John Steele left California in June 1853, after almost three years as a gold miner. His intention was to land at Acapulco and journey to Mexico City, and then to the Gulf where he could take another ship to the States. He wanted to see something of the country and people, and practice his Spanish. But the day he left San Francisco the papers announced that a military coup in Mexico City had thrown the country into a revolution. It was not a good time to tour Mexico. He took the Nicaragua route instead.
In the introduction to his narrative Steele writes:
Returning to Wisconsin, the author spent some time in study, and was engaged in teaching in southwest Missouri when the Civil War began; joined the Union Army, and at the close of the war became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church; and is now a member of the West Wisconsin Conference.
This journal, written without thought of publication, has been laid aside through all the busy intervening years. Recently, having occasion to refer to it, the author was impressed with the fact that here was faithfully delineated the everyday life and experience of the average miner, and under conditions which only California, in that early day, could furnish. (p. 117-118)
He spent the last dozen years of his life in Lodi, Wisconsin, where his account was published in 1901 as a 90-page pamphlet. It has become a classic of California Gold Rush literature.
Here are the various incidents, just as they happened: ludicrous, solemn, serious, tragic, inexpressibly sad, but always interesting. (p. 118)
John Steele died in Lodi on October 6, 1905.