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News from Hang Town

Broome Republican, 20 February 1850


by Z. Scott, of Binghamton.
Old Dry Diggins, Dec. 6, 1849.

FRIEND ISBELL :— I was down to Sacramento City buying our winter supplies of Provisions, when I received two letters from you — one dated April the 25th, and the other May the 19th. I was much pleased to hear from you, I can assure you, for it seems almost impossible for one to get letters from the States. This is the third letter I have written from here, and I suppose you have received them; at least I hope you have. It is 12 days since I returned from the city, and during the time, we have been very busy building us a house, and this is the first opportunity I have had to write. I will give you a description of our house. It is 12 feet square, built of pine boards split out 4 feet in length, and nailed to posts stuck in the ground. It is situated very pleasantly, with a fine prospect of the village, where all our Stores, Liquor Shops and Gambling Houses are located. There is a wonderful sight of gambling going on here in California, but it is no interest to me.

We moved into our new house on the first day of December. There are three of us living together. Mr. Hull and myself are in partnership; our original company is broken up. Mr. John Green, one of the company who came out with us, at $12 per week; but we must charge him $15 if he boards with us any longer, as provisions are very high here in the mines; but thank fortune we have got plenty to last us until spring, if we are in the mountains. We live very comfortably in our little cottage.

In relation to my going to Sacramento: In the first place, we bought three yoke of oxen and a wagon, and started for the city, which is about 50 miles distant. It was very pleasant when I started, but before I arrived there it commenced raining, and continued raining more or less every day and night until I got back. In addition to the rain which fell 7 or 8 days the fore part of November, this made the roads almost impassable, and I thought I never should get through. I was over two weeks performing the journey — some days making less than a mile, and had my oxen mired down several times. They were weak, as there is but little grass along the way. We have to procure it along the Ranchos, and that very poor. But I finally succeeded in getting home alive, with all my provisions.We were two weeks too late in buying them, as they had taken a sudden rise. Flour was from $40 to 50 a barrel; pork $40 to 60; molasses $2 per gallon; sugar 25c, tea $1, potatoes 35c per pound; onions $1, butter and cheese $1, soda from $3 to 5, coffee 16c, rice 12c, corn meal $24 per barrel.

I bought two kits of Sounds and Tongues at $15. Dried apples at 65c, and boots from $12 to 25 a pair. Other clothing is very reasonable. In the mines flour is selling at $1 per pound. Pork the same price; and other things in proportion. Thank fortune we have enough and shall not have to depend on retailers. We have to cook it ourselves, but we get along very well with that part, and eating too, as our appetites are good.

Sacramento city is the muddiest place you ever saw. A great many of the Stores are made of Canvas, and the goods are wet, and altogether, look like drowned rats. I was anxious to get away from there, as it was very sickly. The water they are compelled to use, gives them the dysentery and other complaints. The city is built among the scattering timber, but grass is scarce in the vicinity.

Sutter’s Fort is situated about one mile from the city. It is built of sun-dried brick, with a hotel and other buildings in it. It is a very level country for 15 or 20 miles around; but I could not be hired to live here, as there are no comforts for man or beast.

Our village here is called Hang Town, having derived its name from the execution of three men last winter. Our laws, such as they are, are very strict, and the people are generally very honest and civil, and very friendly towards each other.

The village contains about 3,000 inhabitants. The houses are mostly built of logs, and some like ours, clapboarded, and others made of canvas. The country here is very hilly, and plenty of pine and oak timber, of a large growth, the pine especially — some trees being over 5 feet in diameter, but no grass of any account.

I have not been to San Francisco, and I suppose you have a better description than I can give you. I am told by those who know, that the country further south is better for grass and vegetation; but I would not think of making this country my permanent residence for al the gold there is here. Neither would I advise you or any other of my friends to come here with that view. It is hard enough to stay here one or two years, but I am in hopes I can stand it, as we have got along very well so far, and if a man has his health, he can’t help making money in this country. You may think strange of Mr. Marryatt returning, but he was sick all the time he was here. Mr. Hull sent 12 ounces of gold by him, and I should have done the same, but when he went I was 50 miles from here, out "prospecting." Our pile is not very large yet, as we have been paying out considerable for teams and provisions, and in preparing for winter, and have not dug for the last 3 or 4 weeks; but when we do work, we can make each of us about $10 a day. I shall send some the first opportunity.

On my return from Sacramento, I fell in company with A. B. Rogers, who once lived in Binghamton. He was on his way to the mines. It is very difficult to get letters here; but I subscribed today for a new Post Line, to run monthly, when we shall get letters more regular.

I shall expect to hear from you often. Do write and direct your letters to Sacramento city. Say to Mrs. Scott I am doing well, and intend to return next Fall if I am well.

From your Friend,

Source: "Broome Republican", Binghamton, NY; retrieved from NYS Historic Newspapers
Page created: 31-VIII-2018
Last updated: 31-VIII-2018