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John C. Cabaniss Letters

Identifier: SC 00620

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Scope and Contents

This collection contains twelve letters written by John C. Cabaniss, a proprietor of the Folsom Street coal yards in San Francisco, California to his mother, Mrs. Nancy Hill [Nancy Sink Cabaniss Hill] in Franklin County, Virginia.  Cabaniss moved to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

Most of his letters mention that he is coming home soon, is in good health and the business is doing well.  For a time, a friend from home, Moses G. Noble, lives with him.  The letters also mention the collapse of the banks in San Francisco in 1855 and his family's slaves.  He tells his mother that he will pay to hire or buy Mariah's husband.  He often sends money to his mother, once asking her to give Mariah, and others, $25.  By 1855, he also owns a ranch and still works at the coal yard.

John Cabiness committed suicide on April 25, 1858 and a copy of the April 26, 1858 Sacramento Daily gives details of his death.  A copy of a typed partial biography of John Cabaniss, possibly written by the seller and mostly unsourced, hints at an earlier bankruptcy in Alabama.


  • Creation: 1851-1855


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical Information:

John C. Cabaniss was born around 1805 in Franklin County, Virginia, the son of Nancy Sink and Courtland Henry Cabaniss. He left Virginia circa 1850 for San Francisco, California to make his fortune in the Gold Rush. Cabaniss was a proprieter of the Folsom Street coal yards as well as several other lots around San Francisco. He was a member of the San Francisco Lodge No. 7 of the Masons and died of an apparent suicide on April 25, 1858.


0.01 Linear Foot

Arrangement of Materials:

Arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information:

Acc. 2014.019 was received by Special Collections in January 2014.

Processing Information:

Accessioned and minimally processed by Steven Bookman, University Archives Specialist, in March 2014.  Processed and described by Anne Johnson in September 2014.

Guide to the John C. Cabaniss Letters
Finding Aid Authors: Steven Bookman, University Archives Specialist and Anne Johnson.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository