Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

California by J. Tyrwhitt Brooks

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.



Four Months among the Gold-Finders, Being the Diary of an Expedition
from San Francisco to the Gold Districts



Lith de Thierry Freres a Paris]


The accompanying diary--some interesting circumstances connected
with which will be found in a letter given at the end of the present
volume--was sent home by the Author merely for the entertainment of
the members of his own family and a few private friends. It has been
submitted to the public in the hope that, as an authentic record of
a variety of interesting particulars connected with the original
discovery and present condition of the Gold Districts of California,
it will not fail to prove acceptable.

London, 1849.


Clearing the Faranolles
Making the entrance to the Bay of San Francisco
The passage through the Strait
Appearance of the Bay
Town of San Francisco
The anchor is let go
The Author goes on shore
His bad luck
Sweeting's Hotel
The Author and Mr. Malcolm propose visiting the American settlements
They become acquainted with Captain Fulsom and Mr. Bradley
Object of the Author's visit to California
Mr. McPhail leaves for Sonoma
The Houses of San Francisco, and their inhabitants
Native California
Senoritas and cigarettos.

... I felt heartily glad to hear that we were then clearing the
Faranolles, and soon hurried up on deck, but we continued beating
about for several hours before we made the entrance to the Bay of San
Francisco. At length, however, we worked our way in between the two
high bluffs, and along a strait a couple of miles wide and nearly five
miles long, flanked on either side with bold broken hills--passing on
our right hand the ricketty-looking fortifications erected by the
Spaniards for the defence of the passage, but over which the Yankee
stars and stripes were now floating. On leaving the strait we found
ourselves on a broad sheet of rippling water looking like a great
inland lake, hemmed in on all sides by lofty hills on which innumerable
herds of cattle and horses were grazing, with green islands and clusters
of rock rising up here and there, and a little fleet of ships riding at
anchor. On our right was the town of San Francisco.

I had suffered so much from the voyage, that when the anchor was let
go I felt no inclination to hurry on shore. McPhail and Malcolm,
however, went off, but promised to return to the ship that night. I
soon after turned into my hammock, and, thanks to the stillness of the
water in which we rode, slept soundly till morning.

_April 29th_.--This morning we all rose early, and went on shore.
The little baggage we had we took in the boat. Malcolm told me that he
had heard the war was over between the United States and Mexico, and I
bitterly congratulated myself on experiencing my usual run of bad
luck. We made our way to Sweeting's hotel, which Malcolm and McPhail
had visited yesterday, and stated to be the best of the three hotels
which have sprung up here since the Americans became masters of the

Malcolm intends making an excursion to the interior. He proposes to
visit the American settlements, and to satisfy himself as to the
reputed advantages which California presents as an agricultural
country. I have agreed to accompany him. We have fallen in with two
very pleasant American gentlemen at our hotel to-day--one, a Captain
Fulsom, holding some appointment under Government here; the other, a
young friend of his named Bradley. We had some conversation together
on the subject of the Mexican war, in the course of which I learnt
that Mr. Bradley has been a resident in California for the last eight
years, and that he was one of the officers of the volunteer corps
attached to the army of the United States, while military operations
were going on in this country. I told him of my desire to enter as a
surgeon in the service of the States, and he promised to speak to
Captain Fulsom on the subject, and obtain from him a letter to Colonel
Mason, the new governor; but he is afraid there is little chance of my
meeting with success, as nearly all the volunteer corps have been, or
are about to be, disbanded. Both Mr. Bradley and Captain Fulsom speak
very favourably of the climate and soil of California, and say that an
enterprising agriculturist is sure to make a speedy fortune. Mr.
Bradley, who has agreed to accompany us on our trip, strongly advises
Malcolm to shift his quarters from Oregon, and settle here, saying
that he is sure my friend will do so when he has once seen the farms
in the Sacramento valley, whither we are to start early next week.
McPhail left us to-day, to make a trip to Sonoma.

San Francisco, although as yet but a poor place, will no doubt become
a great emporium of commerce. The population may be about a couple of
thousands; of these two-thirds are Americans. The houses, with the
exception of some few wooden ones which have been shipped over here by
the Americans, are nearly all built of unburnt bricks. The appearance
of the native Californian is quite Spanish. The men wear high
steeple-like hats, jackets of gaudy colours, and breeches of velvet,
generally cotton. They are a handsome swarthy race. The best part in
the faces of the women are their eyes, which are black and very
lustrous. The Californian belles, I am sorry to say, spoil their teeth
by smoking cigarettos.


Start for Monterey
Horse equipments in California
The advantages of them
Rifles and Ruffians
Californian Scenery
Immense herds of cattle
Mission of Santa Clara
Pueblo of San Jose
A Californian farm-house
What it is like inside and out
Prolific crops of wheat
The journey is resumed
Mission of San Jose
Arrival at Monterey
The Author's visit to Colonel Mason
Surgeons not wanted in California
Rumours of gold being found on the Sacramento
Characteristics of Monterey
Don Luis Palo and his sisters
What all Californian dinners consist of
The party return to San Francisco.

Monterey.--_May 4th_.--Started off early on the morning of the 2nd on
our journey to Monterey. We found our horses in readiness in the hotel
yard, in charge of a servant (here called a vaquero) of Mr. Bradley's.
The latter, having business to transact at Monterey, accompanied
us. My horse was equipped after the Spanish fashion, with the usual
high-pommelled cumbrous saddle, with a great show of useless trappings,
and clumsy wooden stirrups, and for a long time I found the riding
sufficiently disagreeable, though, doubtless, far more pleasant than
a coast journey would have been, with a repetition of the deadly
sea-sickness from which I had already suffered so much. I soon found
out, too, the advantages of the Spanish saddle, as enabling one to
keep one's seat when travelling over thorough broken country through
which our road ran. Bradley had told us to have our rifles in
readiness, as no one travels any distance here without that very
necessary protection, the mountains near the coast being infested with
lawless gangs of ruffians, who lie in wait for solitary travellers.

The first part of our ride lay through a dense thicket of underwood,
and afterwards across parched up valleys, and over low sandy hills;
then past large grazing grounds--where cattle might be counted by the
thousand--and numerous ranchos or farms, the white farm buildings,
surrounded by little garden patches, scattered over the hill sides.
We at length came to an extensive plain, with groups of oaks spread
over its surface, and soon afterwards reached the neglected Mission of
Santa Clara, where we halted for a few hours. On leaving here our road
was over a raised causeway some two or three miles in length, beneath
an avenue of shady trees, which extended as far as the outskirts of
the town of St. Jose. This town, or pueblo as it is called, is nothing
more than a mass of ill-arranged and ill built houses, with an ugly
church and a broad plaza, peopled by three or four hundred inhabitants.
Not being used to long journeys on horseback, I felt disposed to stop
here for the night, but Bradley urged us to proceed a few miles farther,
where we could take up our quarters at a rancho belonging to a friend
of his. Accordingly we pushed on, and, after a ride of about seven
miles, diverged from the main road, and soon reached the farm-house,
where we were well entertained, and had a good night's rest.

Like the generality of houses in California, this was only one story
high, and was built of piles driven into the ground, interlaced with
boughs and sticks, and then plastered over with mud and whitewashed.
The better class of farm-houses are built of adobes, or unburnt
bricks, and tiled over. The interior was as plain and cheerless as it
well could be. The floor was formed of the soil, beaten down till it
was as firm and hard as a piece of stone. The room set apart for our
sleeping accommodation boasted as its sole ornaments a Dutch clock and
a few gaudily-coloured prints of saints hung round the walls. The beds
were not over comfortable, but we were too tired to be nice. In the
morning I took a survey of the exterior, and saw but few cattle
stalled in the sheds around the house. The greater part, it sterns,
after being branded, are suffered to run loose over the neighbouring
pastures. There was a well-cultivated garden in the rear of the house,
with abundance of fruit trees and vegetables.

While we were at breakfast, Malcolm asked our host several questions
about his crops, and soon found that he was no practical agriculturist.
He had, however, at Bradley's suggestion, discarded the native wooden
plough for the more effective American implement. He told us that he
calculated his crop of wheat this year would yield a hundred fanegas
for every one sown; and, on our expressing our surprise at such a
bountiful return, said that sixty or over was the usual average. If
so, the soil must be somewhat wonderful. After expressing our thanks,
for the hospitality shown us, to the wife of our host, who was a very
pretty little dark-eyed woman, with a most winning way about her, we
started off to resume our journey. For my own part, I felt very loth
to proceed, for I was terribly fatigued by my performance of yesterday,
and suffered not a little from that disagreeable malady called
"saddle-sickness." Our Californian accompanied us some short distance
on our road, which lay for many miles through a wide valley, watered
by a considerable stream, and overgrown with oaks and sycamores. Low
hills rose on either hand, covered with dark ridges of lofty pine
trees, up which herds of elk and deer were every now and then seen
scampering. We at length entered upon a narrow road through a range of
green sheltering hills, and, passing the Mission of San Juan, crossed
a wide plain and ascended the mountain ridge which lay between us and
Monterey, where we arrived late in the day.

Next morning Mr. Bradley accompanied me to the Governor's house, where
we saw Colonel Mason, the new governor of the State. He received us
with great politeness, but said that the war, if war it deserved to be
called, was now at an end, that but a small number of troops were
stationed in the country, and that there was no vacancy for a surgeon.
"Indeed," he said, "considering that we have given up head-breaking,
and the climate is proverbially healthy, California is hardly the place
for doctors to settle in. Besides," said he, "the native Californians
all use the Temescal (a sort of air-bath) as a remedy for every
disorder." Colonel Mason then asked Mr. Bradley if he had heard the
reports of gold having been found on the Sacramento, as Mr. Fulsom had
casually mentioned in a letter to him that such rumours were prevalent
at San Francisco. Bradley replied that he had heard something about it,
but believed that there was no truth in the matter, although a few
fools had indeed rushed off to the reputed gold mines forthwith. With
this our interview terminated.

Monterey seems to be a rising town. The American style of houses is
superseding the old mud structures, and numbers of new huildings are
being run up every month. The hotel we stopped at has only been
recently opened by an American. Monterey is moreover a port of some
importance, if one may judge from the number of vessels lying at

_May 7th_.--On Friday we dined at the house of Don Luis Palo, a
Californian gentleman of agreeable manners, whose father held office
here under the Spanish government previous to the Mexican Revolution.
I believe it is Don Luis's intention shortly to return to Spain. He is
unmarried, and his two sisters are the handsomest women I have yet
seen in this country; their beauty is quite of the Spanish style. A
dinner in California seems to be always the same--first soup and then
beef, dressed in various ways, and seasoned with chillies, fowls,
rice, and beans, with a full allowance of pepper and garlic to each

On Saturday we set out on our return, and after two days' hard riding
reached San Francisco to-day at 4, P.M.


An arrival at San Francisco from the gold district
Captain Fulsom intends visiting the mine
The first Alcalde and others examine the gold
Parties made up for the diggings
Newspaper reports
The Government officers propose taking possession of the mine
The Author and his friends decide to visit the Sacramento Valley
A horse is bought
Increase of the gold excitement
Work-people strike work and prepare to move off
Lawyers, storekeepers, and others follow their example
The Author's journey delayed
Ten dollars a day for a negro waiter
Waiting for a saddler
Don Luis Palo arrives from Monterey on his way to the mines
The report of the Government taking possession of the mines
Desertion of part of the Monterey garrison
Rumoured extent of the mines
The Author and his friends agree to go in company
Return of McPhail
Preparations for the journey
"Gone to the diggings."

_May 8th_.--Captain Fulsom called at Sweeting's to-day. He had seen a
man this morning who reported that he had just come from a river called
the American Fork, about one hundred miles in the interior, where he
had been gold-washing. Captain Fulsom saw the gold he had with him; it
was about twenty-three ounces weight, and in small flakes. The man
stated that he was eight days getting it, but Captain Fulsom hardly
believed this. He says that he saw some of this gold a few weeks since,
and thought it was only "mica," but good judges have pronounced it to
be genuine metal. He talks, however, of paying a visit to the place
where it is reported to come from. After he was gone Bradley stated
that the Sacramento settlements, which Malcolm wished to visit, were
in the neighbourhood of the American Fork, and that we might go there
together; he thought the distance was only one hundred and twenty

_May 10th_.--Yesterday and to-day nothing has been talked of but the
new gold "placer," as people call it. It seems that four other men had
accompanied the person Captain Fulsom saw yesterday, and that they had
each realized a large quantity of gold. They left the "diggings" on the
American Fork (which it seems is the Rio de los Americanos, a tributary
to the Sacramento) about a week ago, and stopt a day or two at Sutter's
fort, a few miles this side of the diggings, on their way; from there
they had travelled by boat to San Francisco. The gold they brought has
been examined by the first Alcalde here, and by all the merchants in
the place. Bradley showed us a lump weighing a quarter of an ounce,
which he had bought of one of the men, and for which he gave him three
dollars and a half. I have no doubt in my own mind about its being
genuine gold. Several parties, we hear, are already made up to visit
the diggings; and, according to the newspaper here, a number of people
have actually started off with shovels, mattocks, and pans to dig the
gold themselves. It is not likely, however, that this will be allowed,
for Captain Fulsom has already written to Colonel Mason about taking
possession of the mine on behalf of the Government, it being, as he
says, on public land.

_May 13_.--It is now finally settled that we start off on Wednesday to
the Sacramento Valley. To-day, under Bradley's direction, I have bought
a good horse, for which I paid only fifteen dollars. It will be very
little more expense than hiring a horse of the hotel-master here,
besides being far more agreeable to have a horse of one's own; for
everybody, the commonest workman even, rides in this country. The gold
excitement increases daily, as several fresh arrivals from the mines
have been reported at San Francisco. The merchants eagerly buy up the
gold brought by the miners, and no doubt, in many cases, at prices
considerably under its value. I have heard, though, of as much as
sixteen dollars an ounce having been given in some instances, which I
should have thought was over rather than under the full value of gold
in the United States. I confess I begin to feel seriously affected with
the prevailing excitement, and am anxious for Wednesday to arrive.

_May 17th_.--This place is now in a perfect furor of excitement; all the
work-people have struck. Walking through the town to-day, I observed
that labourers were employed only upon about half a-dozen of the fifty
new buildings which were in course of being run up. The majority of the
mechanics at this place are making preparations for moving off to the
mines, and several hundred people of all classes--lawyers, store-keepers,
merchants, etc.,--are bitten with the fever; in fact, there is a
regular gold mania springing up. I counted no less than eighteen houses
which were closed, the owners having left. If Colonel Mason is moving a
force to the American Fork, as is reported here, their journey will be
in vain.

Our trip has been delayed to-day, for the saddler cannot get our
equipments in readiness for at least forty-eight hours. He says that
directly he has finished the job he shall start off himself to the
diggings. I have bribed him with promises of greatly increased pay not
to disappoint us again. As it was, we were to pay him a very high
price, which he demanded on account of three of his men having left
him, and there being only himself and two workmen to attend to our

I told Mr. Bradley of our misfortune. He promised to wait for us, but
recommended me to keep going in and out of the saddler's all day long,
in order to make sure that the man was at work, otherwise we might be
kept hanging about for a fortnight.

_May 20th_.--It requires a full amount of patience to stay quietly
watching the proceedings of an inattentive tradesman amid such a
whirlpool of excitement as is now in action. Sweeting tells me that his
negro waiter has demanded and receives ten dollars a-day. He is forced
to submit, for "helps" of all kinds are in great demand, and very
difficult to meet with. Several hundred people must have left here
during the last few days. Malcolm and I have our baggage all in
readiness to start on Monday.

_May 22nd_.--To-day all our arrangements have been changed; the saddler
did not keep his promise, and while Malcolm, Bradley, and myself were
venting our indignation against him, Don Luis Palo made his appearance.
The gold fever had spread to Monterey, and he had determined to be off
to the mines at once. He had brought his servant (a converted Indian,
named Jose) with him, and extra horses with his baggage; he intended to
set to work himself at the diggings, and meant to take everything he
required with him. He says the report about Colonel Mason's moving a
force off to the mines to take possession of them is all nonsense; that
some of the garrison of Monterey have already gone there, is quite
true, but they have deserted to dig sold on their own account. Colonel
Mason, he says, knows too well that he has no efficient force for such
a purpose, and that, even if he had, he would not be able to keep his
men together. It appears, also, that the mines occupy several miles of
ground, the gold not being confined to one particular spot. On hearing
this intelligence we at once determined to follow Don Luis's example,
and although there seemed a certain degree of absurdity in four people,
all holding some position in society, going off on what might turn out
to be only a fool's errand, still the evidence we had before us, of the
gold which had actually been found, and the example of the multitudes
who were daily hastening to the diggings, determined us to go with the
rest. We therefore held a council upon the best method of proceeding,
at which every one offered his suggestions.

While we were thus engaged, McPhail, our fellow-passenger from Oregon,
made his appearance, having only just then returned from Sonoma. He had
heard a great deal about the new gold placer, and he had merely come
back for his baggage, intending to start off for the mines forthwith.
The result of our deliberations was to this effect. Each man was to
furnish himself with one good horse for his own use, and a second horse
to carry his personal baggage, as well as a portion of the general
outfit; we were each to take a rifle, holster pistols, etc. It was
agreed, moreover, that a tent should be bought immediately, if such a
thing could be procured, as well as some spades, and mattocks, and a
good stout axe, together with a collection of blankets and hides, and a
supply of coffee, sugar, whisky, and brandy; knives, forks, and plates,
with pots and kettles, and all the requisite cooking utensils for a
camp life. The tent is the great difficulty, and fears are entertained
that we shall not be able to procure one; but Bradley thinks he might
buy one out of the Government stores.

I followed the saddler well up during the day, and was fortunate enough
to obtain our saddles, saddle-bags, etc., by four o'clock. On going to
his house a couple of hours after about some trifling alteration I
wished made, I found it shut up and deserted. On the door was pasted a
paper with the following words, "Gone to the diggings."


The party leave San Francisco
Cross to Sausalitto with horses and baggage
Appearance of the cavalcade
Jose's method of managing horses
Character of the country passed through
Stay at Sonoma for the night
A Yankee hotel-keeper's notion
The Author meets with Lieutenant Sherman
Receives from him a letter of introduction to Captain Sutter
Napper Valley
Sleep at the house of a settler
Troublesome bedfellows
Wild-looking scenery
Bradley is injured by a fall from his horse
Difficulties in the way of pitching a tent
A hint to the bears
Supper and bed
Resume the journey
Sacramento valley
Elk and wild fowl
A long halt
A hunting party
A missing shot.

Sonoma.--_May 24th_.--This morning at last saw us off. We left San
Francisco shortly after seven, and embarked with our horses and baggage
in a launch, which landed us at Sausalitto before ten. From thence we
made our way to Sonoma, where we put up for the night. We formed quite
a cavalcade, and presented a tolerably imposing appearance. First came
the horses (six in number), which carried our baggage, camp equipments,
etc. After these came Jose, Don Luis's Indian servant (who seems to be
a far more lively fellow than Indians are generally), having these
extra horses in his charge; and he really managed them admirably. For
what with whistling, and coaxing, and swearing, and swinging his
"riatta" over their heads, he had them as much under his command as
ever a crack dragsman had his four-in-hand in the good old coaching
times of my own dear England. We followed after, riding, when the road
would admit of it, all abreast, and presenting a bold front to any gang
of desperadoes who might be daring enough to attack us. There was
little fear of this, however, for we hardly rode a mile without falling
in with scattered parties bound to the gold mines.

We made our way but slowly during the first portion of our ride, for
the road wound up steep hills and down into deep hollows, but when at
last we came upon a winding valley some miles in extent, our horses got
over the ground in a style which only Californian steeds could achieve
after the hard work which had already been performed. Towards evening,
we crossed the hills which divided the valley from Sonoma plain, and on
reaching Sonoma put up at an hotel recently opened here by a citizen
from the United States, who coolly told us, in the course of
conversation, that he guessed he didn't intend shearing off to the gold
mines, until he had drawn a few thousand dollars from the San Francisco
folk who pass through here to and from the diggings.

_May 27th_.--We stopped at Sonoma the greater part of Thursday, to give
our horses rest. At the hotel, I met Lieutenant Sherman, who had
brought dispatches to the officer in command here from Colonel Mason. I
was much delighted in again meeting with this gentleman, and we had a
long talk together over the merry times we had when we were both
slaying at Washington. When he heard our destination he kindly offered
to give me a letter of introduction to a very old friend of his,
Captain Sutter, the proprietor of Sutter's fort, and one of the
earliest settlers on the Sacramento. I availed myself of his offer, and
about three o'clock we started off across the plain, and made our way
through the groves of fine oak trees which cover it in every direction.
We next ascended the hills which lay between us and Napper Valley, and,
after crossing them, made for the house of an American settler, a
friend of Bradley's, who provided us with the best accommodation his
house would furnish for the night. We turned in early, but the legions
of fleas which were our bedfellows exerted themselves to such a degree
that for hours sleep was out of the question. The country is terribly
plagued with these vermin. I do not know how the settlers get on;
perhaps they are accustomed to the infliction, but a stranger feels it

The next day we travelled over the corresponding range of hills to
those crossed on Thursday, and were soon in the midst of a much
wilder-looking country--a rapid succession of steep and rugged
mountains, thickly timbered with tall pine-trees and split up with
deep precipitous ravines, hemming in beautiful and fertile valleys,
brilliant with golden flowers and dotted over with noble oaks. While
we were riding down one of these dangerous chasms, Bradley, who was
showing off his superior equitation, was thrown from his horse, and
fell rather severely on his arm. On examining it, I was surprised to
find he had escaped a fracture. As it is, he has injured it sufficiently
to prevent him from using the limb for several days. I bandaged it up,
put it in a sling, and he proceeded in a more cautious manner.

To-night we used our tent for the first time. We were somewhat awkward
in pitching it, and three times did the whole structure come down by
the run, burying several of us in the flapping canvas, and inflicting
some tolerably hard knocks with the poles. However, at length we
succeeded in getting it fixed; and, kindling a blazing fire close to
it, as a polite intimation to the bears that they were not wanted,
cooked our supper over the embers, and then, wrapped in our blankets,
slept far better than the fleas had allowed us to do the night before.

This morning I examined Bradley's arm, and was glad to find the
inflammation somewhat reduced. He was bruised a good deal about the
body generally, and complained to-day sorely of the pain he felt while
being jolted over the broken ground which we crossed in our ascent of
the tall mountains that bound the Sacramento Valley. From their summit
we obtained a noble view of the broad winding river and its smaller
tributaries, thickly studded with islands overgrown with noble oaks and
sycamores. We encamped to-night at the foot of these hills, near a
little stream which gurgled merrily by. We have seen several herds of
elk to-day, and a large quantity of wild fowl.

_Sunday, May 28th_.--To-day we made a long halt, for we were all
exceedingly tired, and some of our pack-horses, which were heavily
laden, showed symptoms of "giving out." We determined, therefore, to
stay here till late in the day, and then to follow the course of the
creek for a few miles, and there pitch our tent. Turning our horses
loose to graze, several of the party went off on a hunting excursion on
foot, but their only success was about a score of wild geese, which are
very plentiful in the marshy land bordering the creek. I got a shot at
an elk which came down to the water to drink, but he made off unhurt.


Encampment for the night
Symptoms of neighbours not far off
Reach the Sacramento River
Sutter's Fort
Captain Sutter
His offer of accommodation
Various matters to be seen to
A walk through the Fort
Desertion of the guard to the "diggings"
Work and whisky
Indians and their bargains
A chief's effort to look like a civilised being
Yankee traders
Indians and trappers
"Beats beaver skins"
Death to the weakest
A regular Spanish Don and his servant
Captain Sutter a Swiss Guard
His prejudice in favour of "constituted authorities."

_May 29th_.--Last night we encamped under a group of oaks, and we "knew
by the smoke that so gracefully curled" over other parts of the valley,
that there were several other camps pitched at no great distance. When
we started in the morning we fell in with a few parties moving towards
the Sacramento. A ride of a few hours brought us to the borders of that
noble river, which was here about a couple of hundred yards wide, and
we immediately made preparations for crossing it. After several mishaps
and delays, we at length succeeded in getting over in a launch. The
new town of Suttersville, numbering some ten or twelve houses, is laid
out within half a mile of the banks of the river. From here a brisk
ride over a level plain--parcelled out into fields of wheat and
pasture-grounds, dotted with hundreds upon hundreds of grazing cattle,
and here and there a loitering team--brought us to Sutter's Fort, an
extensive block of building planted on the top of a small hill which
skirts a creek running into the Americanos, near its junction with the
Rio Sacramento. A schooner and some small craft were beating up the
Americanos River towards the Fort, and alongside the landing-place
several launches were lying unshipping cargoes. As we made the spot,
we soon saw that here all was bustle and activity. Boatmen were
shouting and swearing; wagoners were whistling and hallooing and
cracking their whips at their straining horses, as these toiled along
with heavily-laden wagons to the different stores within the building;
groups of horsemen were riding to and fro, and crowds of people were
moving about on foot. It was evident that the gold mania increased in
force as we approached the now eagerly longed for El Dorado.

On inquiring of a squaw we met at the entrance of the Fort, and who
knew just sufficient English to understand our question, she pointed
out to us as Captain Sutter a very tall good-looking sort of personage,
wearing a straw hat and loose coat and trousers of striped duck, but
with features as unlike those of a Yankee as can well be imagined. I at
once introduced myself, and handed him the letter which Lieutenant
Sherman had given me. After reading it, the Captain informed me that he
was happy enough to see me, although he feared, from the great change
which a few weeks had made in this part of the world, that he could
offer me but indifferent hospitality. Every store and shed was being
crammed with bales of goods, barrels of flour, and a thousand other
things for which a demand has suddenly sprung up. The Captain's own
house was indeed just like an hotel crowded with many more visitors
than it could accommodate; still no one who came there, so the Captain
was good enough to say, recommended by his friend Sherman, should have
other than an hospitable reception. All that he could do, however, he
said, would be to place one sleeping-room at my service for myself and
such of my friends as I liked to share it with; and, leaving me to
arrange the matter with them, he went away, promising to return and
show us our quarters.

I told my companions of the Captain's offer, but they were satisfied to
rough it out of doors again to-night, and it was arranged that only
Bradley and myself should accept the sleeping accommodation offered by
Captain Sutter, as a good night's rest in comfortable quarters would be
more beneficial to our friend with the injured limb, than an outdoor
nap with a single blanket for a bed and a saddle for a pillow.

Two of our horses having cast their shoes, Malcolm and Jose walked them
round to the blacksmith's shop, where, after their losses were
repaired, a stock of shoes, nails, etc., were to be laid in for future
contingencies. McPhail and our Spanish friend undertook at the same
time to purchase a ten days' supply of provisions for us, and Bradley
agreed to look about the Fort and see if he could meet with another
servant. In this errand, I am sorry to say, he was not successful.

While these several commissions were executing, the Captain returned
and walked with me through the Fort. On our way he pointed out the
guard-house, the Indian soldiers attached to which had deserted to the
mines almost to a man; the woollen factory, with some thirty women
still at work; the distillery house, where the famous pisco is made;
and the blacksmiths' and wheelwrights' shops, with more work before
them than the few mechanics left will be able to get through in a
month. Yet all these men talked of starting off to the diggings in a
day or two. The Captain told me he had only been able to keep them by
greatly increased pay, and by an almost unlimited allowance of pisco
and whisky.

It was not easy to pick our way through the crowds of strange people
who were moving backwards and forwards in every direction. Carts were
passing to and fro; groups of Indians squatting on their haunches were
chattering together, and displaying to one another the flaring red and
yellow handkerchiefs, the scarlet blankets, and muskets of the most
worthless Brummagem make, for which they had been exchanging their bits
of gold, while their squaws looked on with the most perfect
indifference. I saw one chief, who had gone for thirty years with no
other covering than a rag to hide his nakedness, endeavouring to thrust
his legs into a pair of sailor's canvas trousers with very indifferent

Inside the stores the bustle and noise were oven greater. Some
half-a-dozen sharp-visaged Yankees, in straw hats and loose frocks,
were driving hard bargains for dollars with the crowds of customers who
were continually pouring in to barter a portion of their stock of gold
for coffee and tobacco, breadstuff, brandy, and bowie-knives: of spades
and mattocks there were none to be had. In one corner, at a railed-off
desk, a quick-eyed old man was busily engaged, with weights and scales,
setting his own value on the lumps of golden ore or the bags of dust
which were being handed over to him, and in exchange for which he told
out the estimated quantity of dollars. Those dollars quickly returned
to the original deposit, in payment for goods bought at the other end
of the store.

Among the clouds of smoke puffed forth by some score of pipes and as
many cigarettos, there were to be seen, mingled together, Indians of
various degrees of civilisation, and corresponding styles of dress,
varying from the solitary cloth kilt to the cotton shirts and jackets
and trousers of Russia duck; with groups of trappers from as far up as
Oregon, clad in coats of buffalo hide, and with faces and hands so
brown and wrinkled that one would take their skins to be as tough as
the buffalo's, and almost as indifferent to a lump of lead. "Captain,"
said one of these gentry, shaking a bag of gold as we passed, "I guess
this beats beaver skins--eh, captain?" Another of them, who had a
savage-looking wolf-dog with him, was holding a palaver with an
Indian from the borders of the Klamath Lake; and the most friendly
understanding seemed to exist between them. "You see those two
scoundrels?" said the Captain to me. "They look and talk for all the
world like brothers; but only let either of them get the chance of a
shot at the other after scenting his trail, may be for days, across
those broad hunting-grounds, where every man they meet they look upon
as a foe, and the one that has the quickest eye and the readiest hand
will alone live to see the sun rise next day."

Threading his way amongst the crowd, I was somewhat struck by the
appearance of a Spanish Don of the old school, looking as magnificent
as a very gaudy light blue jacket with silver buttons and scarlet
trimmings, and breeches of crimson velvet, and striped silk sash, and
embroidered deer-skin shoes, and a perfumed cigaretto could make him.
He wore his slouched sombrero jauntily placed on one side, and beneath
it, of course, the everlasting black silk handkerchief, with the
corners dangling over the neck behind. Following him was his servant,
in slouched hat and spangled garters, carrying an old Spanish musket
over his shoulder, and casting somewhat timid looks at the motley
assemblage of Indians and trappers, who every now and then jostled
against him. Beyond these, there were a score or two of go-ahead
Yankees--"gentlemen traders," I suppose they called themselves--with a
few pretty Californian women, who are on their way with their husbands
to the mines. I noticed that the Captain had a word for almost every
one, and that he seemed to be held in very great respect.

Bradley informed me to-night of the origin of a scar which is just
distinguishable in Captain Sutter's face. It seems that the Captain,
who is a Swiss, was one of Charles the Tenth's guards in 1830, and that
a slight cut from the sabre of one of the youths of the Polytechnic
School had left in his visage a standing memorial of the three glorious
days. Indeed the Captain seems generally to have taken the side of the
constituted authorities, as in thy revolution of 1845 he turned out
with all his people for the Mexican Government. However, he was more
fortunate in California than in Paris, as he didn't even get his skin
scratched on this occasion.


The journey delayed
A walk to the camp
A list of wants
Captain Sutter's account of his first settlement in California
How he served the Indians, and how he civilised them
Captain Sutter's wife and daughter
Ridiculous stories about the discovery of the goldmines
Joe Smith's prophecy
An Indian ghost
Something about a ship-load of rifles.

_May 30th_.--To my great disappointment, our journey was not resumed
to-day. As I had expected, Malcolm had found there was no chance of
getting the farrier's assistance yesterday, and he came to me in the
evening to inform me that he and the rest were going into camp for the
night. Bradley and myself found an ample supper prepared for us; and,
after doing due justice to the eatables, and dressing Bradley's arm, I
shortened the night a couple of hours by jotting down the events of the

This morning I rose early and walked to the camp, which I found, about
half a mile off, under some oaks in a piece of pasture land on the
Captain's farm. I had some difficulty in finding it out, for there were
at least fifteen or twenty tents of one kind or another in the
"bottom." The party were all roused, and breakfast was preparing under
Don Luis's superintendence. It was the general opinion that we must buy
two extra horses to carry our breadstuffs, etc. Malcolm reported that
there were a variety of articles we were still in want of; namely, tin
drinking-cups, some buckets for water, with forks, and other small
articles. He recommended that a couple more axes and a strong saw be
bought at Brannan's, together with hammers, nails, etc., and some of
the Indian baskets which seem to be so common about here.

On my return to the Fort, I fell in with the Captain, rigged out in a
military undress uniform. I chatted with him for half an hour about his
farm, etc. He told me that he was the first white man who settled in
this part of the country; that some ten years ago, when the Mexican
government was full of colonization schemes, the object of which was to
break up the Missions, and to introduce a population antagonistic to
the Californians, he received a grant of land, sixty miles one way and
twelve another, about sixteen or seventeen hundred acres of which he
had now brought under cultivation. "When I came here," said the
Captain, "I knew the country and the Indians well. Eight years ago
these fields were overgrown with long rank grass, with here and there
an oak or pine sprouting out from the midst. You can see what they are
now. As to the Indians, they gave me a little more trouble. I can boast
of fourteen pieces of cannon, though one has little occasion for them
now, except to fire a few salutes on days of rejoicing. Well! most of
these guns came from Ross within the last four years; but when I first
arrived here, I brought with me a couple of howitzers, from which one
night, when these thieves were hemming me in on all sides, I discharged
a shell right over their heads. The mere sight of it, when it bursted,
was sufficient to give them a very respectful notion of the fighting
means at my command. But though this saved me from any direct attack,
it did not secure me against having my horses and cattle stolen on
every convenient occasion." The Captain went on to say, that he at last
brought the Indians pretty well under control; and that, by promises of
articles of clothing, they became willing to work for him. He took good
care to trust very few of them with rifles or powder and shot. Nearly
every brick in the buildings of the Fort, he tells me, was made by the
Indians, who, moreover, dug all the ditches dividing his wheat-fields.
These ditches are very necessary, to prevent the large number of cattle
and horses on the farm from straying among the crops.

On our way to the house, I got the Captain to speak to the head
blacksmith about our horses, after which we went in to breakfast, when
I saw his wife and daughter for the first time. They are both very
ladylike women, and both natives of France. During the meal, I found
Captain Sutter communicative on the subject of the discovery of the
gold mines, which I was very glad of, as I was anxious to learn the
true particulars of the affair, respecting which so many ridiculous
stories had been circulated. One was to the effect that the mines had
been discovered by the Mormons, in accordance with a prophecy made by
the famous Joe Smith. Another tale was, that the Captain had seen the
apparition of an Indian chief, to whom he had given a rifle (the
possession of which he only lived three months to enjoy, having been
trampled down by a buffalo in the neighbourhood of the Rocky Mountains,
on his way with his tribe to make an attack on the Pawnees), when the
ghost in question told the Captain that he would make him very rich,
and begged that, with this promised cash, the Captain would immediately
buy a ship-load of rifles, and present one to every member of his
tribe. Such were the absurd stories circulated. The true account of the
discovery I here give, as near as I can recollect, in the Captain's own


Captain Sutter's account of the first discovery of the gold
His surprise at Mr. Marshall's appearance at the Fort
Mr. Marshall's statement
The mill-wheel thrown out of gear
The water channel enlarged
Mr. Marshall's attention attracted by some glittering substance
Finds it to be gold
First imagines it to have been buried there
Discovers it in great abundance
Takes horse to Sutter's Fort
Captain Sutter and Mr. Marshall agree to keep the matter secret
They start off to the mill
Proceed up the Fork
Find the gold in great abundance
Return to the mill
The work-people meet them
A knowing Indian and a sly Kentuckian
A labouring party organised
Digging and washing for gold
The news spreads
People flock to the diggings
Arrival of Mormons
The gold found to be inexhaustible
Men of science as blind as the rest of the world.

"I was sitting one afternoon," said the Captain, "just after my siesta,
engaged, by-the-by, in writing a letter to a relation of mine at
Lucerne, when I was interrupted by Mr. Marshall--a gentleman with whom
I had frequent business transactions--bursting hurriedly into the room.
From the unusual agitation in his manner I imagined that something
serious had occurred, and, as we involuntarily do in this part of the
world, I at once glanced to see if my rifle was in its proper place.
You should know that the mere appearance of Mr. Marshall at that moment
in the Fort was quite enough to surprise me, as he had but two days
before left the place to make some alterations in a mill for sawing
pine planks, which he had just run up for me, some miles higher up the
Americanos. When he had recovered himself a little, he told me that,
however great my surprise might be at his unexpected reappearance, it
would be much greater when I heard the intelligence he had come to
bring me. 'Intelligence,' he added, 'which, if properly profited by,
would put both of us in possession of unheard-of wealth--millions and
millions of dollars in fact.' I frankly own, when I heard this, that I
thought something had touched Marshall's brain, when suddenly all my
misgivings were put an end to by his flinging on the table a handful of
scales of pure virgin gold. I was fairly thunderstruck, and asked him
to explain what all this meant, when he went on to say, that, according
to my instructions, he had thrown, the mill-wheel out of gear, to let
the whole body of the water in the dam find a passage through the
tail-race, which was previously too narrow to allow the water to run
off in sufficient quantity, whereby the wheel was prevented from
efficiently performing its work. By this alteration the narrow channel
was considerably enlarged, and a mass of sand and gravel carried off by
the force of the torrent. Early in the morning after this took place,
he (Mr. Marshall) was walking along the left bank of the stream, when
he perceived something which he at first took for a piece of opal--a
clear transparent stone very common here--glittering on one of the
spots laid bare by the sudden crumbling away of the bank. He paid no
attention to this; but while he was giving directions to the workmen,
having observed several similar glittering fragments, his curiosity was
so far excited, that he stooped down and picked one of them up. 'Do you
know,' said Mr. Marshall to me, 'I positively debated within myself two
or three times whether I should take the trouble to bend my back to
pick up one of the pieces, and had decided on not doing so, when,
further on, another glittering morsel caught my eye--the largest of the
pieces now before you. I condescended to pick it up, and to my
astonishment found that it was a thin scale of what appears to be pure
gold.' He then gathered some twenty or thirty similar pieces, which on
examination convinced him that his suppositions were right. His first
impression was, that this gold had been lost or buried there by some
early Indian tribe--perhaps some of those mysterious inhabitants of the
west, of whom we have no account, but who dwelt on this continent
centuries ago, and built those cities and temples, the ruins of which
are scattered about these solitary wilds. On proceeding, however, to
examine the neighbouring soil, he discovered that it was more or less
auriferous. This at once decided him. He mounted his horse, and rode
down to me as fast as it would carry him with the news.

"At the conclusion of Mr. Marshall's account," continued Captain
Sutter, "and when I had convinced myself, from the specimens he had
brought with him, that it was not exaggerated, I felt as much excited
as himself. I eagerly inquired if he had shown the gold to the
work-people at the mill, and was glad to hear that he had not spoken to
a single person about it. We agreed," said the Captain, smiling, "not
to mention the circumstance to any one, and arranged to set off early
the next day for the mill. On our arrival, just before sundown, we
poked the sand about in various places, and before long succeeded in
collecting between us more than an ounce of gold, mixed up with a good
deal of sand. I stayed at Mr. Marshall's that night, and the next day
we proceeded some little distance up the South Fork, and found that
gold existed along the whole course, not only in the bed of the main
stream, where the water had subsided, but in every little dried-up
creek and ravine. Indeed I think it is more plentiful in these latter
places, for I myself, with nothing more than a small knife, picked out
from a dry gorge, a little way up the mountain, a solid lump of gold
which weighed nearly an ounce and a half.

"On our return to the mill, we were astonished by the work-people
coming up to us in a body, and showing us small flakes of gold similar
to those we had ourselves procured. Marshall tried to laugh the matter
off with them, and to persuade them that what they had found was only
some shining mineral of trifling value; but one of the Indians, who had
worked at the gold mine in the neighbourhood of La Paz, in Lower
California, cried out, 'Oro! oro!' We were disappointed enough at this
discovery, and supposed that the work-people had been watching our
movements, although we thought we had taken every precaution against
being observed by them. I heard afterwards, that one of them, a sly
Kentuckian, had dogged us about, and that, looking on the ground to see
if he could discover what we were in search of, he had lighted on some
flakes of gold himself.

"The next day I rode back to the Fort, organised a labouring party, set
the carpenters to work on a few necessary matters, and the next day
accompanied them to a point of the Fork, where they encamped for the
night. By the following morning I had a party of fifty Indians fairly
at work. The way we first managed was to shovel the soil into small
buckets, or into some of our famous Indian baskets; then wash all the
light earth out, and pick away the stones; after this, we dried the
sand on pieces of canvas, and with long reeds blew away all but the
gold. I have now some rude machines in use, and upwards of one hundred
men employed, chiefly Indians, who are well fed, and who are allowed
whisky three times a-day.

"The report soon spread. Some of the gold was sent to San Francisco,
and crowds of people flocked to the diggings. Added to this, a large
emigrant party of Mormons entered California across the Rocky
Mountains, just as the affair was first made known. They halted at
once, and set to work on a spot some thirty miles from here, where a
few of them still remain. When I was last up at the diggings, there
were full eight hundred men at work, at one place and another, with
perhaps something like three hundred more passing backwards and
forwards between here and the mines. I at first imagined the gold
would soon be exhausted by such crowds of seekers, but subsequent
observations have convinced me that it will take many years to bring
about such a result, even with ten times the present number of people

"What surprises me," continued the Captain, "is that this country
should have been visited by so many scientific men, and that not one of
them should have ever stumbled upon these treasures; that scores of
keen-eyed trappers should have crossed this valley in every direction,
and tribes of Indians have dwelt in it for centuries, and yet that this
gold should have never been discovered. I myself have passed the very
spot above a hundred times during the last ten years, but was just as
blind as the rest of them, so I must not wonder at the discovery not
having been made earlier."

While the Captain was proceeding with his narrative, I must confess that
I felt so excited on the subject as to wish to start off immediately
on our journey. When he had finished, I walked off to see after the
horses, but, although they were ready, the additional shoes we wanted
to carry with us would not be furnished for several hours; it was late
in the afternoon before we got them. We bought two horses of Captain
Sutter (very strong animals), and McPhail managed to engage a big lad
as a servant--a rough-looking fellow, who appears to have deserted from
some ship, and worked his way up here. All things considered, it was
agreed that we should remain here another night, and resume our march
as early as we could in the morning.


The Author and his friends leave Sutter's Fort
Tents in the bottom
A caravan in motion
Green hills and valleys
Indian villages
Californian pack-Horses
A sailor on horseback
Lunch at noon
A troublesome beast
Sierra Nevada
First view of the lower mines
How the gold is dug and washed
The "cradle"
The diggers and their stock of gold
A store in course of construction
The tent is pitched
The golden itch
First attempts at gold-finding
A hole in the saucepan
Sound asleep.

_Sunday, June 4th_.--The morning we left the Fort the scene was one of
great excitement. Down in the bottom some twenty tents were pitched,
outside which big fires were smoking; and, while breakfast was being
prepared, the men of each company were busily engaged in saddling their
horses and arranging their baggage; several wagons and teams were
already in motion, following the road along the windings of the river.
The tents were soon all struck, the smoke from the fires was dying
away, and a perfect caravan was moving along in the direction of the
now no longer ridiculed El Dorado.

We pushed along, as may be believed, with the utmost impatience,
conjuring up the most flattering visions of our probable success as
gold-hunters. The track lay through a spacious grassy valley, with the
Americanos River winding along it, on our left hand. At first, the
stream was nearly two miles distant from the track of our caravan, but
as we advanced we approached its banks more nearly. The country was
pleasant, consisting of a succession of small hills and valleys,
diversified here and there by groves of tall oak trees. We passed
several wretched Indian villages--clusters of filthy smoky hovels, and
now and then caught sight of the river and the line of oak trees which
bordered it. We managed tolerably well with our horses, but it requires
great experience to be able to fasten securely the loads of provisions
and stores which they carry on their backs. Flour, of course, formed
the principal article of our commissariat. This was packed up in sacks,
which were again enclosed in long pockets, made of hides, and called
"parfleshes," the use of which is to defend the canvas of the sacking
from being torn by branches of fern and underwood. The sacks we secured
on strong pack-saddles, between which and the back of the horse were
some thick soft cloths. All our baggage-horses were furnished with
trail ropes, which were allowed to drag on the ground after the horse,
for the purpose of enabling us to catch him more readily. Besides the
animals we rode, we had seven horses, for the conveyance of our
provisions, tents, etc. The two we bought from Captain Sutter, though
strong, were skittish, and gave us much trouble, for our newly engaged
servant, whose name is James Horry, knew more about harpooning and
flenching whales than about the management of horses. He was certainly
willing and did his best, but he occasioned some mirth during the day's
march by his extreme awkwardness on horseback. However, to do him
justice, he bore the numerous falls which he came in for with great
philosophy, starting up again every time he was "grassed," and laughing
as loudly as the rest.

At noon we halted to refresh by the side of a small stream of crystal
purity. While making preparations for our hurried meal, we had all our
eyes about us for gold in the channel of the rivulet, but saw none. We
had not yet reached the favoured spot. After some difficulty in
catching the pack-horses, one of the perverse brutes having taken it
into its head to march up to its belly in the stream, where he
floundered about for some time, enjoying the coolness of the water, we
set forward, determined to reach the lower diggings by sundown. As we
neared the spot the ground gradually became more broken and heavily
timbered with oak and pine, while in the distance, and separated from
us by deep forests of these trees, might be seen a long ridge of
snow-capped mountains--the lofty Sierra Nevada. But we were too anxious
to reach the gold to care much about the more unprofitable beauties of
Nature, and accordingly urged our horses to the quickest speed they
could put forth. We were now travelling along the river's banks, and
towards evening came in sight of the lower mines, here called the
"Mormon" diggings, which occupy a surface of two or three miles along
the river. There were something like forty tents scattered up the hill
sides, occupied mostly by Americans, some of whom had brought their
families with them. Although it was near sundown, everybody was in full
occupation. At every few yards there were men, with their naked arms,
busily employed in washing out the golden flakes and dust from
spadefuls of the auriferous soil. Others were first passing it through
sieves, many of them freshly made with intertwisted willow branches, to
get rid of the coarse stones, and then washing the lumps of soil in
pots placed beneath the surface of the water, the contents of the
vessel being kept continually stirred by the hand until the lighter
particles of earth or gravel were carried away.

A great number of the settlers, however, were engaged in making what
are here called "cradles;" partly, I suppose, from their shape, and
partly from the rocking motion to which they are subjected. These
machines were being roughly constructed of dealboards. Later in the
day I watched one of them at work, and had the process explained to
me. Four men were employed at it. The first shovelled up the earth;
another carried it to the cradle, and dashed it down on a grating or
sieve--placed horizontally at the head of the machine--the wires of
which, being close together, only allowed the smaller particles of
earth and sand to fall through; the third man rocked the cradle--I must
confess I never saw one so perseveringly rocked at home; while the
fourth kept flinging water upon the mass of earth inside. The result of
this fourfold process is, that the lighter earth is gradually carried
off by the action of the water, and a sort of thick black sediment of
sand is left at the bottom of the cradle. This was afterwards scooped
out, and put aside to be carefully dried in the sun to-morrow morning.

I can hardly describe the effect this sight produced upon our party.
It seemed as if the fabled treasure of the Arabian Nights had been
suddenly realised before us. We all shook hands, and swore to preserve
good faith with each other, and to work hard for the common good. The
gold-finders told us that some of them frequently got as much as fifty
dollars a-day. As we rode from camp to camp, and saw the hoards of
gold--some of it in flakes, but the greater part in a coarse sort of
dust--which these people had amassed during the last few weeks, we felt
in a perfect fluster of excitement at the sight of the wealth around
us. One man showed us four hundred ounces of pure gold dust which he
had washed from the dirt in a tin pan, and which he valued at fourteen
dollars an ounce.

As may be imagined, the whole scene was one well calculated to take a
strong hold upon the imagination. The eminences, rising gradually from
the river's banks, were dotted with white canvas tents, mingled with
the more sombre-looking huts, constructed with once green but now
withered branches. A few hundred yards from the river lay a large heap
of planks and framings, which I was told were intended for constructing
a store; the owner of which, a sallow Yankee, with a large pluffy
cigaretto in his mouth, was labouring away in his shirt sleeves.

Bewildered and excited by the novelty of the scene, we were in haste to
pitch our camp, and soon fixed upon a location. This was by the side of
a dried-up water-course, through which, in the wet season, a small
rivulet joined the larger stream; we did not, however, immediately set
to work to make the necessary arrangements for the night. Our fingers
were positively itching for the gold, and in less than half an hour
after our arrival, the pack-horse which carried the shovels, scoops,
and pans, had been released of his burden, and all our party were as
busily employed as the rest. As for myself, armed with a large scoop or
trowel, and a shallow tin pail, I leapt into the bed of the rivulet, at
a spot where I perceived no trace of the gravel and earth having been
artificially disturbed. Near me was a small clear pool, which served
for washing the gold. Some of our party set to work within a short
distance of me, while others tried their fortune along the banks of the
Americanos, digging up the shingle which lay at the very brink of the
stream. I shall not soon forget the feeling with which I first plunged
my scoop into the soil beneath me. Half filling my tin pail with the
earth and shingle, I carried it to the pool, and placing it beneath the
surface of the water, I began to stir it with my hand, as I had
observed the other diggers do. Of course I was not very expert at
first, and I dare say I flung out a good deal of the valuable metal.
However, I soon perceived that the earth was crumbling away, and was
being carried by the agitation of the water into the pool, which
speedily became turbid, while the sandy sediment of which I had heard
remained at the bottom of the pail. Carefully draining the water away,
I deposited the sand in one of the small close-woven Indian baskets we
had brought with us, with the intention of drying it at the camp fire,
there not being sufficient time before nightfall to allow the moisture
gradually to absorb by the evaporation of the atmosphere.

After working for about half an hour, I retraced my steps with my
basket to the spot where we had tethered the horses, and found the
animals still standing there with their burdens on their backs. Mr.
Malcolm was already there; he had with him about an equal quantity of
the precious black sand; it remained, however, to be seen what
proportion of gold our heaps contained. In a short time Bradley and Don
Luis joined us, both of them in tip-top spirits. "I guess this is the
way we do the trick down in these clearings," said the former, shaking
a bag of golden sand. As for Jose, Don Luis's Indian servant, he was
devout in his expressions of thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary and the
Great Spirit, whom he would insist upon classifying together, in a most
remarkable and not quite orthodox manner.

We now set to work to get up our tent. Malcolm, in the meantime,
prepared coffee and very under-baked cakes, made of the flour we had
brought with us. His cooking operations were greatly impeded by our
eagerness to dry the sand we had scraped up--a feat in the achievement
of which Bradley was clumsy enough to burn a hole in our very best
saucepan. However, we managed to get the moisture absorbed, and,
shutting our eyes, we commenced blowing away the sand with our mouths,
and shortly after found ourselves the possessors of a few pinch's of
gold. This was encouraging for a beginning. We drunk our coffee in high
spirits, and then, having picketted our horses, made ourselves as snug
as our accommodation would allow, and, being tired out, not only with
the journey and the work, but with excitement and anxiety, slept
soundly till morning.


Two horses stray away
How orders were enforced at the diggings
Sunday work
Nature of the soil
Inconveniences even in gold getting
Dinner and rest
A strike for higher wages
A walk through the diggings
Sleeping and smoking
Indians and finery
Californians and Yankee
Runaway sailors and stray negroes
A native born Kentuckian
"That's a fact"
A chapel at the diggings
A supper with an appetite.

The morning broke brilliantly, and the first thing we discovered on
rising was, that two of the horses had broken their fastenings during
the night, and strayed. As we could not afford to lose the animals,
Jose and Horry were despatched lo look after them, and they grumbled
not a little at being thus sent off from the scene of golden operations;
but Bradley, producing a rifle, swore that he would shoot them both
unless they obeyed orders; so, after a little altercation, away they

Breakfast was soon despatched, and the question as to the day's
operations asked. Don Luis was the only one who, on the score of its
being Sunday, would not go to the diggings. He had no objection to
amuse himself on Sunday, but he would not work. To get over the
difficulty, we agreed to go upon the principle of every man keeping his
own findings, our bonds of unity as a party to extend merely to mutual
protection and defence. Leaving Don Luis, then, smoking in the tent,
we proceeded to work, and found that the great majority of the
gold-finders appeared to entertain our opinions, or at all events to
imitate our practice, as to labouring on the Sunday. I had now leisure
more particularly to remark the nature of the soil in which the gold
was found. The dust is found amid the shingle actually below water, but
the most convenient way of proceeding is to take the soil from that
portion of the bed which has been overflowed but is now dry. It is
principally of a gravelly nature, full of small stones, composed, as
far as I could make out, of a species of jasper and milky quality,
mingled with fragments of slate and splinters of basalt. The general
opinion is, that the gold has been washed down from the hills.

I worked hard, as indeed we all did, the whole morning. The toil is
very severe, the constant stooping pressing, of course, upon the spinal
column, whilst the constant immersion of the hands in water causes the
skin to excoriate and become exceedingly painful. But these
inconveniences are slight when compared to the great gain by which one
is recompensed for them.

At twelve o'clock, our usual primitive dinner hour, we met at the tents,
tolerably well tired with our exertions. No dinner, however, was
prepared, both Jose and Horry being still absent in pursuit of the
strayed horses. We had, therefore, to resort to some of our jerked
beef, which, with biscuits and coffee, formed our fare. After dinner,
we determined to rest until the next day. The fact is, that the human
frame will not stand, and was never intended to stand, a course of
incessant toil; indeed, I believe that in civilized--that is to say,
in industrious--communities, the Sabbath, bringing round as it does a
stated remission from labour, is an institution physically necessary.

We therefore passed some time in conversation, which was interrupted by
the arrival of Jose and Horry with the strayed horses. Horry demanded
an immediate increase of wages, threatening to leave us and set to work
on his own account if we refused. Bradley tried to talk big and bully
him, but in vain. Jose had a sort of fear of Don Luis--who in return
looked on his servant as his slave--so he said nothing. We could see,
however, that they had evidently been in communication with the diggers
around, and so we gave in. Later in the afternoon I started with
Malcolm and McPhail for a walk through the diggings. We found
comparatively a small proportion of the people who had commenced work
in the morning still at their pans. Numbers were lying asleep under the
trees, or in the shade of their tents and wagons. Others sat smoking
and chatting in circles upon the grass, mending their clothes or
performing other little domestic duties at the same time. It was really
a motley scene. Indians strutted by in all the pride of gaudy calico,
the manners of the savage concealed beneath the dress of the civilized
man. Muscular sun-burnt fellows, whose fine forms and swarthy faces
pronounced that Spanish blood ran through their veins, gossiped away
with sallow hatchet-faced Yankees, smart men at a bargain, and always
on the lookout for squalls. Here, and there one spied out the flannel
shirt and coarse canvas trousers of a seaman--a runaway, in all
probability, from a South Sea whaler; while one or two stray negroes
chattered with all the volubility of their race, shaking their woolly
heads and showing their white teeth. I got into conversation with one
tall American; he was a native-born Kentuckian, and full of the bantam
sort of consequence of his race. He predicted wonderful things from the
discovery of the mineral treasures of California, observing that it
would make a monetary revolution all over the world, and that nothing
similar, at least to so great an extent, was ever known in history.
"Look around! for, stranger," said he to me, "I guess you don't realise
such a scene every day, and that's a fact. There's gold to be had for
the picking of it up, and by all who choose to come and work. I reckon
old John Bull will scrunch up his fingers in his empty pockets when he
comes to hear of it. It's a most everlasting wonderful thing, and
that's a fact, that beats Joe Dunkin's goose-pie and apple sarse."

Farther on we came upon a tremendous-looking tent, formed by two or
three tents being flung into one, which, on examination, we found was
doing duty as a chapel. A missionary, from one of the New England
States, as I hear, was holding forth to a pretty large congregation.
The place was very hot and chokey, and I only stayed long enough to
hear that the discourse abounded in the cloudy metaphors and vague
technicalities of Calvinistic theology.

The remainder of the afternoon I have been devoting to writing my
journal, which I here break off to commence a hearty good supper, in
revenge for the scrambling sort of dinner one has had to-day. The beef
doesn't look roasted as they would put it on the table at the
Clarendon, or at Astor House even; but none of those who sit down to
the Clarendon table, at any rate, have such an appetite as I now have,
far away beyond care and civilisation, in the gold-gathering region of


Digging and washing, with a few reflections
A cradle in contemplation
Scales to sell, but none to lend
Stack of gold weighed
More arrivals
Two newcomers
Mr. Biggs and Mr. Lacosse
Good order prevails at the mines
Timber bought for the cradles
The cradles made
The cradles worked
The result of the first day's trial.

_June 5th_.--We have laboured hard all day, digging and washing, and
with good success. I begin to hope now that I have really laid the
foundation of a fortune, and I thank God for it. I have been kicked
tolerably well about the world, and the proverb, that a "rolling stone
gathers no moss," has, I am sure, been abundantly proved by my case.
Now, however, I have a grand chance, and I am resolved that all that
industry and perseverance can do shall be done to improve it.

Before starling for work this morning, it was agreed that Jose should
act as cook for the day; it being stipulated that he was to have the
afternoon to himself for digging. Horry was left in charge of the
horses. I worked hard, keeping near Bradley, and conversing with him as
I shovelled the gravel into the pail, and stirred it about in the clear
pools. We had very fair success, but still we could not but think that
this was a poor way of proceeding; besides, I didn't like the
back-breaking work of stooping all day. I therefore proposed that we
should endeavour to knock up a cradle. The expense for wood would
certainly be great, but it would be better to incur it than keep to the
present rude and toilsome plan of operation.

We proposed the plan to our comrades at dinner-time, and it was, on the
whole, well received. Malcolm and McPhail entered into the notion, and
we determined to try whether we could not put forth sufficient
carpentering ability to carry it out. The next day was fixed upon for
commencing the work.

After dinner we returned to our shovels and pails. In the evening we
were anxious to know how much gold we had realised by our labours up to
the present time; and, accordingly, I set off to borrow a pair of
scales. After entering several tents in vain, I was directed to the
Yankee who had the materials for a store, and whose name was Hiram
Ensloe. He had several pairs to sell, but none to lend. I asked his
prices, and now had, for the first time, a real example of the effects
of plenty of gold and scarcity of goods. For a small pair of ordinary
brass scales, with a set of troy weights, I paid, on behalf of the
party, fifteen dollars, the seller consoling me by the information that
in his opinion, if the gold-hunters continued to pour in for a
fortnight longer, I would not have got the article for three times the

Furnished with my purchase, I returned to the tent, and the stock of
gold dust realised by each man was weighed, and computed at the current
rate in which the mercantile transactions of this little colony are
reckoned--namely, fourteen dollars each ounce of gold dust. We found
that McPhail and Malcolm had been, upon the whole, the most successful,
each having obtained nearly two ounces of pure gold dust, valued at
twenty-eight dollars. I myself had about twenty-three dollars' worth,
and Bradley had twenty-five dollars' worth. An amount which,
considerable though it was, we hope greatly to increase as soon as we
get our cradle into operation.

During the day, there were numerous arrivals from Sutter's Fort; and in
my opinion, these diggings will soon be overcrowded. Two of the
new-comers were known to Bradley--one, a Mr. Biggs, a shipping agent
from San Francisco; the other, Mr. Lacosse, a French Canadian, who has
recently settled in California. They accepted our offer for them to
join our party. If this influx of people continues, I think the Yankee
with the store will do better than any one; and keeping a shanty will
be a far more profitable speculation than handling a shovel or working
a cradle. What surprises me is, that in this remote spot, so distant
from anything that can be called Law, so much tranquillity prevails
under the circumstances. One hears of no deeds of violence, or even
dishonesty. In fact, theft would hardly pay. The risk would be more
than the advantage; for if any one was detected plundering, he would
soon have a rifle-bullet put through him. One thing in favour of good
order is, that here there is no unequal distribution of property--no
favoured classes. Every man who has a spade or a trowel, and hands to
use them, is upon an equality, and can make a fortune with a rapidity
hitherto almost unknown in the history of the world.

_Sunday, June 11th_.--Nearly a week has elapsed since I last opened my
diary. On Tuesday, we set to work upon our cradle. We resolved upon the
construction of two; and, for this purpose, went down to the store in a
body, to see about the boards. We found the timber extravagantly dear,
being asked forty dollars a-hundred. After some bargaining, we obtained
sufficient for our purpose, at the rate of thirty-five dollars.

The next question was, as to whether we should hire a carpenter. We
were told there were one or two in the diggings who might be hired,
though at a very extravagant rate. Accordingly, Bradley and I proceeded
to see one of these gentlemen, and found him washing away with a hollow
log and a willow-branch sieve. He offered to help us at the rate of
thirty-five dollars a-day, we finding provisions and tools, and could
not be brought to charge less. We thought this by far too extravagant,
and left him, determined to undertake the work ourselves. Meantime,
Horry had brought down two of our horses with him to the store. We
loaded them immediately with boards, and returned to our tent.

After breakfast, which consisted of coffee without milk, flour cakes,
and strips of dried beef, roasted on the embers, we set to work. We had
a sufficient number of axes and a good stout saw, one large plane, and
a few strong chisels, with plenty of nails. As may be expected, we
proved to be very awkward carpenters. Mr. Lacosse was perhaps the
handiest, and Malcolm not much inferior to him, until the latter
unfortunately received a severe cut with a chisel, extending in a
transverse line along the joint of the forefinger of the left hand. I
strapped up the wound, but the rough work soon tore away the diaculum:
no bad consequences, however, ensued. The wound, in spite of the hard
treatment which it received, closed and healed by the first
intention--proving the healthy habit of body engendered by temperance
and constant exercise in the open air.

In building our cradles, or "gold canoes," as the Indians called them,
we found that to mortice the planks into each other was a feat of
carpentering far above our skill, particularly as we had no mortice
chisels. We were therefore obliged to adopt the ruder experiment of
making the boards overlap each other by about an inch, nailing them
firmly together in that position. As, however, the inequality of
surface at the bottom of the cradle, produced by the mode of building,
would have materially impeded our operations, we strained some pieces
of tarred canvas, which we fortunately possessed amongst our tent
cloths, over the bottoms, thus rendering the surface even, and suited
to our purpose. By the time we had got so far with our undertaking, we
fell sufficiently tired to give over work for the night. We had
laboured unceasingly at them, pausing only to swallow a hasty meal, and
stuck by our hammers and chisels till dusk. We were up early the next
morning, and toiled away to get the cradles completed, as we were
constantly seeing proofs of the great advantages of these machines. We
fixed a wicker sieve over the head, by means of a couple of transverse
bars, and then set about to construct the working Apparatus, which we
had all along feared would put our mechanical skill to rather a severe
test; but we found it easier than we had anticipated, and before
sundown the rockers were fixed on both cradles, which, to all intents
and purposes, were now ready for use. The work was rather rough, but it
was firm and strong. So fearful were we first of all that our cradles
might be removed or tampered with in the night, that I jocularly
proposed two of us should give up the shelter of the tent, and, like
pretty little children, sleep in our cradles till the morning.

The next day we set to work with them with the utmost eagerness, having
first dragged the lumbering machines to a likely spot in the vicinity
of the water. The labour was hard enough, but nothing compared to the
old plan of pot-washing, while it saved the hands from the injury
inflicted by continual dabbling in sand and water. We took the
different departments of labour by turns, and found that the change, by
bringing into play different sets of muscles, greatly relieved us, and
enabled us to keep the stones rolling with great energy. In the
evening, with the help of our newly purchased scales, we tested our
gains. The cradle which was worked by Don Luis, Malcolm, and myself,
for it was so near the water that three hands were sufficient, had
realised six ounces of gold dust; the other, attended to by Bradley,
McPhail, Biggs, and Lacosse, had nearly as much. During the day there
was another considerable influx of people to the diggings; the banks of
the river are therefore getting more and more crowded, and we hear that
the price of every article of subsistence is rising in the same


The proceedings of the week
Visit from Mr. Larkin
What will the Government do?
What "enough" is
San Francisco
Houses and ships deserted
A captain and ship without a crew
A ship without a crew or captain
Wages, newspapers, and shovels
The Attorney-General to the King of the Sandwich Islands
Something for the lawyers
Gold-diggers by moonlight
Mr. Larkin's departure
Provisions run short
Seek a supply at Salter's
Good luck
Diggings' law
Provisions arrive
A wagon wanted
Arrival of Californians and their families
Gay dresses and coquettish manners
El Jarabe
The waltz
Lookers-on and dancers
Coffee, and something stronger
No more Sunday work
Jose and the saints
The Virgin Mary cheated
Contemplated migration.

_June 18th, Sunday_.--The proceedings of the past week have been but a
repetition of those of the week previous, the amount of gold dust
realised being rather greater, and amounting on an average to very
nearly sixteen ounces per day. Cradles are now in use everywhere around
us; nevertheless, the numbers who stand in the water washing with tin
or wooden bowls do not appear to be diminished.

On the evening of Thursday we were visited by a gentleman from
Monterey, a Mr. Larkin, who, I believe, is connected with the States
Government, and who has arrived in the diggings with the view of making
a report to the authorities at Washington. Don Luis immediately
recognised him, and invited him to spend the evening and night in our
tent. We were very anxious to hear the news from the coast, and Mr.
Larkin in turn was very anxious to pick up all the information he could
get respecting the diggings. Don Luis says he is a man of large
fortune, so his tour is purely one of inspection, and not with any eye
to business. We made him as comfortable as we could; Lacosse exerted
himself in the manufacture of the coffee in honour of our guest, and we
had several hours of interesting conversation.

Mr. Larkin said he had no idea what steps the Government at Washington
would take with reference to the "placer." "It can't matter much to
you, gentlemen," observed he, "for although there can be no doubt of
its being upon public territory, still, before any instructions can be
received from Washington, the great body of the diggers and washers
here will be enriched to their heart's content, if a man ever does feel
contented with any amount of wealth."--"Your observation," exclaimed
Malcolm, "puts me in mind of a story which my father used to tell of a
farmer, a friend of his, who once took his rent, the odd money short,
to an old miserly landlord rolling in wealth. He was asked by him why
he had not brought the full amount. 'Why,' replied the farmer, 'I
thought you had enough.'--'Enough!' said the miser; 'do you know what
_enough_ is? I'll tell you--Enough is _something more_ than a man

Mr. Larkin then spoke of the effects of the "mineral yellow fever," as
he called it, having been most extraordinary in San Francisco. When he
left that town, he said more than two-thirds of the houses were
deserted. We were not surprised at this, as we knew the people who were
continually arriving here must have come from somewhere. Nearly all the
ships in the harbour too had lost a great part of their crews by
desertion. A barque called the Amity had only six men left when Mr.
Larkin started from the port. On board another ship from the Sandwich
Islands the captain was left actually and literally alone. On the road
Mr. Larkin fell in with another captain who had started off for the
gold region with every man of his crew, leaving his ship unprotected in
port. On Mr. Larkin remonstrating with him on the flagrancy of his
conduct, he merely replied, "Oh, I warrant me her cables and anchors
are strong enough to last till we get back." Mr. Larkin told us what we
were fully prepared to hear, namely, that wages and salaries of all
classes have risen immensely; clerks, he said, were getting from nine
hundred to twelve hundred dollars, instead of from four hundred to five
hundred and fifty dollars, with their board. Both the _Star_ and
_Californian_ newspapers, he said, had stopped. Thinking to surprise
us, he told us that shovels which used to be one dollar were selling in
San Francisco, when he left, for five and six dollars each. Bradley
replied that he thought this was a very reasonable figure, for he had
heard thirty dollars offered for a spade that very day.

"Do you know, by-the-by," said Mr. Larkin, "who I saw here to-day, up
to his knees in water, washing away in a tin pan? Why, a lawyer who was
the Attorney-General to the King of the Sandwich Islands, not eighteen
months ago."--"I guess," said Bradley, "he finds gold-washing more
profitable than Sandwich Island law; but he's not the only one of his
brethren that is of much the same spirit; there's lots of lawyers in
these diggings. Well! they are better employed now than ever they were
in their lives. They're money-getting rascals all the world over; but
here they do have to _work_ for it, that's one comfort." Before turning
in, we took a stroll through the camp with Mr. Larkin. It was a bright
moonlight night, and some of the more eager diggers were still at work.
These were the new-comers, probably, who were too much excited to sleep
without trying their hands at washing the golden gravel. Mr. Larkin
left us the following day.

_June 23rd, Friday_.--The last entry in my diary seems to have been
written last Sunday. Next day we began to find the provisions running
short. A consultation was accordingly held upon the subject. It was
quite out of the question to buy provisions in the diggings. Work as
one might, the day's living of any man with a respectable appetite--and
one seems always to feel hungry here--would pretty well absorb the
day's labour. We therefore determined to dispatch Bradley and Jose back
to Sutter's Fort for a supply, it being stipulated that Bradley should
share in the gold we might find during their absence. This arrangement
being duly concluded, they started off the following morning on
horseback, driving before them the two beasts we purchased at Sutter's.
We instructed Bradley, if possible, to buy a light wagon, in which to
store the provisions he was to bring back. The two extra horses would
be able to draw it, and such a vehicle would be useful in many
respects. He took with him two hundred and fifty dollars' worth of
gold, so as to be in sufficient funds, in case the sum demanded should
be an over-exorbitant one.

They departed on Tuesday, and we continued our labours. Towards the
afternoon of that day, I had a piece of great good luck. I was digging
up the earth to throw into the cradle, when I turned up a lump of ore
about the size of a small walnut, which I knew at once was a piece of
gold. It weighed two ounces and three-quarters. This, by the law of the
diggings--for it is curious how soon a set of rude regulations sprung
into existence, which everybody seemed to abide by--belonged to myself
and not to the party, it being found before the earth was thrown into
the cradle, and being over half an ounce in weight. Higher up the
Sacramento, and particularly on Bear River, one of its tributaries,
these lumps and flakes were said to be frequently met with; but at the
Mormon digging they are very rare.

On Thursday, about sundown, we were delighted to see the approach of
Bradley with a well-loaded wagon of light but strong construction. He
had just arrived in time, for our larder was almost exhausted. We were
prepared, however, to have stood out another day or two on short
rations, rather than pay the prices asked at the shanties. Bradley gave
us a short account of the expedition. They reached Sutter's in safety,
and found the Fort as busy as though it was tenanted by a swarm of
bees. A sort of hotel had at last been opened, and the landlord was
driving a roaring trade. The emigrants were pouring in, purchasing
shovels, trowels, pans, and whatever else they wanted, at high prices.
Profitable as was the washing business, Bradley said he suspected the
storekeepers at the Fort were clearing more by their branch of the
enterprise than if they had their hands in the pan themselves. He found
Captain Sutter well and hearty, and, the morning after his arrival,
consulted him about a wagon. The Captain, however, had none he felt
inclined to sell, nor was there such a thing to be got in the fort.
After some consideration, however, Captain Sutter said that Mr.
Sinclair, whose rancho was about three miles off, on the opposite bank
of the river, might be able to accommodate him. Accordingly, Bradley
made the best of his way there, but found Mr. Sinclair indisposed to
trade. At length, after a good deal of persuasion, Bradley succeeded in
hiring a wagon and a wagoner of him for a week. The vehicle was got
across the river that night. In the morning he started it off well
laden with provisions, and arrived here without any accident the same
evening. We were now well victualled for a month, but were puzzled how
to stow away our large stock of provisions, and only accomplished it
satisfactorily by giving up the tent for this purpose. This compelled
us all to sleep in the open air; but as yet the nights are very mild
and pleasant.

Among the fresh arrivals at the diggings the native Californians have
begun to appear in tolerable numbers. Many of these people have brought
their wives, who are attended usually by Indian girls. The graceful
Spanish costume of the new-comers adds quite a feature to the busy
scene around. There, working amidst the sallow Yankees, with their wide
white trousers and straw hats, and the half-naked Indian, may be seen
the native-born Californian, with his dusky visage and lustrous black
eye, clad in the universal short tight jacket with its lace adornments,
and velvet breeches, with a silk sash fastened round his waist,
splashing away with his gay deerskin botas in the mudded water. The
appearance of the women is graceful and coquettish. Their petticoats,
short enough, to display in most instances a well-turned ankle, are
richly laced and embroidered, and striped and flounced with gaudy
colours, of which scarlet seems to have the preference. Their tresses
hang in luxuriant plaits down their backs: and in all the little
accessories of dress, such as ear-rings, necklaces, etc., the costume
is very rich. Its distinguishing, feature, however, is the reboso, a
sort of scarf, generally made of cotton, which answers to the mantilla
of Old Spain. It is worn in many different and very graceful
fashions--sometimes twined round the waist and shoulders; at others,
hanging in pretty festoons about the figure, but always disposed with
that indescribable degree of coquettish grace which Spanish women have
been for ages, allowed to possess in the management of the fan and the
mantilla. Since these arrivals almost every evening a fandango is got
up on the green, before some of the tents. The term fandango, though
originally signifying a peculiar kind of dance, seems to be used here
for an evening's dancing entertainment, in which many different _pas_
are introduced. I was present at a fandango a few nights ago where a
couple of performers were dancing "el jarabe," which seemed to consist
chiefly of a series of monotonous toe and heel movements on the ground.
The motions of the foot were, however, wonderfully rapid, and always in
exact time to the music. But at these entertainments the waltz seems to
be the standing dish. It is danced with numerous very intricate
figures, to which, however, all the Californians appear quite _au
fait_. Men and women alike waltz beautifully, with an easy, graceful,
swinging motion.

It is quite a treat, after a hard day's work, to go at nightfall to one
of these fandangos. The merry notes of the guitar and the violin
announce them to all comers; and a motley enough looking crowd, every
member of which is puffing away at a cigar, forms are applauding circle
round the dancers, who smoke like the rest. One cannot help being
struck by the picturesque costumes and graceful motions of the
performers, who appear to dance not only with their legs, but with all
their hearts and souls. Lacosse is a particular admirer of these
fandangos, and he very frequently takes a part in them himself. During
the interval between the dances, coffee is consumed by the senoras, and
coffee with something, stronger by the senors; so that, as the, night
advances, the merriment gets, if not "fast and furious," at least
animated and imposing.

_25th June, Sunday_.--We have all of us, given over working on Sundays,
as we found the toil on six successive days quite hard enough. Last
week we had rather indifferent success, having realized only nineteen
ounces of gold, barely three ounces a man. The dust is weighed out and
distributed every evening, and each man carries his portion about his
person. Jose, who has amassed a tolerable quantity by working in his
spare time, is constantly feeling to see whether his stock is safe. He
weighs it two or three times a-day, to ascertain, I suppose, whether it
exhausts itself by insensible perspiration, or other means, and
invokes, by turns, every saint in the calendar--his patron-saint,
Joseph, in particular--and all his old heathenish spirits, to keep his
treasure safe. In accordance with a vow he made before he started from
Monterey, he has set apart one-fourth of his treasure for the Big
Woman, as he calls the Virgin Mary--in contradistinction to the Great
Spirit, I imagine; but I fancy her stock of gold decreases every day,
and that Jose doesn't play her fair.

We had a great deal of serious conversation this afternoon upon the
propriety of moving farther up the river, and trying some of the higher
washings; for our last week's labour was a terribly poor yield. We
remembered Captain Sutter's account of how Mr. Marshall had first
discovered the gold in the vicinity of his mill, and how plentiful it
seemed to lie there. Besides, the diggings are getting overcrowded; the
consequence of which is, that we have had several of our pans and
baskets stolen. We therefore decided that, if we could sell our cradles
to advantage--and there is some likelihood of this, for there is not a
carpenter left all through these diggings to make others for the
constant new-comers--to move higher up the Fork, and try our fortune at
a less crowded spot. There is one thing that I think I shall regret
leaving myself, and that is, the fandango and the two or three pretty
senoritas one has been in the habit of meeting at it almost every


The party leave the Mormon diggings
Cradles sold by auction
Laughter and biddings
The wagon sent back
The route to the saw-mills
A horse in danger
A miss at a Koyott
An antelope hit
Mr. Marshall
Venison steaks for supper
The saw-mills
Indians at work
Acorn bread
Where the gold was
How it was got
Gentlemen and horses
"Yankee Doodle" and the "Star-spangled Banner."

_Sunday, July 2nd_.--Yesterday, in accordance with the resolutions
debated this day week, we left the Mormon diggings, and pursued our
course up the Americans' River. It was on Thursday night that we
adopted the final determination of moving off from our late quarters;
and, accordingly, next day I walked with Bradley and McPhail through
the diggings, to try to find purchasers for our cradles. This was not a
difficult task. We had plenty of offers; and we were so importuned by
some six or eight people, who were anxious to trade with us, that we
decided in a minute on having an auction of them. I was not bold enough
to play the part of auctioneer myself; but Bradley very coolly mounted
on the top of one of the machines, and called upon "gentlemen traders"
for their biddings. This was a capital move. The highest offer we had
previously obtained was one hundred and sixty dollars for the largest
of the two machines; but Bradley succeeded in coaxing the purchasers
on--stopping now and then to expatiate on the mint of gold which, he
guessed, he would warrant it to produce daily; and then calling to
their minds the fact that this was "the identical cradle into which the
lump of gold weighing two ounces and three-quarters--the largest piece
ever found at the Mormon diggings--was about to have been shovelled,
when it was discovered and seized hold of by the fortunate digger--the
gentleman on my right hand--who, as you all know, in accordance with
the admirable laws of these diggings, laid claim to it as his private
property." This produced a roar of laughter; but, what was better, it
produced a roar of biddings, and the cradle was knocked down at one
hundred and ninety-five dollars, payable in gold dust, at the standard
rate of fourteen dollars the ounce, or a discount of ten per cent, if
settled in broad silver pieces. The other cradle fetched us one hundred
and eighty dollars.

For these two cradles, therefore, we got three hundred and seventy-five
dollars' worth of dust. The same night we occupied ourselves in
constructing strong bags, made of rough hides, and well strapped round
the person for the conveyance of the gold dust and scales which we had
already amassed.

On Wednesday morning, before sunrise, we had sent the wagon and wagoner
back to Mr. Sinclair's rancho, accompanied by Jose, who returned on the
evening of Thursday with the horses.

We found, on starting, that our horses could not carry all the
provisions, and at the same time perform a good day's work. We,
therefore, left some of the more bulky articles under the charge of a
man from San Francisco, known to Bradley, and departed. We made good
progress for a mile or two; and, as we crossed the brow of a hill,
halted a moment to observe the busy aspect of the washings, as they
appeared from a distance. The country, as we ascended the stream,
became hourly more hilly and broken. Its general aspect was grassy, and
the soil appeared fertile. Here and there deep gullies crossed our
path, over which we had great difficulty in urging the horses, heavily
loaded as they were. At one of these ravines, the animal which conveyed
the tent-poles lost his footing, and went scrambling down the edge of
the descent, bearing with him a whole avalanche of gravel and shingles.
Malcolm and Lacosse went after the brute, and succeeded in forcing it
up by a less precipitous path.

At noon we halted and dined. During the afternoon, we observed a sort
of small jackall, of the kind called Koyott, hovering about the line of
march. It only occasionally showed itself amongst the long rank grass
and bushes. Bradley, however, got his rifle ready; but, although he
fired several shots, the animal was too nimble or restless for even the
practised eye and hand of a Yankee rifleman to be certain of his aim.
In a shot at a young antelope which bounded past, however, Bradley was
more successful; and we were rejoiced at the prospect of a supper on
tender venison. In a few minutes he had slung the animal over his
horse's haunches, and we proceeded on our route.

The country became more broken and mountainous as we advanced; and in
approaching the location of the saw-mills, the hills appeared to rise
nearly one thousand feet above the level of the Sacramento. They were
diversified by groves of gigantic pine and oak trees. We were looking
anxiously about for the saw-mills, when we heard the crack of a rifle;
and presently a man in white linen trousers, with his legs defended by
buckskin mocassins, wearing a broad Mexican sombrero, and carrying his
rifle in his hand, approached us. This person turned out to be Mr.
Marshall. He received us kindly, and asked the news from the lower
washings, and also how matters were looking at Sutter's when we passed
through. Mr. Marshall had a gang of fifty Indians employed, and Captain
Sutter had another party of nearly double that number, on the same bank
of the river.

We encamped in a woody bottom, by the side of a small stream, which
joined the main torrent here, and where there was good pasture for the
horses. Mr. Marshall's house was about a mile and a half further up the
river. After a good supper of venison steaks--thanks to Bradley's
rifle--we turned in for the night.

Nest day, Lacosse and McPhail, attended by Horry, and driving two extra
horses, rode down to the Mormon diggings, for the purpose of getting up
the provisions which we had left behind. Meantime, I walked out to
reconnoitre our new quarters. I soon arrived at the mills, and saw the
spot where the discovery of the gold had first been made, by the
torrent laying bare the sides of the mill-race. Here I met Mr. Marshall
again. Of course the operations of the saw-mill had been stopped, for
the workmen were employed in the vicinity, either above or below the
works, digging and washing on their own account. Mr. Marshall paid the
Indians he had at work chiefly in merchandize. I saw a portion of the
gang, the men dressed for the most part in cotton drawers and
mocassins, leaving the upper part of the body naked. They worked with
the same implements as those used in the lower washings. Not far from
the place where most of them were employed, I saw a number of the women
and children pounding acorns in a hollow block of wood with an oblong
stone. Of the acorn flour thus produced they made a sort of dry, hard,
unpalatable bread, which assuredly none but an Indian stomach could

Upon instituting a more particular search into the nature of the
country and our prospects, we found that the places where the gold was
found in the greatest abundance, and in the largest masses, were the
beds of the mountain torrents, now dry, which occasionally descend into
both the forks of the stream. We clambered up some of those precipitous
ravines, and observed, upon several occasions, as we scrambled among
the shingle, shining spangles of gold. The soil was evidently richly
charged; but the great disadvantage was the comparative distance from
water, in the evening our friends arrived from the lower diggings, with
the provisions all safe and sound, and the next day we determined to
set to work.

_July 3rd_.--Selecting a likely place in the heart of a steep mountain
gorge, we transported thither the larger Indian baskets which we had
purchased at Sutter's Fort, and, shovelling the earth into them, passed
poles, cut from the nearest pine tree, through the rope-handles we had
affixed to these baskets. Resting the poles on our shoulders, we
carried the loaded baskets to the brink of the stream, and then set to
work after the old fashion, with our hands in the baskets. Our success
was great, and the day's return shows a decided improvement upon the
Mormon diggings. The soil here is more richly impregnated with gold
than below; but the labour of carrying the earth to the water is
excessive, and I am so tired this evening that I very reluctantly
opened my journal to make this short entry.

_July 4th_.--As we were starting off to the river with our first basket
loads of gravel this morning, Lacosse suddenly remarked that he did not
see why the horses should be living like gentlemen when the gentlemen
were working like horses; and he proposed to use the shoulders of our
nags, instead of our own, for the conveyance of the earth. We all fell
in with this proposal, wondering it had never struck us before, and the
horses were soon fetched from their comfortable quarters among the tall
rank grass, and set to work, with the baskets slung over their backs,
like panniers.

Several new-comers from the Mormon diggings passed us to-day, bound
further up the Fork. In the morning Mr. Marshall paid us a visit, to
know how we were getting on. He had heard from Captain Sutter, who
stated that he thought of starting for the upper or lower washings
himself, as soon as he had gathered in his wheat harvest, which he
hoped to accomplish during the present week. A number of wild ducks
haunt the, river, and especially abound in the grassy and weedy pools
which skirt its edges. This morning we shot some of these, and found
them an agreeable addition to our dinner bill of fare.

The afternoon has been passed among the greater part of the miners here
as a celebration of the anniversary of American Independence. Something
like an out-door feast was got up, and toasts were drunk and songs
sang; "Yankee Doodle," and the "Star-spangled Banner," being the chief
favourites. Bradley made a smart speech: and, contrary to his usual
practice, complimented us Englishmen with a round of pleasant allusions
to the mother country.


The party again shift their quarters
The river forded
Horry in the water
Mr. Sinclair's party of Indians
Deserted Indian Villages
Weber's Creek
A halt made
Cradles hollowed out
A commotion in the camp
Colonel Mason arrives on a tour of inspection
His opinions as to what Congress should do
Military deserters, and what ought to be done with them
Return of Colonel Manson's party to Sutter's Fort
Bradley accompanies it with a stock of gold
How the gold was packed, and what precautions were taken for its

Weber's Creek.--_July 9th_.--A few more days' experience at the
saw-mills convinced us that much time and labour was lost in
consequence of the distance between the digging we worked at and the
water, and we therefore determined to seek a more desirable location.
Ever since we had been at the saw-mills we had heard it constantly
said, that at Weber's Creek the gold was to be found in far greater
abundance; and to Weber's Creek we determined to go. The stream thus
called is a small tributary to the northern fork of the Americans'.

We struck our tents yesterday morning, loaded our horses, and took our
departure. The river, at the fording-place, was broad and rapid, but
shallow; the principal difficulties in the ford arose from the number
of smooth round stones, covered with green rince slime, which formed
the bed of the river, and over which our horses stumbled, with a
violence which threatened to disturb the fastening of their burdens. No
disaster, however, actually occurred, except to poor Horry, whose horse
stumbled over a large boulder, and pitched its luckless rider over its
head into the water, to the undissembled delight of the entire party,
who hailed the poor sailor's discomfiture with loud bursts of laughter.
Horry made the best of his way to the farther bank, without paying any
more attention to his horse, which, however, emerged from the water,
and was on dry land as soon as Horry himself.

We now proceeded along the right bank of the North Fork, and on the
opposite side we caught a glimpse of a party of Indians at work, which
we afterwards learned were that of Mr. Sinclair. In one week this party
had gathered sixteen pounds troy of fine washed gold dust. They worked
hard, were well fed, and had liberal rations of "strong water" daily.
We rested a couple of hours at noon, in a pleasant bottom, heavily
timbered, and afterwards, striking away from the river at an acute
angle, moved leisurely on through a broken country, intersected by many
water-courses, and overgrown with dense clusters of trees.

During our afternoon march we passed several deserted Indian
villages--the round-shaped skeletons of the huts alone remaining to
mark the former settlements. Not a member of the tribe, however, was to
be seen; the beaver may build and the deer pasture hereabouts in peace.
Towards evening we entered the valley drained by the stream called
Weber's Creek. Its appearance was very beautiful, and the stream
descended along a steep rocky bed, foaming round large boulder stones,
and tumbling down low ledges of granite. The grassy slopes of the
valley are cut up in all directions with rivulets, the courses of which
are marked by luxuriant underwood, rank grass, and groves of stunted
oaks. Two or three arbours were to be seen with one or two rude-looking
tents, all with blazing fires before them. We encamped forthwith,
hoping the next day to reach a station which we could make available
for our purpose.

We were early on the move this morning, and soon saw several parties of
threes and fours washing in the bed of the river, or exploring the
mountain gorges with their shovels and mattocks. The weather was
getting oppressively hot; indeed, the further we got from the
Sacramento the hotter did it become. The sea-breeze never penetrates
here to refresh us, and, except when an occasional squall comes
sweeping down from the hills, the air is very oppressive.

We travelled but slowly, still in an hour or so we reached a station,
about fifteen miles as the crow flies, or about twenty by the windings
of the stream, from the point of its junction with the Americanos,
where we determined to try our luck. There was quite a camp here--not
to the same extent as the Mormon diggings, but still the washers were
numerous, and the larger part of them were Indians. Some few worked in
the bed of the river, but the great majority were engaged in the
ravines leading up the mountains. The greatest quantity of gold dust
was found in the former, while the latter yielded the best specimens of
lump and scale gold. We were told that, though the side gullies were
very rich, yet they were more uncertain than the main stream. Lumps of
gold, weighing several ounces, were continually met with, but a morning
was often wasted and nothing found; whereas, if a man stuck to the main
stream, and washed all day long, he was sure of his ounce or couple of
ounces of gold. For these reasons we determined to stand by the river.

Book of the day: