This collection chiefly contains correspondence of the Pettyjohn family and correspondence between tavern owner James C. Riggin
in Yuba County, California,
and his wife, Rebeca Jane Pettyjohn. The letters tell of
the journey to California along the Oregon Trail, and discuss, in detail, Fort
Kearny; Fort Laramie; Fort Des Moines and Keokuk, Iowa; and Sacramento and Yuba
County, California. The letters also describe life in a California gold mining town
including gold discoveries, prices of supplies, and rumors of murders in the area.
James C. Riggin and Rebeca Jane Pettyjohn were married in March 1849. James, along
with some friends and relatives, left Missouri for California in May 1850; his wife
Rebeca and their infant daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, remained at home. Riggin briefly
attempted mining but eventually ended up running a tavern and boarding house in the
gold camp Oregon House in Yuba County. By the time he left California to return to
Missouri in the fall of 1851, he had enough money saved up to build a new house for
his wife and child. Riggin, who later became Sheriff of Andrew County, Missouri,
died in 1858. Rebeca’s brothers, William, Washington, and Columbus Pettyjohn also
came to California to mine gold.
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