Thursday, January 12, 1922
In the old days, it was about a four months trip from the Mississippi River to the gold fields, but this soft-boned generation today cannot stand the four days it takes now, as well as those gold hunters who went on and on, day after day, following the golden lure.
One of the Pocahontas county men who took the trip in the old days was James McLaughlin, who left the country as a young man and established a home on the Mississippi River. He was a son of John McLaughlin who came to this county in the days of the Revolutionary War. We have in our possession a letter that he wrote to his brother, Hugh McLaughlin, of Huntersville, from the gold fields in 1851. It is written from Shasta County, California and it is full of facts:
After my best respects to you, I wish to inform you that I am well at present. I have nothing particular to write you.
I left home on the 8th day of April 1850, for California, to cross the plains. There were thirteen of us who started together. We left the Missouri River on the 11th day of May for the Indian country.
That is the most beautiful country that have ever seen in my life. The best land, and it lies the best, only it lacks for timber.
The road was full of wagons as far as I could see. There were thousands of people on the road to California. We had the most beautiful weather all the way. We had but two rains on us. We travelled two or three hundred miles without seeing any timber. We had to make use of buffalo dung to cook with.
We killed some buffalo and some antelope and saw some of all kinds of game.
We crossed the Rocky Mountains on the 19th day of June, and it was so cold that we had to put on our overcoats and mittens. The snow was about ten or twelve feet deep in places.
We continued our journey to the California mountains which we reached about the last of July. The snow on them was from twelve to fifteen feet deep for about one mile.
We crossed the plains with a mule team. We landed in the gold mine on the 9th day of August.
I have made nine hundred dollars since the first day of April.
There is plenty of gold in this country for all of us that are here, if we knew where to find it. It takes hard work to find it.
I expect to stay here until next fall. I left my family in Missouri. I cannot tell you how they are for I have not heard from them lately. When I am at home, I live in the south part of Missouri. It is very warm there. Wheat gets ripe there from the 25th of May to the first of June.
Our market for wheat is St. Louis. Other produce we market close to home, as I bought land one or two miles from the Mississippi River near a steamboat landing. We can sell all the wood off our land as we clear it and get the money for it.
I suppose you would like to know what sort of country this is that I am in. It is a very rough country especially in the mining country. The Sacramento Valley is a most beautiful place for farming but it does not rain from the first of May until November. Flour is twenty-five cents a pound.
The most that I have made in one day is thirty-four dollars.
So, nothing more at present. I want you to write me how you all are doing. I remain your well wisher until death. ~ James McLaughlin
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The writer of the above letter stayed in the gold country about the time that he mentioned in his letter and came back home with money enough for all business purposes.
It seems to us that for pure news value that the letter assays very high. The preface to the effect that he had nothing particular to write about, is not borne out in the body of the letter.
Another thing that we like about the letter is that he did not seem to know that there were any hardships in crossing the plains. It was all in a day’s work. They lived on the country and went along. The fact that the way is marked with graves and the bones of dead horses and oxen, is due to the fact that so many took that way across the country, that a percentage was bound to fall by the wayside.
Now comes the day when the palatial trains go thundering across the country with all the comforts of a home, and the average man recoils from the idea of the hardships of the trip.
In the old days, they went on for months and thought nothing of it, nothing in particular to report. Just an Odyssey, that is all. Just another case of Jason and the Golden Fleece.