The Rock

In addition to his daily entries in his diaries, Alf Doten also wrote a regular column in the form of letters to his home town newspaper, The Plymouth Rock, summarizing his Western experiences for Massachusetts readers. He began this practice in 1854 when he was mining in Calaveras County, California and ended it in 1867 when he was working long hours as a reporter for local papers in Virginia City and journalism had become his profession. He published a total of 93 letters that began “Dear Rock.” Eighty of the letters originated in California, with 13 from Nevada. After his first 50 letters, Doten began numbering a “new series,” beginning with NS1 and ending with NS43.0. He saved the clippings for 81 of the letters, and for the rest, he saved his handwritten drafts. Two photostat copies of missing clippings were added to the collection later. The letters were transcribed during the process of editing Doten’s journals for publication in the 1960s, and Walter Van Tilburg Clark included 42 of them in their entirety within the three-volume publication. For most of the rest, Clark included summaries or partial transcriptions. We now present a complete and searchable archive of the entire collection of transcripts of Doten’s letters to The Plymouth Rock, alongside the clippings or handwritten originals. Our assistant Challen Wright digitized the clippings and prepared the transcripts for the project. We hope this online collection will be useful to researchers of the West as the region unfolded during a pivotal time.

- Donnelyn Curtis and Christopher Church, editors

Rock01 No. 1. California Letter. The following letter from a highly esteemed friend in California, we believe to contain a reliable statement of “matters and things in general,” in that State, together with other matters of interest to Plymouth people, at least. A residence of some five years in the “Land of Gold,” should enable him to form a pretty correct opinion of the “elephant” which he assures us, in a private note, he has positively seen: Double Springs, Calaveras Co., Cal., June 4th, 1854.
Rock02 California Correspondence.Spanish Gulsh. Calaveras Co.,July 20, 1854.No. 2. DEAR ROCK:--
Rock03 No. 3. Letter from California. Fort Grizzly, El Dorado Co. Cal., Dec. 12, 1854. DEAR ROCK: “Yet onward they passed on their weary way; now toiling up some steep ascent, and again descending to cross some rapid mountain torrent. The shades of evening found them among the tall and gloomy pines; here they made their camp.”
Rock04 No. 4Fort GrizzlyJan 1st 1855 DEAR ROCK:
Rock05 No. 5. From our California Correspondent. Fort Grizzly, Feb. 22d. 1885. "Oh, why does the white man follow my path, Like the hound on the Tiger's track, Does the flush on my dark cheek, waken his wrath, Does he covet the bow at my back? He has rivers, and sees where the billows and breeze, Bear riches for him alone; And the sons of the wood, never plunge in the flood Which the white man calls his own. Then why should he come to the streams where none But the red skin dare to swim,
Rock06 No. 6. From our California Correspondent. Fort Grizzly, Cal. March 24th, 1855. "The Father above, saw fit to give The white man, corn and wine; There are golden fields, where they may live, But the forest shades are mine. The eagle hath its place of rest, The wild horse where to dwell; And the spirit that gave the bird its nest Made me a home as well. Then back, go back from the red-man's track, For the hunter 's eyes grow dim, To find that the white man wrongs the one,
Rock07 No. 7. From our California Correspondent. Fort Grizzly, El Dorado Co., Cal., April 22d, 1855. “Winter’s dreary reign is over,Vernal airs blow soft again.”
Rock08 No. 8. From our California Correspondent. Fort John, Amador Co., Cal., May 28th, 1885. “Moving on.” FRIEND ROCK:-
Rock09 No. 9. From our California Correspondent. Fort John, Amador Co., Cal., June 10th, 1885. "The summer days are coming, The blossom decks the bough, The bees are daily humming, And the birds are singing now."
Rock10 No. 10. From our California Correspondent. Fort John, Amador Co., Cal., June 24th, 1855. “The coachman loudly cracked his whip,The horses pranced and reared, ---“ FRIEND ROCK: -- Did you ever ride in stagecoach? Of course you have; but did you invariably go to sleep, or keep awake to observe and study the characters, and criticize the words and actions of your fellow passengers?