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Transcript: Stangroomletter18571102

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Nevada 2nd November 1857 My Dearest Mother or Charly I have enough sense of
my own to bear (of negligence in not writing regularly) without the
additional ones caused by steamboat accidents. You have probably seen in
the papers an account of the loss of the steamer Central America and 400
passengers. That ill-fated vessel (the same on which I came from New York
to Aspinwall) carried down among the other mail matter a long letter from
me to Papa with a full account of my prospecting tour in the mountains. I
am not quite, but almost, certain that it was sent by that mail – if not,
you will have got it and then will be a recapitulation of the principal
facts. On the 21st July, I started with 3 others, Judge Colburn and 2
practical miners, on foot, with 2 pack mules, my white one and another less
valuable one, which we bought for the trip, on a prospecting tour, i.e., to
look for gold, or rather accessible gold-bearing strata. We went up and
crossed the summit of the Sierra Nevada in the same place as last year,
went some distance down the other side of the ridge among the Indians in
Utah, and not finding any likely ground then we recrossed the Sierra some
miles to the south, following an Indian trail part of the way and leaving
it at the summit where it was covered with snow. The passage of the summit
was difficult, the snow being 15 to 20 feet deep in some places and the
sides of the snowbanks were so precipitous that after cutting steps in it
(like Charly and I in the mer de glace) we could not get our smaller mule
over without unloading her and carrying the pack up

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on our own backs. We crossed several branches and came down along the
Middle Fork of the American River. One night while camping on that river,
our mules strayed. The next morning we followed them up and caught the
company's one, but my Charly was lost. I tracked him for several miles and
walked down the ridge 40 miles farther to the nearest town, but could find
no further traces of him. He had a long lariat (rope) round his neck and he
either got caught by that in some brush or got caught by the Indians. I did
all in my power both then and since to find him but have not seen or heard
of him from that day to this. So much for Charly. We found indications of
gold-bearing strata at great heights in the mountains but not sufficiently
denuded to be worked to advantage. Lower down near a place called Michigan
Bluffs, we took up some claims and think they are likely to pay very well
(if at all). We are 6 partners and we are running a tunnel into the hill to
try it. We are now 100 feet in and we expect to have to run 200 feet more
before striking the gravel bed. It is an expensive and tedious as well as
uncertain process, but the indications are sufficiently good to induce
several other companies to stake their all upon the die and to abide the
[Lagard?] of "the Cast." I am not very sanguine myself but think the
chances in my favour sufficient to make it worth the trying. I bought into
2 other sets of claims in the same neighbourhood but in both we are waiting
and paying a small sum to an adjoining company for the benefit of their
experience in their tunnel. This is of

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[page torn away] slower though much safer way of prospecting. Judge Colburn
is working in our tunnel for himself and has hitherto also done my share of
work for me (of course by being paid for it). As you will know from my
later letters, I had settled here, as I thought, for the winter, but
business of every kind is so completely stagnant being here already
[illegible, torn] engineers and surveyors that I think of trying my luck
elsewhere. As soon as I can raise the money to do it, I think of moving
over to Michigan Bluffs. It is a thriving little town though just burnt
down [is built?] up again, and I hope to be able to combine a little mining
with my business and so get along at all events until I know the result of
my "ventures." At all events it cannot be worse than this. Last week I had
my first and only job – 3 days' work which would probably have to last me
for some time. I think of riding over to the Bluffs tomorrow to "look
round." It is 36 miles s.e. of here on the Middle Fork of the American
River. On my return from my first trip, I found Emily ill in bed. She had a
long spell of fever and was confined to her room for 2 months. As luck
would have it, the only medical man whom we could have any confidence in
killed himself accidentally while out shooting a few days before her
illness and we were actually afraid to call in any of the numerous quacks
whose whole pharmacopœia consists in calomel and quinine, both in very
large doses and very much adulterated. Her sister, who has had a great deal
of experience, nursed her through it and we now think she is better off
than she would have been with such medical advice as we could have
procured. She is still very weak and I am afraid she will not have very
good health this

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winter. We have had a pretty hard time for the last [page torn away] and
(being determined not to buy anything we could not pay for) we have been
without any furniture of our own and often without knowing which way to
turn for our next meal. We have, however, got through it so far and I hope
it will soon be over. I have managed to get enough money to carry us along
for a short time and hope to make enough to keep us after then; at all
events I can only try my best and hope for success. As long as poverty was
at a distance, Emily felt very badly about it but when it came to the pinch
she acted her part like a "Briton." You would have been amused to see us
living on cracked wheat and potatoes for more than a week sometimes without
meat. If it does not come again, I shall not regret it as it certainly has
taught us the value of money, though I do not think Emily at least required
such a lesson. Thank Grandmama for the 200 frs. Keep them for me for the
present. I may be glad of them some day. I suppose you are in the sunny
south again and again separated from poor dear Charly. If so of course she
will read this and forward it to you. We had a smart earthquake here a few
weeks ago, the most violent I have felt [illegible] in the mountains. It
shook our house so that my first impression from long living in Railway
stations was "There's the Empress" and Emily, who was in bed in the next
room, cried out to know what I had upset to shake the house so, thinking I
had upset the wardrobe. We have now very pleasant weather, having had
enough rain to lay most of the dust. Write to me to "Nevada" the same as
hitherto until further direction. Emily has had all what little time she
has been well enough to do anything so occupied that you must consider this
as much from her as from me. Believe us, Dearest Mother, with best love to
Papa, Charly, the Bairns, Grandmama, your affectionate children Marc and