For a period of four years, beginning in 1860, William Henry Brewer travelled the length and breadth of California as part of the state’s first official geological survey, his role as the survey’s principal assistant providing him with a unique vantage point from which to document not just the state’s diverse flora and geology, but also its rapidly evolving social and economic conditions. Below is just one entry from the invaluable journal he kept—a detailed record of the area’s transformation during the tumultuous times of the Gold Rush that was later published as Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer.
The Diary Entry
15 Nov 1863
We passed what was once the town of Hamburg, two years ago a bustling village—a large cluster of miners’ cabins, three hotels, three stores, two billiard saloons, and all the other accompaniments of a mining town—now all is gone. The placers were worked out, the cabins became deserted, and the floods of two years ago finished its history by carrying off all the houses, or nearly all—the boards of the rest are now built into a cluster of a dozen huts. A camp of Klamath Indians on the river bank is the only population at present! Their faces were daubed with paint, their huts were squalid. Just below were some Indian graves. A little inclosure of sticks surrounded them. Each grave is a conical mound, and lying on them, or hanging on poles over them, are the worldly goods of the deceased—the baskets in which they gathered their acorns, their clothing and moccasins, arms and implements, strings of beads, and other ornaments—decaying along with their owners.
In contrast with this was a sadder sight—a cluster of graves of the miners who had died while the town remained. Boards had once been set up at their graves, but most had rotted off and fallen—the rest will soon follow. Bushes have grown over the graves, and soon they, as well as the old town, will be forgotten.
Friends in distant lands, mothers in far off homes, may still be wondering, often with a sigh, what has become of loved sons who years ago sought their fortunes in the land of gold, but who laid their bones on the banks of the Klamath and left no tidings behind. Alas, how many a sad history is hidden in the neglected and forgotten graves that are scattered among the wild mountains that face the Pacific!
Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer was published in 1930 by Yale University Press, edited by Francis P. Farquhar and with a preface by Russell H. Chittenden. It can now be read in a number of places online, including here.