January 1, 1850

From letter published in the Missouri Whig, Palmyra, ca ?, 1850


Extracts of a letter from Mr. Thos. Hart, to his brother, in this county, dated Kelsey’s Dry Diggings, California, January 1st, 1850:

Dear Brother– I arrived in California on the 18th August on Bear River, and have not done much since I arrived. I am now about five miles above Sutter’s mill on the Americano in Kelsey’s Dry diggings. There are eight of us together, and we have built a cabin to winter in. The rains commenced here about the last of October, sooner this season than usual, which has been raining off and on ever since; We are averaging about eight dollars per day, which is very good wages for the rainy season, for we cannot work more than one-half our time. There are two of our party out prospecting: we have heard of big diggings in the neighborhood, where a man can make from one to two hundred dollars in a day if he is lucky enough to find them.

I may go to Sacramento City in the spring, to go into business there. John, this is a great country; you see people from all quarters of the globe, and queer looking folks they are. The mines are in the mountains, in the eastern part of California. In the southern part there are some pretty respectable settlements. These settlements were made by the Spaniards a hundred years ago.

I would not advise any one to come here for it is a hard life to live. A man lives in the woods on the hardest kind of fare, and cooks it himself; sleeps out on the hard ground, with a pair of blankets for a bed. So a man ought to make a pile to pay him for it. This is a beautiful country, with a warm climate. They have no snow in the valleys. If it was not for the rains, you could go with summer clothing all the year. Where we are now, you can stand on one of the mountains, and see the snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains on the east, and on the west the green valley of the Sacramento clear to the bay of San Francisco. * * * I am well, with the rest of our mess: these are J. Winlock, B. Ward, and myself, who are in partnership. If I am pretty lucky in business next season, I may be home next winter. James Monell, Charles Carter, John Hawkins, W. Lear, and C. Ingraham, are the rest of our mess. We are all in fine spirits about finding good diggings next summer. I think after next season there will be no chance for mining on the small scale, and it will require large companies to make it pay. Provisions have been very high here in the mines. About six miles from here, higher up in the mountains, flour sold at $1.50 per pound; pork at $2 per pound, and every thing else in proportion. I paid on my way to the city, $2 a meal, 50 cents for the privilege of sleeping on the floor out of the rain, and $1 per lb. for horse feed. Flour can be had in the city at 20 cents per lb.; it sold last fall at from 8 to 10 cents. I saw a letter from T. E. Hatcher to Gen. Willock, stating that all the friends were well.

At Sacramento City there are 30 or 40 vessels lying all the time. There are two steamers running twice a week to San Francisco– passage 32 dollars– The trip across the plains is the hardest way to get here. Better go by water or through Mexico. I believe I would rather stay here all my life than cross the plains again.

Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham