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October 3, 1857 page 632 (Illustrated Article)
There seems scarcely a limit to the future production of gold in California. Despite the confident predictions of unsuccessful adventurers that the mines would soon be exhausted, the exact opposite seems to be the case; for deposits are now being reached by the new processes of exploration which stagger all calculations. There is no good reason why the gold region of California should not continue to produce its $50,000,000 per annum at least during the present century, and most probably for a much longer period. To make good such an assertion it would be necessary to go much more into detail, and explain the system of gold-washing and the inexhaustible field which the miners have settled upon for future operations, than could be given in this sketch. It should be understood, however, that, excepting the cases of the Chinese, who continue to use the old methods, rockers, cradles, and the like primitive machinery have been long since discarded, and a system adopted commensurate with the character and importance of the labor. This is known as "hydraulic mining," and is rapidly superseding all others—as, with the canals which supply the water for such operations, it gives employment to at least two-thirds of the mining population of the State.

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It has been ascertained, by "prospecting," that many extensive ranges of hills have more or less of "the color" of gold in them: that is, that while the lower stratum or bed-rock forming the base of the hills is generally sure to yield well, there are in addition some specks of gold diffused entirely through the body. It is needless to say that, by the old exploded process of the rocker and pan—by which perhaps half a stone of earth might be washed in a day—the laborer in such soil would reap but a scanty return. To remedy this, it became necessary to adopt some new agent by which more earth could be worked. The surface diggings having been, to a great extent, "cleaned out," the continuance of mining seemed to depend upon such a plan being adopted. The new agent introduced was water, which is now sold "by the inch" by companies, who conduct it, sometimes from a distance of a hundred miles, by canals, into sections of gold-bearing country, for the greater part of the year destitute of water. The extent of this business alone may be estimated from the fact that there are now over 5000 miles of those canals in California. The water is led from an elevation sufficient to admit of its passing with immense force through a hose and pipe, which, in the hands of one workman, is directed against the base of the hill intended to be worked. The operation is precisely that of a fire-engine playing upon a burning house. One man will cut large caverns into the side of a hill by the mere force of the water directed against it, and intervals great landslides or falls of the superincumbent mass take place, thus bringing down an amount of earth in proportion to the number of hose in use. Hundreds of tons are thus tumbled down in a day, and washed through wooden sluices charged with quick-silver, which, extending in "riffles" along it entire length, catches and retains the greater part of the gold. Comparatively few persons in the Eastern States, in reading the morning papers announcing the semi-monthly arrival of a steamer with $1,500,000 in gold dust, realize the extent of the labor which must be constantly executed to maintain this great supply, which, after all, is far from being the entire gold product of the State. Mining has now become systematized, and is a "business," as much so as farming or the labor of the mechanic. The desultory and hap-hazard style of mining known in the early days of surface washing has given place to more certain and effectual operations, yielding more uniform profits, and employing the talents of engineers, mechanics, and men of science. Instead of the solitary cabin and savage manner of living in isolated, miserable tents and huts, about which, informer days, so much was written, may now be seen permanently located families who have made California a home, and have introduced the comforts and pleasures of society. Still, there is much of the ludicrous in life in the mines, and the strange adventures, fights, amusing incidents, and variety of camp-life are yet to be found in the more retired places.

As the Chinese have become a feature in the towns where they have located, they are not less peculiar in their habits in the diggings. On their arrival at San Francisco they organize under the direction of a resident chief, whose orders are implicitly obeyed. This chief contracts with the steamboat proprietors to transport an entire ship-load at once to Sacramento or Stockton, whence they pass by squads into the mines. They generally take up abandoned claims, and form little villages sometimes of a hundred persons. They communicate but little with the towns, owing to the jealousy of American miners, who regard them as nuisances, and often drive them violently away from any rich diggings they may have happened upon. There is perhaps some grounds for this enmity. It is urged that the Chinese are of no benefit, either by industry or trade, to the community; jealously hoarding every ounce of gold, and returning to China with it. They buy no American clothing, generally bringing their own stock, and living mainly upon rice, which they also bring with them. An immigration tax, amounting almost to prohibition, was once imposed, but was so repugnant to the views of many conscientious persons that it was not rigidly enforced, and the prejudice against the Celestials and Mexicans is happily fast wearing away. The broad principle of universal toleration is the only one which can be consistently adopted in America; but in California particularly, whose progress is so greatly dependent on an increase of population to develop her resources, immigration of industrious people should be carefully encouraged.
Wherever the Chinese locate they are apt to make money; more owing to their plodding industry than to any tact or energy they may display. Their camps are wonderfully clean. Passing through one of the larger ones, you will find many of them at their toilets, getting their heads shaved, or platting each other’s pig-tails. At meals they squat in groups around queer little black dishes and pots, helping themselves with their fingers. Rice, which is their staff of life, they toss with such surprising quickness down their throats, that one hardly knows which most to admire, their dexterity in the use of the chopsticks, or the unaccountable manner in which the food disappears. They scarcely seem to chew at all, but keep up a continuous chain of rice from the dish into their mouths, somewhat as the lazaroni in Naples gulp down macaroni.
There has been from the first an inveterate hatred between the Chinese and the Indians. The latter soon found it useless to attempt any opposition to the whites, and tacitly admitted their supremacy; but the sight of a Celestial pig-tail set their bristles on end in a twinkling, and peaceable as the Chinese are represented, they meet their enemies more than half-way. Some of the funniest battles on record have taken place between them. In these the Celestials array themselves in cotton armor, and sport veritable wooden swords and basket shields. The Indians generally use spears and other simple weapons, though both sides have at times "sailed in" with knives and fire-arms. On several occasions there have been half a dozen of the belligerents left dead on the field. When one of these battles is about to take place, the news is circulated far and near, and the occasion is observed as a sort of holiday and general merry-making. The authorities never think of interfering, on the principle of the woman who witnessed the fight between her husband and the bear. It is a matter of little moment who gains the day, as a thinning-out of either party is considered a public benefit. When they get at close quarters weapons are dropped, and the martial display degenerates into a scuffle, in which tattooed faces, pig-tails, wooden shoes, gongs, dust, sticks, and the mellifluous exclamations of the combatants, mingle in splendid confusion. The Chinese, as a general thing, get the worst of it, and when they turn tail to run, no language can describe the laughter and hurrahs of the multitude. The reader, however, must not suppose from this that the miners are all of this rowdyish stamp. There are thousands who rule and give a tone to society in the interior who would do honor to any community. Indeed, so many have brought with them and retained the New England propriety of conduct, that their influence is recognized as powerful in every public matter.
Woman, too, has not been unmindful of her mission in California. In the far interior you will meet with accomplished ladies (the wives of ruined merchants or unfortunate speculators), whose exclusive manners and air of refinement show that from this retirement they look for a renewal of the scenes of luxury and comfort from which they have transiently exiled themselves. But besides these, there are the innumerable specimens of the genus "Pike"—the nervous, hard-featured, harder-working Western woman, who boasts that she does more work than her laboring husband, and whose daily routine of household duties comprise a work-list that would appall any but a Californian woman. These are the real pride and hope of the country, and to their noble presence is due the thousands of comfortable cottages, or humble cabins, where the miner repairs with a light heart after the healthful labors of the day. These are the true homes of California, whence is springing up the finest and most robust generation of children on this continent. If it be true that "a future President of the United States may be running barefoot and picking blackberries in Oregon," it is not less likely that another, in some mountain village of California, may be studying out with his puzzled little brains the operations of a quicksilver machine, or poring industriously over the pages of Harper’s Magazine or Weekly.

There is a marked deference shown to women in California. Whether this is owing to the disproportion of the sexes, which renders ladies valuable according to their scarcity, or from a natural gallantry to be expected among a nation of young men, or to both, the astute reader must judge. A woman, like the king, can do no wrong. Several years ago, a woman was convicted of murder in one of the mining towns, and though it was rumored that the deed was done in the heat of just provocation, still there was no proof at hand, and she was sentenced to death. She was generally believed to be guilty, but still there was a repugnance in the minds of all to the sentence. On the day of execution thousands, as usual, flocked to witness the solemn but harrowing scene. After some delay, caused by the fainting of the criminal, she was led in a half-conscious state toward the gallows. A dead silence fell upon the crowd, but the nervous moving of shoulders and the compressed lips showed that a volcano was working beneath that calm exterior. A murmur of disapprobation began to be heard. A swarthy Missourian, who had looked with curiosity and pity on the woman, was heard to say,

"Dern my skin, but I believe that thar woman oughtn’t to be hung!"

"She’s a woman, and has suffered enough already," remarked another.

Several voices urged on the other side that she had been proved guilty, and the scene began to grow more exciting. A man with an open, determined face, and with the unmistakable air of the Texan ranger, slowly drew an immense Colt’s revolver, and, speaking in a deliberate but loud tone, said,

"I’ll kill the first man that tries to put a rope ‘round her neck."

"Why shouldn’t she be ‘ung?" cried an interested cockney. "Iv’e seed a ‘ooman ‘ung in England for nothink else than stealink a silk gownd."

Fifty gruff voices responded, and over the noise and confusion was heard the report of a pistol. The cockney’s hat flew off his head, the bullet just grazing his hair, and the affrighted but unharmed owner disappeared amidst a general laugh.

But the woman had now arrived at the foot of the gallows, and was staring wildly around her. It was but the work of a moment. Twenty men rushed up to where she stood, cleared a space, while not an officer dared to interfere. A hundred loaded revolvers in the hands of "infallible shots" kept all at bay. A lane was opened, and as the woman was set at liberty a dozen voices repeated"


She started, faltered, and looked affrighted and hesitatingly into the bearded faces around her.

"Make tracks, marm!" bawled the crowd, who had now become entirely enlisted in the cause of the rescue. "We’ll see you through—now’s your chance—go it!" And taking to her heels, the condemned glided away where none dared follow until she had made good her escape. It was enough that she was a woman. No matter what crime she had committed—she was a woman, and she should not be executed.

Those were in the earlier days of California; but although the supremacy of the law is now fully asserted, it is doubtful if even at this day a woman could be hanged in California, although one unfortunate Mexicana has thus expiated the crime of murder.

Although the population of the mining region counts by hundreds of thousands, the amount that is inhabited is comparatively small. In so vast a space it would require millions to form what is termed a thickly settled country. You may wander for days after passing the outskirts of some well-known mining place, and see no sign of life except perhaps a solitary "prospecter" like yourself, or, likelier still, the track of an exploring grizzly. Sometimes you will observe from the top of some commanding mountain a little wreath of smoke curling up from among the trees in the valley below, betraying the secluded tents of a few miners who have struck a rich lead and are stealthily working it out before their good fortune is discovered. Here they have "packed" a supply of provisions by night, and perhaps will not emerge from their hiding-place until the claim is thoroughly worked out. A few cooking utensils and the mining implements, with a mule or two on which to pack them, comprise their visible possessions; and if it is in the dry months, not even a tent is considered necessary. Their miniature world is bounded by undulating ranges, clad with the scanty foliage of the sierra foot-hills, and having a little amphitheatre, where, but for the tell-tale smoke, they might remain hidden for months. A bit of fried ham, some flippers, strong tea, and a comfortable whiff at the pipe, serve to make these rough adventurers perfectly contented with their wild life, especially if their diggings are profitable ones.
It was from secluded places like these, and from the numerous little collections of cabins and tents surrounding the mining towns, that the occasional balls were made up on the early days of the diggings. These respites from the monotonous toil of mining were highly relished, and entered into with a sort of frenzied delight. The music generally consisted of a fiddle or two, sometimes assisted by the guitar of some itinerant Mexican, who tendered his services for the prospective "drinks," always the perquisite of the musicians. It is customary, at such times, for the fiddler to take the responsibility of keeping the dancers all right. He goes through the dance orally, and at the proper intervals his voice is heard above the music and the conversation, shouting loudly his directions to the dancers, "Lady’s chain," "Set to your partner," with other dancing-school words of command; and after all the legitimate figures of the dance had been performed, out of consideration for the thirsty appetites of the dancers, and for the good of the house, he always announced in a louder voice than usual the supplementary finale of "Promenade to the bar and treat your partners!"
It was a strange sight to see a party of long-bearded men, in heavy boots and flannel shirts, going through all the steps and figures of the dance with so much spirit, and often with a great deal of grace, hearty enjoyment depicted in their dried-up, sun-burned faces, and revolvers and bowie-knives glancing in their belts, while a crowd of the same rough-looking customers stood around, cheering them on to greater efforts, and occasionally dancing a step or two quietly on their own account.
The absence of ladies was a difficulty which was very easily overcome by a simple arrangement, whereby it was understood that every gentleman who had a patch on a certain part of his inexpressibles should be considered a lady for the time being. These patches were rather fashionable, and were usually large squares of canvas, showing brightly on a dark ground; so that the "ladies" of the party were as conspicuous as if they had been surrounded by the usual quantity of white muslin. Latterly dancing has become a more regular institution, and the "hops" that are got up in some of the inland towns are very pretty displays of white gloves, elegant dresses, and refined manners:
The curse of California, if there be one, and what has done more to retard its social advancement than fires, floods, or any other public calamity, is gambling. The propensity to gamble is greater in the mines than in the cities—a fact due to the general lottery of gold-digging, in which a man’s fortune is believed to be ruled by luck rather than directed by perseverance. But mining is to a great extent a game of chance, and though constant industry is sure at last of its reward, years may elapse before a trump card turns up. In the diggings, where there are yet but limited means of amusement, gambling has been considered the only pastime. Its prohibition by legislative enactment has only put a stop to it in the larger towns.
More gambling is done on Sunday than on any other day, for then the miners have collected from the various diggings, and are ready with their "piles" to tempt the Blind Goddess. This, of course, they generally do to their sorrow, and as far as they are concerned more fortunes are lost than won. The playing proceeds nearly all day; but does not get "fast and furious" until evening, when the saloon, or by whatever name the room is known, is lighted up and the "dealers" are up to the proper mark for the night’s work. The game, which has lagged all day, now becomes interesting. The room may be fifty by thirty feet in size, is lined inside with flashy calico, with a ceiling of white cotton to resemble plastering as nearly as possible. Groups of swarthy, bearded men, in red flannel shirts and heavy boots, are crowding into the place. All are armed—some with silver hilted bowie-knives, others with heavy Colt’s revolvers—these implements of defense being the moist scrupulously neat articles about their persons. At one end stands the bar, to which most of the assemblage pay their respects; the losers to turn their luck, and winners to congratulate themselves on their good fortune. The clanking of coin, loud voices, snatches of songs, curses, laughter, and the rattling of glasses at the bar, fill the air; but over all, occasionally, comes the voice of the wide-awake dealer, who, intent on his game, and remembering that Sunday comes but once a week, is diligently gathering his harvest.
If the game is "Faro," it is dealt by the experienced Western gambler. You may know him by his keen, watchful eye, steady nerves, and impassible face. There are the lineaments of the ruffian with the intelligence of the practical sharper. His partner will display the same qualities to a greater or less degree. When the decisive card is being drawn, it is curious to watch the various expressions upon the faces of the betters. The little circle becomes suddenly silent, and all eyes are upon the nimble hands of the banker. As the result appears, you will hear long breaths drawn; some will pull nervously at their cigars, others curse their luck, a few gather up their winnings, and all "come down" with their bets.

In their part of the saloon the game of "Monte" is being played. This is the favorite pastime of the Spanish American, the cards being mostly dealt by Mexicans. There are fewer chances for the better on this game than on any other, not even excepting the redoubtable ones of "A, B, C," "Roulette," or "Cut-throat." It consists of placing one’s stakes upon one of four cards which are thrown out of his pack upon the table by the dealer. He then continues to draw slowly from the remainder of the pack, and the first card which matches with any on the table wins. Those who have their money on that card receive in addition the amount of their bet; the others witness the wiping of their piles into the coffers of the bank.

It was a common thing for a miner to lose his last dollar, keep handsomely corned until Monday morning, then go in debt at the store for provisions which he would "pack" off to his diggings on his back. Such a miner might delve in the very midst of gold and always be poor. The truth is that industry and economy are as essential to success in gold diggings as in any other business. On the practice or neglect of these principles every thing depends. A few years of a sober and prudent life in the mines of California will insure a competency, if one chooses to bring himself down to the ordinary customs of civilized life. And there, sooner than in any other place, a man without worthy aims and of weak principles will go to perdition. The time, however, is approaching when, the surface diggings being exhausted, the great system of hydraulic mining and the consequent growth of companies will place the most available places under the control of capitalists. Thus the single adventurer will not enjoy the unbounded field to be offered in the next eight or ten years. The intervening space, which may with truth be reckoned among the palmy days of California, should not be unimproved by the gold-seeker. The mines truly are inexhaustible, but they are still open to the whole world.

October 3, 1857 page 632 (Illustrated Article)

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