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Thurstin Baxter letter to his wife and children, El Dorado County, California

Excerpt of a handwritten letter from Thurstin Baxter to his wife and children.
Baxter, Thurstin
1852 April 11
Pictorial Lettersheet

Thurstin Baxter letter to his wife and children, El Dorado County, California, April 11, 1852; MS Vault 165; California Historical Society.

Excerpt from letter: “I have written to you in other letters in regard to our being in business here, with other men. (Bull?)(Hull?) and I are only in company now. We have a garden, as I have written before. We have about three acres of it in potatoes, beets, some of different kinds.” This letter was written in 1852 by a person who lived in California without his family. Thurston Baxter explains in this letter that he was trying to make money and survive. But he also tells his family how much he misses them and how hard it is to work and live apart. Do you think this man lived and worked in California for push or pull reasons, or maybe some of both?

This letter was written in 1852, during the California Gold Rush — more than 50 years before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, where the majority of the other sources in this inquiry set come from. The person who wrote this letter came to California without his family. He found different ways to make money and survive. This letter offers some examples of what Thurston Baxter wanted to do in California. Although this letter does not explicitly state that Baxter came for the Gold Rush, given the year of his migration and the fact that he appears to have come for economic reasons, his letter illustrates the daily life of Gold Rush era migrants. Students may make connections about families separated due to economic circumstance. This source can also be an example of pull or push factors in motivating his migration to California.

Dear Wife and Children,

I now write again a few lines to you. I’m yet alive and well and in Calif. I have had no letter from you since your November letter and the reason why I have had none I know not, whether it is the winter’s cold chilling blast in connection with the trouble that you have, has made you sick or whether you have delayed writing in consequence of expecting me home I am anxious to know and also the disposition that is made of the debts, farm, and the cows. I have written to you in other letters in regard to our being in business here, with other men. (Bull?)(Hull?) and I are only in company now. We have a garden, as I have written before. We have about three acres of it in potatoes, beets, some of different kinds. We have an acre of potatoes, in a few days more will answer to hoe. We can plant and sow here any time of the year. I have seen two winters of my life without putting my feet on snow or shivering in the winter’s breeze. We have a mining claim in Spanish dry diggings. We begun to work on it as soon as the rain commenced in March