Milpitas, Santa Clara Co., Cal.,
May 13th, 1962.
As I predicted in my last letter, there is a great rush now being made for the newly discovered gold diggins away up in the cold North. From San Francisco they are departing by the ship load, and every day, more or less of the fortune hunters pass along the road at this point, bound for the land of promise. - They are all fitted out about alike; each riding one mule, and leading or diving another, packed with the necessary provisions and accoutrements for their long journey.
They will pass up through the Northern part of this State, to Oregon, and into the famous mines of the Salmon river, and if they don't find gold enough there to satisfy their ideas of boundless wealth, they will go on through Washington territory and into the far-famed gold regions of “Cariboo,” in British Columbia, where the precious metal is now believed by the enthusiastic herd, to lie about loose, in endless profusion. This is only the commencement of the work, and if it only holds out as well as it has begun, California will soon have no floating population at all. You never saw the like.
The gold mines in Oregon have been worked for several years, but although the Salmon river was known to have good mines upon it, yet the Indians were very brave and very troublesome. Indeed, they would not allow those mines to be worked at all if they could help it. But last fall a few strong parties of adventurous spirits got into the coveted region, and found the diggins to be of the very richest description. The winter snows soon drove them out, but they brought away considerable gold, and the most extravagant stories of the fabulous wealth of the new placers.
You recollect the big stories that were told in 1849, about the golden wealth of California, and of the sudden fortunes to be easily acquired here. Almost incredible stories were told, but in many cases, they were indeed true. The same wild stories are now being told about these newly discovered mines and indeed they may also turn out to be true. One thing is certain and sure; if gold is there in any quantity worth fighting for, the bravest lot of Indians in creation couldn't prevent the mines from being worked, and these poor redskins will just naturally have to stand back, or be exterminated.
Gold, and glittering wealth, dazzles and blinds the eyes of all the swarming fortune hunters, and the rights of the red-man are not to be considered, but pitilessly trampled beneath the onward rushing footsteps of the civilization embodied in the rush for gold. But so it has been, and so it will ever be; men will rush in crowds pell mell, wherever the deceitful finger of Fortune may beckon them; each eagerly striving, and hoping to be of the few favored ones who may bask in the golden smiles of the fickle Goddess, and although they return from the race, broken down, and weary with disappointment, they still remain as ready to start out on just such another golden humbug.
In January 1851, a great excitement broke out about some very rich gold mines said to be just discovered on the ocean beach at what is now known as Gold Bluff, some 275 miles northward from San Francisco. Wildly exaggerated falsehoods were told, and were contained in the daily papers of the marvelous wealth there waiting the hand of the gold hunter, and in less than three days, there were eight vessels advertised to sail for Gold Bluff. Fortunately however, the bubble burst in a few days, so soon in fact, that but few got started for the new El Dorado.
The gold was said to lie in patches of black sand on the sea beach, where it had been deposited by the action of the surf, and this sand was represented to be so rich with small scales of gold, as to yield from one to three dollars to the pound. In short, it was literally yellow with the precious metal. Now although this was a terrible big humbug, yet it was not altogether a lie, for there really was much gold to be found in the sand of the beach, and many miners have done well since that time, in washing for it. The bluffs along the beach are of the same material as the auriferous hills in other parts of the gold region, and a natural washing has been going on for thousands of years, resulting in a deposit of gold being left among the sands of the beach, while the loamy soil being lighter, is carried off by the surf.
''Gold Lake," was another humbug, - a real one, and no mistake. This was gotten up I think in the spring of '52, and the story as I heard it, was thus: In the fall of '51 an old fellow by the name of Hopkins - an old mountaineer - appeared in Placerville, and told wonderful stories of recent adventures in the as yet unexplored parts of the Sierra Nevada. He told of discoveries of gold that he had made in numerous places, and by and by, when the minds of this eager population had become prepared he quietly and by cautious degrees, proceeded to unfold a golden tale.
He told how that in the course of his wandering explorations far back in the snowy Sierra, he one day found himself in a most beautiful valley of some six or eight miles in length, by a mile or two in width, situated deep down among the tallest, steepest, and roughest mountains imaginable. About midway of the valley, was a clear beautiful lake, which extended its placid waters over about half the bottom of the valley, and from the well wooded ravines on every side, the mountain streamlets dashed merrily down, and were lost in the calm bosom of this lovely lake. A fine stream was the outlet, which at the lower end of the valley went tumbling and foaming far down into a dark rocky canon.
The shores of this beautiful lake were a fine white sand, bordered to the foot of the mountains all around, by a rich pasture of green grass and clover, studded with splendid flowers of every hue, and numerous herds of fat deer quietly grazed there, utterly unconscious of danger; never before probably, having seen their mountain solitude intruded upon by man. According to his story, it must have been a perfect paradise.
But to his open-eared auditors, the most interesting part was where he went on to say that while in the act of drinking from one of the clear mountain streamlets which ran into the Lake, he discovered in a washed crevice of the bed-rock, a piece of gold nearly the size of a musket ball. Of course he at once proceeded to explore the bed of the stream, and wherever the force of the water had washed the bed-rock bare he found in the crevices "many a fine little nugget;" "from the size of a wheat grain to that of a hickory nut;" Before night he had picked up two or three pounds of the precious metal, and all of it coarse. All the ravines he found to be equally as rich.
The fine gold had all washed down and was deposited on the shores of the lake in great abundance. He estimated that a man with the ordinary appliances for separating the gold from the earth, could easily wash out from 3 to 4 lbs of gold a day.
Early the next spring, he had organized a company of forty men from each of whom he received one hundred dollars, in consideration of which, he was to conduct them through the mountain defiles, and over the rocks and across the snows, until at last he should being them safely to the lovely valley of the Golden Lake. Each man lead a mule, packed with the necessary tools, grub, blankets, &c., and stealthily they took their departure by night from Placerville, in order that no one might follow them on the sly, and get the benefit of the new discovery, without paying their regular hundred dollars. Up the rocky steeps they toiled, and down the rocky steeps they struggled, and along the ridges and through the deep ravines they led their toilsome march, but night brought them that sweet refreshing sleep, so peculiar to the prospecting miner, and in their mid-night dreams they wandered rich and happy along the enchanting shores of Gold Lake.
The next day they pursued their weary journey, ever and anon stopping to "prospect" some promising looking locality, and during their three days journey they discovered gold in several places which were afterwards worked, and turned out rich, and even now are among the best diggins in the country. The third day however they began to be rather discontented, as “Old Hopkins" seemed very uncertain as to the route to, and the locality of, the Gold Lake, and before night they even began to suspect that the old rascal was leading them out to try and discover rich gold mines, in the region where they thought they might exist, and the Gold Lake story was only a bait to lead them on. Indeed the propriety of hanging "Old Hopkins" in case he should not find Gold Lake next day, was freely discussed. In fact it is supposed that Hopkins himself began to think best to "shab out," as things began to assume rather of a squally aspect towards himself, for sometime during the night, he did evacuate the premises.
The next morning, when the poor dupes found he had "vamosed," nothing could exceed their rage. Gold Lake was forgotten at once. Revolvers were brandished, big oaths were ripped out, and all hands rushed in different direction, keen on the search for Old Hopkins. 0! that terrible old scamp; if he had been so unfortunate as to have been caught about that time, they would have massacred him at once, and fed his carcass out in inch pieces to the Coyotes. But old Hopkins was not caught, and never has been heard of since. Thus ended that expedition. The story, however, had gone forth, and thousands were yet in the delusive belief that the Gold Lake did exist, and many other parties from time to time, explored in the vain hope of finding it; but it has never been found yet.
Frazer river was a humbug to a certain extent only, for gold was indeed there, and there were those who made fortunes at mining, but the mines were not by any means so rich as was reported, or so extensive, and they never have offered such inducements for adventurers, since the first rush.
As for these new mines now discovered, if they are only one-tenth as rich as the marvellous reports from there state them to be, they are rich enough, plenty; but the pioneers, there, as well as in all new countries, will have to clear away all the difficulties and smooth the way for those who come after them; so I think if we want to go to Salmon or to Cariboo, it will do in a year from now, much better than at present. They will have the thickest of the Indians killed off too, by that time. So much for gold mining.
It has become very customary of late among us here, to exchange remarks in reference to the weather, and to mutually speculate as to what the crops are likely to be, and how they are going to stand affected. After the heavy fit violent rains of winter had ceased, a spell of dry, hot weather, suddenly set in, which lasted three weeks, and presented a remarkable contrast to the deluging rains; but now again we are as suddenly receiving an instalment of showery, cold, blustery, and disagreeable weather. It seems more like March than like May. The crops look pretty well, but it is extremely difficult to foretell just now, how they will turn out. The early sown grain has grown so tall and rank, that during the past few days it has been falling down very extensively, and as there is plenty of chance for all the early grain to be lost in that way, we may not have such an abundant harvest, after all, as grain that lodges, or falls, while it is yet green, will not fill out, but has to be cut for hay.
May day was pretty generally observed; picnics were the order of the day everywhere and the many balls in the evening, were very fully attended.
The great institution, the telegraph, possesses no ordinary degree of interest at present, and we are more than ever anxious to get the latest news from the seat of war. You can hardly imagine how like wildfire any news of importance spreads over the State. The wires which traverse the country in all directions and to the farthermost corners, flash the news to all parts as soon as received, and the express being but a short distance behind the telegraph, the newspaper extras follow with the particulars, so that everybody is kept pretty well posted in regard to the news. It would have done your loyal soul good to have been here and seen the effect that the news of the great victory at Pittsburg Landing had upon all classes of the people. Everybody looked jolly, notwithstanding the news was so badly exaggerated as to make it that the loss of life amounted to fifty thousand men.
In San Francisco the joyful excitement seemed greatest. It was in the evening that the news came over the wires, and at Platt's Music Hall, the Oratorio of the Creation was being performed to a crowded house. At the conclusion of the first act, Senator Shafter appeared upon the stage, and in a neat speech, announced the glorious news.
The effect was electric. The vast audience arose as one man, and such tremendous cheers burst forth, as were hardly ever before heard within the walls of a theatre. Men acted as though they were crazy. The hundreds of singers threw their books down on the stage, and danced for joy. The old pot-bellied codger that did the bass viol, swung his big bow over his head, and yelled like a demon, while men in the boxes and pit, threw up their hats, jumping and shouting for joy, and the ladies swung and waved their handkerchiefs most vigorously. The band struck up Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, and the Star Spangled Banner, which materially assisted to heighten the excitement. It was some time before the Oratorio could be proceeded with. But -
Adios, BEN BOLT.