1854: Clark Jackson Shaw to Clark Carley Swift

This letter was written in 1854 by Clark Jackson Shaw (1825-1897) from Sacramento, California. He was married to Susannah Parker (1823-1898). Clark and Susannah are buried in Stockton, California.

Clark wrote the letter to his uncle and aunt, Clark Carley Swift (1807-1896) and Eunice (Lee) Swift (1815-1866) of Silver Creek, Chautauqua county, New York. Swift was a merchant in Silver Creek. Most likely Clark Shaw was the son of Clark Swift’s sister.


Addressed to C. C. Swift, Silver Creek, New York
Postmarked Sacramento, California

Office of California Steam Navigation Co.
Sacramento City, [California]
March 14, 1854

Dear Uncle & Aunt,

Your letter of Jany. 25th was received this evening. I am glad to hear you are all well & enjoying yourselves.

I can say likewise of our California friends. Lemuel is as usual. Willard & Elizabeth are well & still at Placerville, Eldorado county. He has given up selling goods & turns his whole attention to mining.

I returned last steamer to your village in a tin box by Express. “I hope you see me.” Do I look natural? “Ask Ms. Tew.” I paid $21 for those pictures — rather more expensive than at Silver Creek & had them both taken the same day. You must not let any of the girls fall in love with them pictures — particularly yours. I now have heard who Allen Howard married & I was surprised at Gurnsey’s choice altho she was a pretty girl. I think well of Cump’s choice. I came near falling in love with her myself. I think it is very strange that Uncle could not find Parker ¹ in Philadelphia. He has been at the Chestnut St. Theatre for the last 2 years & is well known by everybody most in Philadelphia as an actor. Tell Elyan I fear she does not try to look them up. I see persons here often who see them in Philadelphia.

You habobs at home are visiting the Crystal Palace, Capitol &c. while we poor Devils are left alone to work. You doubtless see by the papers that Sac[ramento] City has of late been made Capital of California. One of our boats was chartered to bring the archives &c. from Benicia at $5,000 taking 8 hours to make the trip.

Col. Snow is at Nevada about 75 miles from here. He has charge of a steam saw mill & will put up a quartz mill soon as agent for a Buffalo company. He says he did not think of coming here but about one week before he started. He is on a salary. I think he is over rating a certain “hombre” of my acquaintance in his estimate to your advisor.

Steam boating has changed of late in this country. All the boats in California have gone to a stock company — capital 2½ million. They now only have one agent in the different parts of all the boats. The agent at San Francisco gets $1,000 per month. At Sacramento $8,000 a year. At points above, $5,000. I am collector for Sacramento City, salary $2,000 per month & board which is equal to $3800 a year. My labor comes about 9 o’clock AM and ends at 3 P.M. So I have a good deal of time to attend to private affairs & can ____ course of the year look up some speculations.

Weather has been rather wet for a few days but is not very cold. On pleasant days [we] see the boys out with white vest. You would say they were forcing the season. This is a gay country for dress but I am old fashioned & plain as of old. We can see the snow on the mountains from here (75 miles) but it does not come down to the valley. They put water up in vats in the mountains & freeze it for ice for summer use. It sold readily here last summer at 2 to 30 cts. per pound. I have not received any paper from you.

Friend Purdue who worked for Ballard is in Sacramento. He is at work at his trade & is very well content. He gave me a pretty good history of Silver Creek since I left there.

T. W. Gould says he shall return April 1st. I think R. P. Johnson ² will be nominated for Mayor this Spring (here). If he is not elected, I think he will return to Whitfield.

I wish you could visit me in your travels & stay about a month.

If John is pretty keen & plenty of funds, send him out here. He could make money here with money. The only thing that keeps me poor is the want of funds to operate largely. Occasionally this is a good country for ch____ to operate.

I must close as I must write one more letter tonight — 3 & out. Tell Lee to write to me. Tell him to read my letters to you & imagine his name at the head. I write all I think would interest you all so you must say you have received a letter from me & consequently all must answer.

Your truly, — Clark J. Shaw

¹ Mr. J. Parker was the Acting and Stage Manager at the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in the early 1850s.

² Rossiter Preston Johnson (1811-1886) was elected the 8th Mayor of Sacramento, California, in 1854.

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