07 October 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1858 Letter from California!



As far as I can tell, my Barnes ancestors didn't much like travel. Apart from the immigrant ancestor, Thomas Barns, who came from Hingham, Norfolk, England in about 1636 to Hingham, Massachusetts, they stayed put. Oh, our branch (Joseph Barnes) left Hingham and went to Scituate about 1800: a distance of no more than five miles.

Joseph's youngest son was my great-great grandfather, Israel Merritt Barnes [I] (1820-1892). He always had his eye out for money: investing in stocks, racehorses and who knows what else. He was the first commuter in our family, riding the Old Colony Railroad back and forth from Boston to his mother's farm in Scituate. He served as Weigher and Inspector of Bundled Hay in Boston for many years running. He and Olive Litchfield (the dour one) were married in 1840, and by the time the Gold Rush came around, he and Olive had already had two little girls and lost them both to an intestinal ailment. They had another son, Webster, who they lost at only 8 days, in 1855. In 1858 he received the letter below which I have transcribed. I just wonder if by the time he received it he wasn't tempted to chuck in the towel and flee. Did he discuss it with Olive? Did he remain unimpressed? Did he perhaps go out to visit his enthusiastic friend? I wonder how hard he thought about it. When we look back on past events we don't often think about the thousands of decisions everyone made which constantly directed the course of their lives. I get the feeling that Israel adored Olive and perhaps he did not want to subject her to too much stress, while they were still hoping for children. In any case, they did not leave Massachusetts. Their only surviving child, my great grandfather, Israel Merritt Barnes [II] was born in Scituate in 1861.


Transcription 

San Francisco, June 19, 1858

I believe I promised to write you. when I got to the
land of gold. I should written you the last mail but I felt
So bad on account of the Death of our little Lillie that I
could not Write. I Suppose you had the news by my letter
of last mail to the National House. I find the Boys doing
well and living in good Stile. They drive a good Horse and
carriage. which cost one thousand dollars. they keep House 
Separately they pay $50 dollars each for House Rent pr
Month and pay $30 dollars pr month for hired Girls they 
have two girls each. their family expenses is about
three hundred dollars each per month making Six
hundred pr month for their families expence besi[des?--- ripped]
Clothing and other expences which we Should think
rather high at home...
... I went down by Stage
to San Jose last Friday June 11th a place about fifty miles
from San Francisco. to See the country and Such crops I
never See before, we passed fields of grain Wheet Barley
and oats. Such fields as I never Saw before but have
herd of them the whole distance was covered with crops as
far as the eye could See we drove through fields for Mils
whare there was no fence only the road run through thousan[cut off]
of acres of grains and Such grain you neve See it was as
high as my Sholders and as thick as it could Stand
the whole valley is a complete granary without a tree in
Sight the Soil three feet deep and the climate here 
is just rite for grain and patatoes fruits and all kinds
of vegetables we get the Sea [pecan??] here in the Summer
which makes it much cooler than it is farther back
into the country. I also Saw Many young orchards 
and Grape fields. Some as large as one hundred ackers
it is the greatest place for grapes you ever herd of
there is manny men that make thousands of Gallons of
grape Wine I saw one farm whare the man Sold eight thousend
dollars worth of Wine last year and Six thousand dollars worth
of Peaches. he also had one hundred ac[k overwritten to r]es of young orchard he
thought he should have four hundred Bhl of Apples this
year and the largest tree is not bigger then your rist. Apples
ware worth last year 25 ct pr bb. every thing is Sold here by the
Pound. the Man had Six hunderd ackes in his farm he Kept
four hundred head of cattle they live the whole year without
feeding which does not cost any thing to raise them and
Cows are worth from Sixty to one hundred dollars a piece
Some extra[s] fetch as high as one hundred and fifty Hiram
has got one that he paid $125 dollars for. and other cattle
in proportion. there is a place across the bay here about
Seven miles whare a ferry boat runs which I think
of locating it is a beautiful place they came a plenty
of Strawburys than I have Seen many fields from ten
to thirty ackes [corrected to acres] many men do no other business than to
attend to raising Strawburys for the market many 
men clear ten thousand dollars a year off of twenty
acres of Strawburys the Boys Say that if I will go over
ther and build a good House and have raise a plenty of
Poltry and garden Stuff that they will come and board
with me they Say that they will pay me one hundred and
fifty dollars a month for each family which will make
three hundred a month for both families. and then I Shall
go into the Stock ranch business Some
I think can make money much faster then I can
at home for it does not cost anything to raise Stock
here only you have to hire a man to watch them and take
care of them. the Boys Say if I will try it one year and
if I do not like it they will take my property and
pay me the money and let me go home if I wish. they
think me a little home Sick., perhaps I am Some what
different from Some folks about leaving home and Friends.
When I think of my old home the land of my hearth the
many Friends I have left behind, and think the many
miles that Sepperate [interlined us] the mighty ocean between us. I Say
Some times when meditating all alone uppon the many happy
ours I have Spent with Friends at home. my Heart leaps
to be free again uppon my native [interlined soil and] country at home with
my old friends again. well I have made up my mind to
Stay one year and try the winter Season. as well as Summer
perhaps I Shall like better then at home. I think at any
rate I Shall come home on a visit in a few years unless
you all come out here. I think you had better come out
here and go into the Stock ranch business with me
we can make fifty thousand [interlined dollars] a piece in five years
and then go back to Boston and [??] if we do not like this
place. you prommised to write me up I would you now I
want you to write me all about things and all about
the National House how my friend Stackpole gets along
if he is a prospering well and making money. if
he does not prosper I may have to come home and take
the House again. but I think he will make money
there if any one can. now be Sure and write me and I
will write you again and let you know how I am
prospering. I am getting 2 pr cet for what money I have [S--?]
about Six thousand dollars (I mean 2 pr cent) a month
Mical Tubbs






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