Diary of a 49er, Part X : April.  1st, 1850; Gold At Mormon Gulch and Jacksonville

April 1st. During the remainder of the month, and in the absence of our companion at Stockton, we made but $4.28 each. The weather became moderate, and the dry season seemed to be setting in. The wind kept steady from the dry quarter. The peculiarities of a Frenchman working near us have amused us. Rain or shine, he is always seen without his hat. He carries his rifle over his shoulder, and several pistols and his knife in his belt. When he reaches his claim, he puts down a pistol on each side of him, and his hole resembles a fort, of which he is the undisputed owner. He came from New York with his son. He was doing a business there worth $2000 a year to him, and gave $5000 for their outfit. In the ten months since he left home, he has made nothing.

There is a company here from York county, Pennsylvania, numbering fourteen strong, hard-working men. They have made but $50 the last four weeks, or an average of 14 cents a day to each one. During this time we have been exposed, every or every other day, to severe rains or snows, the ice being sometimes half an inch thick. Crowds of miners still flock in here, attracted by the fabulous reports of the richness of these mines. Some have done well —a few very well—while the miners generally have not made enough to support them. Our trading operation did not amount to any thing. The expenses of traveling, transportation of goods, time, &c., ate up the profits. I have to-day received a letter from some friends and traveling companions from Philadelphia, inviting me to visit them with reference to some mining operations for the summer. They are living at Jacksonville, on the Tuolumne River, some miles distant from us.



April 2nd. To-day have walked over to Jacksonville, where I was greeted with a cordial welcome. This is quite a settlement. There are some comfortable houses here. As in every other settlement, the houses are of every possible variety, according to the taste or means of the miner. Most of these, even in winter, are tents. Some throw up logs a few feet high, filling up with clay between the logs. The tent is then stretched above, forming a roof. When a large company are to be accommodated with room, or a trading depot is to be erected, a large frame is made, and canvas is spread over this. Those who have more regard to their own comfort or health, erect log or stone houses, covering them with thatch or shingles. I have seen some very good houses at Aqua Fria made and roofed with slate. Some comfortable wigwams are made of pine boughs thrown up in a conical form, and are quite dry. Many only spread a piece of canvas, or a blanket, over some stakes above them, while not a few make holes in the ground, where they burrow like foxes. The covers of these sometimes extend above ground, and are roofed with a placer of clay, looking like so many tombs. The Mexicans and Chilinos put up rude frames, which they cover with hides. In two cases I have seen a kind of basket, looking like a large nest, made fast among the branches, high up in the trees. These may have been used by the Californians to guard against wild beasts. The huts of the Indians are of various kinds, always rude in their construction. They are similar to the wigwams of the wild Indians found in the Western States. There is one house, however, which deserves a passing notice. It is named Tamascal. It is made under ground, in the vicinity of the Indian settlement. In this the sick and infirm are sweated. This is a barbarous custom, and often ends the life of the poor patient. We have spent much of the night in conversing on our plans, and I have determined to remove to this place. My friend, Mr. A., invites me to share with him his tent. He offers also to accompany me to Mormon Gulch tomorrow for my provisions, &c.

April 4th. Yesterday we walked over to the Gulch, where I made my few arrangements, received from my companions there the exact amount which I had deposited with them for trading purposes, and, having taken leave this morning, we returned, bringing three hundred doallars between us, to Jacksonville.

April 5th. Having arranged all our matters, also enclosed and dug up a spot for a garden, and planted potatoes, turnip, cabbage, and other seed, we started this afternoon, under the direction of Colonel M., upon a scientific prospecting tour. This gentleman has spent his life in the gold mines of Greorgia, and possesses great experience and skill in the business of mining. The miners are like the gold they seek, surrounded with dirt, rough looking, yet often possessing that sterling worth which will give them currency among the good, the gifted, and the beautiful. As the bars upon our rivers are being occupied by such communities, it may not be uninteresting to know by what rules and regulations such communities are governed. Those here presented were drawn up by experienced lawyers, and men of wise heads and good hearts, and may serve as illustrating the mode of government common among the miners.

April 15th. Many rumors reached us respecting certain rich diggings ten miles distant, among the mountains. They are named Savage's diggings, and lie upon or near the Rattlesnake Creek. Large numbers of miners have been for some time going in that direction, while multitudes, who have been but to be disappointed, are returning. One of our friends, the president of the Jacksonville company, left for this place, promising to send us back information as to his success. We were therefore much gratified, the next day, to receive intelligence of the most encouraging character, accompanied by a message for us to hasten up as soon as possible. We made our arrangements very hastily - stewed venison, baked several loaves of bread, and made some pies of the red berry called manzanita, which has some resemblance to the cherry. It grows upon a shrub ten feet high, the bark of which is smooth, and of bright orange color.

April 11th   On the 11th instant we started for Savage's diggings, in our way clambering up one of the steepest mountains I have ever seen. After a very fatiguing walk, we reached the ground by the middle of the afternoon, and were so anxious to try our luck among the crowd of adventurers, that we commenced prospecting at once. Our friend, who had come up before us, had been successful the first day; but all this was over before we reached him. Very little gold rewarded our labors. As night came on, threatening to be a cold one, we prepared to pass it as comfortably as we might. Piling up logs and brush, a bright blaze shed its cheering influence upon us. Wrapping our blankets about us, and stretching our feet to the fire, we slept soundly. Our stay upon the mountain was brief. There was so little encouragement that it was considered best to retrace our steps. Lame, hungry, and tired, we arrived the next night at our encampment near Jacksonville. During the following week we worked upon the banks of the river, with but small success. One day we made $2 50 each, and the other days we made nothing.

May 1st. Since my last date, we have not made enough to buy us our provisions. Much of the time, my companions being engaged upon the canal, I labored by myself. One day I made $6 ; and then, for a week, did not average 6 cents a day : so uncertain is the employment of mining. Cases are very frequent of persons making $100 in a day, and sometimes in a single hour, and the whole week following making nothing. I heard of a case which illustrates this point. A young man of rather indolent habits, and without the perseverance and application which, it would be supposed, are necessary to insure success in mining, happened into a valuable claim. Hiring a man to aid him, he took out, in six weeks, $4500. Near him was a company of six industrious and persevering miners. They labored on assiduously, week after week, for a period of four months, and at the end of that time they had all made about $1500. We are hoping for better success in the river diggings when the water is low. At present there is very little being accomplished. Laborers may be hired at $2 50 and $3 a day.

May 15th. During the three days immediately following my last date, I made, while working by myself, $17. Was invited to join a few miners working near me, who intend to organize a company for the purpose of mining at Hart's Bar—a place two miles below Jacksonville—when the river shall be low enough to be worked. All of these are Southern gentlemen. One of them, a nephew of Commodore Turner, U. S. N., lost a fortune by a sudden decline in the price of cotton, and, with the hope of retrieving his condition, came to California. He has messing with him two young friends, one from Annapolis, Maryland, the other from Mobile, Alabama.

There is also in the company a person who has spent eight years in the gold mines of Georgia, and possessing great skill in tracing up a vein of gold. I was not long in deciding to connect myself with them, and the next day we labored together. One day last week, as I was walking down from Jacksonville, where I had been to purchase provisions, I saw a number of men dragging some heavy object to the edge of a hill hanging over me. Presently they pushed it over the brow, and it came tumbling, like a bag of wool, over and over, down the side of the mountain. It was a grizzly bear, which had just been killed, and which weighed six hundred pounds. As the river was too high to allow crossing that evening to my camp, I accepted an invitation from the miner who had killed the bear to be his guest for the night. We feasted upon the flesh, which was tender and sweet. During the following week we had no success in gold-digging, the river being too high. It was also too early to commence working upon our canal ; but on May 10th we organized into a company, put up stakes with flags, designating our claim, and made advertisement of the same in Jacksonville, leaving a certified copy with the alcalde. 

Then we adjourned, to meet for work on the 4th of July, in the mean time having a common purse, and sharing mutually in the profits of the whole till that time. A part of the company went up to the Rattlesnake Creek, prospecting. At this time an association—named the Adelphi Mining Association—was formed, chiefly of miners from Jacksonville, numbering twenty-nine persons. Their object was to drain a portion of the channel of Woods Creek, in which was a deep hole, nearly the width of the creek, and twenty yards in length. The place is two miles above the junction of the creek with the Tuolumne. Much gold had been found all along the banks, encouraging the belief that, could we drain the stream and work the bed of it, it would "pay well." The company was a very mixed one. There were the good and the bad, the serious and the gay. We lead here a strangely wild life. As we had no mules to bring our provisions, implements for cooking and labor, &c., we were obliged to bring them ourselves. "We therefore left behind us every thing which could by any possibility be dispensed with. An iron pan, which we use for washing gold, serves also for boiling our coffee. A frying-pan is our only cooking utensil. In this one of the company—who leaves work before the others for the purpose—fries some pork, which is rancid, and then, in the fat, fries some flour batter. After it is done on one side, he tosses it whirling up, catching it as it comes down upon the other side, which is then fried in turn. We have neither knife, fork, spoon, nor plate. A spade answers very well for a plate. We use coffee without sugar, bread without salt, salad without vinegar. Our prospects so far are not favorable. Four of us were at work, when a pretty vein of gold was discovered, passing down the channel and into the bank. We have to-day made $18.25 each.



June 2nd. The vein has run up into the bank, and all our efforts to find it are in vain. This wild mountain creek is fast filling up with miners. Some considerable sums have been taken out. Along the whole length of the creek are closely scattered groups of Mexicans, Chilinos, Indians, Europeans, Americans. At the head of the creek, upon an extensive plain, several large lamps of gold have been found, and a company has been organized to drain and work the lower part of the plain.

June 5th. We are still at work at the old place - still hoping somewhere to find the lost vein. We have sunk several holes at some distance from the channel, in the bank, thinking thus to intercept the treasure we have lost. Mr. S., the Georgia miner, having heard that six Mexicans had made seventy-five pounds of gold in ten days, in a ravine near us, went over to-day to see the place. He found every foot of it occupied. There is much sickness at the mines. Many whose cases would yield to a little kind nursing, if they were promptly attended, become desperately ill, and often die from neglect of the early symptoms.

We often hear of instances of success in mining, some of them most remarkable. At Sullivan's Camp, a few miles from us, a Dutchman followed a vein of gold down to a large, rock, which continually became richer as he progressed. Aided by some friends, he succeeded in removing the rock, and in two hours' time took out forty pounds of the precious ore.

June 21st. Since my last date we have not made enough to defray our expenses, but to day have added to the treasury $32

June 22d. Company made $50.

23d. Sunday. No work.

24th. Company made $25.

25th. Company made $83.

26th. Company made $98.

27th.  Company made $68.

28th. Company made $84.

29th. . Company made $7 .

In eight days $447. Dividend to each of five members, $89 40; average per day to each one, $11.17.

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

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