A Tough Way to Get Rich (Conclusion)

As I conclude this three-part series of posts let me remind you once again that gold mining is a very tough way to get rich. In general, you'll work harder for less in mining than any other job out there.

Let's hear some final words on the subject from '49er James De Pue who, along with a small group of mining "pards," dug for the yellow metal at Hangtown (now Placerville, California).

"Some Holes Pay Big..."

De Pue: "At Hangtown some holes pay big and some pays nothing. We have to dig down 6 to 10 feet sometimes just to get at the gold. Down there is what is called bedrock and the gold is on it and in it."

As I've stressed so often in "Bedrock Dreams" gold is a very heavy and dense metal that will always move downward until it can travel no farther. De Pue's observations here simply tell it like it is.

De Pue: "We are glad to get to work. Today I have washed $156.35; this is the biggest day's work that I have ever done. I am afraid that we shall not get another as good."

A good day indeed for De Pue. He recovered nearly 9.8 troy ounces of placer gold on his own....had you or I done that well today and sold our gold for top dollar we'd have over $10,000 for our day's efforts.

Hard Work Could Kill You

De Pue: "Today is Sunday and it has been raining all day. Looks to be a wet spell and we must go and finish our hole or we shall loose four or five days work and probably $100 of gold because it will all cave in tonight. I am wet and I am cold."

Gold Pans
Gold Prospecting Books

De Pue: "I do believe I have friends here that would not see me suffer if I should become sick but I hope I won't have to trouble them. I do not know how soon I too may be sick but I will tell you this. I have seen more sickness since I have been here than I ever saw anywhere before."

The threat of sickness preyed on the spirits of De Pue and many other miners. Remember, life in the California mines at this time (1849-1855) could be very harsh and many miners died of respiratory infections and other diseases (not to mention accidents, drownings, and mayhem and violence).

Ever heard the old saying "Hard work never killed anyone?" Not so. In De Pue's world unrelenting hard work could actually kill you....especially when it was combined with a poor diet and unsanitary living conditions.

"None Will Be Encouraged by Me"

De Pue: "I understand that there will be great immigration this way next Spring but I know that none will be encouraged by me as they have been by others here. If any of my friends come, I advise them to start early. But I will encourage none...."

Like so many others who had headed West to "see the elephant" and perhaps find their fortunes, De Pue's outlook had changed since being in the mines. What had seemed such a lark and a sure thing in the beginning had turned out to be more than he and many other '49ers had bargained for.

What's My Point?

So after all this, what's my point? To deter you from what I still consider to be a noble and imminently worthwhile pursuit? To cloud your dreams of finding your share of that precious yellow metal or perhaps even "striking it rich?"

No my friend, none of those. In fact I encourage you to pursue your dreams. But small-scale gold mining is not a certain path from rags to riches...it is again, difficult, dirty, and sometimes dangerous work for very small returns.

Love your work and it won't be work.....and guess what? I love mining. All of it, simply for its own sake. Nothing more, nothing less.

So should you....

Good luck out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "A Tough Way to Get Rich (Part 2)"

© J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com