The California Gold Rush
In Their Own Words and Images
Letter from George H. Goddard to Augustus Goddard
dated April, 1851
page 3 of 4

   Well, after the dirt for washing has been thrown out one usually washes it in a cradle … A bucket full of dirt is put into the hopper at a time and when well washed the larger stones are left in the top. One casts one's eye over to see if there are any large lumps of gold and then throws the stones out and puts in another bucket-full and so on. At the mines they generally think that to dig off the top soil, throw up the dirt for washing and wash 100 buckets of it, is an ordinary day's work and the dirt is considered rich when it pays 5 cents to the bucket full on the average, which makes it about $5 or 1 lb. per day. The average the miners have been making does not amount to more than $3 (per day?) for the winter. Of course sometimes larger bits of gold turn up, but this is all good luck, and one can't depend on it. If the fine gold pays $5 a day it is as much as one can expect, but of course it is hard work and a man who has been a laborer all his life can dig and wash more dirt than you or I could. The consequence is everything is inverted (?) in this country - the man who makes the most money is the hardest working laborer while the man of education has nothing but to enter an unequal competition with the laborer and, of course, prove not his equal. Of course, therefore, in a society in which the vulgar play the higher part you cannot expect much refinement and delicacy - indeed it looks like affectation to be different. The love of equality, too, of the Americans is so opposed to our notions they make no distinction in society, and because every man is politically equal they associate together as equals, and if you only heard the way in which Boston and some of the best places in the States are abused for their aristocracy which simply amounts to this, - that a Gentleman does not invite his Cattle driver or laborer to his dinner table, that he prefers the society of his own class, - this is the subject of quarrel between the Democracy and the Wiggs (?) of the States. So of course the latter people are outnumbered by the mass of the people. Then, too, their ideas of equality interfere with their looking to the law as a tribunal of justice and they are so fond of taking the law into their own hands. Indeed, a perfect American must know something of everything, a general smattering of every kind of knowledge, and as he has the highest opinion of himself, he fancies that he is superior in each subject to the person who even may have made that subject the study of his life. He is not only the smartest and quickest in business but he can cook, cut down a tree, open a gold mine, work a steam engine, or sail a ship better than any man, and to his various accomplishments, he can do the part of the hangman or the bully. This is a feeling that pervades all the Americans I have seen here, who are from almost all the States of the Union, principally, of course, from the Western States, from New Orleans and New York. Even those, from the best towns, that belong to the shopkeeper class, are the same brags. There is not the division of laborers amongst them that we have in England and of course things are never therefore so well done as you may suppose.

   Well, I must now tell you that after working on until January 16th at Colorao and having only dug in all that time about $12 between us, and being out of provisions, and altogether sick of my partner, who was from New York State and according to his own account could do everything, but who, I soon found, could do nothing but smoke and spit and brag, I determined to return to Mariposa and remain at the boarding house and try and work on my own account without I met a partner I could get on better with.

   Well, I set out a claim on Mariposa River but the water was too high and I had to wait until it sunk. I cut ditches and drains and turned the river all by myself and then waited the falling of the water. I had then an order for another drawing, which I did and I made several more sketches of views about the place. I went also to several of the other places in the neighborhood and dug a little, just Prospecting as it is called, but in most places there was too much water to work without a partner.

   At last I determined to set in to digging again and got one of the Cornish miners, who came out in the Diana, to join me and an American from New York City, - rather better than most of them, and so we set in to work my claim at Mariposa which I had previously drained in a measure. We worked for about a week and I got about $16 as my share which just paid the living for the time, and then the two I was working with, being real workmen and of course able to throw up more dirt in a day than I could, got careless and pretended that place would not pay to work and so we gave it up, but I saw they wanted to get rid of me so as to have more to divide between them, which was but natural. Of course I could have kept my claim, but as there was too much water to work it alone I determined to return to San Francisco, and see Colonel Fremont and get some money for the drawings. I was also very anxious to get my letters which were in the post as there is no regular post beyond Stockton. There are expresses that bring up letters once a month but they are private people and very uncertain and charge $2 per letter and I was too short of money and too uncertain of remaining to give my name to the express.

   Well, after having sold off all the baggage I had at Mariposa, I paid my bill. I left on foot for Agua Fria. I sold my things very well. My rifle, pistols, and mattress I sold for $100, and I thus managed to sell sufficient to pay my expenses and set off to return to San Francisco on foot, carrying blankets and making sketches as I came down. After a day or two spent at Agua Fria, I heard that Col. Fremont had come to Mariposa, so I returned there. I saw him but he had no money and said he did not intend having the survey done, - that the mine would not be in operation and as to my drawings I had made he did not want them, that his agent had no authority from him to order them and at any rate the matter must be left over until the return of his agent from the States, which would not be for three months. He was very sorry I should be inconvenienced by it and all the rest, but could do nothing.


The Land of Glittering Dreams
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