[CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH.] JENKS, Daniel A. (1827-1869). Manuscript diary 1 January 1849 - July 1851

Lot Number 31
Author JENKS, Daniel A.
Title [CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH.] JENKS, Daniel A. (1827-1869). Manuscript diary 1 January 1849 - July 1851
Year Published 1849
Place Printed
Printed By
Description [CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH.] JENKS, Daniel A. (1827-1869). Manuscript diary 1 January 1849 - July 1851. 330 pages. 8vo, bound in diced calf stamped in gilt (spine detached), closely written. Some 40,000 words. This journal is a transcription by Jenks from his contemporary notebooks, for presentation to his sister (the creation of this fair copy is described in the third diary). -- JENKS, Daniel A. Manuscript diary, January 1852 - 25 September 1856. 278pp., closely written. Over 34,000 words. 8vo, diced morocco boards (spine split, boards rubbed). 5 ink and crayon drawings, and over 10 pencil and ink sketches embedded in the text. -- JENKS. Manuscript diary, 1 January 1857 - 20 February 1859. 154 pages. 8vo, diced brown calf boards, stamped in gilt (spine cracked and chipped). Some 18,000 words, closely written. Three ink and crayon drawings.
Comments THIS IS TRULY A PERFECT SODOM. A SUPERB 49'ERS DIARY OF GOLD RUSH SAN FRANCISCO AND NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. Jenks's diary--one of the most vivid and best written gold rush journals we have ever handled--chronicles his eight month journey from Pawtucket to San Francisco by sea, and then a year-and-a-half of adventures in the lawless, violent mining camps, saloons and gambling halls of San Francisco. Two additional diaries recount his attempt to make a living in Yreka, California, and his ill-fated return home to Pawtucket. "I am bound for California and the gold regions" the 21-year old Jenks declares on the first day of 1849. After nine miserable months sailing round Cape Horn to San Francisco with stops at the Azores and Chile. 7 October 1849: "San Francisco Bay, California...At last--at last." The 23,000 mile, 234 day journey ended inauspiciously as the ship listed through fog. "We finally drifted by a ship at anchor, who in reply to the Captain's hail as to where he was replied 'In Francisco Harbour you damned fool where did you suppose you was!'" They went stern first into North Beach. "I will bet that of all the craft that ever came into this port we are the only one that backed in." Within a week he was seeing the seamy and deadly side of this rough community. 13 October: "Murders, robberies and thefts are every day affairs. Dead men are picked up in the streets nearly every morning. Bowie knives, revolvers and pistols of all kinds are part of a man's daily apparel. Men die in their tents unknown and uncared for, friendless and alone...This is truly a perfect Sodom." 17 October: "Gambler's Paradise ought to be the name of this sink of iniquity, for they rule supreme here. Hells of gambling are on every corner..." 5 November: He finds Stockton "a miniature San Francisco," a tent city, "the inhabitants and business about the same." 2 December: He is finally at the gold mines, at Chinese Camp, but he experiences more setbacks. He is robbed of $250 in his tent and "grubbed along" for the next month. 1 February 1850 finds him "as poor as ever. My efforts do not seem to be crowned with that degree of success that in my opinion they deserve." 1 March 1850: "Have had but poor success as yet in gold digging, 'taint thar,' when I dig for it." On 1 June at Savages Camp. On 1 July he is at Garotte, and comes upon a battle ground just after a skirmish between miners and Indians. The sight of blood oozing out of the corpse sickens him. 31 January 1851. He returns to the subject of the daily murders and lynchings. "I haven't time nor space to chronicle one tenth part of them." As a sample he recounts two recent episodes, one of which saw the murder and lynching transpire in just 15 minutes, before the breakfast bell could ring in the camp! The other saw two card players jump up to fire their guns at each other at the same time--both missing, killing innocent bystanders at adjoining tables. The murderers were acquitted on a verdict of "Accidental Death." "Hurrah for California laws says the gamblers." "Murderers fill all the offices. The judges, sheriffs and other officers of the law are all the most desperate of all and the city police is a gang of highwaymen and theifs." In March 1851 he notes with wonderment the arrival of "a real live Yankee woman, with her husband and babe," to establish a boarding house. "All want to see the woman and kiss the baby." Here are more extensive excerpts from the diaries: Diary No. 1 Unspecified disappointments compelled him to leave Pawtucket (probably a broken love affair, as several blotted or obscured passages in the early pages suggest), and he joined the Narragansett Mining and Trading Co. which set out on the Velasco, sailing round Cape Horn to California. He spent a miserable first month, sea-sick and frozen as the shipped pitched its way through winter storms that blew it far off course to the Azores. By May he reached the Falkland Islands. In June they crossed Cape Horn, but nerves were fraying. "Head winds and sore heads make a ships company anything but pleasant" (12 June 1849). Conditions were harsh. He recounts how the ship was sold contaminated water, housed in improperly cleaned casks that formerly contained whale oil. Tales from his more experienced shipmates lessened the tedium of the long voyage. "One was with Wilkes in his exploring expedition...another was aboard the USB Somers at the time of the mutiny, when young Spencer was hung..." He celebrates his passage through the harsh waters of Cape Horn. "Good Bye Cape Horn, with your eighteen hour nights and short shivering days, good bye to your leaden like skys they are fast giving way to the more genial skys of the tropics" (30 June). Off the Chilean coast in July they encounter several other ships bound for the gold fields of California. "All the world appears to be going that way." He gives a moving description of his friendly reception in a simple shepard's cottage in Talcahuano, Chile, and the "domestic bliss and happiness" he perceived among the family there (far different from the contemptuous description of the Portuguese Catholics he encountered in the Azores). On 10 August he crosses into the northern hemisphere. 1 October: "Some of these terribly weather wise sea dogs say they can smell land. I wouldn't be surprised if they did, for they 'haint' washed themselves for months. But as for smelling old Mother Earth it's all Bosh for the Old man says we are 250 miles from land." 8 October: Jenks's first impressions of San Francisco: "It is a difficult matter to describe this place. Imagine a town built of cloth, with here and there a wooden shanty, an adobe house or two, the streets filled with tents, the valleys packed with tents, tents here, there and everywhere, 10,000 men of all nations and languages, thrown helter skelter into this town of tents. No system, no order but all excitement, hurry and bustle. Gods own sun never shone upon another such a place." Skilled craftsmen were in great demand. "Wages are high. Carpenters get $16.00 a day, in fact all mechanics get that." The gambling halls, rather than the mining camps, were turning the greatest profit. 17 October: "Gambler's Paradise ought to be the name of this sink of iniquity, for they rule supreme here. Hells of gambling are on every corner..." 5 November: He finds Stockton "a miniature San Francisco," a tent city, "the inhabitants and business about the same." On 14 November, "election day," Jenks votes "for the [state] Constitution--without Slavery." 2 December: He is finally at the gold mines, at Chinese Camp, but he experiences more setbacks. He has a falling out with John Horton, the man with whom he is prospecting, and has to go to the alcalde, to enforce a settlement. But Horton or an accomplice robs Jenks of about $250 in his tent while he sleeps, leaving him utterly penniless and unable to buy provisions. He "grubbed along" for the next month. 1 February 1850 finds him "as poor as ever. My efforts do not seem to be crowned with that degree of success that in my opinion they deserve." Only in December 1850 does he start to have some modest success prospecting: "Since the first of November myself and partner have taken out of our claim $1,350 worth of gold. This has been the first lucky strike I have made in a years mining, but 'better late than never.'" He closes the first journal by relating the tragic story of one of the casino dealers, a once prosperous merchant from Missouri who suffered reverses that drove him west in 1849. After initial success he fell in with a woman in the gambling halls, 10 years his senior, who led him to lose his fortune and abandon his wife and children. "His mutilated countenance and disfigured limbs tell their own story--gambler, duelist and debauchee are written in every feature..." He is "probably one of the most depraved and hardened and reckless of all the sinister characters in San Francisco." Diary No. 2 Frustrated by his failures at gold prospecting in San Francisco, Jenks tries to make a go of it as a merchant's clerk in the northern California town of Yreka, on the California-Oregon border. But he ultimately returns to gold prospecting and sees several deadly encounters between whites and Indians. In April and May 1853, he is desperately ill with "ague" and raving fevers. "But it is horrible to be so sick as I am, alone, not a cent of money, not bed clothes enough to keep me warm when the ague is on me...Oh my God did I ever think that I should be reduced so low as this..." A sibling (probably his sister Maria), moved by this tale of suffering and loneliness, has written in pencil underneath: "O my poor brother why was you to suffer this. God only knows, and He is a just & wise God too." 4 July 1853: "If some of our good eastern friends could take a peep into this part of the world just now and see the roads strewn with dead mules, horses, oxen and broken wagons and knew that each one of these was a putrefying monument or trace left by these red devils to mark the spot where the most inhuman butcheries had been committed..." In September 1853, he was owed $1,500 in back pay from Yreka merchants, "every one of them able to pay me...But...they don't feel disposed to pay it..." With winter approaching he returns to gold prospecting in the Indian-controlled wilderness areas: "it don't make much difference whether I waste away by want of proper food ...or am knocked down by a rifle ball from some red skin's gun." 8 December 1853: "A Jew asked permission to join us today as he was afraid to go through alone on account of the Indians. We of course were willing he should and we jogged along down the valley together." 1 January 1854: "Nine tenths of the people here would return home tomorrow if they could get there...If people at home only could learn from the experience of others there would not be such a rush out here every spring. The chances are worse than any lottery that I ever heard of." 22 January 1854: "Many say now 'Oh if I had only been here in 49 I would have been all right.' Yes, yes. But I say as it is now so was it then. Many a one did not make over expenses." He could even look upon his misfortunes with a grim sense of humor. April 1854: "The newspapers say that only have patience, you are bound to strike it, be Job like. But between you and me old father Job never mined it for gold..." In late 1854 and early 1855 he comments much about the Indian war raging in Oregon. "Over 120 whites are known to have been killed by the poor Indians in Rogue River valley this season." 9 March 1856: "This week we have received news from Crescent city and were pained to hear of another horrible massacre of whites by the Indians at the mouth of Rogue River. Report says that every settler on the south side have been killed some 20 in all..." 21 May 1856: "The Chinese are flocking in here by droves, but they generally pass on through to either Klamath or Rogue River, they preferring poor diggings and plenty of water to a little better diggings and no water. And they are right in that." Diary No. 3 Jenks makes an uneasy return to Eastern society in this third journal, which begins with him still in Yreka, and still struggling. 4 July 1857: "Yesterday I had an offer for my claim...I concluded to sell, and return home, at least for a visit. Although if I can find anything to do there I shall stop for good." 6 July: "Having squared all up. I started this morning for home." On the 14th he is back in San Francisco, "this Phoenix like city....No other city in the world I will venture to say presents just such a variety of nations as this." There are Chinese stores, "Mexican Fandangos, the French Cafes the English porter shops, &c, &c, all nations and tongues are here." He travels by sea to Mexico, Panama City, across the isthmus to Aspinwall and a steamer bound for New York City. 14 August 1857: "No one who has not been placed in a similar situation can imagine what my feelings are as I appeared home after an absence of over eight years. How I watch for the old land marks..." 15 August he is "Home Again. At about 11 o'clock I arrived in Pawtucket, my heart was in my mouth. I never was so excited in my life." His parents and sisters knew nothing of his return. But his initial euphoria quickly cools. His timing was terrible. 1857 was a depression year. California friends wrote to tell him that the claim he sold out was now paying well. "Such is my luck." More than anything he felt an emotional and psychological estrangement with life back in the East. 1 October 1858: "Thus it is one after another return, but few are satisfied to remain here. And but few are aware of the secrets of this discontent. But to one of the initiated it is no mystery." Several leaves are torn out after this entry--whether by Jenks or a censoring family member, we cannot know. 4 December 1858: "I have no desire to engage in mining again if I can help it and therefore shall endeavor to find some other occupation if possible. If not why then I can try mining, confident that I have as much practical knowledge of gold placer mining as any one in Kansas." On 16 January 1859, he makes a lengthy extract from a newspaper article about the curious attitudes of returned "49-ers" "which so fully corroborates what I have so often affirmed respecting the wanderers feelings upon his return." The article noted how so many returned eager to resume their former life in the East, only to find themselves quickly discontented and eager to return to California. They find, to their shock, that life has gone on without them, and old friends and even family members regard them differently. "They are not now a part of the society. They are in one sense strangers. They belong to a different time and place and are of secondary consideration to those who once looked to them as dearest and nearest friends..." He closes this brief, unhappy journal in February 1859, with an emotional farewell to his parents and sisters, as he prepared for "my new trip to the Rocky Mountains." He goes, this time, with no illusions of finding wealth. He is only certain that his place is no longer in Pawtucket. -3
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Estimated Price USD 60,000.00 - 80,000.00
Actual Price USD 104,500.00

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AUCTION DETAILS

Auction House Christies
Website http://www.christies.com
Auction Name Books and Manuscripts Session I
Sale Number #2607
Auction Date December 7, 2012 - December 7, 2012
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