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Grass Valley, Sierra Nevada Quartz Mines, June 29, 1851
Climate, &c.--I'm going to give a lecture. Please be seated and attend respectfully to the speaker. I am about to make some experiments, my dear hearers (or readers), for your edification, and you will of course follow my directions in order that your understanding may be properly enlightened with regard to the subject before us. Climate, then, the first matter for our consideration, is bounded on the West by Sacramento City. Wheugh! who ever heard of climate being a geographical discovery before?--attention! then--no interruption. We do up things in California to suit ourselves, and the Lord knows some of 'em are antagonistic to all natural and human laws. If we freeze in San Francisco and sweat in the Valley of the Sacramento, it is our privilege to do so. I am now in the sweat region and am about giving you its boundaries according to my discoveries. Climate, then, is bounded on the North by the Cascade and Pit River Mountains; on the East by Nevada City, Auburn, and that line of hills; on the South by Mount Diablo, and how much further I can't tell, as I have only been to the Devil--I meant the Devil's Mountain. It has been a mooted point whether the sun is hot or cold, but it is generally allowed that the sun makes the climate warm. In California there are two causes--first, big fires underground--second, the sun overhead--and by climbing Mount Diablo just beyond Sacramento City in a hot day, you will see that the sun is a red-hot mass that sends his burning rays hizzing and fizzing from above to meet the steam and internal heat of the fires under the Valley of the Sacramento, so that the climate here is between two fires, and would you experiment on the warmth of this climate?
Well, take off your coat--"good"--now your vest--"very well"--slip off your pants--"ridiculous"--off with your shirt--" git out"--why, the natives do it here--now go to a baker's oven just as he is putting in his bread, and crawl in, and you'll not only be done brown but get a pretty correct idea of the climate about these days in this part of California. At this blessed moment I am setting in my nice log cabin breathing the hot pure mountain air of this pleasant location, divested of all covering except shirt and pants and I wish they were off--and my handkerchief is doing duty manfully, but hang me if it can dry up the streams that course o'er my brows.
Now for the "and so forth." The determination of the people in the cities to protect themselves against the lawless gangs of desperados who are bringing ruin upon the whole country is extending itself to the mining districts. Sensible that such felons will take refuge in the mines when an asylum is no longer afforded them in the cities, the miners are associating for the purpose of punishing crime, and Vigilance Committees are organizing. One was formed here last night, and we are ready to pay our respects to all scoundrels who may be inclined to pay us a visit. Repugnant as this course is to Americans who are brought up in the school of law and order, there is no other way to save our lives and to protect our property, for the technicalities of the law have been perverted to screen the guilty and protect them in their career of crime so long that nothing is left but a resolution in fact to put the law into the hands of the people to protect themselves. You will learn by the public prints the infamous use made of the pardoning power by Governor McDougal in granting a full and free pardon to a murderer, a wanton and deliberate murderer It is but a sample of the manner in which the law has been administered by those entrusted with its execution.
I am cognizant of all the transactions of the people at San Francisco, having taken an active part in some of the public meetings there; yet I leave a description of them to others. I am now at work on my claim in the mountains. The condition of things is lamentable in other ways than the disorders of judicial proceedings. Business is nearly at a stand. By the late fires thousands are completely ruined and thrown out of employment Those who can stand the sun and severe labor go to the mines, but there are many, very many, who are unused to labor and although they may have the will, do not possess the strength and are in vain seeking employment. At this time the best business and literary talent can be employed in San Francisco for their board. Indeed, I know men of ability, of honesty, and of good morals, who could not even get that, and have not money either to live on or to get out of town. I never wanted to be rich so much in my life as since the fire. Rich, humph! Do you know that Colonel Grant has become a prophet? He had the impudence to declare to Dr. Morse the other day that I never would be rich. The only thing I care about the prophecy is it's truth. Well, I can't steal, and if I can't get rich without, I shall enjoy the company of two Californians who can
"Teach me to feel another's woe,"
and Grant re-Morse for my sins of omission--eh, Colonel--? Let's see, where was I? O, talking about business. It is but little better in the mines than in the cities. Goods and provisions are abundant and cheap, affording but little profit. So many have rushed into trade that profits are cut down to little more than a living, and although mining is uncertain, yet at this moment it is, in my opinion, the surest business of the country. Agriculture is attended to, and where land can be irrigated very good crops are raised. I think there will be potatoes enough raised very nearly to supply the demand.
Many places are found in the mountains--the foothills--which can be cultivated, for the mountain streams afford the means of irrigation. One of our company has 160 acres enclosed, and we are eating lettuce and radishes of his raising, and his potatoes are doing well. Indian corn has a bilious look, but barley and wheat thrive well. I think it possible to raise potatoes enough in the mountains to supply the miners. If this is ever done, it will cut off one great item of trade below.
A general meeting of quartz miners is called to be held at Sacramento City on the 2d of July, for the purpose of agreeing on some general regulations respecting the amount of territory which a man may hold This call is not responded to by all of the quartz districts. In some the laws are just and liberal, founded upon equity, and the utmost harmony reigns, as is the case here. It is thought that each district can make its own laws, which will apply better to its own locality than any general law. Here, the laws are made and allow a man to hold by preemption one hundred square feet of quartz ground, but he may purchase and hold for the purpose of running machinery, or for working actually, any number of claims within reason. To change this law might do much injustice to those who have made improvements or who have bought claims for the purpose of working crushing mills, and as all are satisfied now, our people have determined to let well enough alone and not go into convention. This community is an orderly, peaceable and quiet one. There are seven crushing mills in operation, and many people at work. There are many scientific, literary and well-educated gentlemen among them, and several families are located here. We have a daily stage and mail passing through from Sacramento City to Nevada City, although a year ago a road was not opened, and the Indians were killing and driving off the whites. And lastly, I want to tell you a true story and conclude. Just before the great fire I was coming up here on foot; I took a cut across the mountains by a trail which led me several miles from any settlement. Passing along a dark and deep ravine which was as still and silent as the grave, I suddenly came upon the remains of an old camp where had stood a solitary and isolated miner's tent. In one corner I saw, partly covered with dirt, the remains of a newspaper, and prompted by curiosity I carefully uncovered it and looking at the head, saw that it read California True Delta. Comment is unnecessary, but I know how that poor fellow felt when he was poring over its pages in that lonely spot.
- Alonzo Delano