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SF letter written 1849

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Posted by Linda McDowell [] on Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 20:41:24 :

The following is a transcripton of a hand written letter written by John H. GARDINER, my great-grandfather's first cousin's husband:

San Francisco Dec 30th, 1849

My Dear Friend Morris,

With me this far alls well. I am still here going forward as when you last heard from me, but this being "the winter of our discontent", business is neither as great or profitable as when I last wrote. We have branched out once more & now have three stores in operation. Our saw mill is also going which will bring in ‘the dimes’, notwithstand the large number of houses & great quantities of lumber that are on the way around the horn. The greater part of this month the weather has been awful, "the rain it raineth every day", nearly causing the streets to resemble some great mud hole, more than a high way. It is almost impossible for teams to get along & much of the carrying trade is done on mens backs, for carting a good sized wheelbarrow load two or three squares, $5 is to pay, and the greasers backs are equally as expensive. Last week I started to ride down to our saw mill, some 70 miles from here, but one of these California rains set in, and raised the streams so that they became impossible. I not feeling like taking a swim, which would have been necessary had I proceeded, turned back, escaping with one ducking in which I came near losing my horse & life too--I managed however to get out of the troubled waters & leading my horse five miles stopped for the night.

On Monday morning last a large fire took place which destroyed property to over one million dollars in value. By the hardest work imaginable, the fire was kept from ? (can‘t read) the street which had it done would have closed up two of our stores as well as hundreds of others. But as you will have all the particulars, & mine too, in the papers I will not go into details. From the mines we have no very interesting news, most of the miners have gone into winter quarters, working but occasionally, making on an average, I am informed, about $12 per diem. Sacramento City is in a wretched state, there, as here the cry is Mud! Mud!! Mud!!! Stockton was also visited by fire, much property having been consumed.

Most of the Philadelphians of our acquaintance remain here about town. McKinley looks as cheerful as ever & is doing well. (Poor Charley) Smiley is making money fast--Dixey is here working at his trade & is making something--the McKissicks are also working at their trade & I suppose, make money, as any kind of thick boot brings an ounce & from there to $100 per pair. Big Tom Edwards has a team running hauling paid for the city, at $5 per load--he makes money, but whether he loses it again I know not--he runs the risk, however. Ned McGowan is here twirling the little ball & crying out "eagle bird by chance"--of late I have seen nothing of him--he has probably declined the banking business & left this Darling -town. John Arentrue tried his luck at his old trade but got broke, the boys being too much for him--he now has an appointment from the Alcade & rides a good horse, the streets being too bad to walk, at $1000 per month--he is street inspector. Long Tom Morris is knocking about town & takes his liquor as much as ever--he is not doing much for himself. Middleton & Berry, the balance of the Algoma Company are doing an auction business & have had since good sales. Brown of Bank Alley, & more recently of 8th street, had done remarkably well--Manard is making money-

I have just returned after dining at old Shong, the principal Chinese Restaraunteers of this mongrel place--old Shong and his assistants are a great curiosity, & if Burton had them, he never need come to California. After the sound of the gong the table is filled by at least fifty of us "outside barbarians" at which Shong’s attendants work out of a suspicious looking back room bearing soup plates & all bawling out "tong aw" which I supposed means rat soup. After this course comes the roasts, boils and stews which are awfully hot & look & smell delicious, but then one attempts to cut up one of the pieces of meat or pies he imagines he sees the leg of a blind puppy or the tail of a rat in every smoking piece--but here vittals are vittals & we goes it cat or not cat--all this being over you are served with a square piece of pie, the size a female celestials foot, together with a cup of good coffee--this being through we left Shong and his big trousered--cat eyed,-- long tailed,--black haired & wooden shoed celestials--as we pass out old Chew Chaw takes our $1.50 & rubs off his slate one of those spider looking words.

The vessel your brother embarked in has not yet arrived, although she is out near six months--The Maria that left a month later from Philadelphia has been here some weeks, making a very good trip. I have been anxiously looking for it for a long time, the vessel ought to have been here some time since, but some ships have had much longer passages than six months I have no fears of any accident happening to the E, as she doubled the cape at a favorable season. Had he been here a month ago he could have sold out his clothing at $100 percent advance, at wholesale--prices are still good, but not as high as they have been several large invoices having lately arrived. Remember me to all our friends.

Believe me as ever your friend J. H. Gardiner

along left margin it says "Write me & be particular to address John H Gardiner"

(Note: the author of this letter was b. in NJ in 1818, died in Rio Vista. CA in 1906 and is buried in Rio Vista)

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