Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, California Territory 1849 (Dear America Series)
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Susanna Fairchild and her family are on board a ship sailing from New York to the West, where they plan to start a new life in Oregon. But tragedy strikes when Susanna¹s mother is lost to the sea. Hearing stories of great wealth, Susanna¹s physician father decides he wants to join the hordes of men rushing to California to mine for gold.
packed a picnic of buttered bread and figs. As we were leaving, we swept the dirt in front of our cabin so we’d know if anyone tried to get in while we were gone. For nearly an hour we walked downstream, toward the Peruvian camp. Along the shallows men were squatting in the water, swirling their wide pans with gravel as they searched for gold. As soon as we came around a bend in the stream, we saw a clearing with several tents and a large fire 57 for cooking. Rosita was standing in the
empty, as nearly every citizen — some eight hundred people — had headed for the gold fields. They were just a small advance party compared to the deluge of humanity to follow the next year. The vision of striking it rich captured the imagination of Americans — and foreigners — everywhere. Overnight people quit jobs, abandoned their farms and families, and sought the quickest way to California to find their fortune in the creeks, rivers, and the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. They were
a rock; the Captain did the same. “Well!” they said, then off they went with shovels and picks over their shoulders. They didn’t work near our cabin because the shore is already crowded with miners. Meanwhile, Clara and I broke off a pine branch to sweep the dirt from our tent. Then we pulled the blankets off our beds and shook them outside. We took our dishes down to the river to rinse, then left them to dry on one of the larger tree stumps. Tomorrow we will figure a way to wash clothes, but for
now we wanted to explore the little town, maybe see if the store had any fresh eggs. Something we noticed the first day we arrived is that everyone walks with his head down! I wondered, Why are folks so sad? But we learned they are not sad; they are on the lookout for gold, all the time, every day, hoping to stumble on a nugget that has 35 washed down from the hills. Last week a man found one the size of a yellow apple, right behind the Bliss Hotel. A rainstorm had loosened the earth, and
half circle. But when he saw Clara he removed his hat and held it over his heart. “Such a lady now,” he said to her. “Two years since I’ve seen you last and aren’t you the picture of your mother. . . . Where is she?” He looked around, then nodded toward the curtain. “Sleeping?” There was a moment of pained silence. The whole image of what had happened to Mother played through my memory but I could find no way to explain. Finally Papa cleared his throat. “Julia went to be with our Lord,” he said.