December 13, 1848
Word of James Marshall’s discovery at Sutter’s has spread quicker than dust in a sandstorm. Anybody who’s anybody has a hankerin’ to visit our golden neighbor, California, now.
A mighty kind fellah, says he goes by the name ‘Mark Sawyer’, offered me a ride on his bandwagon to cash in on the discovered goldmines.
He speaks strange like, a kinda silver-spoon talk you’d usually only hear from teachers, and at times I have a hard time keepin’ up with him, but he don’t seem to mind me none. I’ve a feeling we’ll get along.
Though, he promised he’d take me along only if I acted the honest man and split my shares with him. Course, I’d disappoint my pa if I didn’t live up to my name. We shook hands and set out like Lewis and Clark.
I should be back home before snow season’s come and gone, though a twinge keeps nudgin’ at my side to know my darlin’ and child will have to bear the weight of snow by themselves.
Rochelle, love, I promise I’ll make it up to ya with my heart and gifts carved o’ gold.
December 25, 1848
It amazes me to see how prepared Mark is for this trip. He’s got everything from gunpowder to pickaxes stored in that there wagon. Mark tells me he loaned ’em off an old miner col-lea-gue (I reckon that’s high-society talk for ‘friend’) expecting the one day Fortune stopped bein’ camera-shy. I ain’t too keen on who this Miss Fortune is, but I’d swear on my life there ain’t no woman more fittin’ for me than Rochelle.
December 26, 1848
We’ve set up camp near the rock-filled mouth of an uncharted mine shaft. Mark told me to step back a country mile while he cleared the entrance up with gunpowder. An’ while I wasn’t able to see the sight, I sure as Sam heard the loudest dat’gum racket this side of the Mississippi River. After all was said an’ done, Mark hollered me on back to see for myself the treasures of ol’ Mother Earth.
The cave shined so brightly in the daylight that it brought a simple fool like me to tears. Chunks o’ gold, almost bigger than my own two hands were just sittin’ there, ready to be picked up and sent out to Oregon. You best believe I was the first to start pickin’ away at them nuggets. I worked myself ragged there, till the sun set at least. I tell ya, Mark had to tell me to rest else I’d hurt my back and all. I’m a few words from dozing off into dreamland, but somehow, I feel like I’ve already set foot there since mornin’.
December 27, 1848
I ain’t sure if it’s ’cause my hands are shakin’ like a leaf or ’cause I can barely see, but I can’t in good conscious write this down like everything’s dandy. The shaft caved in on us. Our entrance ain’t an exit no more. Trapped with this fountain o’ wealth and unable to use it…it’s downright cruel.
December 31, 1848
Our canteens are dyin’ o’ thirst as much as Mark and I. I regret taking Mark’s share of food, but he insisted, saying it’s only fitting for partners to share stock. ‘Sides, I had my family to worry about.
Thinkin’ ’bout returning to my family and writing are the only things keeping my brain from rattling outta my skull. I’m down right scared of being unable to see lil’ Cletus smile again, scared of being unable to watch him giggle in Rochelle’s arms. But most of all I’m terrified of robbing that happiness from him if I don’t ever make it back. I’m almost glad it’s dark so Mark won’t have to see me like this.
January 1, 1849
We ain’t got no food. And I don’t suppose any folks would find us when we ain’t on a map to start with. I’m goin’ on hope, but that alone can’t keep a man breathin’. I feel like…I’m writing my own will and testament… I’m sorry, Roc_____
January 1, 1849
It is with sorrowful poise that I inscribe my thoughts into the journal of Earnest Carbuncle. Travelers found themselves on our campsite, and cleared the debris free from the entrance. From the slivers and cracks, I heard their elation upon seeing our efforts of mining gold, and I suspect, upon separating the calf from the bull worked on entering the mine shaft. The light shone through when Earnest became bereft of the light behind his eyes. Had their eyes not been clouded with avarice, my partner’s life may have been saved. How picayune a thing as gold when weighed on a scale with my peer’s life! It is life that outshines any tawdry gem or ore.
Henceforth, I shall make it my life’s expenditure one of remembrance. He spoke quite fondly of his beloved wife and son, and how he wished to relieve the burden of poverty with the heavy weight of gold. I swear on my grave, to deliver the word of his tribulations outlined in this record, this memorandum. And should I chance upon the abode of Rochelle Carbuncle, I would endeavor to provide her with her husband’s final wish.
This one’s pretty cheesy, but I do have a fondness for it. I was experimenting with language use at the time.
Sutter’s/Sutter’s Mill–a sawmill located in Coloma, California owned by John Sutter. On January 24, 1848, Sutter’s partner, James W. Marshall, discovered traces of gold. This led to an event known as the California Gold Rush.
Cameras were around during the 1800’s, however the first instance of the term ‘camera-shy’ is debated among historians.
Quite handy for demolition and mining purposes, the invention of dynamite by Alfred Nobel was not patented until the year 1867. As an alternative, gunpowder was often used to clear away rubble in the 19th century.