“Every Variety of Professions”: Ships’ Passenger Lists from Two New England Gold Mining Companies in 1849

Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early California and Western American Pictorial Material, The Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California

by Leslie Myrick

In honor of Labor Day this post takes a look at what a couple of member lists of mining and trading companies that left for the California gold rush early in 1849 can tell us about the exodus of skilled tradesmen from Eastern cities and towns and the economic impact of that exodus. An estimated 50,000 people, primarily young men, traveled by land and sea from the Eastern states to seek new opportunities in California in the year 1849 alone.

Many, if not most, made the trip only to return within a year or two, but many emigrated permanently. Evidence from primary sources, such as ships’ manifests, journals, and letters, suggests that the men who headed west in 1849 were not “the fag ends of society,” as some critics of the emigration suggested, but tradesmen, artists, professional men, and farmers. While in some cases the rush to California may have provided a safety valve for over-represented trades or professions, e.g. farmers or physicians, in smaller towns and cities, at least, the gold rush years arguably qualify as one of the most colossal and extensive brain drains in human history.

The Fremont Mining and Trading Company of Hartford, Conn. was one of many joint stock ventures that were incorporated in response to the news of the discovery of gold in California in 1848. The group, which reportedly amassed a capital of $40,000, purchased the bark Selma, Orin Sellew, master, for a trip around the Horn to San Francisco, embarking on 11 April and arriving in the bay of San Francisco on 5 October. Upon arrival, the company broke up into small groups to work claims near the Yuba and Feather Rivers, where they were comparatively successful.

One of the company’s advertisements for members from the Hartford Daily Courant (3 February 1849) includes a short list of the current members’ array of trades: “Joiners, Shoe Makers, Tailors, Blacksmiths, Machinists, Painters, and in fact, every variety of professions[.]” The inclusion of such a list might well suggest that the company was seeking like-minded members from the skilled trades to fill out its ranks for a long, difficult, cramped sea voyage of six months followed by a projected three years of difficult labor in the mining camps. Insofar as company by-laws often incorporated regulations and planning for two to three years of community living in California, a company composed of skilled tradesmen would be uniquely equipped with the variegated skillset necessary for constructing new communities from scratch.

Ships’ manifests provide a treasure trove of socio-economic data for understanding the nature and extent of the exodus from cities large and small of the members of specific trades and professions. Appended to an inventory of freight carried by every ship about to clear port was a detailed list of passengers and crew, generally consisting of each person’s name, age, residence, and occupation. The following list of members of the Fremont Mining and Trading Company, comes from the Log Book of passenger Harvey G. Brown (Mystic Seaport Museum), which he probably copied from the ship’s manifest. It has been arranged here to sort by residence and then by last name.

Names

Age

Residence

Occupation

Green, Powell

40

Bloomfield, Conn.

Stone Cutter

Hubbard, Henry

29

Bloomfield, Conn.

Carpenter

Humason, Charles A.

21

Bloomfield, Conn.

Farmer

Maples, J. Jr.

23

Bosrah, Conn.

Mason

Virgason, Samuel

22

Bosrah, Conn.

Farmer

Safford, Geo. W.

25

Canterbury, Conn.

Machinist

Safford, John

23

Canterbury, Conn.

Machinist

Elderkin, Elisha B.

22

Clinton, Conn.

Tinner

Brown, Albert

19

Colchester, Conn.

Wheelwright

Cutler, Alexander

21

Colchester, Conn.

Farmer

Fitch, A.G.

36

Colchester, Conn.

Blacksmith

Lord, Wm. B.

30

Colchester, Conn.

Carriage maker

Payne, Geo. R.

23

Colchester, Conn.

Mariner

Ransom, A.C.

30

Colchester, Conn.

Farmer

Smith, James H.

19

Colchester, Conn.

Farmer

Waterous, R.D.

22

Colchester, Conn.

Shoe Maker

Higley, T. Baxter

24

Collinsville, Conn.

Farmer

Chapman, H.D.

23

East Haddam, Conn.

Stone Cutter

Richmond, C.C.

24

East Haddam, Conn.

Shoe Dealer

Hale, Lorin G.

27

East Hartford, Conn.

Carpenter and Joiner

Turner, Norton L.

35

East Hartford, Conn.

Tool Maker

Claude, Henry G.

19

Goshen, Conn.

Currier

Hutchens, J.

28

Granby, Conn.

Blacksmith

Heath, John

34

Groton, Conn.

Sash and Blind Maker

Morgan, Henry E.

24

Groton, Conn.

Brittania Ware Maker

Abbott, Edwin H.

19

Hampton, Conn.

Carpenter

Bolles, Edward J.

29

Hartford, Conn.

Tailor

Brown, Samuel W.

47

Hartford, Conn.

Physician

Chaffee, Hesekiah

19

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Chaffee, S. Goodwin

33

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Dean, Henry

20

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Goodwin, Wm. A.

33

Hartford, Conn.

Jeweller

Grow, John Jr.

20

Hartford, Conn.

Marble Cutter

Hastings, B.B.

40

Hartford, Conn.

Watchmaker and Jeweller

Kellogg, Reubin

38

Hartford, Conn.

Mariner

Moore, Merrick

17

Hartford, Conn.

Musician

Pratt, Edward

25

Hartford, Conn.

Farmer

Sage, Henry R.

26

Hartford, Conn.

Bookkeeper

Sexton, Geo. K.

22

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Sexton, Wm. O.

30

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Smith, Julius P.

20

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Spencer, James

31

Hartford, Conn.

Jeweller

Sweetser, Henry P.

32

Hartford, Conn.

Merchant

Whitmore, A.S.

22

Hartford, Conn.

Clerk

Carver, Charles M.

24

Hebron, Conn.

Carpenter and Joiner

Gardner, Henry B.

22

Hebron, Conn.

Farmer

Johnson, Josiah M.

20

Hebron, Conn.

Farmer

Willman, C.C.

25

Killingworth, Conn.

Machinist

Mitchell, Alfred G.

24

Middle Haddam

Farmer

Mitchell, Charles E.

22

Middle Haddam

Farmer

Sanford, Edward

25

New Britain, Conn.

Farmer

Butler, R.M.

45

New Hartford, Conn.

Farmer

Hayes, Henry E.

18

New Hartford, Conn.

Farmer

Barricklor, John A.

22

New York City

Clerk

Nelson, Joseph B.

19

New York City

Clerk

Brown, Harvey G.

25

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Gladding, Lafayette

19

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Judd, Norton E.

19

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Kelley, Francis

25

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Kirkham, John S.

23

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Rockwell, Robert R.

22

Newington, Conn.

Wheelwright

Sheppard, George

23

Newington, Conn.

Farmer

Kinney, George

29

Norwich, Conn.

Book Keeper

Ford, James M.

22

Rome, Mass (New York )

Farmer

Coe, M.L.

26

Simsbury, Conn.

Physician

Morton, C.

21

South Coventry, Conn.

Machinist

Brown, John

40

Tariffville, Conn.

Tailor

Culver, Christopher C.

28

Wethersfield, Conn.

Blacksmith

Griswold, Walter

40

Wethersfield, Conn.

Comb Maker

Edgerton, Stiles

25

Windsor, Conn.

Farmer

Fox, E. A.

27

Windsor, Conn.

Shoe Maker

Hathaway, Duane G.

27

Windsor, Conn.

Manufacturer

Phelps, Henry A.

26

Windsor, Conn.

Farmer

Dewey, Frank L.

Winsted, Conn.

Tailor

Johnson, Martin

41

Winsted, Conn.

Blacksmith

       

As the list demonstrates, most of the members of this company came from Hartford, Conn. and its outlying towns and villages. In the 1850 census Hartford had a population of 13,555 and was thus a fair representative of a small city that might feel the pinch of an exodus of tradesmen. The outlying towns were considerably less populous: Bloomfield had 1412 residents in 1850, Bosrah 867, Canterbury 1669, Clinton 1344, and so on. The membership of the Fremont Mining and Trading Company was 74 men—not a large company—and therefore it probably did not result in a particularly onerous drain on the resources of the Hartford environs.

There are 26 distinct occupations represented in this company roster covering a wide range of goods and services. Of the trades the largest groups are: 24 Farmers, 4 Blacksmiths, 4 Machinists, 3 Carpenters, and 3 Jewellers. From the professional ranks: there are 2 physicians, 9 clerks, 1 book-keeper, but no lawyers or clergy. There is a single merchant and a single manufacturer. Somewhere along the line the company appears to have lost the painter featured in their February advertisement. A few of the occupations listed dealt with artisanal items or fancy household goods: jewellers, a watchmaker, a Britannia-ware maker (a variety of pewter), a tinner. There is a sole avowed artist: a musician.

The average age of members is 26, ranging from a 17-year-old musician to a 47-year-old physician. The most common age is 22 (10 members), followed by 19 (8 members). This data accords with the general profile of the gold rush as a pursuit made mostly by young men.

The Hartford Union Mining and Trading Company, a somewhat larger group than the Fremont Mining Company, organized as a joint stock company on 18 January 1849, and left New York City on the Henry Lee, David P. Vail, master, on 17 February, heading around the Horn to San Francisco, and arriving on 13 September. The following list of members comes from the company journal, kept by George G. Webster, Esq., which was printed on shipboard in four-page increments by J. L. Hall. Webster appears to have used the ship’s manifest as his source, which would have included a column for the age of each passenger. At the end of his member list he gives the aggregate age as 3301, and the average age as 27.

Cornish, Horton

Bloomfield

Joiner

Erwin, Thomas S.

Bloomfield

Seaman

Griswold, James A.

Bloomfield

Painter

Hall, John L.

Bloomfield

Printer

Hamblin, Levi H.

Bloomfield

Joiner

Latimer, John T.

Bloomfield

Joiner

Moody, Emerson

Bloomfield

Blacksmith

Parsons, John K.

Bloomfield

Joiner

Smith, Charles. P.

Bloomfield

Farmer

Smith, Joseph

Bloomfield

Farmer

Bates, Fordyce

Broad Rock

Clerk

Knox, John

Brunswick, Ohio

Farmer

Mills, Stiles E.

Canton

Farmer

Wilcox, Austin

Canton

Seaman

Burnet, Henry

Chicopee

Mason

Starkweather, Alex. S.

Chicopee Falls

Paper-maker

Arnold, George W.

Colchester

Tailor

Bissell, John V.

Colchester

Farmer

Goodrich, E. Wilber

Collinsville

Carriage-maker

Rice, John S.

Collinsville

Blacksmith

Lester, Albert J.

East Hartford

Tailor

Starr, Joseph B.

Fayettville, N. C.

Watch-maker

Ely, Benj. F.

Glastonbury

Manufacturer

Hart, John H.

Goshen

Farmer

Hart, Matthew R.

Goshen

Farmer

Godard, Jerome

Granby

Farmer

Dickinson, Wm. B.

Haddam

Farmer

Adams, Albert

Hartford

Boot-maker

Alden, Thomas C.

Hartford

Farmer

Bacon, Leonard H.

Hartford

Merchant

Bishop, Elias

Hartford

Tailor

Bolles, Franklin

Hartford

Silversmith

Bonnel, Charles

Hartford

Currier

Burke, W. A.

Hartford

Cab’t-maker

Burnham, George S.

Hartford

Clerk

Cotton, Allen

Hartford

Furn. Finisher

Dewey, Walter

Hartford

Blacksmith

Ellinwood, Tilden B.

Hartford

Shoe-maker

Filley, Thompson M.

Hartford

Painter

Fisher, Charles F.

Hartford

Joiner

Fisher, George H.

Hartford

Barber

Francis, Titus P.

Hartford

Seaman

Halket, David

Hartford

Seaman

Hamilton, James B.

Hartford

Clerk

Hamilton, Lorenzo

Hartford

Merchant

Holbrook, Caleb M.

Hartford

Boot-maker

Holbrook, Eliphalet

Hartford

Shoe-maker

House, Wm. B.

Hartford

Boot-maker

Keith, Lewis N.

Hartford

Cabinet-maker

Knox, David

Hartford

Joiner

Lemay, Joseph

Hartford

Sawyer

Lucus, Calvin

Hartford

Mason

Mallory, A. H.

Hartford

Joiner

Moffatt, Daniel

Hartford

Seaman

Morrison, James

Hartford

Upholsterer

Olcott, James B.

Hartford

Printer

Perkins, Wm. H.

Hartford

Joiner

Ranney, George C.

Hartford

Joiner

Smith, Jared W.

Hartford

Machinist

Squires, Stephen F.

Hartford

Potter

Stuart, Wm. H.

Hartford

Cabinet-maker

Webster, George G.

Hartford

Lawyer

White, Benj. F.

Hartford

Machinist

Hutchinson, John C.

Hebron

Farmer

Sumner, Sherman P.

Hebron

Farmer

Daugherty, Cyrus K.

Manchester

Clerk

Forbes, Thomas

Manchester

Paper-maker

Howlett, Charles

Manchester

Butcher

Keith, Freedom

Manchester

Farmer

Penfield, Austin A.

Manchester

Stone cutter

Farnum, George

Middletown

Miller

Wilder, Francis C.

Middletown

Turner

Marsh, Fred. N.

Montpelier, Vt.

Seaman

Otis, Abner L.

N. Granby

Blacksmith

Gilbert, John R.

New Britain

Joiner

Gilman, John

New Britain

Joiner

Hart, Eben

New Britain

Teamster

Maynard, Seldon A.

New Britain

Cooper

Chisholm, Alexander

New Hartford

Joiner

Chisholm, Colin

New Hartford

Joiner

Jaqua, James H.

New Hartford

Machinist

Mason, John C.

New Hartford

Farmer

Ralston, Archibald

New Hartford

Tanner and Currier

Watson, James L.

New Hartford

Papermaker

Peck, Joel W. S.

North Haven

Moulder

Bushnell, Wm. E.

Norwich

Joiner

Buckminster, Wm.

Rockville

Manufacturer

Griggs, Henry 0.

Rockville

Dyer

Kellogg, Giles P.

Rockville

Wool-sorter

Ladd, Ira F.

Rockville

Manufacturer

McKinstry, Lee

Rockville

Joiner

Rice, Samuel L.

Rockville

Manufacturer

Dole, George C.

Shelburn, Mass.

Farmer

Tuller, Homer

Simsbury

Joiner

Tuller, Horatio

Simsbury

Farmer

Stoughton, Henry

So. Windsor

Farmer

Mc Clure, Peneul, Jr.

Somers

Joiner

Lyon, John F.

Springfield, Mass.

Harness-maker

Osborn, Dwight W.

Springfield, Mass.

Machinist

Otis, Samuel F.

Springfield, Mass.

Machinist

Hitchcock, E. Darwin

Tariffville

Physician

Judd, Henry G.

Terryville

Clock-maker

Hawkins, Henry A.

Tolland

Merchant

Hall, Asher

Wallingford

Pewterer

McClintock, Wm.

Ware, Mass.

Joiner

Prindle, Henry R.

Ware, Mass.

Tailor

King, George T.

West Springfield

Machinist

Buckley, Joseph

Wethersfield

Farmer

Hale, Matthew

Wethersfield

Printer

Young, Roderick

Willimantic

Machinist

Case, Henry

Windsor

Farmer

Drake, Oliver M.

Windsor

Farmer

Mather, Edgar P.

Windsor

Brick-maker

Mills, Oliver W.

Windsor

Farmer

Sweetland, Isaac

Windsor

Blacksmith

Crane, Seldon T.

Windsor Locks

Merchant

Russell, John W.

Windsor Locks

Machinist

Child, Levi L.

Woodstock

Stage-driver

Saunders, Oliver W.

Woodstock

Farmer

Among the 46 distinct occupations listed there are 21 Farmers, 17 Joiners, 8 Machinists, 6 Seamen, 5 Blacksmiths, 4 Tailors, 4 Manufacturers, 4 Merchants, 3 Papermakers, and 3 Cabinetmakers; from the professional sector: 1 Lawyer, 1 Physician, and 4 Clerks.

A comparison of the two lists demonstrates that in each case farmers from the villages and towns surrounding Hartford made up the largest group by occupation to leave for California. This sizeable exodus from the agricultural sector suggests a reaction to early pressures and upheavals of urbanization. The Hartford Union data shows a much wider variety of occupations that cannot simply be attributed to the company’s greater numbers. Several interesting groups emerge from the list: two painters; a clutch of papermakers and printers; several artisanal or fancy goods producers: a pewterer, a silversmith, a potter, a watchmaker, and a clockmaker; village stand-bys: a barber, a butcher and a stage-driver; along with several very specific occupations: a wool gatherer and a dyer, a  moulder (involved in the manufacture of metal goods) and a turner (of wood on a lathe).

These two companies were among the earliest to leave the East Coast for the gold fields; consequently, the loss of a physician here and a barber there probably barely registered. But by May, a correspondent of the Ohio Statesman (22 May 1849) living in one of the jumping off points in Missouri reported:

The noise and bustle of preparation so familiar for several months, has all ceased, and we are left in comparative solitude. We can now look around and contemplate the inroads it has made on our society.—Many, very many of the most familiar faces have disappeared from our midst. Those we have been accustomed to see and hear on all occasions are gone—the merchant, mechanic, farmer—all occupations are left comparatively barren; and there was great fear at one time that farmers would not be able to secure their crops. Enterprising men of all professions have shouldered their shovels and picks and started off to the gold mines.

The cross-section of society presented in these lists demonstrates the endemic nature of the gold mania that struck the Eastern states in 1849. If anything, these lists from two companies that canvassed a variety of skilled tradesmen in a small Connecticut city for a gold rush adventure in 1849 offer up more questions than answers—questions that deserve a sustained study using all the tools of data and socio-economic analysis.

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