Diary of a 49er, Part VIII : Feb.  2nd, 1850 Prospecting The Tuolumne Area

Feb. 2nd. Prospected to-day with Mr. L., of Livingston Manor, upon the Hudson River. Mr. L. has a quiet, easy way, as he is seated upon some rock, examining the dirt, and turning over the. stones at the bottom of some hole, which gives the "impression to any one who may happen to be looking on from a distance that he is picking up pieces of gold. We were thus seated to-day, and he was scraping the clay from a stone, and showed me several small scales, when two miners, who had been working all day above us, hurried down, and eagerly asked what we had found. They would not believe when we told them, but sat there an hour, watching every movement, ready, on the appearance of the lumps, to take possession of the next claim. Miners practice many arts to deceive others with regard to what they may be doing. Especially is this the case if they are doing well, when they generally say they are doing nothing, reasoning as did Sir Walter Scott after he had published "Waverley," and wishing to conceal his authorship. People had no right to ask if he was the author, and therefore it was right for him to deceive them. I found it was better to tell the truth. The very purpose of concealment was thus better accomplished, for, speak as you might, you were sure not to be believed, and you were thus spared the sin of a falsehood. The only indication by which I came to judge that miners were doing well in any place was to find them early and late, and constantly, at their work. Our prospecting gave us 25 cents each.



February 4th. This is a day to be remembered. Letters from home I If any one would learn the full significance of these words, let him pass ten months in California without one word from his loved ones, an unhappy exile from his own family. They may be sick, suffering, dying, and he who should be near them, to care for, and protect, and comfort them, is far away, and knows not their condition. It is an era in the mines—the arrival of the mail-agent. How cheerfully are our two dollars a letter paid. It was like receiving back my family from the dead - those letters, after so long and weary a silence. I am happy and I am miserable! I am calm and I am fearfully excited! It is an era in the miner's life when such, although tardy, messengers reach him. I have been present when many of these have given up to their owners their treasures of love or their burden of wretchedness. One has just opened his letter, and bursts into immoderate weeping. I inquire the cause. "My wife and child are both dead I" A physician of one of the hospitals told me that they dared not give their letters from home to those who were very sick ; that in several instances they had seen persons in this condition, upon reading their letters, turn over and die.  A party of individuals, from the ranches on the plains below, passed us on their way to the headwaters of the Tuolumne, in pursuit of Indians who had stolen some of their mules. They were joined by numbers of the miners.

Feb. 5th. There is some excitement with regard to a bar one mile above us. Captain W. and myself have spent the day there, and have made $5.37 each. The lump of gold found at Sonora, and which, it was said, weighed seventy pounds, actually weighs only twenty-two pounds. The miner through whom I received my information had a claim next to the one in which this lump was found. It lay within two inches of the very spot where he was at work. One blow of his pick would have given him possession of it.

Feb. 6th. We have to-day made 75 cents each. An interesting instance of success happened recently in a gulch upon the Stanislaus in our vicinity. Two young men, on their way to the mines, heard of this gulch, and concluded to commence their mining at that place; but, when they arrived there, they found the whole ground, considered favorable, occupied. Not knowing what to do or where to go, they made their first testing in a small ravine, across which a log was thrown for the convenience of the crowd constantly passing. In this ravine, and by the side of that log, they dug their hole. They came to a crevice in the rock, and saw opened before them a sight which makes the miner's heart glad – pounds of pure virgin gold, lying in lumps and scales, but awaiting their slightest effort to transfer it to their own pockets. 

Feb. 7th. This forenoon my share was 25 cents  In the afternoon visited Yorktown. The diggings here are at a distance from any stream, upon the plain; but it is probable the stream once ran over the ground where the gold is now found. Before the gold can be taken out, excavations must be made, from twelve to twenty feet in depth. One cup showed about eight ounces of beautiful gold taken out in five hours ; but it must be remembered that three men had been hard at work "clearing off" for seven days, during which time no gold had been made. This work is so severe and exposing that many at Yorktown are sick with rheumatism. 

Feb. 8th. We divide today 12 cents to each man. The party previously mentioned, who went out in pursuit of the Indians, returned late last night, having with them the scalp of one Indian, which they had taken after decoying him into ambush. They had mutilated the body, and then dragged it about with ropes, made fast to the pummel of the saddle. They rode through the settlement, almost too drunk to keep their seats, firing their guns and pistols, while from their mouths issued volleys of shrieks and imprecations. It must be mentioned, in justice to several who started with this party, that, becoming disgusted with the proceedings of their companions, they left them, and consequently must not share in the disgrace of these transactions.



Feb. 9th. We visited a wild mountain ravine, and made $4.10 each today.

Feb. 11th, Monday. In the same place, we have made to each $5.62.

Feb. 12th. Have made 15 cents.

Feb. 15th. I must place a cipher against all our labors to-day. How expressive the miner's phrase, "Worked out!" Others may go after him and make pounds of gold ; but, do what he can, labor as he may, become discouraged and leave, then return again and again, for him it is "worked out'' and with ''longing, lingering looks," he at length abandons it as a hopeless task.

Feb. 14th, Mormon Gulch. The rainy season seems to have passed. To-day, in company with several companions, who purpose trying the ravine and dry diggings with me, came to this place. This is a settlement about four miles from Curtis's. We heard considerable excitement existing at Wood’s as we came through. A miner, who was well known and esteemed, was found near that settlement murdered. He started yesterday, with considerable gold, intending to establish himself in some business in Stockton. His life was taken for his money. A quartz mountain near Woods's, rising abruptly from the valley, and showing its glittering white crest at its summit, drew our attention. Some experiments have been made here to obtain gold from the rock, but thus far without success. All the winter encampments are breaking up. The miners are on the move. The log and stone houses, and sometimes the tents, are deserted. Within a short distance, we saw over three hundred pack mules, moving about in every direction.

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



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