2016-02-18 / Columnists

The Gold Rush of 1849: We got a little gold! - PART 2

by Sandi Brewster-Walker

On Jan. 26, 1849, the Long Islander (Huntington) newspaper reported that as the ship Brooklyn left the New York harbor for California, an Irishman hired as a servant took a half eagle coin from his pocket, and threw it among the crowd on the dock. “There, boys,” he shouted, “take that. It’s all I’ve got, but I’m going where there’s plenty of it.” After reaching California, the new fortune seekers would send letters back home describing their adventure.

The Eyewitness-to-History website has a copy of a miner’s letter, now part of a Library of Congress, 1849 Gold Rush Collection that states, “…very many, that come here meet with bad success and thousands will leave their bones here. Others will lose their health, contract diseases that they will carry to their graves with them. Some will have to beg their way home, and probably one half that come here will never make enough to carry them back. But this does not alter the fact about the gold being plenty here.”

The letter continued, “There is a good deal of sin and wickedness going on here, stealing, lying, swearing, drinking, gambling and murdering…Almost every public house is a place for gambling... Men make and lose thousands in a night.” By the time, the Southampton and California Mining & Trading Company’s men reached Sacramento City, they heard the tall tales of the early forty-niners.

Captain Green’s journal mentioned, since arriving in California some of the Long Island men were discontented with how the future profits would be divided. At their Sept. 4 Company meeting, Lafayette Ludlow, Nathan Diamond, Augustus Ludlow, and John Crook had “gold fever;” deciding to leave would allow them to keep “all the gold that they can get to themselves.” It seems none of these men became wealth and some never returned back to Long Island. Lafayette Ludlow died on the steamship Mary Tomkins, and was buried in San Francisco, CA in 1852.

According to his journal, Captain Green heard rumors others were also planning to leave the Company. By Sept. 7, most of the men, who “worked their passage,” had left to go mining on their own. Among the remaining seven, who agreed to get just half a share, provisions and tools were: Franklin Jessup, Watson Coney, Daniel Howell, Nathan Post, Charles Crook, Pyrrhus Consur, a man of color, and John Killis, a Native American.

The sick were left in the Sacramento camp along with Jedidiah Conklin, the blacksmith, and Peter Howell. When evening came the other 34 men left. The next day, the former whalemen traveled by foot in the hot sun, no trees for shade, no wind and no drinking water. At 9:00 a.m., the Long Islanders arrived at Nicolls Rancho.

On Sun., Sept. 9, the men traveled another 15 miles to Bar Creek. During the evening George Post, along with eight to 10 others, complained of being sick with fevers and diarrhea!

Monday morning, they were traveling again for 18 miles to Roses Ranch. They crossed the Yuba River on Tuesday. Several more of the men got sick, and they still had not reached the gold mines!

On Fri., Sept. 14, Captain Green, Joseph Case, Daniel Glover, George Herrick, John Charles and Charles Green went scouting. Charles Green got sick, and the captain gave him an Emetic, a medicine that induces vomiting. The men started again the next day traveling another six-miles over rough roads coming to Cedar Creek.

According to the journal, the captain wrote, “By what I have been informed by others and what I have observed myself that we cannot remain and work together as a company…”

He continued, “There are some in the camp at Sacramento City that are as able to go into the mines…, and those that are with us will not be willing to share their earnings with those that are in the camp.” The captain was seriously concerned that if David Hand or he should get sick what would become of the Company property.

“Albert Jagger, another of our trustees, is with us but he does not take any interest…”, the journal mentioned. “He says that self-preservation comes first, perhaps he is right, but when we are not in much danger of perishing, and there is work to be done that we are all equally interested in, I want to see every man to do his duty that is able.”

On Sunday, some of the men went a few miles to the river, where they saw men mining for gold. This gave the group hope that they too might find their fortune! The next day, Sept. 17, Captain Green took some men and went four-miles to the river where other miners were seen panning for gold. This was the first day that the Long Islanders actually washed the sand with their tin-pans in the area (known as Foster Old Bar) for just four hours. “We got a little gold,” Captain Henry Green wrote in his journal.

The next morning, the men decided to move to Foster Old Bar. Here they found two men from Long Island that were averaging $40 a piece per day at mining. The five half share men asked to stay, and work for themselves. It was also agreed that Joseph Case and Edwin Isham would sell some of the provisions to other miners. Captain Green decided to return to the Sacramento camp, and meet with some of the other investors around Sept. 20 to vote on the fate of the Company!

Back home on Oct. 13, the Corrector (Sag Harbor) newspaper reported, about the status of California, since so many Long Island men had went in search of their fortune leaving their families behind to worry! “The general health of San Francisco remains good, notwithstanding the arrival every day of un-acclimated strangers. A virulent form of diarrhea has occasioned much suffering within the past month…”

In an effort to let the Long Island families know the condition of the new miners on Wed., Oct. 24, the Corrector (Sag Harbor) newspaper, published a notice to “all persons sending letters to any of the members of the ‘Southampton and California Mining & Trading Company,’ (ship Sabina) are requested to direct their letters to ‘ship Sabina, San Francisco, Upper California,’ as the ship has a letter box there.” It is reported that thousands of Long Island young men ventured west in 1849!

On Dec. 22, 1894, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran the obituary of another Charles Rufus Street (1825- 94) from the old Town of Huntington, who took the overland route to California, The 20-years old, Charles had served for one-year as principal, Huntington Academy. In 1846, he traveled to Buchanan, Michigan and tried faming. A year later, he worked and studied in the law office of John Groves in Niles.

In March 1849, Charles and three friends, James Davis, DeWitt and Erastus Johnson, in two covered wagons left for California by way of the Council Bluffs (Iowa), South Pass (Wyoming) and Salt Lake City Valley (Utah) for an almost 5-month overland journey. Charles’ obituary mention that he visited Brigham Young, who had arrived in Salt Lake City Valley in 1846. He traveled through Applegate Path (Oregon), and finally in August arrived in Sacramento City (California), where within a few weeks the Southampton and California Mining & Trading Company would set-up camp.

For seven years, Charles drifted from camp to camp from Oregon to Mexico, finally settling in Shasta City.

Before opening his law office, Charles became a partner in the California Express newspaper published in Maysville. He also served two terms in the California legislature.

In 1860, he married, and his wife died in 1865 along with their youngest child. With his two other small children, Charles returned home to the Town of Huntington in May 1865. He married again and spend the remaining years of his life in politics, as well as telling tales of being a California pioneer.

In 1895, the Street Genealogy, by Henry Street and Mary Anderson details most of Charles local contributions, as well as being counselor for the Suffolk County Historical Society in 1887. Charles is known on Long Island for editing the three-volume set of the Huntington Town Records.

“California Pioneers from Long Island” (Part 3) will talk a little about the fate of the Southampton and California Mining & Trading Company’s captains, crew, seaman, cook, stewards and paid passengers. Some died on the West Coast, others returned to Long Island, a few stayed in California or returned to whaling.

The writer is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute and served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at the United States Department of Agriculture. Readers can reach her at acjnews@rcn.com or direct letters to her at CJ Publishers Inc., 85 Broadway, Amityville NY 11701.

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