Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP1293

Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace)
17 September 1856

Sent by John Wallace, Columbia, Tuolumne County, California, USA to Frances ("Fanny") Sims (née Wallace) [none given] on 17 September 1856.

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)

View item:

LETTER (WCP1293.1072)

A transcription typewritten  in English.

Typescript copy c. 1948, incomplete

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/96/19
Copyright owner:
©Wallace Family
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information




22. Letter from Columbia Sept[ember]. 17th, 1856 (John Wallace to Fanny)

I herewith send you a view of our house which will give you some idea of our abode, and also a specimen of the photographic art in this part of the country. The style is here callod[sic] ambrotype, but I believe it is the same as your collodian process. I should like Thomas2 to make a copy at his leisure, and make some paper photographs of it and send one to me in a letter, and let some of our friends have one, also send one to Alfred. The man had to carry the prepared glass about a quarter of a mile from his rooms to where the camera was placed, so that he had to work fast to prevent the glass from drying.

NOTE. By J. H. Wallace, son of John Wallace

In 1855-56 Columbia was at it’s[sic] height as a boom town, with about 15,000 inhabitants, and the richest mining camp in California. Over $75,000,000 in gold was produced. However the mines were shallow, and in a few years were exhausted, the miners left for other camps and the town was on its way to what it is now, a “Ghost Town”.

About 1859 Mr. Wallace severed his connection with the water company. He located and supervised the construction of a road from Sonora across the mountains to Mono Coonty[sic], now known as the Mono road. He secured several contracts from the Government for locating township and section lines and, for several years was engaged in this work in various points in California.

In the fall of 1865 he moved his family to Stoskton3[sic], where he established himself as an Engineer and Surveyor. He was elected County Surveyor of San Joaquin County in 1868. This office he held for eight years, He died in 1895, at the age of seventy seven4.


1. The letter from John Wallace to his sister, Frances “Fanny” Sims, is transcribed from a typewritten record and includes the extensive note provided by his son, John H Wallace.

2. Thomas Sims, Frances Sims’ husband.

3. John Wallace is referring to the town of Stockton, California.

4. John Wallace was born 31 May 1818, and died 26 March 1895. He was, therefore, seventy-six when he died.

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