James R. Willoughby
October 1, 1849, Alta California, San Francisco, California
The following extracts are taken from a forth-coming 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 the 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 pell 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 the 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 excellance, 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.
California Gold Rush, ca. 1850. The Plaza, Marysville
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 reechoed 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 new comer, since in case of failure in his mining expectations, he will be somewhat prepared for such an event end will be able to make !the best of it.
The new comer 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 mine, 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, spade, crowbar, a tinpan to wash gold in, a good sheath-knife and a trowel. The pick-axe and crowbar should be of convenient size for handling well steeled on the ends. A washing machine is used when there are two or more working on 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.
1850. The Dream of a Prospecting Miner.
We touch here upon a subject which if we allowed ourself to speak feelingly as a bachelor, we might be even eloquent, but in the position we find ourself as a writer, we are bound to speak philosophically only, viz; look upon the question before us with that cold eye of indifference or reserve which becomes impartial judgment. We will, therefore, say nothing of ourseif; we will speak of the situation of others 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 a 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, they are but grand automaton whose springs Mammon alone makes s vibrate. Such is the society of San Francisco. But bring woman 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. There are here many worthy men who had the good luck to make a respectable competency, who would like to be married and settled in life, as honest and sensible men should do, but for want of the fair ones, they think only of getting away from here as soon as possible. Now the country by this state of society, loses much in many respects, besides losing many valuable inhabitants; and those who stay behind, intend to do the same when their turn comes.
This would not be so if some pleasant families from the States, rich, if in nothing else, in intelligent home-educated daughters; they could well provide for all their members here with much more ease, as yet, than in any portion of the Union. These families must be easy in their circumstance, so that they may be able to buy farming lands where they should settle, and by natural growth of landed property they would in a few years find themselves wealthy. This country is particularly fitted to that class of people who once knew what is affluence, and who by a sudden turn of the wheel of fortune, found their means reduced to mediocrity. Life in California, although, must have its inconveniences, belonging to a thinly inhabited country, yet it cannot be compared to anything like life in the new settlements in the Western States or Oregon.
If people only were willing to take it easy, they would, ninety-nine out of a hundred, even like it. The population here is much more ready to take at once, or very soon, an Agreeable and polished form, than could be expected in any other new country. There is something in the climate, we of course except San Francisco and the Valley of the Sacramento, which pre-disposes one to contentment; the sunny skies for so long a portion of the year, have an exhilarating influence upon the mind, and so much so, that we have known cases of Americans who are in the habit of carrying care-worn visages, in their country, acquire here a smiling and contented countenance, smoothed by placidity. Indeed, we would recommend as a remedy to all vinegar-faced, care-corroded gentry, that are well to do in the world, to come and settle in the rich valleys of California, where good health and azure skies can be enjoyed; where winter does not touch you with its freezing hand.
The people of this country of the Spanish race, possess a good deal of natural simplicity, but without that 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, they 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, although in point of information they are deficient. 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. As a nation they are lively, and cannot be said to be vicious: in fine, they have sufficient good qualities to make up for their deficiencies. Such as these good people are, they do not offer much temptation to foreigners who have seen higher forms of civilization, to become commingled with them, but they have some good elements among them, and if respectable families from the States and Europe would, come out here, the different races would soon be mixed up, and make, before many years, one of the most pleasant societies. By such an immigration the country would gain vastly, because then the many young men who come over would here form their family ties and would bind their interest with the interest and welfare of the country. But as it is, the country unavoidably must receive a check in its progress, as it will be only inhabited by passers-by, to to speak, who will have no permanent interest in it.