Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1283

Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
? Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
March 1853

Sent by John Wallace, Columbia, Tuolumne County, California, USA to ?Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell) [none given] on March 1853.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM
Verified by:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


One of a set of excerpts of letters providing in-depth descriptions John Wallace's life in the gold mining town of Columbia, California, building a system to bring water to gold mining operations in the town.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP1283.1062)

A transcription typewritten  in English.

Typescript copy c. 1948, incomplete

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/96/9
Copyright owner:
©Wallace Family
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information




12. Letter from Colombia, March, 1853

I will now answer some of the questions you ask. In the first place you hope that my water speculations may enable me to return soon with enough to carry out some scheme you proposed some time ago. Now I have forgotten what this scheme was, so if you will let me know what it is it will be as good as new. In the next place I have quite given up the idea of making a fortune in California, and shall be quite content if I can live and pay my way, lay by for a little for a rainy day. I should certainly like to go to England, if only for a few months, but I am not able to decide whether it can be this year or not.

On Saturday last our company had its regular quarterly meeting for the election of officers, and I was elected Superintendent and Chief Engineer, in place of Ge. Bernard resigned. I have now the charge of the whole works on a line of upwards of fifty miles of ditch and flume, besides surveying for new ditches, extensions &c. so my time is fully occupied. I have a horse kept by the company for my use, and I frequently have to ride 25 or 50 miles per day, and generally on very rough mountain roads. The pay is not very highn[sic] amounting to about six dollars per day, and I expect to hold it as long as I like. The worst part of it is that Sunday is almost the busiest time I have, as we generally have repairs to make to the flume which can be done on Sunday when we can stop the water, as to stop it on any other day would mean a loss of about a thousand dollars or more. We are doing a good business although not yet out of debt. We expect it will be about two months more as we have about fifty thousand dollars to pay off, and then we hope to receive some interest on our years of labor.

I have a few problems connected with my work to which I wish you to send me answers, as I have no books to refer to, and I will let you know whether your answers agree with the facts as I can sometimes ascertain. Our main flume is 45 inches wide, average depth of water 18 inches, grade 10 feet to the mile. I wish you to let me know at what rate the water will flow in it, and the quantity of water it will discharge per hour, also whether the velocity will be altered if the water was only 9 inches deep, or if it was increased to 24 in. deep. The flume is five miles long and very crooked, but no very sharp turns. Also with the same flume with a grade of 16 feet and 32 ft. per mile. I should like to have the velocity and the quantity of water discarded per hour supposing the depth to be 18 inches.

The money that I borrowed I will pay as soon as possible, the interest does not appear to be very high compared to the interest money feyches[sic] in California. You cannot borrow money here in the mines at less than 5 per cent a month, and in many cases 6 per cent, there are very few of pur[sic] company who have not had to borrow six or eight thousand dollars at that rate, however now paid off, and the money we owe now is not interest bearing, as it is principally for labour, for which we gave scrip, payable out of the first dividends of the company. We take it as payment for water, and thus redeem a great quantity of it every week. One member of the company has 2 or 3 thousand dollars out in small sums at 6 per cent per month. I have avoided borrowing, and hope to get on now without doing so.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.