Coloma, California: 14 August 1866. Octavo (ca. 20x12 cm or 7 ¾ x 4 ¾ in). 7 pp. Brown ink on laid paper bifoliums. Fold marks, otherwise a very good letter written in a legible hand.
An early Californian letter with interesting details about trade and fraternal organizations in the gold rush towns of Coloma and Placerville. Coloma was the site where gold was discovered in 1848, leading to the California Gold Rush. The letter’s author was a Canadian-born merchant and gold mine Alexander Chalmers who came to California in 1864, “engaging in mining near Placerville and Angels Camp. He later engaged in business in Stockton, where he was past grand master of the Stockton Masonic Lodge.” By the time of his death in 1925, Chalmers was considered “the oldest member of a Masonic lodge in California” (Oldest Mason in State Passes Away//The San Francisco Examiner, 28 January 1915, p. 4).
The letter was addressed to Chalmers’ female “Dear friend Ladona [?]” from Canada whom he was affectionate about. Despite some romantic relations between them, Chalmers married another woman, Frances Wilkins (1848-1926), in 1869. Overall a well-written detailed manuscript by an early Coloma free-mason.
Excerpts from the letter: “I have read a full description of the Fenian Invasion with much interest and am pleased to learn from your letter that you braved the seeming danger so well which I will venture to say was much better than many of the opposite sex. I am glad to hear that you are progressing so finely with your school and hope that nothing may occur to render your situation unpleasant. From my acquaintance of you and my knowledge of schools I have every reason to believe that you are an excellent teacher and parents of your school may fully appreciate the advantages that their children are enjoying while you are in their midst. <…>
Shortly after my writing to you Geo fully made up his mind to open a store in the city of Placerville and was very desirous that I should remain in charge of his business in Coloma which I finally concluded to do for several reasons <…> George will go do San Francisco to purchase goods next week for this and his new store and will open the latter about the 1st of Sept. It will consist of a splendid variety of fancy & staple dry goods while we will add to our stock of dry goods in Coloma a good assortment of Gents’ clothing, whereby we will have doubt the business that we have had therefore. I will have all that I can do as I intend doing a great portion of the selling myself. If George succeeds well with his business in Placerville, I will no doubt buy out his interests here before long. I think from present appearance of this locality that times will become better here than they have been for years. Quartz mining seems to prospect well here and mills for crushing rock are being built in numbers of places.
As regards my settling down: I don’t feel any more settled now than I did when I came here and in fact I have not much thought of ever settling down in this country. If I am successful in business as I hope to be, I will remain here for a few years yet – and there perhaps I may pull up stakes and return to the eastern states. Accept thanks for the courage you inspire in me by speaking of my energy and perseverance, but I think you are inclined to flatter me more than I have deserved. However, it is a great pleasure for me to have the good will and encouragement of one whom I so much esteem as yourself and I hope to prove myself more worthy of your esteem that I have already done. <…> Sandy Wallace has committed matrimony with Miss Carrol <…>
You say that you have joined the Good Templars. It reminds me of olden times when I belonged to the order (from which I took my withdrawal). I have spent many a pleasant evening in the Lodge and believe that I kept my pledge as long as I was under its jurisdiction. As for myself at present: I have joined that lifelong Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and hope to be a credit to the order as long as I may live. There are a great many masons in this country and I thinking there is no place where its good qualities are shown more than here. I am secretary of the Lodge here which is seldom bestowed on so young a mason as myself. Robt. & Geo. are also members of the same lodge. <…> Don’t fear about annoying me with long letters for that is impossible. When you write again (which I hope will be soon) please tell me all about yourself, has the widow survived and how many more hearts have you broken etc. etc.”.
Price: $950.00 USD