1879 Autograph Letter Signed by Lawyer James B. Townsend, 1849 Member of Gold Rush of Society of California Pioneers, writing to his beloved “Josie C.”
An unusual 1879 love letter; a contract, a mine, a mill
Unusual love letter from 1849 California Gold Rush pioneer and lawyer, James B. Townsend, here writing to his beloved “Josie C.” Townsend is listed as a member of The Society of California Pioneers, having arrived in San Francisco, California in July 1849.
The woman Townsend corresponds to may be Josephine Russell Erwin Clay (1835-1920). (See the Josephine Clay Collection at the University of Kentucky Libraries.)
Townsend’s densely written, three-page 1879 letter is filled with the eagerness and delicate hesitation of a lover, yet it also alludes to a contract, a mine, and to “...a mill that crushes 6 tons…”
Townsend proceeds with caution in a lawyerly fashion, fearing that he has offended “Josie C.”:
I have not received the copy of the “Contract” which your letter of May 13th says that you “send.” There was in your letter only two pieces of blank note paper, apparently, a half sheet cut in two. I do not understand this; nor does your letter just received contain any allusion thereto or explanation. ... I know your mind must be so distracted by your disappointments and the many things you have to occupy it, that you naturally forget to reply to my questions, which you doubtless think not important. I sometimes fear you may consider them indelicate. They are prompted only by my wish, if possible, to protect you from being injured or compromised too far in any arrangement which may be made in regard to the mine.
Being a lawyer-like lover seems a tricky role. Townsend continues:
I am always glad top hear all particulars in regard to the mine and its prospects. Is the “20 stamp mill,” of which you speak, actually in process of construction, or only in contemplation? I am glad to hear that you have a mill that crushes 6 tons “regularly and well,” though, from what you subsequently say, I suppose that it is now suspended for lack of water.
He seems earnest enough and does not appear to be a “gold-digger” of another stripe. He tries to console her:
“A better time is coming, is coming by and bye”! Don’t you doubt it, “Josie C.” The Gods are just, and after trials which will make “Josie C.” a perfect woman…they will reward her with well deserved success. ... I can not yet say when I can get away from this city. I have a great deal of work to do—and just now financial affairs are very stringent. I want so much to see you, and find rest in your sweet society.
Information about Townsend appears to be thin. The February 16, 1857 issue of the Daily Alta California newspaper contains an ad from “James B. Townsend, Attorney at Law” listing his address at Armory Hall on the corner of Sacramento and Montgomery Streets in San Francisco. The May 4, 1866 issue of the Solano Herald reports that lawyer James B. Townsend is a new partner in a water-powered stone flour mill in Green Valley, California.
Description: 1879 Autograph Letter Signed by Lawyer James B. Townsend, 1849 Member of Gold Rush of Society of California Pioneers, writing to his beloved “Josie C.”
San Francisco [California]. June 1, 1879. pp. Bifolium. Folds; some bleed through, not affecting legibility; very good.
Ref. San Francisco News and Tall Tales, Ship Passengers and Sea Captains. 1846-1900 accessed online.
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