The following are some excerpts of the diary of a man who was there is the early days of 1848. The name of his book is:
The California Gold Fields in 1848,

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' River. We struck our tents yesterday morning, loaded our horses, and took our departure.

Some few of them 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 part of the 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.



Towards evening we entered the valley drained by the stream called Weber's Creek. There was quite a camp here not to the same extent as the Mormon diggings, but still the washers were numerous. After a few weeks, these washings had become nearly as crowded as the Mormon diggings were when we left them, and immense sums have been made by some of the luckier adventurers amongst the ravines. The whole valley is dotted over with tents and green bush arbors, and there is hardly a water course but which is sprinkled with miners digging, sifting, and washing. About half of the people work together in companies the other half shift each for himself. There are hundreds of Indians, many of them fantastically dressed, for they can purchase fine clothing now, even at the extravagant rates at which all articles are charged at Weber's store. The atmosphere continues exceedingly sultry, and the miners who work by the river, out of the shade, have in several instances sunk exhausted under the toil. Dysentery, produced probably by unwholesome food, has also begun to show itself, and altogether the aspect of things is any thing but cheerful.

Yesterday, a large party, many of them Mormons, started for the Bear River, a small stream which runs into the Sacramento, and is said to be about fifty miles distant, due north from where we are encamped. Not long afterward, we determined to start for the Bear River as well. After our arrival, rested somewhat late on Saturday morning to make up for the fatigues of the journey from Weber's Creek. On surveying the Bear River country we found ourselves in a perfect solitude. Not an Indian, far less a white man, was to be seen. The fertile valley of the Bear River with its luxuriant grass, in which nestled coveys of the California quail seemed almost untrodden by human foot, and sloped in great beauty between the ridges of rocky hills and peaks of granite, with dark ravines and canons between, which hemmed it in. Our first care was of course to try the capabilities of the country in the way of gold, We therefore separated ourselves, and sought different points of the channel of the stream, and different chasms, which in the winter time conducted the mountain torrents into it.

One of the exploring parties was dispatched to follow up the stream towards its head. They travelled the distance of some ten or twelve miles, crossing some of the more important tributaries of the main river, and had the good fortune to strike upon a spot where a slight examination was sufficient to prove that the gold existed in great abundance in the sand and shingles, and imbedded in flakes amid the rocks. To-day we have moved the camp to this spot ; and, as we are now beyond the reach of aid from white men, and have begun to feel that we must be (for some time at least) a self-supporting party, our first thoughts are turned towards making arrangements for obtaining a supply of food, and for insuring our security. Bradley, Joe White, and Jose, are to be our hunters; Malcolm, Lacosse, and M'Phail, are to set to work to-morrow to make a couple of cradles, the carpenter giving them an occasional helping hand, but occupying himself principally in superintending the construction of a large shanty, sufficient to accommodate the whole party. The hunters had good on their first day, and came in with a couple of fat bucks. The trapper had also snared a number of quails, so that our table was nobly furnished. Our dinner, also included a dessert of fruit similar to apples in taste, but not larger than well-grown gooseberries. We are now regularly settled on the Bear River, and have, as yet, seen no signs of human life around us. The reports, there fore, which we heard at Weber's Creek of the gold-finders having penetrated into this valley, would appear to have been without foundation.



As soon as our building labors were over yesterday, we set to work digging and washing, and were very successful. The country about here is of course much more rugged than in the lower diggings. The soil, mineralogically considered, does not seem to vary materially from that in the neighborhood" of Weber's Creek. If any thing, it is more impregnated with gold. On Friday, Don Luis discovered a large rough lump in a canyon about a mile from the shanty ; and the next evening a similar lump, though rather smaller, was picked up by Bradley in one of his hunting excursions.

The past week has been in many respects an eventful one. On Friday, while several of us were rambling about the neighborhood of the camp, exploring the numerous mountain canons which lie between us and the Sierra Nevada, we found, among the loose particles of rock which had crumbled away from the sides of the ravine and fallen to the bottom, several lumps of gold of a much larger size than any we had before met with. This induced us to examine the upper part of the ravine, where promising traces of gold were readily detected; further examination convinced us that the precious metal existed here in far greater quantities than in the locality where we had been at work for several weeks previous ; and we were, more over, satisfied that it was to be obtained with much less difficulty.

As being found in solid lumps, the unpleasant labor of washing was dispensed with. We therefore determined, on the following morning, to remove all our implements to this spot, the only disadvantage of which was its being situated rather far off from our place of encampment. The ravine we proposed moving to was nearly half-a-mile distant. After breakfast, Bradley, Lacosse, and M'Phail, accompanied by the old trapper, set off on a hunting expedition, for our stock of provisions was now getting very low, leaving Jose and our legal friend at the camp. The remainder of the party, including myself, proceeded to the ravine with our implements, and after working a few hours we succeeded in procuring more gold than we had obtained in any two days during the past week.

By September 1st, there have been several discussions as to the prudence of keeping the large quantity of gold we have already procured in camp, when we are liable to be surprised by the Indians, who for the sake of it would tomahawk and scalp us all round. I don't like this suggestion, for the amount is sufficiently large to tempt any one to make off with it; besides it would be dangerous to send it without a strong guard. To-day we have put ourselves on short rations, as our stock of provisions is getting very low. September 2nd. The camp generally seem to be in favor of Bradley's proposition. Some of the more timid ones consider that we shall be in constant danger for the next two months before the rainy season commences, when we must give over work. It is a great pity that the gold was not sent down at the time Lacosse and the trapper left.

Return To: California Gold Rush: True Tales of the 49ers



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