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Gold Valley, Cal., March 28, 1862 [to his sister Mary]
I spent last summer in Esmeralda, building [and] running a quartz mill for other parties. In the fall I came here into the mountains 12 miles above Downieville for the same purpose, to build a mill and superintend the whole business of the company, but I suppose you wish to know more about that is, what I do, and what I got for doing it. I will tell you a little more beings you are my sister, my business is to hire 25 men, tell them what to do and how to do it, receive all gold and moneys and pay all bills, this does not occupy one tenth part of my time. I have an office and a private fire, I look after the men when I feel like it, read when I feel like it, or go hunting and fishing just when or where I please, for this I receive $200 per month and all my expenses paid. This is big wages, even for this country—but in my place a man must know to do almost everything, he must be sober, industrious, and honest, for the company have to trust their gold with me, and all they know about it is what I tell them. I have been here six months, may stay here a long time and may not. I have other business that I ought to look after, but I am very well situated here and like to stay.
The Gold Rush letters of Samuel Stone Richardson disclose details of a man successful at his Gold Rush adventures. But he didn’t work the pick and shovel, as so many did. Instead he used his business savvy to profit from those who did seek gold.
It’s not uncommon to have a family story of an ancestor who caught gold fever. Many of these men were single, but even married men sought instant wealth—some never to be heard from again. Some made mining claims, for which you might find evidence in newspapers and claims records.
Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Rick Crume discovered from a Salt Lake Tribune newspaper article that his ancestor John H. Pennington had filed a mining claim in 1885 in Idaho. He accessed the paper online through theAmerica’s Historical Newspapers database and requested a copy of the claim from the Idaho State Archives.
If you suspect an ancestor made a mining or mineral claim in another state, see the FamilySearch Wiki page on mining claims.
From the July/August 2013 Family Tree Magazine