Nest day, Lacosse and McPhail, attended by Horry, and driving two extra horses, rode down to the Mormon diggings, for the purpose of getting up the provisions which we had left behind. Meantime, I walked out to reconnoitre our new quarters. I soon arrived at the mills, and saw the spot where the discovery of the gold had first been made, by the torrent laying bare the sides of the mill-race. Here I met Mr. Marshall again. Of course the operations of the saw-mill had been stopped, for the workmen were employed in the vicinity, either above or below the works, digging and washing on their own account. Mr. Marshall paid the Indians he had at work chiefly in merchandize. I saw a portion of the gang, the men dressed for the most part in cotton drawers and mocassins, leaving the upper part of the body naked. They worked with the same implements as those used in the lower washings. Not far from the place where most of them were employed, I saw a number of the women and children pounding acorns in a hollow block of wood with an oblong stone. Of the acorn flour thus produced they made a sort of dry, hard, unpalatable bread, which assuredly none but an Indian stomach could digest.
Upon instituting a more particular search into the nature of the country and our prospects, we found that the places where the gold was found in the greatest abundance, and in the largest masses, were the beds of the mountain torrents, now dry, which occasionally descend into both the forks of the stream. We clambered up some of those precipitous ravines, and observed, upon several occasions, as we scrambled among the shingle, shining spangles of gold. The soil was evidently richly charged; but the great disadvantage was the comparative distance from water, in the evening our friends arrived from the lower diggings, with the provisions all safe and sound, and the next day we determined to set to work.
July 3rd.—Selecting a likely place in the heart of a steep mountain gorge, we transported thither the larger Indian baskets which we had purchased at Sutter’s Fort, and, shovelling the earth into them, passed poles, cut from the nearest pine tree, through the rope-handles we had affixed to these baskets. Resting the poles on our shoulders, we carried the loaded baskets to the brink of the stream, and then set to work after the old fashion, with our hands in the baskets. Our success was great, and the day’s return shows a decided improvement upon the Mormon diggings. The soil here is more richly impregnated with gold than below; but the labour of carrying the earth to the water is excessive, and I am so tired this evening that I very reluctantly opened my journal to make this short entry.
July 4th.—As we were starting off to the river with our first basket loads of gravel this morning, Lacosse suddenly remarked that he did not see why the horses should be living like gentlemen when the gentlemen were working like horses; and he proposed to use the shoulders of our nags, instead of our own, for the conveyance of the earth. We all fell in with this proposal, wondering it had never struck us before, and the horses were soon fetched from their comfortable quarters among the tall rank grass, and set to work, with the baskets slung over their backs, like panniers.