News & Tall Tales. 1800s.Advice to the Miner
Supplemental Alta California for the Steamer Oregon
San Francisco, October 1, 1849
The Golden Emigration
We have no data by which to show conclusively the emigration to California overland this year, but our accounts from the north represent the entire body in a prosperous and healthful state. We are enabled to add that about one-fifth are already in the country, and the remainder vigorously pressing forward, in companies which are every day pouring into the Sacramento valley.
The arrivals for the month, ending September 28, at this port by sea is as follows:
Of which 122 are females.
Number of tons of shipping in the harbor of San Francisco this day: 94,344.
The following extracts are taken from a forthcoming work on California by Dr. F. P. Wierzbicki, supposing that by so doing we will give our readers the same pleasure we had in perusing it, not to mention to valuable information so much needed at present in regard to the country, and with which the work abounds:
Advice to the Miner.
On arriving in California, the gold hunters, if we may be pardoned the expression, first touch the shore at San Francisco: there they look for information how, and what are the means to get the precious metal in large quantities, that they may not stay in the country too long; if they happen to have a letter to some one in the place, or if they meet an old friend, they put a thousand questions to him faster than he is able to answer them, evidently hurried by anxiety to lose no time and opportunity. Then they will tell him about their plans, how they are going to proceed in their business, what excellent machines they bring from New York or some other place to work with, and so forth. The Americans, and particularly those that call themselves, or are called Yankees par excellence, have the reputation of putting many questions to people they happen to fall in with; but on this occasion, they are more even than Yankees in pouring upon the stranger they meet their interrogatories. Now, we propose here to benefit both parties, the annoying and annoyed; we use the expression not to disguise the matter in obscure words, as it is really the plain fact, and anticipate all such questions by suitable information, upon which they can put at least some reliance, as we are neither a merchant, a trader or speculator in land or mines.
Neither San Francisco, the City of Sacramento, nor Stockton, are the places where reliable information is to be expected by one who proposes to go to the mines, as these places may be compared to the famous Dyonius' ear, where the gentlest whisper is re-echoed a thousand times. Interest and ignorance frequently conspire in circulating extraordinary stories of success on very slender foundation, for some never have been in the mines at all, and have not the slightest idea of them, crediting every thing they hear; others have their trading post established on some particular spot, where of course the mines must be very rich. The trading portion of the inhabitants of these places see gold brought in in large quantities, but they never trouble themselves with how much labor it is got out, who has failed and who has succeeded; in fine, they hear only of constant success. The fact is, that while there are many who succeed, there are others who scarcely pay their expenses.
This should not be withheld from the knowledge of a newcomer, since in case of failure in his mining expectations, he will be somewhat prepared for such an event and will be able to make the best of it.
The newcomer on preparing himself to start for the mines, first should know what he wants for his expedition. Many start lumbered with baggage, imagining that they cannot and must not forego the indispensable comforts of life. All baggage is a burden and heavy expense to the miner; the cost and sometimes the difficulty of transportation forbid any such commodities, and besides, it will always impede his free movement, if he should want to go from place to place. He should have absolutely nothing more than what he can carry on a beast, if he be able to have one, or if not, what he can shoulder himself. The less one brings to the mines, the better prospects of success he may have, and the more he is loaded with goods, the more probably he will lose.
This is the secret why all hard-working men who are inured to hard labors and strangers to enervating comforts, such as sailors or mechanics generally do very well. The miner needs good, stout and warm clothing, just enough in quantity for a change for the sake of cleanliness; a pair of stout boots or shoes, or both, two good blankets to sleep comfortable, warm and dry; his mining tools consisting of a pick-axe, space, crowbar, a tin pan to wash gold in, a good sheath-knife and a trowel. The pick-axe and crowbar should be of a convenient size for handling and well steeled on the ends. A washing machine is used when there are two or more working in partnership. All the machines that have been brought here from the States are absolutely useless; they have proved profitable only to the vendors there. The simple machine which here is in common use consists of three light boards three feet long and about ten inches high, put together in the shape of a cradle, with two rockers underneath...
We will try to advocate the cause of poor and forlorn bachelors, and persuade some of the respectable families that have daughters to settle in life, to come to California and build up the society, which without women, is like an edifice built on sand. Women to society, is like cement to the building of stone. The society here has no such cement; its elements float to and fro upon the excited, turbulent, hurried life of California immigrants, or rather, we should say gold hunters, of all colors and shape, without any affinity. Such an aggregate or mass of human bodies have no soul...
From the San Francisco Stock Exchange
But bring women here and at once the process of crystallization, if we may be permitted the expression, will set in the society, by natural affinities of the human heart...
The people of this country of the Spanish race, possess a good deal of natural simplicity, but without the boorishness and grossness which characterize the lower orders of the Anglo-Saxon race; they are ignorant for want of opportunities of learning, but nature has not refused them capacities for acquiring knowledge: they are obliging in their disposition and hospitable; the latter virtue, however, already begins to undergo some changes since the arrival of so many foreigners; yet among themselves, or those upon whom they look favorably, the preserve their good old customs. Their women are, as a general rule, a healthy, robust, good-looking and hard-working set of beings; kindness is a universal feature among them; and if one had to choose between them and ordinary women of some civilized portions of the world, we do not hesitate to say that the California women would receive the preference. The men are somewhat disposed to idleness; but this may be owing, partly, to the facility with which they were in the habit of getting a living, and which now will have to undergo some modification.