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William R. Olden gold rush letters ; pioneer letters, 1849-1877
Collection Overview


William R. Olden gold rush letters: pioneer letters, 1849-1877
Gold rush letters, 1849-1877
Pioneer letters, 1849-1877


Olden, William R., 1820-1883, creator


Twenty-two letters from William Rodman Olden in California to his family in Bucks County, Pa.; 5 envelopes, 3 imprinted with business logos. The first letter is addressed to his wife and dated from Panama on May 13, 1849. The rest of the letters were sent to his sister, Mrs. A. Murray McIlvaine: 1 in 1849; 2 in 1850; 2 in 1852; 6 in 1853; 3 in 1854; 1 each in 1859, 1860 and 1864; 2 in 1868; 1 each in 1869 and 1877.
This small collection richly documents the California pioneer experience. It begins with a sea journey via Panama and Olden's letter to his wife describing his impressions of the country and its people. In California Olden heads for the mines and meets with mixed success. Initially based in San Francisco, he quickly decides that setting up in the trading business is more to his liking and settles finally in Marysville. His letters throughout this early period are full of the heady atmosphere of opportunity in his adopted land. "The whole country reminds me of the Arabian Tales, at a word a new country has been populated, large cities have grown up like magic, filled with an active, bustling people from all parts of the world, most of them Yankees. It is without exception the greatest country for making money that ever did exist ...."
Letters from the later years present a detailed account of ranch life in Monterey County. Olden also describes family life as his daughters grow up and as he becomes a doting grandfather. Throughout Olden remained an ardent booster for California, encouraging family and friends to join him in experiencing the California dream.


1849 (issued)


Olden, William R -- 1820-1883 -- Correspondence
Pioneers -- California -- Correspondence
Frontier and pioneer life -- California
Ranching -- California -- Monterey County -- History
California -- Gold discoveries
California -- Commerce -- History
Voyages to the Pacific coast
Marysville (Calif.) -- History
Monterey County (Calif.) -- History
San Francisco (Calif.) -- History


William Rodman Olden was born in New Jersey in 1820. In the spring of 1849 he sailed for California, leaving his wife and other family members in Bucks County, Pa. His early years in California were spent mining and establishing business connections in San Francisco. In 1853 Olden moved to Marysville where he acted as an agent for the 'Camanche' steamboat and established a "forwarding, commission and storage" business. Shortly thereafter he was joined by his wife, Sara, and daughters, Sallie and Lizzie.
In the early 1860s the Olden family moved to Monterey County where Olden leased ranch land from Charles Polhemus. In addition to raising beef cattle, dairying and cheesemaking, Olden experimented with raising worms for silk production. A third daughter, Katy, was added to the family and Lizzie married an Englishman, Mr. Cullen, and soon had children of her own, Alice and Willie. The 1870s found the Olden family relocated once again to Anaheim where Olden was an agent for the Stearns Ranch. Olden was active in promoting the local business community and also served as an associate editor for the periodical, Rural Californian. Olden died in Anaheim on June 29th, 1883.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.
William R. Ogden gold rush letters, 1849-1877



Physical Description:

27 items ; 23-28 cm. in folder 32 cm.







Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.