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Record number: WCP1636

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Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell)
24 December 1852

Sent by John Wallace, Columbia, California, U.S.A. to Mary Ann Wallace (née Greenell) [none given] on 24 December 1852.

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 (2)

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LETTER (WCP1636.1415)

A transcription handwritten by other in English.

A contemporary handwritten copy possibly in hand of Mary Ann Wallace. Note at the end of the letter "This letter arrived July 14th 1853".

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/104
Copyright owner:
©Wallace Family
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information




Dear Mother Columbia Dec[embe]r 24 1852

I scarcely know what to do or what to think, having now been ten months and have not received one a single letter from any one. Since the receipt of my sister’s about this time last year about March I have written three including this, but still no tidings, "what can be the matter and what can you all be about" are questions which I am continually asking myself -- and even echo answers not[.] I am at a loss to conjecture and have at last given it up in despair hoping that time and patience will unravel the mystery. As I cannot for a moment imagine that you have all neglected to write I must come to the conclusion that the letters have been mis-sent[sic] -- lost or otherwise disposed of during their transmission from Post to Post -- We have now a Post Office at Columbia so direct my letters in future to the Post Office or the [[2]] T. C. Water Company’s office in Columbia --

The rainy season has set in very early this year,2 provisions are very high and the roads almost impassable. It has checked our business & expectations considerably, as the miners do not work our[?] water now during the rain and in many places the water will run for several days after the rain has ceased. Our works are nearly all compliated [completed] but it will be some time before we reap the benefit of it3. This weather is very much against us -- during one dry week about a month ago we took about nine thousand dollars and when we have fair weather and in full opperation[sic] our weekly average will exceed that amount. We have now about 18 miles of fluming and about 30 miles of ditching to convey water to different parts of the mines. We have also four large reservoirs for collecting and reserving the water, the largest of which when full will cover about 10 acres of an average depth of about five feet. All these works and additions have cost us in labour and money about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, about 70 thousand of which we have yet to pay out of the mines[?] proceeds of the water[sic] before the members of the Company can receive anything.4 Yet we are all in good spirits, well knowing that it will pay amply in the end and that there is yet a "good time coming" only we must rest contented to "work a little longer"!

There is at present every sign of a hard winter[.] A man was frozen to death in the snow a few days back having lost his way when night overtook him. The smallpox has been very prevalent here for the last six months. I have just returned from the funeral of one of our members who died from its effects. He was a very useful and active man.5 The weather has caused a deal of damage to part of our works from the rains so softening [[3]] the ground on the mountain side as to cause it to slide down, in some cases carrying the fluming with it[,] in other places where we have deep cuts the ground slides in and stops the water[,] which flowing over the sides causes further damage before it is discovered, besides large trees sometimes falling down and breaking the flumes (which is the wooden canal). This storm with its consequences has thus occasioned an amount of upwards of a thousand dollars, besides the loss of having the water stopped and no revenue coming in. And provisions are now very dear owing to the roads being so bad. Flour half a dollar per lb. and other necessaries in proportion[;] fresh beef half the price of bread and salt pork double the price of fresh beef.

I see from the papers that that the old (iron) Duke6 is dead and that the english[sic] press are full of the details of his wonderful life. I got a sight of the London Illustrated News occasionally as some parties have got it pretty regularly[.] Having really nothing more to add having had no news from home to reply to.

Believe me | Your affectionate son | J Wallace

This letter arrived

Feb[ruar]y. 14th 18537


1. The letter is a transcription made by Mary Ann Wallace (1792 - 1868) of the original letter sent to her by her son, John Wallace (1818 - 1895). There is a second, typewritten, transcript made by John Wallace’s son, John H. Wallace, and reference to variations in their respective transcripts is made below. The catalogue number for John H. Wallace’s transciption is WCP1636_L449.

2. The typed transcript prepared by John H. Wallace states: "The rainy season has set in very early this year, it has been raining now steadily for a week with a great deal of snow in the mountains, provisions are very high . . ."

3. The typed transcript prepared by John H. Wallace adds: "as we have a heavy debt to pay off," at the end of this sentence.

4. The typed transcript prepared by John H. Wallace states: ". . . of which we have to pay off before the members of the Company can receive anything."

5. The typed transcript prepared by John H. Wallace states: "He was President of our company and a very useful and active member."

6. A reference to the Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 - 1852). Commander of Allied forces at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and twice Prime Minister (1828 - 1830, and 1834).

7. This note was made by Mary Ann Wallace at the bottom of her transcript.

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