Samuel's young protege

Recollections from September 1857

Nevada City was a rough place for Samuel Davis. The lure of a profitable and promising position was dashed when Joseph Clark casually told him – “Well sorry ’bout that. You want a job at the diggings? I have a position opened up that could use a man with some education”. Davis had been working to string together enough private tutoring and teaching jobs to make ends meet, but it wasn’t going so well.

One of his few students was a bright boy of about seven named Willie D’Arcy. Willie comes from educated Philadelphia family and lived in a small hour just outside Nevada City on Rigby Hill.

His father (W.A. D’Arcy) caught gold fever and moved out in 1851. W.A.initial worked as an engineer to expand the hydraulic diggings at Sutter’s Mill and saw a string of successes. Willie and his mother Costance came out in the spring of 1853, and they have moved around several times going where his father found work.

In February ’56, W.A. got a job as engineer a big mining operation in Placer County – and he finally built the family house they wanted up on Rigby Hill. Life is looking great!

But it all came crashing down in June. The father took some poison gas and almost died, and still has health problems. He took to tonics and then whiskey to help dull the pain. Then in July the mule train got robbed with a month’s worth of gold – and the father took the fall.

Samuel ran into the D’Arcys back in September, about two weeks after coming to town. He met the kid, and was excited that this might be a real job. The house was so nice looking on the outside, that surely there was a family here that could pay cash money.

But the truth was different – W.A. hasn’t been able to get a job cause “he’s not trustworthy” and Constance has started taking in washing and mending work just to get money for bills. They don’t have the land to farm – so they are thinking about moving out to make a homestead along the Sacramento come the spring and trying to set aside as much as they can.

Samuel wanted to say he couldn’t help – but Willie is a bright boy, so he relented. So Constance darns his socks and washes his shirts – and Samuel spends one afternoon a week teaching the boy geography and history, and usually takes dinner with the family



I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.