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October 6, 1861: Clayton

October 6, 2011

Rose Hill Cemetery 03

Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 57

Clayton 02

Clayton Historical Museum; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Still here, and a lovely day it is, but warm. I am writing this in a lovely “bower.” By our camp runs a watercourse, the bed of a considerable stream in winter and spring, but all dry now. The bed is three or four rods wide, sunk a few feet, covered with gravel, and shaded overhead with large oaks and here and there willows and grapevines. A pretty place here is shadowed and festooned by vines, under which I am writing, a gentle breeze plays through, very pleasant, but it blows my papers—the thermometer in this cool place is 80° F., but in the sun, laid on the dried grass, it is 120°. Pete is making a couple of pies for dinner, the rest are lounging about in the shade, birds flit and sing overhead, and quail trip around near me.

We have had delightful nights lately—I wish you might be with us once. As I sleep less than the rest, and the evenings are getting longer—they go to bed at eight or eight-thirty—I sit in the tent and read until cold, then go out and sit by the fire, warm myself, gaze into its embers and reflect on distant scenes and distant friends, take a quiet smoke (for I smoke in camp), then retire. The brilliant shooting stars, so common in August, have almost ceased—but here the sky is clearer, like our clearest winter’s night, and the stars twinkle as brightly. The oaks are grouped around with their drooping branches, and the stars twinkle through them—while in the southern sky loom up the bold and grand outlines of the majestic old mountain.

Eureka Slope 01

Eureka Mine entrance, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The strata about Mount Diablo are of most enormous thickness, in all probability not less than one and a half or two miles! I think even more than the latter number. With the elevation of the mountain these were broken up—the central mountain mass roasted and baked, yet perfectly stratified often, but on all sides the strata only broken—the broken edges stuck up, forming ridges 1,500 to 2,000 feet high, the strata dipping at a high angle, often entirely perpendicular. Scattered through these are many fossils, and in this great mass is a bed of coal over four feet thick. The bed, like the strata in which it is found, is inclined about forty-five degrees. Several mines are opened, and companies have formed with capital to the amount of some three or four millions of dollars. They are now getting perhaps a hundred tons per day and making preparations for more extensive work.

Mt Diablo Coal Field

Mt. Diablo Coal Field historical marker; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

We took a piece of wood only partially decayed from a stratum of clay under the coal. The stick was some six feet long. We got out one piece fifteen or sixteen inches long and four or five in diameter, quite perfect, with the knots in it—it seemed like a piece of wood that might have lain a few years in wet mud, partially rotted, the rest sound, yet this lay in a stratum that must have had nearly or quite a mile of rock deposited over it after it was placed there, then thrown up at the raising of the mountain! The mind vainly tries to grasp the ages that stick must have been thus buried, now to be dug out by moderns. It was about a hundred feet from the present surface.

I rode over the hills, leaving the party, to a hill several miles northeast, nearer the bay. Here I found some pretty fossils, mostly shells; but the most interesting was fossil wood, trees silicified as hard as flint, but with the whole structure preserved in its minutest details. The grain was pretty. I cannot compare it with anything but curled maple, yet finer than that.

I collected as much as I could carry, then rode back to camp, arriving after sundown. As I rode up the valley the old mountain never looked so gorgeous before, tinged in purple with the setting sun.

We expect a “Pony” today, and are anxious for the news.

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