“The next day I rode back to the Fort, organised a labouring party, set the carpenters to work on a few necessary matters, and the next day accompanied them to a point of the Fork, where they encamped for the night. By the following morning I had a party of fifty Indians fairly at work. The way we first managed was to shovel the soil into small buckets, or into some of our famous Indian baskets; then wash all the light earth out, and pick away the stones; after this, we dried the sand on pieces of canvas, and with long reeds blew away all but the gold. I have now some rude machines in use, and upwards of one hundred men employed, chiefly Indians, who are well fed, and who are allowed whisky three times a-day.
“The report soon spread. Some of the gold was sent to San Francisco, and crowds of people flocked to the diggings. Added to this, a large emigrant party of Mormons entered California across the Rocky Mountains, just as the affair was first made known. They halted at once, and set to work on a spot some thirty miles from here, where a few of them still remain. When I was last up at the diggings, there were full eight hundred men at work, at one place and another, with perhaps something like three hundred more passing backwards and forwards between here and the mines. I at first imagined the gold would soon be exhausted by such crowds of seekers, but subsequent observations have convinced me that it will take many years to bring about such a result, even with ten times the present number of people employed.
“What surprises me,” continued the Captain, “is that this country should have been visited by so many scientific men, and that not one of them should have ever stumbled upon these treasures; that scores of keen-eyed trappers should have crossed this valley in every direction, and tribes of Indians have dwelt in it for centuries, and yet that this gold should have never been discovered. I myself have passed the very spot above a hundred times during the last ten years, but was just as blind as the rest of them, so I must not wonder at the discovery not having been made earlier.”
While the Captain was proceeding with his narrative, I must confess that I felt so excited on the subject as to wish to start off immediately on our journey. When he had finished, I walked off to see after the horses, but, although they were ready, the additional shoes we wanted to carry with us would not be furnished for several hours; it was late in the afternoon before we got them. We bought two horses of Captain Sutter (very strong animals), and McPhail managed to engage a big lad as a servant—a rough-looking fellow, who appears to have deserted from some ship, and worked his way up here. All things considered, it was agreed that we should remain here another night, and resume our march as early as we could in the morning.