Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1849 - Vol. 1

By Kenneth L. Holmes | Go to book overview

Running a Boarding House in the Mines

INTRODUCTION

This volume has been filled with the primary written records of mainstream American women telling of an extraordinary experience. The records are personal, so much so that it is easy to imagine that any one of the women who wrote them would have been aghast to see how they are now being made so public -- for every one to read -- down to the minutest details. These were anonymous persons who will never again be anonymous. Alongside them traveled thousands who retained their anonymity. Such a one is the writer of the following short letter which appeared in an eastern newspaper not long after it was written.

It was published in the California Historical Quarterly of December, 1945, as an "Anonymous Letter from a Woman in the California Mining Country," and with that publication's permission, it is reprinted here.

We have now been keeping house three weeks. I have ten boarders, two of which we board for the rent. We have one hundred and eighty-nine dollars per week for the whole. We think we can make seventy-five of it clear of all expenses, but I assure you I have to work mighty hard -- I have to do all my cooking by a very small fire place, no oven, bake all my pies and bread in a dutch oven, have one small room about 14 feet square, and a little back room we use for a store room about as large as a piece of chalk. Then we have an open chamber over the whole, divided off by cloth. The gentlemen occupy the one

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