Friday, February 1, 2002
Treasures of Carlisle's Past: "The Search for Gold: Part II"
Last week, the first part of the Blaisdell letter from the collections of the Carlisle Historical Society was reprinted in this column. The letter from Hiram Blaisdell to his brother Isaac, written in 1850 from California, describes not only his voyage to the gold fields, but his experiences as a prospector. Hiram and then Isaac owned the property at 70 Lowell Road, now the residence of the Hiltons. Found in that house was a certificate issued to Hiram W. Blaisdell naming him among the "Society of California Pioneers of New England." It reads:
The certificate is 22" wide by 27" high and has illustrations which include: a view of San Francisco in 1849; the State Seal of California, Sutters Fort, Sutters Mill, the Rising Bear Flag and mining scenes. It is dated March 30, 1892 and remains in private hands.
Textbooks often mention the panning for gold, the controversy over claims and the making and breaking of fortunes that occurred during the California gold rush. Hiram Blaisdell's letter gives us a first-hand account of such things. The second part of his letter, written in May 1850 from Georgetown, California, is more than a record of his activities. It also provides us with insight into his feelings: his thoughts of friends and family at home and his comments on the stamina needed by prospectors. The letter is reprinted from a handwritten transcription made by Martha Fifield Wilkins. No attempt has been made to modernize the spelling or punctuation. In 1850 there was still little standardizing of spelling or grammar.
Part II of Hiram Blaisdell's letter to his brother Isaac Blaisdell
. . . Monday 22 we spent the day in arainging our tent &c- Tuesday 23 Mr. Cram & myself visited some of the Miners & Prospected some while Mr. Sargent & Mr. Young were Making a Cradle or Gold washer Wednesday 24 have prospected some & worked some in what is called the Oregon Canion 4 of us found three dollars Thursday 25 Mr. Young and I worked in a little revone (?) that runs within a few feet of our tent and in the fore noon we found one dollar this looking hard we concluded that we would spend the afternoon a prospecting, so we foure started and found a Canion about one Mile south of our tent we put a hole down about 4 feet that afternoon and found 75 cents. Friday 26 Returned to the same hole and I and my partner took out forty eight dollars I picked up one lump weighing 2 oz- Saturday 27 Returned to the same hole and in the forenoon we found eight dollars, but all at once a man comes up and says it is his Claim and that we must leave it at once (by the way it was his but we considered it to large for one man) so Saturday afternoon we washed up our clothes &c Sunday 28 very early in the morning all hands was call out to fight a Grizly Bare but he made his escape they are hard customers the other day I saw a man that had one of his arms broken in two places by the paw of one of those Grizleys and his clothes looked as though he had been drawn lengthways on a hedge fence. Monday 29 not feeling willing to give up the Old hole we started early in the morning and commenced operations. I worked in the hole with the pick and shovel while Mr. Young rocked the Cradle & we rather thought School might not keep all day so we worked in right earnest about the middle this forenoon I took the bar to pry out a stone & I turned out a lump of Gold worth about Seventy Two Dollars in the States in about 20 minutes I found another of exactly the same size or weight At noon this man came with his witnesses and warned us off immediately all this time he had been ignorant of our success but I told him a fine story and got his consent to work untill night and at the close of the day me and my Partner had all most a lb of Gold for our day work while Mr. Cram and Sargant by my side found 3 _ oz. I should like right well to send home the big lump if I could with safety Tuesday 30 worked hard all day prospecting and found nothing Wenesday worked hard and found one dollar & forty cents each Thursday found Two dollars each Friday found 1 oz & 1 (?) each Saturday found three dollars each Now you can see the uncertainty attending Gold hunting We are now at work in a canion so deep that we lose sight of the sun at half past two Oclk you can have no Idea of gold diging it is not found as easy as it was last season. I have seen holes dug 30 or 40 feet deep I work in the water all day with wet feet & the sun on my head enough to melt me but few will make a fortune in the mines this year but the will be an immense quantity of Gold taken out and a great many men to do it the water is as yet very high so we hope better digings soon it costs each man about one dollar a day to live my health is good except a bad humows I am literally covered with soars from my shoulders to my feet and I work with blook starting from my body in more than Two Thousand places I have a Bile in the hollow of my left arm and one under the arm, and one right my leg But I am Hog fat they think weigh about one Hundred & Fifty Some of the boys will expect my advice about coming out it is a hard point you hear all the best stories and all the worst you need not doubt but what there is gold here and its mines will be worked as long as time shall last but its first fruits will be taken this year soon some other plan of operation will be adopted by large companies I will say this if any one will make up his mind settle down in California as people do in the western states he will be sure to make money if he has his health- and makes the effort but hundreds sicken and die of which you have had no account but you will hear when their friends return. Yours, H. W. Blaisdell (see small sheet)
I am afraid that my health will fail in hot weather if so I have but a small prospect of seeing home as I should cross the Istmus in the sickly season. I should like very much to hear from home but I may not this much I will say A man that has a family and is getting a comfortable living at home had best stay and be content but a young man that has no particular tie to home might as well be here as enywhere else I am not sorry that I am here you will hear of some large lumps some will be true and some a speculation one lump has been found weighing 24 lbs. I will just describe how some lumps come last winter a company at the middle falls, sent a man to Sanfrancisco with all their gold amounting to many thousands in dust he goes to the city and melts his dust in large crucibles and puts his gold in large masses, reports it as being found in that shape and exhibits them as specimens at 50ct. a sight all such tricks are going the rounds about one third of all that go to the mines will do decently well, one third are discouraged and go back telling frightful stories the other third gamble or trade there has been some trouble with Indians and the white man shoots them without the least ceremony I sleep with my revolver under my head but not from fear for I have not seen an Indian since I came to the mines I have thousands of curious stories that I might write but they would be of no importants things are low at the city lumber sels from freight boats & shoes are high in the mines. Say to farmers that Cider Vinegar will sell with great profit for years to come Dried Apple & Peach and any thing that cannot be razed immediately but Lumber will be will sell some day not far distant cheaper than in any other part of the world the north part of the country is covered with timber I have seen Pine timber 8 feet through at the but and would square 3 _ feet as high up as 50 feet. I intend to bring home one of the burrs that grow on this pine. They are 2 feet long I wish you would be particular when you write and let me know how my mothers health is and Wms also and in fact I want to hear from all. I should like to know of the decision on Dr. Parkman case say to Mr. Hovey that I am not able to find Mr. Cushing as he has left San-frisco give my best respects the Dr. and family ask Amanda to write Also Mr. Stiles & family Jefferson and foulks and in fact all inquiring friends. Say to John Taylor this is not the place for him unless he could enter into trade for this is a new Country and like all other new places it is hard everything is hard p? we live principally on flours cake and salt Pork from one weeks end to the other we bake a cake and carry that for our dinner the same for supper I have heard the particulars respecting Br. Adams Death. I seen no on that I knew since I arrived in this Country I wish all my letters and papers to be sent to Sacramento City but I may not receive any as those that are at home and surrounded by friends and comforts soon forget those in Distant lands say to the givers of my Revolver that I am often reminded of them say to George Green that I would not advise him to come to the digings for he has enough without but I hope to see you all next winter if I have my health I am certain (I think) that I shall have a small Bag of Gold enough to partly reward me for my laighbours and adventure I do not expect an abundance but I have reason to expect something I leave written this in great haste and close by subscribing myself your Brother & friend.
Note: Hiram Blaisdell did indeed return home to Carlisle and lived until January 18, 1893.
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