Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP1631

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Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
23 November 1851

Sent by John Wallace, Saw Mill Camp, California, U.S.A. to Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell) [none given] on 23 November 1851.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM
Verified by:
23/05/2012 - 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 (2)

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LETTER (WCP1631.1410)

A transcription handwritten by other in English.

A contemporary handwritten copy possibly in hand of Mary Ann Wallace. Note on the end of letter "arrived Nov 29th 1852, forwarded from [illegible]".

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/99
Copyright owner:
©Wallace Family
Record scrutiny:
23/05/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information




Saw Mill Camp

Nov[embe]r 23rd 1851

My dear Mother

Having an opportunity of sending a letter to England by a Friend[sic] I embrace it for the purpose of writing and sending you a few specimens of gold, I must however first of all express my surprise at not having received any letters from you for such a length of time. I think not since June, and this is the third I have written since hearing from you. Letters are the only consolation we poor miners have to check our drooping spirits during our toil among the mountains[.] If you cannot write oftener persuade others to take pity upon my solitude & relieve my monstrous existence by a little news from the civilized world -- I never receive any newspapers which I requested to be addressed to me [at] Sonora & also my letters. The person who takes the letters is my old partner Mr Wilson, who since he left us last winter has been doing very well and has realized enough to enable him to pay a visit to New York & London, after which I believe he intends going to Australia to use his gold mining experience in that region which we hear is as rich as California and even more extensive -- In my last I explained to you the nature of my present employment if not my future prospects which are still rather distant, we however are now beginning to finish a part of it as we have a Saw[sic] mill & Steam[sic] Engine[sic] expected which has cost us a great deal of labour and money, already as much as ten thousand dollars in Cash[sic] besides our Labour[sic] which has been much, having first of all to cut a road about 5 miles to get the Engine[sic] up the mountain. The heaviest part was the two boilers, each [[2]] & weighing about three tons which are now fixed on a mountain five thousand feet above Stockton where we had to bring it from and is now working day and night, cutting up logs into boards at the rate of about 10 thousand feet a day. Our company is named "The Tuolumne County Water Company" and shares are now getting valuable, and a large town has been built entirely upon the strength of our Company bringing the water into a large tract of country abounding in Gold[sic] but which is of no value without water -- We expect to be working two months before finishing even a part of it, after which we shall be able to convey and then we shall finish the remainder next Spring (if no mishaps occur)[.] I am fearful we shall have a wet winter as we had such a dry one last year, we have always had seasonal showers which is rather unpleasant to us camping out, but we must put up with it as we shall be out here nearly all winter. The weather here is warm especially when the sun shines in the middle of the day -- but the nights are very cold. I have very little news to communicate being away here in the mountains, we occasionally see and shoot a Deer[sic] but have never yet with a live grizzly bear although they are frequently about -- terrible tales are told of the[ir] ferocity and strength. I will just relate a ludicrous adventure that occurred a few days ago. One of our companions was out shooting very early one morning & had the good fortune to kill one of these ferocious animals, rather small but still a very formidable enemy it being too heavy to carry to the Camp, he cut off the head as a trophy of victory and was returning down the hill when he saw several of our men ascending who were engaged cutting log[s] for the saw mill, being of a ludicrous turn of mind [[3]] 1and all had a hearty laugh -- They then returned to the camp when we laughed at the men who were chased by a Bears[sic] head -- I have enclosed sic specimens of Gold (of course dug by myself) hope they will arrive safe as they are rather clumsy in a letter

hoping all friends are well | [I] remain your affectionate son | J Wallace

Arrived Nov 29th 1852

Forwarded from Somersetshire2


1. From the sense of this there appears to be some words missed in copying the letter to the letter book.

2. The text from "Arrived to Somersetshire" has been added after the copy of the letter.

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