Ohio History Journal

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An Ohioan's Letter

from the



Fields in 1850

The discovery of gold at Sutter's mill in California's lower Sacramento

Valley in 1848 precipitated one of the most massive and spontaneous

westward migrations in American history. Responding to the avalanche

of propaganda emanating from the California gold fields and spurred on

by numerous exaggerated newspaper and magazine accounts of the alleged

untapped and unlimited yellow treasure of the Far West, thousands of

easterners left family and home to make the trek to what they considered

to be the fabled El Dorado.1

Unfortunately for many if not most of these eastern adventurers and

fortune seekers, disappointment and disillusionment greeted them upon their

arrival in California. By mid-1849 most of the best mining sites already had

been appropriated and all that remained were abandoned mines and worth-

less marginal regions. Confronted with these circumstances, many would-be

miners wandered from camp to camp in search of employment, hoping there-

by to earn enough money to return home. Such was the case of Dr. Philip

John Hines, a resident of Van Wert, Ohio, who began his journey to California

on March 12, 1850.2