Sacramento City: 30 March 1853.
Quarto bifolium (ca. 25,5x18,5 cm). 3 pp. Brown ink on bluish wove paper. Fold marks, paper slightly age-toned, but overall a very good letter, written in a legible hand.
Historically significant California Gold Rush letter, talking about the flood in Sacramento, which followed the Great Fire on November 2, 1852. The letter is written by George Graham Spurr, a California pioneer and forty-niner from New York State, who arrived in San Francisco in July 1849 and mined for gold near Sacramento. In 1851, he lost his arm in an encounter with a grizzly bear and then opened a small restaurant at No. 3, K Street (today’s Old Sacramento). Together with most of the city, Spurr’s restaurant was destroyed during Sacramento’s Great Fire on November 2, 1852, but he managed to rebuild it. After the flood in the spring of 1853, Spurr closed his restaurant and mined gold for a year, returning to New England in 1855. He later resigned in Boston and became famous after the publication of his book, titled “The Land of Gold: A Tale of ‘49” (Boston, 1881), describing his adventures in California. Spurr was one of the founders of the New England Association of Forty-Niners and served as its secretary for 15 years.
The letter is addressed to the father of Spurr’s friends Robert Allison (1796-1875), then a resident of Whitestown (Oneida Co., NY). Apart from the description of the Sacramento flood, Spurr talks about Allison’s sons John (c. 1826-?) and William (1831-1909), and several other young men from the same group (likely, from Oneida Co.), who came gold mining in California. He also notes that one of the men, John Parker, has left for Oriskany (Oneida Co.), and Allison will see him soon.
Overall a nice early Sacramento letter written by a renowned New England forty-niner.
Excerpts from the letter:
“To Robert Allison, M.D.
Honoured Sir, <…> I intended a few days since to have given you a minute view of the events that have transpired since the memorable day 2nd Nov. [Sacramento Great fire], but day after day has passed till now tis’ too late <…>.
I am at present located in K. St. keeping a tea & coffee saloon & doing comparatively well. Your son John & William together with [Paul?] Parkins left here a short time since for Washington on the South Juba, the said place being if you remember right our “head quarters” last summer. Before leaving, John sold his portion of the lot situated on the Levee for $500. This is very valuable property & in my opinion in selling this John sold his birth right.
I was very much opposed to John’s going to the mines this summer, as he has been very unsuccessful in his opperations [sic!] for the last year past, but as his opinion of the mines is much greater than mine, I grew cautious & spoke but once. John spoke strongly of going to [Australia?] previous to his departure for the mine & stated to me that should his trip prove fruitless, he should return in one month, then go for [Australia?] <…>.
Marcus Yarwood is with me having just recovered from a severe illness. He will remain here till able to work at something. Marcus has experienced considerable trouble arrising from his […?], the whole of which I fear he has lost from this sickness. John Parker left here the 26th inst. for Oriskany. You will probably see him by the time you receive this. I hear nothing from Jas. Lee. The last I heard from him, he was on […?] Bar, Middle Feather River, as there is no communication between here & there. I don’t expect to hear from him, for some time. <…>
Our City is again in a deplorable condition. We have experienced 3 days & nights of rain in succession. The river is again up to the top of the Levee & it is a matter of [speculation?] whether or no we escape a second inundation. The streets are like swamp & goods are again transported in flat boats from the Levee to places of designation. All business matters seem suspended & grim <…> merchants count their future over hot stoves & brandy smashes. Begging seems to be an every day occurrence even in rich California situation as I have a verry good opportunity to know. I have since I have been into business lost upwards of two hundred dollars from persons that were not able to buy their board <…>.”.