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A Young Emigrant Woman's Letter
Home Giving a First Person Account of Her Family's Then Recently Completed
Ten-Day Rail Journey from Little Falls, New York, to Sacramento, in December,
1876, and the Beginning of Their New Life in California.
I presume you would like to hear something from us in our far off home. Ma talks about writing but does not get about it. We are all pretty well now, having got rested from our long journey. We were nearly used up when we got here for we were all tired out when we started. The breaking up, and packing at Lansingburgh was a pretty hard job that time of year, but after all was not so hard as leaving the dear old home, and friends at Little Falls. I only had a week there, & it was unpleasant much of the time, so I did not get out much of any.
We left there the 7th of Dec, and arrived here the 17th, 10 o'clock at night on Sunday. We should have got through on Saturday if we had not been detained on the road by a freight train running off the track and through a snow shed demolishing several cars. It took some time to clear the track for us. We ought to be very thankful that we came through so safely, & no greater hindrance, when there was such a terrible accident so soon to follow on the same road over which we passed in safety – that at Ashtabula, Ohio, we came over the same bridge little knowing the danger. I suppose it was not safe at that time. We have always been so fortunate, and protected from little knowing the danger when we have been traveling that we scarcely realize that there is danger, but we know not what a day may bring forth and out turn may come next time, but we pray the Father to protect as he has done.
We had a delightful journey and a very interesting one, so new and different from any. Just think of it over the Rocky Mountains. The scenery was splendid. The first that attracted our attention after leaving home was a burning prairie in the evening. It was a magnificent sight, one I had many times wished to see. It seemed on a straight line for miles and miles. We were on the race a long time. The romantic scenery of the R. Mts. was the picturesque towering rocks some like castles with arched doors, and windows, some standing out like sentinels, some like cologne bottles, some like wild animals. One called the Devil's Slide is very curious. It is like a stone wall on either side with a narrow opening for him to slide down the almost steep precipice. It seems he came out alive. After all traces of him are seen most anywhere.
We saw very little snow, but plenty of snow sheds which hid much that was attractive and novel. But now we read of there being plenty of snow on the mountains, and for that matter all over the States. L. Falls paper says since Commodore Vanderbilt died [January 4, 1877] Old Boreas is King on the New York Central now it seems they were blocked up more than you were out north. It is said that it is the coldest weather here in 20 years. I've had white frosts every morning for a week or more. The first of the month and once or twice ice froze out of doors on the north side about like window glass. At that time the north winds were very unpleasant and cold, but O! such a dust you never saw, the winds played a perfect whirlwind of dust so you could not see across the street.
They had no rain here from October till last week. We had showers for two days and nights seemed like April showers. It is delightful now. We took a ride out in the suburbs of the city this morning and to the cemetery, it was delightful. Saw men ploughing and planting, setting out cabbage plants, and making ready for summer gardening. What think you of that?
We like our new home very much so far & the church & people. They received us very cordially. Five or six of the brethren met us that night at the Depot and one of them took us all (six) to his house where a table was loaded with delicacies awaiting us. We are now housekeeping in a quiet way till our goods come around the Horn next May. We shall take a larger house then. On New Years day the members of the Church called largely on us and left our house well filled with good things before night amounting to over $30 to $35 worth. Sacramento is a pleasant city of over 20,000 inhabitants well laid out. Street cars pass our door. You will find us N.E. corner of 13th & H.
Come to see us anytime. When you write Charley tell him he must come before he goes home next summer, but I don't believe Ma will be ready to go back. Wallace told Ma if she is homesick she could have a chance then. She likes here pretty well, but don't forget the old home & friends. She does not feel very strong, says she don't know as the climate will agree with her. Most everyone feels so at first. Tell Charles to write us when he is home.
Give our united love to all the dear cousins & tell them to write to us. I will write to some of them after we hear from some of you. You may send this to Emily or Adeline when you write. I have so many letters to write I want one to reach all it can for my time is pretty well taken up.
(Note: All the margins on the page having been filled, the letter ends here and is unsigned. It originally came from a large collection of letters relating to the Thomas P. Douglas family of West Leyden, NY, and the author is apparently a young woman named Hattie who may have also been the wife of a Charley Douglas. They were apparently also first or second cousins as in an 1880 letter from the two of them, written jointly at Sacramento, Hattie refers to the recipient as Aunt, as she also does in this letter, while Charley refers to her in the joint 1880 letter as mother.)
Transcribed, annotated by, and courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.