Lewis Co, TN:

Gold Rush Letters from the Cooper Family

The following letters were submitted by Mary Bob McClain Richardson on 30 September 2004.  The first two letters are from James C. Cooper to his parents, Robert Melville and Catherine Cooper Cooper. 

(Post Marked - San Francisco - Jan. 26) Augua Frio Diggins, California
Jan 1st 1850

Dear Father and Mother,
After a long silence I awail myself of the pleasant opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that I am well and a doing as well as could be expected. This season of the year, the water is somewhat troublesome in digging gold but a man by working hard can make a half an ounce per day. It has been so long since I have written I shall attempt to give you a journal of my travels.

After leaving Santifee we traveled some 200 on the old Spanish Trail to the Chama river and got water bound and had to turn back, which consumed about 20 days, then we traveled down the Rio Grand about 10 or 15 days and then struck across the Jila river which is about 8 days travel from the Riogrand after striking the Jila we traveled down it for about a month occasionally coming across some wild Indians, but passed by unmolested. The first and only settlements were the Pemo Indians, which treated us with a great deal of hospitality. We bought meal and beans from them for which we gave shirts and other clothing. After leaving the Pemo village we still followed down the Jila about 200 miles to where it empties into the Rio Colorado, and there we found a tribe of Indians called the Humas, the most thieving Indians I ever saw. In crossing the river they stold about 30 mules from the company and among the rest was my riding mule. After leaving Colorado we struck out into the desert and arrived at Warners ranch in six days. We then had settlements all the way up the coast. We left Sanfrancisco to our left. I am now about 200 miles southeast of Sanfrancisco. Our mess split up before we got here. Ridley, Starkey, Miller and Canders set in together and Dunham, McMillan and myself. Dunham is in Stockton now but calculates to join us again in the spring. I have cleared about $500 since I have been in the mines and withstanding the prices we have to pay for provisions - flour is now worth $1.25 per pound, pork $1.00. There is nothing for sale here now for less than a $1.00 per pound. I came across Uncle James' (John, son of James H. Cooper of Marshall Co., Miss.) John since I have been here he is now about six miles of here a doing very well. I must come to a close. I have nothing more at present but remain you


 June 6th / 50

Dear Father & Mother
I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. It has been sometime since I wrote. I have been waiting to get a letter from home before I would write. I have never recd. the first line since I left home. I think that some of you might write at least once a month. J. Dunham, John Cooper and myself left the southern mine together about 3 or 4 weeks ago believing the northern mine to be best which we found to be the case. We have secured a bar on South Yuba which I believe will prove good. The river is too high to work on the bar now. We can make from $5 to $10 a day in the bank. T. F. McMillan and myself have been in Copartnership ever since we came into the mines about Christmas. We concluded as gold digging was an uncertain business we would buy a lot of mules and one of us go to packing provisions into the mines, but I have written for him to come here and if our claim proves to be as rich as I think it will we will sell our mules and both go to digging, if I am lucky in making money I will come home this fall, but if I am not lucky I will stay here until I make something if I see any prospect ahead. Tell William if he still wants to come here that I will send him the means by Dunham this fall if I stay here. Tell him not to come unless he comes on his own hook, and if he comes he must calculate on staying here 2 or 3 years to make anything worth coming after, unless he is very lucky. We met L.S. Akin*, Gap Porter & J. Minor Pickard as we came up here. They are now about 75 or 100 miles from here. They were all in good health. We did not get to talk with them but half an hour or such a matter. Louis said he brought a letter for me and mailed at Sacramento City for Stockton and I have not got it yet. I want you when you get this to write and direct your letters to Sacramento City. Give my respects to Aunt Sally Barr & family, and all inquiring friends. John Cooper also sends his respects to you and all of the family. I believe that I have nothing more at present but remain you Son


Letter from James H. Cooper to his nephew Albert Gallatin Cooper:

July 25th 1850

Friend A.G. Cooper

Dear Sir,
We are all in good health hoping you are all enjoying the like blessing. We recd. a letter from John in California dated May 11th a few days ago. Him and your brother, James was both in fine health. They were gong in a few days in company 300 miles North. He says the gold is there and no mistake, altho he says he has not made a fortune yet, he also says his Cousin James had never recd. a letter from home. John acknowledges the receipt of two letter, one from me and one from his Sister Mary. In his last letter he sent to his sister a small piece of virgin gold, worth I suppose about 2 or 3 Dollars. Corn Crops are pretty good, cotton is very indifferent, we don't make more than half crops of cotton at best. Miss Lucy Erwin was married on last Wednesday evening to a Mr. Patillo of your country. They left today for Tenn. Your cousin John Cooper of Hinds County, who administered on his father's estate is dead.* All the rest of the friends both here and there are well as far as I know.

Considerable excitement has prevailed in the public mind for sometime past, in regard to the sayings, and doings, in, and out of Congress, on the topicks which are convulsing our country.   Still hoping however that the Union will be preserved.   Wishing you may receive every needful blessing, both for time, and eternity,
I remain affectionately your friend,

*Son of William Gill Cooper

Trinity River, California, Sept. 15th, 1851

(Post Marked - Shasta, California, Sept. 20.)

To: Col. R.M. Cooper, Newburg, Lewis County, Tenn.

Dear Father & Mother,

I embrace the present opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know where I am and what I am doing. James M. Starkey, T. G. McMillan and myself have been on the Trinity River abut six weeks a mining and have made about seven dollars a day to the man. McMillan & me have been partners ever since we got to this country and have made a little money. We brought a wagon and team up here with us when we come, and put our mules on a ranch and the Indians stoled three of them. I expect to remain on this River until the rainy season sets in and if the winter is as bad as it was in '49 it is possible that I may start home about the 1st of January next, and spend the winter with yu and return to California in the spring for I do think there is a chance to make something in this country yet. There is a good deal of sickness down on the Sacramento Valley at this time. I want you to be sure to write as soon as you get this as I have never got but one letter from you yet and I can't account for it if you write any unless it is that you mail them in Lewis and your Postmaster don't know which way to start them to California and they get lost out in Hickman, Wayne, and Laurence Counties. If you can possible send them by hand to Nashville or some place where they will know which way to start them I may stand a chance to get them. Let me know where Grandmother is and how she is a getting along, and let me know if there is any of the boys that would be willing to come to this country if I should come home this winter. Either Paris, William, Henry, Theodore or Hamilton Barr or if there is none of them that want to come if there is any of my acquaintance that does. I have never heard from John Cooper since I left him in Sacramento last Sept.   I believe that I have nothing more to write at present but remain Your Son


P.S. direct your letters to Stockton and be sure as soon as you get this and also send me some Tenn. newspapers. JCC

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This page is 2004 Cheryl Zelek.
This page was created on 3 October 2004.

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