Question of Money – Brother George to Alfred

During the Gold Rush, many prospectors passed through Sonoma on their way to the Trinity and Shasta mines. In 1849, when General Persifor Smith headquartered the U.S. Army of the Pacific in Sonoma, he brought with him officers who frequented the hotel. Many later fought in the Civil War. Both William Tecumseh Sherman and Joseph Hooker served as adjutants to General Smith. Miners arrived from San Francisco on their way to the Trinity Gold Fields and returned to celebrate and gamble in the Blue Wing. (RESEARCHERS NOTE: I am assuming Gibbs spent time here and money spent as outlined by his brother George?)

While Alfred Gibbs was assigned, Aide-de-camp for General Smith, working in the Pacific Division, 1849 to 1852, he was stationed at Sonoma Barracks, Sonoma, California. From the letter shared below, it appears that Alfred ran into financial issues while stationed in California. In the letter marked Portland Oregon, December 31, 1852, from George Gibbs to Alfred, the older brother implores the young to ensure his financial house is in order. George writes:

What you say about your being in debt distresses me. I hope to heaven, however, that you will under no circumstances be induced to part with or mortgage your farm. Wolcott writes that Hall McAllister wishes to purchase it. To lose a source of certain income would be ruinous, for you can never in human probability replace it. I am afraid you lived far too extravagantly at Sonoma with your drag. etc. For God’s sake, Alfred, be prudent and keep within bounds. If you can’t live on your present pay as an aid & the rent from the farm, what will become of you if you lose your little capital & are reduced to the former alone, especially as that may be diminished hereafter. I am certainly a poor example of prudence & economy, but if you knew the regrets that beset me for my past want of providence, you would think me a good warning at least. It is a bitter mortification that I, the oldest, should at this time be not only unable to help the[e] out & to add something to mother’s comfort but am living from hand to mouth with so little hope for the future. — Portland Oregon, December 31, 1852, from George Gibbs to Alfred

RESEARCHERS NOTE: The use of the word drag took me some time to understand in the context of George Gibbs’ comments to his brother. After some digging I found the word drag to be a noun, dated slang for the person accompanying one on a date, typically a girl or woman. “I heard you’re Johnny’s drag for the prom.” If this is so, it would appear that George Gibbs is scolding his brother for some of his younger “ways.” I can’t know for sure if this is the case, but it is an interesting tidbit to consider as we examine the life of a younger Alfred Gibbs.

Section of a letter written to Alfred from George Gibbs where the older brother implores the young to ensure his financial house is in order. Marked Portland Oregon, December 31, 1852. Click on the image to read the entire letter from George Gibbs.Pacific Northwest Letters of George Gibbs - Source: Oregon Historical Quarterly , Sep., 1953, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Sep., 1953), pp. 190-239

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