GOLD RUSH DREAMS GO BUST: “BUT TAKING SAN FRANSISCO ALL IN ALL — IT IS THE MOST DISGUSTING PLACE MY EYES EVER BEHELD”
[GOLD RUSH – CALIFORNIA] Fascinating Autograph Letter Signed, “C.W. Rowell”, who, as you will read below, attempted to seek his fortune in the California gold fields during the rush west of 1849/1850. Four very full pages, quarto. San Francisco. July 14, 1850. To “dr. Friend Kidder.” We’ve left the spellings and syntax largely untouched to give you, the modern reader, a better idea of the ‘flavor’ of this item! Rowell writes:
“Dr. Friend Kidder, It being Sunday and the business of the day being closed, for you will reckolect[sic] we do business here on Sunday, I thought I would write you a few lines respecting my voyage thither and the incidents by the way would occupy by far too much Space & time & when I see you I can relate them to you much more correct than I can write. I arrived here June 5th making 65 days from M. At Panama I was disappointed of the steamer. She had not then arrived and I had news from there 18 days since that she had not arrived then. So it was a good thing for me that I did not wait for her. I staid [sic] at Panama but 1 night & exchanged my ticket for one in the French Ship George of Havrier [?]. We had a good passage being but 46 days which is much the shortest of the season. Although on allowance of provisions & matter part of the way I enjoyed good health from here to this place & when I arrived here I weight [sic] 10 lbs. more than when I stared and I suppose you should like to hear a little about the men [?] talked of land California but it is a task to undertake to describe it. But first I will t give a slight description of it. Composed of some very good houses, many bad ones, and a host of tents and people of every Nation on face of God’s Earth & more gambling houses and money in them than in all the United States combined. I would like to have you here to take a walk with me over this city you would say this is a very queer world in which we live, but money here is very plenty and I think with good health a man can make money faster than perhaps any other place but compare the hardships of here and Home and money is nothing. For instance, after you worked hard all day your lodging at night at best will be but a cot bed or a blanket throne [sic] upon the floor with your body covered with flees [sic] trying to find the must tender place. So far as eatables are concerned a man can live first rate for the Low price of $21.00 per week the price of labor is from 5 to 10 per a day & some get much more, the business carried on here I think affords a man of capital a good chance for making money but taking San Francisco all in all it is the most disgusting place my eyes ever beheld so far as mining in concerned I am yet a perfect stranger. We hear all kinds of reports but I think from what I have heard its very uncertain business. Some make their piles, but many make their graves and my advice to all is to stay at home unless they are willing to be Humbugged. You will perhaps say Rowell is Homesick but such is not the case for with all the Hardships of a Long Journey I have seen enough to amply pay me provided I do not make a Red Cent. And now I will give a Short History of myself and what I am about. I arrived here June 5 as before stated. On the 7 I went in business with a Dickinson from New Jersey in Marketing. I continued with him 2 ½ weeks & he proved a sucker but I sold out and made $200 by the operation. I then loafed 1 week & then hired a Large market house on my own Hook & have been doing business 2 weeks. I pay $3000 per month rent so you see I must do something in order to pay me bills but it is no use for a man to come here and sit down but go it and if I fail in this I shall try something else. Joseph M. Buckelder of you city is with me now. H.J. Wilson is with his brother in a publick [sic] house & doing a good business. The rest of that company have gone to the mines prospecting & have been gone 3 ½ weeks since we have heard from them. They are expected back daily I wish you would say to Mrs. Robinson that he was in fine health & spirits when I last saw him I think that their Quartz Rock will prove what the Lake Superior Copper Stock was some 2 years since. Henry Tilton has gone to the mines he is on the Yuba 150 miles from Sacramento I had a letter from him a few days since he was well, but had not had much success yet, but thought he should do well as soon as the miner get down so they can work in it. H. Bailey is here to work as his trade, J. A. Denis arrived here last Friday in Good health. As near as I could learn from he gave the slip on leaving home. I have recvd. two letters since I arrived here, one from Ephraim & one from my wife. I have sent home 4 letters 3 to my wife & 1 to my brother George and 1 paper to you. I want you to say to any of my friends that you chance to see that I am in fine health and spirits and if nothing happened to prevent I shall be at M. in about one year. I wish when you receive this that you would say to my wife if she is at M that I am well & will write her the next mail. I want you to write me as often as you can & send me a paper occasionally. I se Mr. Hussey every day he is in good health. I shall send this by a man going home who belongs in Cheshire County. He has seen me in the E, in shape of loss of his health after being here six months. Tell of F. D. That I will write him soon. That he had better keep the books up at home. Man to come here for clerks are more plenty than the Land & that as much more plenty than at M. as you can image. Nothing more to write, Respectfully Yours C.W. Rowell — Here [sic: hear] Coradon comes this May…”
The item used to illustrate this letter is for reference only and not included.