Ho! For California!: About the Song

Ho! For California!
California Gold Rush

Historical Background

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and added 1.2 million square miles to the United States (including California), was signed on February 2, 1848. A few days earlier, a New Jersey-born mechanic named James W. Marshall discovered gold on the American River in California's Sacramento Valley. Gold fever swept the world as news of the discovery and subsequent strikes traveled in letters carried by ship from San Francisco to the Atlantic ports and England. The population of California increased by 100,000 within two years.

Song History

Jesse Hutchinson, Jr. composed "Ho! For California!," incorporating portions of the melody to "Boatman's Dance," a blackface minstrel song by Dan Emmett. Hutchinson led the most popular singing group of the day - the Hutchinson Family Singers. They debuted the song in the spring of 1849 at the send-off for a band of fortune hunters from Massachusetts. The song became an unofficial anthem for many bands of gold seekers.


Then, ho! Boys ho!
To California go
There's plenty of gold in the world we're told
On the banks of the Sacramento
Heigh ho and away we go
Digging up the gold on the Francisco
Heigh ho and away we go
Digging up the gold on the Francisco

We've formed our band, and we're all well manned
To journey afar to the promised land
Where the golden ore is rich in store
On the banks of the Sacramento shore

As off we roam through the dark sea foam
We'll ne'er forget kind friends at home
But memory kind shall bring to mind
The love of those we left behind

Oh don't you cry, nor heave a sigh
For we'll all come back again by and by
Don't breathe a fear, nor shed a tear
But patiently wait for about two year

We expect our share of the coarsest fare
And sometimes sleep in the open air
On the cold damp ground we'll all sleep sound
Except when the wolves come howling 'round

As the gold is thar most any whar
And they dig it out with an iron bar
And where 'tis thick, with a spade or pick
They can take out lumps as big as a brick

As we explore the distant shore
We'll fill our pockets with the shining ore
And how 'twill sound as the wind goes 'round
Of our picking up gold by the dozen pound

Oh the land we'll save for the bold and brave
Have determined there never shall breathe a slave
Let foes recoil, for the sons of toil
Shall make California God's Free Soil

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