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Gold rush letters, 1850-1852
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Gold rush letters, 1850-1852
Thomas G. Watters gold rush letters, 1850-1852


Watters, Thomas G., creator


Shaff, G. S.


There are five letters in this collection accompanied by transcriptions. Four of the letters are from Thomas G. Watters to his wife, Climena Watters, and Melissa Watters in Wassonville, Iowa. The fifth letter is from G.S. Shaff to his brother, Nelson, in Deer Creek, Iowa. It was addressed first to Thomas Watter in Wassonville and he forwarded it with an explanatory note.
The first letter is sent from "On the Misoura botem 3 miles below St. Frances on the bank of a Fish Pond Iowa" on May 12th, 1850. Watters is en route to California and states "I have enjoyed my self very well so far we have had no bad luck yet." He has joined up with several families and Sherman Shaff and they are planning to continue their journey within the week. He mentions provisioning "There has bin 5 or 6 boats up since we campt here tho tha cant bring up provisions fast enough a boat load wont last only 3 or 4 hours." So far he doesn't believe it would be a good idea for her to come after him next spring but he has no fear about continuing. "I would be hapy if i could only se you now & the children tho I dont see any use in turning back after coming this far so i shal go on and make every edge cut and come back as soon as i can."
The next letter is dated March the 15th/51 from "Kanacker Creek, Yuba Co Calaforna". "I with pleasure send my love to you again which is pure and undefiled hopeing this will find the same love lying in your brest for me." He is also sending gold, with detailed instructions as to how it is to be made into a pin and two finger rings for her and his mother. He mentions several companions, Philip Shaver, John Blevins, Henry and Marion. J. Sprague is starting for home the next day and will take this letter with him. He also reports: "One thing i will mention which perhaps you will se in the newspapers hereafter that is the city of Nevada a few days since was partly destroyed by fire the best buildings which wer store & gambleing housis." Waters also includes a bit of love poetry and reminds his wife to write.
The next two letters are postmarked "Stockton Cal". On February 8th/52, Watters writes from "Stanish Lough Cal". He is anxious to hear about plans for his wife and Mary Jane to join him; he has not received any letters since July or August. He comments on her new living arrangements: "do as you think best altho I think it very imprudent in you." Later he tries to be reassuring: "Dear wife this no doubt is discouraging to you but fear not alls for the best let what will come its for the best." He continues: "I am happy to inform you that I am a member of the Methadist Church not that I asteem that church hier than any other for I beleve there is good in all. ... I stil keep from the evels Calafornains ar so apt to fall into or to indugle in."
On March 28th/52 Thomas writes from 'Chiley camp' where he is "in dry diggins now with Sherman Shaft." It had been a rainy spring and "we lost a bout $1500,00 by hi water it took off all our wheels sluses &c. we have got most of the work re built redy to put in as soon as the river falls ... " He discusses wages: "Wages is from $4,00 to $6.00 pr day. A grate many emagrants is coming in by water now which I think will bring wages down to about $3,00 this summer". He is still uncertain about her plans to join him and discusses postponing his return: "Tel Jane paw will not forget the candy; dear wife I no you will feel bad a bout my posponing my return but O dont for my sake take it to mutch to heart & I will remain your faithful husband."
Evidently Thomas did return to Iowa that summer. The final letter is from G.S. Shaff to his brother Nelson from "Chilanian Bar" dated Aug. 4, 1852 and postmarked in Stockton on Aug. 31st. It was addressed to Thomas G. Watter, Wassonville, Iowa, Washington Co. Thomas added the following note before sending it on to Nelson Shaff, Deer Creek, Iowa: "I send you this letter which I recd by the Musketeen mail yesterday so you can read it your self & then let your Fathers folks have it to read. Mary Jane sends you one of hers she recd & father one & my self one all at the same time & rote about the same time &C."


1850 (issued)


Watters, Thomas G -- Correspondence
Gold miners -- California -- Correspondence
Gold mines and mining -- California -- History
Overland journeys to the Pacific
California -- Gold discoveries
Nevada City (Calif.) -- History


Thomas G. Watters made an overland journey to California in 1850, leaving his wife, Climena, and at least one child, Mary Jane, in Wassonville, Iowa. Other family members living in Wassonville at this time include his father and his brother, Samuel, and an unidentified Melissa Watters. In California during 1851 and part of 1852, Thomas met with some success in his mining activities in various parts of the Mother Lode from Yuba County in the north to San Joaquin County in the South. It is probable that he returned to Iowa in the summer of 1852 but no further information about Watters could be found.
Thomas G. Watters gold rush letters.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



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11 items







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Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.