August 5, 1849

From letter published in the Missouri Whig, Palmyra November 29, 1849


We give extracts below from a very interesting letter from our old friend Kemp P. Anderson, Esq., received in this place a few days since, and which has been politely furnished us. The letter is dated “Columo, on the South Fork of the American Fork, California, August 5th, 1849:” The letter is written to Mrs. A., who now resides in this place. Mr. Anderson left for California last winter by the Isthmus route. It will be gratifying to his many friends to learn that he has a fair prospect of realizing the object for which he has visited that far distant country.

It is now near two months since I wrote to you last. I then stated I hoped to be able to send you $1,000; and the reason I have delayed so long is. I wished to redeem my promise. So far as the money is concerned, I could send you $5,000, if I could meet with an opportunity. I am located at Sutter’s Mill now called Columo, 200 miles from San Francisco. If I was at the latter place, I could obtain a check and send it to you in safety. Travelling here is very expensive; it would cost me to go and return, together with expenses, about $500; and the loss of time would be from three to five hundred dollars more. You will conclude from what I have said, that I am doing well. I am doing well, and still hope to do better. I am carrying on a blacksmith shop at this place. The business is fine; much better than mining. I am making from $25 to $50 per day, clear of expense. I pay $4 per day for board, and from $14 to $20 per day for a hand to help me in the shop. I mostly do my own washing after sundown. I have worked excessively hard, and consequently, much reduced in flesh, having lost 44 pounds since I left home. I scarcely know myself when I look in the glass. Yet I thank and praise Almighty God that my health has been good, and my spirits buoyant.

This is the hottest country I was ever in. It is so much so, that a man cannot work at mining more than six hours in the day. It is said that the last of this month will bring cooler weather. October, November, December, January and February, are the best months for mining. There are two reasons: 1st. it is cool; 2nd. the streams are low. The water has not got down yet, owing to the melting of the snow on the mountains, which can be seen distinctly. It is a beautiful and rich sight.

I have seen Wiley and Sunderland; they are both doing well. The trains have been coming in for two months past. I hear of my Marion friends behind; I fear many of them will not get in at all. The grass will fail, and hence many of the teams will give out. Hundreds of wagons, with the entire loading, have been left on the mountain, the teams turned out to die. * * * *

At this moment there are eight or ten mule teams passing, from Ohio and Illinois. They say emphatically there will be much suffering and loss of life by those that are behind. The grass, they say has all dried up for 200 miles–that wagons, teams and men must necessarily perish. I hope for the better. I hear Wm. McDaniel, Gen. Willock &c. &c. are behind, and will be on, if at all, in ten days. Those that have got on have made the trip in better time that it was ever made before–some of them in 69 days travel. * * * *

I will say something about prices here. Common laborers get from $10 to $16 per day. Irish potatoes sell at 40 cts. per pound; corn 50 cents per pound; cheese $1.50 per pound; Saleratus $7 per pound; pork $1 per pound; flour 75 cents per pound; boarding from $4 to $5 per day. I have paid $3 for the worst breakfast you ever saw. Clothing is cheap. Mules and horses have been selling at from two to five hundred dollars apiece; they are now down low, from fifty to one hundred dollars, since the trains have got in.

G. W. Wiley is mercandizing (sic). T. Sunderland has gone out in the mountains with four old miners, prospecting. If they find a good placer, I am to have an interest in it. Cook Campbell and little Tom, did not come in the steamer with Wiley and Sunderland; they came on a sail vessel, the Humbolt. She arrived at San Francisco about ten days since. I have not heard from Campbell. There is much sickness at Sacramento city, 50 miles from this place; and a few cases have developed in this place within a few days past. The weather is excessively warm, and the water very bad. I have used great caution and prudence in protecting my health; I am temperate in all things, though I have worked very hard, and so soon as I can get a journeyman I will ease off a little until it gets cooler.

This is the Sabbath, and I have attended Divine service. We have preaching every Sabbath by the Methodists. A few Sundays since I listened to one of the finest sermons I ever heard. It was from the Rev. Mr. Roberts of Oregon. He is of the Methodist Church, a gentleman of fine appearance, and a ripe scholar–eloquent indeed, and truly a pious and great man. And the same evening the Rev. Mr. Denman from the Sandwich Islands, preached a very great sermon. He is Seaman’s Missionary at the Islands, and came up here on a visit, where he met many acquaintances, old sailors that love him dearly. He is a Presbyterian.

There are many good and excellent men in this country, and on the other hand, many very bad ones. The gold region in California is much overrated in the States. A great majority of those that come here are sorely disappointed. Nothing but the hardest kind of labour will win here. One ounce, or $16 per day, is considered well doing in the mines, though many greatly overgo it, and some come under it.

Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham