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Guide to the N.A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Index Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: N.A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters
    Repository: Claremont Colleges. Library. Ella Strong Denison Library.
    Claremont, California 91711
    Physical location: Please consult repository.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English and Classical Chinese

    Administrative Information


    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to reproduce or to publish must be submitted in writing to Ella Strong Denison Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], N.A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters. Ella Strong Denison Library, Libraries of The Claremont Colleges.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of John I. Perkins, 1942.

    Alternative Forms of Material Available

    Digital collection available via The Claremont Colleges Digital Library: N. A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters - http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/col/cng/.

    Biography/Organization History

    Newton Amos Chandler (1818?-1880) was a late-arrival to the California Gold Rush scene in 1855. He was from the 4 Corners area of Hartland Vermont, and came alone to California. He left behind his wife Jane and two children named Liss (sometimes named May) and Willie. Within a short time he found several acquaintances from the Hartland area and worked with them in organized companies. He worked in the Northern mines, spending much of his time while in California at the Alpha and Omega diggings, where he owned several mining claims, participated as a partner in several quartz mills, and helped dig water distribution ditches that would directly influence the feasibility of hydraulic mining operations.
    Chandler, with a company of miners, became one of the first prospectors to claim mining areas near Virginia City. In May of 1860, the Pyramid Lake War broke out between the Paiute Indians and newly arrived Anglo-settlers, including Chandler. By many accounts, he barely survived the encounter.
    While in Virginia City he invested in mining stock, including the Lady Bryan Mine. He traveled back to Hartland Vermont once in the latter part of 1860, and returned by April 1861. As a result of investment earnings, Chandler became quite wealthy and was able to purchase properties in San Francisco and a ranch near Sonoma. However, due to poor investment decisions and external economic influences including the Civil War, his mining investments came to an end around 1865, leaving Chandler a pauper. Chandler considered himself a Copperhead and held anti-abolitionist views.
    In the final years of his life, Chandler joined with other miners in the White Pines Rush. He wrote from Hamilton and, later, Eureka Nevada. His arrival to Eureka was in the early years of Eureka history, and he had an opportunity to make friends with important people including Reinhold Sadler, the future Governor of Nevada. Jane died in 1873, during his Eureka years, and his son Willie died in 1876. Chandler supported himself as a stonecutter, and lived in Eureka until he died on July 30th 1880 by suicide. His obituary and a related story in the Eureka Sentinel newspaper from Eureka, Nevada cited his excessive debt of no more than 2500 dollars and mounting personal sadness that befell him.
    N.A. Chandler's family members include N.A. Chandler's spouse, Jane M. Chandler (1826-1873), and children - Willie Chandler (1847-1876), Mary Elizabeth Chandler (1852-1860) (in the letters as Liss or May), and Myra Jennie Chandler (1861-1948).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The N. A. Chandler Gold Rush Era Letters Collection consists of fifty-four handwritten letters from 1855 to 1872. Fifty-three of these letters are from N. A. Chandler to Jane M. Chandler and one letter is from Jane M. Chandler to N. A. Chandler. Three letters were written on picture sheets, two from California displaying Gold Rush motifs and one from Lowell Massachusetts displaying statistics of Lowell Manufactures for 1859. The arrangement of these letters is chronological from earliest to most recent, and the bulk of these letters are from 1855 to 1865. Almost all of these letters have notations by John I. Perkins in pencil on the first page at the top. Pencil marks also exist to highlight certain parts of the text pertaining to the titles.
    Chandler wrote these letters from San Francisco and the California mining camps of Long Bar, Alpha, Omega, and Gaston Ridge. Chandler's later letters are from Virginia City in Nevada and the Nevada silver and gold rush locations of Hamilton and Eureka.
    These letters are a unique source of California and Nevada history. Chandler's participation in early Nevada history as outlined in these letters is especially interesting. Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming 1540-1888 mentioned Chandler briefly by name as a participant in the Pyramid Lake War of 1860. These letters mention some events surrounding this conflict and add to this important chapter of Nevada history. These letters also offer insights on life in San Francisco, Virginia City, Civil War opinions in California and Nevada, and the opportunities and discouragements of a prospector. In addition, Chandler's letters provide some information on the settling of Nevada, Native American interactions, and the mining history of Northern California and Nevada. One letter features the writing of a "Chinaman" named Ah Pay who associated with Chandler's party at Gaston Ridge.
    Of the fifty-four letters, only one is from Chandler's wife, Jane M. Chandler. This letter offers an additional voice in the life of N. A. Chandler, and an insight into the economic struggles that Jane faced as a "California widow." Her voice is also evident from the other letters, especially as it pertains to finances and family.


    Arranged chronologically from oldest to newest.

    Index Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Chandler, N. A.
    California--Social life and customs--19th century
    Frontier and pioneer life
    Gold miners
    Gold mines and mining
    West (U.S.)--History--1848-1860
    West (U.S.)--History--1860-1890

    Genres and Forms of Materials


    Related Material

    The University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections has one letter from N.A. Chandler to Jane. M. Chandler, written correspondence, 1860 July 10. The Bancroft Library Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material includes one letter from N.A. Chandler under the title, "Miner's Life: Illustrated." The Nevada Historical Society also has a folder listing N.A. Chandler.