Humbug Creek, CA: 15 March 1863?]. Quarto bifolium (ca. 25x20 cm). 5 pp. Brown ink on blueish watermarked laid paper with the papermill blind stamp in the left upper corner. Written in a legible hand. Fold marks, paper slightly soiled, several splits on folds, but overall a very good letter.
A passionate personal letter written by a Humbug Creek gold miner to his wife, with a vivid picture of life as a prospector in the Shasta Cascade mountains of Northern California just after the California Gold Rush. Stephen H. Gray, a native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, went to California in search of gold, “running away” from his wife Rowena and two young children – Blanche and Gracie. The letter is filled with his pleads to forgive him for leaving his family, apologies for not supporting them financially and promises to do so in the nearest future. Gray also describes his claims and gives details of his sluicing operations. He asks his wife to leave La Crosse and come live with him: “Will you let the woodland and house go to square up so that we can leave without disgrace?” A couple of passages are dedicated to reassurances of his love and fidelity. Overall a lengthy content rich and very emotional letter from a remote gold mining district in Northern California.
“Humbug is in north-central Siskiyou County about 10 miles northwest of Yreka. Humbug Creek, which flows into the upper Klamath River, was extremely rich during the early days; it is credited with an output of nearly $15 million. The town of Humbug City, which was founded in 1851, has largely disappeared. Some dragline dredging has continued until the present time. The gold-quartz veins were fairly productive, the Eliza, Spencer, Hegler, McKinley, and Mono mines all having yielded substantial amounts of gold” (Gold Districts of California. Bulletin 193/ California Division of Mines and Geology. Sacramento, 1970, p. 138).
Excerpts from the letter (original spelling): “The mails often are detained by some trouble or other. The overland route is liable to detention from freshets or Indians &c. The steamers make the best time on average. <…>
I am sorry that I waited so long to get an answer from you, for it seems you got out of funds before I could find out that you received it safely. I shall not wait hereafter, but shall keep you supplied with the needful. <…> My sweet wife, my own true Rowena, how much I think of you, how often I pray for your health and happiness, I long to see you my darling. I do so long to ask your forgiveness for leaving you, no, “running away” from you, that I cannot help having you always present in my mind. And I would not help it if I could. For it is my great happiness to have you always present in imagination at least. I shall not try to justify myself on that score. But when I see you, I will satisfy you that I did not intentionally deceive you. I think I here [sic!] you say, if you can do it Stephen, I will forgive you, for you never have forgiven me yet my dear “Nin.” <…> …for every sigh I have ever caused you, I will give you a smile and a kiss, and I will make you so happy my darling wife, that you will forget and forgive my leaving, no, that is not the word, “running away” from you.
Well, now my “Nin” I must tell you how I am getting along. Well and hearty my wife, my claims are looking better and prospecting better. I think I have struck a good lead in the lower end of the claims next to the mountain. I am sluicing off the top through my bed rock flume. I have picked up quite a number of “colors,” while sluicing and I hope to strike it good, but everything is uncertain, pray for me “Nin.”
I wish that you and the children were here. It would be sport for you and Blanche to see me sluicing with my great long legged gum boots on. I tell you if the sand and stones don’t go off some, you see I let my reservoir get full of water and then I let it on in a big stream taking off vast quantities of dirt so that I can get all the pay dirt and bedrock. But I do not work to[sic!] hard, I look out and do not expose myself as I used to do, before I had any “treasures.” Sometimes when I am working pretty hard, I think of you and hold up for a while. Tell Blanche that I have still got the old grey coat, but it is badly worn, in fact I think I shall have to sell it soon. <…>
I am true to you my darling wife. I know that you think I am, it is right that you judge me by yourself. And it is natural that you should feel as you do about your old sweetheart, for do we not have a jealous guard over all we love. I feel as you do my love. But oh, dear Rowena, I feel so confidant of your entire love, that it does not seem possible for you to be untrue or to forget me. <…> Kiss Blanche for her papa & Gracie, tell Blanche that her papa has got a bouncing cat for her. You will be surprised at this, for you know I was always partial to cats, but this one came to me and she is a “luncker.” She makes the mice “get up and git.” Good buy my darling “Nin.” Many kisses from your “old duck” and sweetheart. Stephen H. Gray. To his wife Rowena H. Gray. La Crosse, Wisconsin.”.
Price: $950.00 USD