Gold Rush Letters-September 2, 1850

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September 2, 1849

From letter published in the Missouri Whig , Palmyra ca December, 1849

The following letter, says the Hannibal Journal, from a young friend of ours (whose signature is at the bottom) to his mother in Ralls county, will doubtless be read with interest; and those who know him will rely upon the correctness of his statements.


Sept. 2d, 1849

Dear and Respected Mother:-- I take this most favorable opportunity to write to you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along in the mines. We here worked eight days in the mines and made about $700: there is five of us which is $140 apiece. That is doing tolerably well. Some of the boys have made more than that, and some less. Two of the men made about $400 in four days---that is the best work I know of. We have not moved south yet, on account of the sickness, but we expect to go in eight or ten days. Henry Hawkins and Thomas Hildreth started yesterday to look out a place for us to work, and as soon as they come back, we will start, as the place we have stopped at is no mine at all, compared with some in this country, we merely stopped here to recruit our cattle awhile, so we could sell them when we go to the city, and buy mules. A wagon and oxen does a man no good in this country, as he can only drive it two ways---one is back to the States, and the other is towards Sacramento City. The country is one continued mountain, so far as I have seen it. It is not fit for anything else than gold mines, and there is a plenty of that here. I think they can work here all winter, at the dry diggings---they cannot work there only in the rainy season. There is a good deal of difference in what is called dry and wet diggings. In the dry diggings, the gold is found in larger lumps than the wet; and you can only work the dry in the rainy season. The wet diggings are the banks and beds of the rivers and bars, so that they cannot be worked when the water is high, and you have to work all the year round. As to the gold giving out, it is a mistake . I do not think the mines can be washed out in a century, To prove this you may go to the top of the highest mountain, and take up a handful of dust, and rub it in your hands, and blow the dust out. you will have some small particles of gold in it; and the old miners say that the same holes they work out this fall, will do to dig again this spring. The gold washes down from the mountains in the rainy season, and the high waters fill up the holes, so that they are as good in the spring, as sthey were when they were first worked. That settles the question in my mind. I think that if uncle Will and brother Sam were here now, we could make $30,000 by this time next fall, and stand a chance of making $50,000.

Dr. Redman, one of the leading men in our State, was at our camp a day or two ago. He has been in the mines sometime. He says that no man that has been here five or six months but what has made 4 or $5,000, and some $30,000, and he says also, if a man works here a year, and takes care of his money, he will make 10 or $15,000. If that is the case, I will be able to send you home this fall $1,000. If I have no bad luck, and I have a good opportunity, I will send you some certain. I am glad I came the overland route, as I will know how to take care of my money, as I know something of the hardships I had to undergo to get it, but I would not advise any of my friends to come that route, but if they should I will write and give them my experience and all the information that I possess. If I was in the States I would start about the first of December, and get here about the first of February, and set to work about the middle of the month. I do not know when I will be at home. If I have good luck I may start some time next fall, and probably not for two years. I do not want to leave this country, until I get enough to satisfy me. I send you a small scale of gold--you can have a tooth plugged with it. We are all well at present. The miners in this part of the country have pretty good health generally, and the reason it is so sickly south is, that the men who came by water have the diarrhea, but those who come the the overland route are healthier than those who come by water. I saw the Hannibal boys a few days ago; some of them are doing well. Bill Coons, William Curts, Tub Ayres, and Bill Briggs, sold their wagon and team for $1,000, but they spent it all at Sacramento City. Bill Coons told me that he saw a man named Sunderland, who started from Hannibal last winter, and came by water. He started with Cook Campbell, and they came to Panama together. Sunderland and some others engaged passage in one vessel, and Campbell in another. Both ships were to start at the same time, but they did not get off together. Sunderland has been to California for some time. The other ship they have never heard of. They suppose she was wrecked at sea, and lost all her passengers. I give you the story as I got it; the truth of it I do not vouch for.

I remain you obít son,



Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham