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FLINT Brothers


After arrival in California, the Flint brothers went to the startup mining town of Volcano in Amador County in the Sierras. A 20 Oct 1851 letter and a 30 May 1854 letter from his parents to Pirney are addressed to Volcano; on 22 May 1854 Pirney wrote a letter to his parents from Volcano; and on 20 Jan 1855 Robert wrote a letter datelined “Mokelumne River” to Pirney in Volcano.

Pirney Flint's handwriting     Flint, P (1854).

Pirney’s Handwriting. The “little family” referred to was his sister Mary (Flint) Blinn, Mary’s husband William Blinn, and Mary and William’s son Robert (“Rob”).

Volcano is situated in a bowl-shaped valley which the miners erroneously mistook for a volcanic caldera. The area was first mined in 1849. In April 1852 there were 300 houses. By 1853 the flats and gulches swarmed with men, and there were 11 stores, 6 hotels, 3 bakeries, and 3 saloons. Hydraulic mining operations, begun in 1855, brought thousands of fortune seekers to form a town of 17 hotels, a library, a theater, and courts of quick justice.1

Volcano in 1854

Volcano, CA, in 1854, by Charles Louis Parish.
Picture from Wikipedia.

The only contemporary words about Volcano in the Flint letters are in a letter from a William S. (“Doc”) Jones to Pirney after the latter had returned to Canada. The letter has mixed things to say about Volcano.

“. . . John Lofton Started home las Friday a week ago; he had not made much. Old Col. Simpson left for home Some two months ago; the Poor Old fellow got beat out of all that he had in the law Suit with ?Medara2 and lost the property. he was nearly laid up with the Phthisic3 when he Started; he had to raise Money by Subscription to take him home. Old man Shelor and James Shelor is Still liveing at the Same old place and I don’t know but they will Stay there till they Starve. it is getting to be desperate times in the mountains now with Some, and a good many, too. there has been Several families on the point of Sta[r]veing and had to be assisted. . . . Volcano has Improved considerable Since you left—fire Proof Buildings are going up verry Fast. and there a good many broken merchts there too. I think they Will most all have to rub out and Commence anew. they made Hanfords firm Suffer last fall and winter tho he would be hard to brake.”4


1 "Volcano, California", a Wikipedia article.

2 A George Madeira (1836–1922), from Illinois, was a mineralogist and mining engineer who set up a crude astronomical observatory at Volcano in 1860. See "George Madeira", a Wikipedia article.

3 An archaic word for any illness of the lungs or throat, such as asthma, cough, or tuberculosis.

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4 Jones (1856). This letter is also quoted in the "Mining" and "Jones" sections.
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