A Frenchman in the Gold Rush: The Journal of Ernest De Massey, Argonaut of 1849

by Ernest De Massey, Translated by Marguerite Eyer Wilbur

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Ernest De Massey arrived in the United States in 1849. He went to San Francisco, and became a retailer, since he had the capital and came from some wealth. However, the lure of the Gold Rush was too much for him, so he decided to close his shop and follow many of his customers into the mountains in hopes of striking it rich. He tried prospecting in multiple areas, including Klamath River. Like many, he left with empty pockets and dashed dreams, though he was very fortunate to have kept his health. Prospecting was very arduous, and frequently dangerous. De Massey only lasted five months before giving up, after falling seriously ill. He decided to return to San Francisco and the somewhat more stable life of an entrepreneur. But in 1857 he returned to Europe. De Massey’s fascinating first hand account illustrates how the Gold Rush mesmerized so many.