Benjamin F. Austin Gold Rush correspondence

Finding aid created by San Francisco History Center staff using RecordEXPRESS
San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center
San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, California 94102
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Descriptive Summary

Title: Benjamin F. Austin Gold Rush correspondence
Dates: 1850-1854
Collection Number: SFH 443
Creator/Collector: Austin, Benjamin F., 1821-1855
Extent: 1 folder
Repository: San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center
San Francisco, California 94102
Abstract: Letters from a San Francisco mariner to his sister in New London, Connecticut.
Language of Material: English


The collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

Preferred Citation

Benjamin F. Austin Gold Rush correspondence. San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center

Acquisition Information

Napa County Historical Society, 2016

Biography/Administrative History

Benjamin F. Austin was born in New London, Connecticut and left that city in late October 1849 as second mate on the Alexander. Settling in San Francisco, he bought an interest in the schooner Sarah Lavinia, and was later captain of the schooner Odd Fellow. His death occurred at sea, February 19, 1855 when the main boom of the Odd Fellow knocked him overboard.

Scope and Content of Collection

Eight letters written by Austin, San Francisco, to his sister, Miss Mary E. Austin of New London, Connecticut. He writes of working the Sacramento River in 1850 on the schooner Sarah Lavinia, alongside Captain Israel Sweet. Austin and Sweet spend the better part of 1851 fishing in the Sandwich Islands. Returning to San Francisco, he buys a quarter interest in the schooner Odd Fellow, with Richard Smith buying a quarter and Sweet buying half. He describes the 1850 explosion on the steamer Sagamore in San Francisco and loss of life, and his aid to victims; Austin mentions the grounding of the steamer Tennessee, and the 1853 wreck of the steamer Independence and Captain Jeffrey, who came to its aid. Austin notes New Londoners who have come to California, including ship masters and their vessels. To Austin, San Francisco is “worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.” He reports that sailing and whaling are more lucrative ventures than mining. Austin receives few letters, and humorously bemoans his bachelor state, often referring to Sarah King in New London, and their bargain. John, who has gone to the mines, is often mentioned; this may be John Lewis, with whom he boarded in New London.

Indexing Terms

Seafaring life
Bachelors--California--San Francisco
Wages--California--San Francisco
Gold mines and mining--California
Sweet, Israel, d. 1896
Austin family
Odd Fellow (schooner)
Sarah Lavinia (schooner)
Sagamore (steamer)
San Francisco (Calif.)--History--19th century
San Francisco (Calif.)--Social life and customs--19th century