James Haun Diary, July 1853

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Friday 1 – Out hunting for gold.

Saturday 2 – Moved up to Independence Bar1 and paid our board for the week each $11, $22.00.
Set up troughs to wash dirt.2

Sunday 3 – Let the water on.

Monday 4 – Worked hard all day, the four of us and made $10 in all.3

Tuesday 5 – Continued our work.

Wednesday 6 – Made $8 the two last days.

Thursday 7 – Worked hard all day and got $5 in all.

Friday 8 – We closed out today with only $25.50 the week for four of us, which was a little over one half for our board, it being $48 for the week so I paid out for John and I $11.25 and sold my pan for $1.75. After dinner I put on a clean shirt that John had washed out with soap and cold water, as he had done twice before. It was well done. We don’t iron —
We the shouldered our blankets and tools for new diggins.

Saturday 9 – We found ourselves at mouth of Nelson Creek late in the evening. I sent by the express this week to Marysville for letters, but he arrived without any for us.4

Sunday 10 – After Breakfast, felt very uneasy about our condition all day. A party of old miners went out prospecting and returned late in the evening with a favorable report. The company was made up of eight men and would not take another in. They met in private to form the rules of the company and two backed out. So I sent in a petition with two others to be admitted. They were chosen and I was left out. Late at night I went to bed but could not sleep for a time.

Monday 11 – So it was I got up early in the morning to hunt a place to dig in. I called John but he said he was too sleepy, so I left and took up a claim by sight. Came back to breakfast.
Tom Williams had just got up my petition in the company. He said he would sell out to me. So I gave him for his interest in the claim $40 in cash and a promise of $100 more if it turned out well, &c.
John is to work for Vaughn in the same claim.

Cash for whiskey $1.25.

I will here state it is universally the case that card playing is done all day of Sundays by the miners. On Monday the fourth of July there was a ball given at American Valley 7 miles north of this. Broke up in a row.

Tuesday 12 – Paid for board from Saturday evening until Tuesday, each $7, $14.00
The company then shouldered blankets, tools and provisions. We arrived on the ground about noon for the first time.
We all walked about over the ground. I then picked up a small sack of dirt and washed out, $1 to the pan. I thought to myself, I’ve found the place at last. We then went to work and built a brush tent with a few fir boughs and an old buffalo robe. Down we lay for the night.

Wednesday 13 – Up before sunrise, setting by the fire to warm, looking around at natures’ productions, the tall pines firs and Arborvitae. The first bears a crop on its top.
After surveying the rout today to bring water onto the company’s diggings, I went 1 1/2 miles to mouth Nelson Creek. I there got a letter from you5 dated 24 May6. I then went back to camp and read by pine knot light. The long-looked-for treasure. O, what a pleasure. You have not said what letters you received from me. You must give me the news of the church.

To cash for letter, $1.00

Thursday 14 – Commenced diggin the ditch to bring in water.

Friday 15 – Our work the same.

Saturday 16 – Still the same.

Sunday 17 – We all went over to mouth Nelson Creek, except John.
Dinner for myself, $1.00
I bought a pair boots, $8.00
And cotton for straw bed, $1.25

Went back to camp to sleep. John had washed one shirt for me and two for himself.

Monday 18 – I and John were levying and marking out the new ditch rout. At night, stayed on my straw bed tick.

Tuesday 19 – I and John finished levying the ditch at noon. John to digging and I to clearing away the brush. Tonight finish my bed tick.

Wednesday 20 – I went to work clearing away the track and John to digging with the rest. Tonight I put a whopping big patch on the right knee of my blue military pants out of twill cotton flour sack.

Thursday 21 – Our work the same Friday 22, Saturday 23 and Sunday 24. I and John went down to Willow Ranch and cut a lot of grass to fill our tick with butcher knives.

Monday 25, Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27 – Was cloudy all day and thundered some, but no rain fell. All sunshine.

Thursday 28, Friday 29, Saturday 30, Sunday 31 – I and John built a bedstead, under a pine tree so we can sleep off the ground. We’ve killed several large rattle snakes.

This week paid for 4 gunny bags, $1.50
To three candles. 50.
Paper tax $.50, $1.00
To one letter from W. G. Haun, $1.007

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  1. Consult the map for specific location.
  2. Most likely a sluice box, a trough-like device with riffles and other texturing along its bottom designed to catch gold. Miners would shovel soil and rocks into one end of the trough and allow flowing water to wash it through, leaving the heavier gold trapped in the riffles. Sluices could be laid flat in the a creek bed or operated on shore using water from a flume.
  3. A typical farm laborer might expect to make between $8 and $12 per month during this time, depending on where in the country they lived (Lebergott, pg 453) . Of course, it has been reported that “California farm hands in 1850 earned $60 per month, 400% above the rates in the Midwest.” (Lebergott, pg 452)
  4. Express agents carried lists of subscribers to the postmaster at Marysville. The agent would pay the $.25 fee for each letter and deliver the mail on returning to the gold camp at the higher rate of $1.00 per letter.
  5. James Haun evidently wrote his diaries with the intention that his wife should read them. The “you” in his diary refers to her.
  6. Martha Haun’s letter of May 24 1853 has been preserved and is available here.
  7. William G. Haun was another of James’ brothers, settled in Indiana. W.G’s letter of March 15 1853 has been preserved and is available here.