Six ships sailed from the Vineyard to San Francisco between February and October 1849, carrying away more than 400 Island men to the gold mines of central California. Not long ago Ann Allen calculated that in Edgartown and Chilmark roughly one man in five between the ages of 18 and 50 set off for “the El Dorado of America”; in Tisbury it was closer to one in four. Many gathered - and died - in a settlement that came to be known as the Vineyard Camp on a southern bank of the Stanislaus River, two miles east of the town of Melones. The town and the camp now lie under a reservoir.
So many whaling ships sailed for California that whaling itself, which had just seen its most prosperous year in 1846, went into a sharp decline. Edgar Marchant, founding editor of the Gazette and a fervent advocate of growth, was profoundly dismayed. But he knew that even the most tangential news from the mines was vitally important to friends and relatives who stayed behind. Beginning in late 1848, and continuing in almost every issue for the next 20 months, the Gazette reported the latest from California.

Editorial from the Vineyard Gazette edition of Jan. 26, 1849:

The California fever has seized upon a large portion of our citizens at last, and we should not be disappointed if a hundred or more of our Islanders were finally carried off by it.
On Monday last, upwards of 40 of our townsmen formed themselves into a company, with the intention of procuring a ship and proceeding to the gold diggings with all dispatch.
The brig Vesta, of this port, now undergoing repairs, is up for California, and will sail without unnecessary delay. She is to be manned principally by a company from Tisbury and Chilmark. The fast sailing schooner Rialto, as previously announced, is fitting at Holmes Hole, for the same purpose.
The most, if not all, of those leaving the Island for the new-found El Dorado are men of character and some little property, and many of them will leave families behind them.

May 11, 1849:

The good ship Walter Scott, Henry Pease 2d, master, left this port for San Francisco at 11:30 o’clock, on Monday last. She takes with her 36 of our townsmen, besides eight others belonging to the Island; and these men constituted a great portion of the very “bone and muscle” of this community. They have left many sad hearts behind them - the hour of parting was a bitter hour - may that of their reunion be as blissful as that of their departure was grievous.
In intelligence and energy, in sobriety and gentlemanly deportment, in religion and morals, as well as in all the virtues that adorn mankind, this company is probably not inferior to any which has sailed for the El Dorado of America. May good winds speed them to their destination - may the riches of California yield them a golden harvest - and may they return to their homes, in due season, richer in the stores of mind and of wealth, than they ever were before. 
- The Editor

Oct. 19, 1849:

In common with neighboring places, Edgartown has for a few years appeared stationary, or almost losing ground, owing to the depression of the whaling interest, as well as other causes. But the new enterprise which has arisen within one year, calling a large number of our most active citizens away to California, has put a new face upon affairs, and opened a new field for anticipation.
The immediate effect of sending abroad so much capital, and so many men, has necessarily increased dullness of enterprise, stagnation of business, and scarcity of money at home. But no doubt, most are regarding this present calm as only a necessary evil, and are looking through it to better days than ever, beyond - the expected result of the new undertaking.
Then, supposing our Californians to obtain success equal to the most sanguine expectations of any, we must be preparing measures to preserve and turn to good use the treasure thus hoped for, or it would be only a fitful flare of success, to be succeeded by a still darker state.

Feb. 15, 1850:

We give below a letter from one of our own townsmen, and will merely say that the writer is entitled to the full confidence of the public. Its whole tenor is of a discouraging nature, and well calculated to allay the feverish excitement which has long held spell-bound the hardy and enterprising sons of New England. [A subsequent letter indicated the writer was Charles W. Pease, captain of the Walter Scott.]

San Francisco, Dec. 29, 1849:

Dear Brother - I have written you and all of my friends twice, through my wife, not to come to this country, till I informed you that you could better your circumstances by so doing. I now tell you, and all friends, through you, never to think of coming to California. I have been astonished and grieved to hear that so many people have left our Island, especially after reading Doctor Winslow to Captain Sands, which is the most sensible and truthful letter that I have yet seen in print. Capitalists, landholders and gamblers have given this country that description which never did nor ever will belong to it. That there is gold scattered over a large territory is true, but the portion yet discovered where it will pay for digging is small to what has been represented. That there has been much collected is also true, but it must be remembered that there have been some 40,000 persons digging the past summer.
From the best information I can get, there is not more than one in 40 who gets better paid by gold digging that he would at home, at $1.50 per day. If a man does well, by striking a deposit, and gets from two to five thousand dollars in five or six months, it is sounded over the mines, and finally throughout the world; but the thousands who barely pay their way are not mentioned. The difficulties, deprivations and uncertainty of reward are so great, that no man should leave a comfortable home to come to this country. Ninety-nine out of every 100 who come here will find themselves, to their sorrow, the dupes of interested and selfish men who have become wealthy by impoverishing others.
Many fortunes have been made here, but hundreds of thousands of imported property have been sacrificed, and unprincipled speculators have taken advantage of it; and the gambling houses take the larger portion from those who come in from the mines. Gambling is carried on in every place where I have been, Sundays not excepted.
It is no use for me to undertake to give you a description of the country, or the manner of doing business here. The country is bad enough, and the manner of doing business worse. The Bay of San Francisco is an inland sea, without any safe harbors in the winter season; a strong current continually running, and exposed to a long rake in the heaviest blows; altogether it is a most villainous place, but for myself I utterly detest it.
It is now three weeks since I returned to this place from Benecia, and though our yards are down and topmasts housed, we have had as much as we could do to take care of the ship, to keep her from going ashore or afoul of other ships. It blows and rains most of the time. Our damage, so far, has been one anchor stock broken, one davit carried away, and loss of one boat. I have now got the ship into the mud, out of the tide, and am in hopes not to have so much trouble hereafter as I have had.
You will learn, through others, the state of our company. I cannot go into particulars. I had got them all as far as we could go by water, and all arrangements were made to have started the next day for the mines, when the rains set in and prevented our proceeding. The director would not proceed without first letting me know the state of affairs. The company then became entirely untractable, disobeying all orders, and entirely uncontrollable, I received a letter from the director to the effect that it would be ruinous to proceed, and that nothing would tempt him to act as director any further. I returned to Stockton and found, to my satisfaction, the impossibility of governing a company of 50 men in California, and that in nine cases out of 10, if not in the 10th, where it costs so high to keep men, especially when fitted on a lay, the fitters must be the losers by the operation. After that it was not practicable to abide by the constitution, as agreed to at home. I then felt it to be my duty to decline proceeding any further in getting them to the mines. All who were disposed to pay $125 I released from their bonds, being convinced it would be better for them and the owners. I returned here with the remainder, by the advice of friends, in hopes to find something for them to do till spring opens, for the winters here are most wretchedly uncomfortable, and thousands must suffer for want of comfortable accommodations.
I feel in hopes to save the owners, if nothing happens contrary to my expectations, but do not anticipate doing much for myself. I consider it a misfortune to any man to be connected with mining companies in this country, but to masters and managers it is doubly so. I presume I had less trouble with our company before arrival here than any other master, but after getting here they proved themselves to be like all other people who come. It would seem there is something in the atmosphere causing this result; men become entirely selfish, and lose that fellow-feeling for each other that they seem to have before landing. This may be accounted for, in part, by finding things so different from what they anticipated.