...Everyone for Himself & the Devil for us All...
San Francisco County California
~ 16 September 1849 ~

Copyright © 2002, Frederick Smoot. All Rights Reserved.

40 Rate cover to NY

40 Rate Letter from San Francisco, Cal.

Mrs. D. S. Edwards
Sing Sing
Westchester. Co.
New York
per Steamship Oregon

On board Ship Sept. 16th, 1849,

Dear Sister

     We are now anchored in the harbour of San Francisco after a passage of 163 days from New York. I have enjoyed excellent health up to this time. I left Theodore in Valpariso he expected to go from thence to Panama. The first sight of San Francisco is anything but beautiful the hills look perfectly barren no sign of vegetation anywhere the town has about 2 dozen decent houses in it - the remainder of the habitation are made of mud and boards with about 300 tents pitched here & there - the rents are enormously high one hotel called the Parker House with about one half the accommodations about it of the Mountain house in Sing Sing rents $150,000 per year a house like yours would rent for $25,000 per year everything else is in proportion you have to pay for a meal of any kind $2 - board is $24 per week butter $12 per pound eggs 50cts a piece etc. etc. tomorrow I am going on shore & shall be able to tell you more about how I like the place -- Tuesday September 18th, The Lord deliver me from having to live in such a place as this under the circumstances in which I am now placed Our tent in a place called Happy Valley about ¼ of a mile from the town & were are all huddled together in it within about 20 feet of us is another tent with a corpse in it - the man died of the disyentary which prevails here to an alarming extent the place is crowded with people from 6 to 7 ships arriving every day many persons have come down from the mines some with money & some without - the stories they tell are very contradictory some tell of persons digging on two hundred dollars per day some fifty some ten & others working for weeks & hardly getting enough to keep them alive - after hearing a thousand different stories I have made up my mind that the average amount dug by any one person in a day is an ounce or $16 - half of which you have to lay out for your support & for the other half you leave home & friends & come to a strange land work very hard & run the risk of leaving your bones here, I can assure you I am heartily sick of the expedition. I called to see Lieut, Bartlett hoping to meet an old friend but there is no such thing as friendship in this country everyone for himself & the Devil for us all is the motto - he said how do you do I am glad to see you but he was as repulsive in his manner as it was possible for him to be, I made up my mind to give him a wide birth for the future we cannot tell when we shall get off to the mines. I received your letter of April it was brought by a friend of Mr. Swain. You can’t tell how glad I was to hear from you, I hope you will write often, I am expecting more letters by the steamers which will be here in a few days. There are about 50 rum ships in this place & everyone has 5 to 10 gambling tables attached to them go into them when you will you see tables heaped up with gold & silver & men playing at them - there are some 5 to 6 places of public worship in the town but in proportion to the number of inhabitants they are very thinly attended - Wednesday 23rd, We are still at this place & every prospect of being so for two or three weeks to come for the last 6 days I have been down sick with the dysentary at times I think I am getting better & then again a suden pain seizes me & I am down sick today is the first time I have been about I have taken calomel besides quantities of white vitral & laudnum mixed also castor oil & Dovers powders when I shall get right well I do not know - I saw young Todd a few days since he is in a store at Stockton & gets $400 per month besides his board he went up to the mines but could not stand it the work was too hard for him - the steamship arrived a few days since but brought no mail Theodore is at Panama with Capt. Stout - how long he will remain there I do not know - Charles Coffin came to the tent the other day you know he came out in the Oregon from N.Y, when he arrived here he put a life preserver on & swam ashore he has been up to the mines some 3 months & has dug from $1500 to $2000 he sends over $600 home by the next steamer I was on board the Barge Palmetto this morning & saw George Weatherby he looks very well & is in good spirits (more than I can say for myself) - Our company has about broken up the cost of getting provisions to the mines is so great that we have been obliged to sell all we had together with the tent so you see we have no tie to bind us together & everyone fishes for himself - the charges for conveying goods from Sacramento City to the mines is 20 cents a pound the distance is about 100 miles Coddington & myself are about building a house 12 feet square & 8 feet high it will cost $250 we will live in it as long as we stay here & when we leave sell it - lumber is selling for $3.00 per thousand feet & carpenters get from $12 to 15 dollars per day so you see it is very expensive building in this country I never was so completely disgusted with any place as I am with this every day about 10 o’clock a northwest wind sets in & the dust blows in clouds at 12 o’clock it is so hot as to almost melt you & at night you are obliged to sit by a fire (delightful climate this I can assure you) if you hear any of my friends express a wish to come to California tell them for me that unless they are absolutely obliged to do so it is the last place in the world for them to come to unless their constitutions are made of iron everyone of our company have been more or less sick but are now getting well I do not know of anything more to say at present remember me to all friends. Give heaps of love to Harriet & will tell Sis I think of her very very often remember me particularly to Miss Laura I have neither seen nor heard anything of George Toms as yet - Write often & direct to San Francisco.

I remain your affectionate            
A. Montgomery Schell   

P.S. The land scrip I bought is of no use as yet &-. I doubt whether it ever will be.


California Letters Page

Letters Homepage