This collection is comprised of 3 letters that Joe Emerson wrote to his cousin, Julius H. Shreve of Lincolnville, Pennsylvania, while living and working in Black Hawk, Colorado, between April 1884 and April 1885. Emerson commented on aspects of his life in the West, such as wages, health, and separation from his family back East.
Emerson frequently wrote about the physical effects of high altitude and his overall health. He also provided descriptions of the scenery and weather near his worksite, which was located on a mountain outside of Black Hawk. The heavy snowfall and winter storms made his work difficult. He remarked on the effects of separation from his wife and family, and shared his desire to return home in his last letter of February 5, 1885. Although Emerson never explicitly discussed the nature of his work, he speculated about his wages and expressed optimism about the amount of money he could earn in Colorado, "the land of gold & silver."