We worked our gold claim very successfully for about six weeks, when the creek at last became so dry that we had not water enough to run our long tom, and the claim was rendered for the present unavailable. It, of course, remained good to us for next season; but as I had no idea of being there to work it, I sold out my interest to my partners, and, throwing mining to the dogs, I broke out in a fresh place altogether. I had always been in the habit of amusing myself by sketching in my leisure moments, especially in the middle of the day, for an hour or so after dinner, when all hands were taking a rest "nooning," as the miners call it lying in the shade, in the full enjoyment of their pipes, or taking a nap. My sketches were much sought after, and on Sundays I was beset by men begging me to do something for them. Every man wanted a sketch of his claim, or his cabin, or some spot with which he identified himself; and as they offered to pay very handsomely, I was satisfied that I could make paper and pencil much more profitable tools for obtaining gold than work with than pick and shovel.

My new pursuit had the additional attraction of affording me an opportunity of gratifying the desire which I had long felt of wandering over the mines, and seeing all the various kinds of diggings, and the strange specimens of human nature to be found in them. I sent to Sacramento for a fresh supply of drawing paper, for which I had only to pay the moderate sum of two dollars and a half (ten shillings sterling) a sheet; and finding my old brother-miners very liberal patrons of the fine arts, I remained some time in the neighborhood actively engaged with my pencil. I then had occasion to return to Hangtown.



On my arrival there, I went as usual to the cabin of my friend the doctor, which I found in a pretty mess. The ground on which some of the houses were built had turned out exceedingly rich; and thinking that he might be as lucky as his neighbors, the doctor had got a party of six miners to work the inside of his cabin on half shares. He was to have half the gold taken out, as the rights of property in any sort of house or habitation in the mines extend to the mineral wealth below it. In his cabin were two large holes, six feet square and about seven deep; in each of these were three miners, picking and shoveling, or washing the dirt in rockers with the water pumped out of the holes. When one place had been worked out, the dirt was all shoveled back into the hole, and another one commenced alongside of it. They took about a fortnight in this way to work all the floor of the cabin, and found it very rich. There was a young Southerner in Hangtown at this time, who had brought one of his slaves with him to California. They worked and lived together, master and man sharing equally the labors and hardships of the mines.

One night the slave dreamed that they had been working the inside of a certain cabin in the street, and had taken out a great pile of gold. He told his master in the morning, but neither of them thought much of it, as such golden dreams are by no means uncommon among the miners. A few nights afterwards, however, he had precisely the same dream, and was so convinced that their fortune lay waiting for them under this particular cabin, that he succeeded at last in persuading his master to believe it also. The master said nothing to any one about the dream, but made some pretext for wishing to become the owner of the cabin, and finally succeeded in buying it. He and his slave immediately moved in, and set to work digging up the earthen floor, and the dream proved to be so far true that before they had worked all the ground they had taken out twenty thousand dollars.

There were many slaves in various parts of the mines working with their masters, and I knew frequent instances of their receiving their freedom. Some slaves I have also seen left in the mines by their masters, working faithfully to make money enough wherewith to buy themselves. Of course, as California is a free State, a slave, when once taken there by his master, became free by law; but no man would bring a slave to the country unless one on whose fidelity he could depend. In the mines the Americans seemed to exhibit more tolerance of negro blood than is usual in the States not that negroes were allowed to sit at table with white men, or considered to be at all on an equality, but, owing partly to the exigencies of the unsettled state of society, and partly, no doubt, to the important fact that a negro's dollars were as good as any others, the Americans overcame their prejudices so far that negroes were permitted to lose their money in the gambling rooms; and in the less frequented drinking shops they might be seen receiving drink at the hands of white bar-keepers.

A very striking proof was seen, in this matter of waiting, of the revolution which California life caused in the feelings and occupations of the inhabitants. The Americans have an intense feeling of repugnance to any kind of menial service, and consider waiting at table as quite degrading to a free and enlightened citizen. In the United States there is hardly such a thing to be found as a native-born American waiting at table. Such service is always performed by negroes, Irishmen, or Germans; but in California, in the mines at least, it was very different. The almighty dollar exerted a still more powerful influence than in the old States, for it overcame all pre-existing false notions of dignity. The principle was universally admitted, and acted on, that no honest occupation was derogatory, and no questions of dignity interfered to prevent a man from employing himself in any way by which it suited his convenience to make his money. It was nothing uncommon to see men of refinement and education keeping restaurants or roadside houses, and waiting on any ragamuffin who chose to patronize them, with as much impressments as an English waiter who expects his customary coppers. But as no one considered himself demeaned by his occupation, neither was there any assumption of a superiority which was not allowed to exist; and whatever were their relative positions, men treated each other with an equal amount of deference. After being detained a few days in Hangtown waiting for letters from San Francisco, I set out for Nevada City, about seventy miles north, intending from there to travel up the Yuba River, and see what was to be seen in that part of the mines.



I struck the middle fork of the American River at a place called Spanish Bar. The scenery was very grand. Looking down on the river from the summit of the range, it seemed a mere thread winding along the deep chasm formed by the mountains, which were so steep that the pine trees clinging to their sides looked as though they would slip down into the river. The face of the mountain by which I descended was covered with a perfect trellis-work of zigzag trails, so that I could work my way down by long or short tacks as I felt inclined. On the mountain on the opposite side I could see the faint line of the trail which I had to follow; it did not look by any means inviting; and I was thankful that, for the present at any rate, I was going downhill. Walking down a long hill, however, so steep that one dare not run, though not quite such hard work at the time as climbing up, is equally fatiguing in its results, as it shakes one's knees all to pieces.

I reached the river at last, and crossing over in a canoe, landed on the "Bar." What they call a Bar in California is the flat that is usually found on the convex side of a bend in a river. Such places have nearly always proved very rich in gold, that being the side on which any deposit carried down by the river will naturally lodge, while the opposite bank is generally steep and precipitous, and contains little or no gold. Indeed, there are not many exceptions to the rule that, in a spot where one bank of a river affords good diggings, the other side is not worth working. The largest camps or villages on the rivers are on the bars, and take their name from them.


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