WCP1284

Transcription (WCP1284.1063)

[1]

13. Letter from Columbia, May 8th, 1853.1

You have, heard of course heard of the Errickson Caloric Engine2, and I suppose you will have an opportunity of seeing it; from the description it [2] appears an ingenious contriveance3, but I have no doubt great improvements will yet be made upon it….I am fully employed with the business of my responsible and arduous duties, and the. I frequently have to get up in the middle of the night when anything happens to the ditch, summon a force of labourers and repair the damage if possible, before day light, and I am constantly employed in laying out branch ditches, building dams and bridges, fluming across valleys etc., besides a general supervision of the whole line which extends about forty miles in length and some of it over the roughest country and steepest hillsides you ever saw. I have measured the angle of some of the hillsides and found them less than 45° from the perpendicular, with a roaring river 15 hundred feet in perpendicular height below our flume, while the top of the mountain was about a thousand feet above it. These are some of the California hills.

This typescript copy of this letter from 8th May 1853 begins at the bottom of page 8.
In 1851 the Ericsson Caloric Engine invented by John Ericsson was used to power a 2,000-ton ship and ran flawlessly for 72 hours.
Archaic form of contrivance.

Transcription (WCP1284.7660)

[1]

Columbia, Tuolumne County, Cal.1

May 8th 1853

Dear Alfred,

Since I wrote last I have been anxiously waiting to receive another letter from you or some of the "Old folks at home", but as yet I have not realized my anticipations, still I may before I dispatch this. As I have a few moments now to spare, I shall devote it in the first place to business. Enclosed you will find a full statement of the account between us as taken from the book. I have no recollection of any particulars of the several items, except that they were entered in the book at the time. The sums were paid or received, and therefore they are substantially correct, and I do not think ther[e] was anything else between us except what we put down in one way or other in the book. It therefore appears that I am in your debt Lb.116.2.3. I am fearful of making any promises as to the time when I shall be able to liqudate [sic] it as ther[e] are so many steps betweed [sic] the cup and the lip in California, but I am in hopes that in less than in less than six months I shall be able to send enough to pay off all my indebtedness, including the borrowed money, and then I shall be able to go ahead a free man in every respect. I expect the best way will be to send a draft payable to you and you can settle the whole business. It strikes me that there may be some little balance in your favour in the hands of Mr. Randale of Neath as there were some small unsettled accounts left with him, but I cannot now recollect any particulars. John Williams may perhaps recollect or know something about it as ther[e] was some accounts relative to tithe [sic] business which I sent word to him when I was in London to get some imformation [sic] for the Commissioners, but at present I have a very confused and indistinct idea about it, and therefore cannot give you any reliable particulars. Let me know whether you receive many papers. I generally send one or two every mail, they may not be very interesting, but may give you some idea of the life in the mines. I should like to have the Illustrated News or Times occasionally as I can not get much English news here. Let me know when you send them, so that I may enquire at once at the Post Office, otherwise I shall nott [sic] get them. You have of course read "Uncle Tom's Cabin".2 It is certainly a wonderful work, but I am rather surprised that it had such an extensive sale in America, as it is very severe upon the Northern prejudice as well as the Southern slave holders. I know several Americans here that were afraid to read it, and they acknowledged to me thath [sic] they had certain prejudices against colored people that they could not help, and therefore they knew they could take no interest in such a work. I also know a Souther[n] man that would not read it because he said that it could not alter his opinion on the slavery question and therefore he should not have patience to go through with it. I was however both amused and interested in it from the nature of the narrative, the manner in which it is written, as well as the many humerous [sic] and pathetic passages which occur throughout the whole book. Fanny3 would I know appreciate the throughness [sic] with which Southern life is delinated [sic] as well as the peculiarities of the domestic slaves, which bears the stamp of genuniness [sic], without being overdone.

We have a very fine spring this year, being warm with occasional showers, although the rain is very much against our peculiar interests. The face of the country presents a beautiful and variegated appearance from the numerous flowers that cover its surface. There is very little grass grows here, but in spring the hills and vallies are thickly covered with a rich herbage of flowers among which horses and cattle find a luxurious repast. It is rather singular that the prevailing colour is yellow, as indicating the golden harvest hidden beneath the surface, occasionally a very blue patch is observed as typical of the appearance to the unlucky miner and the general greenness is the characteristic of all new comers. As summer advances, the heat and dryness of the atmosphere soon changes the appearance of the landscape, the flowers shed their seeds and wither [2] away, and towards autumn the country presents a barren and sterile appearance, and the hills and vallies as well as many unlucky miners appear to be done brown. I cannot enumerate many of the flowers that grow abundantly here as many of them are new to me, but there are quantities of wild sun flowers, lupins of various colours, buttercups, heartsease, marigolds, golden poppies, and a whole host of others which I cannot now think of.

You have of course heard of the Errickson Caloric Engine4, and I suppose you will soon have an opportunity of seeing it; from the description, it appears an ingenious contrivance, but I have no doubt great improvements will yet be made upon it. Write often and let me know all that is going on in the great Metropolis, and the wonders of the new Crystal Palace,5 etc. I have very little time now to write, as I am fully employed with the business of my responsible and arduous duties, and therefore a letter to you must do for the whole family. I frequently have to get up in the middle of the night when anything happens to the ditch, summon a force of laboure[r]s and repair the damage if possible, before day light, and I am constantly employed in laying out branchh [sic] ditches, building dams and bridges, fluming accross [sic] vallies etc., besides a general supervision of the whole line which extends about forty miles in length and some of it over the roughest countr[y] and steepest hillsides you ever saw. I have measured the angle of some of the hillsides and found them less than 45º from the perpendicular, with a roaring river1 [sic] 15 hundred feet in perpendicular height below our flume, while the top of the mountain was about a thousand feet above it. These are some of the California hills.

I hope you will not neglect to send me an answer to the questions propounded in my last letter, and also any imformation [sic] concerning running water in flumes and ditches which you can obtain from works on the subject, or any theories of your own which you may have formed and which perhaps I may be able to throw some light upon by practical observation. Qu[estion]. does the flowing of water in a channel follow the same laws as a moving body in water.

I have not yet received any letter so I shall dispatch this today, the 8th of May. The mail now leaves every weekm [sic] and letters ought to reach England in a little more than a month. With love to all at home

I remain Your affectionate Brother | John Wallace. [signature]

Colombia was the largest of the towns in early Ttuolumne County, California. Gold was discovered there in 1850. Coates, Frank C. 1934. The Early History of Tuolumne County. University of the Pacific Thesis. <https://scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/uop_etds/946/?utm_source=scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/uop_etds/946&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages> [accessed 25 Feb. 2022]
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. 1852. Uncle Tom's Cabin: or, Life Among the Lowly. Boston and Cleveland: John P. Jewett. This abolitionist novel dramatised the experience of slavery.
Sims (née Wallace), Frances ("Fanny") (1812-1893). Sister of ARW; teacher.
A combustion engine invented by Swedish born John Ericsson. <https://genuineideas.com/HallofInventions/SolarPivots/ericssonengine.htm> [accessed 17 May 2020].
The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park, London in 1851. Afterwards it was taken down and re-built, between 1852 and 1854, in the area now knowm as Crystal Palce in South London. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2021. Crystal Palace. Encyclopaedia Britannica < https://www.britannica.com/topic/Crystal-Palace-building-London> [accessed 4 July 2022]

Please cite as “WCP1284,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 29 February 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1284