This Week's Story

Edward is going to the California gold fields! What will he find?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

I want to be there! part two

“My son Edward has gone to California!”

“Lizbeth, does he have gold fever like my husband George?”

“Laura, I don’t know! Edward’s dad and I saved money for fifteen years so that Edward could become a doctor. Now what do we have?   A letter!  Read it to me.  I want to know Edward’s last words.”

“Lizbeth, don’t be so dramatic.  You can pray for Edward’s safe return.  I pray every day that my husband George will return safely, rich or poor.”

“Pray for Edward’s return?  I know what will happen to him.  He will get to New Orleans and maybe, to the Isthmus of Panama.  Then he’ll bump across the country in a stagecoach, and buy a bogus boat ticket to San Francisco.  I hear that there are lots of crooked sales of tickets.  I suspect my son will die in a dirty town outside of Panama City.  Maybe he took some medical supplies with him.  He might save himself.

“Lizbeth, listen to Edward’s letter.”

“Dear Mother and Father,

I know you have worked hard to help me get my medical degree. However, I am leaving my medical practice here in Missouri and going to California.  I am going, but not as a gold bug!

I have waited a year since hearing that Lieutenant Beale took 230 ounces of gold from the California gold fields to Washington D.C.   Mother, he gave official proof that gold is to be found in California.  Men from around the world will be there.  I want to be there as a doctor in the roughness, struggles, dreams, and discoveries.

With love, your son,

Edward

As Lizbeth fretted for her son and Laura prayed for her husband, Edward travelled.  Within four months he was in San Francisco.  His only hitch was waiting three weeks for a ride aboard a steamer out of Panama City.   Boats were packed with men in line before him.

“A miner in San Francisco advised him, “Go to Chili Gulch.  It has the richest placer mining in Calaveras County.  Camps are closing, but new ones open when there’s a new gold strike.  Last year, in 1849, more than ten million ounces of gold were mined.   Men keep coming, thousands of them. Chili Gulch is going to be around a while and they need a doctor.  Don’t worry about the Chilean War.”

Edward asked, “What are you talking about?”

“Last year about thirty miners from Chile were mining there and some Americans showed up.  They figured the Chileans were foreigners and had no business getting more gold than the Americans were.  So they started a ruckus.

A doctor with medicine would have been handy.  Things are settled down now.”

“What keeps a doctor busy in the camps?”

“The living conditions! Food is usually terrible—no fresh fruit or vegetables.  Many camps are filthy with garbage and human waste.  So you’ll treat scurvy, dysentery, and smallpox. That means loose teeth, spongy gums, and blood; diarrhea; and contagion. Guys work hard, break bones, smash hands, and get bad backs.

“Sundays are free.  Some guys lose their money with cards, gambling, drink, and maybe a woman.  Some go to a gospel meeting, when a missionary comes.  I guess the choice is a bottle of whiskey or a Bible.

“Some men go home broke.  A few return home rich.  Some stay in California.  Some abandon their families.  Others get their families and bring them back to California.  This is land for pioneers.  We’re not a state yet, just a U.S. territory.  We’re the West that touches the Pacific Ocean with land to spare.”

A year later Edward became one of the settlers.

This is Barbara Steiner. The events surrounding Edward’s trip are historically accurate. Some of the gold strike sites can be visited now on California State Route 49.

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