A Forty Niner’s Diary


Isaac Sherwood Halsey was born in New York on June 16, 1828.

The exciting stories arriving from California of the discovery of gold convinced him that he must share in the new adventure. At the age of 20, on March 12, 1849, he set sail in the Ship SALEM, with his brother George, his uncle Philetus Halsey, and 150 others, for California.

The course was set down the coast of South America, around Cape Horn and north to their destination. Seven months to the day after leaving New York, they dropped anchor in San Fran­cisco Bay.

The ship and cargo were quickly sold, and by the end of October 1849, they started upon their journey to the mines. First by boat to Stockton and then by ox-team, twenty-four days were consumed before arriving at their destination, Amer­ican Camp (Jamestown).

The next year was spent at mining with moderate success at a number of camps–American Camp, Murphy’s Diggings (Stouten­berg) and Mokelumme Hill. In October 1850, Isaac and his brother George opened a general store in Mokelumme Hill, sup­plies for which they freighted with a schooner on the San Joaquin River to Stockton and with teams to Mokelumme Hill. A second store was opened in Stockton in June of 1851.

On June 16, 1854, he married Emma Wasley of Linden. At the end of the same year he and his wife moved to Volcano, Amador County, where he again took up mining from December 1855, to August 1858.

For the next three or four years, Isaac Halsey devoted his time to professional photography and did considerable pioneer work with stereoscopic methods. About 1861 he became active in the study and practice of Dentistry.

In 1870, the Halsey family moved to Vallejo, where they remained for nine years. By this time there had been born to them three daughters and two sons.             The sons, Wilbur and Norman were later to follow their father’s footsteps in the dental profession.

It was in 1879 that they moved to Oakland, and Dr. Halsey established an office on Washington Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets. The first laws regulating the practice of dentistry were enacted the same year and by this act, he was issued license number 60. He continued an active practice until the time of his death in 1895.

Isaac s.Halsey recorded his impressions and observations from the time he sailed from New York in 1849 to June 1851.

His diary was written in a blank notebook 8×9 inches. The origi­nal hard leather covers of the book have been lost and only the leather spine remains; also, the original pages from March 1849 to October 1849 have disappeared. Fortunately he had at some time started to recopy the original diary in a leather-bound journal which is in a good state of preservation.

The recopied portion contains the entries from March 12 to March 20, 1849, and the remaining portion of the original diary continues just prior to his arrival in San Francisco Bay on October 10, 1849. The Journal also contains a hand written copy of the Constitution and By-Laws of the New York and Calif­ ornia Excelsior Mining Company in addition to notes and mining records of the operation of a mining company from December 1855 to August 1857, in Volcano, California.

Spelling and punctuation of the diary have been carefully followed; ·spaces· indicate lack of punctuation or capital letters at the beginning or end of sentences.

Frank S. Halsey July 1978

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Isaac Ledger