The California Gold Rush
In Their Own Words and Images
Letter from George H. Goddard to Augustus Goddard
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Biographical information on George Goddard

Born in Bristol, England in 1817, George Goddard was from an old established English family and educated at Oxford University. In 1850 he made the trip from London to California by way of Cape Horn which took 6 months. This letter details his experiences in San Francisco, the Mariposa area, and points in between.

San Francisco
April, 1851

My Dear Augustus,

   I shall now, according to my promise of last evening, give you some little description of those places in the Southern Mines where my winter has been passed. You will recollect that when I wrote on the eve of leaving San Francisco on November last, I expected that Dr. Manning would have accompanied me. In this, however, I was at the moment of departure, disappointed and I therefore proceeded alone, taking the Steamer which left this place at 4 o'clock P.M. 15th Nov. I arrived at Stockton by daylight the following morning, and being as you know short of funds I determined to go the nearest diggings to Stockton to try my luck - Fate, however, willed to the contrary. A gentleman who had been a fellow passenger on board the Steamer introduced me to an agent of Col. Fremont, who after much humbug and a delay of 2 days, engaged me to go to Mariposa, the farthest off of the Southern Mines, under the idea that there was to be a geological survey of the estate made, and also that my engineering knowledge would enable them to get their quartz crushing mill at work and the mine in operation. Believing that this would be an opening to a permanent engagement I was induced to go up. Accordingly I put the baggage I had brought up with me, 200 weight, into an ox team that was going to that part of the country and determined to make the journey on foot myself. Stockton, I must tell you, is built on flat marshy land, the plains, in fact and is a dull place, all the houses of wood as at San Francisco. The streets are laid out in squares and wide, and the country here makes no obstacles to the American love of straight lines. The plains in this part are thinly dotted with oak trees, which in the distance gave the country a rather park-like appearance. On the afternoon of Monday 18th November, the wagon left and I started. I had several walking companions and we made about twelve miles the first day, and put up for the night at a miserable tent where they gave us nothing but bad bread, worse ham, miserable coffee, of course without milk although the place is first rate for cattle, however such is the carelessness that nothing is done for comfort. For this fare one dollar was the charge which is the regular charge for a meal throughout the mines. I laid my blankets on a bench and managed to sleep in spite of the fleas which kept up a vigorous attack all night. At daylight we were up and started. The country was now getting more barren and soon we left the oaks altogether and crossed about 18 miles quite barren. Then we approached the Stanislaus River on whose banks the oaks again appeared. By a little after dark we got up to the river and put up for the night.

   The following day, after a similar day's journey, still across the plains, we arrived at the Tuolumne River and on the fourth day, after a like journey, I arrived at the Merced River where I had to remain as the team here parted company with me. I waited therefore until the third day and then got another team for Mariposa. About six miles after leaving the Merced, one begins to enter the mountains, which during the last day's journey showed well as one approached them. Unfortunately the weather set in wet, which, walking over the soft earth and mud of the hills made it difficult for the wagon to get along. That night we put up at a place called the Texican tent. The country had now become very pretty, fine old oaks thinly scattered particularly around the ravines and streams. The next day's journey led us over an exceedingly high mountain that took us about six hours ascending and from which there was a splendid view over the lower hills and plains down to the rivers of the plain and the coast line of mountains the opposite side. The weather was still rainy, so it was not in perfection when I crossed. The wagon got stuck this day in the road, mired down as they call it, - that is to say the wagon sunk into the mud half way up the wheels and the mules were half buried in their struggle to get it out. I feared it was a gone case with baggage and all, but after a long delay it was got out and the rain falling fast and night approaching and not wishing to sleep out in such weather I walked on ahead of the wagon and about an hour after dark got into a tent kept by a Norwegian and his wife where I remained until morning. The wagon still not coming up, I set off, and got to Aqua Fria about noon where I saw the first of the diggings. The accounts of the miners were not favorable. The rain had stopped them and just that day, being fine, they had set to work again. I hoped to do pretty well, but I saw at once form the ragged condition of the men, the wretched discomfort of their living and habitations, that in spite of their hard work, they had little gold. I got to Mariposa that afternoon, the 25th but was again doomed to disappointment. Colonel Fremont's agent there said the survey was not to take place until the Spring, and the Machine was already put up but not at work. Indeed, after a little examination I found it was totally unfit for what it was intended (for), too light and of wrong construction. Indeed the Colonel had gotten it at a manufactory on his own judgment and not being an engineer had of course been nicely taken in and had gotten a little model engine instead of a real working one. However, there it was, and getting it out and fixing and all had cost them above $30,000 and now it would not crush enough quartz to pay the expense of the fire for the boiler! So much for private Gentlemen meddling in things they don't understand.

   I afterwards found that this is the American mode, - that a civil engineer is never employed in the first place to give a report of whatever is wanted or to prepare a design, but that the Gentleman always goes to the manufacturer and tells him what he wants and relies on his honesty and knowledge, and this is the principal reason why none of the steam engines put up in this country answer; they are constructed for other circumstances and you might as well take an Arabian horse and put to a coal cart as take a locomotive boiler and engine and apply it for a stationary engine. Machines must be designed for what is wanted or they can't be expected to answer.


The Land of Glittering Dreams
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