Oroville, California, located in
Butte County, is mainly a dredging field, where shallow placers were mined
during the gold rush. In the late 19th
century, a number of people tested the area to determine the feasibility of
mining on a large scale. The introduced bucket line dredging, the first in
California, and the field was highly productive. At one point, there were 12
dredging companies active in the field. Total output from dredging is estimated
at about 2 million ounces of gold.
Offering a fine assemblage of three lengthy letters by Jack to Eric (presumably his brother), being written from Oroville, CA, no year, but dates of October 10th, November 26th, 27th. The letters are written in pencil on lined paper, 13 pp total with many details about creating a machine process for gold mining, a scoundrel partner who is holding back cash and interfering with the invention and the difficulty of keeping the mine going without cash. Jack is appalled by the way he is being treated, has developed illnesses but is anxious to finish his newly designed machinery aimed at mining gold.
In small part: October 26th, “…I have all the work done regards to servicing the ore body…am now waiting cash to go to LA to pick out my machinery and have the machine which separates the gold and which only I can get…It’s taken me longer than I figured but was more of my fault as had to make my way slow…Now, Eric, you have made a mistake to ever had Wyckoff have anything to do with us. He is just a snotty little devil. Every time I need cash, we have a row. He left me without cash for ten days when we had nothing but potatoes to feed in the camp. He was off on a trip. Then he came back. I got the money. Last month, I needed cash. Drew $200.00 and ran the work crew for 28 days on that small amount. I told him the next call would be to line my machinery up. We had a bad row. He did not see what you wanted…and said most insulting things to me. Was [ready] to close the mine down. I told him to go ahead and all would be lost. He charged me $75.00 just to alter the lease 10 words and type four copies, which is a crime. Now I have been waiting a whole week for money to go after the machinery and not a word from him. Left me without a cent. I never draw my $25.00 salary as I put it all [back in the mine] except my board.
“I am in Oroville at a hotel. Have to borrow to eat on. It’s a disgrace to have to go through such treatment…I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown…I must have high blood pressure…I can’t afford to lose the good weather and…go to Frisco every time I need cash. It costs too much. Now for you, think things over. I will make more money in the mine and prove the process [of mining] so we can get bigger mines. Everybody is gold crazy now over here…3 or 4 men can run my affairs. He knows no more about a mine or my affairs than jack rabbit…
“Don’t worry about the mine. She will pay you back well. Have a very big one, 9 miles for which I can get a 10% royalty besides several more as soon. As this one is proved it will be easy to get the cash. All I want is [for you to] stand by me…Wyckoff has done to buck me on every turn. All lawyers are grafters out here…
“P.S. Wyckoff has the nerve to say he did not believe I had a machine. Well, I knew his game. He wants to see it so he wanted to give the secret away to others. Well I am not getting fooled…I never should have given him power of attorney. Why, he could ruin the whole mine for us…Jack
November 26th, “…Eric, Wyckoff has done all in his power to ruin me and the mine. From the first day we met, he tried to be the big man and ruin me and the mine…The reason…it took so long was first I had to prove depth. Then, it got so hard it took me longer to get ahead [and reach the depth] but any way I have a real Mine. Wyckoff does not have more ideas than a child…One thinks he owned the Mine…He has done nothing but buck me…I went to LA to see Mr. Johns to give an order for our process and made all arrangements to have the machine made…I had to see Mr. Weaver, who had agreed to install the whole Plant…He is an expert mill man…He installed our secret process…and it is a marvelous success…I went back to Frisco and had to wait two days to see Wyckoff, the dirty dog. I found out had written Mr. Weaver an insulting letter and if Mr. Weaver had not been a friend of mine he could refuse to let Mr. Johns, the engineering company, make the machine for me…I came back here to Oroville and am out of funds. I can’t go out to the Mine as I have no money to do any work…If I can’t install the machinery, everything is lost…[We] have a good mine and lots of gold. I picked up two handfuls of dirt and shoveled…a string of gold in the pan…”
November 27th, “…I quite understand you have hated the delay, but if I had installed the machinery, just on the strength of the surface showings, I would have been going against all my experience and also…the rules of mining say if it did not go down then, we would have had no mine…If all you wanted was to prove the process of the machine, well, I have done that already on the ore I took from the dumps…The process is proven…Those people in Mexico are treating gravel and sticky clay which never has been able to have been done…On a small way…the clay was rich in gold…Mr. Clarke, the owner, was down to see me and was very upset and, since I was away, no one was on the Mine and he moved the tools off so they would not be stolen. They can be put back in 3 hours. I am already…to go ahead as soon as I can get the money to have Mr. Weaver look over the work and then go with him to collect all the machinery we want. The weather is fine but may storm any day and it will make it hard on us. Wyckoff has put me in a hole…I have no money and can’t move. As soon as I have the mine machinery money, I must go under a doctor’s care as I pass so much blood and my head aches all the time…Wyckoff was a low-down lure when I was down with the flu in Frisco…I will never…allow him on the Mine…I have just had enough to eat. The rest went into the Mine…He is not letting me have the cash. He is the biggest liar I have ever met…I won’t sign any checks for him…If you had only left me to handle all, how different it would have been…I have also other good mines which we can get and there is no reason that they should not become very large…with every mine paying us a good return…Now don’t worry. You won’t lose a cent. Give me a chance and I will show you but I have to have money to finish the job.”
Our writer’s handwriting is a bit challenging, but overall these letters provide excellent content on another aspect of gold mining, the drive to invent and the scoundrels who interfered with it for their own gain. Folds, in pencil, but a nice assemblage of late gold rush letters.
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