San Francisco. June 18 1849

Dear Bill,

I recd a letter from you dated the 19th April you requested me to write to you and
give you some acc of California. I have not been hardly long enough here to gather
much information in regard to the Gold diggers but one thing I know is that it is
a very unprofitable business to those that have not been accustomed to hard labor
all their lives.  No person can no matter what constitution they have cannot work
Over six weeks in the mines and then they are very lucky if they get over $500 dolls
clear. The idea you N Yorkers have that the gold can be picked up without any
trouble is ridiculous and many here have found it out. In fact this California
gold business is all a humbug (you can bet) high on it). I had a very pleasant
trip up from Panama. Win Parkins friend Machivain is the Purser of the Panama
he is very unpopular and was Flogged once or twice coming up in the steamer by some
of the Passengers. Maybe you remember some time ago one night when we were up in
Union Park. Win introduced us to young man by the above name, this purser is the
same one. I did not know him till he mentioned the fact of his meeting me before
it came all right to me. I made him give me a good wish on the score of old
acquaintance. H. Whoitmore is here and I [] he will never get out of this alive, he has
severe attacks of the Inflamations of the Bowles, he hardly recovers from one
attack then he’s taken down with another he means to return if he ever gets well
enough. Dr. Huddard Son the one that came out with Col. Stevens got drunk & shot an
Indian for which he was sentenced to wear the chain & ball for two years. I hear
that he has escaped. The Indian he shot was not killed.

There has been very few arrivals of vessels for N York. Gsey bound [Greyhound] of Phil-
adelphia is here 117 day Passage. The schooner Sea Witch of N.Y. arrived here on
the 15th 135 days from N.Y.

We have not heard anything of the Oean Bird or any other vessell that has goods
aboard for us. Tell The & Ed that Mr. Lomas & his party arrived here about a week ago
they lost one of their party by the name of Brown he died of consumption.

I sent you by Mr. Cook a Panama Hat. You may not like to wear it if so I think
it will just suit Gil. I have written to Ma and I have enclosed in the letter a
piece of Gold. I shall sent it by Mr. Cook.

You must tell Todd & Mac that I cannot possible wrote to them by this mail
but will try and write by the Oregon. I shall expect a letter from them every mail.
I send 3 or 4 Papers I have not recd any from them yet write often Lewis
sends his best respects to you and I send mine to Lewis
Your Aff Brother

Henry R DeWitt


Captain John Brooks, Jr.

Post-Revolutionary Home To Be Shown By Museum TO BE MOVED TO M ACRES PARK-Thli It the Captain John Brooks, St., house, 1M Pembroke street, which will become * part of the Museum of Art, Science and Industry as an example of a Revolutionary war home. It was built In 1787. Old furniture will be exhibited in the house, which recently hts been painted as * donation by David H. MacKeniie, Inc., with paint given by E. t. DuPont deNemours. House will be located away from lie modern museum in a wooded area. manded the “Intrepid,” the “Patriot,” and the “Mary Ann.” In 1817 he married Mary Hawley and went into business with Isaac Sherman on Water street. During the years John Brooks, Jr., served on many committee for civic improvement. In 1851 he was elected mayor of Bridgeport for a one-year term and in 1854 again was elected mayor The captain took a great interest in Bridgeport and it was through his efforts in petitioning Congres that the harbor channel wa deepened, a temporary light provided, and later the present lighthouse was erected. He was influential in having the breakwater constructed and in building the lighthouse on Penfield reef. Willed Its Reservation Miss Mabel Frances Wilder, who died July 13, 1955, stated in her will that this house, which had belonged to her great, great- grandfather, be preserved as a representative home of Revolutionary times, and that it be known as the Captain John Brooks, Sr. collection. It is hoped that the house will be moved to 90 Acres park next year where it will be restored and will serve as an exhibit in a beautiful, secluded wooded area. The first floor will be used to exhibit furniture left by Miss Wilder and now on loan to the Society lor Preservation of New England Antiquities in Boston, and other decorative art. The second floor will be used for offices and meeting rooms. Labor for painting the house was donated by David H. MacKenzie, Inc. and the paint was given by E. I. Dupont de Nemours and Co., Inc. of Wilmington, Del. Fate of the historic Captain John Brooks, Sr. house, 199 Pembroke street, seems nearly settled according to Earle W. Newton, director of the Museum of Art, Science and Industry. Negotiations are being worked out under which title can be transferred to the museum upon settlement of the Mabel Frances Wilder estate, part of which will come to the institution preserving the house, making it possible to move the building to 90 Acres park. Captain John Brooks. Sr., 1763-1861) native of Stratford, who served under General Hooker in the Revolutionary war, built the house in 1787 when he married Mary Coe. This area of Pembroke street was then known as the Point. Captain Brooks kept meticulous accounts of the cost involved in building the house. The old records indicate part of the expense of construction included a “barrell of cider” for “grog of men.” Four hundred and two bushel of shells went into the pastering of the walls. Oyster shells, ground fine, formed the basis of most plaster along the coastline in those days. Captain John Brooks was one of a long line by the same name. He is referred to as “senior” here for clarity. At the age of 17 he served ‘in the War of Independence and later in the War of 1812. The holder for his sword is still over the front door of the house. Son Served As Mayor Captain Brooks had three sons: John. Jr. who like his father followed the sea; Charles, who moved to Nonvalk, and Birdseye, who after a period of years spent in New Haven, returned to his father’s house. Captain John Brooks Jr., (1795- 1SS1) was a man of great local stature. He lived in a house at the corner of Main and Gilbert streets during his later life. He was a student at -the Stratford academy. At the age of 15 he went to New York to live with John Vanderbilt and when he was 16 years old he started to work for a grocer. However, the sea was in his veins and at the age of 18 he was given command of the sloop “Arab” which ran between Bridgeport and New York. During the next few years he com- 

PORTRAIT GOES WITH THE HOUSE–Mrs. William S. Simpson examines  late 18th century painting ia the old grita room of the Brooks’ bouse. This room on the second floor was used to store grain to insure dryness. FORMER BEDROOM BECOMES OFFICE–Museum director, Earle W. Newton will use the bedroom of Captain John Brooks, Sr., as his office.

Bagg’s Hotel – Utica, New York, 1848

Alfred DeWitt, a 29-year-old New York Customs House clerk, wrote to his father Peter from Utica on New Year’s Day in 1848. His letter documents the two-day journey he made to deliver his mentally-ill, 21-year-old brother Robert Gosman DeWitt to the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica and describes the commitment process, a tour of the male and female wards, and two consultations with asylum superintendant Dr. Amariah Brigham. He begins:

Bagg’s Hotel Bagg’s Hotel B Bagg’s Hotel
Utica, January 1st 1848Utica, Janu Utica, January 1st 1848
Dear Father
William has nWilliam has no doubt told you that he left us safe in
the Cabin of the Steam Boat. Soon after we left the City Captain Brooks had
a good bed made on a pile of mattresses on which Robert laid very
comfortably until we arrived at Bridgeport, where we changed for the Cars
and through the kindness of the Conductor we procured what is called the
Ladies apartment entirely for ourselves, which contains a seat well cushioned
long enough for Robert to lay his full length, we took off our overcoats and
pillow we brou(pillow we brought)
with the Cushion,^ we made a very comfortable Bed, and by keeping him
well wrapped, he did not suffer the least from the cold,on arriving opposite
Albany I secured our baggage as quick as possible and engaged a sleigh,
the only conveyance I could find at hand,and proceeded across the river i
the ferry boat to Congress Hall, Albany, where after arranging him comfortable
in Bed and getting [our] Suppers I sent a dispatch by Telegraph to an-
nounce to you our safe arrival, we had a fine, warm, room and everything
well arranged and I made every effort to induce Robert to eat both on
the Road and at the Hotel but without success, he drank a little wine
& occasionally water, I procured a pitcher & tumbler shortly after leaving Bridge-
port and we kept it with us, procuring fresh water every opportunity until our arrival
at the Asylum, during Thursday night Robert slept but a short time, in
fact he did not appear to be much fatigued by the journey _ on Friday morning
we dressed him and took the Cars at 7 1/2 O’clock for this place, and we were
again favored with the ladies apartment in the Cars, where we made him lay
down and he appeared to be very comfortanle for the rest of the journey. Sheldon
and myself were continually active in arranging him and changing his position
during the journey, occasionally I placed the pillow against my chest and held
him in my arms and allowed him to look out of the window whenever it
[would allow] was prudent, while going through Cuts I was careful to have the

{end P1}

What I’m Doing Here

I have a story I’d like to tell about a small number of people from disparate places who wind up living within a few blocks of each other in the first few years of San Francisco’s history. I’m trying to figure out if I can tell the story as a speculative history with a lot of “must have,” “would likely have,” and “may have” language and still make it interesting. I don’t have a big argument I want to make about the history. I am an historian, but also an anthropologist who watches and records in order to make sense of the culture. I think there’s value in using the historical record and the digital tools available to us in order to document the patterns of movement of individuals and invite into the narrative all of the other possible participants and observers of events from the past.

On the other hand, I think maybe I should just write a fictional account with a lot of careful historical research about the city and the circumstances of the times. We’ll see what happens. Because I don’t know exactly how I’m going to piece it together, and in order to preserve the possibility of keeping this in the realm of History, I decided to use this blog format to organize my research and my thoughts. Again, we’ll see what happens. I can be a sharer when I decide to be, so I’m sure I’ll write more about myself, but for now I want to pull on the threads of this story.