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Darrah, William. Letters, 1840-1854
MANUSCRIPT SMCII Box 12 Folders 7-9
Collection Overview


Letters, 1840-1854
Gold rush letters, 1850-1854


Darrah, William., creator


Wheat, Carl I. (Carl Irving), 1892-1966


Two series of letters, one from the 1840s and the other from the 1850s. Typescript of ms. for Introduction, with handwritten notes: Flush times in the diggins; or, lights and shades of Murphy's Camp in the fifties, being the lettters and reminiscences of Captain Leonard W. Noyes ... ed. and with an introduction and explanatory notes by Carl I. Wheat. Four I.O.O.F. certificates of introduction for William Darrah from his lodge in Massachusetts.
There are 8 letters from the 1840s; five are from William Darrah to his wife Susan in Newburyport, Mass., two are from Susan Darrah to her husband, and one is from William's cousin, Thomas C. Lane to William. William's letters are written from several ports as he sails the Eastern seaboard and the Atlantic Ocean on various ships of the merchant fleet. He describes his itineraries and mentions often his yearning for home. Evidentally he is not a constant correspondent. On April 7th, 1843 he sends an apologetic letter and $30; Susan responds on April 9th berating him for not writing since Dec. "But now dear husband whilst I am writeing I cannot help feeling for I cannot have this seeming neglect, it is harder to bare than poverty. Capt. W. brought me thirty dollars Fryday night it was acceptable but was not the thing I most wanted."
A second series of 16 letters (and one transcript of a missing letter) begins on May 13th, 1850. William had just arrived in San Francisco and describes his voyage round the Horn. He soon left for the mines and next wrote from Calaveras County where he worked near the Mokelume River for the season. Two letters from there discuss his mining activities as he attempts to turn the river and make his fortune.
The remaining letters are written from San Francisco and trace Darrah's attempts to find steady work as a carpenter. He describes life in the rapidly-growing city: a cholera epidemic in 1850, a fire that destroyed his lodgings in 1851 and an example of vigilante justice in June of 1851. "This city is infested with a gang of Robers, incendiaries and murderers of the worst kind. Night before last one was taken stealing a safe from Central wharf. He was taken to a house close to ours, had his trial by the most respected merchants in the City who have organized themselves into a volunteer police for the protection oflives and property. He was found guilty and hung by the People on the Plazza at 2 o'clock in the morning today." Darrah wrote always of his desire to return home but in his last letter in August of 1854, he talked of the illness that may have led to his death shortly thereafter, attributing it to "poisoning at the mines."


1840 (issued)


Folder 7: Notes, Wheat's typescript, I.O.O.F. certificates. -- Folder 8: Letters: transcripts. -- Folder 9: Letters.


Darrah, William -- Correspondence
Merchant mariners -- United States -- Correspondence
Voyages to the Pacific coast
Gold miners -- California -- Correspondence
San Francisco (Calif.) -- History
San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1851.


Access restricted to transcripts.
William Darrah was born in New England. He married Susan R. Noyes in 1833 and, in the 1840s they were based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He was often away from home as he worked in the merchant sea trade along the Atlantic Coast. In 1850 he sailed round the Horn to San Francisco and soon left for the mines in Calaveras County. Not having much luck there, he was often based in San Francisco where he worked as a carpenter for various local firms or on ships sailing on the Panama Route. Often ill during these years, Darrah died in late 1854.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.

Physical Description:

32 items ; 13-28 cm.




MANUSCRIPT SMCII Box 12 Folders 7-9



Copyright Note:

Access restricted to transcripts.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.