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    Description

    Gold Rush Diary of Abraham Morton, 1852-1854. 3.75" x 5.75", 88 pages (12 blank; several pages have been removed); pocket diary, bound in black leather with flap, dating from October 19, 1852 to July 29, 1854. Entries are in pen. The first written page has the following: "The property of //Abraham Morton// Pardeeville, Columbia Co// State of Wisconsin//I left home October//the 19th 1852//My wife's name is//Lavinia Morton."

    The first entries simply state the dates of letters Morton wrote to his wrote to his wife. On November 5, 1852, Morton records that he "Sailed from New York...on the Steam Ship Georgia, endured a hard storm crossing the gulf Stream." He later records that he "arrived in the city of San Francisco Dec. 6 th making the entire voyage from NYork to California in 31 days." Sometime after going to the "Southern mines" in Sonora, Morton got sick and wrote in late December of his distressed state: "Oh woe is me! Sick and disconsolate.... Oh the tortures of burning fever, drooping along between life and death and among strangers."

    Morton returned to San Francisco by January 6, 1853. Later in that year, on June 10 and 11, he records two duels, which led to the deaths of two of the participants, which highlights the rough life of gold miners. During 1853, Morton picked up work at various places, including a brick works business. On December 29 he wrote down long comments on the year that was ending. "The year has almost passed away now, has transpired a thousand things around me! The scene has been checkered with sickness, loss of time and misfortune but enough of luck and good fortune to inspire ambitious hope and keep the heart whole...and raise anticipation for the happy scenes in life to come."

    On January 16, 1854, Morton records a story he probably heard during his travels. He wrote "To keep in mind I here set down the story of the Paddy and the pig. Pat on his way to the Parson with his master's Pig stopped to the tavern for a drink when the landlord put a puppy in place of the pig. On delivery to the parson Pat found the puppy and he turned. Stopping for another drink when the pig was put in place of the puppy. Pat arrived home again found the pig and said he could be pig or puppy as he pleased." Early in 1854 Morton was sick again, this time with influenza and headaches. After recording letters he wrote on February 17, Morton wrote a long entry on memories of his childhood, which was followed by an equally long passage on crime in San Francisco. "How unpleasant to live in a country where murders and robberies are daily committed, and the wicked perpetrators of crime go unwhipped of justice. Where licenses by legal authorities are granted to gambling houses, to tippling shops, till they have become almost as numerous as all other houses of business put together and the most degrading of all where a legal existence is given by license to houses of ill fame, those dens of pollution where order and decency are scoffed at and morality is but a word. I may safely say that probably more than a thousand murders have been committed within the last year in the city of San Francisco and no one has expiated his guilt upon the gallows. And more than thousand robberies have been committed and but few have met the just retribution of their offenses. Where the officers are corrupt and the law is administered by wicked and unprincipled men, how can it be otherwise. Drunkenness and crimes of less magnitude are daily punished by fine and imprisonment and severely too, while crimes of less magnitude are suffered to pass almost unnoticed. Tis no wonder to me that so many persons in the Atlantic state lose their friends in California and never know how they came to their ends, for added to the above causes, there are hundreds who stumble off into the bay and are lost."

    Many of the longer passages in Morton's diary relate to his views, good and bad, concerning life in California. "What is life in California," Morton wrote on July 13, 1854, is that "One day the rich man may bask in the sunshine of voluptuous life and the next he may be on a level with the beggar in the streets. At one time his prospects may be the most encouraging...and in a few days a reversal in his business and all his prospects are scattered to the winds." Three days later, Morton extolls California, despite all its pitfalls. "It seems as if all the enterprise of the world has concentrated in California. Her improvements are vast and rapid. Her valleys are productive, her mines are rich and inexhaustible and soon, very soon, this broad country is to be densely populated and to become the great emporium of wealth and in time, in the not far distant, the city of San Francisco is to become a very great, if not the very greatest, commercial depot of the whole world."

    The dairy is accompanied by transcriptions of selected passages.

    Abraham Morton (1804-1892) was born in Franklin County, Massachusetts, and subsequently moved to Ohio and then to Madison, Wisconsin. He worked for a while as a brick maker. In 1829, Morton married Lavinia Doolittle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and together they had three children. Morton is buried in Dane County, Wisconsin.

    Condition: The cover of the diary is somewhat rubbed and moderately worn, with a small, light stain on the lower left-hand corner; otherwise good. Several pages have been removed.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    19th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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