Gold Rush Records from the "Newark Daily Advertiser"

 Like everywhere else, New Jersey contributed its share of gold seekers headed for California in 1849. Several lists of travelers were published in the Daily Advertiser, and they are reprinted here.

   Among the mostly young men traveling West was Seth Boyden (1788-1870), well-known inventor and mechanical engineer. Sixty years old in 1849, Boyden was in one of the earliest parties leaving New Jersey. On the way, and in the California mines, he provided the Advertiser with intermittent stories about his adventures. They give a good feel for what being an argonaut was all about, so we have reprinted them here, also.

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Friday 2 February 1849

   "Jerseymen for California.-- Our state is contributing her full quota of adventurers for the gold regions. Besides those that have already sailed, from this city, Elizabethtown, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Amboy, &c. -- another considerable company in Newark is now nearly ready, having a fine vessel of their own in New York. The California Association of New Brunswick will start for Chagres on Monday in the Crescent City. We subjoin the list: James C. Zabriskie, President; J. C. Potter, Secretary; C. B. Lane, Treasurer; John M. Simpson, C. A. Richmond, James Orchard, Jacob Apgar, J. K. Manning, Wm. Fisher, A. F. Arnold, John S. Stewart, A. Solomon, D. N. Simonson, Thomas Waller, James Forman, Philip Randall, Mr. Livingston: besides whom there are 8 from New York in the association, including C. B. and E. B. Zabriskie.

   "The Rahway Advocate shows that that place is also to be represented in the gold-diggings:

Mr. Harmon Edgar and a son of Mr. Alanson Newton, of Woodbridge, and a son of Mr. Michael Harned, Upper Rahway, have already sailed.

   "Mr. Lewis Cory expects to said about the 5th of this month. Mrs. Cory goes with him, and he takes out a stock of goods for the purpose of establishing himself in business in San Francisco. Mr. C. will also take out with him the frame of a house. Messrs. Thomas Potter and Jonathan Freeman go out with the Newark company. The following named also expect to get off early this month: Messrs. Murray Perkins, Lewis Vail, Jos. Crane, Charles and Jacob Shotwell. Messrs. Lewis Van Sickle and Joseph W. Concklin, of Woodbridge, are about starting."

    "The U. S. Mail steamer FALCON left New York yesterday afternoon for Chagres, with some 300 passengers -- including ..... NOTE: The passenger list for Falcon was corrected in the Advertiser on 3 February: From Newark - Seth Boyden and his son Obadiah S. Boyden; Lewis M. Burnet, and his son Lewis M. Burnet; John Burnet; Lewis R. Davenport, Henry C. Hudson, and Drusius Baldwin. From Bloomfield -  Joseph Morris. From New York - D. Griffin (or Griflin), (and?) Johnson. These were all members of Boyden's California Mining Company. On board also was P. M. Ford, of Newark.

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 Newark Daily Advertiser - Friday, 2 March 1849

  "A great crowd of sympathizing friends assembled at the Market-street R. R. Depot yesterday to witness the departure of Gen. John S. Darcy, who left by the Philadelphia line with a large party, principally young men of this city, on a overland journey to California. They will proceed immediately to St. Louis and thence, as soon as the equipments which they expect to procure there are ready, will take the route probably by the South Pass. They were all in good spirits and leave with them the warmest wishes of the community for their success. The following is the list of the party, all of whom are from Newark, except those otherwise designated:

  Jno. S. Darcy, Thos. Young, Jno. R. Crockett, Lewis B. Baldwin, S. H. Meeker, J. A. Pennington, W. Donaldson Kinney, Benj. Casterline, Moses Canfield, Andrew J. Gray, Charles Gray, Wm. T. Lewis, Thos. Fowler, Abm. Joralemon (Belleville), Jas. Lewis Jr. (Hanover), Job Denman (Springfield), Alwx. J. Cartwright Jr. (New York), T. W. Seely (New York), Isaac Overton, Jos. H. Martin, Geo. W. Martin, Chas. Hicks, Chas. B. Gillespie, Geo. Sayre, Augustus Baldwin, Jno. Richards, Ashfield Jobes, Wm. Emery, Henry L. Johnson, John B. Overton, B. F. Woolsey (Jersey City), J. T. Doty (Elizabethtown), Caleb Boughton (Elizabethtown), Wm. Emery Jr. (Warren Co.), Robert Bond (Lyans' Farms), John Hunt (Dr. Darcy's servant).

    "Letters have been received from Mr. Seth Boyden, of this city, from Panama. Mr. B.  sailed from N. Y. with a considerable party in the Falcon. He writes that they crossed the Isthmus in four days, and were enjoying perfect health. Board at Panama, $2 a day.

   "The steamship Northerner left N. Y. yesterday for Chagres, with 160 passengers.The bark Alguma sailed from Phila. yesterday with a large company.

   "Among the 33 passengers in the brig Alrasia, which left N. Y. on the 22d ult. for Chagres are Mr. W. K. Halsted, book-seller of this city, and Mr. Geo. W. Halsted of Phila."

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Tuesday 17 April 1849: from Seth Boyden to the Advertiser.

  "Panama, New Grenada, March 1849 - The severest day I have seen was the day I left Newark, though a sea voyage is any thing but pleasant to a land lubber -- particularly a steerage passage. Yet the ship was fine and airy, and much more comfortable than was expected: the Capt. of the steamer Orus also made every exertion to forward us by the canoes after we reached the head of navigation. The part of the journey performed in canoes is tedious only from not having room and good lodgings at night. From Gorgona to Panama the route is through a dense forest, the path being very winding and narrow in many places, over mountains of clay with steep ascents and deep vallies, through narrow gullies worn down by rains and travel, and interrupted by roots, rocks, logs, and small streams of water. This can be performed on horseback though much of the way had better be traveled on foot. The first 18 miles of road is almost shaded, and at this season the walk is a luxury that cannot be equalled in New Jersey at any season of the year. As we approach Panama the soil is poorer, and not all covered with timber.

   "From Chagres to Gorgona, following the river, the distance is probably not less than 50 miles, and from Gorgona to Panama by the path about 25 miles. The whole country produces a beautiful luxuriant growth of vegetation. The steamer Crescent City, and three sailing vessels, arrived about the time the Falcon did, landing some 8 or 900 passengers making the conveyance across the Isthmus far short of the demand, and greatly increasing the expense.

   "You will think by our bill of expense that we shall need to find gold soon. The fare on board the Orus, with a trunk, valise, and bag, is $10, and 50 cents a package for all others. From the Orus to Gorgona, in canoes, the baggage costs one dollar per bundle of 75 to 100 lbs. From Gorgona to Panama the conveyance is on the backs of mules and natives; the mules and horses are small, and carry 150 to 200 lbs., and the natives carry 100 to 125 lbs. At this time there is more baggage than can be conveyed across, and the amount still increasing. The average cost of some baggage per 100 lbs. was $6.06 or about $7.75 in all.

   "On arriving at the mouth of the river Chagres, the country presents little mark of civilization, the river is about 125 feet wide; upon an eminence on the left bank stands a dilapidated fort in ruins, and beyond this is the city, consisting of about 175 thatched houses on a piece of table land a few feet above tide water. A number of canoes of various sizes lie along the beach in front of the city, which, with dogs, pigs, and turkey-buzzards from the most prominent objects in sight. -- Some 40 or 50 stores with an armful of goods adorn the principal street, their principal contents being strings of dried meat, rice, plantain, pounded corn boiled, some light muslins, empty bottles and cakes; not a wheeled carriage is ever seen, no any article of conveyance better than a mule and a basket. The inhabitants are nearly in a state of nudity. The have one Church of the Catholic order, in the rear of the city, the roof of which is thatched like the other buildings, the walls being made of reeds plastered with clay. It has never been finished though probably fifty years old. The middle of the day is too warm for a Northern man to work in the sun shine but during the morning and evening at this season a fine cooling breeze blows every day, and the climate is perfectly healthy; hundreds of people sleep in the open air with only a blanket to cover them. Very little meat should be eaten -- rice, corn, plantain, potatoes, yams and fruit should be the chief food and not enough of this to exceed the call of nature; no person need then fear about his health on the Isthmus.

   "Gatuna and Palanque are small villages a few miles up the river. Gorgona is a village containing about 15 houses, with their roofs all thatched, and the walls made of cane covered with clay, though some have no walls, or not enough to keep the hogs out. There are probably not provisions enough in the whole village to serve the inhabitants three days. They have a church in part, the roof being put on, but the walls were never finished; part of the sides are of cane, and hides nailed up to protect their images. It once had three bells hung on a frame at the side of the door, which have been used until they were worn in two, and the rims fell off, the stubs are left hanging; they are rung daily. Some of the houses have a few fruit trees, though scarcely an acre of land is producing any thing of value; there is, however, a small cane field where sugar is made into cakes of about half pound, which are rolled up in leaves and sold in the streets and stores; the leaves of the cane are fed to the horses. The principal articles of furniture are earthen pots to boil in; these are set on three stones, the fire being made on the ground under them, and the smoke ascends to the roof of the house; the women sit round the fire with their knees up under their arms to attend the cooking; some of them have a wooden mortar about three feet high in which they pound corn and rice which are boiled together and then poured into a leaf rolled up: when cool it becomes hard enough to keep its shape, and is sold in the stores. Nuts and wild fruit are abundant.

   "Panama is improbably said to contain 10,000 inhabitants. The buildings have solid walls, covered with tile, but they are all dilapidated. The inhabitants are a mixture of blacks and Spanish, with the least of enterprise, but they live to an advanced age. Many of the shops are attended by old women, who move with less activity than land turtles. Dishes containing four to six quarts of rice, others with eight or ten pounds of dried meat, a few loaves of bread, and a few eggs are the prominent articles for sale; also a few nuts, plantains and other fruits, with a lot of bottles, comprise the general stock; some of them have a little crockery, dry goods and hardware, but one or two wheelbarrow loads would move the whole stock. The market is on the outside of the city or next to the water and supplied by canoes from the neighboring islands. There is another market-place outside the walled city, where about 50 venders place their articles on the ground and squat round them with their knees under their shoulders waiting for a purchaser; this is the most active business seen in the place, commencing at day-light and continuing until the sun is an hour or two high. The water used in the city is brought in kegs, and costing a penny and a half per gallon, and in kept in earthen pots.

   "The house we occupy is an ancient building, finished inside in the style of a Yankee barn -- it is, however, airy and cool, with a privilege in the yard to cook; we gather our wood from the beach and other places and live in good Spanish style, boil our rice and coffee, and fry our meat in the yard with the natives, and if we did not constantly watch the turkey-buzzards would take the meat out of the pan. Fresh pork is worth 15c. per pound, fish is abundant and cheap, though we have had neither. Bananas and Plantains are the favorites, sweet potatoes and yams are good and cheap, pine apples are fine but not plenty, and oranges are neither plenty nor good. The steamer Oregon, which arrived here on the 22d, is to take us to California on the 13th of March.

   "We, as a company, I think have done well, having settled all our accounts, passed our regulations, and elected D. G. Johnson, Captain, D. S. Baldwin, Secretary, S. Boyden, Treasurer, and L. R. Davenport, Cook, for the ensuing month. L. M. Burnet returned on the 5th with a large budget of letters: I think the Newark mail will be heavy from the amount of letters sent back; though I would delay mine until I am ready to go on board the steamer.

   "Sunday, 11th. -- Went to church this morning at 4 o'clock, this being the principal meeting, and all that makes one day appear different from another. There was but one small light in the large room, and we felt our way in the crowd; two more candles were lighted when the service commenced, but they afforded no light across the church; the service was short and unintelligible, and went out just as daylight appeared. The churches are very numerous and built at great expense, but like all other buildings here are going to ruin. From the appearance of gate-posts and other things they once used carts, but not a wheel carriage of any kind is seen. Dogs I should think grow wild, as you may see twenty at a time in the street, slim, lean and naked, and in the night they set to barking by hundreds.

   "After breakfast we visited the top of the mountain where Bolivar drew up his forces against Panama, situated about one and a half miles from the city. It is about 1200 or 1500 feet high, having a perfect command of it for two miles around. The mountains on the Isthmus are not a continued chain, but are round heaps of chalk-stone and clay. I have not seen a bed bug or flea on the Isthmus. The only insect that annoys us at all is a dark colored, hard, tough thing small enough to go through the eye of the tiniest needle; they get on the person and go into the skin head foremost, smarting like a hard mosquito bite. We scratch the skin off without injuring them, but a scab forms, in which they become fastened and when it is scratched off it removes them.

   "Some of the emigrants are going back, the expense being so great, together with so much uncertainty of getting along that their means are not sufficient, and I hear that many that have come to different parts of the Pacific will not see the diggings in one year. Some vessels ought to be sent round to take passengers along the coast. Living is high and daily growing higher; bananas bring 5 cents per dozen by the bunch, flour is cheap at $25 per barrel, rice costs less than the expense of freight, meat is very high, cheese 25 cts. per lb. There is scarcely enough of anything in the city to last two weeks, though small quantities are constantly coming in.

   "Mr. Wheeler shall write when I arrive at San Francisco, and I think I have written enough now as the floor is constantly tottling, and our troops are about ready to start for the beach. From all accounts, the expense of getting from San Francisco to the diggings, is enormous. S. Boyden."

 NOTE: Seth Boyden apparently left Panama on the "Oregonian" on 13 March as planned, but many emigrants were not so lucky. In the same issue of the Newark Advertiser was reprinted a 29 March 1849 letter from Panama, signed by 133 emigrants then stranded in Panama, warning future travelers not to attempt the route across the Isthmus. Quoting, in part:

   "There are now on the isthmus not less than thirteen hundred (1300) Americans, and the steamer Falcon is daily expected from New York with a large number of passengers. The steamer California has not arrived, although long since due, nor is there a vessel of any description in this port, destined for San Francisco, nor can we obtain positive assurance that any sailing vessel is on her way hither. We therefore feel it our duty to warn our fellow citizens against coming this route for several months hence, as they will certainly be subjected to much detention on their arrival at Panama. They further advise their countrymen that there are still on the Isthmus many passengers who have been there six weeks, and that the expenses of living are exorbitant as well as the price of passage to California, which in the vessels that left last was two hundred dollars. The accommodations and fare in these vessels were of the most ordinary kind."

 Only the signers from New Jersey were named in the newspaper notice: George W. Taylor, A. J. Jaudner, N. Babcock, D. Sherman, P. Hamorth, H. Powles, Charles Cawaline, James Peters, and Wm. L. Couplin.

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Thursday 21 June 1849

  "San Francisco, California, April 14, 1849. I resume my journal where I left off on going board the Oregon on the 13th. We sailed at 4 o'clock, and our course out of the bay was S. the first 24 hours; the ship was black and greasy, and the heat of the sun and the engine made it intolerably warm. On the 22d we changed our course due east, saw land on the right about noon, and arrived at San Blas at 4 P.M.

   "The city, if such it may be called, is on a sandy plain, a few feet above the sea, and consists of about 125 houses, all thatched roofs with pole and mud walls, and narrow, irregular streets, without room for a wheel conveyance. The inhabitants are a black, stupid mixture. About a mile from the place on an eminence stands the Fort, an old Spanish city of 30 or 40 stone buildings, and a church. These have gone to ruin, but few of them having roofs or being inhabited. The people here are too lazy to live, for the country appears capable of producing almost anything in the vallies and sides of the mountains.

   "On the 25th we sailed from San Blas, passed Cape St. Lucas on the 27th and arrived at San Francisco April 1st, all well. Everything on this side of the continent appears to be on a large scale; many of the mountains hide their tops in the clouds, and some present themselves above. The weather is cool and I am writing on deck in the wind. This is one of the largest harbors I have seen, the city is capable of being the largest in the world, but at present there are only about 250 houses scattered about.

   "On Monday night at 7 o'clock, our turn came to take our things on shore, which being done about 10 o'clock we piled them up and put tents over them and turned in to sleep. We find it very expensive to go to the diggings from Sutter's; they charge $1 per lb. to the nearest diggings and of course but few of our things will reach there. We have seen several persons come in from the mines with an abundance of gold, some specimens of which I send you. We determined yesterday to go to Sutter's, as the San Joaquin mines are occupied mainly by Mexicans, Peruvians and Indians, who try to keep possession, and fighting is the consequence. We may go there by and by, as I suppose gold is obtained much faster there. There are a few large lumps shown here, kept for the purpose of raising the stock. I think it is as plenty as was represented at home, though the hundreds who are unfortunate are not mentioned. It is a rough and tumble, grab and scramble expedition, and the gold will cost as much as it is worth.

   "We are all in a bustle now to get our things arranged to go on board a vessel for Sutter's to sail at 12 M. today.  Yours, &c., Seth Boyden.

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Saturday 28 July 1849

   "Columa [Coloma], Saw Mill Valley, California, April 1849. We reached the valley of Sutter's Mill at 9 o'clock, A. M., April 15th. Put up our tent, packed away our baggage, and about 4 o'clock went to the diggings below the saw mill with our wash pans and washed out a few grains of the gold. On Monday, the 16th, we went to the diggings, gathered all the information we could from the people we found at work there, and washed out 3 or 3 1/2 dollars worth of gold. On Tuesday I put the washer together while the others went to dig and prepare the dirt to wash. In the afternoon we washed out $10 worth, or the weight of an eagle. Wednesday 17th, Mr. Davenport stayed at the tent while the other five washed all day, and obtained $27.50. Thursday 18th, all hands together washed out $32.50. Friday 19th, obtained $61 worth of gold, and on Saturday 20th, $82.50 worth, having struck a good bed of alluvial dirt, which we had to carry about 90 yards to the water.

   "On Monday 22d, collected $67; Tuesday, 23d, $63.50; Wednesday, $68.50; Thursday, $56; Friday, $53.50; Saturday $50. On Sunday we stayed at the tent, washed up and made a dividend of five ounces of gold to each person, leaving six penny weights in the treasury. This is not up to what it was represented, being not over $8 per day, and our expenses are enormous. It seems strange, that after all that has been said with regard to this country, no correct idea of it has been conveyed.

   "When a person arrives at San Francisco the journey is not half performed -- the labor, fatigue and privation then commences. A person may go from San Francisco on the deck of a small vessel, and ride across the prairies in an ox wagon, but no person would risk riding up and down the mountains to Columa, (Sutler's [Sutter's] Saw Mill), then fifteen miles to the Spanish bar on the middle branch of the American fork, the nearest mine that yields sufficient to pay for working. A good horse will carry about 100 lbs. across the mountains, at an expense of about 50 cents per pound; from that a person must take his blanket, tools and victuals on his own back and climb his way wherever he goes.

   "You may wonder why we have stayed so long. The reason is, that the water is so high that the miners do not work, and it will exceed six weeks longer on account of the snow melting in the mountains. The river here is high, and it has risen some three feet since we began to work, driving us from the best diggings. This river is about 75 yards wide, and from five to ten yards deep on a descent from 2 to 3 or 4 feet in 100, and runs like a train of cars over the rocks, making ten times the noise.

   "A person commencing to dig, selects his place, clears away a bed of rock and gravel of all sizes and of all depths, for one to six feet, till he comes to a bed of yellowish alluvial sand a few inches thick, and sometimes a foot of this contains the gold in greater or less quantities. This is carried to the river and washed, yielding a few pieces, such as I send, in a shovel or pan full. If we strike on the lee side of a rock or pocket in the rocks, we make a good day's work; but if we strike a place that had no shelter when the gold and yellow sand was washed down, we get nothing.

   "This is the character of all the mines as far as I can learn, in the ravines or rivers; and that the gold is universally spread over the country is acknowledged by all the miners, many of whom have made large sums by good luck, saying nothing of hundreds that have not made their expenses. I have seen many returning poor. An Irishman returning from the mines to San Francisco said he got only $19. I asked him the reason, and he said he could not find a good place. One other man said he never made less than $20 per day, and had made $700 per day, having obtained in all $30,000.

   "You may have heard something of the Indian troubles, and no doubt much exaggerated. Those which have come to my knowledge are rather few. -- The Indians attacked a tent in which were three men, killed two of them, and the other ran to a neighboring tent (this person I saw) for help; when they returned, the Indians had taken all their gold and some other articles, and gone. In another case six men were attacked and killed. Another was found dead partly eaten, but supposed to be killed by a bear; this all happened about the time we arrived. A company of miners went in pursuit of the Indians, and overtook a party of 80 or 90, captured about 70, and killed 19. -- They were brought here and had a trial by the miners, who recognized seven of them as being of the party; they were retained, and the others sent away. Next day the seven were to have further trial and were brought out of a log house under guard, when the ringleader gave a shout and they all started and ran in all directions. Two of them jumped in the river, were shot and washed down stream; three were shot almost on the spot; another was pursued to the woods and found dead from a shot he received, and the other escaped.

   "On Sunday, 21st, an Irishman was killed by the Indians, he being alone; on Tuesday 23d, another man was killed, and on Thursday a party of miners went again in pursuit of the offenders; they attacked an armed party supposed to be hostile ones, killed over thirty and have taken an unknown number; the women and children were sent here to-day, but the warriors have not arrived at this hour. Columa, or Saw Mill Valley, contains 50 to 75 tents, some 25 temporary houses made like garden fence, and covered with tent cloth, most of them stores. Biscuit are worth 50 cts. per lb.; pork, $1.50; beef, 37 to 50 cts.; sugar, $1; brandy, $6 per bottle; gin, $4; beer, $4; nails, $1 per lb.; other articles in proportion.

   "Below the mill where the gold was first discovered there is a bend in the river which has worn away to the foot of the mountain, some 150 yards from its original bed, which is the place in which we dig for gold. It appears to me that some thousands of years ago some heavy flood brought down the alluvial soil and gold  from the mountain. Then other floods brought rocks of all sizes from half a ton weight, to gravel, and covering and mixing it with timber, &c. Removing this to find the gold, and washing it out, is the heaviest work a man can do. I learn from the miners not one in one hundred would have come, if they had seen as much as I have, and three out of four that have come would not work at it if the mines were in Bergen. I think we shall go to the middle branch of the American Fork, instead of the north branch, though it is of no use there until the water falls.

Yours, Seth Boyden."

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Wednesday 15 August 1849

  "In the Gold Diggins, May 1849. Well, this is a 'Life in the Woods' in every sense. Since I closed my last, our company appointed a Committee of three -- O. S. Boyden, D. S. Baldwin and myself -- to make an exploring tour to the Spanish Bar, on the middle branch of the American Fork, and at three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, we set out with our blankets and provisions for a few days' excursion. It required an hour and 20 minutes to get to the top of the first mountain, east of the Saw Mill; then down again and up another as steep. We passed the night in a valley under a white oak; started at sunrise next morning, went up through another valley having a small stream and grassy meadow. Here we found the tent of the famous Mr. Greenwood, an American who went into the Western country, followed trapping, married an Indian woman, and finally roamed here. He has five children -- 3 boys and 2 girls -- one of whom plays the fiddle. This man rescued several families that were snowed under when coming to this country too late, and the government gave him $800, -- and he has been employed as guide in Government operations.

   "We reached the Bar next morning and found the gold more obtainable, as it is found in the gravel at the top, and there is no upper layer to remove. Gold is discovered on all the banks, and in all the ravines and sides of the mountains -- in short, on all the surface of the ground, though the quantity is too diffused and small to work, except where the rains and streams have brought it together in deposits. Lumps worth from $10 to $100 are picked up as often in one place as in another, though the fortunate finders are scarce; yet thousands take their blankets and tools and as much food as they can carry, and set off for untrod vallies in hopes of meeting Dame Fortune, and 9 out of 10 miss the mark. I give you here a map of the part of the country we are, which I believe to be nearer correct that the maps I have seen. [NOTE: The map was not reproduced in the newspaper.]

   "The water is an inconvenience; only a few months in the year can the mines be worked with much success. It is high in the rainy season, and also when the snow melts from the mountains. It is now cold and drinkable, but they say when the snow is off it becomes tepid and stagnant; yet I can hardly understand why among such mountains the water should not be good -- though it may be for want of rain.

   "We have seen people who have been to all parts of the mines, and, by their story, the good diggings and lucky spots are all at some indefinite distant place. -- Though gold is found in large lumps in the San Joaquin, it is more of a lottery to work there. I think from all I can learn that 50 or 60 miles up the Middle Branch of the American Fork, is about as good as any other point; at any rate, it is rough enough, but the soil is not quite alluvial enough, and too red. The base rock here is slate; all I have seen extends from N. to S., and on a slight inclination of 100 to 150 from perpendicular to the west. The rolling stones are of all sorts and sizes, hard and heavy. The gold becomes larger and more scattering as we approach the snowy mountains. A man is now at work at the Spanish Bar, who has just returned from up to river to the snowy region, and he reports little gold there.

   "The tools we brought with us are too heavy; the rocker is as good a machine as was ever used, but we cannot carry it farther, and our blower is of no use. -- Digging gold is altogether a different thing from what I hoped to find it, yet we hit it with part of our tools. Very many of the New York machines have arrived, and not one is worth a shilling.

   "On Monday, 30th, two of the company only, O. and J. worked; they made $36; Wednesday and Thursday a few worked (though all shared), and obtained $53; Friday 4th, all worked, $71; Saturday $85; Monday all worked, struck a good spot and obtained $128; some of the sand yielded 19 gr. (about 75c.) per shovel full; we worked tight all day. On Tuesday I did not work, being overheated and unwell, and as a neighbor is going to San Francisco on Wednesday, I stay at the tent to write. From present appearances, it will take a long time to get all the gold we want, though no doubt it is here, and can be had too -- if one can only live long enough. I have found nothing but small stuff but one of the company of thirty who went with us to the Middle Branch found a piece worth near $1000 in the valley in which Greenwood lives.

   "I have not heard a word from home since I left, and I sadly miss the newspapers. I hope to get a large package of the Daily soon, and very likely will be in San Francisco when I hear our vessels have got in. -- This, however, may be in the best time for digging, for all agree that when the water is low we can make $50 to $100 at the Spanish Bar, if we work smartly. There is no chance to make money on goods to San Francisco: there are already enough in that trade. I think when the shipping gets round, that goods will be sold for less than their cost in New York, for there are not houses in which to store them, and this will somewhat reduce the price here, though the transportation makes the cost. I paid $8 for a common garden hoe, $1 per lb. for nails, 40 cents per food for boards (to make a small washer) and 50 cents a sheet for very poor tin.

   "Some of our party talk of returning, and probably will, if low water does not materially increase our gains. This work is ruinous to clothes, and worse to one's temper. Handkerchiefs and thin clothes are of no account here; the prevailing costume consists of a hat, shirt, pants, and boots, with a pair of pistols and a rifle, and a blanket to roll one's self in, in the night: we do not shave, of course, and look like a parcel of ruffians.

   "I have, perhaps, given you some idea of our situation, though nothing short of actual sight can do it justice. Yours, &c.,  Seth Boyden."

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   We found no letters from Seth Boyden in the Newark Advertiser from August 1849 to September 1850. From his journal, published in the Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society [New Series Volume 12 (1927): 309-313, 455-461; Volume 13 (1928):70-76], we know that he continued to mine in the Big Bar area of the Middle Fork of the American River. Success was intermittent, costs high, and various members of the party began leaving for New Jersey in September 1849. By November 1849, rains and high water resulted in only occasional mining until well into the spring of 1850. Summer 1850 was a repeat of the previous year.

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Newark Daily Advertiser - Wednesday 10 September 1850

   "Big Bar, California, June 16, 1850 - The number of persons now in the mines is differently estimated at 100,000, and upwards -- all coming, of course, with the expectation of making a fortune in a short time. Many of the quail, when they learn what is to be done; but the more resolute shoulder their tools, blankets, and a few provisions, and go to the mountains to seek new diggings. When night overtakes him, he cuts a few bushes, places them on the ground, spreads his blanket, and lies down to rest. He there reposes undisturbed, save occasionally by the steps of a 'grizzly,' reconnoitering his strange neighbor; but if the miner does not commence hostilities, they usually part on good terms. The Chiota, or prairie wolf, another kind of nightly visitor, which comes in for a share of rations, frequently takes his choice of the meat, if the miner does not take the precaution to sleep upon it; and some are startled when they stir, but a rattle-snake giving notice that he does not wish the miner to roll on him! -- But with all the evils incident to this kind of life, it is seldom that any person is killed, except by the Indians; and when this occurs, a party of miners generally pursues the tribe and kill ten or twenty of them, and then they retreat farther off. When the miner's stock of food gets low, or he finds a place that suits him, he builds a small bush cabin, and goes to digging: when his stores are gone, he makes his way back again over the mountains, for a new stock of provisions, returns, and tries again, in the hope of better success. In this way they go over the country -- barely making their expenses -- while the more fortunate ones save a little, and others make a fair business. Some enterprising companies have done well by building dams and turning the rivers.

   "Much preparation is making for the coming autumn, when the water is low. An enterprising company have, at a cost of $80,000, succeeded in draining the river a mile or more, by means of a dam; but whether there is gold enough to pay the expenses, remains to be seen. Many places in the river will not pay to work, when it is drained; yet some yield a heavy pile of gold with but little labor, but they are 'few and far between.' -- Indeed it is a fair comparison to compare the miners' prizes with the prizes in the scheme of a money lottery of former times.

   "We worked on Long Bar last week and made a poor time of it. A melancholy spectacle presented itself to us while there at work. The Big Bar Ferry canoe came down the stream, bottom side up, on which two men were clinging, who were knocked off when passing this bar, and seen no more. The name of one of them was Henry Carl, of Fall River; the other was an Englishman, who had been hired to tend the ferry-boat a few days. That makes 7 persons who were drowned since I have been here.

   "Sunday, 23d -- We are still working at Long Bar for a small pittance; but it as well as we can do anywhere else. We occasionally hear of a 'big haul' being made at some placer, but it is often a hoax. It is said that a piece weighing 21 pounds was dug up in the Oregon Canon, ten or twelve miles from here, last week. It may be so; but of course it must 'go the rounds.'

   "The inexhaustible mountain of quartz rock, from which the mineral wealth of California will have to be extracted, I have not seen; it may be valuable for making sand paper. A fine specimen of gold, weighing eleven ounces, was taken by us from the bank of the river.

   "It is to be regretted that so many are coming here in search of gold. Thousands will return without making their expenses; they listen only to the bright side of the story. There is a great amount of gold here, it is true; but it requires too much labor and expense to get it.

Yours, &c.  Seth Boyden"

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Seth Boyden left the mines in December 1850. He sailed from San Francisco 25 December 1850, but unfavorable weather kept them at sea until 3 March 1851, when he finally went ashore in Panama. He crossed the Isthmus as on his westward trip, and finally arrived in New York on 22 March 1851.


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