June 24, 1850

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

COLOMA, June 24th, 1850

J. Sosey, Esq — Sir: Being rather an invalid at present, I avail myself of the temporary leisure thus afforded, to drop you a line for the gratification of your readers; as I learn that private letters, never intended for publication, frequently find their way into the public prints.

For various reasons, some degree of courage should be attributed to a man in California who ventures to declare publicly his views and opinions of matters and things here.

First, because experience and observation may have caused him to change the views and opinions expressed at some former period.

Secondly, a great conflict of opinion exists in relation to many subjects of interest.

And thirdly, those who have come to their sober senses by testing the realities of gold digging, can plainly perceive that a large portion of the world in general, and of the United States in particular, are afflicted with monomania on the subject of the gold mines of the Pacific coast, so that the wildest constructions may probably be put upon letters written to the States, and not unfrequently to the prejudice of the writer’s veracity or judgment. It is evident that the latter state of the case exists, because it is known here that hundreds are on their way to California who have been seriously advised by their friends that have preceded them, not to come; and the advice has been supported by a detail of facts such as really exist in California, and which, if credited, would have determined many who are coming, to stay at home. Nine out of ten who come to this country, declare their intention to return in the space of two years; which if they do, the chances are greatly on the side of their returning poorly compensated for the time spent, and the privations and hardships undergone. It is clearly ascertained by all who have had the necessary means of information, that a large majority of those who came out last year have not now as much money, over the sum expended to get here, as will pay their expenses home; and it will unquestionably be worse with a large portion of those who arrive this year. I speak of those who come here to labor, and that class comprises a large portion of the immigrants.

Let me give a statement in figures of the probable result of man’s labors in California in a ???…….adventure and I feel ?……..?………. from Marion county have dug up much of the precious dust within the last two months. William D. Marmaduke, his brother, and a black boy, took out fifteen hundred dollars last week. Thomas Hart, Jos. Winlock and Benj. Ward have done exceedingly well since the wet season broke up. I regret not being able to give more information relative to the Marion boys generally, but they are so scattered over the country that I seldom hear from any of them.

There is a sort of predatory warfare almost constantly kept up between the whites and Indians in the mountains. A few days since two men were attacked by Indians, one killed, the other badly wounded, within 18 miles of this place. The young man killed is said to be young man by the name of Anderson, from Callaway county, Missouri, with whom I had formed an intimate acquaintance. The Indians have paid the debt with heavy usury, which is uniformly the case.

A system of State laws has gone into operation in California; courts are organized, and taxes are being collected. We pay as poll tax for State and County purposes, $8. Foreign miners are taxed $20 per month for the privilege of digging gold; and as far as my observation has extended, things begin to work well in the form of a State government, another noble proof that the American people are capable of self-government.

Respectfully your,


Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham