Monday, March 31, 2008

Life of Enos, Part 5

Enos Christman found San Francisco an exciting place, although outrageously expensive. "Gambling here is an occupation, day and night, Sunday or any other time," he wrote in his journal on Feb. 22, 1850. "The grey-headed father and the beardless boy are seen side by side vying with each other who can win or lose the fastest, and even beautiful women engage in these games with the same earnestness of the sterner sex, betting their last ounce. I have even heard of preachers delivering a good sermon and going directly from the pulpit to the gaming table... Money here goes like dirt. Everything costs a dollar or dollars. What is considered a fortune at home is here mere pocket money. Today I purchased a single potato for 45 cents."

Prospecting for gold was not all that it was cracked up to be, Enos discovered. He and Atkins left San Francisco by steamer up the Sacramento River on March 11 and began an overland trek to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range a week later. "Our long voyage at sea unfitted us for such a tramp and hence we have been almost worn out, but a day or two's rest, we hope, will restore our usual vigor." Enos wrote on March 19. "For the past few days Atkins was apparently improving rapidly, but today he took a relapse and I fear he may have a hard sickness…"
Rest never came. For weeks they traveled slowly through rain and across swollen streams, through land tracked by grizzlies, wolves and hostile Indians and bandits, to the high ground of the gold fields. When they finally reached Mariposa, pickings were slim.

Panning for gold proved to be backbreaking labor, a day's work often yielding not enough gold dust to buy even a loaf of bread. Through the spring, Atkins remained too ill to work. They sold off much of their belongings for food and soon were down to almost nothing.

May 9, 1850 – While going up to camp to get my dinner, I saw the express wagon pass down towards the city. I expected letters by it and immediately after dinner I put all the money I had, seven dollars, in my pocket and went down to the express office and enquired for the letters. Four were handed me at two dollars each, making eight dollars. I paid the seven I had and asked them to trust me for the other until evening, knowing that I had five dollars due me for a day's work last week..."

Enos and Atkins followed other prospectors in a search for betters diggings, or some other way to make money. Their trek took them near Stockton on June 1. It was there, after 11 months of hardship, poverty, illness bad luck and grueling work that the sun finally began to shine on Enos Christman.

No comments: