You are not logged in.
I have probably posted this elsewhere and thought it a good historical account of the California gold rush in the year 1851. Although not specific to Native American I believe the historical description of the Klamath Indians to be important.Charles Dolsen was a newspaper editor in Canada and this letter may be why my ancestor trekked to Australia.
San Francisco, August 28th, 1851
I wrote to you last from Sacramento in February, since then having had but little stability at any one particular place, I have delayed from time to time to the present. I have not as yet received one letter from home, although no doubt several has been sent me. But there is always such a " confusion worse confounded" about the Post Offices of this country, that it is surprising that one ever gets a letter at all while he remains here. About two days after I wrote to you last, I was joined by Thomas Gilmore and Clovis Beneto of Amhersturg, and proceeded on a voyage of discovery as far as the Salmon River, which is near the boundary of Oregon, and only about eleven days packing from there to Oregon City. We were about four weeks reaching our destination, and had very pleasant weather of it - only one days snowstorm while passing an extensive range of mountains. We performed the whole of the journey on foot, packing our provisions on our animals, which I assure you was no small undertaking. On arriving on the Salmon River, we commenced mining at various points on the river, but with indifferent success, not yielding by one fourth as it was represented to us; by a good days work we could realize 5 or 6 dollars per day each. Provisions being much higher than we had been accustomed with, we could not be content with such small gains, an thereupon a spirit of continual "prospecting" was kept up to find $12 an ounce diggins, until the spring storms came upon us, and the snow fell to such depths in the mountains, that all communications was entirely cut off for the space of over one month; during which time provisions got so scarce that we were compelled to pay from $2 to $2.50 for every pound of any kind of provisions that we could get hold of ; you can imagine that it was by no means pleasant to be working hard all day to make 6 to 8 dollars, and expending every dime of it to procure two scanty meals per day. I left about the last of April, the roads being just then barely passable, after a party of packers had tunneled a road through the snow on the Big Mountain, to the depth in many places of 15 feet, and extending some six miles in length. It took me a whole days journey over this great mountain, being 25 miles--15 miles ascending and 10 miles descending. It took me about 8 days from thence to Trinidad Bay on the Pacific Coast, when I had the first view of the great Pacific. I left Oliver Dauphin on Salmon river also Thomas Gilmour and partner, then in good health; they having resolved to remain on that stream all summer if they met with any kind of success. O. Dauphin took as partner a young man from Montreal by the name of C. Rushon, a very intelligent and well educated young Frenchman, a brother of his came out to this country some 7 or 8 years since with Col. Fremont, purchased some town lots in Sacramento and made some $60,000. , he returned to Montreal in ’49 and came to this country again in the following summer, which caused three of his youngest brothers to come out too, but they will not be successful. In two days travel on my way I reached the Klamath river, a large and beautiful stream, with fine and fertile valleys on either side of it, and abounding with the largest and finest salmon fish in the world. It is on this river where are the most numerous of the Indians, called the Klamath tribe; they are the finest looking Indians belonging to the Pacific Coast, especially the male portion of them. I noticed at my first night encampment at "Orlean's Bar" on the above river, as I awoke in the morning I could count no less than eleven of these genuine specimens of the forest, standing around the fire, not one of them less than six feet two inches, with the most perfect symetry and strongest muscular action as I have ever seen, all as naked as they were born. The men all go naked , and as unconcious of their immodest appearance as the horse; the females have a covering as far as the loins made of dressed dear skin, which they wear at a very early age. Since I left, I see by reports through the newspapers that these Indians are getting very hostile, and if they continue so they will be a terror to the miners in that section of the country, by their formidable numbers and bravery combined with their blood thirsty disposition.
Here is part 2 of the Charles Dolsen letter.
On arriving at Trinidad (a bay on the Pacific Ocean), I had to wait two days for a vessel for passage, when the steamer Commodore Prebble gave us the required accommodation, whence she sailed with about 100 passengers at about noon. The next morning we were making for Humboldt Bay harbor to land some five tons of provisions on board, and the wind blowing somewhat fresh at the time, and bad management in piloting her in, she struck on the bar at half past eight A.M., just as we were finishing our breakfast, the surf running tremendously high at the time, every thing in the cabin that was loose, including all the crockery on the tables, were thrown over the floor in great disaster, added to the fear that seized the passengers, caused the greatest confusion that I have ever witnessed, a number of them stripping of all their heavy clothes, boots, etc. , prepared to swim for their lives, we being then about one fourth of a mile from the beach, the life boat was lowered down a short time after she struck, but by some mismanagement in mooring it to the vessel it broke loose and was swamped before it went two lengths toward the shore. I was laying down below all this time very sea sick as usual, and felt but indifferent to the scenes around me, and gave but little concern to the danger which threatened us, until I heard the voice of the first mate order "all hands forwards and clear away the foremast", I scrambles away upon deck, and truly the scene looked wild beyond any thing I can describe to you. The engine had stopped working, and the seas were breaking over her fore and aft to the height of at least 20 feet, a curious sort of tool between an axe and a hatchet was put to work cutting down the mast, and every little while a voice from the Captain to the passengers to keep aft, as there were great danger from the spars falling whenever she would strike from a heavy sea. The cutting down of the mast was abandoned as the vessel appeared to labor less and the sea ran more easy until she slowly drifted ashore without going to pieces, but with her back broken, about 6 o'clock P.M. , all the passengers got safe ashore, she being then high and dry when the tide went down. So you see that in my adventures by sea I have not been lucky, meeting with a shipwreck in my first trip, but at the same time fortunate that I escaped from peril. We remained two days on the beach, and had plenty of provisions, and on the second day the steamer (name unreadable) bound for Oregon made her appearance, when arrangements were made with that boat by our Captain to bring the wrecked passengers to San Francisco, to which place we arrived after a passage of two days, without any further event worthy of note. On my arrival at the great Metropolis of California for the first time, I found it almost wholly burned up, an account of it I sent you by a newspaper containing particulars. Since then another great fire has taken place. But inspite of fires and every other mishap, it is a wonderful place. The city does not extent over a large space, but the people are piled up into it, making a population estimated at least at 30,000 souls. There is of every kind and nation, but of all foreigners that attract the most attention is the Chinese, They all resemble each other as they were but one family, dress precisely alike, and mostly of the same height, which is under the middle size. Their talk is very loud, and whenever they find anything curious, they gather all around it, and you now hear noise similar to as many gobblers, accompanied with the drawing of many corks from bottles. But with all their (????) Appearance, they are a remarkable people for ingenuity, honesty and good order amongst themselves. There cannot be much less than 10,000 of these singular people in this country that have arrived within the past year, and they report that a great many more are coming out, it is said they are successful in mining. The most numerous of foreigners as permanent residents, are Frenchmen, and not withstanding the disadvantage that they labor under of not speaking English, they transact a great amount of the city business. The commerce is great to this place, but so many goods are forced to this market, of late, from all parts of the world, that they are now sold at auction every day, and in many instances as cheap as could be purchased in New York, and much cheaper. Such a gathering of all sorts of people and to such an immense number, you may suppose a great disorder in society exists. I witnessed yesterday (Sunday 24th) , in the afternoon the hanging of two men in the public street by what is called here the Vigilance Committee for the suppression of crime. It is impossible for me here to give you a proper description of the scene at this execution. There were no less than 10,000 men, but all conducted themselves quietly. Three or four good speakers addressed the crowd and made some very good speeches, which when applauded by such a mass of human beings was not very unlike the noise of thunder. The crowd finally dispersed around sundown.
Thanks Boomer and Hunter for the kind words and I am glad that this letter has been helpful to you Boomer.I never thought of the California and Australian gold rushes as having much effect in our area but obviously at least 2 Thames River residences left to find there fortune and there were probably more. Here is the conclusion of the Charles Dolsen letter. I have transcribed as best I could but some parts were hard to make out and there might be some errors.
[/u]On my arriving at San Francisco last May, the farmers in the vicinity were paying from $80 to $90 per month for laborers (first being about the highest wage paid at present) for making hay and harvesting barley. When I first came into this country it was difficult to hire hands for double the above wages, which proves that the mines are not now so profitably worked, nor nothing like it as they were last season. But we still have every now and then wonderful newspaper reports of the great success of certain miners or certain localities. For my part I have lost nearly all faith in the mines-in the first mines I was sick, and when on the Salmon River came as near starving to death, as we were on the desert, when reduced to eat mule meat. I have not heard of any of our party that came out since I left Grass Valley. A great many will leave for home this Fall. The great exciting news from Australia just brought over here, will cause a great many from this country to return. It is reported that gold is found as abundant as ever it was in California, and the country is far superior for agricultural purposes; no one here doubts about the reports and give them full credence. It will be a wonderful discovery for the surplus of Great Britain. I have been in the city this last time for nearly a week, but I have done no work just at present, on account of a swelling in the left hand which I could not well use without a good deal of pain. A new paper is about being started in a few days and I shall probably get work on it for this winter. Board is now from $10 to $14 per week, and very good, but not such as one gets at home. I made a great mistake when I came out that I did not bring a Press with me and come by water, I can almost say that I could have located in a hundred different rising towns, and made money and made it easy. Although in spite of the thousands that have been unsuccessful, this is certainly a wonderful country; it produces the best of vegetables, and the finest barley and wheat that I ever saw;; grass or wild oats grows in abundance over all hills and valleys, and for feed is almost equal to the cultivated oats; and thus accounts for the superior quality of beef of the country, and all other kinds of meat. Fish of all kind, is abundant and of the very best. It is the finest climate known for cropping, as no rain falls from May to November. But after all its advantages, there is something about the country different to any other, that prevents most of people that come here from liking to live in it. It is almost entirely destitute of any kind of wild fruit, but abounds in the most beautiful flowers that ever grew wild in any climate. While up the valley I fell in with one Neal from Texas, an intimate friend of George Dolsen before his death, was in the same Company when formed at Cincinnati and was along side of him when he was first wounded in Texas. He, often spoke of him with the strongest affection and respect as though he had lost a beloved and esteemed relative. This poor Neal was wounded by an arrow shot in his left breast last winter, by a party of Indians in this country. He suffered all but death from its effects. Since I have been roaming in the mountains, it has made me about half a savage and have lost taste for letter writing; and besides I accomplish it as one would a very tedious task, to what I would in times of yore.
This is a curious sort of population to live in, with the exception of the large cities you rarely see any body but men principally of the middle age, with here and there a sprinkling of women and children. The emigration of the latter of late has been more that treble than formerly, and a very good show there is of them now in this city. The greatest building in this city, and a curiosity worth seeing, is the Iron House from the manufacturer of Moor in Liverpool; they are three and four story high, framed and jointed together and entirely of iron, and they are of an immense weight which must make them expensive. The Vanderpelt line of steamers to Panama leave twice a month, always crowded with passengers. It is the most popular line as it is put in operation and has reduced the fare so that they now give through Tickets to New York for $125, a great many more leaves than arrives here. And most every body apparently are preparing to "go home" this fall or winter; and a great many will remain here out of spite. They admit that they would in all probability do as well in the States or perhaps better, but they cannot overcome the idea of returning from this country in most instances worse off than when they left home. I think this winter will produce much of a change in the country if it is a wet Winter. Many a fortune would have been made last winter, if there had been but half the rain of the Winter before, and have ever since been roving through the mines and at last have become disheartened, and would not do any good were they to remain ten years longer in the country. I shall in the Spring go down the coast possibly as far as Vallpariso; for it is not likely I shall return for a year or so as yet. Give my best wishes and sincere regard to all Friends and Friendly enquirers, that I am in good health and spirits but have not made a large "Pile" as yet.
Yours most Sincerely