California: and the Way to Get There with the Official Documents Relating to the Gold Region...
J. ELY SHERWOOD
A very rare and important pamphlet of great historical significance describing California at the onset of the 1849 Gold Rush. The pamphlet, published in 1848, consist of 40 pages divided into sections.
Ely Sherwood’s work includes:
- Preface: Letter from Sutter's Fort, August 11, 1848
- California: Her Wealth, Resources and Climate, with Remarks on the Gold Region.
- Section I. The Characteristics of the Country, Manners and Customs of Its People.
- Section II. Mineral Lands in California. Extract from a Letter from Mr. Larkin to Mr. Buchanan.
- Section III. The Report of Col. Mason in Relation to the Mines.
- Section IV. All that Portion of the President's Message which Relates to California.
- Section V. Description of the Gold Region.
- Section VI. A letter written by Rev. Walter Colton, late Alcalde of Monterey, California.
- Section VII. A correspondent at New Helvetia, California, communicates the following:-- Description of the Gold Region.
- Section VIII. First Discovery of the Mines--Rates at which Gold is Valued, &c.
- Section IX. Method of Doing Business, Emigrating Companies, Passage, &c.
- Section X. The Proposed Rail-Road to the Pacific.
Rumours of James W. Marshall’s gold discovery at Sutter’s Fort on January 24th 1848, along with official publications and works such as those of Ely Sherwood’s recounting this discovery and expanding the public reach of these official reports, helped ignite what would become a major Gold Rush by January 1849. Migration to the gold region of California and the resulting population explosion to service this new economic development, helped the former Spanish territory, acquired following the end of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, become the 31st State the following year.
Migration to the gold region came mostly by sea, either through the Isthmus of Panama or around Cape Horn of Tierra del Fuego, and later by an Overland Trail. As such, Sherwood’s pamphlet’s includes, on the back cover, “practical directions to persons about the cross the isthmus of Panama.” These directions are separated into 12 parts that include such sensible advice as;
“I would recommend to everyone to take from two to four grains of sulphate of quinine, the first thing in the morning, in a glass of wine, while on the river.”
Although some readers might find the combination of quinine to wine intriguing, it does offer a taste of the hardship and dangers that many of the migrants were to face, not only in their travels to reach the gold region of Northern California, but of the conditions that awaited them upon their arrival.
Colonel Mason, a member of the military command in California, for example describes and chronicles in his report included in the pamphlet, the gold region of Northern California, the work involved to extract the gold, and the social political conditions in the vicinity where harsh realities confronted dreams of unbounded riches.
It is interesting to note that Masson’s report also makes a reference to the Mormon migration to the Great Salt Lake:
" I was informed by an intelligent Mormon that it [gold] had been found near the Great Salt Lake… Nearly all the Mormons are leaving California to go to the Salt Lake…”
It is unclear why Mason would add this anecdote to his report, but it does show that migration patterns were in flux. And, whereas Sherwood’s pamphlets helped create the conditions that led to a vast migration into California, these same forces also created the conditions for migration patterns into other parts of the American West.
Sherwood’s pamphlet is thus a great piece of Americana that is extremely rare yet important in providing an understanding of the forces that acted as the impetus to the 19th Century migration movement into California and in the American West in general.