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Letter by Mark HOPKINS While at Sea en Route to California
Source:  Timothy Hopkins.  1932.  John Hopkins of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1634, and Some of His Descendants. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA.

The following is extracted from the entry on Mark8 HOPKINS (1813-1878) [Mark,7 Moses,6 Samuel,5 Timothy,4 John,3 Stephen,2 John1].  I have highlighted in brown those portions of special genealogical significance.

...[Mark HOPKINS] sailed from [New York] 22 January 1849, on the ship Pacific for San Francisco via Cape Horn, and arrived the 5th of August following.a

aThe following letter [was] written en route to the gold fields...
At sea. Ship Pacific, So. Lat. 2º 20', W. Lon 24º 10'
Thursday, Feby. 22d, 1849.
30th day from New York,
Bound for California

Last night I dreamed of you, & this morning I determined I would write to you Officially authenticated intelligence from the gold regions of California were so exciting to those desirous of wealth (and who is not), that after seeing corroborative evidence & private advices I determined late in December to go to California to better my condition In coming to this conclusion I also had in view beneficial arrangements


for our younger brothers Moses and Augustus Augustus had recently arrived at Barrington, out of business, and Moses had been there three years on a salary affording a bare subsistence though improving himself Therefore after satisfying myself that I could probably do well by going to California, I determined to throw up my place in New York provided I could secure it for Moses, & provided Augustus was disposed to go with me on proper terms And provided also that my friends could not convince me that the project was unwise I laid the matter before my friend Mr. Rosoland (in whose employ I have been so long) and Mr. Sherwood & others in New York, & they advised me to go I then went up to Barrington and Uncle Charles thought well of it Moses (& his employers although against their [his employers] interest) fully entered into the arrangement, and Augustus threw no obstacles in the way So, only remaining in Barrington two days, altho I had not been there for two years, I hastened home to make speedy preparation for being off Uncle Charles, unasked, offered me such amount of money as I wanted for an efficient outfit; for which I thanked him but refused the offer, telling him I had of my own sufficient ready means for doing all I proposed, but that after getting there & seeing just what could be done, if I should engage in anything requiring more means than I had, I should perhaps be very glad to call on him I mention this with some pride as to my knowledge he never made a similar offer to anybody else.

Immediately after returning to New York myself & others formed a company of twenty-six shares of $500 each, and each share to be represented by an able-bodied and efficient man of good moral character and habits, making a compnay of twenty-six men, with a capital of $13,000 which we invested in a year's stock of provisions a house all framed, with windows, doors, floor, roof & ready to put together Hammocks and blankets Tents & tent equipage Cook stove & utensils A portable forge & bellows & blacksmith tools Caprenters tools Axes, shovels, picks, crowbars & mining & blasting tools & apparatus Gold washer Force pump A horse power Wheel barrow Lumber wagon & harness And in short all such things as we knew we should want & many things which if we don't need will bring large prices thee together with some tobacco and Indiana goods.

We have several mechanics, a blacksmith, machinist, carpenter, Jeweler, Assayers, and first-rate Physician And some of our company are of wealthy commissions in New York.  I own two shares represented by myself and Augustus Cousin Wm. K. Sherwood is a member of the Co. & takes with him a Negro man who has been in the family several years & is a good cook, washer & ironer or outdoor laborer.

I omited to say we take with us two iron boats, one an eight oar large and one small boat sufficient to transport us up the bay from San Francisco & parole about the rivers.  We think the organization an efficient one for such an expedition.  We have hopes of success, but how it will turn time & the trial will determine.  We put our freight & baggage & ourselves on board the new Ship Pacific, of 550 tons, Capt. Tibbits, Comd., and set sail from New York for San Francisco on the 22nd inst.  It is estimated that the passage around Cape Horn will take four months and maybe five We shall make two stops on the voyage to get fresh supplies of water and such vegetables and fresh provisions as we can.  The first will be at Rio Janeiro in Brazil, on the Atlantic Coast of South America.  These stops divide the voyage into three nearly equal parts in point of time, say 40 days each, according to the estimate of the seamen, by depending on the wind and weather.  We pass through the tropics & the Equator twice & frequent changes of climate from midwinter to the extreme heat of summer.  When we left New York it was midwinter and so cold I wore two flannel shirts, two overcoats & other clothing in preparation Ten days out and it was mild weather Two weeks out and it was like spring and I had shed all my extra shirts and over-


coats.  And now here in the tropics and under the Equator the thermometer is 82º in our cabin at sunrise, and at all hours of the day the heat in the sun is oppressive indeed, but much relieved the the sea-breeze.  On land the same degree of heat would be beyond endurance.

We shall gradually pass to weather colder than our New York winter, off Cape Horn and from there gradually again to the extreme tropical heat at the Equator.  And then as we again get into North latitude it will be getting cooler till we reach San Francisco, which is in about the same latitude as New York 34 North though so affected by the difference in longitude as to be, on the coast, cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  This voyage by this route is estimated at 17,000 miles, by the most direct courses and distances.  The sailing distance by adverse winds will be much more Our ship is the best that has left the port of New York for this destination.  Our Captain is an able commander of 25 years experience and for the last 15 in the Canton & Pacific trade We have 60 first cabin passengers & 26 in the second cabin, comprising 5 physicians (a good board of health) and artisans of all kinds, & indeed almost all professions and pursuits I have rambled about the world some, and I can truly say that as a body, I have never seen congregated under similar circumstances an equal number who would compare favorably for morals intellectual and physical ability I think as a class the whole emigration from the United States to California are remarkable as emigrants for like traits of character, and I may add pecuniary ability And we are undoubtedly able to govern and protect ourselves, for every man I have seen goes well armed for any emergency that may arise Our own Company has each a musket & bayonet, a revolver, a hatchet & sheath knife and Bible each.  Still we desire the aid and protection of an established government Until we have it the business and finance of the country cannot be stable We also want a law giving settlers (citizens of the United States) a bounty in land It might induce many of us to remain there, unless like the old Spanish law it should require us to become good Catholics, and marry a native of that country.

We have on board a professor of the Spanish language who has got up a class in Spanish of which I am a member.  He says he cannot, of course, give us a thorough knowledge of the language, but before we get to the end of the voyage he says if we apply ourselves we will be able to speak the language sufficiently well to transact ordinary business and from the progress I have already made I think so too.  The language is easier acquired than the French.  Our class sit together and at table and elsewhere converse as much as possible in the little Spanish we are master of, and


are daily acquiring more.  This helps make up the labour of the day, and it is pleasant to have something to do something to relieve the monotony of our confined life on shipboard.
Sunday S. Lat. 11º 30' W Lon. 32º 45'
Feb. 25, 1849 33d day out.
We have yet spoken no ship bound homeward by which we could send our letters, so I will continue my letter on this sheet, and if no opportunity should present sooner we shall put our letter bag on board an U.S. Man of War at Rio Janeiro to be forwarded the first American ship bound home.  The first few days out of New York we saw several ships heading toward New York Since then we have seen but three, & they from their position and course were supposed to be East Indian Merchantmen from around the Cape of Good Hope, bound for Europe.  It is pleasant to see a ship even at a distance and all feel an interest in watching her course and progress and speculate as to her nationality where bound where from and would like to go near enough to speak to her But thus far we have been denied that privilege In making the usual European voyage we should see them often, but this track is less frequented, though in future it has a prospect of being more traveled.

The first day out, the wind was strong and it continued for several days Nearly all our passengers were seasick the first week.  It took me ten days to get over it About the time I got well Augustus was taken down much to my surprise as well as his own.  He was sick about a week.  Coz. William has not been sick at all.  We are now all quite recovered and I think we shall derive much benefit from the voyage in general health.  My health has been good, for six years past not a day have I lost from business on account of sickness.  Augustus had a cough which entirely disappeared the second or third day out & has not troubled him since.  I think he has never been entirely sound since he had the measles, and I think he may derive much permanent benefit as well from the voyage as from the change of climate there.

The first Sunday out so many were sick and being a rainy day there were no religious services held on board our ship Every Sunday since that we have had reading of the Episcopal service & a sermon.  N.D. Morgan of our Company officiates as Chaplain.  In these services we all join with much interest.  The whole ship's company congregated on the main deck present a goodly appearance.  The whole day is observed as a day of rest by the seamen and passengers.  No unnecessary labor is performed.  Reading and writing is the chief employment.  All is quiet and one who is religious or thoughtful finds much to enjoy in such Sabbaths at sea.  Our services under these circumstances seem more impressive than is usually the case on land The view on every side exhibits more of nature and less of art more of the glorious wonders of God's creation and less of men's devices than on land.  There is too in the evening clouds, the golden setting of the sun at sea, and the quiet stillness


in the starlit nights, a serenity and bewitching loveliness in these latitudes such as I have never seen on land.  I have sometimes thought while under their influence, if my first voyage had been taken at the age of 18 its effect would have been to have determined me to follow the sea instead of the more selfish pursuits on land.  Yet 'tis possible that the usual cold storms and gales off Cape Horn would have cooled my ardor and changed my mind.

Our Company is known as the "New England Trading & Mining Co."  If you should write to me, direct to "San Fancisco, California, care N.D. Morgan President of the New England Trading & Mining Co."

I cannot say how long I shall be gone, but not less than eighteen months or more than three years, depending on circumstances.

Monday, Feby. 26th, S. Lat. 13º 8' W. Long. 33º 40'
34th day out.
The Captain takes our observation, if the sun shines, every day at twelve o'clock, and after determining the latitude & longitude, writes it on a ticket and pins it up where all may see and enter in their journal, and if they please calculate the distance run from day to day, or from New York or other place.  By this day's observation we are 1,030 miles from Rio Janeiro and may calculate to reach there this week, winds favoring.  I shall leave this letter open til we get there, then write the last word and seal it for you.  This confined life with so many passengers on so long a voyage has much that is undesirable, but I find if one is disposed to read he can pass much of his time agreeably and profitably.  And if desiring his hours of idleness or relaxation he seeks pleasant associations instead of brooding on the ills he suffers, he gets on very well here.  We have among our passengers about a dozen very fine vocalists, forming for sacred music an excellent choir, and a rare glee club.  We have also quite an assortment of instrumetal music one key bugle, two violins, two guitars, four flutes, one accordion & carcenetto.  And on pleasant evenings we have singing, music and dancing sometimes jumping the rope military drill boxing with gloves, which affords good exercise.  We have a debating club which affords amusement.  We also have a daily newspaper published in manuscript, entitled the "Pacific Herald," devoted to scientific news and literary subjects, as well as advertisements, wit and humor, embodying many practical hints applicable to persons and things on shipboard.  It is a valuable work, affording much amusement.  Almost every one on board has a small stock of books, which together make a good library.  So you see we ought to be able to amuse ourselves and improve ourselves if we please, and some of us may make a valuable acquaintance.  We have three ladies on board the Captain's wife, Griffins (one of the ship's owner) wife and a nurse.  J. Ross Brown, Esq., the author of "A whaling cruise and history of the whale fishery" and other literary works of some merit, is one of the passengers.  He is writing a history of this voyage, California, etc., perhaps it may fall under your observation some time hereafter.

It has been proposed to form an armed party of at least twenty of us passengers and go across the continent of South America from Buenos Ayres or Montevideo to Valparaiso while the ship goes around the Horn and meets us there.  The distance is five or six hundred miles, through an uninhabited country much of the way the only mode of travel is with mules or on foot.  We, if we go, should go on foot, with a few pack mules.  There is what is called in these countries a post rout which crosses the Andes nearly direct and the only pass in that region.  This "post rout" is a mule path, along which the Spanish Government, when these states were Spanish Colonies, built huts or cabins (uninhabited) for the shelter and accommodation of travelers.


The country is represented as an extensive plain except in the vicinity of the Andes.  I am desirous of traveling through that country and seeing the principal town of Buenos Ayres the Mighty Andes the City of Santiago the capital of Chile, one of the finest cities in South America as well as the country generally, the people, their manners and customs, tropical fruits, etc., etc.   But it may not be practicable we can only determine this after getting to Montevideo, at which port the Captain has promised to stop for that purpose.
South America, State of Brazil, City of Rio Janeiro,
March 7, 1849
We have reached this point in our voyage all on board are well.  But as there have been some cases of cholera reported in New York before we left, it is questionable whether we shall be allowed the freedom of the City, unless we undergo twenty days quarantine, which on account of the delay we will not do.  We have applied to our Minister and the Consul for the interposition and influence and may succeed.  I hope so.  Of this you will learn hereafter.

I must close my already long letter as our letter-bag it is said will soon be sent off.  Augustus joins me in love to Mary Ann and the Children and Mrs. Kinney.

Truly your brother
Transcriber's Annotations: 

Moses HOPKINS (b. 19 Jan 1817) and Ezra Augustus HOPKINS (b. 22 Sep 1821) are, indeed, the younger brothers of Samuel Frederick HOPKINS (b. 15 Sep 1803) and Mark HOPKINS (b. 1 Sep 1813), all of whom are sons of Mark HOPKINS & Anastasia Lukens KELLOGG.  "Uncle Charles," is Charles Whiting HOPKINS of Great Barrington, Berkshire Co., MA (where he was born and where he is found in the 1850 census), son of Moses HOPKINS & Anna WHITING, grandparents of our subject.  Cousin William Kellogg SHERWOOD is the brother of Mary Frances SHERWOOD, to whom our subject was married 22 Sep 1854, back in New York City.  Mary Ann is Mary Ann (KINNEY) HOPKINS, wife of Samuel; Mrs. KINNEY is presumbly Mary Ann's widowed mother, Theodocia (WOODRUFF) KINNEY.

Family Group Sheet of Mark HOPKINS & Mary Frances SHERWOOD
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