Gold Rush prospector letters valued at $30,000

PBA Galleries is to sell an archive of 36 letters from a pair of Gold Rush prospectors.

Brothers John and Thomas Emery travelled from Canada down to California in the mid-1850s to seek their fortune.

Gold Rush letters

The brothers regale their family with horror stories of life in the gold camps 

The letters are addressed to their family back home and date from 1855-1858.

They offer an extraordinary insight in to what life was like in the mining camps.

Like many young men of their generation, the Emerys jumped at the chance to get rich quick rather than toil away on the family farm.

As it turned out, life in California was significantly harder than they anticipated.

Many of the letters reference the limited availability of food and water.

On July 15, 1855 John writes: “There is no water and nothing doing. We have been getting timber for some flumes at $8 a day.

“Tom and some of the other boys had 10 c per feet. They cleared $200 in 24 Days. I will send mother a ring by the mail. I dug the gold myself.”

One letter sent from a camp on the north fork of the Tuolumne river in November 1857 reads: “…it seems as if all the Desperados and reckless men in Tuolumne County had collected about here there is hardly a day but there is a fight in fact not a Sunday but there is several and not with fists but with pistols and knives…”

The lot is valued at $20,000-30,000 ahead of the June 29 Americana sale.

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