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HISTORY: A letter from the gold rush days

The following letter is reprinted from the June 28, 1956, edition of the Eagle.

Published on September 26, 2018 4:19PM

Last changed on September 26, 2018 5:18PM


The following letter, reprinted from the June 28, 1956, edition of the Eagle is said to have been written in 1863 by Bradford C. Trowbridge, father of Charles Trowbridge of John Day, to his father in Dixon, Illinois:

Dear Father,

This is the first chance I have had to write you since I arrived at this gold discovery last June 9. The first pony express leaves here today with Frank McBean rider, so I will try to tell you briefly what has happened.

Some of those who came in here with me are Phil Metschan, Bill Southworth, George Hazeltine, Oliver Cresap, Van Middlesworth, Pat Mulcare, Martin Lucas and of course, my brothers, Noble and Lyman. Atwood Sproul is digging a ditch to wash upper benches.

We have arrived here on June 9 last year and were the first arrivals after Bill Alred made the discovery of gold on what we have named Hog Point. Miners kept coming in by the hundreds and now there must be several thousand here and they are still coming. They have discovered placer gold in the country east of here and a town has been built named Marysville about two miles east, and there have also been rich discoveries at Prairie Diggings farther east. The miners had a meeting a short time after we got here and they decided to let a miner locate a claim 75 feet up and down the bottom of Canyon Creek and from hill to hill. I didn’t take one of those claims, but decided to take squatter’s rights on the John Day River above the mouth of Canyon Creek and go to farming as I had brought in some good cows and could sell milk and vegetables to the miners. I delivered some radishes and onions today and found a ready market as you can imagine. Later, I’ll have corn and potatoes and some other vegetables.

A saloon was started on what we have named Whiskey Gulch, which is a gulch with no pay dirt in it. They put up a tent and a few barrels of whiskey was brought in by mule team from The Dalles, up on the big Columbia River. Some hurdy-gurdy girls have come in and they have a dance hall in another tent with a floor made from puncheon logs and strips from small logs. The dance hall is getting a good play, and it and the saloon are getting a lot of the gold. Ralph Fisk, who came in with us last year is the fiddler and some Swede plays the accordion.

A few women have come in and some of the men who are married have built log houses. Some of the women are Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Andrew McCallum, Mrs. George Hazeltine and Mrs. Van Middlesworth. Both the latter are McCallum’s daughters. He is a Scotsman and flour miller and millwright, and is talking of building a mill here as a few of the miners have turned their hands to farming, and wheat and oats are doing fine.

Hope that you and mother can come out as soon as the Indians quiet down. Once in awhile, there is trouble with them and we expect a real outbreak anytime now.

I’ll give this letter to McBean and hope it reaches you within the month.

Your affectionate son,

Bradford



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