Scope and Content
Title: Thomas Spalding Wylly Gold Rush Narrative,
Date (inclusive): 1849-1853
Collection number: Mss124
Thomas S. Wylly III
Extent: 0.5 linear ft.
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Thomas Spalding Wylly Gold Rush Narrative, Mss124,
Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
Thomas Spalding Wylly (1831-1922) was born and raised in coastal Georgia. As an
adolescent he read Fremont's accounts of his exploits in the West and resolved to go
there himself. His grandfather, Thomas Spalding, was a rich and powerful man who knew
Fremont's father-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton. Spalding arranged for Wylly to meet Fremont
at Benton's home in Indepen-dence, Missouri. When, in the spring of 1849, Wylly arrived
at Independence, he found a cholera epidemic raging and both Ben-ton and Fremont gone.
Undaunted, he joined a wagon train and came to California by way of Utah and the Mojave
Desert, arriving in April 1850.
For two years he mined on Weber Creek near Placerville. Wylly's account of these years is
at once vivid, detailed and open-minded.
In 1853 he returned home by way of Nicaragua and resumed the life of a well-to-do cotton
planter. Wylly lost his home and slaves during the Civil War and was, for a time, obliged
to sell the timber on his lands to make ends meet. Slowly he recouped his fortunes and
ultimately lived a long, productive life, fathering six children and celebrating his
sixtieth wedding anniversary in 1914.
Scope and Content
Wylly's 205 page narrative begins with his eighteenth year and ends with his return from
Central America to Georgia (1853). His grandson, Thomas Spalding Wylly III, has provided
another hundred pages or so of supplementary notes based partly on family oral tradition
and partly on reading and on-site research. There are two typescript copies of the
narrative. An unbound copy is con-tained in five numbered folders, while a second
version, together with eight photographs, a map and Mr. Wylly III's notes, is bound in
navy blue cloth with the title "'Westward Ho --in '49': Memoirs of Captain Thomas S.
Wylly" embossed in gold on the cover.