J[ohn] M. Vanderbilt


John Muir




Sitka Alaska Nov 20/80.

Dear Mr. Muir:

Your kind letter of the 28th [illegible]. is just received per “California” & I hasten to reply. The steamer is behind her regular time, is in a hurry to leave & consequently shortens our time for writing. I received a letter from your friend Mr. Hanks in reference to that me[illegible] iron, this mail, & answer same to the effect that the specimen is still at Chilcoot & the only value I have any idea they hold it at, is what you said you thought $100.00 it may be that they mentioned the price to Mr. [illegible] when he saw it but I am not certain that they did – we have not mentioned it recently to them for fear that they would be excited in regard to its value – I will enquire though


this next time & if I can buy it at a reasonable price will do so, if not will wait to hear from Mr. Hanks before paying $100 for it. Many thanks for your kind attention to the matter. I am sorry that we have been unable to send the yellow cedar logs to Mr. Magee as we fully expected that we could do this fall but our indians have disappointed us & although we offered good pay to both the Indians & miners unemployed here, with promises from them that they would go to work they failed to do so. We will have things arranged differently in the spring & hope to then get the logs. Mr. Spu[illegible] is going to San Francisco next month when he will call on Mr. Magee & explain to that gentleman about the business. We have been having very

[Page 2]

00958 [3]

severe weather for the past two months, unusually so in the large proportion of rainy days and gales of wind from South east. On the 26th of October this whole section was visited by a frightful cyclone followed by successive shocks of earthquake some of them being severe enough to stop clocks, ring the church bell in Sitka, overturn pictures & other objects hanging and standing in rooms & causing terror both among whites and Indians nothing like it was known before, that is so severe. We gathered reports from [Takoo?] to [illegible] & [Cross?] Sound, everywhere it was severe, doing considerable damage in the Indian settlements & destroying large number of trees. We had nine hours warning by the actions of our barometer & so

00958 [4]

took refuge in what we supposed to be a perfect harbor, Fresh Water Bay about ten miles below [Point Augusta?] (Cross Sound) in Chatham Straits we laid there with both anchors down & steam up, when it came it struck us suddenly with terrific force and we were compelled to to steam at full speed to keep from being torn form our anchors & dashed on the rocks — our barometer went down to 28.44 as Sitka the bar went to 28.18 — At Chileat many of the Indian houses were unroofed, graves & monuments blown or knocked down while the Indians were temped by the rumblings that sounded like the discharge of heavy [illegible]. Large tracts of trees were blown down, we received no damage at any of our posts. At Ho[illegible] a large number of canoes were destroyed, houses blown down and one

[Page 3]

00958 [5]

Indian killed. I am sorry that Brady has disappointed me with the bracelets or rather that he Indian jeweler goes on sprees & neglects his work — he has one of them finished & I am hopeful of being able to send them to you next steamer. Mr. Schulze also has an order with Brady for some. Our business is very good and prospects for next year very flattering, we are about having constructed here a schooner rigged [soon?] of about fifty tons to meet our increasing want of carrying capacity. Some very rich gold quartz has been brought in here from the mainland back of Douglass Island [Auk?] country — the gold shows all through the rock which also carries Galena, assays just made here by [Piltz?] goes from $500.00 to $6,000.00 per ton —

00958 [6]

About the same time some men struck the same character of ore at the head of Schuet creek which they have taken to Wrangel, other parties struck some rich pay in places away up to the head of that creek & three other prospecting parties discovered from $3 to $6 diggings & they think richer on three different creeks running into the channel back of Douglass island where the quartz was found — the creeks & flats are extensive & will hold a great many men — As you can imagine there is great excitement here & we have been applied to by more people for passage than we can carry when we leave next week for the [Auk?] country. It seems probable that a rich section of country is to be opened up! The pay is found from salt water to the head of

[Page 4]

00958 [7]

the Creeks and over the mountains on the other side where I understand the rich quartz is. We are all well — Annie is full of life and just as sweet as she can be. We are in our own rooms & board with the Anstin family. Young got over the trip all right & brought down with him, the youngest son of old shat with & a niece of the same — The boy he will raise, & the girl is in the “Home”. When will we have the pleasure of seeing you again? We expect to leave in May for [illegible] Bay & Mo[illegible] said Elias wont you join us! Young & L[illegible] Symonds are going — you can feel assured that I will be happy to see you & have your company — bring your wife with you here & my

00958 [8]

wife will be delighted to have her remain with her during our absence and will do all in her power to make her stay here as comfortable & pleasant as she can in Sitka. My wife joins me in kind regards to yourself & lady sincerely trusting that you will come. Hoping to hear from you I high remain

Yours Sincerely [JM.?] Vanderbilt


Sitka, Alaska

Date Original

1880 Nov 20


Original letter dimensions: 25 x 20 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 04, Image 0356

Copyright Statement

Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Owning Institution

University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.


4 pages



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.