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The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California by Brevet Col. J.C. Fremont

Part 8 out of 9

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This account of the Great Basin, it will be remembered, belongs to the
Alta California, and has no application to Oregon, whose capabilities may
justify a separate remark. Referring to my journal for particular
descriptions, and for sectional boundaries between good and bad districts,
I can only say, in general and comparative terms, that, in that branch of
agriculture which implies the cultivation of grains and staple crops, it
would be inferior to the Atlantic States, though many parts are superior
for wheat; while in the rearing of flocks and herds it would claim a high
place. Its grazing capabilities are great; and even in the indigenous
grass now there, an element of individual and national wealth may be
found. In fact, the valuable grasses begin within one hundred and fifty
miles of the Missouri frontier, and extend to the Pacific ocean. East of
the Rocky mountains, it is the short curly grass, on which the buffalo
delights to feed, (whence its name of buffalo,) and which is still good
when dry and apparently dead. West of those mountains it is a larger
growth, in clusters, and hence called bunch-grass, and which has a second
or fall growth. Plains and mountains both exhibit them; and I have seen
good pasturage at an elevation of ten thousand feet. In this spontaneous
product the trading or traveling caravans can find subsistence for their
animals; and in military operations any number of cavalry may be moved,
and any number of cattle may be driven; and thus men and horses be
supported on long expeditions, and even in winter, in the sheltered

Commercially, the value of the Oregon country must be great, washed as it
is by the North Pacific ocean--fronting Asia--producing many of the
elements of commerce--mild and healthy in its climate--and becoming, as it
naturally will, a thoroughfare for the East India and China trade.

Turning our faces once more eastward, on the morning of the 27th we left
the Utah lake, and continued for two days to ascend the Spanish fork,
which is dispersed in numerous branches among very rugged mountains, which
afford few passes, and render a familiar acquaintance with them necessary
to the traveler. The stream can scarcely be said to have a valley, the
mountains rising often abruptly from the water's edge; but a good trail
facilitated our traveling, and there were frequent bottoms, covered with
excellent grass. The streams are prettily and variously wooded; and
everywhere the mountain shows grass and timber.

At our encampment on the evening of the 28th, near the head of one of the
branches we had ascended, strata of bituminous limestone were displayed in
an escarpment on the river bluffs, in which were contained a variety of
fossil shells of new species.

It will be remembered, that in crossing this ridge about 120 miles to the
northward in August last, strata of fossiliferous rock were discovered,
which have been referred to the oolitic period; it is probable that these
rocks also belong to the same formation.

A few miles from this encampment we reached the bed of the stream, and
crossing, by an open and easy pass, the dividing ridge which separates the
waters of the Great Basin from those of the Colorado, we reached the head
branches of one of its larger tributaries, which, from the decided color
of its waters, has received the name of White river. The snows of the
mountains were now beginning to melt, and all the little rivulets were
running by in rivers, and rapidly becoming difficult to ford. Continuing a
few miles up a branch of White river, we crossed a dividing ridge between
its waters and those of _Uintah_. The approach to the pass, which is
the best known to Mr. Walker, was somewhat difficult for packs, and
impracticable for wagons--all the streams being shut in by narrow ravines,
and the narrow trail along the steep hill-sides allowing the passage of
only one animal at a time. From the summit we had a fine view of the snowy
Bear River range, and there were still remaining beds of snow on the cold
sides of the hills near the pass. We descended by a narrow ravine, in
which was rapidly gathered a little branch of the Uintah, and halted to
noon about 1,500 feet below the pass, at an elevation, by the boiling
point, of 6,900 feet above the sea.

The next day we descended along the river, and about noon reached a point
where three forks come together. Fording one of these with some
difficulty, we continued up the middle branch, which, from the color of
its waters, is named the Red river. The few passes, and extremely rugged
nature of the country, give to it great strength, and secure the Utahs
from the intrusion of their enemies. Crossing in the afternoon a somewhat
broken highland, covered in places with fine grasses, and with cedar on
the hill-sides, we encamped at evening on another tributary to the
_Uintah_, called the _Duchesne_ fork. The water was very clear,
the stream not being yet swollen by the melting snows, and we forded it
without any difficulty. It is a considerable branch, being spread out by
islands, the largest arm being about a hundred feet wide, and the name it
bears is probably that of some old French trapper.

The next day we continued down the river, which we were twice obliged to
cross; and, the water having risen during the night, it was almost
everywhere too deep to be forded. After traveling about sixteen miles, we
encamped again on the left bank.

I obtained here an occultation of _Scorpii_ at the dark limb of the
moon, which gives for the longitude of the place 112 deg. 18' 30", and the
latitude 40 deg. 18' 53".


1st.--We left to-day the Duchesne fork, and, after traversing a broken
country for about sixteen miles, arrived at noon at another considerable
branch, a river of great velocity, to which the trappers have improperly
given the name of Lake fork. The name applied to it by the Indians
signifies great swiftness, and is the same which they use to express the
speed of a racehorse. It is spread out in various channels over several
hundred yards, and is everywhere too deep and swift to be forded. At this
season of the year, there is an uninterrupted noise from the large rocks
which are rolled along the bed. After infinite difficulty, and the delay
of a day, we succeeded in getting the stream bridged, and got over with
the loss of one of our animals. Continuing our route across a broken
country, of which the higher parts were rocky and timbered with cedar, and
the lower parts covered with good grass, we reached, on the afternoon of
the 3d, the Uintah fort, a trading-post belonging to Mr. A. Roubideau, on
the principal fork of the Uintah river. We found the stream nearly as
rapid and difficult as the Lake fork, divided into several channels, which
were too broad to be bridged. With the aid of guides from the fort, we
succeeded, with very great difficulty, in fording it, and encamped near
the fort, which is situated a short distance above the junction of two
branches which make the river.

By an immersion of the first satellite, (agreeing well with the result of
the occultation observed at the Duchesne fork,) the longitude of the post
is 109 deg. 56' 42", the latitude 40 deg. 27' 45".

It has a motley garrison of Canadian and Spanish _engages_ and
hunters, with the usual number of Indian women. We obtained a small supply
of sugar and coffee, with some dried meat and a cow, which was a very
acceptable change from the _pinoli_ on which we had subsisted for
some weeks past. I strengthened my party at this place by the addition of
Auguste Archambeau, an excellent voyageur and hunter, belonging to the
class of Carson and Godey.

On the morning of the 5th we left the fort [Footnote: This fort was
attacked and taken by a band of the Utah Indians since we passed it, and
the men of the garrison killed--the women carried off. Mr. Roubideau, a
trader of St. Louis, was absent, and so escaped the fate of the rest.] and
the Uintah river, and continued our road over a broken country, which
afforded, however, a rich addition to our botanical collection; and, after
a march of 25 miles, were again checked by another stream, called Ashley's
fork, where we were detained until noon of the next day.

An immersion of the second satellite gave for this place a longitude of
109 deg. 27' 07", the latitude, by observation, being 40 deg. 28' 07".

In the afternoon of the next day we succeeded in finding a ford; and,
after traveling 15 miles, encamped high up on the mountain-side, where we
found excellent and abundant grass, which we had not hitherto seen. A new
species of _elymus_, which had a purgative and weakening effect upon
the animals, had occurred abundantly since leaving the fort. From this
point, by observation 7,300 feet above the sea, we had a view of Colorado
below, shut up amongst rugged mountains, and which is the recipient of all
the streams we had been crossing since we passed the rim of the Great
Basin at the head of the Spanish fork.

On the 7th we had a pleasant but long day's journey, through beautiful
little valleys and a high mountain country, arriving about evening at the
verge of a steep and rocky ravine, by which we descended to "_Brown's
hole_." This is a place well known to trappers in the country, where
the canons through which the Colorado runs expand into a narrow but pretty
valley, about 16 miles in length. The river was several hundred yards in
breadth, swollen to the top of its banks, near to which it was in many
places 15 to 20 feet deep. We repaired a skin-boat which had been
purchased at the fort, and, after a delay of a day, reached the opposite
banks with much less delay than had been encountered on the Uintah waters.
According to information, the lower end of the valley is the most eastern
part of the Colorado; and the latitude of our encampment, which was
opposite to the remains of an old fort on the left bank of the river, was
40 deg. 46' 27", and, by observation, the elevation above the sea 5,150 feet.
The bearing to the entrance of the canon below was south 20 deg. east. Here
the river enters between lofty precipices of red rock, and the country
below is said to assume a very rugged character, the river and its
affluents passing through canons which forbid all access to the water.
This sheltered little valley was formerly a favorite wintering ground for
the trappers, as it afforded them sufficient pasturage for their animals,
and the surrounding mountains are well stocked with game.

We surprised a flock of mountain sheep as we descended to the river, and
our hunters killed several. The bottoms of a small stream called Vermilion
creek, which enters the left bank of the river a short distance below our
encampment, were covered abundantly with _F. vermicularis_, and other
chenopodiaceous shrubs. From the lower end of Brown's hole we issued by a
remarkably dry canon, fifty or sixty yards wide, and rising, as we
advanced, to the height of six or eight hundred feet. Issuing from this,
and crossing a small green valley, we entered another rent of the same
nature, still narrower than the other, the rocks on either side rising in
nearly vertical precipices perhaps 1,500 feet in height. These places are
mentioned, to give some idea of the country lower down on the Colorado, to
which the trappers usually apply the name of a canon country. The canon
opened upon a pond of water, where we halted to noon. Several flocks of
mountain sheep were here among the rocks, which rung with volleys of
small-arms. In the afternoon we entered upon an ugly, barren, and broken
country, corresponding well with that we had traversed a few degrees
north, on the same side of the Colorado. The Vermilion creek afforded us
brackish water and indifferent grass for the night.

A few scattered cedar-trees were the only improvement of the country on
the following day; and at a little spring of bad water, where we halted at
noon, we had not even the shelter of these from the hot rays of the sun.
At night we encamped in a fine grove of cottonwood-trees, on the banks of
the Elk Head river, the principal fork of the Yampah river, commonly
called by the trappers the Bear river. We made here a very strong fort,
and formed the camp into vigilant guards. The country we were now entering
was constantly infested by war parties of the Sioux and other Indians, and
is among the most dangerous war-grounds in the Rocky mountains; parties of
whites having been repeatedly defeated on this river.

On the 11th we continued up the river, which is a considerable stream,
fifty to a hundred yards in width, handsomely and continuously wooded with
groves of the narrow-leaved cottonwood, _populus angustifolia_; with
these were thickets of willow, and _grain du boeuf_. The
characteristic plant along the river is _F. vermicularis_, which
generally covers the bottoms; mingled with this are saline shrubs and
artemisia. The new variety of grass which we had seen on leaving the
Uintah fort had now disappeared. The country on either side was sandy and
poor, scantily wooded with cedars, but the river bottoms afforded good
pasture. Three antelopes were killed in the afternoon, and we encamped a
little below a branch of the river, called St. Vrain's fork. A few miles
above was the fort at which Frapp's party had been defeated two years
since; and we passed during the day a place where Carson had been fired
upon so close that one of the men had five bullets through his body.
Leaving this river the next morning, we took our way across the hills,
where every hollow had a spring of running water with good grass.

Yesterday and to-day we had before our eyes the high mountains which
divide the Pacific from the Mississippi waters; and entering here among
the lower spurs or foot-hills of the range, the face of the country began
to improve with a magical rapidity. Not only the river bottoms, but the
hills were covered with grass; and among the usual varied flora of the
mountain region, these were occasionally blue with the showy bloom of a
_lupinus_. In the course of the morning we had the first glad view of
buffalo, and welcomed the appearance of two old bulls with as much joy as
if they had been messengers from home; and when we descended to noon on
St. Vrain's fork, an affluent of Green river, the hunters brought in
mountain sheep and the meat of two fat bulls. Fresh entrails in the river
showed us that there were Indians above, and at evening, judging it unsafe
to encamp in the bottoms, which were wooded only with willow thickets, we
ascended to the spurs above, and forted strongly in a small aspen grove,
near to which was a spring of cold water. The hunters killed two fine cows
near the camp. A band of elk broke out of a neighboring grove; antelopes
were running over the hills; and on the opposite river-plains herds of
buffalo were raising clouds of dust. The country here appeared more
variously stocked with game than any part of the Rocky mountains we had
visited; and its abundance is owing to the excellent pasturage, and its
dangerous character as a war-ground.

13th.--There was snow here near our mountain camp, and the morning was
beautiful and cool. Leaving St. Vrain's fork, we took our way directly
towards the summit of the dividing ridge. The bottoms of the streams and
level places were wooded with aspens; and as we neared the summit, we
entered again the piny region. We had a delightful morning's ride, the
ground affording us an excellent bridle-path, and reached the summit
towards mid-day, at an elevation of 8,000 feet. With joy and exultation we
saw ourselves once more on the top of the Rocky mountains, and beheld a
little stream taking its course towards the rising sun. It was an affluent
of the Platte, called Pullam's fork, and we descended to noon upon it. It
is a pretty stream, twenty yards broad, and bears the name of a trapper
who, some years since, was killed here by the _Gros Ventre_ Indians.

Issuing from the pines in the afternoon we saw spread out before us the
valley of the Platte, with the pass of the Medicine Butte beyond, and some
of the Sweet Water mountains; but a smoky haziness in the air entirely
obscured the Wind River chain.

We were now about two degrees south of the South Pass, and our course home
would have been eastwardly; but that would have taken us over ground
already examined, and therefore without the interest that would excite
curiosity. Southwardly there were objects worthy to be explored, to wit:
the approximation of the head-waters of three different rivers--the
Platte, the Arkansas, and the Grand River fork of the Rio Colorado of the
Gulf of California; the passages at the heads of these rivers; and the
three remarkable mountain coves, called Parks, in which they took their
rise. One of these Parks was, of course, on the western side of the
dividing ridge; and a visit to it would once more require us to cross the
summit of the Rocky mountains to the west, and then to recross to the
east, making in all, with the transit we had just accomplished, three
crossings of that mountain in this section of its course. But no matter.
The coves, the heads of the rivers, the approximation of their waters, the
practicability of the mountain passes, and the locality of the three
Parks, were all objects of interest, and, although well known to hunters
and trappers, were unknown to science and to history. We therefore changed
our course, and turned up the valley of the Platte instead of going down

We crossed several small affluents, and again made a fortified camp in a
grove. The country had now became very beautiful--rich in water, grass,
and game; and to these were added the charm of scenery and pleasant

14th.--Our route this morning lay along the foot of the mountain, over the
long low spurs which sloped gradually down to the river, forming the broad
valley of the Platte. The country is beautifully watered. In almost every
hollow ran a clear, cool, mountain stream; and in the course of the
morning we crossed seventeen, several of them being large creeks, forty to
fifty feet wide, with a swift current, and tolerably deep. These were
variously wooded with groves of aspen and cottonwood, with willow, cherry,
and other shrubby trees. Buffalo, antelope, and elk, were frequent during
the day; and, in their abundance; the latter sometimes reminded us
slightly of the Sacramento valley.

We halted at noon on Potter's fork--a clear and swift stream, forty yards
wide, and in many places deep enough to swim our animals; and in the
evening encamped on a pretty stream, where there were several beaver dams,
and many trees recently cut down by the beaver. We gave to this the name
of Beaver Dam creek, as now they are becoming sufficiently rare to
distinguish by their names the streams on which they are found. In this
mountain they occurred more abundantly than elsewhere in all our journey,
in which their vestiges had been scarcely seen.

The next day we continued our journey up the valley, the country
presenting much the same appearance, except that the grass was more scanty
on the ridges, over which was spread a scrubby growth of sage; but still
the bottoms of the creeks were broad, and afforded good pasture-grounds.
We had an animated chase after a grizzly bear this morning, which we tried
to lasso. Fuentes threw the lasso upon his neck, but it slipped off, and
he escaped into the dense thickets of the creek, into which we did not
like to venture. Our course in the afternoon brought us to the main Platte
river, here a handsome stream, with a uniform breadth of seventy yards,
except where widened by frequent islands. It was apparently deep, with a
moderate current, and wooded with groves of large willow.

The valley narrowed as we ascended, and presently degenerated into a
gorge, through which the river passed as through a gate. We entered it,
and found ourselves in the New Park--a beautiful circular valley of thirty
miles diameter, walled in all round with snowy mountains, rich with water
and with grass, fringed with pine on the mountain sides below the snow
line, and a paradise to all grazing animals. The Indian name for it
signifies "cow lodge," of which our own may be considered a translation;
the enclosure, the grass, the water, and the herds of buffalo roaming over
it, naturally presenting the idea of a park. We halted for the night just
within the gate, and expected, as usual, to see herds of buffalo; but an
Arapahoe village had been before us, and not one was to be seen. Latitude
of the encampment 40 deg. 52' 44". Elevation by the boiling point 7,720 feet.

It is from this elevated cove, and from the gorges of the surrounding
mountains, and some lakes within their bosoms, that the Great Platte river
collects its first waters, and assumes its first form; and certainly no
river could ask a more beautiful origin.

16th.--In the morning we pursued our way through the Park, following a
principal branch of the Platte, and crossing, among many smaller ones, a
bold stream, scarcely fordable, called Lodge Pole fork, and which issues
from a lake in the mountains on the right, ten miles long. In the evening
we encamped on a small stream near the upper end of the Park. Latitude of
the camp 40 deg. 33' 22".

17th.--We continued our way among the waters of the Park over the foot-
hills of the bordering mountains, where we found good pasturage, and
surprised and killed some buffalo. We fell into a broad and excellent
trail, made by buffalo, where a wagon would pass with ease; and, in the
course of the morning we crossed the summit of the Rocky mountains,
through a pass which was one of the most beautiful we had ever seen. The
trail led among the aspens, through open grounds, richly covered with
grass, and carried us over an elevation of about 9,000 feet above the
level of the sea.

The country appeared to great advantage in the delightful summer weather
of the mountains, which we still continued to enjoy. Descending from the
pass, we found ourselves again on the western waters; and halted to noon
on the edge of another mountain valley, called the Old Park, in which is
formed Grand river, one of the principal branches of the Colorado of
California. We were now moving with some caution, as, from the trail, we
found the Arapahoe village had also passed this way; as we were coming out
of their enemy's country, and this was a war-ground, we were desirous to
avoid them. After a long afternoon's march, we halted at night on a small
creek, tributary to a main fork of Grand river, which ran through this
portion of the valley. The appearance of the country in the Old Park is
interesting, though of a different character from the New; instead of
being a comparative plain, it is more or less broken into hills, and
surrounded by the high mountains, timbered on the lower parts with quaking
asp and pines.

18th.--Our scouts, who were as usual ahead, made from a _butte_ this
morning the signal of Indians, and we rode up in time to meet a party of
about 30 Arapahoes. They were men and women going into the hills--the men
for game, the women for roots--and informed us that the village was
encamped a few miles above, on the main fork of Grand river, which passes
through the midst of the valley. I made them the usual presents; but they
appeared disposed to be unfriendly, and galloped back at speed to the
village. Knowing that we had trouble to expect, I descended immediately
into the bottoms of Grand river, which were overflowed in places, the
river being up, and made the best encampment the ground afforded. We had
no time to build a fort, but found an open place among the willows, which
was defended by the river on one side and the overflowed bottoms on the
other. We had scarcely made our few preparations, when about 200 of them
appeared on the verge of the bottom, mounted, painted, and armed for war.
We planted the American flag between us; and a short parley ended in a
truce, with something more than the usual amount of presents. About 20
Sioux were with them--one of them an old chief, who had always been
friendly to the whites. He informed me that, before coming down, a council
had been held at the village, in which the greater part had declared for
attacking us--we had come from their enemies, to whom we had doubtless
been carrying assistance in arms and ammunition; but his own party, with
some few of the Arapahoes who had seen us the previous year in the plains,
opposed it. It will be remembered that it is customary for this people to
attack the trading parties which they meet in this region, considering all
whom they meet on the western side of the mountains to be their enemies.
They deceived me into the belief that I should find a ford at their
village, and I could not avoid accompanying them; but put several sloughs
between us and their village, and forted strongly on the banks of the
river, which was everywhere rapid and deep, and over a hundred yards in
breadth. The camp was generally crowded with Indians; and though the
baggage was carefully watched and covered, a number of things were stolen.

The next morning we descended the river for about eight miles, and halted
a short distance above a canon, through which Grand river issues from the
Park. Here it was smooth and deep, 150 yards in breadth, and its elevation
at this point 6,700 feet. A frame for the boat being very soon made, our
baggage was ferried across; the horses, in the mean time, swimming over. A
southern fork of Grand river here makes its junction, nearly opposite to
the branch by which we had entered the valley, and up this we continued
for about eight miles in the afternoon and encamped in a bottom on the
left bank, which afforded good grass. At our encampment it was 70 to 90
yards in breadth, sometimes widened by islands, and separated into several
channels, with a very swift current and bed of rolled rocks.

On the 20th we traveled up the left bank, with the prospect of a bad road,
the trail here taking the opposite side; but the stream was up, and
nowhere fordable. A piny ridge of mountains, with bare rocky peaks, was on
our right all the day, and a snowy mountain appeared ahead. We crossed
many foaming torrents with rocky beds, rushing down the river; and in the
evening made a strong fort in an aspen grove. The valley had already
become very narrow, shut up more closely in densely timbered mountains,
the pines sweeping down the verge of the bottoms. The _coq de prairie
(tetrao europhasianus)_ was occasionally seen among the sage.

We saw to-day the returning trail of an Arapahoe party which had been sent
from the village to look for Utahs in the Bayou Salade, (South Park;) and
it being probable that they would visit our camp with the desire to return
on horseback, we were more than usually on the alert.

Here the river diminished to 35 yards, and, notwithstanding the number of
affluents we had crossed, was still a large stream, dashing swiftly by,
with a great continuous fall, and not yet fordable. We had a delightful
ride along a good trail among the fragrant pines; and the appearance of
buffalo in great numbers indicated that there were Indians in the Bayou
Salade, (South Park,) by whom they were driven out. We halted to noon
under the shade of the pines, and the weather was most delightful. The
country was literally alive with buffalo; and the continued echo of the
hunters' rifles on the other side of the river for a moment made me
uneasy, thinking perhaps they were engaged with Indians; but in a short
time they came into camp with the meat of seven fat cows.

During the earlier part of the day's ride, the river had been merely a
narrow ravine between high piny mountains, backed on both sides, but
particularly on the west, by a line of snowy ridges; but, after several
hours' ride, the stream opened out into a valley with pleasant bottoms. In
the afternoon the river forked into three apparently equal streams; broad
buffalo trails leading up the left hand, and the middle branch, indicating
good passes over the mountains; but up the right-hand branch, (which, in
the object of descending from the mountain by the main head of the
Arkansas, I was most desirous to follow,) there was no sign of a buffalo
trace. Apprehending from this reason, and the character of the mountains,
which are known to be extremely rugged, that the right-hand branch led to
no pass, I proceeded up the middle branch, which formed a flat valley-
bottom between timbered ridges on the left and snowy mountains on the
right, terminating in large _buttes_ of naked rock. The trail was
good, and the country interesting; and at nightfall we encamped in an open
place among the pines, where we built a strong fort. The mountains exhibit
their usual varied growth of flowers, and at this place I noticed, among
others, _thermopsis montana_, whose bright yellow color makes it a
showy plant. This has been a characteristic in many parts of the country
since reaching the Uintah waters. With fields of iris were _aquilegia
coerulea_, violets, esparcette, and strawberries.

At dark we perceived a fire in the edge of the pines, on the opposite side
of the valley. We had evidently not been discovered, and, at the report of
a gun, and the blaze of fresh fuel which was heaped on our fires, those of
the strangers were instantly extinguished. In the morning, they were found
to be a party of six trappers, who had ventured out among the mountains
after beaver. They informed us that two of the number with which they had
started had been already killed by the Indians--one of them but a few days
since--by the Arapahoes we had lately seen, who had found him alone at a
camp on this river, and carried off his traps and animals. As they were
desirous to join us, the hunters returned with them to the encampment, and
we continued up the valley, in which the stream rapidly diminished,
breaking into small tributaries--every hollow affording water. At our noon
halt, the hunters joined us with the trappers. While preparing to start
from their encampment, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by a
party of Arapahoes, who informed them that their scouts had discovered a
large Utah village in the Bayou Salade, (South Park,) and that a large
war-party, consisting of almost every man in the village, except those who
were too old to go to war, were going over to attack them. The main body
had ascended the left fork of the river, which afforded a better pass than
the branch we were on, and this party had followed our trail, in order
that we might add our force to theirs. Carson informed them that we were
too far ahead to turn back, but would join them in the bayou; and the
Indians went off apparently satisfied. By the temperature of boiling
water, our elevation here was 10,430 feet, and still the pine forest
continued, and grass was good.

In the afternoon we continued our road occasionally through open pines,
with a very gradual ascent. We surprised a herd of buffalo, enjoying the
shade at a small lake among the pines, and they made the dry branches
crack, as they broke through the woods. In a ride of about three-quarters
of an hour, and having ascended perhaps 800 feet, we reached the _summit
of the dividing ridge_, which would thus have an estimated height of
11,200 feet. Here the river spreads itself into small branches and
springs, heading nearly in the summit of the ridge, which is very narrow.
Immediately below us was a green valley, through which ran a stream; and a
short distance opposite rose snowy mountains, whose summits were formed
into peaks of naked rock. We soon afterwards satisfied ourselves that
immediately beyond these mountains was the main branch of the Arkansas
river--most probably heading directly with the little stream below us,
which gathered its waters in the snowy mountains near by. Descriptions of
the rugged character of the mountains around the head of the Arkansas,
which their appearance amply justified, deterred me from making any
attempt to reach it, which would have involved a greater length of time
than now remained at my disposal.

In about a quarter of an hour, we descended from the summit of the Pass
into the creek below, our road having been very much controlled and
interrupted by the pines and springs on the mountain-side. Turning up the
stream, we encamped on a bottom of good grass near its head, which gathers
its waters in the dividing crest of the Rocky mountains, and, according to
the best information we could obtain, separated only by the rocky wall of
the ridge from the head of the main Arkansas river. By the observations of
the evening, the latitude of our encampment was 39 deg. 20' 24", and south of
which; therefore, is the head of the Arkansas river. The stream on which
we had encamped is the head of either the _Fontaine-qui-bouit_, a
branch of the Arkansas, or the remotest head of the south fork of the
Platte, as which you will find it laid down on the map. But descending it
only through a portion of its course, we have not been able to settle this
point satisfactorily. In the evening a band of buffalo furnished a little
excitement, by charging through the camp.

On the following day we descended the stream by an excellent buffalo-
trail, along the open grassy bottom of the river. On our right, the bayou
was bordered by a mountainous range, crested with rocky and naked peaks;
and below, it had a beautiful park-like character of pretty level
prairies, interspersed among low spurs, wooded openly with pine and
quaking asp, contrasting well with the denser pines which swept around on
the mountain sides. Descending always the valley of the stream, towards
noon we descried a mounted party descending the point of a spur, and,
judging them to be Arapahoes--who, defeated or victorious, were equally
dangerous to us, and with whom a fight would be inevitable--we hurried to
post ourselves as strongly as possible on some willow islands in the
river. We had scarcely halted when they arrived, proving to be a party of
Utah women, who told us that on the other side of the ridge their village
was fighting with the Arapahoes. As soon as they had given us this
information, they filled the air with cries and lamentations, which made
us understand that some of their chiefs had been killed.

Extending along the river, directly ahead of us, was a low piny ridge,
leaving between it and the stream a small open bottom, on which the Utahs
had very injudiciously placed their village, which, according to the
women, numbered about 300 warriors. Advancing in the cover of the pines,
the Arapahoes, about daylight, charged into the village, driving off a
great number of their horses, and killing four men; among them, the
principal chief of the village. They drove the horses perhaps a mile
beyond the village, to the end of a hollow, where they had previously
forted, at the edge of the pines. Here the Utahs had instantly attacked
them in turn, and, according to the report of the women, were getting
rather the best of the day. The women pressed us eagerly to join with
their people, and would immediately have provided us with the best horses
at the village; but it was not for us to interfere in such a conflict.
Neither party were our friends, or under our protection; and each was
ready to prey upon us that could. But we could not help feeling an unusual
excitement at being within a few hundred yards of a fight, in which 500
men were closely engaged, and hearing the sharp cracks of their rifles. We
were in a bad position, and subject to be attacked in it. Either party
which we might meet, victorious or defeated, was certain to fall upon us;
and, gearing up immediately, we kept close along the pines of the ridge,
having it between us and the village, and keeping the scouts on the
summit, to give us notice of the approach of Indians. As we passed by the
village, which was immediately below us, horsemen were galloping to and
fro, and groups of people were gathered around those who were wounded and
dead, and who were being brought in from the field. We continued to press
on, and, crossing another fork, which came in from the right, after having
made fifteen miles from the village, fortified ourselves strongly in the
pines, a short distance from the river.

During the afternoon, Pike's Peak had been plainly in view before us, and,
from our encampment, bore N. 87 deg. E. by compass. This was a familiar
object, and it had for us the face of an old friend. At its foot were the
springs, where we had spent a pleasant day in coming out. Near it were the
habitations of civilized men; and it overlooked the broad smooth plains,
which promised us an easy journey to our home.

The next day we left the river, which continued its course towards Pike's
Peak; and taking a southeasterly direction, in about ten miles we crossed
a gentle ridge, and, issuing from the South Park, found ourselves involved
among the broken spurs of the mountains which border the great prairie
plains. Although broken and extremely rugged, the country was very
interesting, being well watered by numerous affluents to the Arkansas
river, and covered with grass and a variety of trees. The streams, which,
in the upper part of their course, ran through grassy and open hollows,
after a few miles all descended into deep and impracticable canons,
through which they found their way to the Arkansas valley. Here the
buffalo trails we had followed were dispersed among the hills, or crossed
over into the more open valleys of other streams.

During the day our road was fatiguing and difficult, reminding us much, by
its steep and rocky character, of our traveling the year before among the
Wind River mountains; but always at night we found some grassy bottom,
which afforded us a pleasant camp. In the deep seclusion of these little
streams, we found always an abundant pasturage, and a wild luxuriance of
plants and trees. Aspens and pines were the prevailing timber: on the
creeks oak was frequent; but the narrow-leaved cottonwood, (_populus
angustifolia_,) of unusually large size, and seven or eight feet in
circumference, was the principal tree. With these were mingled a variety
of shrubby trees, which aided to make the ravines almost impenetrable.

After several days' laborious traveling, we succeeded in extricating
ourselves from the mountains, and on the morning of the 28th encamped
immediately at their foot, on a handsome tributary to the Arkansas river.
In the afternoon we descended the stream, winding our way along the
bottoms, which were densely wooded with oak, and in the evening encamped
near the main river. Continuing the next day our road along the Arkansas,
and meeting on the way a war-party of Arapahoe Indians, (who had recently
been committing some outrages at Bent's fort, killing stock and driving
off horses,) we arrived before sunset at the Pueblo, near the mouth of the
_Fontaine-qui-bouit_ river, where we had the pleasure to find a
number of our old acquaintances. The little settlement appeared in a
thriving condition; and in the interval of our absence another had been
established on the river, some thirty miles above.

On the 30th of June our cavalcade moved rapidly down the Arkansas, along
the broad road which follows the river.


On the 1st of July we arrived at Bent's fort, about 70 miles below the
mouth of the _Fontaine-qui-bouit_. As we emerged into view from the
groves on the river, we were saluted with a display of the national flag,
and repeated discharges from the guns of the fort, where we were received
by Mr. George Bent with a cordial welcome and a friendly hospitality, in
the enjoyment of which we spent several very agreeable days. We were now
in the region where our mountaineers were accustomed to live; and all the
dangers and difficulties of the road being considered past, four of them,
including Carson and Walker, remained at the fort.

On the 5th we resumed our journey down the Arkansas, traveling along a
broad wagon-road, and encamped about 20 miles below the fort. On the way
we met a very large village of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, who, with the
Arapahoes were returning from the crossing of the Arkansas, where they had
been to meet the Kioway and Camanche Indians. A few days previous they had
massacred a party of fifteen Delawares, whom they had discovered in a fort
on the Smoky Hill river, losing in the affair several of their own people.
They were desirous that we should bear a pacific message to the Delawares
on the frontier, from whom they expected retaliation; and we passed
through them without any difficulty or delay. Dispersed over the plain in
scattered bodies of horsemen, and family groups of women and children,
with dog-trains carrying baggage, and long lines of pack-horses, their
appearance was picturesque and imposing.

Agreeably to your instructions, which required me to complete, as far as
practicable, our examinations of the Kansas, I left at this encampment the
Arkansas river, taking a northeasterly direction across the elevated
dividing grounds which separate that river from the waters of the Platte.
On the 7th we crossed a large stream, about forty yards wide, and one or
two feet deep, flowing with a lively current on a sandy bed. The
discolored and muddy appearance of the water indicated that it proceeded
from recent rains; and we are inclined to consider this a branch of the
Smoky Hill river, although, possibly, it may be the Pawnee fork of the
Arkansas. Beyond this stream we traveled over high and level prairies,
halting at small ponds and holes of water, and using for our fires the
_bois de vache_, the country being without timber. On the evening of
the 8th we encamped in a cottonwood grove on the banks of a sandy stream-
bed, where there was water in holes sufficient for the camp. Here several
hollows, or dry creeks with sandy beds, met together, forming the head of
a stream which afterwards proved to be the Smoky Hill fork of the Kansas

The next morning, as we were leaving our encampment, a number of Arapahoe
Indians were discovered. They belonged to a war-party which had scattered
over the prairie in returning from an expedition against the Pawnees.

As we traveled down the valley, water gathered rapidly in the sandy bed
from many little tributaries; and at evening it had become a handsome
stream, fifty to eighty feet in width, with a lively current in small
channels, the water being principally dispersed among quicksands.

Gradually enlarging, in a few days' march it became a river eighty yards
in breadth, wooded with occasional groves of cottonwood. Our road was
generally over level uplands bordering the river, which were closely
covered with a sward of buffalo-grass.

On the 10th we entered again the buffalo range, where we had found these
animals so abundant on our outward journey, and halted for a day among
numerous herds, in order to make a provision of meat sufficient to carry
us to the frontier.

A few days afterwards, we encamped, in a pleasant evening, on a high river
prairie, the stream being less than a hundred yards broad. During the
night we had a succession of thunder-storms, with heavy and continuous
rain, and towards morning the water suddenly burst over the bank, flooding
the bottoms and becoming a large river, five or six hundred yards in
breadth. The darkness of the night and incessant rain had concealed from
the guard the rise of the water; and the river broke into the camp so
suddenly, that the baggage was instantly covered, and all our perishable
collections almost entirely ruined, and the hard labor of many months
destroyed in a moment.

On the 17th we discovered a large village of Indians encamped at the mouth
of a handsomely wooded stream on the right bank of the river. Readily
inferring, from the nature of the encampment, that they were Pawnee
Indians, and confidently expecting good treatment from a people who
receive regularly an annuity from the government, we proceeded directly to
the village, where we found assembled nearly all the Pawnee tribe, who
were now returning from the crossing of the Arkansas, where they had met
the Kioway and Camanche Indians. We were received by them with the
unfriendly rudeness and characteristic insolence which they never fail to
display whenever they find an occasion for doing so with impunity. The
little that remained of our goods was distributed among them, but proved
entirely insufficient to satisfy their greedy rapacity; and, after some
delay, and considerable difficulty, we succeeded in extricating ourselves
from the village, and encamped on the river about 15 miles below.

[Footnote: In a recent report to the department, from Major Wharton, who
visited the Pawnee villages with a military force some months afterwards,
it is stated that the Indians had intended to attack our party during the
night we remained at this encampment, but were prevented by the
interposition of the Pawnee Loups.]

The country through which we had been traveling since leaving the Arkansas
river, for a distance of 260 miles, presented to the eye only a succession
of far-stretching green prairies, covered with the unbroken verdure of the
buffalo-grass, and sparingly wooded along the streams with straggling
trees and occasional groves of cottonwood; but here the country began
perceptibly to change its character, becoming a more fertile, wooded, and
beautiful region, covered with a profusion of grasses, and watered with
innumerable little streams, which were wooded with oak, large elms, and
the usual varieties of timber common to the lower course of the Kansas

As we advanced, the country steadily improved, gradually assimilating
itself in appearance to the northwestern part of the state of Missouri.
The beautiful sward of the buffalo-grass, which is regarded as the best
and most nutritious found on the prairies, appeared now only in patches,
being replaced by a longer and coarser grass, which covered the face of
the country luxuriantly. The difference in the character of the grasses
became suddenly evident in the weakened condition of our animals, which
began sensibly to fail as soon as we quitted the buffalo-grass.

The river preserved a uniform breadth of eighty or a hundred yards, with
broad bottoms continuously timbered with large cottonwood-trees, among
which were interspersed a few other varieties.

While engaged in crossing one of the numerous creeks which frequently
impeded and checked our way, sometimes obliging us to ascend them for
several miles, one of the people (Alexis Ayot) was shot through the leg by
the accidental discharge of a rifle--a mortifying and painful mischance,
to be crippled for life by an accident, after having nearly accomplished
in safety a long and eventful journey. He was a young man of remarkably
good and cheerful temper, and had been among the useful and efficient men
of the party.

After having traveled directly along its banks for 290 miles, we left the
river, where it bore suddenly off in a northwesterly direction, towards
its junction with the Republican fork of the Kansas, distant about 60
miles; and, continuing our easterly course, in about 20 miles we entered
the wagon-road from Santa Fe to Independence, and on the last day of July
encamped again at the little town of Kansas, on the banks of the Missouri

During our protracted absence of 14 months, in the course of which we had
necessarily been exposed to great varieties of weather and of climate, not
one case of sickness had ever occurred among us.

Here ended our land journey; and the day following our arrival, we found
ourselves on board a steamboat rapidly gliding down the broad Missouri.
Our travel-worn animals had not been sold and dispersed over the country
to renewed labor, but were placed at good pasturage on the frontier, and
are now ready to do their part in the coming expedition.

On the 6th of August we arrived at St. Louis, where the party was finally
disbanded, a great number of the men having their homes in the

Andreas Fuentes also remained here, having readily found employment for
the winter, and is one of the men engaged to accompany me the present

Pablo Hernandez remains in the family of Senator Benton, where he is well
taken care of, and conciliates good-will by his docility, intelligence,
and amiability. General Almonte, the Mexican minister at Washington, to
whom he was of course made known, kindly offered to take charge of him,
and to carry him back to Mexico; but the boy preferred to remain where he
was until he got an education, for which he shows equal ardor and

Our Chinook Indian had his wish to see the whites fully gratified. He
accompanied me to Washington, and, after remaining several months at the
Columbia College, was sent by the Indian department to Philadelphia,
where, among other things, he learned to read and write well, and speak
the English language with some fluency. He will accompany me in a few days
to the frontier of Missouri, where he will be sent with some one of the
emigrant companies to the village at the Dalles of the Columbia.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. C. FREMONT, _Bt. Capt.
Topl. Engineers_.

* * * * *


The "placers" or Gold Mines of California, are located in the valley of
the Sacramento, in the northern part of that new territory. They are all
on the public lands, with the exception of the portion belonging to
Messrs. Forbes and Sutter. The region which they embrace and which lies,
according to authentic reports, on both sides of the Sierra Nevada, must
be "larger than the State of New York." The mines, it is estimated, are
worth a thousand millions of dollars. The most reliable information in
regard to them may be found in the official reports communicated to the
authorities at Washington, by some of the American officers who have
visited the region. The following document is of this nature. The author
of it, Col. Mason, the military commander in California, speaks, as will
be seen, from observation, and the fullest confidence may be placed in his

HEADQUARTERS 10TH MILITARY DEPOT, Monterey, California, Aug. 17, 1848.

SIR:--I have the honor to inform you that, accompanied by Lieut. W. T.
Sherman, 3d artillery, A. A. A. General, I started on the 12th of June
last to make a tour through the northern part of California. My principal
purpose, however, was to visit the newly-discovered gold "placer," in the
Valley of the Sacramento. I had proceeded about forty miles, when I was
overtaken by an express, bringing me intelligence of the arrival at
Monterey of the U. S. ship Southampton, with important letters from Com.
Shubrick and Lieut. Col. Barton. I returned at once to Monterey, and
dispatched what business was most important, and on the 17th resumed my
journey. We reached San Francisco on the 20th, and found that all, or
nearly all, its male inhabitants had gone to the mines. The town, which a
few months before was so busy and thriving, was then almost deserted.

On the evening of the 25th, the horses of the escort were crossed to
Sousoleto in a launch, and on the following day we resumed the journey by
way of Bodega and Sonoma to Sutter's fort, where we arrived on the morning
of the 2d of July. Along the whole route mills were lying idle, fields of
wheat were open to cattle and horses, houses vacant, and farms going to
waste. At Sutter's there was more life and business. Launches were
discharging their cargoes at the river, and carts were hauling goods to
the fort, where already were established several stores, a hotel, &c.
Captain Sutter had only two mechanics in his employ, (a wagon-maker and a
blacksmith,) whom he was then paying ten dollars a day. Merchants pay him
a monthly rent of $100 per room; and while I was there, a two-story house
in the fort was rented as a hotel for $500 a month.

At the urgent solicitation of many gentlemen, I delayed there to
participate in the first public celebration of our national anniversary at
that fort, but on the 5th resumed the journey and proceeded twenty-five
miles up the American fork to a point on it now known as the Lower Mines,
or Mormon Diggings: The hill-sides were thickly strewn with canvas tents
and bush arbors; a store was erected, and several boarding shanties in
operation. The day was intensely hot, yet about two hundred men were at
work in the full glare of the sun, washing for gold--some with tin pans,
some with close-woven Indian baskets, but the greater part had a rude
machine, known as the cradle. This is on rockers, six or eight feet long,
open at the foot, and at its head has a coarse grate, or sieve; the bottom
is rounded, with small cleets nailed across. Four men are required to work
this machine: one digs the ground in the bank close by the stream; another
carries it to the cradle and empties it on the grate; a third gives a
violent rocking motion to the machine; while a fourth dashes on water from
the stream itself.

The sieve keeps the coarse stones from entering the cradle, the current of
water washes off the earthy matter, and the gravel is gradually carried
out at the foot of the machine, leaving the gold mixed with a heavy fine
black sand above the first cleets. The sand and gold mixed together are
then drawn off through auger holes into a pan below, are dried in the sun,
and afterwards separated by blowing off the sand. A party of four men thus
employed at the lower mines averaged $100 a day. The Indians, and those
who have nothing but pans or willow baskets, gradually wash out the earth
and separate the gravel by hand, leaving nothing but the gold mixed with
sand, which is separated in the manner before described. The gold in the
lower mines is in fine bright scales, of which I send several specimens.

As we ascended the north branch of the American fork, the country became
more broken and mountainous, and at the saw-mill, 25 miles above the lower
washings, or 50 miles from Sutter's, the hills rise to about a thousand
feet above the level of the Sacramento plain. Here a species of pine
occurs which led to the discovery of the gold. Capt Sutter, feeling the
great want of lumber, contracted in September last with a Mr. Marshall to
build a saw-mill at that place. It was erected in the course of the past
winter and spring--a dam and race constructed; but when the water was let
on the wheel, the tail-race was found to be too narrow to permit the water
to escape with sufficient rapidity. Mr. Marshall, to save labor, let the
water directly into the race with a strong current, so as to wash it wider
and deeper. He effected his purpose, and a large bed of mud and gravel was
carried to the foot of the race.

One day Mr. Marshall, as he was walking down the race to this deposit of
mud, observed some glittering particles at its upper edge; he gathered a
few, examined them, and became satisfied of their value. He then went to
the fort, told Capt. Sutter of his discovery, and they agreed to keep it
secret until a certain grist-mill of Sutter's was finished. It, however,
got out, and spread like magic. Remarkable success attended the labors of
the first explorers, and in a few weeks hundreds of men were drawn
thither. At the time of my visit, but little over three months after the
first discovery, it was estimated that upwards of four thousand people
were employed. At the mill there is a fine deposit or bank of gravel,
which the people respect as the property of Captain Sutter, although he
pretends to no right to it, and would be perfectly satisfied with the
simple promise of a pre-emption, on account of the mill which he has
built there at considerable cost. Mr. Marshall was living near the mill,
and informed me that many persons were employed above and below him; that
they used the same machines at the lower washings, and that their success
was about the same--ranging from one to three ounces of gold per man
daily. This gold, too, is in scales a little coarser than those of the
lower mines.

From the mill Mr. Marshall guided me up the mountain on the opposite or
north bank of the south fork, where, in the bed of small streams or
ravines, now dry, a great deal of coarse gold has been found. I there saw
several parties at work, all of whom were doing very well; a great many
specimens were shown me, some as heavy as four or five ounces in weight,
and I send three pieces labelled No. 5, presented by a Mr. Spence. You
will perceive that some of the specimens accompanying this, hold
mechanically pieces of quartz; that the surface is rough and evidently
moulded in the crevice of a rock. This gold cannot have been carried far
by water, but must have remained near where it was first deposited from
the rock that once bound it. I inquired of many people if they had
encountered the metal in its matrix, but in every instance they said they
had not, but that the gold was invariably mixed with washed gravel or
lodged in the crevices of other rocks. All bore testimony that they had
found gold in greater or less quantities in the numerous small gullies or
ravines that occur in that mountainous region.

On the 7th of July I left the mill, and crossed to a stream emptying into
the American fork, three or four miles below the saw mill. I struck this
stream (now known as Weber's creek) at the washings of Sunol & Co. They
had about thirty Indians employed, whom they payed in merchandise. They
were getting gold of a character similar to that found on the main fork,
and doubtless in sufficient quantities to satisfy them. I send you a small
specimen, presented by this company, of their gold. From this point we
proceeded up the stream about eight miles, where we found a great many
people and Indians--some engaged in the bed of the stream, and others in
the small side valleys that put into it. These latter are exceedingly
rich, and two ounces were considered an ordinary yield for a day's work. A
small gutter, not more than a hundred yards long by four feet wide and two
or three feet deep, was pointed out to me as the one where two men--
William Daly and Parry McCoon--had, a short time before, obtained 17,000
dollars worth of gold. Capt. Weber informed me that he knew that these two
men had employed four white men and about a hundred Indians, and that at
the end of one week's work, they paid off their party, and had left
$10,000 worth of this gold. Another small ravine was shown me, from which
had been taken upwards of $12,000 worth of gold. Hundreds of similar
ravines to all appearances are as yet untouched. I could not have credited
these reports had I not seen, in the abundance of the precious metal,
evidence of their truth.

Mr. Neligh, an agent of Commodore Stockton, had been at work about three
weeks in the neighborhood, and showed me in bags and bottles over $2,000
worth of gold; and Mr. Lyman, a gentleman of education and worthy of every
credit, said he had been engaged with four others, with a machine, on the
American fork, just below Sutter's mill; that they worked eight days, and
that his share was at the rate of $50 a day; but hearing that others were
doing better at Weber's place they had removed there, and were then on the
point of resuming operations. I might tell of hundreds of similar
instances; but to illustrate how plentiful the gold was in the pockets of
common laborers, I will mention a simple occurrence which took place in my
presence when I was at Weber's store. This store was nothing but an arbor
of bushes, under which he had exposed for sale goods and groceries suited
to his customers. A man came in, picked up a box of Seidlitz powders and
asked the price. Captain Weber told him it was not for sale. The man
offered an ounce of gold, but Capt. Weber told it only cost fifty cents,
and he did not wish to sell it. The man then offered an ounce and a half,
when Capt. Weber _had_ to take it. The prices of all things are high,
and yet Indians, who before hardly knew what a breech cloth was, can now
afford to buy the most gaudy dresses.

The country on either side of Weber's creek is much broken up by hills,
and is intersected in every direction by small streams or ravines, which
contain more or less gold. Those that have been worked are barely
scratched; and although thousands of ounces have been carried away, I do
not consider that a serious impression has been made upon the whole. Every
day was developing new and richer deposits; and the only impression seemed
to be, that the metal would be found in such abundance as seriously to
depreciate in value.

On the 8th of July I returned to the lower mines, and on the following day
to Sutter's, where, on the 19th. I was making preparations for a visit to
the Feather, Yubah, and Bear rivers, when I received a letter from
Commander A. R. Long, United States Navy, who had just arrived at San
Francisco from Mazatlan, with a crew for the sloop-of-war Warren, with
orders to take that vessel to the squadron at La Paz. Capt. Long wrote to
me that the Mexican Congress had adjourned without ratifying the treaty of
peace, that he had letters from Commodore Jones, and that his orders were
to sail with the Warren on or before the 20th of July. In consequence of
this I determined to return to Monterey, and accordingly arrived here on
the 17th of July. Before leaving Sutter's I satisfied myself that gold
existed in the bed of the Feather river, in the Yubah and Bear, and in
many of the smaller streams that lie between the latter and the American
fork; also that it had been found in the Cosummes to the south of the
American fork. In each of these streams, the gold is found in small
scales, whereas in the intervening mountains it occurs in coarser lumps.

Mr. Sinclair, whose rancho is three miles above Sutter's on the north side
of the American, employs about fifty Indians on the north fork, not far
from its junction with the main stream. He had been engaged about five
weeks when I saw him, and up to that time his Indians had used simply
closely woven willow baskets. His nett proceeds (which I saw) were about
$16,000 worth of gold. He showed me the proceeds of his last week's work--
fourteen pounds avoirdupois of clean-washed gold.

The principal store at Sutter's Fort, that of Brannan & Co., had received
in payment for goods $36,000 (worth of this gold) from the 1st of May to
the 10th of July. Other merchants had also made extensive sales. Large
quantities of goods were daily sent forward to the mines, as the Indians,
heretofore so poor and degraded, have suddenly become consumers of the
luxuries of life. I before mentioned that the greater part of the farmers
and rancheros had abandoned their fields to go to the mines. This is not
the case with Capt. Sutter, who was carefully gathering his wheat,
estimated at 40,000 bushels. Flour is already worth at Sutter's $36 a
barrel, and soon will be fifty. Unless large quantities of breadstuffs
reach the country, much suffering will occur; but as each man is now able
to pay a large price, it is believed the merchants will bring from Chili
and Oregon a plentiful supply for the coming winter.

The most moderate estimate I could obtain from men acquainted with the
subject, was, that upwards of four thousand men were working in the gold
district, of whom more than one-half were Indians; and that from $30,000
to $50,000 worth of gold, if not more, was daily obtained. The entire gold
district, with very few exceptions of grants made some years ago by the
Mexican authorities, is on land belonging to the United States. It was a
matter of serious reflection with me, how I could secure to the Government
certain rents and fees for the privilege of procuring this gold; but upon
considering the large extent of country, the character of the people
engaged, and the small scattered force at my command, I resolved not to
interfere but to permit all to work freely, unless broils and crimes
should call for interferance. I was surprised to learn that crime of any
kind was very unfrequent, and that no thefts or robberies had been
committed in the gold district.

All live in tents, in bush arbors, or in the open air; and men have
frequently about their persons thousands of dollars worth of this gold,
and it was to me a matter of surprise that so peaceful and quiet state of
things should continue to exist. Conflicting claims to particular spots of
ground may cause collisions, but they will be rare, as the extent of
country is so great, and the gold so abundant, that for the present there
is room enough for all. Still the Government is entitled to rents for this
land, and immediate steps should be devised to collect them, for the
longer it is delayed the more difficult it will become. One plan I would
suggest is, to send out from the United States surveyors with high
salaries, bound to serve specified periods.

A superintendent to be appointed at Sutter's Fort, with power to grant
licenses to work a spot of ground--say 100 yards square--for one year, at
a rent of from 100 to 1,000 dollars, at his discretion; the surveyors to
measure the ground, and place the rentor in possession.

A better plan, however, will be to have the district surveyed and sold at
public auction to the highest bidder, in small parcels--say from 20 to 40
acres. In either case, there will be many intruders, whom for years it
will be almost impossible to exclude.

The discovery of these vast deposits of gold has entirely changed the
character of Upper California. Its people, before engaged in cultivating
their small patches of ground, and guarding their herds of cattle and,
horses, have all gone to the mines, or are on their way thither. Laborers
of every trade have left their work benches, and tradesmen their shops.
Sailors desert their ships as fast as they arrive on the coast, and
several vessels have gone to sea with hardly enough hands to spread a
sail. Two or three are now at anchor in San Francisco with no crew on
board. Many desertions, too, have taken place from the garrisons within
the influence of these mines; twenty-six soldiers have deserted from the
post of Sonoma, twenty-four from that of San Francisco, and twenty-four
from Monterey. For a few days the evil appeared so threatening, that great
danger existed that the garrisons would leave in a body; and I refer you
to my orders of the 25th of July, to show the steps adopted to met this
contingency. I shall spare no exertions to apprehend and punish deserters,
but I believe no time in the history of our country has presented such
temptations to desert as now exist in California.

The danger of apprehension is small, and the prospect of high wages
certain; pay and bounties are trifles, as laboring men at the mines can
now earn in _one day_ more than double a soldier's pay and allowances
for a month, and even the pay of a lieutenant or captain cannot hire a
servant. A carpenter or mechanic would not listen to an offer of less than
fifteen or twenty dollars a day. Could any combination of affairs try a
man's fidelity more than this? I really think some extraordinary mark of
favor should be given to those soldiers who remain faithful to their flag
throughout this tempting crisis. No officer can now live in California on
his pay, money has so little value; the prices of necessary articles of
clothing and subsistence are so exorbitant and labor so high, that to hire
a cook or servant has become an impossibility, save to those who are
earning from thirty to fifty dollars a day. This state of things cannot
last for ever. Yet from the geographical position of California, and the
new character it has assumed as a mining country, prices of labor will
always be high, and will hold out temptations to desert. I therefore have
to report, if the Government wish to prevent desertions here on the part
of men, and to secure zeal on the part of officers, their pay must be
increased very materially. Soldiers, both of the volunteers and regular
service, discharged in this country, should be permitted at once to locate
their land warrants in the gold district.

Many private letters have gone to the United States giving accounts of the
vast quantity of gold recently discovered, and it may be a matter of
surprise why I have made no report on this subject at an earlier date. The
reason is, that I could not bring myself to believe the reports that I
heard of the wealth of the gold district until I visited it myself. I have
no hesitation now in saying that there is more gold in the country drained
by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers than will pay the cost of the
present war with Mexico a hundred times over. No capital is required to
obtain this gold, as the laboring man wants nothing but his pick and
shovel and tin pan, with which to dig and wash the gravel; and many
frequently pick gold out of the crevices of rocks with their butcher
knives in pieces from one to six ounces.

Mr. Dye, a gentleman residing in Monterey, and worthy of every credit, has
just returned from Feather river. He tells me that the company to which he
belonged worked seven weeks and two days, with an average of fifty Indians
(washers) and that their gross product was 273 pounds of gold. His share
(one seventh,) after paying all expenses, is about thirty-seven pounds,
which he brought with him and exhibited in Monterey. I see no laboring man
from the mines who does not show his two, three, or four pounds of gold. A
soldier of the artillery company returned here a few days ago from the
mines, having been absent on furlough twenty days. He made by trading and
working during that time $1500. During these twenty days he was traveling
ten or eleven days, leaving but a week, in which he made a sum of money
greater than he receives in pay, clothes, and rations during a whole
enlistment of five years. These statements appear incredible, but they are

Gold is also believed to exist on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada;
and when at the mines, I was informed by an intelligent Mormon, that it
had been found near the Great Salt lake by some of his fraternity. Nearly
all the Mormons are leaving California to go to the Salt lake, and this
they surely would not do unless they were sure of finding gold there in
the same abundance as they now do on the Sacramento.

The gold "placer" near the mission of San Fernando has long been known,
but has been little wrought for want of water. This is a spur which puts
off from the Sierra Nevada, (see Fremont's map,) the same in which the
present mines occur. There is, therefore, every reason to believe, that in
the intervening spaces of 500 miles, (entirely unexplored,) there must be
many hidden and rich deposits. The "placer" gold is now substituted as the
currency of this country; in trade it passes freely at $16 per ounce; as
an article of commerce its value is not yet fixed. The only purchase I
made was of the specimen No. 7, which I got of Mr. Neligh at $12 the
ounce. That is about the present cash value in the country, although it
has been sold for less. The great demand for goods and provisions made by
sudden development of wealth, has increased the amount of commerce at San
Francisco very much, and it will continue to increase.

I would recommend that a mint be established at some eligible point of the
Bay of San Francisco; and that machinery, and all the necessary apparatus
and workmen, be sent out by sea. These workmen must be bound by high
wages, and even bonds, to secure their faithful services, else the whole
plan may be frustrated by their going to the mines as soon as they arrive
in California. If this course be not adopted, gold to the amount of many
millions of dollars will pass yearly to other countries, to enrich their
merchants and capitalists. Before leaving the subject of mines, I will
mention that on my return from the Sacramento, I touched at New Almoder,
the quicksilver mine of Mr. Alexander Forbes, Consul of Her Britannic
Majesty at Tepic. This mine is in a spur of the mountains, 1000 feet above
the level of the Bay of San Francisco, and is distant in a southern
direction from the Puebla de San Jose about twelve miles. The ore
(cinnabar) occurs in a large vein dipping at a strong angle to the
horizon. Mexican miners are employed in working it, by driving shafts and
galleries about six feet by seven, following the vein.

The fragments of rock and ore are removed on the backs of Indians, in raw-
hide sacks. The ore is then hauled in an ox wagon, from the mouth of the
mine down to a valley well supplied with wood and water, in which the
furnaces are situated. The furnaces are of the simplest construction--
exactly like a common bake-oven, in the crown of which is inserted a
whaler's frying-kettle; another inverted kettle forms the lid. From a hole
in the lid a small brick channel leads to an apartment or chamber, in the
bottom of which is inserted a small iron kettle. The chamber has a

In the morning of each day the kettles are filled with the mineral (broken
in small pieces) mixed with lime; fire is then applied and kept up all
day. The mercury is volatilized, passes into the chamber, is condensed on
the sides and bottom of the chamber, and flows into the pot prepared for
it. No water is used to condense the mercury.

During a visit I made last spring, four such ovens were in operation, and
yielded in the two days I was there 656 pounds of quicksilver, worth at
Mazatlan $180 per pound. Mr. Walkinshaw, the gentleman now in charge of
this mine, tells me that the vein is improving, and that he can afford to
keep his people employed even in these extraordinary times. The mine is
very valuable of itself, and will become the more so as mercury is
extensively used in obtaining gold. It is not at present used in
California for that purpose, but will be at some future time. When I was
at this mine last spring, other parties were engaged in searching for
veins, but none have been discovered worth following up, although the
earth in that whole range of hills is highly discolored, indicating the
presence of this ore. I send several beautiful specimens, properly
labelled. The amount of quicksilver in Mr. Forbes' vats on the 15th of
July was about 2,500 pounds.

I inclose you herewith sketches of the country through which I passed,
indicating the position of the mines and the topography of the country in
the vicinity of those I visited.

Some of the specimens of gold accompanying this were presented for
transmission to the Department by the gentlemen named below. The numbers
on the topographical sketch corresponding to the labels of the respective
specimens, show from what part of the gold region they are obtained.

1. Captain J. A. Sutter.
2. John Sinclair.
3. Wm. Glover, R. C. Kirby, Ira Blanchard, Levi Fifield, Franklin H.
Arynes, Mormon diggings.
4. Charles Weber.
5. Robert Spence.
6. Sunol & Co.
7. Robert D. Neligh.
8. C. E. Picket, American Fort Columa.
9. E. C. Kemble.
10. T. H. Green, from San Fernando, near Los Angelos.
A. 2 oz. purchased from Mr. Neligh.
B. Sand found in washing gold, which contains small particles.
11. Captain Frisbie, Dry Diggings, Weber's Creek.
12. Consumnes.
13. Consumnes, Hartwell's Ranch.

I have the honor to be your most ob't ser't,
R. B. MASON, Col. 1st Dragoons, Commanding.
Brig. Gen. R. JONES, Adj. Gen. U. S. A., Washington, D. C.

[NOTE.--The original letter, of which this is a copy, was sent to its
address, in charge of Lieut. L. Loeser, 3d Artillery, bearer of
dispatches, who sailed in the schooner Lambayecana, from Monterey, Aug.
30, 1848, bound for Payta, Peru. Lieut. Loeser bears, in addition to the
specimens mentioned in the foregoing letter, a tea-caddy containing two
hundred and thirty ounces fifteen pennyweights and nine grains of gold.
This was purchased at San Francisco by my order, and is sent to you as a
fair sample of the gold obtained from the mines of the Sacramento. It is a
mixture, coming from the various parts of the gold district.

Monterey, (Cal.,) Sept. 10th, 1848.]

* * * * *


The numerous analyses which have been made show that the gold dust of
California is remarkably pure. The editor of the Buffalo Commercial
Advertiser, under date of December 20th, 1848, says:--

"A small quantity of California gold was shown us this morning. It was in
grains, about the size and shape of flax seed. Altogether there was half
an ounce. It was received by a gentleman of this city, who, last year,
left a quantity of goods in California for sale on commission. A few days
ago he received advices that his goods had been sold, and the proceeds
remitted in gold dust to New York. The receipts from the mint show its
great purity. The weight before melting was 428 ounces; after melting 417.
Nett value, $7,685.49."

Gold is seldom found, in any parts of the earth, more than 22 carats fine:
and it will be seen by the following report lately made by an experienced
smelter and refiner, Mr. John Warwick, of New York city, that the gold
dust of California is as pure as that found in any part of this country.
Probably there is none in Europe purer:

"I have assayed the portion of gold dust, or metal, from California, sent
me, and the result shows that it is fully equal to any found in our
Southern gold mines.

I return you 103/4 grains out of the 12 which I have tested--the value of
which is 45 cents. It is 211/2 carats fine--within half a carat of the
quality of English sovereigns or American Eagles, and is almost ready to
go to the mint.

The finest gold metal we get is from Africa, which is 221/2 to 23 carats
fine. In Virginia we have mines where the quality of the gold is much
inferior--some of it as low as 19 carats, and in Georgia the mines produce
it nearly 22 carats fine.

The gold of California which I have now assayed, is fully equal to that of
any, and much superior to some produced from the mines in our Southern

* * * * *


Whatever appertains to California, the new El Dorado of the southwest, is
interesting to Americans and indeed to the whole civilized world. The
following brief account, therefore, of its physical geography, compiled
from authentic sources and carefully condensed, will readily receive the
attention of the inquiring mind:

"Upper California extends, upon the Pacific, from the 32d parallel of
latitude, about seven hundred miles north-westward to Oregon, from which
it is divided, nearly in the course of the 42d parallel--that is in the
latitude of Boston--by a chain of highlands called the Snowy Mountains;
the Sierra Nevada of the Spaniards. Its boundaries on the west are not, as
yet, politically determined by the Mexican government; nor do geographers
agree with regard to natural limits in that direction. By some, it is
considered as embracing only the territory between the Pacific and the
summit of the mountains which border the western side of the continent:
others extend its limits to the Colorado; while others include in it, and
others again exclude from it, the entire regions drained by that river.
The only portion occupied by Mexicans, or of which any distinct accounts
have been obtained, is that between the great chain of mountains and the
ocean; the country east of that ridge to the Colorado appears to be an
uninhabitable desert.

"Northward from the Peninsula, or Lower California, the great western-most
chain of mountains continues nearly parallel with the Pacific coast, to
the 34th degree of latitude, under which rises Mount San Bernardin, one of
the highest peaks in California, about forty miles from the ocean. Further
north the coast turns more to the west, and the space between it and the
summit line of the mountains becomes wider, so as to exceed eighty miles
in some places; the intermediate region being traversed by lines of hills,
or smaller mountains, connected with the main range. The principal of
these inferior ridges extends from Mount San Bernardin north-westward to
its termination on the south side of the entrance of the Bay of San
Franciso, near the 38th degree of latitude, where it is called the San
Bruno Mountains. Between this range and the coast run the San Barbara
Mountains, terminating on the north at the Cape of Pines, on the south-
west side of the Bay of Monterey, near the latitude 361/2 degrees. North of
the San Bruno mountains is the Bolbones ridge, bordering the Bay of San
Francisco on the east; and still further in the same direction are other
and much higher lines of highlands, stretching from the great chain and
terminating in capes on the Pacific.

"The southern part of Upper California, between the Pacific and the great
westernmost chain of mountains, is very hot and dry, except during a short
time in winter. Further north the wet season increases in length, and
about the Bay of San Francisco the rains are almost constant from November
to April, the earth being moistened during the remainder of the year by
heavy dews and fogs. Snow and ice are sometimes seen in the winter on the
shores of the bay, but never further south, except on the mountain tops.
The whole of California is, however, subject to long droughts." Heavy
rains are of rare occurrence, and two years without any is not unusual;
notwithstanding which, vegetation does not suffer to the extent that might
be inferred, because, in the first place, many small streams descend from
the mountain ranges, supplying the means of both natural and artificial
irrigation; and, next, that the country near the coast is favored with a
diurnal land and sea breeze; and, from the comparatively low temperature
of the sea, the latter is always in summer accompanied with fogs, in the
latter part of the night, and which are dissipated by the morning's sun,
but serve to moisten the pastures and nourish a somewhat peculiar
vegetation abounding in beautiful flowers.

"Among the valleys of Upper California are many streams, some of which
discharge large quantities of water in the rainy season; but no river is
known to flow through the maritime ridge of mountains from the interior to
the Pacific, except perhaps the Sacramento, falling into the Bay of San
Francisco, though several are thus represented on the maps. The valleys
thus watered afford abundant pasturage for cattle, with which they are
covered; California, however, contains but two tracts of country capable
of supporting large numbers of inhabitants, which are that west of Mt. San
Bernardin, about the 34th degree of latitude, and that surrounding the Bay
of San Francisco, and the lower part of the Sacramento; and even in these,
irrigation would be indispensable to insure success in agriculture."

"The provincial terms of New Mexico, and of Upper and Lower California,
have been, and are yet, rather designations of indefinite tracts than of
real defined political sections. The Pacific ocean limits on the west, and
by treaty, N. lat. 42 deg. on the north; but inland and southward, it is in
vain to seek any definite boundary. In order, however, to give as distinct
a view as the nature of the case will admit, let us adopt the mouth of the
Colorado and Gila, or the head of the Gulf of California, as a point on
the southern boundary of Upper California. The point assumed coincides
very nearly with N. lat. 32 deg. and, if adopted, would give to that country a
breadth of ten degrees of latitude or in round numbers 800 statute miles
from south to north. As already, stated, the Pacific Ocean bounds this
country on the west, and lat. 42 deg. on the north. To separate it on the east
from New Mexico, we must assume the mountain chain of Sierra Madre, or
Anahuac, which, in this region, inclines but little from north to south:
whilst the Pacific coast extends in general course north-west and south-
east. These opposite outlines contract the southern side to about 500
miles, and open the northern side to rather above 800 miles; giving a mean
breadth of 650 miles. The area, for all general purposes, may be safely
taken at 500,000 square miles. The general slope or declination of this
great region is westward, towards the Pacific and Gulf of California."

"The climate of the western slope of North America has a warmth ten
degrees at least higher than the eastern, upon similar latitude. The cause
of this difference is the course of prevailing winds in the temperate
zones of the earth, from the western points. Thus the winds on the western
side of the continent are from the ocean, and on the eastern from the

"The soil is as variable as the face of the country. On the coast range of
hills there is little to invite the agriculturist, except in some vales of
no great extent. The hills are, however, admirably adapted for raising
herds and flocks, and are at present the feeding-grounds of numerous deer,
elk, &c., to which the short, sweet grass and wild oats that are spread
over them afford a plentiful supply of food. The valley of the Sacramento,
and that of San Juan, are the most fruitful parts of California,
particularly the latter, which is capable of producing wheat, Indian corn,
rye, oats, &c., with all the fruits of the temperate, and many of the
tropical climates. It likewise offers pasture grounds for cattle. This
region comprises a level plain, from fifteen to twenty miles in width,
extending from the Bay of San Francisco, beyond the mission of that name,
north and south. This may be termed the garden of California; but although
several small streams and lakes serve to water it, yet in dry seasons or
droughts, not only the crops but the herbage also suffers extremely, and
the cattle are deprived of food." The most extensive portion of Upper
California--the inland plain between the California and the Colorado range
of mountains--is an arid waste, destitute of the requisites for supplying
the wants of man. This plain is a waste of sand, with a few detached
mountains (some of which rise to the region of perpetual snow,) whose
positions are unknown; from these flow small streams that are soon lost in
the sand. A few Indians are scattered over the plain, the most miserable
objects in creation."

The climate is very peculiar, the thermometer on the coast ranging as
high, on the average, in winter as in summer. Indeed, summer is really the
coldest and most disagreeable part of the year, owing to the north-west
winds which frequently prevail during that season. As you recede from the
coast, however, the climate undergoes a great change for the better. At
San Juan, thirty miles from the coast, is one of the most delightful
climates in the world. The two principal rivers in Upper California are
the Sacramento and the San Joaquim. There are, however, many smaller
streams flowing through the different valleys, which serve, during the dry
season, to irrigate the land. The only navigable stream is the Sacramento.

Beside the bays and harbors of Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Pedro,
Upper California possesses the harbor of San Francisco, within a few miles
of the Gold Mines, and one of the largest and most magnificent harbors in
the world.

The yield of wheat, small grain, and vegetables, is said to be great, and
very remarkable, but, as agriculture cannot succeed in Upper California,
but by irrigation, it has hitherto happened that it has been principally
occupied as a pastoral country--as costing less labor to rear cattle, for
which it is only necessary to provide keepers, and have them marked. The
numerous animals which are there slaughtered for little more than their
hides and tallow, do not putrify and become offensive as they would in
other climates, but, as wood is not everywhere as abundant as their bones,
the last are sometimes used to supply the place of the former, in the
construction of garden fences &c.

"The area of Upper California is about 500,000 square miles, and the
population, exclusive of Indians scattered over this extent, as follows:

Californians descended from Spain,----------------- 4000
Americans from United States,---------------------- 360
English, Scotch, and Irish,------------------------ 300
European Spaniards,-------------------------------- 80
French and Canadians,------------------------------ 80
Germans, Italians, Portugese, and Sandwich Islanders, 90
Mexicans,------------------------------------------ 90
Total---------------------------------------------- 5000

"Upper California is, on the whole, admirably fitted for colonization.
This province presents the greatest facilities for raising cattle, for
cultivating corn, plants, and for the grape; it might contain twenty
millions of inhabitants; and its ports are a point of necessary
communication for vessels going from China and Asia to the western coasts
of North America.

"It is beyond doubt, that so soon as an intelligent and laborious
population is established there, this country will occupy an elevated rank
in the commercial scale; it would form the _entrepot_ where the
coasts of the great ocean would send their products, and would furnish the
greatest part of their subsistence in grains to the north-west, to Mexico,
to Central America, to Ecuador, to Peru, to the north coast of Asia, and
to many groups of Polynesia--such as the Sandwich isles, the Marquesas,
and Tahiti."

"The peninsula of Lower California, extending from Cape San Lucas to the
Bay of Todos Santos, in lat. 32 deg. N., on the Pacific, and to the mouth of
the Colorado on the Gulf side, is a pile of volcanic debris and scoriae.
Much of the surface is still heated by subterranean fires. No craters are
in action; but hot springs of water and bitumen, and frequent earthquakes,
and the scorched face of the whole region, demonstrate it to be a mere
mass upheaved from the sea, and burned to cinders. The range of mountains
that comes up through Lower California, runs on northwardly into Upper
California, at an average distance of sixty or seventy miles from the sea,
till it falls away into low hills south of the bay of San Francisco. This,
also, is a volcanic range; though not so strongly marked to that effect in
the Upper as in the Lower Province.

"Some portions of this range are lofty. That part lying east and southeast
of El Pueblo de los Angelos, is tipped with perpetual snows. But the
greater part of it presents a base covered up to more than half of the
whole elevation with pine and cedar forests; the remaining height being
composed of bare, dark, glistening rocks, lying in confused masses, or
turreted in the manner observed on the Black Hills in the Great Prairie
Wilderness---spires, towers, and battlements, lifted up to heaven, among
which the white feathery clouds of beautiful days rest shining in the
mellow sun.

"The Snowy Mountain range is perhaps the boldest and most peculiar of the
California highlands. Its western terminus is Cape Mendocino, a bold snow-
capped headland, bending over the Pacific in 40 deg. north latitude. Its
western terminus is in the Wind River Mountains, latitude 42 deg. N., about
seven hundred miles from the sea. Its peculiarity consists in what may be
termed its confused geological character. Near the sea its rocks are
primitive, its strata regular. A hundred miles from the sea where the
President's range crosses it, everything is fused--burned; and at the
distance of seventy miles northeastwardly from the Bay of San Francisco, a
spur comes off with a lofty peak, which pours out immense quantities of
lava, and shoots up a flame so broad and bright as to be seen at sea, and
to produce distinct shadows at eighty miles' distance. Here is an
extensive tract of this range which has been burned, and whose strata have
been torn from their natural positions; displaying an amalgamated mass of
primitive rock _ex loco_, mingled with various descriptions of
volcanic remains. From this point eastward, it is a broken irregular chain
of peaks and rifted collateral ranges, and spurs running off northwardly
and southwardly, some of which are primitive and others volcanic.

"Another range of mountains which deserves notice in this place, is that
which bounds the valley of the San Joaquim on the east. This is a wide and
towering range. It is in fact a continuation of the President's range, and
partakes very strongly of its volcanic character. That part of it which
lies eastwardly from the Bay of San Francisco, is very broad and lofty.
One of its peaks, Mount Jackson, as it is called, is the highest in all
the President's range. Mountains of great size are piled around it, but
they appear like molehills beside that veteran mount. Its vast peak towers
over them all several thousand feet, a glittering cone of ice.

"All over the Californias, the traveler finds evidences of volcanic
action. Far in the interior, among the deserts; in the streams; in the
heights; in the plains; everywhere, are manifestations of the fact, that
the current of subterranean fire which crossed the Pacific, throwing up
that line of islands lying on the south of the Sea of Kamschatka, and
passed down the continent, upheaving the Oregon territory, did also bring
up from the bed of the ocean the Californias.

"The peninsula, or lower California, which extends from Cape San Lucas in
N. lat. 22 deg. 48', to the Bay of Todos Santos in lat. 32 deg. N., is a pile of
barren, volcanic mountains, with very few streams, and still fewer spots
of ground capable of sustaining vegetation. The territory lying north and
south of the Colorado of the west, and within the boundaries of the
Californias, is a howling desolation.

"From the highlands near the mouth of the Rio Colorado, a wild and
somewhat interesting scene opens. In the east appears a line of mountains
of a dark hue, stretching down the coast of the Gulf as far as the eye can
reach. These heights are generally destitute of trees; but timber grows in
some of the ravines. The general aspect, however, is far from pleasing.
There is such a vastness of monotonous desolation; so dry, so blistered
with volcanic fires; so forbidding to the wants of thirsting and hungering
men, that one gladly turns his eye upon the water, the _Mar de
Cortez_, the Gulf of California. The Colorado, two and a half miles in
width, rushes into this Gulf with great force, lashing as it goes the
small islands lying at its mouth, and for many leagues around the waters
of the Gulf are discolored by its turbulent flood. On the west, sweep away
the mountains of Lower California. These also are a thirsty mass of burned
rocks, so dry that vegetation finds no resting-place among them.

"That province of Lower California varies from thirty to one hundred and
fifty miles in width, a superficial extent almost equal to that of Great
Britain; and yet on account of its barrenness, never will, from the
products of the soil, maintain five hundred thousand people in a state of
comfort, ordinarily found in the civilized condition. Every few years
tornadoes sweep over the country with such violence, and bearing with them
such floods of rain, that whatever of soil has been in any manner
previously formed, is swept into the sea. So that even those little nooks
among the mountains, where the inhabitants from time to time make their
fields, and task the vexed earth for a scanty subsistence, are liable to
be laid bare by the torrents. In case the soil chance to be lodged in some
other dell, before it reach the Ocean or the Gulf, and the people follow
it to its new location, they find perhaps no water there and cannot
cultivate it. Consequently they are often driven by dreadful want to some
other point in quest of sustenance, where they may not find it, and perish
among the parched highlands. The mean range of temperature in the whole
country in the summer season is from 60 deg. to 74 deg. Fahrenheit. The rains fall
in the winter months; are very severe, and of short duration. During the
remainder of the year the air is dry and clear; and the sky more beautiful
than the imagination can conceive.

"The range of mountains occupying the whole interior of this country, vary
in height from one to five thousand feet above the level of the sea. They
are almost bare of all verdure, mere brown piles of barrenness, sprinkled
here and there with a cluster of briars, small shrubs, or dwarf trees.
Among the ridges are a few spots to which the sweeping rains have spared a
little soil. These, if watered by springs or streams, are beautiful and
productive. There are also a few places near the coast which are well
adapted to tillage and pasturage.

"But the principal difficulty with this region, is one common to all
countries of volcanic, origin,--a scarcity of water. The porousness of the
rocks allows it to pass under ground to the sea. Consequently one finds
few streams and springs in Lower California. From the Cape San Lucas to
the mouth of the Colorado, six hundred miles, there are only two streams
emptying into the Gulf. One of these is called San Josef del Cabo. It
passes through the plantations of the Mission bearing the same name, and
discharges itself into the bay of San Barnabas. The other is the Mulege,
which waters the Mission of Santa Rosalia, and enters the Gulf in latitude
27 deg. N. These are not navigable. The streams on the ocean coast, also, are
few and small. Some of them are large enough to propel light machinery, or
irrigate considerable tracts of land, but none of them are navigable. In
the interior are several large springs, which send out abundant currents
along the rocky beds of their upper courses; but when they reach the loose
sands and porous rocks of the lower country, they sink and enter the sea
through subterranean channels. A great misfortune it is too, that the
lands which border those portions of these streams which run above the
ground, consist of barren rocks. Where springs, however, and arable land
occur together, immense fertility is the consequence. There is some
variety of climate on the coasts, which it may be well to mention. On the
Pacific shore the temperature is rendered delightfully balmy by the sea
breezes, and the humidity which they bring along with them. Fahrenheit's
thermometer ranges on this coast, during the summer, between fifty-eight
and seventy-one degrees. In the winter months, while the rains are
falling, it sinks as low as fifty degrees above zero. On the Gulf coast
there is a still greater variation. While at the Cape, the mercury stands
between sixty and seventy degrees, near the head of the Gulf it is down to
the freezing point.

"These isolated facts, in regard to the great territory under
consideration, will give the reader as perfect an idea of the surface and
agricultural capacities of Lower California as will be here needed.

* * * * *


There are four different routes to California from the United States. One
is from New York to Vera Cruz, thence across Mexico by the
_Diligencia_, to Acapulco on the Pacific, where all the northern
bound vessels touch. This route would be preferable to all others, were it
not for the fact that the road from Vera Cruz to Acapulco is infested with

Another route is by steam around Cape Horn--a long voyage, though perhaps
the cheapest route. It should be performed in our winter, when it is
summer in the Southern Hemisphere and consequently warmer at Cape Horn
than at any other season of the year. The fare on this route by steam is
about $350. The time of performing the voyage is about 130 days.

Another route is by the Isthmus of Darien. The fare on this route is as

From New York to Chagres (by steam)---------- $150
From Chagres to Panama, across the Isthmus--- 20
From Panama to San Francisco----------------- 250
From New York to Chagres (by sailing vessel)- 80

The time of the voyage is as follows:--

From New York to Chagres----- 12 to 15 days.
From Chagres to Panama------- 2 "
From Panama to San Francisco- 20 "

The following description of Chagres and Panama, will be found both
interesting and valuable to the traveler on this route.


as it is usually called, but in reality village, or collection of huts,
is, as is well known, situated at the mouth of the river Chagres, where it
empties itself into the Atlantic ocean.

It is but a small village, and the harbor is likewise small, though
secure. It is formed by the jutting out of a narrow neck of land, and is
defended by the castle, which is built on a high bluff on the other side.
The village itself, as I have before said, is merely a collection of huts,
and is situated in the midst of a swamp--at least the ground is low, and
the continual rains which prevail at Chagres, keep it in a swampy
condition. Chagres is inhabited by colored people, entirely, with the
exception of some few officials at the castle and in the custom-house. Its
population, (I speak, of course, of it previous to the influx,) was
probably not more than 500 in all, if so much.


is, without doubt, the most pestiferous for whites in the whole world. The
coast of Africa, which enjoys a dreadful reputation in this way, is not so
deadly in its climate as is Chagres. The thermometer ranges from 78 deg. to
85 deg. all the year, and it rains every day. Many a traveler who has
incautiously remained there for a few days and nights, has had cause to
remember Chagres; and many a gallant crew, who have entered the harbor in
full health, have, ere many days, found their final resting place on the
dank and malarious banks of the river. Bilious, remittent, and congestive
fever, in their most malignant forms, seem to hover over Chagres, ever
ready to pounce down on the stranger. Even the acclimated resident of the
tropics runs a great risk in staying any time in Chagres; but the stranger
fresh from the North and its invigorating breezes, runs a most fearful


is performed in canoes, propelled up the stream by means of poles. There
are two points at which one may land, viz: the villages of Gorgona and
Cruces. The distance from Chagres to the first named, is about 45 or 50
miles--to the latter, some 50 or 55 miles. The traveler, who for the first
time in his life embarks on a South American river like the Chagres,
cannot fail to experience a singular depression of spirits at the dark and
sombre aspect of the scene. In the first place, he finds himself in a
canoe, so small that he is forced to lay quietly in the very centre of the
stern portion, in order to prevent it upsetting. The palm leaf thatch (or
_toldo_, as it is termed on the river) over his portion of the boat,
shuts out much of the view, while his baggage, piled carefully amidships,
and covered with oil cloths, _encerrados_ as they are termed, is
under the charge of his active boatman, who, stripped to the buff, with
long pole in hand, expertly propels the boat up stream, with many a cry
and strange exclamation. The river itself is a dark, muddy, and rapid
stream; in some parts quite narrow, and again at other points it is from
300 to 500 yards wide. Let no one fancy that it resembles the bright and
cheerful rivers which are met with here at the North. No pleasant villages
adorn its banks--no signs of civilization are seen on them, nothing but
the sombre primeval forest, which grows with all the luxury of the tropics
down to the very margin of its swampy banks.

A light canoe with two active boatmen and but one passenger in it, will
reach Cruces in ten or twelve hours, whilst a heavier one might require
thirty-six hours to accomplish the passage. The passenger must take his
provisions with him, as none are to be had on the river.

A doubloon ($16) was the lowest charge for a single passenger, and from
that up to two, three, and even four doubloons. As for taking our boats
from here, and rowing them up the river, I should think it would be a
hopeless attempt. Hardy boatmen from our southwestern States, who are
accustomed to a much similar mode of travel on their rivers, would
probably be able to accomplish it; but in that burning and unhealthy
climate, for young men fresh from the North, unacquainted with the dangers
of such navigation, and all unacclimated, to attempt such a feat would be
madness indeed.

Let us, however, suppose the journey completed, and our adventurer safely
arrived at


He may now congratulate himself on having achieved the most toilsome part
of his journey, and but twenty-one miles of land route intervene between
him and the glorious Pacific Ocean. Cruces is a small village, situated on
a plain, immediately on the banks of the river, which here are high and
sandy. Gorgona, the other landing place, is a few miles below Cruces, and
is likewise a small village, very similar to Cruces--in fact, all South
American villages resemble one another very much. From these two points,
both about the same distance from Panama, there are roads to that city,
which roads unite about nine miles from it. Starting from either point he
commences his


The usual method of performing it, is on horse or on mule-back, with
another mule to carry the baggage and a muleteer who acts as guide. The
road is a mere bridle path, and as the rains on the Isthmus are very
heavy, and there is more or less of them all the year round, the mud-holes
and swampy places to be crossed are very numerous. Those who, at the
North, talk gaily of a walk across the Isthmus, as if the road were as
plain and easy as some of our macadamized turnpikes, would alter their
tone a little, could they see the road as it is. As for walking from
Cruces to Panama, in case mules are scarce, the feat is by no means
impossible, provided the traveler arrives in Cruces in good health, and
has but little baggage. It might easily be done with the assistance of a
guide; but let no stranger, unacquainted with the language and new to such
countries, attempt it without a guide. Having, then, fairly started from
Cruces, either on horse or on foot, after a toilsome journey of some eight
or ten hours, the Savanna of Panama is at last reached, and the sight of
the broad and glittering Pacific Ocean, and the white towers of the
Cathedral of Panama, which are seen at the distance of about four miles
from the city, give the now weary traveler assurance that his journey will
shortly end; and another hour's toil brings him to the suburbs of the


We will find, however, that with this, as with most other South American

"'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
And clothes the mountain with its azure hue."

The city of Panama is situated on the shores of the bay of that name, and
a most beautiful bay it is, too. What is the number of the present
population, I cannot say, as it is doubtless filled with strangers--it
formerly contained from 5000 to 7000 inhabitants, and was a quiet, still
city, where, during the day, nought but the sounds of the convent bell and
church bells disturbed the horses of the citizens in their grazings in the
public squares, which were all overgrown with grass. The trade carried on
consisted in importing dry goods from Jamaica, for the supply of the
Isthmenians, the neighboring produce of Veragua, the Pearl Islands, the
towns of Chiriqui, David, and their vicinities, and the various little
inland towns. Goods also were sent down to the ports of Payta, in Peru,
and Guayaquil, in the Ecuador. The returns made for these goods, consisted
in the produce of the Isthmus: such as gold dust, hides, India rubber,
pearl oyster shells, (from which the mother of pearl of commerce is made,)
sarsaparilla, &c. The climate is warm, say from 80 to 85 degrees all the
year round--the rainy season long and severe. The nights in Panama,
however, are much cooler than usual in tropical climate.

The other route is the overland, by Independence. The details of this
route are given below by Mr. Edwin Bryant, the author of "What I saw in
California." They were communicated to the Louisville Courier in answer to
questions but to Mr. B. by the editor:

_First_--Which route by land is the best for the emigrant?

_Answer_--The route via Independence or St. Joseph, Missouri, to Fort
Daramie, South Pass, Fort Hall, the Sink of Mary's River, &c. &c. the old
route. Let no emigrant, carrying his family with him, deviate from it, or
imagine to himself that he can find a better road. This road is the best
that has yet been discovered, and to the Bay of San Francisco and the gold
regions it is much the shortest. The Indians, moreover, on this route,
have, up to the present time been so friendly as to commit no acts of
hostility on the emigrants. The trail is plain and good, where there are
no physical obstructions and the emigrant, by taking this route, will
certainly reach his destination in good season, and without disaster. From
our information we would most earnestly advise all emigrants to take this
trail, without deviation, if they would avoid the fatal calamities which
almost invariably have attended those who have undertaken to explore new

_Second_--What kind of wagon and team is preferable?

_Answer_--The lightest wagon that can be constructed of sufficient
strength to carry 2,500 pounds weight, as the vehicle most desirable. No
wagon should be loaded over this weight, for if it is, it will be certain
to stall in the muddy sloughs and crossings on the prairie in the first
part of the journey. This wagon can be hauled by three or four yokes of
oxen or six mules. Oxen are usually employed by the immigrants for hauling
their wagons. They travel about fifteen miles per day, and all things
considered, are perhaps equal to mules for this service, although they
cannot travel so fast. They are, however, less expensive, and there is not
so much danger of their starving and of being stolen by the Indians.

Pack-mules can only be employed by parties of men. It would be very
difficult to transport a party of women and children on pack-mules with
the provisions, clothing and baggage necessary to their comfort. A party
of men, however, with pack-mules, can make the journey in less time by one
month than it can be done in wagons, carrying with them, however, nothing
more than their provisions clothing and ammunition.

For parties of men going out, it would be well to haul their wagons,
provisions, &c., as far as Fort Laramie or Fort Hall by mules, carrying
with them pack-saddles and _alforgases_, or large saddle-bags,
adapted to the pack saddle, with ropes for packing, &c., when, if they saw
proper, they could dispose of their wagons for Indian ponies, and pack
into California, gaining perhaps two or three weeks' time.

_Third_--What provisions are necessary to a man?

_Answer_-- The provisions actually necessary per man are as follows.

Of Flour, .....150 lbs. | Of Bacon, ..... 150 lbs.
Coffee,..... 25 " | Sugar, ...... 30 "

Added to these, the main items, there should be a small quantity of rice,
fifty or seventy-five pounds of crackers, dried peaches, &c., and a keg of
lard, with salt, pepper, &c., with such other luxuries of light weight as
the person out-fitting chooses to purchase. He will think of them before
he starts.

_Fourth_--What arms and ammunition are necessary?

_Answer_--Every man should be provided with a good rifle, and if
convenient with a pair of pistols, five pounds of powder and ten pounds of
lead. A revolving belt pistol may be found useful.

With the wagon there should be carried such carpenter's tools as a hand-
saw, auger, gimblet, chisel, shaving-knife, &c., an axe, hammer, and
hatchet. The last weapon every man should have in his belt, with a
hunter's or a bowie knife.

_Fifth_--What is the length of the journey?

_Answer_--From Independence to the first settlement in California,
which is near the gold region, is about 2050 miles--to San Francisco, 2290

_Sixth_--What is the time for starting?

_Answer_--Emigrants should be at Independence, St. Joseph, Mo., or
the point of starting, by the 20th of April, and start as soon thereafter
as the grass on the prairies will permit. This is sometimes by the first
of May, and sometimes ten days later, according to the season.

* * * * *


The following extract is from a letter written by Thomas O. Larkin to Mr.
Buchanan, the Secretary of State. It is dated at Monterey, June 28, 1848.

I am of the opinion that on the American fork, Feather River, and Copimes
River, there are near two thousand people, nine-tenths of them foreigners.
Perhaps there are one hundred families, who have their teams, wagons and
tents. Many persons are waiting to see whether the months of July and
August will be sickly, before they leave their present business to go to
the "Placer." The discovery of this gold was made by some Mormons, in
January or February, who for a time kept it a secret; the majority of
those who are working there began in May. In most every instance the men,
after digging a few days, have been compelled to leave for the purpose of
returning home to see their families, arrange their business and purchase
provisions. I feel confident in saying there are fifty men in this
"placer" who have on an average $1000 each, obtained in May and June. I
have not met with any person who had been fully employed in washing gold
one month; most, however, appear to have averaged an ounce per day. I
think there must, by, this time, be over 1000 men at work upon the
different branches of the Sacramento; putting their gains at $10,000 per
day, for six days in the week, appears to me not overrated.

Should this news reach the emigration of California and Oregon, now on the
road, connected with the Indian wars, now impoverishing the latter
country, we should have a large addition to our population; and should the
richness of the gold region continue, our emigrants in 1849 will be many
thousand, and in 1850 still more. If our countrymen in California as
clerks, mechanics and workmen will forsake employment at from $2 to $6 per
day, how many more of the same class in the Atlantic States, earning much
less, will leave for this country under such prospects? It is the opinion
of many who have visited the gold regions the past and present months,
that the ground will afford gold for many years, perhaps for a century.
From my own examination of the rivers and their banks, I am of opinion
that, at least for a few years, the golden products will equal the present
year. However, as neither men of science, nor the laborers now at work,
have made any explorations of consequence, it is a matter of impossibility
to give any opinion as to the extent and richness of this part of
California. Every Mexican who has seen the place says throughout their
Republic there has never been any "placer like this one."

Could Mr. Polk and yourself see California as we now see it, you would
think that a few thousand people, on 100 miles square of the Sacramento
valley, would yearly turn out of this river the whole price our country
pays for the acquired territory. When I finished my first letter I doubted
my own writing, and, to be better satisfied, showed it to one of the
principal merchants of San Francisco, and to Capt. Folsom, of the
Quartermaster's Department, who decided at once I was far below the
reality. You certainly will suppose, from my two letters, that I am, like
others, led away by the excitement of the day. I think I am not. In my
last I inclosed a small sample of the gold dust, and I find my only error
was in putting a value to the sand. At that time I was not aware how the
gold was found; I now can describe the mode of collecting it.

A person without a machine, after digging off one or two feet of the upper
ground, near the water (in some cases they take the top earth,) throws
into a tin pan or wooden bowl a shovel full of loose dirt and stones; then
placing the basin an inch or two under water, continues to stir up the
dirt with his hand in such a manner that the running water will carry off
the light earths, occasionally, with his hand, throwing out the stones;
after an operation of this kind for twenty or thirty minutes, a spoonful
of small black sand remains; this is, on a handkerchief or cloth, dried in
the sun, the emerge is blown off, leaving the pure gold. I have the
pleasure of inclosing a paper of this sand and gold, which I, from a
bucket of dirt and stones, in half an hour, standing at the edge of the
water, washed out myself. The value of it may be $2 or $3.

The size of the gold depends in some measure upon the river from which it
is taken, the banks of one river having larger grains of gold than
another. I presume more than one-half of the gold put into pans or
machines is washed out and goes down the stream; this is of no consequence
to the washers, who care only for the present time. Some have formed
companies of four or five men, and have a rough-made machine put together
in a day, which worked to much advantage, yet many prefer to work alone,
with a wooden bowl or tin pan, worth fifteen or twenty cents in the
States, but eight to sixteen dollars at the gold region. As the workmen
continue, and materials can be obtained, improvements will take place in
the mode of obtaining gold; at present it is obtained by standing in the
water, and with much severe labor, or such as is called here severe labor.

How long this gathering of gold by the handful will continue here, or the
future effect it will have on California, I cannot say. Three-fourths of
the houses in the town on the Bay of San Francisco are deserted. Houses
are sold at the price of the ground lots. The effects are this week
showing themselves in Monterey. Almost every house I had hired out is
given up. Every blacksmith, carpenter and lawyer is leaving; brick yards,
saw mills and ranches are left perfectly alone. A large number of the
volunteers at San Francisco and Sonoma have deserted; some have been
retaken and brought back; public and private vessels are losing their
crews: my clerks have had 100 per cent advance offered them on their wages
to accept employment. A complete revolution in the ordinary state of
affairs is taking place; both of our newspapers are discontinued from want
of workmen and the loss of their agencies; the Alcaldes have left San
Francisco, and I believe Sonoma likewise; the former place has not a
Justice of the Peace left.

The second Alcalde of Monterey to-day joins the keepers of our principal
hotel, who have closed their office and house, and will leave tomorrow for
the golden rivers. I saw on the ground a lawyer who was last year Attorney
General of the King of the Sandwich Islands, digging and washing out his
ounce and a half per day; near him can be found most all his brethren of
the long robe, working in the same occupation.

To conclude; my letter is long, but I could not well describe what I have
seen in less words, and I now can believe that my account may be doubted;
if the affair proves a bubble, a mere excitement, I know not how we can
all be deceived, as we are situated. Gov. Mason and his staff have left
Monterey to visit the place in question, and will, I suppose, soon forward
to his department his views and opinions on this subject. Most of the land
where gold has been discovered, is public land; there are, on different
rivers, some private grants. I have three such, purchased in 1846 and '47,
but have not learned that any private lands have produced gold, though
they may hereafter do so.

* * * * *

Here is a letter of great sprightliness, beauty and interest, prepared by
that finished scholar and noted writer, the Rev. Walter Colton, Alcalde of

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