News & Tall Tales. 1800s.
Letter from the Gold Region
Wednesday, January 3, 1849, Watertown Chronicle, Watertown, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Letter from the Gold Region
Mr. Joseph Cutting, direct from the gold mines of California, arrived at New Orleans on the 7th ult. He left San Francisco on the 11th of October, taking the overland route via the city of Mexico and Vera Cruz.
Everything was quiet in California when Mr. Cutting left. Nothing was though of or talked of but the gold region; and almost all other business than the lucrative one of gold digging was suspended. The consequence of this state of things is, that the prizes of all the necessaries of life are enormously high. Flour for instance, which was principally brought from Oregon, was selling at $50 a barrel; boots $25 per pair, shoes from $6 to $8; bad brandy from $6 to $8 a bottle; cards at $2 a pack; and for ordinary board from $12 to $16 a week.
Mr. Cutting was one year in California, and nearly six weeks in the gold diggings. During his stay in the latter place, without mining materials or assistance of any kind, and aided only such implements as a pickaxe, butcher knife, shovel and a pan to wash the dirt, he succeeded in collecting upwards of $1,500 of the pure metal. He has with him a number of samples, consisting of pieces of gold in its virgin state of the value of from thirty to thirty-five dollars each. The metal is obtain entirely by washing. Few excavations have yet been made, and none that penetrated more than seven feet below the surface.
So far as explorations have been made, it has been ascertained that gold exists on both sides of the Sierra Nevada, from 41 degrees north to so far south us the head waters of the San Joaquin river, a distance of four hundred miles in length and one hundred miles in breadth. The gold region already discovered, it is estimated, is sufficiently extensive to give profitable employment to one hundred thousand persons for generations to come. This ore is in a virgin state, disseminated in small particles, and is found in three distinct deposits -- sand and gravel beds on decomposed granite, and intermixed with a kind of slate. It is generally found from immediately beneath the surface to a distance of four feet, and its position, and the pure state in which it is found, is believed to be the result of a general volcanic eruption.
The gold region lies within about one hundred or one hundred and forty miles from San Francisco, it is about the same distance from Monterey; and the great majority of the population of these two places -- merchants, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, laborers, soldiers, seamen, deserters, Americans, Spaniards, Indians -- all have cleared out and are as busy as avarice and ambition can make them, engaged in the pleasant labor of gold finding. From November till March, embracing the interval of the rainy season, but little progress can be made in "digging." (Image: River Operations at Murderer's Bar during the California Gold Rush, c.1850)
Mr. Cutting, being regardful of his health, chose the "dry diggings" to operate in. The gold is found easier and in larger quantities in the "wet diggings," but the working in the latter is more unhealthy. The largest piece of native gold Mr. Cutting has known to be found weighted thirteen pounds. He was not so fortunate as to pick it up.
The Californian of the 22nd September has a long and interesting article on the subject of the gold mines, in which it states that during the first six weeks of the "golden times" the receipts at San Francisco of gold dust were $250,000. For the eight weeks ending on the 22nd September, they reached $800,000. The number of persons engaged in gold hunting exceeds 6,00 and one ounce per day was the lowest average for each person, while many collected hundreds of dollars for days in succession.
In the neighborhood of Los Angeles recent explorations have brought gold to light in quantities as abundant as on the American Fork. The editor of the Californian, in his paper of the 7th October, announces the discovery, and exclaims, "Really we dread the digging of a well or the grading of a street in our neighborhood."
Major T. M. Levensworth has been elected alcaldes, and B. R. Backelew and Barton Muwey councilmen of San Francisco. It may give an idea of the population of the place to say that 150 votes were cast in all for alcaldes.
A large public meeting was held at San Francisco on the 12th September to secure a fixed value for gold dust, at which it was resolved that during the present scarcity of coin there, the dust should be received as a circulating medium in ordinary business transactions at sixteen dollars per ounce and the citizens were urged to sustain the price of gold at their homes to prevent the depreciation abroad, as on its value depends the best interests of the country.
The meeting also resolved to appoint a committee of five persons to draft a memo to the Congress of the United States urging the necessity that exists for the speedy establishment of a branch mint at San Francisco. The committee consists of the following gentlemen, viz: C.V. Gillespise, Judge D. Hyde, Dr. John Townsend, Capt. J.L. Folsom and Samuel Brannan, Esq., who have prepared and published a memorial.
THE RUSH FOR California
The N.Y. Sun of the 16th December contains a list of forty vessels, steamers, ships, brings, etc., which are advertised to sail from New York for California and which are all filling up rapidly with passengers and freight. The steamers go to Chagres, while nearly all of the sail vessels go round Cape Horn. The latter is the longest, but the cheapest route, and seems to be preferred to the overland.
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