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Title: John Wightman jun., San Francisco to John Wightman, Belfast
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileWightman, John Jr/19
SenderWightman, John Jr.
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender Religionunknown
OriginSan Francisco, California, USA
DestinationBelfast, N.Ireland
RecipientEditor of the Belfast News-Letter
Recipient Gendermale
Relationshipsends letter to newspaper, penned by
SourceThe Belfast News-Letter, Friday, 3 October, 1862.
ArchiveThe Central Library, Belfast
Doc. No.104158
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 30:04:01.
Word Count1011

Belfast, Sept. 29, 1862.

To the Editor of the Belfast News-Letter.

Sir - As this colony has excited a good deal of
interest, I feel called upon, in order to let the public
know the state of affairs in that country, to insert
some extracts from a letter I have just received from
my son.
John Wightman.

"San Francisco, Aug.20, 1862.
" On the 5th June I started from Victoria, V.I.
[Vancouver Island?], in a steamer for New Westminster.
Our party of five bought a tent and some provisions for
our journey. New Westminster is a nice little town,
where soldiers are quartered. We left in two days for
Douglas, in another steamer. We walked about twelve
miles a-day on an average on the way up to the mines.
I went by Douglas, Lillooet, and the Brigade Trail, and
thus walked 349 miles to Antler Creek. In among these
lakes the road lies alongside of rivers that run from one
lake to another. We are at the base of stupendous and
almost perpendicular mountains, covered with snow all the
time. It took a week to go to Lillooet. We crossed the
lakes in small steamers, for which we paid one dollar each
lake; and here, I may say, our journey only commenced, as
we had been walking in a waggon road, but now we were to
take the Trail for it. The Trail is a path made by blazing
the trees, and this, in some parts, is the worst Trail ever
man travelled, especially near Cariboo, as there it rains a
great deal every day. We laid in a new stock of provisions
at Lillooet at from 1s to 2s per lb. - flour, beans, and
bacon, which is nearly all the food to be had, except at
Victoria, V.I. [Vancouver Island?]. I started with fifteen
in company, and of that lot I only went to the mines; the
others turned from bad accounts - mosquitoes, bad roads, and
want of money. The first house after we left Lillooet that
we came to, we were charged 2s 6d per lb. for flour, and it
increased graduallly till we got to the mines, when it was
5s per lb.; tea,10s; box of matches, 3s, and everything in
proportion. These high prices were owing to the rush of
people, and want of pack-horses. If all the people that
went to Cariboo had stopped there they would have died of
starvation. I met about 100 to 150 every day coming back,
and all giving a fearful account of the place, but I was
bound to see it, and would not turn till I had. It took me
a month to go, and I hope never again to see such a place.
Talk about a small farmer doing well there; he might as well
be in the moon. or on the top of the Himalaya Mountains.
Nothing will grow but stunted trees; nothing could ripen;
nothing could be saved from the rain; no animal would live
there, as it is all rain in the Summer, three months, and
snow in the Winter, nine months; all mountains, trees, and
water, and nothing else. As to the gold, there is plenty
of it, but it is all claimed, and outside of the claims
there is none to be got, nor will it ever be a good country
if one hundred times the gold were found. I stopped a week
in the mines to see it, and be able to tell something about
it, and then set off for San Francisco, as in British Columbia
I do not want to live, where every thing and every person are
almost as wild as savages. The men who went up this year are
all broken, as they had only as much money as would take them
there, and many not so much as that, and, as there was not
work for them in Cariboo, and no more gold to be found, they
had to beg their way down as best they could. One nice lot
of young Englishmen have come to grief; they are in hard work,
at wages they can only live on, and will get no work in the
Winter. As an instance, one who was educated for a clergyman
of the Church of England dug a grave in Victoria, V.I.
[Vancouver Island?] When I was there I was broken myself; but, as I had
good friends, I did not mind that much. I never gave way to
despair, as some of them did; but I hope no friend of mine
will ever pull up at another Cariboo, or, as they call it here,
Bugaboo. Plenty of men have and will make fortunes; but the
masses will never get their heads above water. Capitalists
would make well in the country, but not at mining; they would
be almost certain to lose at that; but at store-keeping or
packing they would make a fortune. 10,000 people took their chance in
it, with, say £100 each, and out of the lot not more than 500 to
1,000 will make anything, and not near so much gold will come
out of the mines this year as has been spent in looking for it.
The United States Consul sent 400 down free, as they threatened
to burn down Victoria, V.I., [Vancouver Island?] and would have
done so. It is untrue about so much game being in the country.
I did not see more than a dozen birds worth shooting on the
whole route, the birds' instinct being of more use to them there than
man's reason to him. Let no friend of mine go to Cariboo unless he
has money to lose, and plenty of friends to help him, for it
is just a small chance if he is able to get along, and a very
small chance of his making a fortune. The party who brought
us all on this fool's errand never was within 300 miles of
the mines, and his brother, who has a claim in Cariboo, had
not as much as would buy his supper when I saw him.