Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 240

Price Realized: $ 5,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
(CALIFORNIA.) Gardner, William X. Diary of a carpenter in the small frontier town of San Diego. [66], [32] manuscript diary pages. The main diary 12mo, original cloth, minor wear; with an unbound 16mo hand-stitched diary made to be inserted in the back pocket of the first; internally clean. Vp, 1 January 1878 to 1 January 1879

Additional Details

William Xerxes Gardner (1815-after 1890) was a carpenter and machinist who arrived in San Diego, CA circa 1868. San Diego had never been a major Californian city. The arrival of a railroad line in 1878 spurred development, but in 1880 the population was still only 2637. In a town that small, a poorly educated tradesman could still play an important part in civic affairs. Mixed in with descriptions of building troughs and hay lofts, Gardner notes "I made my report as treasurer of the city of San Diego" (6 May). He played an active role in city elections: "Fixed Rodeo Hall for a voting place. The election excitement is boiling over. Election voting commences early in the morning, sum of our friends went back on us." (8 May). He mentions various candidates by name and records election results for a number of San Diego wards (2 May).
A central figure in the diary is the author's friend and employer Daniel O'Connell "D.O." McCarthy (1830-1919), a veteran newspaper editor, miner, land speculator, and founder of the San Diego Water Company. Gardner began building a Fifth Street saloon for McCarthy on 26 March, and drank with McCarthy frequently, twice noting that his friend D.O. had gotten "tight" ( 21 February and 10 May). He also noted McCarthy's business dealings in Mexico: "D.O. McCarthy went over the line early this morning . . . on land speculation" (3 January). The other central character is Gardner's beloved colt Billy, who is prone to disappearing for days at a time; the diary is filled with entries like "Gave an old squaw fifty cents to look after Billy" (16 March).
Gunplay was sometimes noted in this old western town: "Great excitement up town this afternoon about a duel, two men killed" (3 January) and "Jack Crouse shot himself this evening about daylight" (26 April). Gardner also rants colorfully about the land speculation practices of a local bank: "The Commercial Bank of San Diego is colonizing the second ward. They make their rendesvoo at Capt. Donnold's Hotel. The colonies are the loest creations of God creation. The most of them are Hore House Pimps" (8 April). Gardner rarely mentions family outside of one poignant 19 March entry. He had sent a letter to the Napa Asylum in northern California, where his brother had been committed a couple of years previously, and was told "He died absolutely neglected and abandoned by his family on the 8th Jan last."
Gardner often takes trips into the mountains to investigate mining claims: "Went up in the mountain into Rattle Snake Valley and down the valley through the canyon to Gasson Ranch . . . down to Oroflamme mine" (7 June). The main diary ends in August 1878. Tucked into the rear pocket is a smaller diary describing Gardner's excursion to Baja California to scout property in November and December, accompanied by a small party including an Indian scout named George. Inserted in this smaller diary is a clipping for land being sold by D.O. McCarthy, who may have been the impetus behind this expedition. The party was living off the land by hunting and fishing, and felt threatened in the wilderness by local Indians: "Fresh tracks of cattle, and also tracks of Indians looking after us" (15 November).