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Gold Rush Letters – Father & Son ~ Part II

We continue with Elmer Eugene Barker’s article – “Letters of Charles Franklin Hammond to his son John, 1849-1850.”

Altho there were no refrigerated freight cars or airplane transport, perishable foods were shipped none the less.

     “Since I returned home from New York I have written to Mr. A. Weld to ship two or three barrels of butter to be put up by him in the best manner.  He procures kegs holding #15 or #20 and packs them full of butter and heads them up tight and then into a good packing barrel and heads it very tight and then fills the barrel with very strong brine putting a hoop or two on each end and in addition to the wooden hoops.  If the brine does not leak out you will receive the butter in good sweet order.  I also ordered him to ship some coarse and fine boots, and a new article for making soap for washing purposes in the form of a powder, one paper of which will make 12 pounds of soap in five minutes.  Also a compound in the form of a powder for making bread, biscuit, and all kinds of cake to be used in lieu of yeast.  All of which will be shipped by the REALM which is to sail about the 25th inst.  The invoice of these goods, freight, and insurance will amount to from $250 to $300 which I will pay here as I did on the lumber and nails.  I think there are some good openings here now if you will improve them.  A young man by name of Broughton at Fort Ann returned from California some time about a year go and went to Canada up the Ottawa River having $2 or $3000 capital and invested it in lumber and has done a fine safe business, he says, this season.  He has now got things in a much better train and can command a set of mills now, and the prospect of another year is better than it was a year ago.  He says there is an opening for more capital than he can command and he now offers to let us come in.  I expect him here this week as he has just returned from Canada to make an arrangement with us.”

     “You say that you and Mr. Thorn and Robert are going into business at Stockton but do not say what branch of business. Let me know in your next and your prospects, etc. I hope you have fixed on a healthy location as good health will be worth everything to you and your partners. Can vessels of large class navigate your river as high up as Stockton?  I suspect I shall be obliged to make the shipment to San Francisco as I have not found any ships here, up for Stockston, and in my next I will inform you who I have made the shipment to, subject to your order.  How many of your mules do you retain?  What are prime grizzly bear skins worth in your market?  Would they not make good robes for sleighs and cutters?  I hope you will not go into the speculation of lots unless you are certain that your little will be good and that your investment will pay well.  I see that many of their titles are fraudulent and you must look out or you will be taken in by them, and remember, there will sooner of later be a very great reaction, and property will depreciate as rapidly in value as it has risen.  Do not hazard too much. What have you done with your land warrants?  What did it cost you to make the trip to California? How much had you left when you made a stand at Stockton? “

Hammonds & Co. were doing a big business in lumber at this time and their equipment was always up to date, the best to be had.  He tells John, —

“I went to Black Brook last Tuesday and saw our mills run.  They are faster and better mills than any others I have seen in this part of the country.”

In a later letter, —

     “Lumber sells very well and we are drawing our plank from the Overshot Mill.  The old mill is torn away and a new one is nearly ready to go in & will be improved in various ways.  I wish you had what plant we have cut there this season at San Francisco.  It would bring a lot of gold dust I think.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                         June 21 – 1849

     “I regret that I did not ship my share of last winter’s stock of lumber to San Francisco to you last spring, as it must be a good article.  I see that vessels are going from Boston to Bangor to take in freights of lumber for San Francisco, and a Mr. H.E. Broughton of Troy (NY) one of the firm of Broughtons, spoke to John C. last week in Troy about putting in with him and others to make up a cargo of lumber for San Francisco, and this morning he has received a letter from him saying that he and others were fitting out a vessel and would freight her with lumber and stoves and wants to know if we  would ship some lumber by him and consign it to him.. It appears from the tenor of his letter that John C. spoke favorable of the project when he saw him in Troy, but I do not think we shall ship any by him as John does not appear to be in favor of it now, though he may change his mind as he is not very well today, having had a slight shade of fever and ague.  I think I shall ship some lumber to you if I get a favorable report from you or somebody else you may name it you do not wish to embark on it or if it is not convenient for you to do so., If you have any consignments of god to make, I think Mr. Stephen Griggs of New York would be our best man in New York, subject to my order or direction.”

                                                                                                                                                         Merchants Hotel, New York City  Jany.26, 1850

     “I wrote you a long letter (which I sent) by Francis K. Shattuck who sailed from here the 13th inst. In the OHIO for California via the Isthmus.  He had quite a large package of letters for you and was directed to put them in the post-office at San Francisco if he did not meet with you on his arrival.  You will learn from that letter that I have not shipped any lumber and the reason why I have not.  I arrived here last evening and have made the journey for the purpose of making a small shipment of lumber to you.  As the River is closed by ice at Albany I am compelled to come into the market and buy at high prices.  There has been a great deal of lumber shipped from here and the eastern ports, and there are several ships now filling up here principally with lumber.  Freights are high and all the while advancing.  The best ships and fastest sailers demand 75 per cubic foot and the lowest rate that I have yet heard is 57 per cubic foot.”

     “If I had reached here one day earlier I could have informed you how much and the kinds and quantity that I shall buy and ship, but it is now Saturday evening and as the GEORGIA mail steamer sails on Monday I shall be obliged to defer it until the next mail.  I shall, however, buy not less than 500 cubic feet, nor over 1000 feet, being governed somewhat by the price I have to pay for it and the amount charged for the freight and insurance.  If my money holds out I intend to pay the freight here.  Insurance must be paid here.”

“I have not had time today to look around and learn the price of lumber in this market but from all appearances and from what I have learnt I shall have to pay a high price.  I intend to buy a few joist, flooring plank or boards, and perhaps a keg or two of nails.”

“We should finish drawing lumber from Black Brook this week and have none to draw but the Crane Pond lot about 18,000 feet this year.”

“P.S.  If I knew to a certainty that lumber would command as good prices for 12 months to come as it has for 12 months past, I would purchase a ship at once and fill her up as soon as I could get the lumber through the canal, for the present rates charged for freights from here I could well afford to scuttle her or let her rot or throw her away and make money then,  For the present rates charged for what she  would carry would pay for her and pay all expenses of getting her there and make money at that.  But I could do better than to throw her away.  I would send her to Java and purchase a load of coffee for a return cargo and clear $30,000 to $50,000 on that.”

                                                                                                                                                                                            Troy                 Feb. 3rd, 1850

     “My last letter was written and mailed last week at New York the 28th ult.  And I then informed you that I was there for the purpose of shipping some lumber.  I accordingly made a shipment and arrived here last evening on my way home.  There being another steamer to sail for the Isthmus the 7th inst.  I avail myself of the first opportunity to send you the bill of the a lumber (copy of it) and the bill of lading.”