Through almost five decades George Gunnuldson has been an eyewitness of the growth and improvement of California, for he is numbered among the pioneers of 1853. Only three years had passed since its admission to the Union when he landed on the Pacific coast, to find here a mining population, a state of mining camps with few of the comforts known to the east and isolated from the highly improved section of country by long stretches of barrens, by rocky fastnesses, and by ocean water.
Mr. Gunnuldson is a native of the land of the Midnight Sun, his birth having occurred in Norway on the 25th of July, 1829. His father, George Gunnuldson, also a native of that country, married Miss Inga Hansdaughter. They were members of the Lutheran Church, in which the father served as a deacon. In their family were ten children, nine sons and a daughter. Five of the sons are still living, the eldest residing upon the old home farm in Norway. The father died in the sixty-seventh year of his age and the mother passed away at the age of seventy-seven.
George Gunnuldson acquired his education in the schools of his native country and remained upon the home farm until twenty-two years of age. He then sought a home in America, and in Wisconsin worked as a farm hand until he had saved one hundred and twenty dollars, when he came by way of the Nicaragua route to California, landing at San Francisco with just twenty-five cents left in his pocket. This he spent for something to eat. A man who had come with him to the Pacific coast paid his passage to Plumas County, where he began mining on the east branch of the north fork of Feather River, and in three weeks he was enabled to pay the man fifty dollars for the twenty-five he had borrowed of him. The percentage exacted was exorbitant, but Mr. Gunnuldson paid it. The doctor with whom he lived loaned him four hundred dollars, with which he bought an interest in the Bunker Hill mine, taking no note for the indebtedness and asking for no security. He also incurred an indebtedness of seventy dollars for provisions, all to be paid when the mine yielded him a sufficient sum. All through the winter he took out about seven dollars per day, and in the spring he discharged his obligations to the doctor, also paying the other debt and had some money left. He continued to operate the Bunker Hill mine for two years, during which time he had taken out and saved three thousand dollars. He was then paid four hundred dollars for his interest in the mine.
Having been fortunate in his work he decided to return to Norway to visit his relatives, and with his money in a belt around his body he started for his old home. There were eleven hundred passengers on board the Yankee Blade, on which they left San Francisco, and when four hundred miles from that port the vessel ran on a breaker. Her stern became deeply submerged in the water, while her bow was pointed skyward. About one hundred and sixty passengers, mostly women and children, were taken to shore with the boats. One of the boats, however, was swamped. It contained among others a woman who was washed ashore and saved. She had put life-preservers on his two little girls and herself, and as stated, the waves carried her to land, but the life-preservers on her children had slipped, thus letting their heads into the water and they were drowned. The following day the steamer Goliath sighted the disabled Yankee Blade, cast anchor and sent boats to the relief of the passengers, who were then taken on board and carried to San Diego. Two bullocks swam ashore from the wreck and furnished food for those that were left on land. Only a few minutes after the last of the passengers were taken off the ill-fated vessel she parted in the middle and sank. Captain Rundall, of the Yankee Blade, had agreed to return the passengers to San Francisco, but he did not keep his promise and the opposition line finally took pity on them and conveyed them to the Golden Gate.
On again reaching San Francisco Mr. Gunnuldson deposited his money with P. Bacon & Company, bankers, but a policeman with whom he became acquainted told him that it would be better for him to loan it and thus get interest on it. He acted upon this advice and loaned it to a man whom both he and the policeman regarded as financially safe, the man promising to return it on three days’ notice. Not long afterward the policeman informed Mr. Gunnuldson that the man was gambling, and our subject therefore investigated the matter, finding his debtor betting twenty-dollar gold pieces on faro. The next day he went to the man’s shop to demand his money, but found that the business had been attached, thus causing him to lose the entire amount. Our subject then began working for forty dollars a month, being thus employed until he had saved money enough to get back to the mines.
Mr. Gunnuldson then went to Iowa Hill, where he worked for twenty-two dollars per week for a year. He was connected with different mining interests and made considerable money. He owned a gold claim at Damascus, and after working it for some time sold the property for fourteen hundred dollars, disposing of it on account of ill health, which prevented him from engaging in its operation. He then came to Dutch Flat and had a claim at “Ne’er a Red” (which meant not a cent). He also had a mine at Monumental Canyon, which he worked for three years, taking out as high as three hundred dollars in a single day. At this time he saved money and in the passing years was actively identified with mining interests, so that not until recently did he find time to again undertake the voyage to his native land. He, however, once more visited Norway, but his mother had died in the meantime and he made only a short stay. He now has a good home at Dutch Flat and owns valuable real estate in this vicinity, both in timber and in farming lands. He has been persevering, industrious and economical, and he richly deserves his prosperity. He has met hardships and trials in his business career, but fate has been kind to him and has rewarded his perseverance by a handsome competence. He can never forget the dreadful hours spent in the bow of the Yankee Blade, when it seemed that he and his fellow passengers must be engulfed with the waters of the Pacific. It was a time of such fearful peril that it baffles all description.
In 1877 Mr. Gunnuldson was happily married to Miss Katie Lang, a daughter of Leopold Lang, of Germany. She was born in that country and came to California in 1873. Mr. and Mrs. Gunnuldson now have two daughters: Eva, a successful school teacher; and Anna, who is with her parents. Since the time of the Civil War our subject has been a stalwart Republican, yet does not consider that he is bound by party ties. He and his wife are members of the Order of Chosen Friends, and have a wide acquaintance in the community where they have so long resided. Although his experiences have been varied and oftentimes unsuccessful, yet viewed in the light of his present prosperity his career has been a fortunate one and he feels no regret that he left the land of the Midnight Sun to seek a home in free America, where advantages are so freely offered to all who care to improve them.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.