Part 3 out of 4
to sea. One morning there came a rap at the stateroom door, and a loud
voice cried, 'Wake up, we shall be in San Francisco in less than an
hour.' What a time of bustle followed! The sea was rough. Sue and I fell
over each other and the valises in our eagerness to get dressed. I,
being a boy, was out first. The sun was shining as though it was making
up for the days it was hidden from us. The water was blue and sparkling,
the air warm and delightful after the cold, foggy weather.
"We were steaming due east, and almost before I knew it we had passed
through Golden Gate and were in the quiet water of the bay. By the time
mother and Sue were on deck, we were nearing the wharf. I thought then
that San Francisco was rather disappointing in its looks, with its
unpainted houses of all kinds of architecture, and the streets like
washouts in the hills, but soon I learned to love it with a faithfulness
which was felt by many of the pioneers and will end only with life."
Such were some of the hardships and discomforts endured by those who
traveled to California by water during the period of the gold
excitement. Yet those who made the journey by land often suffered even
The first immigrant train to California started in 1841.
It brought among its members a young man named Bidwell, afterward United
States representative from California. Describing this journey in the
Century Magazine (Vol. 41), Mr. Bidwell says:--
"The party consisted of sixty-nine persons. Each one furnished his own
supplies of not less than a barrel of flour, sugar, and other rations in
proportion. I doubt whether there was a hundred dollars in money in the
whole party, but all were anxious to go.
"Our ignorance of the route was complete. We knew that California lay
west, and that was all. Some of the maps consulted and supposed to be
correct showed a lake in the vicinity of where we now know Salt Lake to
be, that was three or four hundred miles in length, with two outlets,
both running into the Pacific Ocean, either apparently larger than the
Mississippi River. We were advised to take along tools to make canoes,
so that if we found the country too rough for our wagons, we could
descend one of these rivers to the Pacific." It was two years later that
Fremont, the pathfinder and roadmaker of the West, surveyed the great
Salt Lake and made a map of it. The Bidwell party after many hardships
reached California in safety.
The unhappy Donner party, also home seekers, made the journey in 1848.
They lost their way and became snow-bound in the mountains. A number of
them died from cold and starvation, but the remainder were rescued by
relief parties sent out from Sutter's Fort. Their sufferings were too
terrible to be told, and yet they started with fair hopes and as
excellent an outfit as any party that ever crossed the plains. The
following is from an account of the journey written by one of their
number for the Century Magazine (Vol. 42):--
"I was a child," says Virginia Reed Murphy, "when we started for
California, yet I remember the journey well. Our wagons were all made to
order, and I can say truthfully that nothing like the Reed family wagon
ever started across the plains. The entrance was on the side, and one
stepped into a small space like a room, in the center of the wagon. On
the right and left were comfortable spring seats, and here was also a
little stove whose pipe, which ran through the top of the wagon, was
prevented by a circle of tin from setting fire to the canvas. A board
about a foot wide extended over the wheels on either side, the full
length of the wagon, thus forming the foundation of a large roomy second
story on which were placed our beds; under the spring seats were
compartments where we stored the many things useful for such a journey.
Besides this we had two wagons with provisions.
"The family wagon was drawn by four yoke of choice oxen, the others by
three yoke. Then we had saddle horses and cows, and last of all my pony.
He was a beauty, and his name was Billy. The chief pleasure to which I
looked forward in crossing the plains was to ride on my pony every day.
But a day came when I had no pony to ride, for the poor little fellow
gave out. He could not endure the hardships of ceaseless travel. When I
was forced to part with him, I cried as I sat in the back of the wagon
watching him become smaller and smaller as we drove on until I could not
see him any more. But this grief did not come to me until I had enjoyed
many happy weeks with my pet.
"Never can I forget the morning when we bade farewell to our kindred and
friends. My father, with tears in his eyes, tried to smile as one friend
after another grasped his hand in a last farewell. My mother was
overcome with grief. At last we were all in the wagon, the drivers
cracked their whips, the oxen moved slowly forward, the long journey had
"The first Indians we met were the Caws, who kept the ferry and had to
take us over the Caw River. I watched them closely, hardly daring to
draw my breath, feeling sure that they would sink the boat in the middle
of the stream, and very thankful I was when I found that they were not
like the Indians in grandmamma's stories.
"When we reached the Blue River, Kansas, the water was so high that the
men made rafts of logs twenty-five feet in length, united by cross
timbers. Ropes were attached to both ends and by these the rafts were
pulled back and forth. The banks of the stream being steep, our
heavy-laden wagons had to be let down carefully with ropes so that the
wheels might run into the hollow between the logs. This was a dangerous
task, for in the wagons were the women and children, who could cross the
rapid stream in no other way.
"After striking the great valley of the Platte the road was good, the
country beautiful. Stretching out before us as far as the eye could
reach was a valley as green as emerald, dotted here and there with
flowers of every imaginable color. Here flowed the grand old Platte--a
wide, shallow stream. This part of our journey was an ideal pleasure
trip. How I enjoyed riding my pony, galloping over the plain gathering
wild flowers! At night the young folks would gather about the camp fire
chattering merrily, and often a song would be heard or some clever
dancer would give us a jig on the hind door of a wagon.
"In the evening, when we rode into camp, our wagons were placed so as to
form a circle or corral, into which, after they had been allowed to
graze, the cattle were driven to prevent the Indians from stealing them.
The camp fire and the tents were placed on the outside of this square.
There were many expert riflemen in the party, and we never lacked game.
I witnessed many a buffalo hunt and more than once was in the chase
close behind my father. For weeks buffalo and antelope steaks were the
main article on our bill of fare, and our appetites were a marvel." The
Reed family was the only one belonging to the Donner party, it is said,
who made the terrible journey without losing a member.
To the young people and men there was often much pleasure in crossing
the continent in a prairie schooner, as the white-covered emigrant wagon
was called; but to the women it was another matter, since they had to
ride constantly in a wagon, attend to the little children, and do the
cooking, often under great difficulties. Many of them learned to be
experts in camp cooking, requiring nothing more than a little hollow in
the hard ground for a range; or if there were plenty of stones, the
cooking place might be built up a little. Over this simple contrivance,
with the aid of a couple of iron crossbars, a kettle, a frying pan, and
coffee pot, many a delicious meal was easily and quickly prepared.
Mrs. Hecox, in the Overland Monthly, says: "I am sure the men never
realized how hard a time the women had. Of course the men worked hard
too, but after their day's travel was over they sat around the camp
fire, smoked, and told stories, while the women were tending the
children, mending clothes, and making ready for the next day's meals.
"After we crossed the Mississippi, it commenced raining, and for days we
splashed through the mud and slush. When we camped at night, we had to
wade about and make some kind of shelter for our fires, and I was
obliged to keep the children cooped up in the wagons. Here let me say
that I never heard an unkind word spoken among the women all the way
across the plain. The children were good, too, and never out of humor
either, unless some cross man scolded them.
"At one place a drove of buffalo ran into our train and gave us a bad
scare. I was in the wagon behind ours attending a sick woman when I saw
the drove coming. I knew the children would be frightened to death
without me, so I jumped from the wagon and ran, but I was too late.
Finding that I had no time to get into the wagon, I crawled under it,
where a wounded buffalo cow tried to follow me. I kicked her in the head
as I clung to the coupling pole, and somehow broke my collar bone."
As soon as the grass began to get green in the spring of 1849, after the
news of the discovery of gold reached the States, the overland march
began. In white-covered emigrant wagons, in carts, on horses, mules,
even on foot, came the eager gold seekers. How poorly prepared were many
of them, it would be hard to believe. They were a brave and hardy
company of people, but they suffered much. It is estimated that at least
eight or ten thousand of the young, strong men died before the year was
over. Many of these deaths were due to overwork and exposure, to the
lack of the necessaries of life at the mines, also to the fact that a
great many of the gold seekers were clever, educated people, quite
unused to extreme poverty, and therefore lacking in the strength that
comes from self-denial.
Those who remained formed the best material for the making of the state.
To this class belonged those who endowed the two great universities
which are now the glory of California. For many years the highest
position in public life was held by men who came to the Golden State
over the plains or by the uncomfortable ocean route in the days of '49.
The Birth of the Golden Baby
The birth of the Golden Baby, in other words, the coming of the Golden
State into the Union, was a time of struggle and uncertainty, when
feelings were deeply stirred and hope deferred caused bitter
disappointment. When the treaty of peace with Mexico was ratified by
Congress it left the Pacific coast settlements in a strange position--a
territory containing thousands of people, with more coming by hundreds,
but with no legally appointed rulers.
As soon as Congress accepted the treaty, the military governor ceased to
have any power, for there was then no longer a state of war; yet he was
still obeyed by courtesy, until some one with a better right took his
place. The only other official was the local alcalde of each community.
This was a Mexican office, but was at that time often filled by an
American who had, perhaps, been in the territory only a few months and
knew nothing of Mexican laws, but ran things as well as he could after
the Eastern fashion.
The Rev. Mr. Colton, chaplain of the warship Congress, was made alcalde
of Monterey, and his book on those times is most interesting.
"My duties," said he, "are similar to those of the mayor of an Eastern
city, but with no such aid of courts as he enjoys. I am supreme in every
breach of peace, case of crime, disputed land title, over a space of
three hundred miles. Such an absolute disposal of questions affecting
property and personal liberty never ought to be confided to one man."
The country owed much to Mr. Colton's work while alcalde. He soon gained
the confidence of law-abiding residents, but was a terror to evil doers.
Those he put to work quarrying stone and building the solid structure
afterward named Colton's Hall. Here one of the first of California's
schools was opened, and here was held the first convention.
Perhaps the truth that "as a man sows, so shall he reap," that a wrong
action is apt to bring its own punishment, was never more plainly shown
than in the Mexican war. The war was brought upon the United States in a
great degree by those interested in slavery, not because they had any
just cause of quarrel with the people of Mexico, but because they wanted
more territory where slaves could be held.
California, which was the name generally given to all the country
extending from Mexico northward to Oregon and the Louisiana Purchase,
and eastward from the Pacific Ocean to Texas, was what they really
fought for, and when they got it, it became their undoing. When a
commissioner went to Mexico to arrange for peace, he demanded California
for the United States. As is usual, the conquered had to yield to the
victor, and Mexico agreed, "provided the United States would promise not
to permit slavery in the territory thus acquired."
"No," replied Mr. Trist, the American commissioner, "the bare mention of
such a thing is an impossibility. No American president would dare
present such a treaty to the Senate."
The Mexican authorities persisted, saying the prospect of the
introduction of slavery into a territory gained from them excited the
strongest feelings of abhorrence in the hearts of the Mexican people,
but the American commissioner made no promise.
In the summer of 1848 the President, in a special message, called the
attention of Congress to California and asked that the laws of a
territory be granted to it. The South agreed, provided half should be
slave territory. The Northern people, who disliked slavery, had no
commercial interest in it, and felt it a disgrace to the nation,
resisted this demand. Then began a bitter struggle over California and
the question of slavery on her soil, which lasted for two years and
called forth some of the grandest speeches of those mighty leaders,
Webster, Clay, and Calhoun.
In 1849, while this fight in Congress was still going on, an amendment
to tax California for revenue, and another which would result in making
her a slave state, were added to the regular appropriation bill which
provided for the expenses of government and without which the government
would stop. Congress was supposed to close its session on Saturday,
March 3d, at midnight. The new President, Taylor, was to take office on
There had been many times of excitement in that Senate chamber, but this
night, it is said by those who were present, was equal to any. Such a
war of words and a battle of great minds! Many eyes were turned to the
clock as it drew near the hour of midnight. Would the stroke of twelve
dissolve the meeting and the great government of the United States be
left without funds?
To many of the senators this seemed a certainty, but Mr. Webster
insisted that Congress could not end while they remained in session. So,
through the long night, the struggle went on. About four o'clock the
amendment in regard to slavery was withdrawn, and the bill for the
government money was passed.
Meantime the American settlers in California were extremely
dissatisfied. To be living without suitable laws was an unnatural and
dangerous state of affairs which could not be tolerated by men who loved
their country and their homes. The Spanish Californians, also, were
anxious to know what they had to expect from the laws of the United
States. At last it was decided by the people, and agreed to by the
military governor, Riley, who was a man of good judgment, that delegates
should be chosen to a convention which should arrange a state
constitution and government. It was determined, however, to wait for
word from Congress, which had closed in such tumult.
News would certainly arrive by the next steamer, the Panama, which was
long overdue. It was a favorite amusement in those days for the boys of
San Francisco to go upon the hill and watch for her coming. The 4th of
June they were rewarded by the sight of her. As she came into harbor a
large part of the population hurried to the wharf, eager to learn the
action of Congress. Was California to be a state or not?
The disappointment was great when it was found that nothing had been
done except to pass the revenue laws, which meant taxation without
representation. In the plaza and on the streets the crowds were loud in
their disapproval. The excitement was almost as great as in Boston, so
long before, when the news of the tax on tea arrived. A mass meeting was
"It is plain they expect us to settle the slavery question for
ourselves," said one. "We can do it in short order," said another.
Monday, September 3, 1849, the constitutional convention met at
"Recognizing the fact that there is need of more than human wisdom, in
the work of founding a state under the unprecedented condition of the
country," says the minutes of that meeting, "the delegates voted to open
the session with prayer." It was decided to begin each morning's work in
this way, the Rev. S. H. Willey and Padre Ramirez officiating
There were present forty-eight delegates, seven of whom were Spanish
Californians. Of these Carrillo of the south and General Vallejo of
Sonoma were prominent. They were able men, who were used to governing
and who understood fairly well the needs of the times. Later, in the
United States Senate, Mr. Webster quoted Mr. Carrillo of "San Angeles,"
as he called it. Another delegate, Dr. Gwin, was a Southern man who had
recently come to California for the purpose of gaining the position of
United States senator and of so planning things that even though the
state should be admitted as free soil, it might later be divided and
part be made slave territory.
He depended for this upon the boundaries. If the whole great section was
admitted as California, he thought division would surely follow with the
southern part for slavery. The people, however, showed themselves
opposed to slavery in their new state, and Dr. Gwin soon found that he
must either forego his hopes of becoming senator or give way on this
point. The constitution finally adopted was that of a free state with
its boundaries as they are to-day. The new legislature chose Colonel
Fremont and Dr. Gwin senators, and they left in January, 1850, for
Washington, taking the new constitution to offer it for the approval of
While the people of the Pacific coast had been making their
constitution, Congress was in session, and the subject of California and
slavery was still troubling the nation. The discussion grew so bitter
that in January Clay brought forward his famous Omnibus Bill, so called
because it was intended to accommodate different people and parties, and
contained many measures which he thought would be so satisfactory to the
senators that they would pass the whole bill, although part of it
provided for the admission of California as a free state.
At once Southerners sprang forward to resist the measure. They realized
keenly that slavery could not hold its own if the majority of the
country became free soil. They must persist in their demand for more
slave territory, or give up their bondmen. Calhoun, the great advocate
of slavery, who was at that time ill and near his death, prepared a
speech, the last utterance of that brilliant mind, which was delivered
March 4th. He was too ill to read it, but sat, gaunt and haggard, with
burning eyes, while his friend spoke for him. It closed with the
declaration that the admission of California as a slave or a free state
was the test which would prove whether the Union should continue to
exist or be broken up by secession. If she came in free, then the South
could do no less than secede.
Three days later, March 7th, Webster delivered one of the great speeches
of his life. In it he said, "The law of nature, physical geography, and
the formation of the earth settles forever that slavery cannot exist in
Seward followed with a speech mighty in its eloquence. He said:
"California, rich and populous, is here asking admission to the Union
and finds us debating the dissolution of the Union itself. It seems to
me that the perpetual unity of the empire hangs on this day and hour.
Try not the temper and fidelity of California, nor will she abide delay.
I shall vote for the admission of California directly, without
conditions, without qualifications, and without compromise."
On September 9, 1850, California was at last admitted.
From that time the country advanced steadily onward to the terrible
period of 1861, when the South put her threat into execution. The Civil
War followed, and the abolition of slavery; but from the sorrowful
struggle there arose a better and happier nation, a united North and
South. There are two things to be remembered: that into the new
territory gained from Mexico slavery never entered; and that the wealth
which came from the mines of California did much toward strengthening
the North in the conflict.
Over half a year the Californians had been waiting for their
constitution to be adopted, and for their representatives to be received
in Congress. Sometimes it seemed as though the good news would never
One October morning word came down from the lookout on Telegraph Hill:
"The Oregon is coming in covered with bunting. All her flags are
flying." Almost at the same moment throughout the city could be heard
the quick booming of her guns as she entered the harbor. With shouts and
clapping of hands the people rushed to the wharf. Tears were pouring
down the faces of men who did not know what it was to cry; women were
sobbing and laughing by turns. The shrill cheers of the California boys
rose high above all. There was the report of guns, the cracking of
pistols, the joyful pealing of bells. New York papers sold readily at
five dollars each. No more business that day. Joy and gayety reigned. At
night the city was ablaze with fireworks and mighty bonfires, which the
boys kept going until morning.
Messengers started in every direction to carry the news. The way the
word came to San Jose was exciting. The new governor, Peter Burnett, was
in San Francisco on steamer day. On the very next morning he left for
San Jose on the stage coach of Crandall, one of the famous drivers of
the West. The stage of a rival line left at the same time. There was
great excitement: a race between two six-horse teams, with coaches
decorated with flags, and the governor on the box of one of them.
They had to creep through the heavy sands to the mission, but beyond
there they struck the hard road, and away they went, horses at a gallop,
passengers shouting and singing. As they passed through a town or by a
ranch house people ran out, aroused by the hubbub. Off went the hats of
all on the coaches.
"California has been admitted to the Union!" some one would shout in his
loudest voice, and, looking back, they would see men shaking hands and
tossing hats on high, and small boys jigging while shouts and cheers
followed them faintly as they disappeared in the distance.
Past San Bruno, San Mateo, Mayfield, they went with a rush, then swept
through Santa Clara, then at a gallop down the beautiful Alameda to San
Jose, the governor's coach but three minutes in advance of its rival.
A few days later there was the grand ceremony of admission day, which
was described in the papers not only of this country but of England as
Still, after the rejoicing came a time of anxiety and sorrow. In its
treatment of the land question in California the United States made one
of the gravest mistakes ever made by a civilized nation.
The man whom the government sent out to investigate the subject, W. C.
Jones, was an able Spanish scholar, skilled in Mexican and Spanish law,
and his carefully prepared report declared that the greater part of the
rancheros had perfect title to their lands, and all that was necessary
for the United States to do was to have them resurveyed.
In Congress, Senator Benton and Senator Fremont in most points supported
this report as the only just plan. Against the bill that was finally
passed Senator Benton protested vigorously, saying that it amounted to
confiscation of the land instead of the protection promised by the
American government, through Larkin and Sloat.
This law made it necessary for every Californian, no matter how long he
had lived on his land, to prove his title to it, and that, too, while
the United States attorney resisted his claim inch by inch, as if he
were a criminal.
Thus the Spanish American, who was seldom a man of business after the
standard of the Eastern states, was forced into the distressing
necessity of fighting for what was his own, in courts, the law and
language of which he did not understand. Meantime his property was
rendered hard to sell, while taxation fell heaviest upon him because he
was a large land owner. Often, too, he would have to pay his lawyer in
notes, promising to give money when he could get it, and in the end the
lawyer often got most of the land which the United States government had
left to the unhappy Californian.
The way in which unprincipled men got the better of the rancheros would
fill a volume. Guadalupe Vallejo, in the Century Magazine (Vol. 41),
tells how a leading American squatter came to her father and said:--
"There is a large piece of your land where the cattle run loose, and
your vaqueros are all gone to the mines. I will fence the field at my
own expense if you will give me half of it." Vallejo agreed, but when
the American had inclosed it, he entered it on the record books as
government land and kept it all.
This article also describes the losses of the ranchmen from cattle
stealing. It tells how Americans, who were afterward prosperous
citizens, were guilty of selling Spanish beef which they knew had been
The life of the Spanish-speaking people at the mines was made miserable.
The American miners seemed to feel that the Californian had no right to
be there. Of course there were some of the lower class, many of whom
were part Indian, who would lie, steal, or, if they had an opportunity,
murder; but often those who were persecuted were not of this type. A
woman of refinement, who under the title of "Shirley" wrote her
experiences at the mines, says:--
"The people of the Spanish race on Indian Bar, many of whom are highly
educated gentlemen, are disposed to bear an ill opinion of our whole
nation on account of the rough men here. They think that it is a great
characteristic of Columbia's children to be prejudiced, selfish,
avaricious, and unjust."
Because in a quarrel a Mexican killed a drunken miner, the men of the
Bar determined to drive away all Californians. They captured several,
not the guilty one, banished some, and two they sentenced to be flogged.
Shirley from her cabin heard what was going on. She tells how one of
them, a gentlemanly young Spaniard, begged in vain to be killed rather
than be disgraced by whipping. When, finally, he was released, he swore
eternal vengeance against the American race.
In San Francisco the disorderly state of affairs caused by the host of
criminals gathered there from all over the world, attracted by the
discovery of gold, became unendurable. On the city streets robbery and
murder were of frequent occurrence, no one was safe, and wrongdoers went
unpunished because, frequently, the officers of the law were in league
with them. At last the best citizens felt that for the sake of their
homes and families they must take matters into their own hands, so they
formed an association, seven thousand strong, which was known as the
Those who committed crimes were taken by this organization, and, after
careful trial, punished. Several of the worst offenders were executed,
many were banished from the country, and unjust officials were removed.
When law and order were restored, the Vigilantes disbanded.
The example of San Francisco was followed in various parts of the state,
especially in the mining camps, where there were many crimes; but not
all the Vigilantes displayed the same care and fairness as the people of
the larger city, and sometimes terrible mistakes were made, and innocent
With thousands of newcomers on the Pacific coast, and the long distance
between them and their homes, it was often of the greatest importance to
get their parcels and mail to them as promptly as possible. For this
reason several express companies were started and did excellent work;
but the mail route called the Pony Express was the most interesting. It
is well described by W. F. Bailey in the Century Magazine (Vol. 56).
One day in March, 1860, the following advertisement appeared in a St.
"To San Francisco in eight days. The first carrier of the Pony Express
will leave the Missouri River on Tuesday, April 3d, and will run
regularly weekly hereafter, carrying letter mail only. Telegraph mail
eight days, letters ten days to San Francisco."
From St. Joseph, Missouri, the first start was made. A large crowd was
present to see the rider off. The same day, the same hour, the Western
mail started on the thousand-mile ride eastward. There would be ten
riders each way, with horses changed every twenty-five miles.
Both Sacramento and San Francisco were full of enthusiasm. It was
planned to give the first messenger a rousing reception when he should
arrive from the East. He was received by crowds as he galloped into
Sacramento, and hurried to a swift river steamboat which immediately
started for the Bay. News of his coming was telegraphed ahead, and was
announced from the stages of the San Francisco theaters so that when he
arrived at midnight a large number of people were awaiting him, bands
were playing, and bells were ringing; and a long procession escorted him
to the company's office.
In all, there were sixty riders of this express company, all young men,
light in weight, accomplished riders, coolheaded, and absolutely brave.
They were held in high regard by all, and with good reason. Each when he
entered the service signed this pledge:--
"I agree not to use profane language, not to get drunk, not to gamble,
not to treat animals cruelly, and not to do anything incompatible with
the conduct of a gentleman." They also had to swear to be loyal to the
The average journey of one man was seventy-five miles, this to be
accomplished in one day, but the men frequently had to double the
distance, and once, when the messenger who was waiting was killed by
Indians, "Buffalo Bill" (Mr. Cody) made the long trip of three hundred
and eighty-four miles, stopping only for meals and to change horses.
By day and by night, through rain and storm, heat and cold, they rode,
these brave men, one facing east, the other west, alone, always alone,
often chased by Indians, though, owing to their watchfulness and the
superiority of their horses, they were seldom caught. A number were,
however, killed by immigrants, who mistook them for Indians or robbers.
The great feat of the Pony Express was the delivering of Lincoln's
inaugural address in 1861.
With the Southern states claiming to be out of the Union, people were
wild to know what the President would say. To St. Joseph, Missouri, the
address was hurried. Here it was carefully wrapped in oil skin,
consigned to the saddle bags, and amid wild cheers the express was off.
Horses were waiting every ten miles. What a ride was that! "Speed,
speed! faster, faster!" was the cry. Each man tried to do a trifle
better than the last, while the thousands on the Pacific coast seemed to
be straining their ears for the sound of the galloping hoof beats which
brought nearer to them the brave message of the grand new President. And
when the last rider came in, making the final ten miles in thirty-one
minutes, what a cheer went up!
One thousand nine hundred and fifty miles in one hundred and eighty-five
hours, the message had traveled--at an average of a little more than
ten miles an hour--straight across the continent.
When we read of the speed-breaking special trains of to-day, let us not
forget what these brave men of the first overland express accomplished
in the days of '61.
The Signal Gun and the Steel Trail
Boom! Boom! Boom! Never in history did the firing of a gun have such a
powerful effect as that which sent the first shot at the flag of the
Union, as it floated over Fort Sumter on that memorable Friday, April
Fired at a time when most people were hoping for a peaceful outcome of
the sectional troubles, it astonished the world and stirred the whole
country to its depths.
Across the dry plains and rugged mountains of the West its echoes seemed
to roll. The startled people of the Pacific coast looked at each other
with anxious, uncertain eyes. No one felt quite sure of his neighbor,
and they were so far from the scene of action that the government could
not help them. They must settle the great question for themselves. Who
was for the Union? Who was against it?
In Washington the President and his advisers waited with keen anxiety to
learn what wealthy California would do. Senator Gwin had often spoken in
Congress and elsewhere as though it would certainly be one of the states
to secede. He and others had talked too, in a confident way, of the
"Grand Republic of the Pacific" that might be then formed out of the
lands of the Western coast. To lose this rich territory would be a
terrible blow to the Union.
From the time of California's admission there had been a constant
endeavor on the part of Southern sympathizers to introduce slavery into
its territory. A large number of politicians, especially those holding
prominent positions, were Southerners, some of whom, like Dr. Gwin, had
come to the Pacific coast for the express purpose of winning either the
new state or some portion of it for the South and slavery.
They had succeeded in giving it a fugitive slave law that was
particularly evil. Under it a colored man or woman could be seized,
brought before a magistrate, claimed as a slave, and taken back South
without being allowed to testify in his or her own behalf. Neither could
a colored person give testimony in a criminal case against one who was
Opposed to this strong Southern party one man stood almost alone as the
friend of free labor and free soil. This man was David C. Broderick. For
years he fought the slavery interests inch by inch in San Francisco, in
the state legislature, and finally in the United States Senate.
When he went to Washington he found the same state of affairs as in
California--President Buchanan yielding to the Southern demands,
Southern members ruling and often terrifying Congress. Broderick at once
joined Stephen A. Douglas in the struggle he was then making for free
soil in Kansas and the territories, and his speeches were clear and
In reply to a speech from a Carolina senator in regard to the disgrace
of belonging to the working class, Mr. Broderick said (Congressional
Globe, 1857-58), "I represent a state where labor is honorable, where
the judge has left his bench, the doctor and lawyer their offices, the
clergyman his pulpit, for the purpose of delving in the earth, where no
station is so high, no position so great, that its occupant is not proud
to boast that he has labored with his own hands. There is no state in
the Union, no place on earth, where labor is so honored, so well
rewarded, as in California." Mr. Broderick died in the midst of his
bright career, murdered in a duel by one of the leading members of the
When he died, those of his fellow-citizens who believed much as he did,
yet had let him fight secession and slavery lone-handed, recognized what
he had done for them--their "brave young senator," as Seward called
him, who had kept the evil of slavery from their soil. His work, stopped
by the bullet of his enemy, was taken up by the people, and his name
became a rallying cry for the lovers of the Union, of honest labor, and
of free soil.
News that the war had really begun brought forth the strongest Union
sentiments from many of those who had before been careless or
indifferent. A mass meeting of the people of San Francisco was held--
business was suspended, flags were flying everywhere, while eager-faced
people listened to earnest Union speeches. A few days later the
legislature, by an almost unanimous vote, declared in the strongest
terms for the Union, offering to give any aid the government might
require. No one could longer have any doubt of the loyalty of the state
There were certainly many people from the South who were deeply in
sympathy with secession; but these, if honorable men who were able to
fight, hurried east to join the Confederate army, or if they chose to
remain under the protection of the flag, were generally wise enough to
keep their feelings to themselves.
Some there were, however, who, while they enjoyed the law and order of
the peaceful state, still spoke, plotted, and schemed for secession. To
keep such as these in order it was found necessary to retain most of the
California troops in the state for home defense. Those who did reach
Eastern battlefields fought well and nobly.
One of San Francisco's ministers was unwise enough frequently to express
disloyal views in the pulpit, until one Sunday morning he found the
banner he would dishonor floating over his church, and hanging to a post
in front of the door a figure intended to represent himself, with his
name and the word "traitor" pinned to it. The next day he left for
Europe, where he stayed until the close of the war.
Another minister, Thomas Starr King, was one of the most earnest
supporters of the government. He organized the California division of
the Sanitary Commission for the assistance of sick and wounded soldiers.
Chiefly through his influence California gave over a million and a half
to that cause, which was one third of the whole expenditure of the
In 1862 Leland Stanford became governor. He was devoted to the Union,
always striving to influence his state to give liberally of its wealth
to help the government; and its record in that line was second to none.
"A good leader, energetic and long-headed," the governor was called; but
no one dreamed that long before he was an old man, he would give for the
cause of education in California the mightiest gift ever bestowed by any
one man for the benefit of humanity.
During the war, California furnished 16,000 men, two regiments of which
were among the best of the Union cavalry. One regiment of infantry was
composed of trappers and mountaineers, from whom were taken many
"sharpshooters" so famous in assisting the advance of the Northern
In the southern part of the state there was a body of volunteers known
as the California Column, also the California Lancers, who, far off
though they were, found enough to do. They drove the Southern forces out
of Arizona and New Mexico, fought the Apache Indians in several battles,
met and defeated the Texas Rangers, and took various military posts in
Great was the excitement in San Francisco when one morning the United
States marshall captured, just as she was leaving the wharf, a schooner
fully fitted out as a privateer. She was filled with armed men, and in
her cabin was a commission signed by Jefferson Davis in the name of the
Confederate States, also a plan for capturing the forts of the harbor,
the Panama mail steamer, then en route north, and a treasure steamer
soon to, sail for Panama.
In Los Angeles disloyalty was more outspoken and unrebuked by public
opinion. Sometimes the surrounding ranchmen, many of whom were in
sympathy with the South, on the news of a Southern victory would come
into Los Angeles to celebrate with disloyal banners and transparencies.
Living on Main Street there was a Yankee, one of the leading citizens,
who upon such an occasion would take his rifle and, promenading the flat
roof of his wide-spreading adobe, hurl down defiance at the enemy,
calling them "rebels" and "traitors" and defying them to come up and
fight him man to man. But there must have been a feeling of good
fellowship through it all, since no stray bullet was ever sent to put a
stop to the taunts of the fiery old Unionist.
Some Spanish soldiers of the California Column, however, grew weary of
such open disloyalty, and one night, when off duty, captured two of the
Southern ranchmen and proposed to hang them to the oaks in the pasture
near where the city of Pasadena now stands. The American officers of the
troops, hearing of the affair, hurried out from Los Angeles and begged
their men to give up so disorderly and unsoldier-like an idea. "Yes,
sirs, it is true, all that you say; but they are rebels, they talk too
much; why suffer them to cumber Union ground?" This seemed the only
reply they could obtain; but finally the captives were liberated, though
advised in the future to guard well their tongues and actions.
The desire for war news from the Eastern states led to the completion of
a telegraph line between the Missouri River and San Francisco, and on
all sides the need of an overland railroad was also being recognized.
Plans for such a road had been frequently presented to Congress, but
straightway slavery entered into the question. The South wanted the
road, but it must be through Southern territory, while the North favored
the middle or northern route; and they could not agree.
On one such occasion Senator Benton spoke in favor of a line that had
just been surveyed by Captain Fremont. He was told by those who had
other plans that his route was not possible, that only scientific men
could lay out a railroad and determine the most practicable ways and
easiest passes. But Senator Benton's answer is worth remembering.
"There is," said he, "a class of scientific engineers older than the
schools and more unerring than mathematics. They are the wild animals--
the buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, and bear--which traverse the forest,
not by compass, but by an instinct which leads them always the right way
to the lowest passes in the mountains, the shallowest fords in the
rivers, the richest pastures in the forest, the best salt springs, the
shortest practicable route between two distant points. They are the
first engineers to lay out a road; the Indian follows. Hence the buffalo
road becomes the war path. The white hunter follows the same trail in
the pursuit of game; after that the buffalo road becomes the wagon road
of the emigrant, and, lastly, the railroad of the scientific man."
Through her senators and representatives California spent several years
in pushing this matter. In vain they called attention to the fact that
the distance from Washington to San Francisco by the way of Cape Horn
was 19,000 miles, or more than the entire distance round the earth in
the latitude of San Francisco; and that by Panama it was as far as from
Washington to Peking in a direct line.
In 1859-60 there appeared in Washington a young engineer named Judah,
who had been sent by the people of the Pacific coast to urge the
immediate building of the road by the middle route that which was
finally chosen. Mr. Judah knew more about the matter than any other man,
east or west, and he failed in his mission only because the troubles
over slavery and the prospect of immediate secession took up the whole
attention of Congress.
However, he came back in no way discouraged, and continued to urge the
matter in his cheerful, hopeful way. That he should be hopeful does not
seem strange to us who know that the road was built and that it was a
great success, but then conditions were different.
"What, build a railroad over those mountains, with their terrible winter
snows and landslides, across the desert, where there is absolutely no
water? It is impossible, and these men know it; they only want to get
the people's money." Such was the type of article one might read at any
time in the papers of the day.
Still, Mr. Judah's talk had its results. One June day in 1861, Leland
Stanford, a young lawyer, who was at that time Sacramento's chief
grocer, Mark Hopkins and Collis P. Huntington, hardware merchants, and
Charles Crocker, proprietor of the leading dry-goods store, met and
organized the Central Pacific Railroad Company, with Stanford as
president, Huntington as vice-president, Hopkins as treasurer, Judah as
engineer, and Crocker as one of the directors.
This action seems sensible enough as we write of it, but it was one of
the most daring undertakings ever attempted by any body of men. None of
the four was rich, all had worked hard for the little they had; but they
felt that the country must have the railroad, that without it California
could never become a great state. But if they could only push forward,
as soon as they had themselves accomplished something, help would come
to them from the East and their success would be assured.
Again Mr. Judah went to Washington, and this time he was successful. The
war had made the government feel the need of the railway, not only to
bind the Pacific coast closer to the eastern half of the continent, but
to transport troops to defend its western shores. There were many now
ready to vote for the road, and in July, 1862, the bill, having been
passed by both houses, was signed by Abraham Lincoln.
It provided for the building of two roads, one from the Missouri River
westward, the Union Pacific, and one from the Pacific coast eastward,
the Central Pacific, the two to be continued till they met and formed
one long line.
On the day that Leland Stanford was inaugurated governor of California,
he had the further satisfaction of beginning the construction of the
overland railroad by digging and casting the first shovelful of earth.
This took place in Sacramento, in the presence of a large gathering of
the leading people of the state; and from that time the work went
speedily on. It was estimated that the road would cost an average of
eighty thousand dollars a mile, though in the mountains the cost was
nearer one hundred and fifty thousand.
Not only the right of way, but a large portion of the near-by public
lands, were granted by the government to each road, and at the
completion of each forty miles of track there was to be further aid. The
state of California, the city of San Francisco, and the counties through
which the railroad passed, each gave generously to the Central Pacific;
but all this did not bring in enough ready money. Huntington in the East
and Stanford in the West almost worked miracles in getting funds to
begin the work.
In the death of Mr. Judah, which occurred at this time, the company
suffered a great loss. Although the enterprise went on to a successful
ending, his name dropped out of sight; but those who know, feel that to
him California owes a great debt of gratitude. Though she was sure to
have the overland sometime, it might have been years later in its
accomplishment, but for the faith, energy, and perseverance of Theodore
Charles Crocker now took charge of the building of the road; to
accomplish the work he imported Chinese, whom he found peaceable,
industrious, and quick to learn. They were arranged in companies moving
at the word of command like drilled troops--"Crocker's battalions" they
were called. There was need of the greatest haste to get the different
portions completed in the time allowed.
"Why," said Crocker, "I used to go up and down that road in my car like
a mad bull, stopping along where there was anything wrong, raising Cain
with the men that were not up to time."
Neither Mr. Crocker nor Mr. Stanford ever recovered from the strain of
that time. It is said that it eventually caused the death of both men.
Meantime the Union Pacific was pushing overland westward as fast as
possible. Each road was aiming for the rich plains of Utah. If the
Central stopped at the eastern base of the mountains, it would make this
road of little value except for Pacific coast traffic; but if it could
reach Ogden, the line would pay well.
It was a mighty race all through the winter of 1868 and 1869, Crocker
and his men working like giants. What he accomplished then was scarcely
less wonderful than Napoleon's passage of the Alps.
All the supplies for his thousands of workmen, all the materials and
iron for the road, even the locomotives, he had to have hauled on
sledges over the mountains through the winter snows.
Ogden was finally made the place where the two roads joined; but they
first met, and the last work was done, at Promontory, a point fifty
miles northwest of Ogden. There in May, 1869, the last tie was laid. It
was made of California laurel, handsomely polished, and on it was a
silver plate with an inscription and the names of the officers of the
It was an eventful meeting on that grassy plain, under the blue Western
sky, while all around rose the rugged peaks that had at last been
conquered by man's energy. The telegraph at this spot was, for the
occasion, connected with all the offices along the line and in the
leading cities of the country, where crowds were in waiting to hear that
the great work was finished.
Two trains were there with their engines, as Bret Harte describes them,
"facing on the single track, half a world behind each back." Around
stood the guests and officers of the roads waiting for the final
ceremony. "Hats off," clicked the telegraph. Prayer was offered, and
then the four gold and silver spikes, presented by California, Nevada,
Idaho, and Montana, were put in place by President Stanford of the
Central Pacific and Dr. Durant of the Union Pacific.
As the silver hammers fell on the golden spikes, in all the telegraph
offices along the line and in the Eastern cities the hammer of the
magnet struck the bell--"tap, tap, tap." "Done,"--flashed the message
to the eager crowds.
All over the land the event was celebrated with great rejoicing. In
Buffalo, as the news came, hundreds of voices burst out in the singing
of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In Boston, services were held at midday
in Trinity Church, where the popular pastor offered "thanks to God for
the completion of the greatest work ever undertaken by men."
To the four men who were the builders of the Central Pacific, the public
and particularly the state of California owes much. They not only built
the road, but made it a grand, complete success in all its departments.
Without it, California would still be a remote province, little known.
With it she is one of the chief states of the Union, and in the great
business world she is known and felt as a power.
Later the corporation became very wealthy and powerful. Then it was that
it began to abuse its power, working often against the best interests of
the inhabitants of the Pacific slope. In some cases, as in the eviction
of the people who were settlers in the Mussel Slough District, it was
guilty of extreme cruelty and injustice, such as is almost certain to
bring its own punishment. But in reckoning with the Southern Pacific,
for so the company is now called, the people of California should be
careful to look on both sides of the question, remembering the terrible
struggles of those early days, when the building of the Overland, that
greatest achievement America had ever seen, was to them like the
miraculous gift of some fairy godmother, seemingly beyond the
possibility of nature.
That Which Followed After
About the time that the people of California were beginning to feel the
trouble arising from the unlimited wealth and power of the great
railroad corporation, they discovered what they felt was danger coming
from another quarter. This was in the large number of Chinese pouring
into the state. Already every town of importance had its quaint Chinese
quarter, bits of Asia transplanted to the western hemisphere. Yet these
sons of Asia, with their quiet, gliding motions and oriental dress, had
been of great service in the development of the new land. Many of the
most helpful improvements were rendered possible by their labor, and for
years they were almost the only servants for house or laundry work to be
obtained. Never did the housewives of the Pacific coast join in the
outcry against the Chinese.
Although all this was true, it was also a fact that an American
workingman could not live and support his family on the wages a Chinaman
would take; and when the white man saw the Chinese given the jobs
because they could work cheaply, he became discouraged and angry. Was he
to be denied a living in his own country because of these strangers? For
this reason the working people became very bitter toward the Chinese.
Their complaints were carried to Washington, and because of them the
government finally arranged with China for the restriction of
immigration, but not, however, before the matter caused much trouble in
During the years 1876-77 times were rightly called "hard" along the
Pacific slope. Often laboring men could not get work, and their families
suffered. The blame for all this was unjustly given to the Chinese, who
were several times badly treated by mobs. The general discontent led at
last to a demand for a new state constitution, which many people thought
would remedy the evils of which they complained. For twenty-five years
the old constitution had done good service. On the day it had been
signed, Walter Colton, alcalde of Monterey, wrote thus of it in his
diary: "It is thoroughly democratic; its basis, political and social
equality, is the creed of the thousands who run the plow, wield the
plane, the hammer, the trowel, the spade." Still it had its faults, the
greatest of which was the power given the legislature over public moneys
and lands, as well as the chance it allowed for dishonesty in voting.
Unfortunately many of the delegates to the convention which was to make
the new constitution were foreigners who knew very little of American
manners, customs, and laws, and few of them were among the deeper
thinkers of the state, men who had had experience in lawmaking. That the
new constitution is not much better than the old, many who helped in the
making of it will agree. It was adopted in May, 1879. Since that time it
has received a number of changes by means of amendments voted for by the
people, and in spite of whatever errors it has contained, the state
under it has gone forward to a high degree of prosperity.
In 1875, during the administration of Governor Pacheco, the first native
state governor, an invitation was extended to native-born boys of San
Francisco to take part in the Fourth of July celebration. A fine body of
young men were thus assembled, of whom Hittell in his story of San
Francisco says, "They were unparalleled in physical development and
mental vigor, and unsurpassed in pride and enthusiasm for the land that
gave them birth." This gathering led to the founding of the "Native Sons
of the Golden West," an organization which now numbers many thousands
and of which the great state may well be proud. Later there was
organized a sister society of native daughters, and this also has a
large membership. As stated in their constitution, one of the main
objects of these sons and daughters of the West is "to awaken and
strengthen patriotism and keep alive and glowing the sacred love of
An event of the utmost importance to the southern part of the state was
the completion of the railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles,
which occurred in 1879. Its route lay through the rich valley of the San
Joaquin. Work had been carried on from each end of the line, and it was
a very happy assembly which gathered to witness the junction of the two
divisions, the event taking place at the eastern end of the San Fernando
tunnel. This road was afterward extended from Los Angeles eastward by
the way of Yuma and Tucson, and is to-day the Southern Pacific Overland.
Later the Santa Fe Company built its popular road between Los Angeles
and the Eastern states. Both these companies now have lines from Los
Angeles to San Diego, and the Southern Pacific has a coast road the
length of the state, along which the scenery is of great beauty.
In the history of the state the most pathetic portion is that which
relates to the Indians. Bancroft says, "The California valley cannot
grace her annals with a single Indian war bordering upon respectability.
It can boast, however, a hundred or two of as brutal butcherings on the
part of our honest miners and brave pioneers as any area of equal extent
in our republic." Miners and settlers coming into the country would take
up the waters where the natives fished, the land where they hunted,
driving them back to rocky soil, where there was nothing but acorns and
roots to support life. As a result the poor, unhappy creatures, driven
by hunger, would steal the newcomers' horses and cattle. It is true that
the white men depended, in a great measure, upon their animals for the
support of their families; but they thought only of their own wrongs,
and would arm in strong parties, chase the wretched natives to their
homes, and tear down their miserable villages, killing the innocent and
guilty alike. The government was the most to blame, because it did not
in the first place enact laws for the protection of the Indians in their
About the towns, many of the natives gathered for work. In some places
the authorities had the right to arrest them as vagabonds and hire them
out as bondmen to the highest bidder, for a period often of as many as
two or three months at a time, with no regard to family ties. Little
seems to have been done to assist them to a better kind of life. In Los
Angeles, when working in the vineyards as grape pickers, they were paid
their wages each Saturday night, and immediately they were tempted on
all sides by sellers of bad whisky and were really hurried into
drunkenness. Their shrieks and howls would, for a time, make the night
hideous, when they were driven by the officers of the law into corrals,
like so many pigs or cattle, and left there till Monday morning, when
they were handed over to whoever chose to pay the officers for the right
to own them for the next week.
Near the Oregon line lived some of the most warlike and troublesome
Indians of California. Here there were one or two severe fights, the
worst of which was with the Modocs, in the northern lava beds. It was
here that General Canby was killed. To-day the Modocs are still
suffering keenly. In the upper part of the state the Indians have no
lands of any kind, and noble men and women of California are working to
secure for them their rights from the government. In the south, whole
villages have been found living on nothing but ground acorn meal, from
which miserable diet many children die and older people cannot long
The Sequoya League, an association for the betterment of the Indians of
the Southwest, has done much toward opening the eyes of the public and
of the government officials to the unhappy condition of these first
owners of the soil. Congress, in 1906, appropriated $100,000 to be used
in buying land and water for those Indian reservations or settlements
where the suffering was greatest. This was a good beginning, but as the
needy Indians are scattered all over the state, much more is required
before they can be so placed that they can earn a living by their
Gradually the cattle industry, which was for so long a time the leading
business of the country, gave way to sheep raising. During summer and
fall large flocks of grayish white merinos could be seen getting a rich
living on the brown grasses, the yellow stubble of old grain fields, and
the tightly rolled nuts of the bur clover; while in winter and spring,
hills and plains with their velvet-like covering of green alfileria
offered the best and juiciest of food. This was the time of the coming
of the lambs. As soon as they were old enough to be separated from their
mothers they were put during the day in companies by themselves. A band
of five or six hundred young lambs, playing and skipping over the young
green grass they were just learning to eat, was a beautiful sight to
everybody save to the man or boy who had them to herd. They led him such
a chase that by the time he had them safely corralled for the night,
every muscle in his body would be aching with fatigue.
Shearing time was the liveliest portion of the herder's life, which was
generally very lonely. First came the shearing crew with their captain;
next arrived the venders of hot coffee, tamales, tortillas, and other
Mexican dainties; brush booths were erected and a brisk trade began. The
herds were driven up and into a corral where several shearers could work
at a time. Snip, snip, snip, went the shears hour after hour. It was the
boast of a good shearer that he could clip a sheep in seven minutes and
not once bring blood. As fast as cut, the wool was packed in a long sack
suspended from a framework. The dust was dreadful, and the man or boy
whose duty it was, when the bag was partly full, to jump in and tramp
the wool down so that the bag might hold more, would nearly choke before
he emerged into the clear daylight.
The passage of the no-fence law by the legislature of 1873, while it was
opposed by the sheep and cattle men, was one of the greatest aids to the
growth of agriculture, especially in the southern part of the state. It
provided that cattle and sheep should not be allowed to run loose
without a herder to keep them from trespassing. This saved the farmer
from the necessity of fencing his grain fields, a most important help in
a country where fence material was so scarce and expensive.
For some time after California's admission to the Union most of the
events of importance in its history took place around the Bay of San
Francisco and the junction of the Sacramento and San Joaquin; but early
in the seventies the south land awoke from its long sleep and took part
in history making, not in such stirring incidents as those of the days
of '49, but in a quieter growth that was yet of importance in the making
of the state. People in the East had begun to find out that southern
California had a mild, healthful climate and that, though the sands of
her rivers and rocks of her mountains were not of gold, still her
oranges, by aid of irrigation, could be turned into a golden harvest,
and that all her soil needed was water in order to yield most bountiful
As little land could be bought in small ranches, those wishing to settle
in the country chose the colony plan. A number of families would
contribute to a common sum, with which would be purchased a large piece
of land of several thousand acres with its water right. Each man
received from this a number of acres in proportion to the amount of
money he had invested. The first colony formed was that of Anaheim;
then followed Westminster, Riverside, Pasadena, and many others, and by
that time people began to come into southern California in large
The overland journey was much longer, then than now, but quite as
pleasant. At twenty-two miles an hour the country could be seen and
enjoyed, acquaintance made with the plump little prairie dogs of the
Nebraska plains, and their neighbors the ground owls, which bobbed grave
salutes as the train passed by. Bands of galloping deer, groups of grave
Indian warriors sitting on their ponies watching the train from afar, an
occasional buffalo lumbering along, shaking his shaggy head, were the
things that interested the traveler who took the overland trains in '74
At that time between San Francisco and Los Angeles there were two forms
of travel: a hundred miles of railroad, with the rest of the distance by
stage; and the steamship line. Families chose the ship. From San Pedro
to Los Angeles was the only railroad of the southern country. In Los
Angeles the flat-roofed adobe buildings, where people could walk about
on the tops of the houses, were a wonder to the Eastern strangers.
Beautiful homes some of them were, where glimpses could be had of
stately senoras in silks and laces, and beautiful senoritas whose dark
eyes made havoc with the hearts of the colony young men. The young
Californian, who seemed a very part of his fiery steed, was at once the
admiration and envy of the Yankee boy.
Queer sights were to be seen at every turn. Creaking carretas, whose
squeaking wheels announced their coming a block away, filled the
streets, some loaded with grapes, others with rounded shaggy grease-wood
roots or sacks of the red Spanish bean and great branches of flaming red
peppers. The oxen, with yoke on the horns, seemed as if out of some
Life in the different colonies was much the same. The newcomers had many
things to learn, but they made the best of their mistakes, and days of
hard work, such as many of them had never known, were often ended with
social or literary meetings, where minds were brightened and hearts
warmed by friendly intercourse.
When the rains were heavy, the swift mountain streams could not be
crossed, and often provisions gave out; then with neighborly kindness
those who had, loaned to those who had not, until fresh supplies could
be obtained. To this day the smell of new redwood lumber, the scent of
burning grease-wood brush, will bring back those times to the colonists
with a painful longing for the happy days of their new life in the new
land. Many never gained wealth, while some lost lands and savings; but
it was these earnest, intelligent men and women who developed the rich
valleys of the south land and to whom we are indebted for the bloom and
beauty found there to-day.
The result of the land laws and the ill-treatment of the Mexican
population at the mines was a period of highway robbery by bands of
outlaws, each under the leadership of some especially daring man. The
story of some of their adventures reminds the hearer of the tales of
Robin Hood. Not so mild as Robin's were their lives, however. Often
their passage was marked by a trail of blood, where bitter revenge was
taken because of bitter wrongs. Last of these bands was that of Vasquez,
who robbed the colony folk gently with many apologies. He was finally
captured and executed, and with him the bandits passed from the page of
One night in 1867 there took place in Washington an event that was to be
of great importance to the western part of the United States. This was
the signing of the treaty for the purchase of Alaska. As early as 1860
Mr. Seward, in a speech delivered at St. Paul, said:
"Looking far off into the northwest I see the Russian as he occupies
himself establishing seaports, towns, and fortifications, on the verge
of this continent, and I say, 'Go on and build up your posts all along
the coast up even to the Arctic Ocean, they will yet become the outposts
of my own country.'" So long ago did the desire for Alaska, or Russian
America as it was then called, possess the mind of the great statesman.
But it was not until seven years later that he found the chance to win
the government to his views. One evening, while the matter was under
discussion between the two countries, the Russian minister called upon
Mr. Seward at his home, to inform him that he had just received the
Czar's sanction for the sale.
"Good, we will sign the treaty to-night," said the American statesman.
"What, so late as this, and your department closed, your clerks
scattered?" remonstrated the Russian.
"It can be done," replied Mr. Seward; and it was. At midnight the treaty
was signed. The price paid for Alaska was less than the cost of two of
our modern battleships. Every year has proved more and more the wisdom
of the purchase. The discovery of gold in particular has immensely
increased its value and has brought to California an enlarged commerce.
In 1898 came the war with Spain. The tidings of the 15th of February,
1898, filled the hearts of the people of California with indignation and
grief. That the United States battleship Maine had been blown up in
Havana harbor and numbers of our seamen killed, seemed to many
sufficient cause for immediate war. Some, however, feared for the
Pacific coast settlements, with insufficient fortifications and no war
vessels of importance, except the magnificent Western-built battleship,
Oregon. This vessel was at Puget Sound when the news of the blowing up
of the Maine reached her. At the same time came orders to hurry on coal
and proceed to San Francisco. There ten days were spent in taking on as
much coal and provisions as the vessel could carry. Then, with orders to
join the Atlantic fleet as quickly as possible, on the morning of March
19 she steamed through Golden Gate and turned southward, to begin one of
the longest voyages ever made by a battleship.
The people of California were sad at heart to part with their noble
vessel, and when, in April, war was declared, thousands followed the
loved ship and her brave men with their interest and prayers. All alone
upon the great sea she was sailing steadily onward, to meet, perhaps, a
fleet of foes, or worse still, a dart from that terror of the waters, a
torpedo boat; yet always watchful and always ready for whatever foe
might appear, she journeyed on.
The order given by Captain Clark to his officers in case they sighted
the Spanish squadron, was to turn and run away. As the Spanish ships
followed they were almost sure to become separated, some sailing faster
than others. The Oregon having a heavy stern battery, could do effective
fighting as she sailed; and if the enemy's ships came up one at a time,
there might be a chance of damaging one before the next arrived.
Through two oceans and three zones, fifteen thousand miles without
mishap, the Oregon sailed in fifty-nine days. When she joined the fleet
where it lay off Cuba, she came sweeping in at fifteen knots an hour,
the winner of the mightiest race ever run, cheered at the finish by
every man of the American squadron. All honor should be given to her
wise captain and brave crew and to the Western workmen who made her so
stanch and true.
On a fair May day, while California children were rejoicing over their
baskets of sweet May flowers, the first battle of the war was fought,
the first, and for California the most important. When Dewey destroyed
the Spanish fleet on that Sunday morning (May 1, 1898) in Manila Bay, he
not only won an important victory, but a greater result lay in the
change of attitude of the United States toward the rest of the world.
It was a change which had begun long before; many events had led up to
it, but possession of the Philippines and other islands of the Pacific
forced our country to recognize the importance of Asia and the ocean
which washes its shores.
Commerce has always moved westward, going from Asia to Greece, to Rome,
to western Europe, to the western hemisphere; and the race which takes
up the movement and carries it forward is the one which gains the
profits. All must realize the truth of Mr. Seward's prophecy when he
said, "The Pacific coast will be the mover in developing a commerce to
which that of the Atlantic Ocean will be only a fraction." "The
opportunity of the Pacific," some one has called it. Nearly two thirds
of the people of the earth inhabit the lands washed by the waters of
this western sea, and the country which secures their trade will become
the leading nation of the world--a leadership which should be of the
best kind, supplying the needs of peaceful life, building railroads,
encouraging the things that help a people upward and onward. To the
young men of California, Hawaii and the Philippines offer every chance
for daring, energy, and invention. If to honesty and energy there be
added a speaking knowledge of the Spanish language, there lie before the
youth of the Pacific coast the finest opportunities for active,
As soon as President McKinley issued his call to arms for the Spanish
war, the men of California responded with a rush. A large number of
those who had enlisted were hurried to San Francisco, where the military
authorities were quite unprepared to furnish supplies. For a day or two
there was real suffering; then the Society of the Red Cross came to the
rescue, and thousands of dollars' worth of food and blankets were sent
to the camp. As soon as the always generous people of San Francisco
comprehended the state of affairs, there was danger that the hungry
young soldiers would be ill from overfeeding.
The twenty-third day of May, 1898, is a day to be remembered in the
history of our country, for on that day went out the first home regiment
from the mainland of the United States, to fight a foe beyond the sea.
When the twelve companies of California Volunteers marched through the
city from the Presidio to the docks of the Pacific Mail and Steamship
Company, two hundred thousand people accompanied them. So hard was it
for our peace-loving people to understand the real meaning of war that
it was not until the brave lads and earnest men were actually marching
to the steamer which was to carry them thousands of miles to meet danger
and death, that many quite realized the sorrowful fact. Men cheered the
regiment as it passed, but the sobs of the women sometimes nearly
drowned the hurrahs. Said one officer, "It was heartrending. If we had
let ourselves go, we would have cried our way to the dock." But in the
war the record of the California troops was one that gave new honor to
Annexation of Hawaii
"The Hawaiian Islands," said Walt Whitman, in the Overland Monthly, "are
not a group. They are a string of rare and precious pearls in the
sapphire center of the great American seas. Some day we shall gather up
the pretty string of pearls and throw it merrily about the neck of the
beautiful woman who has her handsome head on the outside of the big
American Dollar, and they will be called the beautiful American
In 1893 the native queen of the islands was deposed by a revolution
conducted in a great measure by Americans living in Hawaii. A
provisional government was formed and an application made for annexation
to the United States. Through two presidential terms the matter was
discussed both in Congress and by the people all over the country. Many
were against extending our possessions beyond the mainland in any
direction. Others thought it unfair to the natives of the islands to
take their lands against their will. It seemed to be pretty well proved,
however, that the native government was not for the advancement and best
interests of the country, and that in a short time these kindly, gentle
people would have to give up their valuable possessions to some stronger
Captain Mahan, writing of these conditions, said: "These islands are the
key to the Pacific. For a foreign nation to hold them would mean that
our Pacific ports and our Pacific commerce would be at the mercy of that
In the early part of the Spanish war (July, 1898) the resolution for the
annexation of the Hawaiian Islands was passed by Congress and approved
by President McKinley, and the string of pearls was cast about
Columbia's fair neck.
It seems strange that the first case to be tried in the peace court of
the nations at the Hague should have been in regard to the Pius Fund of
the Californias collected by the Jesuit padres two hundred and thirty
years before, to build missions for the Indians of California. The way
in which this money was obtained is described in Chapter IV of this
history. It grew to be a large sum, of which the Mexican government took
control, paying the interest to the Roman Catholic Church in Upper and
Lower California. After the Mexican war, Mexico refused to pay its share
to the Church of Upper California. The United States took up the matter,
claiming that according to the treaty which closed the war, the Catholic
Church of the state of California had a right to its Mexican property.
In 1868 it was agreed by the two countries to leave the matter to the
decision of Sir Edward Thornton, English ambassador at Washington. He
decided that Mexico should pay an amount equal to one half the interest
since the war. Mexico did this, but had paid nothing during all the
years which had passed since that time. To settle the dispute finally,
it was decided to leave it to arbitration by the Hague court. The
verdict given was that Mexico should pay the Roman Catholic Church of
California $1,400,000 for the past, and one half the interest on the
fund each year from February, 1903, forever.
The natural result of the nation's need in the Civil War was the
overland railroad. The danger to the Oregon on its long journey, the
difficulties in getting reinforcements to Admiral Dewey, and the
possession of new lands in the Pacific led to decided action in regard
to the building of a ship canal through the Isthmus of Panama.
For years the plan had been talked over. In General Grant's first term
as President he saw so plainly our need of this water way, that he
arranged a canal treaty with Colombia, and it seemed as though the work
would soon begin, but the Colombian government refused to allow the
matter to go on, hoping to make better terms with the United States.
This was not possible then, so the plan was not carried out. Later, a
French company undertook to build a canal across Panama, but after
several years of work failed.
Many of the Americans favored the route through Nicaragua, but after the
government had spent much money and time in considering carefully both
propositions, the preference was given to the Panama route. In 1902 an
act for the building of the canal was passed by Congress and approved by
President Roosevelt. It provided, however, that should the President be
unable to obtain a satisfactory title to the French company's work and
the necessary territory from the republic of Colombia on reasonable
terms and in a reasonable time, he should seek to secure the Nicaragua
route. The matter was almost settled, when again Colombia's greed got
the better of her judgment and she refused to ratify the compact.
When the people of the province of Panama saw that they were likely to
lose their canal through the action of their government, they promptly
revolted and declared themselves independent of Colombia. The United
States recognized their independence, and a satisfactory treaty was at
once concluded with them. In March, 1904, the commission appointed by
the President for building the canal sailed for the Isthmus.
Nearly one fourth of the work had already been done by the old company,
but there was yet a great deal to do. Besides the actual building of the
canal, its dams and locks, the fever district had to be made healthful
enough for workmen to live there, marshes had to be drained, pure water
brought in from the mountains, and the fever-spreading mosquitoes
killed. In addition to all this, the natives of the land and the many
bands of workmen of different races had to be brought into an orderly,
law-abiding condition. In less than a year it was found necessary to
alter the commission, the President choosing this time men particularly
noted for their energy and power to make things go. The work progressed
with great rapidity, until, in August, 1914, the canal was opened to
In the latter part of the nineteenth century the eastern portion of Asia
began to stir itself, rising up from the sleepy, shut-in life it had led
for hundreds of years. The eyes of the world watched in wonder the
progress of the war between China and Japan (1894-95). In it was fought
the first battle in which modern war vessels were engaged. It was found
that the Japanese, of whom so little was then known, could fight, and
As a result of the war, China ceded to Japan the territory of Manchuria
and the right to protect Korea. Russia and Germany objected, however,
and France agreed with them, so Japan had to give way. Soon Russia began
taking possession of the disputed territories, but she had constant
trouble with Japan, and early in 1904 war broke out. Before the close of
the year the civilized world stood astonished not only at the wisdom,
patriotism, and fighting qualities of the Japanese, but also at their
humanity, which would not have discredited a Christian nation.
There took place a series of great battles, both on land and on the sea,
in which the Japanese were generally victorious. The terrible loss of
life and destruction of property led the President of the United States,
in the spring of 1905, to urge upon the two countries that fighting
cease and peace be arranged.
Few statesmen believed that Mr. Roosevelt would be successful in his
humane endeavor, but he pushed his suggestion with patient perseverance
until, in September, 1905, Americans had the satisfaction of witnessing
upon their soil, at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the signing of the treaty
of peace between Russia and Japan.
Japan's methods of conducting the war had advanced her to a standing
among nations which she had never before occupied, and all realized the
wisdom of securing commercial relations with her people, who were so
rapidly adopting the habits and customs of the rest of the civilized
world. In this competition for her commerce, California, by her position
on the western shore of the United States, has unusual advantages, a
fact which was soon proved by the amount of money invested in increasing
her facilities for production and manufacturing. Unfortunately little
has yet been done in the matter of shipbuilding, and few vessels which
enter her harbors have been built in the state.
Some Recent Events
"I'll put a girdle around the earth in forty minutes," prophesied Puck
in "Midsummer Night's Dream." The boastful fairy did not succeed in
accomplishing this wonder until midnight on the Fourth of July, 1903. On
that day the Pacific cable from the United States to Hawaii, to Midway
Island, to Guam, and to Manila, began operations. The men worked hard
that last day of the cable laying, and by 11 P.M. the President of the
United States sent a message to Governor Taft at Manila. Soon after was
the old prophecy fulfilled, when President Roosevelt, no doubt with Puck
at his elbow, sent a message round the world in twenty minutes, thus
bettering Puck's idea by half.
The saddest year in California's records is that of 1906. On the morning
of April 18, a great and overwhelming calamity overtook the beautiful
region around San Francisco Bay. A movement of the earth's crust which
began in the bottom of the ocean far out from land, reached the coast in
the vicinity of Tomales Bay in Marin County. Wrecking everything that
came in its direct path, it shivered its way in a southeasterly
direction to a point somewhere in the northern part of Monterey County.
The land on the two sides of the fault moved a short distance in
opposite directions. Thus in some straight fences and roads crossing the
fault, one section was found to be shifted as much as sixteen feet to
one side of the other. The severe vibrations set up by this break and
shifting extended a long distance in all directions.
Although the earthquake was by no means so severe in San Francisco as in
the region of Tomales Bay or even in the vicinity of Stanford, Santa
Rosa, San Jose, or Agnews, it caused greater loss of life and property
on account of the crowded population. Many buildings were wrecked,
especially those poorly constructed on land reclaimed from swampy soil
or built up by filling in.
People who had prophesied that, should an earthquake come, the high
buildings such as those of the Call and the Chronicle would surely
collapse, were astonished to see those giant structures apparently
unharmed while buildings of much less height, but without the steel
framework, were completely wrecked.
The earthquake was a sad calamity, but had this been the sum of the
disaster the city would only have paused in its progress long enough to
clear away the wreck and to sorrow with the mourners. It was the fires
which sprang up while the water system was too damaged to be of use that
wiped out old historical San Francisco, leaving in its place a waste of
gray ashes and desolate ruins. Santa Rosa, San Jose, Stanford, Agnews,
all suffered severely from the earthquake; but in few cases did fires
arise to add to their loss. The State Insane Asylum at Agnews, which was
built on swampy ground, was a complete wreck with large loss of life.
The marvelous bravery and cheerfulness with which the people of San
Francisco bore their cruel fate gave a lesson in courage and
unselfishness to humanity. The magnificent generosity with which not
only the people of southern and northern California, but of the whole
country, sprang to the relief of the unhappy city gave a silver lining
to the black cloud of disaster.
Before the embers of their ruined homes had ceased to smoke the people
began the work of rebuilding, and at the time of the visit of the
Atlantic fleet of the United States navy in 1908, business had so
revived as to be almost normal, and the welcome accorded the silent
vessels in white by the gallant City of St. Francis was as hearty and
generous as any that greeted them during their progress.
October, 1909, was marked by two events of importance to San Francisco.
One was the visit of President Taft, to whom the great state of
California had given all its electoral votes. The second was the
celebration, at the same time, of the discovery of the bay, which
occurred in the fall of 1769, the founding of the presidio and mission,
which took place in the fall of 1776, and the rebuilding of the burned
district. On this occasion the people of San Francisco and their guests
gave themselves up to a time of merrymaking--a three days' historical
carnival called, in honor of the commander of the expedition during
which the great bay was discovered, the "Portola Festival."
In 1915 the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San
Francisco. It contained many novel and beautiful features, and was
attended by vast multitudes of people. Another notable exposition was
held at San Diego, beginning in 1915 and continuing in 1916.
"The Groves Were God's First Temples"
If the people of this century continue the destruction of trees as they
are doing at present, a hundred years from now this will be a world
without forests, a woodless, treeless waste. What a desolate picture is
this! What a grave charge will the people of the future have to bring
against us that we recklessly destroy the trees, one of God's most
beautiful and useful gifts to man, without even an endeavor to replace
the loss by replanting!
During the last hundred years the American lumber belt has moved
westward over a wide space. In the early days of our history nearly the
entire supply came from Maine, and what interesting stories we have of
those brave pioneer loggers and settlers! Gradually the noble woods
which furnished the tall, smooth masts for which American ships were
famous, were destroyed; and the ringing ax blows were then heard in the
forests about the Great Lakes and in the middle Southern states. This
supply is by no means exhausted, but to-day the heart of the lumber
interest is on the Pacific coast.
Around the great central valley which is drained by the Sacramento and
the San Joaquin rivers, six hundred and forty miles long, lie mountain
ranges on whose slopes are some of the noblest forests of the world. To
the north of the central valley the trees of the east and west join,
forming a heavily wooded belt quite across the state.
In the trade, the greatest demand is for lumber of the pine and fir
trees, and of these California has as many species as Europe and Asia
combined. She has, indeed, only a little less than one fifth of all the
lumber supply of the United States. Her most valuable tree for commerce
is the sugar pine. It attains a diameter of twelve feet or more and is
often two hundred feet high. But the most interesting trees of
California and of the world are the Sequoias, the oldest of all living
things. Very far back, in the time of which we have no written history,
in the moist days of gigantic vegetation and animals, the Sequoias
covered a large portion of the earth's surface; then came the great ice
overflow, and when that melted away, almost the only things living of
the days of giants were the Sequoias of middle and upper California, and
those on some two thousand acres over the Oregon line.
The Sequoia sempervirens, which is commonly called redwood, is
distributed along the Coast Range, the trees thriving only when they are
constantly swept by the sea fogs. For lumber this tree is nearly as
valuable as the sugar pine. From Eureka to San Diego, this is the
material of which most of the houses are built. Because of its rich
color and the high polish it takes, especially the curly and grained
portions, its value for cabinet work is being more and more appreciated.
On account of the presence of acid and the absence of pitch and rosin in
its composition, it resists fire and is therefore a safe wood for
building. When the Baldwin Hotel in San Francisco, a six-story building
of brick and wood, burned down, two redwood water tanks on the top of
the only brick wall that was left standing, were found to be hardly
charred and quite water-tight.
It is the redwood which furnishes the largest boards for the lumber
trade. Not long ago a man in the lumber region built his office of six
boards taken from one of the trees. The boards were twelve by fourteen
feet, and there was one for each wall, one for the floor, and one for
the ceiling. Windows and doors were cut out where desired.
In the heart of the redwood and pine forests there are some thirty mill
plants, and they own about half of the timber district. The methods of
lumbering are exceedingly wasteful. Scarcely half of the standing timber
of a tract is taken by the loggers and what is left is often burned or
totally neglected. Replanting is unthought of and the young trees are
treated as a nuisance.
Three fourths of the forests of California grow upon side hills,
generally with an incline of from fifteen to thirty degrees. When the
trees are gone, therefore, the rain soon washes away the soil, leaving
the rocks bare. When the next rainy season comes, the water, not being
able to sink into the earth, and so gradually find its way to the
streams, rushes down the hillsides in torrents, flooding the smaller
water courses. Then the rivers rise and overflow, causing great damage
to property; but their waters quickly subside, and when the dry season
comes they have not sufficient depth for the passage of ships of
commerce. The total destruction of the forests would soon destroy the
navigability of the principal water highways of the state, while another
serious result would be the lessening of the water supply for
The second variety of the Sequoia, the gigantea, or "big tree," as it is
called, grows much farther inland than the redwood, being found on the
western slopes of the Sierras. There are ten separate groves of these
trees, from the little company of six in southern Placer County to the
southernmost Sequoia, two hundred and sixty miles away on the Tule
River. The whole put together would not make more than a few hundred
thousand of extra-sized trees, and of the giants themselves not more
than five hundred. These rise as high as three hundred and fifty feet,
and are from twenty to thirty feet through. Near the Yosemite the stage
road passes through the hollow center of one of those monsters. In a
grove owned by the government some cavalry men, with their horses, lined
up on a "big tree" log, and it easily held fourteen, each horse's nose
touching the next one's tail.
How old these trees may be is yet unsettled, but Mr. John Muir, their
intimate friend and companion, tells of one which was felled which
showed by its rings that it was 2200 years old. Another which had blown
down was fully 4000 years old. Later investigation makes it seem not
unlikely that some have existed for even 5000 years. It seems a sin to
destroy a living thing of that age.
The great basin of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which contains a large
collection of the Sequoia sempervirens, belongs to the United States
government. So, too, do the Mariposa grove of Sequoia gigantea, and the
General Grant park, and Tuolumne grove, each of which contains a small
number of fine specimens of the big trees. These properties will be
protected, but all other groves, in which are the giant Sequoias, are in
great danger. There has recently been a movement by the government
toward purchasing the Calaveras grove, which has the finest collection
of the big trees known, but nothing decided has been done. Meantime
there are a number of mills engaged in devouring this noble forest.
Unless the people of California take up the matter with earnestness and
energy, the state and the United States will stand disgraced before
mankind for letting these wonders of the world, these largest and oldest
of all living things, be destroyed for the lumber they will make. They
should be purchased by the government and protected, then some movement
should be started in all lumber districts by which waste in logging may
be done away with, young trees protected and cleared, and forest land
replanted with suitable trees. The law excluding cattle and sheep from
the forests is already proving its wisdom by the new growth of young
trees. Only among the giant Sequoias of the Tule and King's River
district are there to be found baby trees of that species.
The lumber trade is one of the most interesting and necessary industries
of the state. Work in the camp is healthful and well paid. Many a
delicate boy or young man in the city would grow strong and healthy and
live a much longer time if he would cast his lot with the hardy choppers
and cutters of the great forest of the Pacific slope. A logging crew
consists of thirty men, including two cooks. The discipline is as rigid
as that of a military system; each man knows his own particular duties,
and must attend to them promptly and faithfully. Trees are not chopped
down, as used to be the custom; with the exception of a little chopping
on either edge, a saw run by two men does the work. Oxen are seldom
used, as in early days on the Atlantic coast, to haul out the logs, for
they have given way to "donkeys,"--not the long-eared, loud-voiced
little animals, but the powerful, compact donkey-engines.
Lumber schooners and steamers are the chief features of our coast
traffic. Almost all the large cities of the Pacific coast owe their
foundation and prosperity to this trade. San Francisco and Eureka in
Humboldt County are the principal ports of the trade. Mendocino has a
rock-bound coast, with no harbors, but she has fine forests. Here the
lumber steamer secures its cargo by means of suspended wire chutes as
trolleys. The outer end of the trolley wire is anchored in the ocean,
the wire crosses the deck of the moored steamer, the slack being taken
up to the ship's gaff, thus making a tight wire up and down which the
trolley car with its load is sent.
Sometimes a great raft made of lumber is taken in tow by a steamer
loaded with the same material and they start on a voyage down the coast,
but this is a dangerous venture. If the sea becomes rough the raft may
break loose from the steamer and go plunging over the waves, no one
knows where. The brave captains of our coasting vessels fear nothing so
much as a timber raft adrift which may crash into a vessel at any moment
and against which there is no way of guarding.
To All that Sow the Time of Harvest Should be Given
In all but savage countries, wheat is the most important product of the
soil, A large proportion of human beings living on the earth to-day are
so poverty-stricken as to make the question of food a matter of anxiety
for every day. The prayer for bread unites more voices than any other.
The padres who settled California understood this well. A number of
bushels of wheat, snugly incased in leather sacks, formed a precious
part of the cargo of the San Carlos, that stout Spanish vessel which in
1769 brought the first settlers to California. This seed-wheat was
divided among the early missions and as soon as possible was planted--
not with success at first. For a time the padres made little progress in
crop raising. They had to learn by their failures. In San Diego the
first wheat planted was sown in the river bottom and the seed was
carried entirely away by the rising of the stream in the winter; and the
next year, which proved to be a dry one, it was planted so far from the
water that it was almost all destroyed by drought. At San Gabriel the
first crop was drowned out, but the second, planted on the plain where
it could be irrigated, was a success. San Gabriel was chief among the
missions for wheat raising, and was called the "mother of agriculture."
Grain planting and harvesting, in the days of the padres, differed
widely from the methods which prevail to-day. Then the ground was plowed
once or twice, but in what manner? A yoke of oxen, guided by an Indian,
dragged a plow with an iron point made by an Indian blacksmith. If iron
could not be obtained, the point was of oak. Seed, which had been first
soaked in lye, was sown by hand, broadcast, and harrowed in with
branches of trees. The grain was cut by the Indians with knives and
sickles. It was afterward placed on the hardened floor of a circular
corral made for the purpose, and into it was turned a band of horses
which were urged to a run by the shouts and whips of the Indian
vaqueros. After running one way they were frightened into turning and
going the other. In this manner the grain was trampled out of the husks.
It was freed from the chaff by being thrown high in the air by the
shovelful, when the wind was blowing hard enough to carry away the light
Next, the grain was washed and dried, then ground, generally between two
stones bolted together. A pole for a handle was also fastened by the
bolt, and the stone was turned, sometimes by mules, sometimes by
Indians. La Perouse, the French scientist who visited the coast in 1786
and gave to the padres of San Carlos a handmill for grinding grain, said
that it would enable four Indian women to do the work of a hundred by
the old way. Before many years the padres at San Gabriel built a water
mill of stone and adobe which ground grain in large quantities, but not
with entire success, until Chapman, the first American in that region,
gave them his assistance to perfect the machinery. This interesting
building has been restored by Mr. H. E. Huntington and is an object of
interest to those who visit San Gabriel.
In 1815 the missions raised enough wheat to supply the whole population,
and there was even an attempt to ship grain to Mexico. This was a
failure, but a little grain was sold to the Russians at Fort Ross. At
the time of the change in the mission settlements, when the padres were
sent away, all agriculture declined. During the Mexican War and when the
crowd of gold seekers came, there was very little grain or flour to be
had. Some of the gold hunters, who had been farmers in the East, failing
to find a fortune in the river sands, and seeing the lack of food
stuffs, went back to their old occupation. They put in crops of wheat
and barley along the waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, and were
amazed at the fertility of the soil and the success of their venture.
From this time the cultivation of wheat increased rapidly. In 1899 was
harvested the largest crop recorded. After that there was a decline in
wheat raising, because many farmers planted much of their grain lands to
fruit for canning and drying. To California inventors is due the credit
of substituting steam for hand labor in planting and harvesting grain.
Let us look at the busy scene on a grain field in the California of
to-day. It is fall or early winter, and the time for planting has
arrived. Into the field, which is several thousands of acres in extent,
comes a great engine, one that does not need a track to run upon. Over
the ground it rolls. With strength equal to fifty horses it draws behind
it sixteen ten-inch plows, four six-foot harrows, and a press drill to
match. It takes only a few men to manage it, and in a short time it has
plowed, harrowed, and sown the broad acres; nothing is left to do until
the harvest time arrives.
When the grain is ripe, there comes another great machine. This is the
harvester, whose knives or cutters may be as much as twenty-six feet
wide. This one machine cuts off the heads of wheat, thrashes them,
cleans the grain, and sacks it, clearing seventy-five acres in a day,
leaving on the fields the piles of sacked wheat ready for market. It is
most interesting to watch one of these giants of steel and iron
traveling over the uneven ground, crossing ditches, crawling along side
hills, without any trouble or change of pace, gathering in the ripe
grain, turning it out snugly tucked away in the brown gunny-sacks
waiting for its long journey by ship or car. How the padres would wonder
if they could see it working!
The grain of the California wheat is white and soft, and contains much
gluten. No matter what hard red or yellow varieties are brought from
other countries and planted here, in a year or two they change to the
California type. It is not certainly known what causes this peculiarity.
The grain most in favor through the state is called "club wheat" from
the form of the head, which is blockshaped, instead of long and slender.
The "club wheat" holds fast its grain so that it can be harvested
without falling to the ground, which, in so dry a climate, is a great
point in its favor.
Wheat is raised all over the state, both on high and on low land. Some
of the largest grain ranches are along the tule lands around Stockton.
These were marshes once, but have been drained, and now are choice grain
fields. Wheat was first sent out of the state to England as ballast for
returning ships, but the trade gradually increased until there are now
over one hundred of the finest sailing vessels engaged in it.
Unfortunately, few of these vessels are American, perhaps but one
fourth. It is a pity that our countrymen should not benefit more by this
trade. During the grain season at most of the Pacific ports the flag of
nearly every nation on earth is represented. All styles of shipping,
from the largest modern steamer to the smallest ocean sailing vessel,
are then to be found in the harbors of the coast.
Grain is carried to the docks in barges, schooners, or on cars, and is
seldom shipped except in sacks. Wheat, unless it needs to be cleaned or
graded, is kept in the sack in which it leaves the home field. To watch
the grain being loaded in the ship is a sight well worth seeing. If the
wharf, or car, or warehouse where it lies is higher than the deck of the
vessel on which it is to be shipped, the sacks are placed on an inclined
chute down which they descend to the hold of the ship. If the deck of
the vessel is the higher, sometimes an endless belt, run by electricity,
is placed in a chute, the sacks are laid on the belt, and so carried to
their resting place.
In loading wheat for export, a number of sacks in each row are bled;
that is, a slit is made in the sack which allows a small quantity of
grain to escape and fill the spaces round the corners and sides of the
sack, thus making a compact cargo which is not liable to shift. At Port
Costa is located a grader, where, when necessary wheat can be cleaned
and graded; here also are many large warehouses.
For a long time about two thirds of the wheat crop of the state was sent
to Ireland, but now our new lands in the Pacific take much of it.
California has an immense trade in wheat that has been ground into
flour. Over six million dollars' worth of flour is shipped each year,
nearly three fourths of it going to China, Japan, and the islands of the
It is believed by scientific agriculturists that better results will be
obtained in wheat raising as smaller ranches become the rule, where the
farmer can give more attention to the needs of the grain, adding what is
necessary to the soil. Often the alternation of crops increases the
yield--wheat doing much better if planted where beans or other legumes
were raised the year before. Where the grain fields are not so large,
irrigation can be depended upon instead of the rainfall, and crops then
are sure and more even in quantity.
Barley is the grain next in importance to wheat in California. It can be
raised where wheat can not, as it needs less moisture for its
development; and if the rains fail, it can be cut for hay which always
brings a good price. Barley hay, with the heads on, is in California the
chief food of horses, and in many cases of cattle. A horse for ordinary
work fed on barley hay gets all the grain necessary. If on account of
heavier work, stronger food is required, rolled barley is given in
addition. A large quantity of the better graded barley grain raised in
the state is used by the brewers for malt.
Corn does not do so well through the state in general, but in some
locations it is justly claimed that a man can ride on horseback down the
rows of corn without being seen over the tops. This, too, the padres
brought into the state. The tortilla, the common food of the Spanish
settlers, was made of coarse-ground or pounded corn.
Alfalfa, the wonderful forage plant of dry regions of the West, is a
member of the clover family. Throughout the southern and middle portion
of California are large ranches devoted to its culture for hay. It is
also raised extensively for green feed for horses and cattle. It
produces from three to six crops a year according to location and care
given it, and is treated for the market much the same as barley hay,
except that it is generally made into smaller bales. Alfalfa is raised
by irrigation, the best method being from flumes opening into
indentations, not so deep as furrows, from which the water spreads,
flooding the whole surface.
Many a California young man from high school gets his first taste of
work away from home in the harvest fields. Generally this is a good
experience for him. He receives some pretty hard knocks, and sees the
rough side of life, but if he has self-control and good principles, he
will be the better for the venture, returning more manly, earnest, and
The Golden Apples of the Hesperides
The orange, like many other of California's most valuable products, was
brought into the country by the patient, far-seeing padres. Orange,
lemon, and citron, those three gay cousins of royal blood, traveled
together, and soon were to be found in many of the mission gardens. The
most extensive of that early planting was an orchard at San Gabriel, set
out by Padre Sanchez in 1804. In the height of its prosperity, this
mission is recorded as having two thousand three hundred and
thirty-three fruit trees, a large proportion of which were orange trees.
San Fernando had sixteen hundred trees. San Diego had its orange
orchard: how many trees is not recorded, but its olive grove numbered
five hundred and seventeen flourishing trees. Santa Inez had nearly a
thousand trees. As early as 1800 Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura also
had valuable orchards.
Outside the missions the first orange trees in any number were planted
in 1834, the famous Wolfskill grove in 1841. By 1862 there were about
twenty-five thousand trees of this variety in the state, and two thirds
of these belonged to Wolfskill, of Los Angeles. A little later several
large orchards were planted in the region around the Mission San
Gabriel. In Riverside, often called the mother of orange culture in the
state, the first seeds were planted in 1870, the first trees from these
seeds in 1873, and from that period is dated the beginning of extensive
planting. This was largely the work of colonists. About the time the
orchards came into bearing, the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
Overland were completed, so that an Eastern market was gained for the
fruit, with the result that the new industry fairly bounded forward. So
much was sometimes made from an acre of trees that it seemed as though
people could not get land and plant fast enough. Occasionally an income
was reported of three thousand dollars from an acre, and eight hundred
to one thousand dollars per acre was not an uncommon crop.
Although at this time there were a few orange trees in the middle and
northern parts of the state, for many years it was supposed that only
the southern country could raise this fruit suitable for the market, but
to-day people know better. Excellent oranges are grown as far north as
Shasta, and Butte County, which leads in the northern orange culture,
has a number of large and valuable orchards. From Tulare County and
other parts of the valley of the San Joaquin, choice fruit is being
shipped to the markets of the East. From San Diego all the way up the
state one may find trees of the citrus family flourishing; still,
whether north or south, in planting an orange orchard, the greatest care
has to be taken in the choice of location. Jack Frost is the enemy to be
avoided, and generally in any strip of country the lower lands are the
ones he visits first. So the highlands are preferred, and even here the
currents of air must be studied. A strong, uninterrupted, downward sweep
of air from the snowcovered mountains will often, at night, drive away
the needed warmth gathered during the day, so that land protected by
some mountain spur which makes an eddy in the current is the best for
this heat-loving fruit.
There are several popular varieties of the orange. The Valencia late is
being planted by many in preference to others because, besides being a
fine fruit, it keeps well, ripening when the days begin to be long and
hot, and is therefore doubly welcome. The sweet orange from the
Mediterranean country, and the St. Michael, with its paper rind, are
also favorites, as are the delicious little Mandarin and Tangerine
varieties, with their thin skin and high flavor; but the king of them
all is the Washington navel, which has gained for the state its high
position as an orange-raising territory. This is not a new variety,
though many may believe it so. A book published in Rome over three
hundred years ago gives an interesting description and pictures of this
and other kinds of oranges and the way they should be raised. The title
of this rare old volume is "Hesperides, or about the Golden Apples,
their Culture and Use." Among its many fine illustrations is one of
Hercules receiving the golden apples. Another shows the bringing of the
fruit to Italy by a body of nymphs and goddesses in Neptune's car. Mr.
Charles F. Lummis has translated portions of the book in the California
magazine Out West.
On its travels the navel orange finally reached Bahia, Brazil, and
there, sometime during the Civil War in the United States, a lady who,
it is said, was the wife of the American consul, discovered the
deliciousness of this fruit. So pleased was she that she determined to
share her enjoyment with others; so upon her return to her own country,
she described this orange to Mr. Saunders, head of the government's
experimental farm at Washington. He became interested in the subject,
sent to Bahia, and had twelve navel trees propagated by budding. These
were shipped to Washington, where they arrived safely, and were placed
in the orangery there. They all grew, and from them a large number of
trees were budded.
Still they had not reached California. Bringing them to the Pacific
coast was also the work of a woman. Mrs. Tibbetts, wife of a fruit
grower of Riverside, was visiting in Washington and to her Mr. Saunders
presented two navel orange trees, which she brought home with her. They
were planted beside her doorstep in Riverside. The trees grew rapidly,
and when they bore fruit it did not take the California orange growers
long to discover that here they had a treasure of more value than the
largest nugget of gold ever found in the state.
It was at a citrus fair in Riverside in 1879 that this golden king first