Letters from California
Letters from Sacramento.
No. 987 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Col. J. Bailey in Portland, Maine. Inside is a letter dated Oct. 24, 1849, from Francis Bailey to his father announcing his safe arrival in Sacramento and his plans on leaving quickly to find a place to mine further inland. Bailey explained his impression of San Francisco as, “a great place. Every thing is in confusion and bustle.” A common fascination in gold rush era letters concerned the prices for wages, boarding, and commodities in California. California prices were highly inflated for many people compared to home states. So it is not surprising that Bailey detailed the prices of things in San Francisco: “Carpenters are getting from 12 to 16 dollars per day, common labourers 8 dollars per day. Board 21 to 30 dollars per week. Lumber from $260 to $275 per. Washing 8 dollars per doz.”
No. 988 Sent from Sacramento, California, to William Ide in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Inside is a letter from John Ide to his brother dated March 10, 1850, about 10 weeks after he arrived in California. Writing “four miles below Beales Barr American River,” Ide started his letter, “Imagine me situated in the forest some two hundred miles from the Post Office in San Francisco where the steamer is to take this letter to you, situated in a small tent that was made for the soldiers of the Mexican War, then I think it is a sufficient apology for writing at this early date as there is no Mail until the first of the next month and it is uncertain when and by whom I can send it to the post office.”
No. 989 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Mrs. Lorenzo Smith in Boston, Massachusetts. Inside is a letter dated May 18, 1850, from an unidentified miner to his sister. Writing about his claim on the Yuba River, named Cape Cod Bar, he explained, “some will make fortunes and many make nothing however I shall take my chance with the rest and either make or break there is no other way in gold digging.” He described a recent trip to the Post Office: “I rode [my mule] 100 miles in two days last week from Auburn to Sacramento City and back. I went down to see if there were any letters for any of us… I wonder if anyone at home would go that distance over a wild country to inquire if there were any letters for him but hundreds do it here and if they get but a single letter consider themselves more than paid.”
No. 990 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Secretary of State John Houston in San Jose. Inside is a letter dated July 17, 1850, from the Transcript Office in Sacramento.
No. 991 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Mrs. Harriet B. Newell at Westport, New York. Dated August 5, 1850.
No. 992 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Edward Hick in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Inside is a letter written at Dry Creek dated August 10, 1850. Thomas Bell wrote to his friend about his difficulty receiving mail since there are 3 men with the same name in the area. He described a conflict his company had with another group of miners who attempted to steal their claim.
No. 993 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Miss Sarah Atwood in Bristol, Connecticut.
No. 994 Sent from Sacramento, California, to Mrs. Nancy Delano in Strong, Maine. Inside is a letter dated January 5, 1851. Mr. Stanwood wrote to his mother about his plans: “I am quite anxious to get money enough to come home and shall not wait long after I obtain sufficient to establish myself on business somewhere in the States.” He also shared his feelings about mail in California: “I am exceedingly anxious to hear from you and know how things go along with you. I feel provoked with the mail arrangements of this country for I am convinced that I have letters in the office for me and it is only through negligence of the office that I do not receive them… You will not be offended with me for not paying the postage for it is so uncertain about this ever reaching you that I do not like to pay and not have them reach you… It cost me $2.00 to get a letter from home and this $1.50 goes to the man who brings it from San Francisco.”
Photograph of an old building in Washington, California, 1930s.