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Register of the Thomas Spalding Wylly Gold Rush Narrative, 1849-1853
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thomas Spalding Wylly Gold Rush Narrative,
    Date (inclusive): 1849-1853
    Collection number: Mss124
    Creator: Thomas S. Wylly III
    Extent: 0.5 linear ft.
    Repository: University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
    Stockton, CA 95211
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Preferred Citation

    [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.