"Letter to Home!"

The following is the text of a letter from John Huddart Norton to his brother, Frederick, following John's ill fated Journey to the California Gold Rush aboard the Fanny. (Actual trip outlined in The Islander Magazine, Number Four, Spring-Summer, 1978, page 9)

San Francisco, July 14, 1850

Dear Brother:

I take this opportunity writing to you to let you know we arrived here safe on the 28th of June. I would have written sooner, but I was expecting to get a letter from you. I have been several times at the Post Office, but have found none. I wrote to you from Bahia and from Valpariso. I told you in my letter that the last named place I expected the company would break up, and so they have and a fine job they have made of it. The Fanny and cargo have been sold for eight thousand five hundred dollars with everything belonging to her. There was such confusion and contention among the company that it was impossible to do anything to advantage. I tried to get them to sell the cargo ourselves and make the best of it. Some of it, the coals and brick and lime was in good demand, although the lumber was low. I say I tried to get them to keep the Brig. She would be a home for us in case we should want one, but it was all to no purpose.

We are now set loose to do the best we can. Milliner and Percival and a few more intend to stop in the town for some time. The rest are for going up to the mine in small companies. I have joined with five others to go as soon as we can get our share of the money.

I have been at work for a few days and got from from five to seven dollars a day some small jobs at a dollar per hour but employment is uncertain as there are so many people here that they can not all be employed one half of their time. There are thousands of people going about idle, not knowing what to do.

The information from the mines is as little to be depended on here as if we were thousands of miles from them. Some that I have seen that have been at them say that a man may go and work months and may not make more than enough to board himself. Others say they have done well, however, I am here now, and I must try it. I believe there are many of our people that, had they known how the company were going to act, would not have come, and wish they had never thought of California. We expect to have about 40 pounds each, but when all expenses are paid we may not have so much. There is but little dependance to be put in the people that manage our business. Even the people that you would have thought would have looked after the welfare of the younger members of the company have been utterly regardless of what should become of them and looked only to themselves.

Although things turned out so unfavorable at the first, I think I have yet a good chance of making perhaps an independant fortune if God spares my health. So write to me and let me know how you all get on and it will make me feel a great deal more confortable. Direct to be left at Post Office till called for. I feel certain had the company been managed properly and pulled together on the plan they first set out with they night have done well. There was nothing in our circumstances to prevent us. All the Evil was in themselves. Be careful how you believe much of the stuff you will hear sent home by some of the pretenders of religion from ChTown. Many of them were the most selfish men I have ever met with. I have now been more than a fortnight here and from all I can see or hear, I would not advise you to think of coming here. The climate is not agreeable or very healthy. Some of our people have had the diarrhea which prevails here so much. From 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. is very warm. The wind then begins to blow strong and is so cold as to require a great coat. In the night a heavy dew falls and is cold and disagreeable. When I have been in the town in the afternoon the sand and dust has been like to blind me in the streets so that it was hard to get through crowds of people, carts, and wagons with mules that throng this place. I have had good health since I left home. I feel anxious to know how James is. George Owen got letters and papers in which I saw the death of Henry Gordon's wife and I heard of John Goff's marriage. Wm. Wright has arrived here a few days ago from the Island. He said he saw you in ChTown at Christmas time and at Mr. Goff's. I hope that you are all well, and tell Elizabeth that I will not forget her. I will get a bag of the dust for her if I should stay some months longer to do it. Tell her to write to me.Let me know how things get on at home and at Cardigan. Dear Frederick, I am afraid I must conclude. I fear that I shall make such a job of this that you will not be able to read it.

Yours truly,

John Norton.

John was one of my Great Great Grandfathers, he lived from 1811 to 1890.

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: Source Code and Graphics© 1997

Last Updated: 03/22/97 21:51
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