Ranney Letter #29

Lemuel writes to Anson in December 1854, saying he had just received Anson’s letter dated October. This letter apparently took a similar amount of time getting back East, since Lucius forwards it on to Alonzo Franklin in Phelps in early February, saying it has just arrived. He asks A. F. to forward it on to Henry in Ashfield. At some point along the way (probably in Phelps), the entire letter seems to have been transcribed, because the whole thing is in the same hand. Interestingly, the transcriber in Phelps makes a “true” copy, including Lucius’s side-message to A. F. in the final copy. I think this letter is just one of many that made its way from place to place, which might help explain some of the gaps in the Ashfield archive.

Lemuel says he is planning to stay through another summer in the gold country, because the winter rains prevented him and his partners from working their claim completely. They have diverted Clear Creek, and are harvesting the loose gold from the creek bed. Lemuel says they made a little over a thousand dollars apiece after expenses. While this isn’t a fortune, Lemuel defends the result as “better probably than I could [have done] in the Atlantic States.”

Clear Creek, California
My Transcription:

Clear Creek, Shasta County, California
December 18
th 1854

Dear Brother

I have just received your kind favor of last Oct. and take the earliest opportunity to answer, as I know you will be anxiously looking for a reply.

I am digging in the mines yet, trying to make a couple of dollars. I did think and in my last letter to Lewis stated that I should probably start for the Atlantic States next Spring. But I think now that I shall stay until next fall when I shall certainly make a break for the East. You wrote that you would like to know how I have made it since I have been here. Well I have done much better probably than I could in the Atlantic States. I will tell you what I made the last summer.

I have two partners. We commenced working in the Creek or digging a race so as to turn the creek out of its natural bed, about the first of June. And we worked in the bed of the creek until about the first of October. And we took out in that time Five Thousand dollars. And our expenses were about Fifteen Hundred, including hired help & everything. We did not get the claim worked out as the rains drove us out about the first of Oct. and we cannot work in it again until next June. Hence my reason for staying here another summer. We are making about five or six dollars a day to the hand now. Wages for good hands here are four dollars per day, they board themselves. We have two hired hands and are paying them that.

I received two letters from Harrison the past summer, but he wrote to me not to write to him again until I heard from him again as he intended going to Mich. But I have not heard from him in a long time. I am indebted to Lewis for a letter too. I believe you say he is located in Branch Co. Write to me his Post Office address and I will write to him again when I hear from you. How has he made it in selling & buying again?

I hope you will redeem your promise to wrote again as soon as you receive this and let me know what new neighbors you have got there and where your place is and how many acres you have got and when you are going to & &. I shall certainly be home next fall. Write about all the folks. I don’t think of anything more to write in particular. I have never seen anything of the boys from your parts out here.

Give my respects to all my old acquaintances
Yours respectfully, Anson B. Ranney
Leml S. Ranney

Allen Feb 6
th 1855

We received this letter last week & thinking you would like to know what Lemuel wrote I thought best to enclose it & send it to you, A. F. Please forward this to Ashfield.

A. F. I have this evening wrote a letter to you. We are all well.

Lucius Ranney

Ranney Letter #20

Henry receives a transcript from the family in Allen of a letter they have received from younger brother Lemuel, who has gone west in search of gold. Lemuel had been planning on trying his luck in Oregon, but too many people were heading that way, so he went to northern California instead. The party he was traveling with lost a horse, and then traded the remaining horses for cattle at Salt Lake City, which means Lemuel probably traveled at least the final 750 miles on foot. He says the journey overland was “an awful hard trip and one that I would not advise any of my Friends to undertake.”

Lemuel writes a little about the mining prospects and the high cost of living in the camps. He says he imagines they’d like to hear all the details, but “I hope I shall see you all again,” and it would be easier to tell the tale in person. It’s interesting that Lemuel is aware there’s a chance he will not see the family again, and yet this possibility does not cause even an independent, free-spirited person such as Lemuel who takes off for the West on his own to be less concerned about the people back home. Write soon, he says, “for I am anxious to know how you are all getting along in that far off country.”

Shasta City 1855, J. M. Hutchings
My Transcription:

Allen Nov 24
th /52
Dear Brother

I here send you a true copy of Lemuel’s letter that we received from him, Dated Sept 25 1852.

Shasta City Sept 25
th /52
Dear Brother & Friends

I am happy to inform you that I have once more reached the pale of civilization. I arrived here about ten days ago perfectly well & hearty. I wrote you a letter at Fort Larima which you have probably received long ago. I stated in that or the one before it that it was my intention to go to Oregon and it was at that time. But there was such a flood of emigration a going that way this season that I thought I would try my luck in this
Awful Country.

I am at work at present on Clear Creek, 12 miles from Shasta City, in the mines and I am getting ninety dollars a month and boarded. Board is quite an item in this country. It costs a person about a dollar a day to live here, that is if he buys the raw material and cooks it himself. They charge $2.00 a day at the Boarding Houses. Flour here at present is worth 30¢ a pound. Pork from 85 to 90¢. Vegetables all sell by the pound here. Potatoes are 12¢ a pound. Onions, Cabbages, Beets & Turnips from 15 to 20¢ a pound. Beans 25¢.

Well I thought at those prices I had better go to work by the month. A short time anyhow, so as to be sure of my board and make a little raise. For it looked rather dubious for a new emigrant that knew nothing about mining and no money to go to work on his own hook. I am in about as good a mining vicinity probably as there is in California. Some are doing very well here and some not so well, but they generally average from 5 to 8 dollars a day. There was one lump taken out about 4 miles above where I am to work that was worth about $2,000.00 by an emigrant that came in this year.

We were considerable longer through than we expected to be. We lost one horse before we got to Salt Lake City, and traded the others off for cattle there. There is a great many things I presume that you would like to hear. That is, how I got a long and what I saw and how I like the country and what I think of the trip anyhow &c &c. But I hope I shall see you all again and then I can tell you all the particulars much better than I could describe them to you with Pen and Ink. But I can tell you now in a very few words what I think of the trip overland. I think it an awful hard trip and one that I would not advise any of my Friends to undertake.

If this will pass with you for a letter send me one in return as soon as possible, for I am anxious to know how you are all getting along in that far off country. My respects to Mother and all the rest of you.

Lemuel S. Ranney

Copied by Anson B Ranney
(Copied by Hope Packard)

PS Direct your letter to Shasta City, Shasta County Calif