The journal: ca. 1860s-1880s. Octavo journal (ca. 18x11,5 cm). 79 leaves. 58 leaves filled in manuscript ink, generally both on recto and verso (sometimes on recto only), which constitutes about 110 pages of text. Brown ink on blueish wove paper. Manuscript title on the first leaf. Period light brown full sheep journal, the binder's paper label on the front pastedown endpaper. The ink of several entries slightly faded (but all are transcribed in Eric Schneirsohn’s publication), binding rubbed on extremities, spine with minor cracks on head and tail, but overall a very good journal.
Historically significant original journal of a California 49er and one of the first “commissioned pilots on the Columbia and Willamette rivers” William Henry Harrison Hall (Men of Progress, cit. ex. Schneirsohn, p. 2). In May 1849, Hall “sailed from Boston for California via Cape Horn. He arrived at San Francisco, after a voyage of one hundred and sixty-four days, with a ten cent bit in his pocket. He remained four months as a clerk in a hotel, and then set out for the Southern mines, where after locating a claim, he was prostrated by a fever, and returned to San Francisco. June 14, 1850, he had a narrow escape from being a victim of the great fire in San Francisco, which started in the hotel where he was employed as clerk. He next obtained a situation as a purser on the Columbia River steamer Lot Whitcomb. He was soon appointed pilot, and took the first soundings, and was the first commissioned pilot, on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. He was a pilot for four years and afterward Captain of the steamers Fashion and Iris. He returned to Warren, Vermont, in 1861, raised a company of Volunteers, and joined the Sixth Vermont as Captain of Company G. After a year’s service he was discharged for physical disability, by reason of sickness, and returned to the Pacific Coast, remaining there as a steamer Captain until 1866, when he went to the oil regions of Pennsylvania <…>” (Men of Progress, cit. ex. Schneirsohn, p. 2).
The journal includes 49 entries, chronologically covering the period from April 4, 1849 to October 22, 1881. The entries can be divided into two main parts: diary and logbook notes and manuscript copies of thirty-five letters between Hall and his fiancée Sarah Annie Foster (1830-1897). Very interesting is the extensive diary of Hall’s “Argonaut” voyage to San Francisco onboard the “Suffolk & California Mutual Trading and Mining Association’s” ship “New Jersey” in May-October 1849. It was a joint-stock company that combined resources to purchase and outfit the ship, which was sold upon arrival with profits split among the members. The diary includes notes about difficulties of passing Cape Horn and diminished rations, several skirmishes, frequent thefts and poor discipline on board, ruins and human bones still scattered around Callao after the 1746 earthquake and tsunami, a Catholic service in the Lima Cathedral which Hall attended, etc. The journal also contains an informative entry about Hall’s first months in California, briefly talking about his attempts to mine for gold, work in a lumber yard and in a San Francisco hotel, which burned down on June 14, 1850, and caused a major city fire. Five of Hall’s letters were written from Oregon during his service as a steamboat pilot on the Columbia River and include interesting notes on his work and the Rogue River Wars.
Most likely, Hall compiled the journal in ca. 1860s-1880s, after he had returned from Oregon in 1866 and settled in Vermont. The entries are written in the same brown ink with only minor changes in handwriting styles, which leads to the presumption that they were made at the same time or with relatively little breaks. Forty-three out of forty-nine entries were transcribed and published in the book by a Glendale antique book dealer and an amateur historian Eric Schneirsohn (1926-1983), also included here (the untranscribed entries are a short note about the dates of life of Hall’s kids, and five private letters from Sarah Foster). It is obvious that Schneirsohn used our journal as one of the sources of his publication, as several pages from it, including the title page, are reproduced in his book (pp. 1, 12). Although in the preface Schneirsohn mentioned that Hall’s archive contained “letters, diaries and manuscripts,” the location of other materials is unknown to us. After Schneirsohn's death, the entire stock of his shop went on a close-out sale (The Book Review/ The Los Angeles Times, 11 November 1984, p. 10).
Overall an important rare original source on the California Gold Rush and Oregon pioneer years.
A brief list of the journal entries (a complete list of entries is available upon request). The diary notes describe: 1) Hall’s voyage from Boston to San Francisco as a sailor on board the ship “New Jersey” around Cape Horn, with the stops in Callao and Lima on April 14 – October 11, 1849; 2) latitudes and longitudes passed during that voyage in the form of a logbook; 3) Hall’s first months in California, October 22, 1849 – June 14, 1850; 4) Hall’s travel to Oregon, August 2-19, 1850; 5) Hall’s travel to Vermont to his mother’s funeral, August 19 – November 9, 1854; 6) death and funeral of his father Edward Hall, December 4-5, 1860; 7) Hall’s travel from Vermont to Oregon, September 12 – October 27, 1855; 8) Hall’s travel from Oregon to Vermont, April 12 – June 10, 1856; 9) birth of Hall’s daughter and dates of life of his son; 10) dates of life of Hall and his family members; 11) a gun accident with Hall’s son Eddie on October 22, 1881. The “letterbook” part includes copies of twenty-two letters and notes from Sarah Foster to Hall, and thirteen letters from Hall to Sarah, dated 1849-1856. The journal also has twelve pages of poetry and song lyrics.
Excerpts from the journal:
Some notes from the diary of “New Jersey’s” voyage to California:
May 1. Sailed from Boston in ship “New Jersey” 640 tons, belonging to the Suffolk California Mutual Trading and Mining Association. <…> Dissatisfaction & rows all the time. Captain threatening to put into port.
July 16. Cold head winds. Meeting called on account of Trull being charged with stealing a hatchet. Not decided. This evening some are engaged in playing cards. Some fiddling and dancing, others holding a court. The balance are in small squads scattered over the ship, talking of the hard fare & of sweet home.
July 17. <…> It is now 12 o’clock at night and all is quiet, though the day has been passed in quarrels and rows, some charging others of theft, some complaining of not having enough to eat in particular of beans. <…>
July 19. Cloudy, wind fair. Today we are off Cape Horn. <…> Today a meeting was held on account of disorderly conduct of some of the members; gambling & drunkness &c. Meeting called, Captain interfered, calling it boyish play.
July 23. Nearly calm, several sick, all complaining of hard fare. Mugs all stolen from the table.
July 24. Cold, talk of making the allowance of water less. This morning we were up to Lat. 59° being farthest South. <…>
July 27. Many are complaining of chilblains. Hand & feet swollen. Keep warm by turning into our berths.
July 29. A fight between Negro Bill & Woodman.
August 7. Pleasant. Scott & I fried fritters. Knives & forks stolen. Bakery brocken open, plundered. The word is “every man for himself & the devil for us all.”
August 9. Pleasant. Breakfast hard bread & mackerel. Dinner duff, tea, flippers. Hard bread every meal & salt horse. Goldsmith taken with a fit. Scott & I fried fritters. 36 lbs flower [sic!] for 80 men.
August 15. A general breakout, not only of the hole, but of feeling – continuous growl. Dishonesty from Zenith to Nadir. President charged of stealing broadcloth & duck belonging to his association.
August 22. Lat. off Callao S.A. After breakfast most of us went ashore. The first thing I saw was two soldiers on a mule. <…> The houses are very poor. Made mostly of dobies (sunburn bricks) & canes. Many have no roof with no chimneys. In every street you can see more or less soldiers. Two men going to California got shot, one receiving eighteen balls in a row.
About a dozen of our crew got into the Calabose – some went to Lima had a row, got off with black eyes & c. Visited the ruins of Old Callao – was sunk by an earthquake. Saw the roofs & foundations of houses & any quantity of human bones. The ground seemed to be sort of ashes caused by the decay. Saw the roof of a house just above the ground, looked into it, saw several feet of human bones. Saw a monument, about four miles from Callao on the Lima road, where a ship was carried & left.
August 26. Visited Lima. <…> Attended Catholic Church, no one showing me a seat. I made my way to a long seat opposite the entrance. Being busily engaged, looking at the many curiosities I minded not what was going on around me until to my great discomfort found I was on the seat among the Friars. They having the crown of their heads shaved, wearing long white robes, [I was] obliged to stay through the service for the whole while. The floor was covered with women on their nees [sic!], heads & faces, excepting one eye covered with black shawls, customary in Peru. <…> At the door was a band of music belonging to the army. In the church a quire [sic!] with instruments, at the door people were shouting. Crackers, guns & rockets were fired. At last a procession was formed, marched around to the different images to worship them. All fell upon their nees [sic!] as the procession passed. As I was not acustomary [sic!] to neeling [sic!] I stood my ground until the Priest made motions for me to down. I downed on one nee. <…> On my way to Callao saw a woman lying upon the ground that had been beaten by a soldier. By the way the whole country seemed to be full of soldiers. One of our company by the name of Adams got robbed on the road from Lima to Callao. Robbings are very common in Peru.
October 11. Arrived at San Francisco, making it in 163 days from Boston. On the night we arrived a perfect row took place. Pistols & knives were drawn. Provisions were short. The Associations broke up, each one was thrown upon shore with nothing to help himself with. The ship sold for $7000, a divider made of $13.09. I am sick of the concern so good by to it.
Hall on his first months in California: “The first work done in San Francisco, S. Tower & myself carried lumber in a lumber yard. While at work, saw W.W. Parker. October 22nd, 1849, I went to work in the Sacramento House for W.W. Parker. February 22d. I left for the Southern Mines. While in the mines, by travelling in the rain and exposing myself, also by lying upon the damp ground, I became sick. Getting a little better, I started, in company with C.A. Hewitt, for San Francisco. We took our passage on an Ox waggon to Stockton, from then on steamboat arrived at San Francisco April 1. April 3 went to tending bar in Sacramento House, where I stayed untill it burned down June 14,th 1850.”
Sarah Foster to Hall (Springfield, Vermont, 4 April 1849): “Your letter gives me pain mingled with pleasure. How can I for one moment think of your going to California <...>? Harry what made you think of it? It is too late now to give it up? Who knows that you will ever come back if you do go. <…> Harry do think of the hardships you will have to endure just for a little gold and then what good will it do you if you can never use it? Will it not be better to stay and get what you can here than to risk so much? <…>”
Hall to Sarah Foster (Boston, April 15, 1849): “I little thought when I saw you last, that I should go to California, but I have concluded to go, not under the excitement of the “California Fever” expecting to get great quantities of “Gold.” If the El Dorado proves all nothing, I shall not be disappointed. I have had all the discouragements told to me, and am fully aware of the hardships, the privations, and the society that I shall be thrown into <…>”
Hall to Sarah Foster (Portland, Oregon, November 27, 1855): “<…> There is a great excitement now of war with the Indians. The Indians have all joined together to drive the Whites from Oregon and Washington Territorys. The settlers have moved their families into the towns & fortified themselves, several battles have been fought, in which the Indians have mostly come off victorious. Several families have been murdered, a house was attacked a few days ago in which all the family had gathered. The man on firing at the Indians from the house was wounded and fell to the floor. The wife took the gun & kept them off killing several. Her husband lived but a few minutes. The Indians left for a short times when she & the children escaped into the woods. <…> Four Pilots have died within the last two months, three were drowned. I miss them for they were my old friends. On account of the Indian war business is dull and money hard <…>”
Hall to Sarah Foster (Steamer Fashion, Portland, Oregon, December 10, 1855): “<…> I am Captain of Steamer “Fashion,” have been for some time. I know you will think now that perhaps I will not come back. Annie, I have better chances in this country than I could have at home. <…> I have many friends in this country, but a few in Vermont. If I had that few here and my business settled in Vt., I should not come back for a long time, but as it is I see no other way only to give up business here and come back to live in Warren. <…> I probably should not have so many cares and hardships in Vt. as I should have here or on board a Steamer. I have thought this matter over many times & have about come to the conclusion that I would make a few more trips, settle my affairs, give up the situation of Captain of Steamer “Fashion,” say good bye to my friends & Oregon & return <…>.”.
Price: $8,500.00 USD