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August 24, 1849

From letter published in the Missouri Whig , Palmyra November 8, 1849

FROM CALIFORNIA

The Republican has a letter dated Stockton, Cal., August 24. The writer with his company, reached the Sacramento valley on the 11th of August, with men and mules completely broken down. He says, "nothing on earth would ever induce me to undertake the trip again". Of the six or eight thousand wagons that started through, not more than 1,500 or 2,000 will ever get over: what the others will do the Lord only knows. For when we passed the Sink of Maryís river, there was a perfect desert of a hundred miles. I have since learned that there was no grass for more than 250 miles above the Sink, making a desert utterly impassable of 350 miles. The last 45 miles is perfectly horrible--when we crossed, there was any number of wagons left all along it, and the number of dead mules, horses and cattle was over a hundred. A gentleman told me yesterday that the road had to be changed on account of the stench. We were all ignorant of the extent of the desert, so that we were taken completely by surprise, and suffered extremely from heat and thirst. I saw several with their tongues so much swollen that they could neither speak nor shut their mouths. We broke down all our mules and had to recruit four or five days on Carsonís river before we could proceed. We were the first that came through without leaving our wagons on the desert and driving our mules to water. The next difficulty we encountered was the California mountains. Out of seven wagons that started over with us, four were smashed all to pieces. In many places six mules could not pull up our empty wagons. We were four days in travelling 23 or 24 miles. * * For a week after our arrival, we did some of the tallest eating and sleeping that you ever heard of; the first three or four days I never got up except to eat.

There are so many mining at present, that the labor is greatly increased and the profits very much diminished. Half an ounce being considered a good average per day. Those placers from which such large amounts were dug last year, have all been exhausted. The whole country is still full of it, but it requires an immense deal of labor to wash it out. gold has been found in every part of the country that has been tried, and it is considered inexhaustible by every one. "California can never be an agricultural country."

 

Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham