In this presentation, the Haun diaries and letters have been edited for grammar, spelling and clarity. The unique voice of each individual has been carefully preserved. In cases where phrasing lends cultural context or is indicative of the spirit of the age, no alteration has been made. For example, colloquialisms such as ‘diggins’ have been retained, as have place names which have changed over time.
Primary documents are supplemented by research into the politics, technology and culture of the period, presented in the footnotes. Additional information on the people and places mentioned in the text has been included as supplementary information on the People and Map pages. The essentials page highlights an exemplary cross sample of documents. The documents have been cross-referenced and tagged thematically.
Only those papers judged to be of the greatest interest have been included in this treatment.
The Haun Family
John Haun and Katherine Winter of Scott County, Kentucky were millers with a family of at least five children–James, Henry Peter “H.P.”, Andrew Jackson “Jack”, David Lloyd “Dave”, William “W.G”, and Elizabeth. Faced with difficult times in Kentucky, and eager to become landowners and farmers, the four brothers struck out to earn their fortunes. W.G. was part of a flood of settlers emigrating to Iowa in the mid 19th Century. H.P. and Jack were among the original ’49ers traveling overland to California. In 1853 James, his son John, and Dave also set out for California. Dave was like many of the enthusiastic gold hunters, young, unattached, and eager for adventure as well as wealth. James was different. Forty-two years old, with a wife at home and a teenage son in tow, he hoped to make enough at the mines to enable him to buy land back at home.
The group traveled by train to New York, where they boarded a ship for Nicaragua, crossing from San Juan city, across Lake Nicaragua by steamer and on to San Juan del Sea, where another ship carried them north to San Francisco. After a brief stop at H.P.’s Marysville ranch, they pushed on to the gold fields, establishing claims near Nelson Point, on the Middle Fork of the Feather River in Plumas county. Their diaries tell of hard living in camp, mining practices, vigilante justice, inflation, and the gradual accumulation of wealth.
Left behind in Georgetown, Kentucky, James’ wife Martha managed the household and slaves, cared for her young niece Lizzie, and dreamed of seeing her husband and son again, and of the happy life they would all lead once they struck it rich. Her letters speak of hometown news, her sense of isolation, and her hopes and fears for their future.
Though the Hauns never struck it rich, they were successful enough that James Haun sent for his wife and niece to join him in California. They arrived in the winter of 1855 in the midst of a blizzard, leaving home and slaves behind in Kentucky. In the spring of 1856 the family purchased the American Ranch in Quincy, CA, which they operated as a farm and hotel.
In 1857, at the age of 15, Lizzie Hurst eloped with Trowbridge Ward, the son of an area judge William Ward. The couple settled in Indian Valley, where their six children were born. Their marriage was a difficult one, and Lizzie ultimately returned home to Kentucky with her five children. She resided there with another of her aunts, Elizabeth Moore, and married Mr. Moore after her decease.
John Haun returned to his childhood home in 1861. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Confederate cavalry in Tennessee, later becoming one of Morgan’s famous raiders. His hat and vest were perforated by bullets, but John himself was unwounded. He was captured in Ohio the the other survivors of the raid, and incarcerated in Camp Chase prison for 18 months as a POW. During his interment he began a correspondence with Mollie Burns of Georgetown, who would later become his wife. Their letters are light-hearted and flirtatious, for the most part avoiding the difficult realities of war in favor of hometown gossip and romantic reminiscences. Following his release in early 1865 John returned to Georgetown, where, in 1867, he married Mollie.
The pair settled in Quincy, where they raised their six children. John Morgan Haun, Robert “Tune” David Haun, Henry Harold Haun, Martha Haun McIntosh, and Birdena Haun Curtis Swingle.
John Morgan Haun became a painter and paper hanger in Quincy. He married Lena Brinkers in 1905 and the couple had four children together. He was accidentally killed in a house fire in 1946, started by his son. Tune Haun served in World War I and returned safely home to live out his days in Quincy. Mattie and Birdie both became school teachers, Mattie at the North Fork and Spanish Peak schools, Birdie at the Johnsville school.
Birdina married Jerry Curtis of Johnsville in 1904. It was a happy marriage for more than twenty years until Jerry Curtis’ tragic death in 1917. Curtis, then superintendent of the Hafner mine on Rush Creek, was walking home for lunch with two other men when a mentally ill 17-year-old employee shot and killed both him and one of his companions. The third man escaped. The attacker then proceeded to the Curtis home, where he found Birdina and held her for about an hour. During that time he stated that he was a German spy who had been betrayed. He threatened Birdina and tried to force her to shoot him. Eventually Birdina persuaded him to write a statement of his crime and after promising to forward his wages to his mother, she was released. She phoned to Twain for help from the near by Providence Hill Mine. While she was gone, the young man killed himself.
In 1924, Birdena married again, to Andrew Platter Swingle, a friend of more than 30 years. Birdena’s donation of her personal papers, along with those of her father and grandfather, make the Haun Collection possible.
Preferred Citation: Haun Collection, Plumas County Museum, Quincy, CA