,         Luke Colburn,
Amos Steck,               Ole Hanson.
Nelson Whitney,

Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens. They leave in high spirits, hardly realizing, we fear, the hardships and privations before them. While we regret to part with them, we cannot but hope that their most extravagant expectations may be fully realized, and that within two years from this time, we may hail the return of each, with “all their pockets” well filled with the precious metal.

They intend celebrating the 4th of July at the South Pass, making those wild and distant hills and valleys re-echo, for the first time, the songs and the sentiments of liberty.

Watertown has contributed liberally to the mighty stream of emigration that is setting toward California. In addition to those given above, five others have left within a few weeks past, viz:

Francis McCluskey,        Henry Helman,
Philip Johnson,        Bernard Crangle.
Darius Gibbs,

There are others here who have caught the fever, and we should not wonder if they, too, should soon be “carried off.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 11, 1849

Image of the Pony Express Route – click to enlarge – Find the Forts etc. mentioned by the Watertown Boys.

A Californian’s Epistle.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle]

May 10, 1849.}

FRIEND H. — According to your request, I drop you a hasty line, informing you of the whereabouts and success of the Watertown boys. We all reached St. Louis at dark on Monday evening, April 16th. I left the boys there and proceeded on my way up the Missouri river to this point. After leaving St. Louis the third day of our passage, a poston rod broke, and detained up six days. We reached St. Joseph on Monday the 30th of April, where I found all the Watertown boys except my mess, they having passed up the river while we were lying to below for repairs. They were all in fine spirits, and said the Elephant had not yet been discovered. Thursday or Friday following they intended to leave for the plains, crossing the river at Fort Kearney. But I had to leave them and find my mess. I reached here May 3d and found Mack and Phil in the tallest kind of clover, they having reached here two weeks before, and were “camped out” and going through the regular routine of camp duty in order to get “broke in” before leaving for the plains. They had a very hard time while on their way — all bridges through the country where they traveled were gone, the streams were high, and the water very cold. But they were in good health and spirits, and bound to go-ahead. They have seen harder times than they will again see on their route to California, at least so the old guides tell us.

The hardships and dangers of the trip have been greatly magnified by those who know nothing about it. We are told that the road for 500 or 600 miles on this end of the route is of the best description. There is very little danger to be apprehended from the Indians, if a vigilant watch is kept up. It is impossible to tell how many emigrants are intending to cross the plains this season. But from what I have seen and heard others say, I should think 15,000 to be a high estimate. Of these some 3,000 are Mormons destined for the Salt Lake. A few teams have already crossed the river and are on their way, but it is yet full early, on account of the grass, as it is not much grown, the spring having been backward. Our company are now ferrying some of their wagons and teams over, and on Saturday, I think, our team will cross, when we take up our march over the plains.

But this California life is a great one shirt and pants, hat and boots, knife and pistol — them’s your rig. No coat, no vest, no neck handkerchief, no suspenders, a belt round your waist — haven’t shaved for a month, eat like a trooper, sleep like a brick, don’t care a snap for any body, no body cares a fig for you. That is what you may call independence.

There is generally a very good feeling existing among the Californians, but now and then they have a brush among themselves. I hear this morning of a company who crossed at a point about 20 miles above this, after proceeding 15 miles on their way, fell out and had a regular fist-fight. Some of them were sadly bruised, and part of the company broke up, and turned back for home. The reason of this is, that a parcel of wagons combine and form a company, and before forming, the parties may have been acquainted for but two or three days, and they soon disagree. If possible, companies should be formed of teams who are from the same state or section of country. There are several teams from Dodge county in our company. Hillyer of Wapun and his company are here, and a man from Rubicon arrived here last night. I think his name is McCune. I have had no opportunity of seeing him. P.C. and B. Crangle were at St. Joseph. Thompson and boys of Waterloo will cross the river 20 miles above here. Fitzgerald of the same place, formerly of Johnson’s Creek, is in our company. Ingersoll, who left Watertown some time before we did, we saw in Galena on his way to California. These are all I can now think of who you may know, that are in this section. When an opportunity offers I shall write you again, which will be at Salt Lake probably.

Yours, &c.,

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) May 30, 1849

Fort Laramie image from the Wyoming Photographs website.

Watertown Californians.

During the past week, letters have been received in this village from Messrs. GILMAN, STIMPSON, STECK and GLINES, dated June 19th, at Fort Laramie, the last fort they will pass before reaching California. These letters were more or less blackened and charred by fire, having been recovered, according to a printed endorsement of the Postmaster at St. Louis, “from the wreck of the steamer Algoma, burned at the wharf at St. Louis July 29th — said boat having a large California mail, a large portion of which was entirely consumed.”

From the letter of Mr. GLINES we learn that the Watertown boys still remain in good health and most of them in good spirits, and that their oxen are all in “better heart than when they started from St. Jo.” But other emigrants had been less fortunate, “You cannot imagine,” says Mr. G., “the suffering and distress on this road. Men, women, children and teams are giving out and dying every day. The road is lined with dead oxen and mules.”

For 75 or 80 miles before reaching Fort Laramie, Mr. G. says the roads were “very heavy and sandy, water scarce and bad, and no whisky!” He concludes his letter by saying: “I would never advise any one to take this route for California.”

Judging from the rate at which the company have traveled since leaving Fort Kearney, they will probably reach the ‘diggings,’ if no misfortune befals them, early in September. But the worst part of the route is yet before them, if we have anything like a correct knowledge of the country. The desert portions of it have still to be passed. — Heavy wheeling and scarcity of water, food and fuel, are in reserve for the company. — But stout nerves and a determined spirit can triumph over all these; and the next intelligence we receive from our “boys,” will doubtless be to the effect that they are “feeding in tall clover,” with both pockets rapidly filling with “the rock.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Aug 15, 1849

Image from the Fine Books & Collections website.

From California.

We have received from a friend at San Francisco, the Alta California of Aug 2d. It contains the very latest news that has been received in the states, from that point of attraction. We give below a bird’s-eye view of its contents:

Seventeen of the twenty columns of the paper, are devoted to the trial of the persons concerned in the riot mentioned in our last issue. Then follows half a column of placer intelligence, in which new and extensive discoveries of the precious metal are given. Next, a table of immigration during the month of July, the total number being 3,614, of whom 49 were females, and about 3,000 Americans. Next, an account of the arrival of the pioneer overland companies, with news of 5,000 or 6,000 wagons having nearly reached Pleasant Valley. [We hope the Watertown boys may be of the crowd.] — Then, an account of new gold discoveries on Trinity river, 500 miles above San Francisco; the announcement that the dedication of the new Baptist church, “on Washington street,”  will take place the following Sabbath; a journal of the arrival and departure of vessels, as well as a list of the vessels in port; winding up with the San Francisco Price Current for July. We quote the prices of a few articles: Flour $12,00a13,00, Oregon corn 1,50a2,00, mess pork, new, 18,00a22,00, old 14,00a16,00, Am. cheese 37 1/2a42c., Am. butter 75a80, sugar 9a12 1/2, coffee 5 1/2a8 1/2, young hyson tea 27 1/2a45, brandy per gallon 1,00a2,00, gin 1,00a1,10, champagne per doz. 15,00a18,00, whisky per gallon 60a1,00, am. brogans 1.23a1,35, pine lumber 300a350 per M., house frames 1,200a2,500.

A little paragraph at the bottom of a column, states, that “the average passage of vessels which have reached San Francisco from the various Atlantic ports, is 163 days.”

The Alta California is printed on very yellow paper — just for fashion’s sake, we suppose!

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin)Sep 26, 1849

Fort Bridger, Wyoming – 1873 from the Wyoming Photographs website.


Our townsman, ROBERT CRANGLE, has just received a letter from his two brothers, dated at Fort Bridges[r], July 1st. They were in good health, and had no fears of being able to get through. They were about 100 miles from the Mormon city, and 800 from the diggings. They estimate the number of teams in advance of them at 400, and in read at 1200. Of the latter, they think many will not be able to get through, owing to the scarcity of feed.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 3, 1849

The Great Salt Lake Valley

From Salt Lake.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle.]

July 12, 1849.}

FRIEND H. — When I wrote you last, our train did not expect to take the route to this place, and I placed a letter in the hands of a gentleman who was packing through, and intended to go by the way of the city. When we arrived at the junction of the Fort Hall and Salt Lake trails, our company had not decided which route should be taken, and after debating half an hour on the subject, a part took the Fort Hall road, the remainder taking the road to this place.

It is not known to emigrants that there is a waggon trail from Salt Lake to the gold region, nor were our company aware of it until we were within 80 miles of the lake and very few teams take this route, and those who take it do so with the intention of exchanging their oxen and wagons for pack mules; but we are told that there is a good road from here to Sutter’s Fort, and plenty of grass and water, the distance being about 850 miles through — 600 miles of the road of the best description, when we reach the California mountains, the road over these being hilly and rough for a portion of the distance. We again strike the great trail by Fort Hall 180 or 190 miles from this place.

We reached this place yesterday, at noon, and shall leave Saturday or Monday morning. The distance traveled is 1049 miles, over a very good road, with the exception of the last 40 or 50 miles, where we had to climb two high mountains, both the ascent and descent being very steep and rocky, and I think, rather harder than your Rock river woods’ road at its worse stage.

The “glourious fourth” was spent in a manner rather derogatory to Yankee character. Some of the boys felt like having a little glorification in the morning, and banged their rifles, and hurrahed a little. But it was “no go;” their enthusiasm soon vanished, all saying that the next fourth should have a double dose. We traveled 23 miles that day, a very warm day, and taking a new and different road from that laid down in our guide book, to avoid crossing several streams, were without water for 13 miles, and camped at night within three miles of Fort Bridger.

If there is a beautiful spot on the earth’s face, it is the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The best description of it I can give you is to tell you climb some high mountain and look upon a beautiful lake, and the valley will be pictured to you. It is about 40 miles long, with a width of 22 miles, and is surrounded by high mountains, with the exception of a small space at the north, many of whose summits are capped with snow the year round. The soil is very good, (I have seen much better in Wisconsin,) and the climate delightful; at least it has proved so the short time I have remained here, and I am told it is but a fair specimen of the summer season. The mountain breezes, cooled by the snowy banks which cap their sides and summits, temper the hot air to that deliciousness which makes existence an enjoyment which man can hardly be said to possess in any portion of the eastern world in which I have resided. And this breeze is never idle; its mighty fan is ever in motion. The winters are mild, and but little snow falls. The last winter snow fell to the depth of 20 inches in the valley, and the old trappers and traders say that it was the most severe winter season that has been experienced in this region for the last 16 years.

The great city is regularly laid out in blocks or squares, the streets being very wide, and is most beautifully located, 22 miles from the lake. As yet, nothing very extensive in the way of building has been done, and it presents rather a mean appearance. I do not recollect having seen a house higher than a single story, and very many of them are mere cabins, whose dimensions will not exceed 12 or 16 feet square. They are built of “adobes” (sun-baked, or Spanish brick) and logs. Some of the inhabitants are still living in tents and wagons. There is no timber in the valley, the inhabitants hauling it from the mountains, a distance of from five to twenty miles. They have not yet commenced their great temple, and how soon they will do so, is not yet determined.

It is estimated that there are from 17 to 20,000 people in the valley — Mormons — most of them handling the plough and hoe for a subsistence. Irrigation is resorted to to produce crops. Their crops look very well. Yesterday I saw a man threshing wheat grown this season, but the harvest season will not properly commence for 6 or 8 days yet. Corn does not appear to thrive very well, the nights being too cold and frosty, the air being cooled by the mountains. — Crops of other descriptions appear to do very well, and we are now regaling ourselves upon green peas, beans, turnips, onions, small cabbage, &c. Cattle are very plenty, and will make the fattest beef by merely feeding upon the grasses with which the valley abounds. Six run of stone for grinding purposes, and 7 or 8 saws are in operation in the valley very little can be learned of this singular people, and the most I have been able to learn is, that Brigham Young, their present leader, has 32 wives, and very many of the “sterner sex” having 2, 5 or 6 wives, and others divide their affections among a still greater number of the “gentler ones.”

But what interests the Californians the most, are the gold stories told us. There are a great number of Mormons here who have had practical experience in the mines, and are now shaking the “gold dust” in their pockets. They tell us that gold is plenty in the mountains of California, and is inexhaustible. When a digger could not procure his $100 per day, he was off for a new prospect, and many men would find $200, $500 and some $1000 per day. Then why did you not stay and dig for a while? we ask them. The reply is that, “the church called them home, and they must return.” — And why not get leave to go again? “We are in no hurry, the gold will hold out, many richer deposits will be found, a great number of our brethren have already gone out, and we are required to stay at home to attend the crops, &c.” So much for so much.

It is said that gold has been found on “Goose creek,” 200 miles from here, on our route to California. I have seen several specimens of the dust. It is in thin, flat, small scales, presenting a dark appearance. The Mormons have established a mint here, and will commence coining gold in a few days. A few pieces have already been struck off. The device is the “Masonic Grip,” the value of the piece, the words, “God and Liberty,” and date, and words, “City of the Great Salt Lake,” are found upon its sides. They will coin $20, $10, $5 and $2.50 pieces. They have sent a representative to Washington to advocate their interests. He left a few days since.

I have not heard from the other company of Watertown Californians, and do not expect to until I reach the golden world. I have made the acquaintance of Mr. Stephens, of Fort Atkinson. He tells me he traveled tow days in company with Charley Bristol, of Beaver Dam. Lieut. Wright was two or three hours ahead of us at the junction. He goes by the way of Fort Hall. Jacob Rapalje, of Milwaukee, died here about a week since, of mountain fever. He had good attention from the Mormons. Dr. Evans, also of Milwaukee, I think, will go no further. It is said he will join the Mormons, and be baptised next Sunday. My two Watertown companions, McClusky and Phil. Johnson, have both had mountain fever, but are now quite recovered. This is a queer disease. A man is taken with vomiting, followed by a terribly severe headache and high fever, which are not usually worked off under four or five days. It is not considered dangerous.

We expect to reach the end of our journey in 45 or 50 days. But there is one thing, the emigration on the Fort Hall route will suffer terribly. There were only 12 or 14 wagons ahead of us on the great trail, and we had hard times to get enough feed for our cattle, and there were 6000 wagons yet to get through.

Yours truly,
A letter from Mr. P.C. CRANGLE, dated at Salt Lake city on the 8th July, was received by his brother ROBERT, of this village, last week. He speaks in high terms of the city, and says the temple was about to be commenced. An accompanying brother, BERNARD, was offered $5 per day and board, as a carpenter, but refused, preferring his chances at the mines.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 10, 1849

Letter from the Gold Diggins.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle.]

September 7, 1859.}

FRIEND H. — The journey is ended. The goal(d) is won — for the gold stories are no humbug, though many of them are much exaggerated. August 31st we arrived at the first “diggings,” and September 3d, reached this city, which is situated at the junction of the American river with the Sacramento, 2 miles west of Sutter’s Fort, and 200 miles from San Francisco. Its streets are regularly laid out, crossing each other at right angles, and buildings of every description are now erected, though two thirds of them are nothing but a slight frame work, over which is stretched a covering of common cotton cloth. These buildings answer every required purpose during the dry season, but when the rains commence, something more substantial will be required. There are many buildings of wood erected or in the course of erection, but the scarcity and high price of lumber prevent many from building.

The population of the city, it would be hard to determine. It may be 5,000 or it may be 25,000. Hundreds arrive and leave daily. Provisions are plenty and cheap. I will give the prices of leading articles: Flour per 100lbs. $3a9; pork per bbl. $10; sugar per 100lbs. $14a18; coffee per 100lbs. $.14a18; mackerel and salmon, (salted,) per lb.25c.; beef, (fresh,) per lb. 25c.; hay $6 per 100.

These are the principal articles purchased and consequently very high. Potatoes $1 per pound, onions $1.50 per pound. A small squash is sold for $5. Green peas and a few other vegetables may be had, but at such prices that will stagger even a gold digger. Journeymen mechanics receive $10 per day and board. $32 is charged for setting a set of wagon tires, and $24 for new shoeing a horse. Common laborers receive $10 per day. Clothing may be bought at prices as low or lower than are paid in New York city. The immense quantities of provisions, clothing and other merchandise sent to this market have completely glutted it, and the only ones who will have cause to curse California will be speculators in your eastern cities.

Vessels arrive here almost daily from Atlantic ports and San Francisco, loaded with provisions and merchandise, and no fears need be entertained of a scarcity for a year hence.

A more stirring, go-ahead city than the one I write from, does not exist on the face of the globe. Business of every description is carried on, and with that celerity and despatch that could not fail to please the most driving. “Time is money;” but I never saw the adage carried out with its greatest force until I reached California.

The gold mines, if we may judge by the quantities brought in and the stories of the miners, are inexhaustible. $16 per day is paid to laborers at the mines, and the man who WORKS for himself will make much more. — Some days he may make nothing, others an ounce, or two, or three; and then he will strike a good “pocket,” and dig a thousand dollars or more in a month, and sometimes in a less time. The mines cover a large surface, extending as far as now discovered 300 miles north and south, and 50 or 60 miles east and west. The much boasted climate of California has not sustained its reputation very well. The nights are very cold, and so are the mornings and evenings, while between the hours of 9 A.M. and 4 P.M. the sun pours down with scorching intensity. Water which we use, is hardly fit the name, being warm and filled with filth. Very many are sick; the prevailing disease being a fever in most cases brought on by eating to excess and drinking intoxicating liquors. But I should think that if proper care is used by emigrants and unacclimated persons, that California may be called a healthy country.

I can hear nothing of the other Watertown boys. McClusky left us at Salt Lake, and packed through. I can learn nothing of him. I. and C.P. Crangle arrived on the 5th. — I saw them yesterday. The Fort Atkinson boys are all here and are well. I shall leave for the mines to-morrow, and intend to go up the Sacramento 160 or 200 miles, where the diggings are represented to be very rich. When I arrive there, I will endeavor to find time during the evenings to give you something of an account of our journey across the country, and California prospects and doings.

Truly yours,

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Dec 5, 1849

Forty-Niner Profiles: The Watertown Boys

February 10, 2011

Watertown, Wisconsin – 1908

During the California Gold Rush era, Watertown, Wisconsin was so many other villages, towns or cities across America — It was hit by the fever, the gold fever.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jan 31, 1849

“We’re bound for Californy,
Our pockets for to fill!”

Yesterday morning seven of our own citizens and two of neighboring towns, took up their line of march for California. They are to proceed by wagon to Galena, thence by steamboat to St. Louis and Independence, and thence as “circumstances” may dictate to the “diggings.” Their names are —

Stephen Stimpson,  Louis Meyer,
Henry Waldron,   James Stevens,
Martin P. Glines,   Luke Colburn,
Amos Steck,   Ole Hanson.
Nelson Whitney,

Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens. They leave in high spirits, hardly realizing, we fear, the hardships and privations before them. While we regret to part with them, we cannot but hope that their most extravagant expectations may be fully realized, and that within two years from this time, we may hail the return of each, with “all their pockets” well filled with the precious metal.

They intend celebrating the 4th of July at the South Pass, making those wild and distant hills and valleys re-echo, for the first time, the songs and the sentiments of liberty.

Watertown has contributed liberally to the mighty stream of emigration that is setting toward California. In addition to those given above, five others have left within a few weeks past, viz:

Francis McCluskey,   Henry Helman,
Philip Johnson,   Bernard Crangle.
Darius Gibbs,

There are others here who have caught the fever, and we should not wonder if they, too, should soon be “carried off.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 11, 1849

MORE EMIGRANTS. — Last week Messrs. FRANCIS McCLUSKY, PHILIP JOHNSON and BERNARD CRANGLE, of this village, took their departure for California. The two former started with an ox team, and intend going by way of Independence. We have some other citizens who are in the last stages of the disease and it is feared they will be “carried off” about the first of next month.

Watertown Chronicle – Mar 14, 1849

WISCONSIN CALIFORNIANS — The Watertown Chronicle says that the following company left that village on Tuesday, the 10th inst: Stephen Stimpson, Henry Waldron, Martin P. Glines, Amos Steck, Nelson Whitney, Louis Meyer, James Stevens, Luke Colburn, Ole Hanson. It says “Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens.”

Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Apr 18, 1849

So, who were the Watertown Boys, and what were they doing before the they hit the trail in search of California Gold?

Nelson Whitney, listed as the vice-president of the Temperance Society, and also listed among the Friends of Ireland was born about 1821, somewhere in Vermont. He wrote several letters from “the road,” and from California, which I will be posting in the future. Perhaps he was a farmer in Wisconsin prior to catching the Gold Fever, as I don’t find any business advertisements for him in the papers.

Temperance Meeting.

An adjoined meeting of the friends of temperance was held on the 14th of March, 1848, in the Methodist Church, in this village.
The committee appointed at the previous meeting, to prepare a Constitution, submitted the following, which was adopted:

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Mar 22, 1848

At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Watertown Temperance Society on Tuesday morning, June 27th, an invitation was received from the Dodge County Temperance society, inviting this society to be and unite with them in a temperance celebration at Oak Grove on the 4th of July. The committee after deliberation, unanimously agreed to accept the invitation, and hold the anniversary of the society at Oak Grove. A full delegation from this society is earnestly desired. By Order &c.,

A. STECK, ch’n.

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jun 28, 1848

The Age-of-the-Sage website has a page for The European Revolutions of 1848, which includes a map.

Demonstration of Republican Sympathy.
The usual common place busy hum of our business village was very agreeably diversified on Wednesday evening last by a well arranged demonstration made by our German fellow citizens, expressive of their sympathy with the Republicans of Europe.

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) May 17, 1848

Image from the Irish History Links website.

The Ohio University website  has an Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions, which includes: Young Ireland.



The friends of Liberty in every Country are looking with anxious hope for the success of the Irish arms over those of their English oppressors. The patriots of Ireland have lately shown to the world by the defeat of one fourth of the British army — in a single battle killing and wounding 6,000 men — that they are in earnest; and determined to be free, despite the voice of royal proclamations, and roar of royal cannon.

Friends of Liberty! the voice of struggling Ireland calls on you for aid. The battle has commenced, the people of the civilized world recognize the cause as a just and holy one, and none but despots and slaves refuse their aid or their sympathy.

Irishmen! the land of your birth cannot call in vain for aid from her sons.

Your compatriots throughout the Union are active in the cause of their struggling country, and earnestly ask you to co-operate with them.


Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Aug 30, 1848

Bank of Watertown image from Buchheit – Myers Genealogy blog.

AMOS STECK was born in 1822, Lancaster, Ohio. He supported the German people in their revolution, and like N. Whitney, was a member of the Temperance Society . On the genealogy blog linked above, it states Amos Steck took an active interest in establishing the Watertown Bank. Evidently he was a lawyer, as he  is listed as an “Esq.”  in  the following “Horse Thief” newspaper article:

HORSE THIEF AND COUNTERFEITER. — A young man by the name of Walker, formerly of this village, was apprehended at Fox Lake, on Sunday last, by officer KELLY, of this village, charged with having stolen on the 8th inst., two ponies, the property of JOHN P. BEAN, of Green Lake. He was examined on Monday before A. STECK, Esq., and a default of security for his appearance for further examination, was committed to jail in Jefferson. Officer K. is entitled to much credit for his vigilance in the arrest of the prisoner, aided as the latter was in his attempts to elude justice.

The ponies were sold to a man by the name of Sabin, of Racine county. As rather a “remarkable coincidence,” we may mention, that during the examination of Walker, Deputy Sheriff PHELPS, of Dodge county, passed through our village, having Sabin in tow as a prisoner, he having been apprehended on the charge of passing off counterfeit Land Warrants to an Illinois drover, in exchange for horses. He has dealt more or less extensively in horse flesh for some time past, and is supposed to be connected with the same gang to which Walker belongs. Quarters have been provided for him in the Milwaukee jail.

Watertown Chronicle – Jun 21, 1848

Amos Steck also wrote several letters to the Watertown Chronicle, which I will be posting in the future.

I believe this is the same Amos Steck, who went to California in search of gold:

According to the Buck Fifty website, Amos Steck – standing, second from the right and was the Denver, Colorado sheriff at the time this 1864  photo was taken. Follow the link for context of this photo.

In  the Denver & Rio Grande website’s article,  Taming a Wilderness, it mentions Amos Steck,was also at one time,  the Mayor of Denver:

The first telegraph wire to reach Denver was ready for business October 10, 1863. Mayor Amos Steck received the first message over it, which was a congratulatory wire from the mayor of Omaha.

The next Watertown Boy,  Henry Waldron, was born about 1819,  in Vermont. He and his partner,  Hazen Mooers operated a Tin Shop. They seemed to form and dissolve their partnership every so often, according to these newspaper announcements:

Watertown Chronicle – May 17, 1848

Watertown Chronicle – Jun 14, 1848

Watertown Chronicle – Jul 26, 1848.

Watertown Chronicle – Mar 29, 1849

Watertown Chronicle – Apr 4, 1849

It appears Henry Waldron, wife and daughters were in California in 1860, so he must have gone home to get them. On the 1860 San Fransisco  census, he was listed as a merchant, and his wife as an oil painter AND then they are listed again in Rose Bar, Yuba Co. where he is listed as a clerk, and several years younger.


Francis McClusky appears to have been a tailor:

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jan 5, 1848


Stephen Stimpson was born about 1818 in New York. His wife’s name was Catherine, and in 1850 their son, George, was five years-old. He was an auctioneer by trade, as well as a public notary for a time, and also ran for sheriff. On the 1860, Stephen Stimpson was listed as a Saloon Keeper and by then had a daughter, Adie, who was 7 years-old. By 1870, his son, George was living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, running a billiard hall. Stephen Stimpson may have died, as it appears his wife and daughter are living at West Washington Place, in New York City!

Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Jun 18, 1847

Watertown Chronicle – Jul 7, 1847


Wisconsin Argus (Madison, Wisconsin)  Oct 26, 1847

Watertown Chronicle – Oct 25, 1848


It has proven difficult to find information on some of these “Watertown Boys.” Bernard Crangle, born about 1810 in Ireland, and that is about all I have on him, but  I did find the picture of a house he and his brother built for their parents in Watertown, Wisconsin:

Here is the information that accompanies the photo:

This was the home of Bernard & Rose Crangle,Sr. built in Watertown, Wi in 1840 by Bernard, Jr. and Henry Crangle for their parents before they emigrated from Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. It was in this house that the first Catholic services were held and the organization of St. Bernard’s Parish, Watertown. Thanks to Mary Beggan Mueller for the photo.

Posted by Craig Gavin – Nov. 2010. Here is the LINK if you have an membership.

UPDATE- CORRECTION: I just re-read one of the letters from Nelson Whitney and he states Bernard and P.C. were traveling together. In a later letter, he mentions and I. and P.C.,  but the I. may have been a newspaper typo, or possibly Bernard’s middle name initial, as the P.C was written as C.P as well.

I think Bernard Crangle went to California, and then sometime after two of his brothers followed, P.C. (Charles P) and probably Henry, who according to the family tree where the picture was found, died in California in 1862. These brothers are mentioned in one of the letters published in the newspaper, which I will post in the future.

This cooperage factory image from the DeForest Area Youth Council is from a library event, Barrel-Making in Wisconsin: The Story of the Frank J. Hess Cooperage.

Another of the Watertown Boys was Darius Gibbs, who was born about 1816, also in Vermont. In 1850, he was listed as a basket maker, and in 1860, as a cooper, which was someone who made casks, kegs, etc. In 1850, he was living in Emmit, WI, and in 1860, in Watertown, WI. Sometime in between, he went to Missouri for awhile, as his two children listed on the 1860 census, ages two and three, were both born there. Darius and his family moved to Iowa, sometime between 1870 and 1880, where he continued to work as a cooper.

According to Find -A-Grave, Darius Gibbs was also a Spanish and Civil War veteran. He died in 1890, and was buried in Iowa. It appears his descendants added a more modern gravestone, which you will find at the link.

In regards to the other names listed as “Watertown Boys,” they remain a mystery, as I can’t find any information or census records for them.

Overland Route: Don’t Forget the No.6

February 2, 2011

Image from the California Education Institute website.

Overland Route to California.

A lively writer of the St. Louis Republican, who has evidently seen the elephant, gives a humorous but no less truthful description of the overland route to the gold mines, and we copy a paragraph or two, for the ????ation of our friends who are “dead set” for California. After cooly informing you that you will wish yourselves home before you have been out 50 days, he proffers consolation as follows.

“It matters not abut the sun, you’ll get used to it by the time your hat is blown by the wind into a “cocked hat,” and then the sun has all the advantages; wear shoes instead of boots for walking (unless you are afraid of snakes, of which you will see plenty of the largest kind of rattlesnakes.) You can kill dogs enough for fresh meat as soon as you arrive in their cities and towns; they always sit at the doors of their houses, and are always either shot or caught. They are very palatable, and in eating them, at first, one is apt to get to easily down at meat, (especially at supper time,) which causes considerable noise in the lower regions, about the time one wants to sleep, but cannot for the constant barking of the dogs. To prevent this, take along some No.6; a few drops, put all to rest again. And a good file would be useful when you arrive in the Buffalo Range, for you can’t help killing an old bull, and, while the boys are skinning, you can be filing your teeth to be ready to enter on duty. As wild meat is of a running breed, and you of a tame one, you needn’t be surprised to find yourself running the day after eating it. In case your run is more than you are used to, take a few drops of No.6, and all is quiet, be careful not to chase the wolves on foot — they are many and are a sort of hyena; when they turn upon you they destroy both soul and body, and then run off with the bones. — Some of them are old with beard like Aaron’s but hand down the ground — his only went to the skirt of his garment.”

Bad enough but what follows is worse:

“The wind blows all the time on the plains, and very hard; so much so as to cause you to complain; but you will get used to it after three or four months blowing, and can’t well live without it, for smothering (down in the hollows.) You can see a great way ahead: in some places a week’s march in advance — mounds and the like. — You will be apt to have rain and water plenty if you start early, and consequently, get your jackets and blankets wet through, day and night; then comes the trying time with the buffalo chips. They will neither burn nor blaze — so make up you mind to eat a raw dog, or any other raw meat, without hot coffee or warm stuff (except No.6) If the weather continues rainy, so that you become tired of eating raw dogs or buffalo bull, just turn up one of your wagons, and cook enough under it to last several days, pack your load on your mules, or oxen, or your own back. Don’t back out; gold is ahead, and you are in — “go it boots” — “live or die” — “a faint heart never won a fair lady.” If you get sick on the road, or have your wagon burned up, don’t give out as long as you can toddle along, and when you cannot proceed any farther, just lay down and rest, then up and travel by the moon till you overtake your companions. Then, if so you lay several days, an Indian may come along and examine your head; if bald he will respect your age and not scalp you, but hand you to the squaws for a plaything. If you have a good head of hair, he will only cut a little piece out, just about the crown, as a token of remembrance, which will either cure you or make the wolves come to prayers. You may have to swim in some creeks, as Uncle Sam has not bridged the road yet, and there are a great many creeks. You will be very apt to pass ten or twelve of these a day, so that before your clothes get dry from one, you will be in another. This frequent cold bath causes cold chills on a fellow without any heat, and often death; when a little hole is dug three or four feet deep, and the deal fellow rolled in, clothes and all — the dirt thrown over him; the wolves hold council over his cold home, and soon tear him up and have a feast. It will be all the same a thousand years hence. The Psalm tune these wolves keep up for days and nights is quite interesting to a tired, sleeping traveller; but their scratching and whispering in your ears soon becomes familiar, especially if a fellow gets one of his toes bit so hard as to make him cry out. Yet care should be taken not to five false alarms in the night, or the stock become frightened and run off for miles, causing delays in marching.”

“By the time you reach the gold region in California, you have expended some two hundred dollars — worn out all your clothes, become weary from the long march, eat up all you carried with, had all your tools stolen from you, weak, sick and unable to work, without friends to administer to your wants; without a comfortable house or home — thrown in among thousands of idle, dissipated, unfeeling brutes, intent on gain; penniless, poor and without strength or means, or friends to assist you; surrounded by vulgar, rough and uncouth rowdies, all engrossed in searching after gold — tattered, ragged and cross — without law, discipline or control — every one his own master — stealing here and there, inventing schemes to deprive the unsuspecting of their prospects and gains — laying hands on every thing palatable, wearable or useful; where might and strength determined right, though wrong and “coward gu?t to sheltering caverns fly,” until sickness, disease and death close the scene. — Then you may easily imagine worse than this picture — human vultures praying upon your  carcass like cannibals gormandizing, in their hoarse laugh over fallen victims. It is, neverthless, truer than fiction — the pure certain results of rush and premature enterprise.”

Green Bay Advocate (Green Bay, Wisconsin) Feb 22, 1849