Joseph Hartwell in the California Gold Rush
The March 7, 1849, New York Herald reported that the ship Charlotte departed Boston on March 5, under the command of Captain Savory, bound for San Francisco, California. Joseph Hartwell of Salem was listed as one of the ship's passengers. The Samuel C. Lewis journal, 1849-1878, said that the Charlotte arrived in San Francisco on September 16, after six months at sea around Cape Horn.
An artist's rendering of San Francisco in 1849, during the early gold rush
Autumn 1850 - Letters to Lydia regarding Joseph's death and disposal of his belongings
Stockton, Cal. Sep 22 ‘50
Mrs. Lydia B. Hartwell,
Dear Madam. Yours of July 20 addressed to the “Alcalde of Stockton”, was put into my hands this morning. I hasten to communicate to you, such facts touching the subject of your letter, as are already within my knowledge, a multitude of business engagements will probably prevent me from making any inquiries about the matter prior to the sailing of the next Steamer.
Capt Hartwell died, as I have been informed, at Hawkins Bar on the Tuolumne river about seventy miles from this place, about the month of November last.
It appears that his trunks and some other personal property were left on board a repel? at the place. The public authorities were called upon to take charge of his effects. The Judge of the Court of First Instance appointed an Administrator – the property was sold at Auction and it was by my having accidentally been present at the sale that I became acquainted with the facts here set down. The property was principally clothing, a portion of which was bought by myself.
The proceeds of the sale amounted to $300.00 or upwards and the money after deducting nearly one half for expenses was paid into the hands of the Judge. He appropriated it to his own use. No attempt has yet been made by the new authorities of the State to recover back the amount for the reason that it was believed that nothing could be collected from the Judge. An attempt was made to indict him for this and other misdemeanors but it failed for want of testimony.
I …….heard that he left behind him several hundred dollars in gold dust, which got into the hands of the Alcalde at Hawkins Bar, and he ran away. At least this is my impression.
When I get leisure, I will make further inquiries about the matter and if I get anything further of interest, I will write you.
In great haste,
Your Obd. Serv.
10th November 1850
You will pardon me for introducing the painful subject relative to your lamented husband deceased.
I was in this camp at the time of his death but knew nothing of his circumstances at the time. I am informed that you have not received anything from the effects of his property. All that was left after the administration of the estate (which was in the hands of his physician, Dr. Camduff, and the Alcalde, Dr. Miller, both of N.Y.) was a tent which has been occupied by the Boy Charley and Chas. B. Ames. A few days since Ames sold and gave a bill of sale of one half of the tent. With the advice of many people in camp I took the tent from both and sold the same this day for twenty-seven dollars and send the same to New York … by a Mr. Geo. Goodheart who will send the same by Adams Express to you. I shall be in your state in March and if I pass through your town I shall call and see you. In the meantime I shall collect all passable information relative to the deposition of your deceased husband's property.
Autumn 1850 - Notices of Death