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

Rockns01 California Correspondence. NEW SERIES – No. I. Mountain View, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Aug. 30th, 1858. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Many months have floated down the river time, since your old correspondent had the pleasure of communication with you, yet there are perhaps among your many readers, those who still remember "Ben Bolt," and give him “a place in their memory."
Rockns02 No. 2Mountain View, Santa Clara Co, Cal, Sept 1858 Dear friend Rock
Rockns03 California Correspondence. NEW SERIES. –No. III.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Nov. 18th, 1858. “MOVING ON.” DEAR FRIEND ROCK:--
Rockns04 California Correspondence. NEW SERIES. –No. IV.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Dec. 3d, 1858. DEAR FRIEND ROCK:-- Since my last letter, things have wagged on about as usual, and with the exception of an unusual earthquake, nothing of much note has transpire. This notable convulsion of nature, came off on the night of the 25th ult., and although I have heretofore spoken of California earthquakes, as "no great shakes," yet I can assure you this was not to be sneezed at, by any means.
Rockns05 California Correspondence. NEW SERIES – No. V.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Jan. 2d, 1859. DEAR FRIEND ROCK:--
Rockns06 California Correspondence.NEW SERIES – No. VI.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Feb. 16th, 1859. DEAR ROCK:--
Rockns07 California Correspondence.NEW SERIES – No. VII.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., April 3d, 1859. DEAR ROCK: -- This side of Uncle Sam's continent still continues to roll 'round with the balance of the world, and as it ever has been here in California, we rarely lack something to keep up the natural excitability of our excitable population.
Rockns08 California Correspondence.NEW SERIES – No. VIII.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., May 18th, 1859. DEAR ROCK: - All's well in this quarter just at present, and for the past few weeks few incidents have occurred calculated to disturb California equanimity; but such a state of things can't last long. Somebody must be shot, a town or so must burn up, or else some extra earthquake must give the state a jolly good shaking, just to stir up the people and give us all something to talk about.
Rockns09 California Correspondence.NEW SERIES – No. IX.Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Aug. 3d, 1859. DEAR ROCK: - Perhaps you thought from my long silence, that your old correspondent had quite forgotten you; but let me assure you, such is not the case. As excuse for not having written you for the last few weeks, I must plead hard work, busy times harvesting, no opportunity &c., and promise to do better in future.
Rockns10 California Correspondence.NEW SERIES – No. X. Milpitas, Santa Clara Co.,Cal., Sept. 18th, 1859. DEAR ROCK: Since my last, much has transpired to interest the California public, and keep our minds in an unusual state of ferment.