Sacramento: 9 December 1861. Quarto (ca. 24,5x19 cm). 2 pp. Brown ink on laid paper, blind-stamped paper maker’s monogram in the left upper corner. Fold marks, paper slightly soiled, a minor water stain on the lower margin, otherwise a very good letter.
Historically interesting original letter, with an eye-witness account of the Great Flood of 1862 in Sacramento, describing the first day of the inundation of Sacramento (December 1861). The flood became the largest in California’s recorded history, submerging most of Central Valley and parts of Southern California and modern-day Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. The flood occurred in December 1861 - January 1862, but its consequences lasted well into spring and summer 1862. Sacramento remained underwater for three months after the winter storms had passed, and the state capital had to be temporarily moved to San Francisco during Sacramento’s rebuilding. The letter is emotional and was written in the midst of the “terrible excitement.” It mentions the destruction of “several hundred feet” of the “Rail Road” (Sacramento Valley Railroad) and the inundation of “Huntington & Hopkins store” (hardware store of “Huntington, Hopkins & Co.” at 54 K Street, built in 1855, demolished and reconstructed in 1970).
The author was a California pioneer and forty-niner, William Harrison Hardy. He became famous as the founder of Hardyville in 1864 (now Bullhead City, Colorado River) and as an active political figure in the newly-formed Arizona Territory (est. February 1863). Hardy opened the first post office and a ferry crossing in Hardyville and built a toll road to the territorial capital Prescott. At the time when this letter was written, Hardy ran a general merchandise business with his partner Samuel S. Kennedy, selling provisions and mining equipment, dealing in gold dust and at some point, serving as a Wells Cargo agent. A collection of Hardy’s manuscripts with memoirs about his life in the Arizona Territory in 1867-87 is now stored in the Autry Museum of the American West (https://www.worldcat.org/title/william-h-hardy-manuscript-collection-1867-1906/oclc/856241846). “Hardy and Kennedy” store records from 1856 to 1869 are deposited in California State Library (https://oac.cdlib.org/search?style=oac4;Institution=California%20State%20Library::California%20History%20Room;idT=001567894).
Overall a historically significant original source on the history of California's Great Flood of 1862.
The text of the letter: “Mr. Kennedy, Sir, the excetement [sic!] is great. The whole city is under water. The Rail Road is washed away for several hundred feet. No trains will be able to leave town for some time to come. Don’t be in a hurry about selling goods unless you get an advance pay. Flour 5.00 pr. 100 lbs, barley 2.50 by the 1000 or over and 3 cts [hundredweight?] by the sack, shorts 3 cts and all […?] goods at 2 cts freight. Flour is held firm by all mills at 7.00 per bsh. Short been scarce at 30 per ton. I send you statements and receipts as paid <…> As I write the water is two feet deep in Huntington & Hopkins store. I am at the Express Office <…> 12 ¼ p.m. The excitement is terrible, but I have not time to write all. <…> at least 25 boats in sight. Yours truly, W.H. Hardy.”.
Price: $1,250.00 USD