Ranney Letter #20
Henry receives a transcript from the family in Allen of a letter they have received from younger brother Lemuel, who has gone west in search of gold. Lemuel had been planning on trying his luck in Oregon, but too many people were heading that way, so he went to northern California instead. The party he was traveling with lost a horse, and then traded the remaining horses for cattle at Salt Lake City, which means Lemuel probably traveled at least the final 750 miles on foot. He says the journey overland was “an awful hard trip and one that I would not advise any of my Friends to undertake.”
Lemuel writes a little about the mining prospects and the high cost of living in the camps. He says he imagines they’d like to hear all the details, but “I hope I shall see you all again,” and it would be easier to tell the tale in person. It’s interesting that Lemuel is aware there’s a chance he will not see the family again, and yet this possibility does not cause even an independent, free-spirited person such as Lemuel who takes off for the West on his own to be less concerned about the people back home. Write soon, he says, “for I am anxious to know how you are all getting along in that far off country.”
Illustration: Shasta City 1855, J. M. Hutchings
Allen Nov 24th /52
I here send you a true copy of Lemuel’s letter that we received from him, Dated Sept 25 1852.
Shasta City Sept 25th /52
Dear Brother & Friends
I am happy to inform you that I have once more reached the pale of civilization. I arrived here about ten days ago perfectly well & hearty. I wrote you a letter at Fort Larima which you have probably received long ago. I stated in that or the one before it that it was my intention to go to Oregon and it was at that time. But there was such a flood of emigration a going that way this season that I thought I would try my luck in this Awful Country.
I am at work at present on Clear Creek, 12 miles from Shasta City, in the mines and I am getting ninety dollars a month and boarded. Board is quite an item in this country. It costs a person about a dollar a day to live here, that is if he buys the raw material and cooks it himself. They charge $2.00 a day at the Boarding Houses. Flour here at present is worth 30¢ a pound. Pork from 85 to 90¢. Vegetables all sell by the pound here. Potatoes are 12¢ a pound. Onions, Cabbages, Beets & Turnips from 15 to 20¢ a pound. Beans 25¢.
Well I thought at those prices I had better go to work by the month. A short time anyhow, so as to be sure of my board and make a little raise. For it looked rather dubious for a new emigrant that knew nothing about mining and no money to go to work on his own hook. I am in about as good a mining vicinity probably as there is in California. Some are doing very well here and some not so well, but they generally average from 5 to 8 dollars a day. There was one lump taken out about 4 miles above where I am to work that was worth about $2,000.00 by an emigrant that came in this year.
We were considerable longer through than we expected to be. We lost one horse before we got to Salt Lake City, and traded the others off for cattle there. There is a great many things I presume that you would like to hear. That is, how I got a long and what I saw and how I like the country and what I think of the trip anyhow &c &c. But I hope I shall see you all again and then I can tell you all the particulars much better than I could describe them to you with Pen and Ink. But I can tell you now in a very few words what I think of the trip overland. I think it an awful hard trip and one that I would not advise any of my Friends to undertake.
If this will pass with you for a letter send me one in return as soon as possible, for I am anxious to know how you are all getting along in that far off country. My respects to Mother and all the rest of you.
Lemuel S. Ranney
Copied by Anson B Ranney
(Copied by Hope Packard)
PS Direct your letter to Shasta City, Shasta County Calif