From: F. E. Weston to John O'Neal
Dated:December 13, 1849

Misc. IL Newspapers--IL State Historical Society--Eastern IL University Library ”The Misc. papers M-9B Roll 1-285”
Chester Herald and Commercial Advertiser, Chester, ( Randolph County) Illinois; March 2, 1850

--By the hand of Mr. J. O’Neal, we are permitted to take the following copious extracts from a letter he lately received from Mr. F. E. WESTON, formerly of this place and now in California. The letter is dated:

Valley Del Oro

Dec. 13, 1849

Dear John--I feel somewhat ashamed of the late date of this, but is from necessity. I assure you I have been one of the busiest men in California, since I first arrived, and have had no time to write letters or anything else. But now I have plenty of time at my disposal, as it is raining as it rains only in California, and I take advantage of the first disengaged moment to give you some of my adventures since I left your flourishing little city. Ah! that dear muddy old place--how I would like to spend a few dimes there now.

I shall not attempt to give you any detailed account of my trip across the mountains, for you will read hundreds of better descriptions than I could give; and besides, room and time will not permit.--Our trip was very little different from thousands of others, except that we found very soon that we could get along much better by ourselves than with a large company; and we made the most of the trip with but two wagons in company, we pushed things, I tell you. We had a hard trip, but got along far better than the majority, for you know that the old Dahcotah took all our superfluous weight to the bottom of the Missouri with her.

We took one wagon over the Rocky Mountains and over the Desert, and at last we left it and packed the remainder of the way, over the Sierra Nevada, and we all wished that we had never seen a wagon, we found it so much more pleasant.

We got into the mines exactly in the time I set before we started, viz: one hundred days. We camped near here at the time, and I went down to the city to get information; and I came to the conclusion that for us the Dry Diggings was the place for our winder quarters. We made our choice of a location, and then we went into business; and I assure you from that time until now, I have not known what it was to have a leisure day, Sunday not excepted. I have been on the road most of the time, getting up goods, and a hard life it was. You have no idea of the difficulties we have to encounter in getting things up from the city. Our location is just fifty miles from Sacramento city, on the emigrant road, and if you will look on one of Fremont’s Maps, you will find a little river called the Cosumes.--We are on a little creek running into it, and in the midst of the far-famed California mountains. I named our valley, as we were the first who located here, Valley Del Oro, or the Golden Valley.

We are only fifty miles from the city, but it is more of an obstacle than five hundred would be at home. The immense emigration of this year all required to be fed. The transportation had all to be done by wagons, and every one had to be his own teamster. I had two teams to attend to of three yoke of cattle each, and one of them to drive, and you may imagine that I worked hard. But I had high precedents, for I saw lawyers, judges, and even preachers in the same high and noble occupation. It paid well, for the price of the freight on the first tow loads that we brought up would have been move, by $50 than both teams cost. But that is nothing to what it is now. We pay fifty cents per pound freight on our goods now from the city, only fifty miles--what do you think of that? We received two wagons the other day, and had the nice little freight bill of $1900 to pay for them that is California with a vengeance. We improved the good weather while we had it, but we could not get goods up fast enough. Now the rain has come, and we have not as much as we ought to have here, but if we can get what we have off at our prices, we shall do a pretty good winter’s work.

We have a very comfortable log house 32 by 16, warm and dry. I fell quite proud of it, for it is principally my own work. They say here that I must have been a carpenter at some previous time. It is in the prettiest location in this country, on a beautiful sloping hill, and shaded by some magnificent oaks. But of all places to get goods to, you would never have thought of this. We are surrounded on all sides by mountains that are mountains (in italics for emphasis) , and down the steepest part of one of these we send to get our goods. Imagine a hill twice as high as the one at Chester, and as near Perpendicular as mountains generally get to be, and you will come somewhere near it.--We used to cut a tree and lash a load of goods on it and draw it down by hand; but the last load we brought the wagon down, and you may judge how steep it is when I tell you that one of oxen turned a complete somerset in his yoke, fell clear over and nearly broke his neck.

You have no idea of the amount of labor we have expended to get things in operation here, for we had to do everything ourselves; but I think we shall be well paid for our labor and trouble, and that is what I came to California for--not to have an easy time of it. I am willing to work hard what time I do stay here, for there is no enjoyment here, and a man may as well be industrious as not. I must give you a little price current, and then I will cease speaking (a la Tem Benton) in the first person singular. A friend at my elbow remarks that I shall have to get several signers to such a document, as a price current from here, or you will say I am romancing.

Mess Pork is worth only $1.50 per lb.; Flour, $1.50; Sugar $1; Molasses $8 per gallon; Liquors, 50 cents per drink; Boots, $32 per pair; Shoes $10; Blankets $32 per pair; Mackerel 75 cents apiece; Dried Peaches $4.50 (?) per lb; Pickled Onions $2 per lb; Woolen shirts $8 apiece, Cotton do $4.; and everything else in proportion. It is a hard story, but it is nevertheless strictly and literally true. A great many of our goods were bro’t up at a low freights, comparatively speaking, say $12 per hundred lbs; so you see we make some profit on them.

I now endeavor to give you some general ideas of mining, of miners and their prospects; and first let me tell you that there have been more lies told and miss-statements made about this country than any other on the face of the earth.--The most sensible article I have seen on the subject was a letter from Mr. C. H. HOPKINS to the New York Express, published September 13th. But not half the people in the States will believe the truth.

The fact is, there is gold here and plenty of it; but it is neither so plenty or so easy of acquisition as we poor devils imagined who sacrificed all that made life worth living for, to come out the this El Dorado. The great raises that you will hear of every day are the exceptions; and as a general thing, a man who engages in mining, has to work like a dog and live worse than one. Still, if a man is willing to work like a slave, live hard, and does not drink or gamble, he can make money--there is no doubt of it. But when you come to take into consideration the hardships and sufferings he has to undergo to first get out here, and the life he has to lead here, and I tell you that a man had better be satisfied with living at home. Thousands are returning this fall, disgusted and sick of California. I am as heartily sick of it as any of them, but I have endured too much to go back now without some of the “root of all evil”. My advice to all my friends is, if they are at all contented, if they can live at all, they had better stay at home (italics for emphasis). But if any young man, who has a taste for traveling and a discontented spirit, wants to better his situation, let him come to California; and my life upon it, he will go home the most contented and easily pleased person in the world. But I know that such advice is thrown away; for when you tell men that they cam make ten dollars per day by their daily labor, it is useless to say anything about privation, hardship, suffering or sickness; they will not listen to you. We are having a touch of the rainy season. It caught every one unprepared at first, for it came on about the first of November; but after about ten day’s rain, it stopped till now, and now it is a young deluge. No one can work much in the winter,, and I could get plenty who would work for their board till spring. I have not room to describe the modus operandi (italics) of mining; you will read thousands of descriptions of that. We are in quite a rich ravine. The men here have averaged one ounce per day since they have been here, but so far as I can learn, no such piles have been taken out lately as those who were here last winter got. Then, four to six ounces a day was common.

By the way, I spent the night with ARCHY LITEL not long since. He came down from Oregon a year ago last April; and has done well. He said he had made his pile (italics); but he was sick last summer, which threw him back. He will go back next file. He is about seven miles from our Rancho.

It is very doubtful when I shall get away from this country; it depends upon what kind of business I shall engage in. This is destined to be a great country.--We are now knocking at the Union for admission. We had our first election a short time since. I had the honor to receive the appointment of one of the Judges of Election in the Del Oro Precinct.

And now I have nearly filled two sheets talking principally about myself, and I could fill two more, perhaps on more interesting subjects, but I have no time.--I have many more that I must write to, but I must make this letter do for all my friends in Chester, as, if I wrote others they would be in substance copies of this. Please remember me to all my friends, particularly the lady portion. I have not received a letter since I left home so I am utterly in the dark as to what has happened there. I trust, however, that the cholera has spared by friends in Chester; though I shall be almost afraid to open a letter when I get one, for we have dreadful accounts of the ravages of the cholera in St. Louis. I should love to be with you again about New Year, and have some of the oyster suppers that we had last winter. It seems like a dream to think that I am twenty-five hundred miles from that well-remembered spot.

Write to me often, and good long letters, and address to Sacramento city; and I will try and not let this be the last of my letters from California.

I am as ever, Your Friend,


P. S. MURRAY MORRISON is in Sacramento City, and I have seen LOUS PHILIPPE of Kaskaskia. MICH DEREUSS in the same ravine with me--all well.

Online Continuously since 1996 and last updated 29 June 2015