The Advice of a 49er to New Prospectors:

Much time is lost in the mines by those who are led, by exaggerated stories of success, from a place where they are working with some advantage, to flee and seek a better location. Leave the work of prospecting, principally, to the more experienced miners. There is an excitement connected with the pursuit of gold which renders one restless and uneasy—ever hoping to do something better. The very uncertainty of the employment increases this tendency. A person may be making his quarter ounce a day, and hears that a person a few miles from him is making an ounce. He is accordingly dissatisfied, and removes to the new diggings, there, probably, to be again disappointed. These exaggerated stories are most generally got up by traders in the place, in order to bring customers to their stores. I have noticed that those who remain most constantly in one place are in the end most successful.

When you have marked off your claim upon a bar —a place which has been proved— dig down to the rock ! Many have been losers by relinquishing their work before it is finished. The gold is generally scattered upon the primitive rock. All the rich deposits are here. You may dig over the quarter part of your claim and find little gold, while a parcel containing pounds may lie concealed in the last corner. A friend from Philadelphia, who marked off a claim at the Chinese diggings, dug it partly out, came to water, which disheartened him, and gave it up. Three miners went into it at once, and in a few hours had taken out nearly 20 ounces. The necessity of perseverance in such an employment must be apparent to all. You can not hope to accomplish any thing without it. Your motto must be, '' Hope on, hope ever ." The treasure you seek may lie at the bottom of your next claim —it may be beneath the next stone.



Be careful of your health ! This once gone, your hopes are at an end. An unfortunate miner at the Mariposa diggings, who had brought upon himself an attack of scurvy by the neglect of his health, said to me, during a visit made to him, "I would give all the gold of California, if I had it, for the health I had two weeks ago!" Fortunately, the supplies of provisions at the mines are better and more abundant than they were; and there will be yet greater improvement in this respect.  Vegetables, of which we had none at first, are now regularly furnished. The great care should be, to guard against the influence of working in the water. To this you are necessarily exposed ; and, from my observation on this point, the danger arising from this exposure may, in general, be safely met by the care the miner takes of himself in his hours of rest. It is not his being wet during the time of labor which is most likely to prove injurious, but his remaining so during the reaction which takes place in the system at the close of labor.

As you value your health, then, do not enter upon your hour of rest at noon, and especially do not leave work at night, without throwing aside your wet garments and putting on dry ones. You will soon be aware of a great change which takes place in the temperature of the air, among the mountains, during every night of the year. You may lie down, wet and tired, at night, and perhaps not need a blanket, while before morning you will feel the need of two or three. It is not generally the most robust or vigorous who best stand the labor, the privations, or the exposure they are sure to meet. These seem the most liable to the many diseases of the country; and perhaps it is for the very reason that, trusting to their strength and vigor of constitution, they do not take the necessary care of their health.

A few thoughts as to the various kinds of gold and gold-digging. The gold deposits are found in the quartz and slate formations, in decomposed granite, in sand and gravel beds, and in clay. The largest specimens are found between the layers of slate over which the stream flows vertically. The rocks and soil are frequently volcanic, like those of Pompeii. Lumps of gold are often found alone, and are no indication of the existence of a rich deposit. But the scale and dust gold is not found in this detached state; it exists generally in veins, though sometimes much scattered through the soil by the action of the water. The river diggings are sometimes upon the bars over which the stream has formerly run. These bars are covered with stones, which, with a portion of the soil below, must be removed, to the distance of several feet. When, by experiment, it is found to yield gold, the cradle is placed by the river side, and the dirt is washed through it, while the gold settles at the bottom of the machine. At the close of the work, this is washed down in pans, and then is dried in the sun or by the fire, and is still farther cleaned by blowing, by the magnet, or by quicksilver. The river diggings found in the channels require much more labor in the preparation, and must be worked by companies, sometimes of one hundred persons. A canal and dam must be made, to turn the water from the channel of the river. After that, the process is the same as the bar working. These constitute, generally, the summer diggings, as the rivers are low, and in a better state for being worked.

The winter diggings are found among the ravines and gulches, and upon the plains where the streams have formerly run. These are dry in summer, and can only be worked after the rainy season commences. But the Mexicans and Chilinos have a method of "dry washing," or winnowing the gold-dirt, much as grains are winnowed, the dirt being blown away, and the gold falling into the blanket or skin. The dry diggings are sometimes worked during the dry season, and the dirt thrown up in heaps, to be washed out when there is water. If worked in the rainy season, the water must be turned by small dams and canals, leaving the channel and its banks dry. This kind of labor is very difficult, but often pays well. The other kind of dry digging is the most laborious of all. It is sometimes the case that very rich deposits are found upon the small plains lying between the mountains. The river which formerly ran here has been displaced by the soil, which accumulates to a great depth. The soil must be removed, sometimes to the depth of twenty, thirty, or even forty feet, before the gold is found. When found, it sometimes proves very rich, but more frequently very poor. I have seen a company of nine persons labor for two weeks, keeping down the water with pumps, and, after all their toil, not find a grain of gold to reward their efforts. It is truly one of the most discouraging circumstances in a miner's life, that, although he may one day make his pounds, the next he may make little or nothing. It is equally disheartening to him to be working all day for the merest trifle, while by his side, and within a few feet of him, another is taking out his pounds. But let him persevere, and success may be his reward.



The actual time favorable for mining: during: the year is very limited, the greater proportion of which is spent in preparations. Some of the river companies spent five, and one six months' time, in making their canal, dam, and other preparations for two months' mining, in September, October, and November. Much time is lost during the excessive heat of the dry and the storms of the rainy season, and more in the profitless, but arduous labor of prospecting. Then much time must be spent in removing, in purchasing provisions, in building houses, &c. If all the days of actual mining were set down, they would not, I think, amount to more than seventeen weeks in the year.

I believe that in almost every case gold mines that are worked occur in loose soil, sand and gravel, where the gold is in grains, and has been washed out of the rocks. Such is the case in the Uralian Mountains and Siberia, where I believe that not one mine is worked in the solid rocks, although some veins are known. I should not, therefore, search for veins in the mountains, but try to find the best spots on the banks of rivers. Success must depend much, indeed, upon chance, though practice doubtless would afford some marks that would be of service. If you should find veins in the rocks, I doubt whether they would be profitable to work. I have a strong suspicion that gold will be found all along the western part of our Continent; perhaps through the whole of California and Oregon; for I suspect that this is the eastern side of a vast gold deposit in Asia, reaching as far west as the Uralian Mountains. If this opinion would increase the gold fever, I think you had better not mention it. It may not prove true.


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