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Letter Home Details Tough Life Out West

Diaries, journals, and letters provide a glimpse into the realities of life among the early miners and settlers.  Hiram G. Ferris came West at age 24 in 1846 and settled in Yreka, Calif.  His letter home on Dec. 29, 1850, read like this:

“There is no doubt but gold is abundant in this country. But the difficulties of getting possession of much … honestly and fairly is the rub. It requires uncommon industry and perseverance … A man should have the perseverance of an ant and the constitution of a mule … and run the risk of sinking into the grave among strangers, neglected, unmourned and unknown…Vice and crime I believe abounds more in this country than any other civilized state on the globe…Under all these circumstances I would advise no man to come. Every man of a family ought most certainly to remain with it; and nine of ten of all others would do much better to stay at home…But should anyone conclude to come I would say from what I can learn about both routes that it would be far better to come by the Isthmus (of Panama) than Overland.”


Source: Ferris, Joel E. “Hiram Gano Ferris: Pioneer Days in Illinois and California…” Siskiyou County Historical Yearbook, vol. Two, no. One, 1951, pp. 21-26.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.