Thomas Edwin Mills California Gold Rush diary, 1852

Mills, Thomas Edwin, 1824-1887 [Browse]
Manuscript, Book
1 volume 8.5 x 12.5 cm (approximately 50 pages)


Library of Congress genre(s)
Getty AAT genre
Biographical/​Historical note
Thomas Edwin Mills was a gold miner who arrived in California a few years after the 1849 peak of the California Gold Rush. While he did not make a fortune at mining, he stayed on in California and found success in other realms. Mills was bom in Dunbarton, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, on November 11, 1824. After completing his studies at the Nashua Literary Institution around 1845, he spent the next seven years in management with the Concord & Northern Railroad. He departed for California from New York City in 1852, taking the route through Nicaragua to San Francisco via Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company. Mills first went to the mining town of Marysville, but finding few opportunities there, headed to Nevada City, where he labored as a miner for four years. He later worked in the lumbering business for three years and as a director of the Nevada Ice Company in the 1860s. Mills, along with his wife, Harriet, moved to Ventura County in 1876, where they owned a farm. Mills died in Ventura County, California, on December 1, 1887, and is buried at Cemetery Memorial Park.
Summary note
Consists of a manuscript diary of Thomas Edwin Mills describing his 1852 journey from Dunbarton, New Hampshire, to San Francisco, California, by way of Nicaragua, as well as his experiences as a gold miner in Marysville and Nevada City, California, during the California Gold Rush. The journal spans the period from January to November 1852, with more detailed entries documenting the months preceding and during his journey to California followed by sparser entries from his time as a gold miner, which indicate days he spent on his claim and amounts of gold mined. Mills traveled to California via Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company, which capitalized on the gold discoveries in California by transporting immigrants between New York City and San Francisco. The Accessory Transit Company, which transported nearly 90,000 people between 1851 and 1856, held complete control over a route through Nicaragua, which relied on a combination of coaches and steamers to ferry customers from the Atlantic to the Pacific. On the Atlantic Coast, travelers would arrive at the town of San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua, then proceed by steamer up the San Juan River to the east shore of Lake Nicaragua. Here, another steamer waited to ferry them across the lake to Rivas. A stage at Rivas would carry them across the 12-mile strip between the lake and the Pacific Coast, where a Vanderbilt steamer would carry them north to San Francisco. Mills boarded one of the Vanderbilt steamers in New York City on March 16, 1852. Arriving at San Juan del Norte, which he refers to by the British colonial name of Greytown, Mills remarks on the city's inhabitants, drunkenness and quarreling of passengers and the ship's captain, and local flora and fauna. Upon reaching the Pacific Coast, Mills boarded the steamer Independence for San Francisco. Mills describes how the ship met rough waters as it entered the Gulf of California, and two of the passengers died. After arriving in San Francisco on April 10, Mills traveled on to Sacramento two days later via the steamer New World; he first went to Marysville on April 13, and finding few mining opportunities there, headed to Nevada City the next day. At Nevada City and Deer Creek, he describes working on a claim with Wallace Caldwell, also of New Hampshire, along with a few other men. The end of the diary contains Mills's tallies of the weekly amounts of gold the men mined and divided among themselves during this time, as well as grocery bills and supply lists.
Binding note
Bound in a dark calf folding case, all edges gilt with a gilt title ("Diary, 1852") printed on the front flap.
Source acquisition
Purchase, 2017 AM 2018-42.
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