This collection consists of correspondence between Starkweather family members in Northampton, Massachusetts, and family members
who came to California during the Gold Rush era. The bulk of the letters date from 1849 to 1859, and topics discussed in the
letters include ocean voyages to
California, agriculture and ranching in Stockton, and family news.
Starkweather (1819-1906) came to California seeking gold in 1849. He was an officer in the Holyoke Company and left on February
1849 from New York aboard the S.S. Crowell going first to
Chagres, Panama, then up the river to Panama City. When they found no ship to take them to
San Francisco, their company, along with others, bought the ship Copiapo, hired a captain, and after a 95-day voyage arrived in San Francisco on
August 14, 1849. Charles went first to look for gold on the Yuba River, but finally settled
in the Sacramento Valley. In 1851 he was joined by his brother, Alfred Starkweather
(1826-1917), and together they bought a ranch near Stockton, California. The next year, another brother,
Haynes Kingsley Starkweather (1822-1895), came to California via the Nicaragua route
bringing his wife, Martha, and his son with him. After arriving at San Juan, they discovered
that the ship North American, on which they were to take
passage, had been shipwrecked and they were picked up by the Monumental City instead.
After a difficult passage they arrived in San Francisco
and made their way to Stockton, where he opened a drugstore. Charles made a visit to
Northampton in 1854-1855 and brought his sister Roxana to California (where she met and
married William Henry Nowell). Those family members at home were: their father, Haynes
Kingsley Starkweather (1788-1866); mother, Almira L. (Merrick) Starkweather (d. 1862);
brother, Rev. Frederick Merrick Starkweather (1820-1851); sister, Almira Starkweather (d.
1861); and sister, Elizabeth (Starkweather) Breck. As his father aged, he asked Charles to
come home and take over the family farm. Charles went back in 1859; Haynes and Roxana and
families also returned East.
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