Aurore Eaton's Looking Back: Aboard the Copiapo — headed to San Francisco!
San Francisco in 1849, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress. MANCHESTER HISTORIC ASSOCIATION
The group, which included 41 eager "gold rushers," was bound for California where gold had been discovered the previous year. Each man dreamed of easily discovering a fortune in gold nuggets! But first, the men, who were stranded in the crowded and expensive city of Panama, had to find passage on a northbound ship. There were simply too few ships to accommodate the hundreds of eager "Forty-Niners."
One of the passengers on the Copiapo was William Penn Abrams, who was originally from Sanbornton, New Hampshire. William left the state bound for adventure when he was 19 years old along with his cousin, Cyrus Colby. Their travels led them to Chicago and New Orleans. Williams eventually settled into a position operating a lumber mill in Gainesville, Alabama. He was bitten by the gold bug, so in early 1849 he traveled to Chagres on the Isthmus of Panama, then to Panama (City). He was lucky to get a ticket on the Copiapo. Here he made himself useful by making a list of the 137 passengers. These included men from 16 states. Among them were 11 clerks, 16 merchants, 26 farmers and 7 doctors. William Abrams later became one of the first people to provide a written account of a seeing the Yosemite Valley in California. He arrived in the Valley on October 18, 1849, while looking for a suitable site for a saw mill, and wrote a vivid description of the landscape in his diary.
Next Week: A Valley Cemetery Story — John Clarke finds a surprising answer to his search for fortune.
Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her email@example.com
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