The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52 cover

The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52

Dame Shirley (d.1906)

1. 00 – Introduction
2. Letter 01 – The Journey to Rich Bar
3. Letter 02 – Rich Bar – Its Hotels and Pioneer Families
4. Letter 03 – Life and Fortune at the Bar-Diggings
5. Letter 04 – Accidents-Surgery-Death-Festivity
6. Letter 05 – Death of a Mother – Life of Pioneer Women
7. Letter 06 – Use of Profanity – Uncertainty of Mining
8. Letter 07 – The New Log-cabin Home at Indian Bar
9. Letter 08 – Life and Characters at Indian Bar
10. Letter 09 – Theft of Gold-Dust – Trial and Punishment
11. Letter 10 – Amateur Mining-Hairbreadth ‘Scapes, &c.
12. Letter 11 – Robbery, Trial, Execution – More Tragedy
13. Letter 12 – A Stormy Winter – Holiday Saturnalias
14. Letter 13 – Sociability and Excitements of Mining-life
15. Letter 14 – Springtide – Linguistics – Storms – Accidents
16. Letter 15 – Mining Methods – Miners, Gamblers, Etc.
17. Letter 16 – Birth – Stabbing – Foreigners Ousted – Revels
18. Letter 17 – Supplies by Pack-Mules – Kanakas and Indians
19. Letter 18 – Fourth of July Festival – Spanish Attacked
20. Letter 19 – Murder, Theft, Riot, Hanging, Whipping, &c.
21. Letter 20 – Murder – Mining Scenes – Spanish Breakfast
22. Letter 21 – Discomforts of Trip to Political Convention
23. Letter 22 – The Overland Tide of Immigration
24. Letter 23 – Mining Failures – Departure from Indian Bar

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Summary

Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe moved to California from Massachusetts during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800’s. During her travels, Louise was offered the opportunity to write for The Herald about her travel adventures. It was at this point that Louise chose the name “Shirley” as her pen name. Dame Shirley wrote a series of 23 letters to her sister Mary Jane (also known as Molly) in Massachusetts in 1851 and 1852. The “Shirley Letters”, as the collected whole later became known, gave true accounts of life in two gold mining camps on the Feather River in the 1850s. She described these camps in Northern California with vividness in portraying the wildness of Gold Rush life. The letters give detailed accounts of the vast and beautiful landscape that was the background to the hustle and bustle of mining life. Louise’s perspective as a woman provided a contrast to the typically all-male mining camps that she occupied. The letters were later published in the Pioneer, a California literary magazine based out of San Francisco.