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What I Saw in California by Edwin Bryant

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We had now arrived at the abode of the _celestials_, if the
interpretation of the name of the place could be considered as
indicative of the character of its population, and drenched with rain
and plastered with mud, we entered the "City of the Angels," and
marched through its principal street to our temporary quarters. We
found the town, as we expected, in the possession of the United States
naval and military forces under the command of Commodore Stockton and
General Kearny, who, after two engagements with six hundred mounted
Californians on the 8th and 9th, had marched into the city on the 10th.
The town was almost entirely deserted by its inhabitants, and most of
the houses, except those belonging to foreigners, or occupied as
quarters for the troops, were closed. I met here many of the naval
officers whose agreeable acquaintance I had made at San Francisco.
Among others were Lieutenants Thompson, Hunter, Gray and Rhenshaw, and
Captain Zeilin of the marines, all of whom had marched from San Diego.
Distance 12 miles.


City of Angels
Produce of the vine in California
General products of the country
Reputed personal charms of the females of Los Angeles
San Diego
Gold and quicksilver mines
Lower California
Bituminous springs
A Kentuckian among the angels
Missions of San Gabriel and San Luis Rey
Gen. Kearny and Com. Stockton leave for San Diego
Col. Fremont appointed Governor of California by Com. Stockton
Com. Shubrick's arrival
Insurrection in the northern part of California suppressed
Arrival of Col. Cooke at San Diego.

La Ciudad de los Angeles is the largest town in California, containing
between fifteen hundred and two thousand inhabitants. Its streets are
laid out without any regard to regularity. The buildings are generally
constructed of adobes one and two stories high, with flat roofs. The
public buildings are a church, quartel, and government house. Some of
the dwelling-houses are frames, and large. Few of them, interiorly or
exteriorly, have any pretensions to architectural taste, finish, or
convenience of plan and arrangement. The town is situated about 20 miles
from the ocean, in a extensive undulating plain, bounded on the north
by a ridge of elevated hills, on the east by high mountains whose
summits are now covered with snow, on the west by the ocean, and
stretching to the south and the south-east as far as the eye can reach.
The Rio St. Gabriel flows near the town. This stream is skirted with
numerous vineyards and gardens, inclosed by willow-hedges. The gardens
produce a great variety of tropical fruits and plants. The yield of the
vineyards is very abundant; and a large quantity of wines of a good
quality and flavour, and _aguardiente_, are manufactured here. Some of
the vineyards, I understand, contain as many as twenty thousand vines.
The produce of the vine in California will, undoubtedly, in a short
time form an important item, in its exports and commerce. The soil and
climate, especially of the southern portion of the country, appear to
be peculiarly adapted to the culture of the grape.

We found in Los Angeles an abundance of maize, wheat, and _frijoles_,
showing that the surrounding country is highly productive of these
important articles of subsistence. There are no mills, however, in this
vicinity, the universal practice of Californian families being to grind
their corn by hand; and consequently flour and bread are very scarce,
and not to be obtained in any considerable quantities. The only garden
vegetables which I saw while here were onions, potatoes, and _chile
colorado_, or red pepper, which enters very largely into the _cuisine_
of the country. I do not doubt, however, that every description of
garden vegetables can be produced here, in perfection and abundance.

While I remained at Los Angeles, I boarded with two or three other
officers at the house of a Mexican Californian, the late alcalde of the
town, whose political functions had ceased. He was a thin, delicate,
amiable, and very polite gentleman, treating us with much courtesy, for
which we paid him, when his bill was presented, a very liberal
compensation. In the morning we were served, on a common deal table,
with a cup of coffee and a plate of _tortillas_. At eleven o'clock, a
more substantial meal was provided, consisting of stewed beef, seasoned
with _chile colorado_, a rib of roasted beef, and a plate of _frijoles_
with _tortillas_, and a bottle of native wine. Our supper was a second
edition of the eleven o'clock entertainment.

The town being abandoned by most of its population, and especially by
the better class of the female portion of it, those who remained, which
I saw, could not, without injustice, be considered as fair specimens of
_the angels_, which are reputed here to inhabit. I did not happen to
see one beautiful or even comely-looking woman in the place; but, as
the fair descendants of Eve at Los Angeles have an exalted reputation
for personal charms, doubtless the reason of the invisibility of the
examples of feminine attractions, so far-famed and so much looked for
by the sojourner, is to be ascribed to their "unavoidable absence," on
account of the dangers and casualties of war. At this time, of course,
everything in regard to society, as it usually exists here, is in a
state of confusion and disorganization, and no correct conclusions in
reference to it can be drawn from observation under such circumstances.

The bay of San Pedro, about twenty-five miles south of Los Angeles, is
the port of the town. The bay affords a good anchorage for vessels of
any size; but it is not a safe harbour at all times, as I have been
informed by experienced nautical men on this coast. San Gabriel River
empties into the bay. The mission of San Gabriel is about twelve miles
east of Los Angeles. It is represented as an extensive establishment of
this kind, the lands surrounding and belonging to it being highly
fertile. The mission of San Luis Rey is situated to the south, about
midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. This mission, according to
the descriptions which I have received of it, is more substantial and
tasteful in its construction than any other in the country; and the
gardens and grounds belonging to it are now in a high state of

San Diego is the most southern town in Upper California. It is situated
on the Bay of San Diego, in latitude 33 deg. north. The country back of it
is described by those who have travelled through it as sandy and arid,
and incapable of supporting any considerable population. There are,
however, it is reported on authority regarded as reliable, rich mines
of quicksilver, copper, gold, and coal, in the neighbourhood, which, if
such be the fact, will before long render the place one of considerable
importance. The harbour, next to that of San Francisco, is the best on
the Pacific coast of North America, between the Straits of Fuca and

For the following interesting account of Lower California I am indebted
to Rodman M. Price, Esq., purser of the U.S. sloop-of-war Cyane, who
has been connected with most of the important events which have
recently taken place in Upper and Lower California, and whose
observations and opinions are valuable and reliable. It will be seen
that the observations of Mr. Price differ materially from the generally
received opinions in reference to Lower California.

"Burlington, N.J., June 7, 1848.

"Dear Sir,--It affords me pleasure to give you all the information I
have about Lower California, derived from personal observation at
several of its ports that I have visited, in the U.S. ship Cyane, in

"Cape St. Lucas, the southern extremity of the peninsula of Lower
California, is in lat. 22 deg. 45' N., has a bay that affords a good
harbour and anchorage, perfectly safe nine months in the year; but it
is open to the eastward, and the hurricanes which sometimes occur
during July, August, and September, blow the strongest from the
southeast, so that vessels will not venture in the bay during the
hurricane season. I have landed twice at the Cape in a small boat, and
I think a breakwater can be built, at small cost, so as to make a safe
harbour at all seasons. Stone can be obtained with great ease from
three cones of rocks rising from the sea, and forming the extreme
southerly point of the Cape, called the Frayles. Looking to the future
trade and commerce of the Pacific Ocean, this great headland must
become a most important point as a depot for coal and merchandise, and
a most convenient location for vessels trading on that coast to get
their supplies. Mr. Ritchie, now residing there, supplies a large
number of whale-ships that cruise off the Cape, annually, with fresh
provisions, fruits, and water. The supplies are drawn from the valley
of San Jose twenty miles north of the Cape, as the land in its
immediate vicinity is mountainous and sterile; but the valley of San
Jose is extensive and well cultivated, producing the greatest variety
of vegetables and fruits. The sweet and Irish potato, tomato, cabbage,
lettuce, beans, peas, beets, and carrots are the vegetables; oranges,
lemons, bananas, plantains, figs, dates, grapes, pomegranates, and
olives are its fruits. Good beef and mutton are cheap. A large amount
of sugar-cane is grown, from which is made _panoche_, a favourite sugar
with the natives; it is the syrup from the cane boiled down, and run
into cakes of a pound weight, and in appearance is like our

"_Panoche_, cheese, olives, raisins, dried figs, and dates, put up in
_ceroons_ of hide, with the great staples of the Californians--hides
and tallow--make the export of San Jose, which is carried to San Blas
and Mazatlan, on the opposite coast. This commerce the presence of the
Cyane interrupted, finding and capturing in the Bay of La Paz, just
after the receipt of the news of war on that coast in September, 1846,
sixteen small craft, laid up during the stormy season, engaged in this

"I cannot dismiss the valley of San Jose, from which the crew of the
Cyane have drawn so many luxuries, without alluding to the
never-failing stream of excellent water that runs through it (to which
it owes its productiveness) and empties into the Gulf here, and is
easily obtained for shipping when the surf is low. It is now frequented
by some of our whale ships, and European vessels bound to Mazatlan with
cargoes usually stop here to get instructions from their consignees
before appearing off the port; but vessels do not anchor during the
three hurricane months. The view from seaward, up this valley, is
beautiful indeed, being surrounded by high barren mountains, which is
the general appearance of the whole peninsula, and gives the impression
that the whole country is without soil, and unproductive. When your eye
gets a view of this beautiful, fertile, cultivated, rich, green valley,
producing all the fruits and vegetables of the earth, Lower California
stock rises. To one that has been at sea for months, on salt grub, the
sight of this bright spot of cultivated acres, with the turkeys, ducks,
chickens, eggs, vegetables, and fruit, makes him believe the country an
_Eldorado_. Following up the coast on the Gulf side, after passing Cape
Polmo, good anchorage is found between the peninsula and the island of
Cerralbo. Immediately to the north of this island is the entrance to
the great and beautiful bay of La Paz. It has two entrances, one to the
north and one to the south of the island of Espiritu Santo. The
northern one is the boldest and safest for all craft drawing over
twelve feet. The town of La Paz is at the bottom or south side of the
bay, about twenty miles from the mouth. The bay is a large and
beautiful sheet of water. The harbour of Pichelinque, of perfect
mill-pond stillness, is formed inside of this bay. The Cyane lay at
this quiet anchorage several days.

"Pearl-fishing is the chief employment of the inhabitants about the
bay, and the pearls are said to be of superior quality. I was shown a
necklace, valued at two thousand dollars, taken in this water. They are
all found by diving. The _Yake_ Indians are the best divers, going down
in eight-fathom water. The pearl shells are sent to China, and are
worth, at La Paz, one dollar and a half the _arroba_, or twenty-five
pounds. Why it is a submarine diving apparatus has not been employed in
this fishery, with all its advantages over Indian diving, I cannot say.
Yankee enterprise has not yet reached this new world. I cannot say this
either, as a countryman of ours, Mr. Davis, living at Loretta, has been
a most successful pearl-fisher, employing more Indians than any one
else engaged in the business. I am sorry to add that he has suffered
greatly by the war. The country about La Paz is a good grazing country,
but very dry. The mountains in the vicinity are said to be very rich in
minerals. Some silver mines near San Antonio, about forty miles south,
are worked, and produce well. La Paz may export one hundred thousand
dollars a-year of _platapina_. Gold-dust and virgin gold are brought to
La Paz. The copper and lead mines are numerous and rich. To the north
of La Paz are numerous safe and good harbours. Escondida, Loretta, and
Muleje are all good harbours, formed by the islands in front of the
main land.

"The island of Carmen, lying in front of Loretta, has a large salt
lake, which has a solid salt surface of several feet thickness. The
salt is of good quality, is cut out like ice, and it could supply the
world. It has heretofore been a monopoly to the governor of Lower
California, who employed convicts to get out the salt and put it on the
beach ready for shipping. It is carried about a quarter of a mile, and
is sent to Mazatlan and San Blas. A large quantity of salt is used in
producing silver. To the north of Muleje, which is nearly opposite
Guymas, the gulf is so much narrower that it is a harbour itself. No
accurate survey has ever been made of it--indeed, all the peninsula, as
well as the coast of Upper California, is laid down wrong on the
charts, being about twelve miles too far easterly. The English
Government now have two naval ships engaged in surveying the Gulf of

"On the Pacific coast of the peninsula there is the great Bay of
Magdalena, which has fine harbours, but no water, provisions, or
inhabitants. Its shores are high barren mountains, said to possess
great mineral wealth. A fleet of whale-ships have been there during the
winter months of the last two years, for a new species of whale that
are found there, represented as rather a small whale, producing forty
or fifty barrels of oil; and, what is most singular, I was assured, by
most respectable whaling captains, that the oil is a good paint-oil (an
entire new quality for fish-oil). Geographically and commercially,
Lower California must become very valuable. It will be a constant
source of regret to this country, that it is not included in the treaty
of peace just made with Mexico. We have held and governed it during the
war, and the boundary of Upper California cuts the head of the Gulf of
California, so that Lower California is left entirely disconnected with
the Mexican territory.

"Cape St. Lucas is the great headland of the Pacific Ocean, and is
destined to be the Gibraltar and entrepot of that coast, or perhaps La
Paz may be preferred, on account of its superior harbour. As a
possession to any foreign power, I think Lower California more valuable
than the group of the Sandwich Islands. It has as many arable acres as
that group of islands, with rich mines, pearl-fishing, fine bays and
harbours, with equal health, and all their productions. As a country,
it is dry, mountainous, and sterile, yet possessing many fine valleys
like San Jose, as the old mission establishments indicate. I have heard
Todas Santos, Commondee, Santa Guadalupe, and others, spoken of as
being more extensive, and as productive as San Jose.

"I am, most faithfully and truly, yours,


In the vicinity of Los Angeles there are a number of warm springs which
throw out and deposit large quantities of bitumen or mineral tar. This
substance, when it cools, becomes hard and brittle like resin. Around
some of these springs many acres of ground are covered with this
deposit to the depth of several feet. It is a principal material in the
roofing of houses. When thrown upon the fire, it ignites immediately,
emitting a smoke like that from turpentine, and an odour like that from
bituminous coal. This mineral, so abundant in California, may one day
become a valuable article of commerce.

There are no reliable statistics in California. The traveller is
obliged to form his estimate of matters and things chiefly from his own
observation. You can place but little reliance upon information derived
from the population, even when they choose to answer your questions;
and most generally the response to your inquiries is--"_Quien sabe?_"
(who knows?) No Californian troubles his brains about these matters.
The quantity of wines and _aguardiente_ produced by the vineyards and
distilleries, at and near Los Angeles, must be considerable--basing my
estimate upon the statement of Mr. Wolfskill, an American gentleman
residing here, and whose house and vineyard I visited. Mr. W.'s
vineyard is young, and covers about forty acres of ground, the number
of vines being 4,000 or 5,000. From the produce of these, he told me,
that last year he made 180 casks of wine, and the same quantity of
_aguardiente_. A cask here is sixteen gallons. When the vines mature,
their produce will be greatly increased. Mr. W.'s vineyard is doubtless
a model of its kind. It was a delightful recreation to stroll through
it, and among the tropical fruit-trees bordering its walks. His house,
too, exhibited an air of cleanliness and comfort, and a convenience of
arrangement not often met with in this country. He set out for our
refreshment three or four specimens of his wines, some of which would
compare favourably with the best French and Madeira wines. The
_aguardiente_ and peach-brandy, which I tasted, of his manufacture,
being mellowed by age, were of an excellent flavour. The quantity of
wine and _aguardiente_ produced in California, I would suppose,
amounted to 100,000 casks of sixteen gallons, or 1,600,000 gallons.
This quantity by culture can be increased indefinitely.

It was not possible to obtain at Los Angeles a piece of woollen cloth
sufficiently large for a pair of pantaloons, or a pair of shoes, which
would last a week. I succeeded, after searching through all the shops
of the town, in procuring some black cotton velvet, for four yards of
which I paid the sum of 12 dollars. In the United States the same
article would probably have cost 1.50 dollar. For four dollars more I
succeeded in getting the pantaloons made up by an American tailor, who
came into the country with General Kearny's forces. A Rocky Mountain
trapper and trader (Mr. Goodyear), who has established himself near the
Salt Lake since I passed there last year, fortunately arrived at Los
Angeles, bringing with him a quantity of dressed deer and elk skins,
which were purchased for clothing for the nearly naked soldiers.

Among the houses I visited while here, was that of Mr. Pryor, an
American, and a native of Louisville, Ky. He has been a resident of the
country between twenty and thirty years, but his Kentucky manners,
frankness, and hospitality still adhere to him.

I remained at Los Angeles from the 14th to the 29th of January. During
this time, with the exception of three days, the weather and
temperature were pleasant. It rained one day, and during two days the
winds blew strong and cold from the north-west. The nights are cool,
but fires are not requisite to comfort. The snow-clad mountains, about
twenty-five or thirty miles to the east of us, contrast singularly with
the brilliant fresh verdure of the plain.

On the 18th of January General Kearny, with the dragoons, left for San
Diego. There was understood to be a difference between General Kearny
and Commodore Stockton, and General Kearny and Colonel Fremont, in
regard to their respective powers and duties; which, as the whole
subject has subsequently undergone a thorough investigation, and the
result made public, it is unnecessary for me to allude to more
particularly. I did not converse with General Kearny while he was at
Los Angeles, and consequently possessed no other knowledge of his views
and intentions, or of the powers with which he had been invested by the
President, than what I derived from report.

On the 19th, Commodore Stockton and suite, with a small escort, left
for San Diego. Soon after his departure the battalion was paraded, and
the appointment of Colonel Fremont as governor of California, and
Colonel W.H. Russell, as secretary of state, by Commodore Stockton, was
read to them by Colonel Russell. It was announced, also, that, although
Colonel Fremont had accepted the office of chief civil magistrate of
California, he would still retain his military office, and command the
battalion as heretofore.

Commodore Shubrick, however, arrived at Monterey on the 23rd of
January, in the U.S. ship Independence, and, ranking above Commodore
Stockton, assumed the chief command, as appears by the date of a
general order published at Monterey, and written on board the United
States ship Independence, on February 1st, thanking the volunteers for
their services, and announcing the restoration of order. For I should
state that an insurrection, headed by Don Francisco Sanchez, had broken
out in the upper portion of California some time towards the last of
December, which had been put down by a detachment of marines and
volunteers. The insurgents had committed some outrages, and among other
acts had taken prisoner Lieutenant W.A. Bartlett, acting Alcalde of San
Francisco, with some other Americans. An account of the suppression of
this affair I find in the "Californian" newspaper of February 6th, 1847,
from which it appears, "that a party of one hundred and one men,
commanded by Captain Ward Marston, of the United States marines,
marched from San Francisco on the 29th December in search of the enemy,
whom they discovered on the 2nd of January, about one hundred in
number, on the plains of Santa Clara, under the command of Francisco
Sanchez. An attack was immediately ordered. The enemy was forced to
retire, which they were able to do in safety, after some resistance, in
consequence of their superior horses. The affair lasted about an hour,
during which time we had one marine slightly wounded in the head, one
volunteer of Captain Weber's command in the leg; and the enemy had one
horse killed, and some of their forces supposed to be killed or
wounded. In the evening the enemy sent in a flag of truce, with a
communication, requesting an interview with the commanding officer of
the expedition the next day, which was granted, when an armistice was
entered into, preparatory to a settlement of the difficulties. On the
3rd, the expedition was reinforced by the mounted Monterey volunteers,
fifty-five men, under the command of Captain W.A.T. Maddox, and on the
7th, by the arrival of Lieutenant Grayson with fifteen men, attached to
Captain Maddox's company. On the 8th a treaty was concluded, by which
the enemy surrendered Lieutenant Bartlett, and the other prisoners, as
well as all their arms, including one small field-piece, their
ammunition and accoutrements, and were permitted to return peaceably to
their homes, and the expedition to their respective posts."

A list of the expedition which marched from San Francisco is given as
follows:--Captain Ward Marston, commandant; Assistant-surgeon J. Duval,
aide-de-camp. A detachment of United States marines, under command of
Lieutenant Tansil, thirty-four men; artillery, consisting of one
field-piece, under the charge of Master William F. De Iongh, assisted
by Mid. John M. Kell, ten men; Interpreter John Pray; mounted company
of San Jose volunteers, under command of Captain C.M. Weber, Lieutenant
John Murphy, and acting Lieutenant John Reed, thirty-three men; mounted
company of Yerba Buena volunteers, under command of Captain William M.
Smith, Lieutenant John Rose, with a small detachment under Captain J.
Martin, twelve men.

Thus ended the insurrections, if resistance against invasion can
properly be so called, in Upper California.

On the 20th January, the force of sailors and marines which had marched
with Commodore Stockton and General Kearny left Los Angeles, to embark
at San Pedro for San Diego. On the 21st a national salute was fired by
the artillery company belonging to the battalion, in honour of Governor
Fremont. On the 22nd, letters were received from San Diego, stating
that Colonel Cooke, who followed General Kearny from Santa Fe with a
force of four hundred Mormon volunteers, had reached the neighbourhood
of that place. Having applied for my discharge from the battalion as
soon as we reached Los Angeles, I received it on the 29th, on which
day, in company with Captain Hastings, I set out on my return to San
Francisco, designing to leave that place on the first favourable
opportunity for the United States.


Leave Los Angeles for San Francisco
Don Andres Pico
A Californian returning from the wars
Domestic life at a rancho
Women in favour of peace
Hospitable treatment
Singular custom
Arrive at Santa Barbara
Lost in a fog
Valley of the Salinas
Californians wanting Yankee wives
High waters
Arrive at San Francisco.

We left Los Angeles late in the afternoon of the 29th of January, with
two Indian vaqueros, on miserable broken-down horses (the best we could
obtain), and encamped at the deserted rancho at the foot of Couenga
plain, where the treaty of peace had been concluded. After we had been
here some time, two Indians came to the house, who had been sent by the
proprietor of the rancho to herd the cattle. Having nothing to eat with
us, a tempting offer prevailed upon the Indians to milk one of the
cows; and we made our supper and our breakfast next morning on milk.
Both of our Indian vaqueros deserted in the night, carrying with them
sundry articles of clothing placed in their charge. A few days have
made a great change in the appearance of the country. The fresh grass
is now several inches in height, and many flowers are in bloom. The sky
is bright, and the temperature is delightful.

On the 30th of January, leaving the mission of San Fernando on our
right, at a distance of eight or ten miles, we followed the usually
travelled trail next to the hills, on the western side of the plain. As
we were passing near a rancho, a well-dressed Californian rode out to
us, and, after examining the horses of our miserable _caballada_,
politely claimed one of them as his property. He was told that the
horse was drawn from the public _caballada_, at Los Angeles, and could
not be given up. This seemed to satisfy him. After some further
conversation, he informed us, that he was Don Andres Pico, the late
leader and general of the Californians. The expression of his
countenance is intelligent and prepossessing, and his address and
manners courteous and pleasing. Shaking hands, and bidding us a very
earnest _adios_, he put spurs to his horse and galloped away.

We were soon after overtaken by a young Californian, who appeared at
first rather doubtful whether or not he should make our acquaintance.
The ice being broken, however, he became very loquacious and
communicative. He stated that he was returning to his home near Santa
Barbara, from the wars, in which he had been engaged against his will.
The language that he used was, that he, with many others of his
acquaintances, were forced to take up arms by the leading men of the
country. He was in the two battles of the 8th and 9th of January, below
Los Angeles; and he desired never to be in any more battles. He was
heartily rejoiced that there was peace, and hoped that there would
never be any more wars. He travelled along with us until afternoon,
when he fell behind, and we did not see him again until the next day.

After passing two or three deserted houses, we reached an inhabited
rancho, situated at the extremity of a valley, and near a narrow gorge
in the hills, about four o'clock, and, our jaded animals performing
duty with reluctance, we determined to halt for the night, if the
prospect of obtaining anything to eat (of which we stood in much need)
was flattering. Riding up to the house, a small adobe, with one room,
and a shed for a kitchen, the _ranchero_ and the _ranchera_ came out
and greeted us with a hearty "_Buenas tardes, Senores, paisanos
amigos_," shaking hands, and inviting us at the same time to alight and
remain for the night, which invitation we accepted. The kind-hearted
_ranchera_ immediately set about preparing supper for us. An Indian
_muchacha_ was seated at the _metate_ (hand-mill), which is one of the
most important articles of the Californian culinary apparatus. While
the _muchacha_ ground, or rather crushed, the wheat between the stones,
the _ranchera_, with a platter-shaped basket, cleansed it of dust,
chaff, and all impure particles, by tossing the grain in the basket.
The flour being manufactured and sifted through a _cedazo_, or coarse
sieve, the labour of kneading the dough was performed by the
_muchacha_. An iron plate was then placed over a rudely-constructed
furnace, and the dough, being beaten by hand into _tortillas_ (thin
cakes), was baked upon this. What would American housewives say to such
a system as this? The viands being prepared, they were set out upon a
small table, at which we were invited to seat ourselves. The meal
consisted of _tortillas_, stewed jerk beef, with _chile_ seasoning,
milk, and _quesadillas_, or cheesecakes, green and tough as leather.
However, our appetites were excellent, and we enjoyed the repast with a
high relish.

Our host and hostess were very inquisitive in regard to the news from
below, and as to what would be the effects of the conquest of the
country by the Americans. The man stated that he and all his family had
refused to join in the late insurrection. We told them that all was
peaceable now; that there would be no more wars in California; that we
were all Americans, all Californians--_hermanos, hermanas, amigos_.
They expressed their delight at this information by numerous

We asked the woman how much the dress which she wore, a miserable
calico, cost her? She answered, "Seis pesos" (six dollars). When we
told her that in a short time, under the American government, she could
purchase as good a one "_por un peso_," she threw up her hands in
astonishment, expressing by her features at the same time the most
unbounded delight. Her entire wardrobe was soon brought forth, and the
price paid for every article named. She then inquired what would be the
cost of similar clothing under the American government, which we told
her. As we replied, exclamation followed upon exclamation, expressive
of her surprise and pleasure, and the whole was concluded with "_Viva
los Americanos--viva los Americanos!_" I wore a large coarse woollen
pea-jacket, which the man was very desirous to obtain, offering for it
a fine horse. I declined the trade.

In the evening several of the brothers, sisters, and brothers and
sisters-in-law of the family collected, and the guitar and violin,
which were suspended from a beam in the house, were taken down, and we
were entertained by a concert of instrumental and vocal music. Most of
the tunes were such as are performed at fandangos. Some plaintive airs
were played and sung with much pathos and expression, the whole party
joining in the choruses. Although invited to occupy the only room in
the house, we declined it, and spread our blankets on the outside.

The next morning (January 31st), when we woke, the sun was shining
bright and warm, and the birds were singing gayly in the grove of
evergreen oaks near the house. Having made ready to resume our journey,
as delicately as possible we offered our kind hostess compensation for
the trouble we had given her, which she declined, saying, that although
they were not rich, they nevertheless had enough and to spare. We
however insisted, and she finally accepted, with the condition that we
would also accept of some of her _quesadillas_ and _tortillas_ to carry
along with us. The ranchero mounted his horse and rode with us about
three or four miles, to place us on the right trail, when, after
inviting us very earnestly to call and see him again, and bidding us an
affectionate _adios_, he galloped away.

Travelling over a hilly country, and passing the ruins of several
deserted ranchos, the grounds surrounding which were strewn with the
bones of slaughtered cattle, we reached, about five o'clock P.M., a
cluster of houses in the valley of Santa Clara River, ten miles east of
the mission of San Buenaventura. Here we stopped at the house of a man
named Sanchez. Our arrival was thought to be worthy of notice, and it
was accordingly celebrated in the evening by a fandango given at one of
the houses, to which we were invited. The company, to the number of
some thirty or forty persons, young and old, were assembled in the
largest room of the house, the floor being hard clay. The only
furniture contained in the room was a bed and some benches, upon which
the company seated themselves when not engaged in dancing.

Among the _senoritas_ assembled were two daughters of an American named
Chapman, who has been a resident of the country for many years. They
were fair-skinned, and might be called handsome. An elder and married
sister was also present. They called themselves Americans, although
they did not speak our language, and seemed to be more proud of their
American than their Spanish blood.

A singular custom prevails at these fandangos. It is this: during the
intervals between the waltzes, quadrilles, and other dances, when the
company is seated, a young lady takes the floor _solus_, and, after
showing off her graces for general observation a few minutes, she
approaches any gentleman she may select, and performs a variety of
pirouettes and other Terpsichorean movements before him for his
especial amusement and admiration, until he places on her head his hat
or cap, as the case may be, when she dances away with it. The hat or
cap has afterwards to be redeemed by some present, and this usually is
in money. Not dancing ourselves, we were favoured with numerous special
exhibitions of this kind, the cost of each of which was _un peso_. With
a long journey before us, and with purses in a nearly collapsed
condition, the drafts upon us became so frequent, that at an early
hour, under a plea of fatigue and want of rest, we thought it prudent
to beat a retreat, leaving our fair and partial _fandangueras_ to
bestow their favours upon others better able to bear them. The motions
of the Californian females of all classes in the dance are highly
graceful. The waltz is their favourite measure, and in this they appear
to excel as much as the men do in horsemanship. During the progress of
the dance, the males and females improvise doggerel rhymes
complimentary of the personal beauties and graces of those whom they
admire, or expressive of their love and devotion, which are chanted
with the music of the instruments, and the whole company join in the
general chorus at the end of each verse. The din of voices is sometimes
almost deafening.

Our host accompanied us to our lodgings on the opposite side of the
way. Beds were spread down under the small porch outside, and we laid
our bodies upon them, but not to sleep, for the noise of the fandango
dancers kept us awake until broad daylight, at which time it broke up.

Hiring fresh horses here, and a vaquero to drive our tired animals
after us, we started about 9 o'clock in the morning, and, passing
through San Buenaventura, reached Santa Barbara, 45 miles, a little
after two in the afternoon. We stopped at the house of Mr. Sparks, who
received us with genuine hospitality. Santa Barbara presented a more
lively appearance than when we passed here on our way down, most of its
population having returned to their homes. Procuring fresh but
miserably poor horses, we resumed our journey on the afternoon of the
2nd of February, and encamped at the rancho of Dr. Deu, situated on the
plain of Santa Barbara, near the sea shore. The soil of this plain is
of the most fertile composition. The fresh grass is now six or eight
inches high, and the varieties are numerous. Many of the early flowers
are in bloom. I noticed a large wheat field near the house, and its
appearance was such as to promise a rich harvest.

The rain fell heavily on the morning of the 3rd, but continuing our
journey we crossed the St. Ynes Mountain, and, passing the mission by
that name, reached the rancho of Mr. Faxon after dark, where we halted
for the night. Around the mission of St. Ynes I noticed, as we passed,
immense quantities of cattle bones thickly strewn in all directions.
Acres of ground were white with these remains of the immense herds
belonging to this mission in the days of its prosperity, slaughtered
for their hides and tallow. We met two or three elegantly dressed
Californians to-day, who accosted us with much civility and apparent

Mr. Faxon is an Englishman by birth, and has resided in California
about thirty years. He is married to a Californian lady, and has a
family of interesting and beautiful children. A large portion of the
land belonging to his rancho is admirably adapted to agriculture, and
he raises crops of corn and vegetables as well as wheat without
irrigation. He informed me that the yield of wheat on his rancho was
fully seventy bushels to the acre. Mr. F. showed me specimens of lead
ore from which he moulds his bullets, taken from an inexhaustible mine
in the Tular Valley, some fifty miles distant from this. It is
certainly the richest ore that I have ever seen, appearing almost like
the pure metal. He also showed me a caustic alkali, produced by burning
a plant or shrub which grows in great abundance in the Tular Valley.
This substance is used by him in the manufacture of soap.

About noon on the 4th, we halted at the rancho of Captain Dana, where
we procured fresh horses, leaving our wretchedly lean and tired
animals, and, proceeding on, stopped for the night at the rancho of Mr.
Branch, an intelligent American, originally from the state of New York,
who has been settled in the country a number of years. His rancho is
situated on what is called the _arroyo grande_, a small stream which
empties into the Pacific some two or three miles from the house. The
house is new, and constructed after American models of farm-houses,
with neat and comfortable apartments, chimneys and fireplaces. The
arable lands here are finely adapted to the culture of maize, wheat,
and potatoes.

Our horses straying, it was twelve o'clock on the 5th before we found
them. The rain had fallen steadily and heavily all night, and during
the forenoon, and was pouring down when we started. We passed through
the mission of San Luis Obispo just before sunset, intending to halt at
a rancho about three miles distant in a _canada_. But, the storm
increasing in strength, it became suddenly so dark in the
mountain-gorge, that we could not distinguish the trail, and, after
wandering about some time, vainly attempting to find the house, we were
compelled to bivouac, wet to our skins, without fire or shelter, and
the rain pouring down in torrents.

The next morning (Feb. 6.), in hunting up our loose horses, we
discovered the house about half a mile distant from our camp.
Continuing our journey, we halted about nine o'clock at a rancho near
the ruins of Santa Margarita. A solitary Indian was the only occupant
of the house, and only inhabitant of the place; and he could furnish us
with no food. Passing two or three other deserted ranches, we reached
the house of a Mexican about one o'clock, where we obtained a meal of
fried eggs and _tortillas_, after having been without food thirty
hours. Late in the afternoon we arrived at the mission of San Miguel,
now occupied by an Englishman named Reed, his _mestiza_ wife, and one
child, with two or three Indian vaqueros. Crossing the Salinas in the
morning (Feb. 7), we continued down its eastern side, and encamped in a
wide bottom under a large live oak. A _quesadilla_ was all we had to
eat. This was divided, one-half being reserved for breakfast. The fresh
vegetation has so much changed the face of the country on this river
since we passed along here in December, that I scarcely recognise it.
The grass is six or eight inches high in the bottom, the blades
standing so thick as to present a matted appearance, and the hills are
brilliant with flowers--pink, purple, blue, and yellow.

On the 8th we continued down the eastern bank of the Salinas, passing
through several large and fertile bottoms, and reaching the rancho of
San Lorenzo about twelve o'clock. This rancho, as we learned from the
proprietors, is owned by two bachelor brothers, one of whom told me
that he had not been off his lands but once or twice for several years.
Large herds of fat cattle and horses were grazing upon the luxuriant
grasses of the plain, and there were several extensive inclosures sowed
in wheat, which presented all the indications of an abundant harvest.
But, with all these natural resources surrounding him the elder brother
told us that he had nothing to eat in his house but fresh beef. A
quantity of the choice pieces of a fat beef was roasted by an Indian
boy, which we enjoyed with all the relish of hungry men. Our host, a
gentleman of intelligence and politeness, made apology after apology
for his rude style of living, a principal excuse being that he had no
wife. He inquired, with apparent earnestness, if we could not send him
two pretty accomplished and capable American women, whom they could
marry; and then they would build a fine house, have bread, butter,
cheese, and all the delicacies, luxuries, and elegancies of life in
abundance. He appeared to be well pleased with the conquest of the
country by the Americans, and desirous that they should not give it up.
When we resumed our journey in the afternoon, he rode with us four or
five miles to show us the way, and, on taking his leave, invited us to
return again, when he said he hoped his accommodations would be much
improved. Riding 15 miles, we halted at a tule-cabin, where we remained
until two o'clock in the morning, when, the moon shining brightly, we
mounted our horses, and continued our journey.

We reached the Monterey road just at daylight. My intention had been to
visit Monterey; but the Salinas being unfordable, and there being no
ferry, it was not possible to do it without swimming the river, which I
did not feel inclined to do. Monterey is situated on the bay by that
name, about 90 miles by water south of San Francisco. The bay affords a
good anchorage and landing in calm weather, being exposed only to the
northers, which blow violently. The town contains about 1500
inhabitants, and is rapidly increasing in wealth and population.
Arriving at the rancho of Don Joaquin Gomez, we found no one but a
_mestiza_ servant at home, and could obtain nothing to eat but a
_quesadilla_. All the streams, large and small, are much swollen by
late heavy rains, and the travelling is consequently very laborious and
difficult. Resting our horses a short time, we crossed the mountains,
and reached the mission of San Juan Bautista about noon.

At San Juan we met with Messrs. Grayson, Boggs, and a party of
volunteers returning from Monterey to San Francisco, having been
discharged since the suppression of the rebellion in this part of
California, headed by Francisco Sanchez. Here we learned, for the first
time, the arrival at Monterey of Commodore Shubrick in the ship
Independence, and of the Lexington with Captain Tomkins's company of
artillery, and freighted otherwise with munitions, stores, and tools
necessary to the erection and defence of durable fortifications at
Monterey and San Francisco.

Seven or eight miles beyond San Juan, we found that the waters of the
_arroyo_ had risen so as to inundate a wide valley which we were
compelled to cross. After making several ineffectual attempts to reach
the opposite side, wading through the water, and sometimes falling into
deep holes from which it was difficult for either men or horses to
extricate themselves, we encamped for the night on a small elevation in
the valley, entirely surrounded by water. Our condition was miserable
enough. Tired, wet, and hungry, we laid down for the night on the damp

The next day (Feb. 10), about eleven o'clock, we succeeded in finding a
ford across the valley and stream, and procured dinner at a
soap-factory on the opposite side, belonging to T.O. Larkin, Esq.
Continuing on, we encamped at a rancho occupied by an Englishman as
_mayor domo_. He was very glad to see us, and treated us with unbounded
hospitality, furnishing a superabundance of beef and _frijoles_ for our
consumption. On the 11th, about three P.M., we arrived at the Pueblo de
San Jose, and, finding there a launch employed by Messrs. Howard and
Mellus in collecting hides, bound for San Francisco, we embarked in
her, and on the morning of the 13th arrived at that place. We found
lying here the U.S. sloop Warren, and Lieutenant Radford politely
furnished us with a boat to land. In the afternoon the Cyane, Commander
Dupont, with Gen. Kearny on board, and the store-ship Erie, with Col.
Mason on board, arrived in the harbour. Col. Mason is from the United
States direct, via Panama, and brings late and interesting

The Cyane and Warren have just returned from a cruise on the southern
Pacific coast of Mexico. The town of Guymas had been taken by
bombardment. The Cyane had captured, during her cruize, fourteen
prizes, besides several guns at San Blas. The boats of the Warren,
under the command of Lieut. Radford, performed the gallant feat of
cutting out of the harbour of Mazatlan the Mexican schooner Malek

Landing in San Francisco, I found my wardrobe, which I had deposited in
the care of Capt. Leidesdorff, and the first time for nearly five
months dressed myself in a civilized costume. Having been during that
time almost constantly in motion, and exposed to many hardships and
privations, it was, as may be supposed, no small satisfaction to find
once more a place where I could repose for a short time at least.


Progress of the town of San Francisco
Capt. Dupont
Gen. Kearny
The presidio
Appointed Alcalde
Gen. Kearny's proclamation
Arrival of Col. Stevenson's regiment
Horse-thief Indians
Administration of justice in California
Sale of lots in San Francisco.

Wherever the Anglo-Saxon race plant themselves, progress is certain to
be displayed in some form or other. Such is their "go-ahead" energy,
that things cannot stand still where they are, whatever may be the
circumstances surrounding them. Notwithstanding the wars and
insurrections, I found the town of San Francisco, on my arrival here,
visibly improved. An American population had flowed into it; lots,
which heretofore have been considered almost valueless, were selling at
high prices; new houses had been built, and were in progress; new
commercial houses had been established; hotels had been opened for the
accommodation of the travelling and business public; and the
publication of a newspaper had been commenced. The little village of
two hundred souls, when I arrived here in September last, is fast
becoming a town of importance. Ships freighted with full cargoes are
entering the port, and landing their merchandise to be disposed of at
wholesale and retail on shore, instead of the former mode of vending
them afloat in the harbour. There is a prevailing air of activity,
enterprise, and energy; and men, in view of the advantageous position
of the town for commerce, are making large calculations upon the
future; calculations which I believe will be fully realized.

On the 15th I dined on board the sloop-of-war Cyane, with Commander
Dupont, to whom I had the good fortune to be the bearer from home of a
letter of introduction. I say "good fortune," because I conceive it to
be one of the greatest of social blessings, as well as pleasures, to be
made acquainted with a truly upright and honourable man--one whose
integrity never bends to wrongful or pusillanimous expediency;--one
who, armed intellectually with the panoply of justice, has courage to
sustain it under any and all circumstances;--one whose ambition is, in
a public capacity, to serve his country, and not to serve himself;--one
who waits for his country to judge of his acts, and, if worthy, to
place the laurel wreath upon his head, disdaining a self-wrought and
self-assumed coronal. Capt. Dupont is a native of Delaware; and that
gallant and patriotic state should feel proud of such a son. He is one
of whom all men, on sea or on land, with whom his duties as an officer
or citizen of our republic brings him in contact, speak well; and whose
private virtues, as well as professional merits, are deserving of the
warmest admiration and the highest honours.

Although I have long known Gen. S.W. Kearny from reputation, and saw
him at Los Angeles, I was here introduced to him for the first time.
Gen. K. is a man rising fifty years of age. His height is about five
feet ten or eleven inches. His figure is all that is required by
symmetry. His features are regular, almost Grecian; his eye is blue,
and has an eagle-like expression, when excited by stern or angry
emotion; but, in ordinary social intercourse, the whole expression of
his countenance is mild and pleasing, and his manners and conversation
are unaffected, urbane, and conciliatory, without the slightest
exhibition of vanity or egotism. He appears the cool, brave, and
energetic soldier; the strict disciplinarian, without tyranny; the man,
in short, determined to perform his duty, in whatever situation he may
be placed, leaving consequences to follow in their natural course.
These, my first impressions, were fully confirmed by subsequent
intercourse, in situations and under circumstances which, by
experience, I have found an unfailing alembic for the trial of
character--a crucible wherein, if the metal be impure, the drossy
substances are sure to display themselves. It is not my province to
extol or pronounce judgment upon his acts; they are a part of the
military and civil history of our country, and as such will be
applauded or condemned, according to the estimate that may be placed
upon them. But I may be allowed to express the opinion, that no man,
placed under the same circumstances, ever aimed to perform his duty
with more uprightness and more fidelity to the interests and honour of
his country, or who, to shed lustre upon his country, ever braved
greater dangers, or endured more hardships and privations, and all
without vaunting his performances and sacrifices.

On the 16th, in company of Gen. Kearny, Capt. Turner, and Lieuts.
Warner and Hallock, of the U.S. Engineer Corps, I rode to the Presidio
of San Francisco, and the old fortification at the mouth of the bay.
The presidio is about three miles from the town, and consists of
several blocks of adobe buildings, covered with files. The walls of
most of the buildings are crumbling for the want of care in protecting
them from the annual rains; and without this care they will soon become
heaps of mud. The fort is erected upon a commanding position, about a
mile and a half from the entrance to the bay. Its walls are
substantially constructed of burnt brick, and are of sufficient
thickness and strength to resist heavy battering. There are nine or ten
embrasures. Like everything else in the country belonging to the
public, the fort is fast falling into ruins. There has been no garrison
here for several years; the guns are dismounted, and half decomposed by
long exposure to the weather, and from want of care. Some of them have
sunk into the ground.

On the 20th I was waited upon by Gen. Kearny, and requested to accept
the office of alcalde, or chief magistrate, of the district of San
Francisco. There being no opportunity of returning to the United States
immediately, I accepted of the proposed appointment, and on the 22d was
sworn into office, my predecessor, Lieut. W.A. Bartlett, of the navy,
being ordered to his ship by the commanding officer of the squadron.

The annual salute in celebration of the birthday of the immortal and
illustrious founder of our republic, required by law from all the ships
of the navy in commission, in whatever part of the world they may be at
the time, strikes us more forcibly when in a far-off country, as being
a beautiful and appropriate tribute to the unapproachable virtues and
heroism of that great benefactor of the human race, than when we are
nearer home, or upon our own soil. The U.S. ships in the harbour, at
twelve o'clock on the 22d, each fired a national salute; and the day
being calm and beautiful, the reports bounded from hill to hill, and
were echoed and re-echoed until the sound died away, apparently in the
distant gorges of the Sierra Nevada. This was a voice from the soul of
WASHINGTON, speaking in majestic and thunder-tones to the green and
flowery valley, the gentle hills and lofty mountains of California, and
consecrating them as the future abode of millions upon millions of the
sons of liberty. The merchant and whale ships lying at anchor, catching
the enthusiasm, joined in the salute; and for a time the harbour and
bay in front of the town were enveloped in clouds of gunpowder smoke.

General Kearny left San Francisco, in the frigate Savannah, Captain
Mervine, on the 23d, for Monterey, and soon after his arrival at that
place issued the following proclamation:--


The President of the United States having instructed the undersigned
to take charge of the civil government of California, he enters upon
his duties with an ardent desire to promote, as far as he is able,
the interests of the country and the welfare of its inhabitants.

The undersigned has instructions from the President to respect and
protect the religious institutions of California, and to see that
the religious rights of the people are in the amplest manner
preserved to them, the constitution of the United States allowing
every man to worship his Creator in such a manner as his own
conscience may dictate to him.

The undersigned is also instructed to protect the persons and
property of the quiet and peaceable inhabitants of the country
against all or any of their enemies, whether from abroad or at home;
and when he now assures the Californians that it will be his duty
and his pleasure to comply with those instructions, he calls upon
them all to exert themselves in preserving order and tranquillity,
in promoting harmony and concord, and in maintaining the authority
and efficiency of the laws.

It is the wish and design of the United States to provide for
California, with the least possible delay, a free government,
similar to those in her other territories; and the people will soon
be called upon to exercise their rights as freemen, in electing
their own representatives, to make such laws as may be deemed best
for their interest and welfare. But until this can be done, the laws
now in existence, and not in conflict with the constitution of the
United States, will be continued until changed by competent
authority; and those persons who hold office will continue in the
same for the present, provided they swear to support that
constitution, and to faithfully perform their duty.

The undersigned hereby absolves all the inhabitants of California
from any further allegiance to the republic of Mexico, and will
consider them as citizens of the United States; those who remain
quiet and peaceable will be respected in their rights and protected
in them. Should any take up arms against or oppose the government of
this territory, or instigate others to do so, they will be
considered as enemies, and treated accordingly.

When Mexico forced a war upon the United States, time did not permit
the latter to invite the Californians as friends to join her
standard, but compelled her to take possession of the country to
prevent any European power from seizing upon it, and, in doing so,
some excesses and unauthorized acts were no doubt committed by
persons employed in the service of the United States, by which a few
of the inhabitants have met with a loss of property; such losses
will be duly investigated, and those entitled to remuneration will
receive it.

California has for many years suffered greatly from domestic
troubles; civil wars have been the poisoned fountains which have
sent forth trouble and pestilence over her beautiful land. Now those
fountains are dried up; the star-spangled banner floats over
California, and as long as the sun continues to shine upon her, so
long will it float there, over the natives of the land, as well as
others who have found a home in her bosom; and under it agriculture
must improve, and the arts and sciences flourish, as seed in a rich
and fertile soil.

The Americans and Californians are now but one people; let us
cherish one wish, one hope, and let that be for the peace and quiet
of our country. Let us, as a band of brothers, unite and emulate
each other in our exertions to benefit and improve this our
beautiful, and which soon must be our happy and prosperous, home.

Done at Monterey, capital of California, this first day of March,
A.D. 1847, and in the seventy-first year of independence of the
United Suites.

Brig.-Gen., U.S.A., and Governor of California.

The proclamation of General Kearny gave great satisfaction to the
native as well as the emigrant population of the country. Several of
the alcaldes of the district of my jurisdiction, as well as private
individuals (natives of the country), expressed, by letter and orally,
their approbation of the sentiments of the proclamation in the warmest
terms. They said that they were heartily willing to become Americans
upon these terms, and hoped that there would be the least possible
delay in admitting them to the rights of American citizenship. There
was a general expectation among natives as well as foreigners, that a
representative form of territorial government would be immediately
established by General Kearny. Why this was not done, is explained by
the recent publication of General Scott's letter to General Kearny,
dated November 3rd, 1846, of which Colonel Mason was the bearer, he
having left the United States on the 7th November. In this letter
General Scott says:--

"As a guide to the civil governor of Upper California, in our hands,
see the letter of June 3rd (last), addressed to you by the Secretary of
War. You will not, however, formally declare the province to be
annexed. Permanent incorporation of the territory must depend on the
government of the United States.

"After occupying with our forces all necessary points in Upper
California, and establishing a temporary civil government therein, as
well as assuring yourself of its internal tranquillity, and the absence
of any danger of reconquest on the part of Mexico, you may charge
Colonel Mason, United States first dragoons, the bearer of this open
letter, or land officer next in rank to your own, with your several
duties, and return yourself, with a sufficient escort of troops, to St.
Louis, Missouri; but the body of the United States dragoons that
accompanied you to California will remain there until further orders."

The transport ships Thomas H. Perkins, Loo Choo, Susan Drew, and
Brutus, with Colonel Stevenson's regiment, arrived at San Francisco
during the months of March and April. These vessels were freighted with
a vast quantity of munitions, stores, tools, saw-mills, grist-mills,
etc., etc., to be employed in the fortification of the principal
harbours on the coast--San Francisco, Monterey, and San Diego. The
regiment of Col. Stevenson was separated into different commands,
portions of it being stationed at San Francisco, Sonoma, Monterey,
Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles; and some companies employed against the
horse-thief Indians of the Sierra Nevada and the Tulares.

As good an account of these horse-thief Indians, and their
depredations, as I have seen, I find in the "California Star," of March
28th, 1847, written by a gentleman who has been a resident of
California for a number of years, and who has been a sufferer. It is

"During the Spanish regime, such a thing as a horse-thief was unknown
in the country; but as soon as the Mexicans took possession, their
characteristic anarchy began to prevail, and the Indians to desert from
the missions. The first Indian horse-thief known in this part of the
country was a neophyte of the mission of Santa Clara, George, who
flourished about twenty years ago. He absconded from his mission to the
river of Stanislaus, of which he was a native. From thence he returned
to the settlements, and began to steal horses, which at that time were
very numerous. After pursuing his depredations for some time, he was at
last pursued and killed on his return from one of his forages. The
mission of Santa Clara has been, from that time to the present day, the
greatest nursery for horse thieves, as the Stanislaus river has been
and is their principal rendezvous. I have taken some pains to inquire
among some of the most intelligent and respectable of the native
inhabitants, as to the probable number of horses that have been stolen
between Monterey and San Francisco within the last twenty years, and
the result has been that more than one hundred thousand can be
distinctly enumerated, and that the total amount would probably be
double that number. Nearly all these horses have been eaten! From the
river of Stanislaus, as a central point, the evil has spread to the
north and south, and at present extends from the vicinity of the
Mickelemes River on the north, to the sources of the St. Joaquin on the
south. These Indians inhabit all the western declivity of the great
snowy mountains, within these limits, and have become so habituated to
living on horseflesh, that it is now with them the principal means of

"In past time they have been repeatedly pursued, and many of them
killed, and whole villages destroyed, but, so far from being deterred,
they are continually becoming more bold and daring in their robberies,
as horses become scarcer and more carefully guarded. About twenty
persons have been killed by them within the knowledge of the writer.
Among others, Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Wilson were killed by them not long
ago. Only about one month since, they shot and dangerously wounded four
persons employed on the farm of Mr. Weber, near the Pueblo of St.
Joseph, and at the same time stole the horses of the farm, and those
also from the farms of Captain Fisher and Mr. Burnal, in the same
vicinity; in all, about two hundred head. Within the last ten days
numerous parties of them have been committing depredations on many of
the farms in the jurisdiction of the Contra Costa, and scarcely a night
passes but we hear of their having stolen horses from some one. Three
days ago, a party of them were met by some young men who had been out
catching wild horses on the plains of the St. Joaquin, but as they were
mounted on tired animals, they were only able to recapture the stolen
horses, but could not overtake the thieves."

It has not been within the scope of my design, in writing out those
notes, to enter into the minute details of the conquest and occupation
of California by the forces of the United States. To do so would
require more space than I have allowed myself, and the matter would be
more voluminous than interesting or important. My intention has been to
give such a sketch of the military operations in California, during my
residence and travels in the country, as to afford to the reader a
general and correct idea of the events transpiring at the time. No
important circumstance, I think, has escaped my attention.

Among the officers of the army stationed at San Francisco, with whom I
became acquainted, were Major Hardie, in command of the troops, Captain
Folsom, acting quartermaster-general in California, and Lieutenant
Warner, of the engineer corps. Lieutenant Warner marched with General
Kearny from the United States, and was at the battle of San Pasqual. I
have seen the coat which he wore on that occasion, pierced in seven
different places by the lances of the enemy. He did not make this
exhibition himself; and I never heard him refer to the subject but
once, and then it was with the modesty of a veteran campaigner.

The corps of topographical engineers accompanying General Kearny, under
the command of Captain Emory, will, doubtless, furnish in their report
much interesting and valuable information. Mr. Stanley, the artist Of
the expedition, completed his sketches in oil, at San Francisco; and a
more truthful, interesting, and valuable series of paintings,
delineating mountain scenery, the floral exhibitions on the route, the
savage tribes between Santa Fe and California--combined with camp-life
and marches through the desert and wilderness--has never been, and
probably never will be, exhibited. Mr. Stanley informed me that he was
preparing a work on the savage tribes of North America and of the
islands of the Pacific, which, when completed on his plan, will be the
most comprehensive and descriptive of the subject of any that has been

Legal proceedings are much less complex in California than in the
United States. There is no written statute law in the country. The only
law books I could find were a digested code entitled, "Laws of Spain
and the Indies," published in Spain about a hundred years ago, and a
small pamphlet defining the powers of various judicial officers,
emanating from the Mexican government since the revolution. A late
Mexican governor of California, on being required by a magistrate to
instruct him as to the manner in which he should administer the law
within his jurisdiction, replied, "_Administer it in accordance with
the principles of natural right and justice_," and this is the
foundation of Californian jurisprudence. The local _bandos_, or laws,
are enacted, adjudicated, and executed by the local magistrates, or
alcaldes. The alcalde has jurisdiction in all municipal matters, and in
cases for minor offences, and for debt in sums not over one hundred
dollars. In cases of heinous or capital offences, the alcalde has
simply an examining power, the testimony being taken down in writing,
and transmit-to the _juez de primera instancia_, or first judge of the
district, before whom the case is tried. Civil actions, for sums over
one hundred dollars, must also be tried before the _juez de primera
instancia_, and from him there is an appeal to the prefect, or the
governor of the province. The trial by _hombres buenos_, or good men,
is one of the established legal tribunals when either of the parties
demand it, and is similar to our trial by jury; the difference being in
the number, the _hombres buenos_ usually consisting of three or five,
as they may be ordered by the magistrate, or requested by the
litigants, and our jury of twelve. With honest and intelligent
magistrates, the system operates advantageously, as justice is speedy
and certain; but the reverse of this, with corrupt and ignorant
magistrates, too frequently in power, the consequences of the system
are as bad as can well be imagined.

The policy of the Mexican government has been to encourage in certain
localities the erection of pueblos, or towns, and for this purpose they
have made grants of land to the local authorities, or municipalities,
within certain defined limits, to be regranted upon application, in
lots of fifty or one hundred varass, as the case may be, to persons
declaring their intention to settle and to do business in the town. For
these grants to individuals a certain sum of money is paid, which goes
into the treasury of the municipality. The magistrates, however,
without special permission, have no power to grant lots of land within
a certain number of feet of or below high-water mark. The power is
reserved to be exercised by the governor of the province. It being
necessary for the convenient landing of ships, and for the discharging
and receiving of their cargoes, that the beach in front of the town of
San Francisco should be improved with wharfs, etc., etc., and that
titles should be granted to individuals who otherwise would make no
durable improvements. As magistrate of the town, in compliance with the
request of numerous citizens, I solicited from General Kearny, the
acting governor, a relinquishment, on the part of the general
government, of the beach lands in front of the town in favour of the
municipality, under certain conditions. This was granted by the
Governor, who issued a decree dated 10th March, permitting the sales by
auction of all such grounds adjacent to the water-side as might be
found adapted to commercial purposes, with the exception of such lots
as might be selected for the use of the United States government, by
its proper officers. The sales accordingly took place, the lots were
eagerly purchased, and the port has already become a place of
considerable commercial activity.



First settlement of the missionaries
Characteristics of white population
Pleasures and amusements
Position of women
Vegetable productions
Wild animals

It was during the month of November, 1602, the sun just retiring behind
the distant high land which forms the background of a spacious harbour
at the southernmost point of Alta California, that a small fleet of
vessels might have been seen directing their course as if in search of
a place of anchorage; their light sails drawn up, while the larger
ones, swelling now and then to the action of the breeze, bore them
majestically along, forcing their way through the immense and almost
impenetrable barrier of sea-weed, to a haven which, at the remote
period stated, was considered the unexplored region of the North. The
fleet referred to hauled their wind to the shore, and, passing a bluff
point of land on their left, soon came to anchor; but not until the
shades of night had cast a gloom over the scene so recently lighted up
with the gorgeous rays of a setting sun.

This was the commencement, or rather preliminary mark, of civilization
in this country, by the Spaniards, (if so it can be called,) and on the
following morning a detachment was landed, accompanied by a friar, to
make careful investigation of the long ridge of high land which serves
as a protection to the harbour from the heavy north-west gales. They
found, as reported, an abundance of small oak and other trees, together
with a great variety of useful and aromatic herbs; and from its summit
they beheld the extent and beauty of the port, reaching, as they said,
full three leagues from where the vessel lay at anchor. A large tent
was erected on the sandy beach, to answer the purposes of a church,
where the friar might perform mass, and by directions of the commanding
officers, the boats were drawn up for repairing, wells were dug,
parties were sent off to cut wood, while guards were placed at
convenient distances to give notice of the approach of any hostile
force. The latter precaution was hardly carried into effect, ere a
large body of naked Indians were seen moving along the shore, armed
with bows and arrows. A friar, protected by six soldiers, was
dispatched to meet them, who, making signs of peace by exhibiting a
white flag and throwing handfuls of sand high into the air, influenced
them to lay aside their arms, when, affectionately embracing them, the
good old friar distributed presents of beads and necklaces, with which
they eagerly adorned their persons. This manifestation of good feeling
induced them to draw near to where the commander had landed with his
men, but perceiving so large a number, they retreated to a neighbouring
knoll, and from thence sent forward to the Spaniards ten aged females,
who, possessing apparently so much affability, were presented
immediately with gifts, and instructed to go and inform their people of
the friendly disposition cherished for them by the white strangers.
This was sufficient to implant a free intercourse with the Indians, who
daily visited the Spaniards, and bartered off their skins and furs in
exchange for bread and trinkets. But at length the time arrived for the
fleet to depart, and they proceeded northward, visiting in their course
Monterey and Mendocino, where the same favourable result attended the
enterprise as at other places, and they returned in safety to New

So successful had been the character of this expedition throughout the
entire period of its execution, that an enthusiasm prevailed in the
minds of the Spaniards, which could only be assuaged by an attempt to
conquer and christianize the inhabitants of that distant portion of the
American continent. Many were the fruitless results of the Spanish
adventurer--numerous were the statements of his toil and labour, till
at length a formidable attempt, under the patronage and direction of
Don Gaspar de Portala and Father Junipero Serra, successfully achieved
the desired object for which it was planned and executed.

At San Diego, where, a century and a half before, the primitive
navigators under Cortez communed with the rude and unsophisticated
native--there, where the zealous devotee erected his altar on the
burning sand, and with offerings of incense and prayer hallowed it to
God, as the birthplace of Christianity in that region--upon that
sainted spot commenced the spiritual conquest, the cross was erected,
and the holy missionaries who accompanied the expedition entered heart
and soul upon their religious duties. Successful in all they undertook,
their first establishment in a short time was completed, and drawing
around it the converted Indians in large numbers, the rude and
uncultivated fields gave place to agricultural improvement--the arts
and sciences gradually obtained foundation where before all was
darkness, and day after day hundreds were added to the folds of the
holy and apostolic church. Thus triumphantly proceeded the labours of
the Spanish conquerors! In course of time other institutions were
founded at Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, where at each
place a military fortress was erected, which served for their
protection, and to keep in check such of the natives who were
disinclined to observe the regulations of the community.

The natives formed an ardent and almost adorable attachment for their
spiritual fathers, and were happy, quite happy, under their
jurisdiction. Ever ready to obey them, the labour in the field and
workshop met with ready compliance, and so prosperous were the
institutions that many of them became wealthy, in the increase of their
cattle and great abundance of their granaries. It was no unusual sight
to behold the plains for leagues literally spotted with bullocks, and
large fields of corn and wheat covering acres of ground. This state of
things continued until the period when Mexico underwent a change in its
political form of government, which so disheartened the feelings of the
loyal missionaries, that they became regardless of their
establishments, and suffered them to decline for want of attention to
their interests. At length, civil discord and anarchy among the
Californians prepared a more effective measure for their destruction,
and they were left to the superintendence of individuals who plundered
them of all that was desirable or capable of removal. Thus, the
government commenced the robbery, and its hirelings carried it out to
the letter, destroying and laying waste wherever they were placed. In
order to give the inhabitants a share of the spoils, some of them were
permitted to slaughter the cattle by contract, which was an equal
division of the proceeds, and the contractors were careful, when they
delivered one hide to a mission, to reserve _two_ for themselves, in
this way following up the example of their superiors.

This important revolution in the systematic order of the monastic
institutions took place in 1836, at which period the most important of
them possessed property, exclusive of their lands and tenements, to the
value of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. At the present day
they have but a little more than dilapidated walls and restricted
boundaries of territory. Notwithstanding this wanton devastation of
property, contrary to the opinion of many who were strongly in favour
of supporting these religious institutions, the result proved
beneficial to the country at large. Individual enterprise succeeded as
the lands became distributed, so that the Californian beheld himself no
longer dependent on the bounty of his spiritual directors, but, on the
contrary, he was enabled to give support to them, from the increase and
abundance of his own possessions.

Subsequent to the expulsion of the Mexicans, numbers of new farms were
created, and hundreds of Americans were scattered over the country.
Previous to 1830, the actual possessions of horned cattle by the
_rancheros_ did not exceed one hundred thousand; but in 1842, according
to a fair estimate, made by one on the spot, the number had increased
to four hundred thousand; so that the aggregate is equal to that held
by the missions when in their most flourishing condition. The present
number is not much, if any, short of one million.

Presuming a statistical knowledge of this country, before and after the
missionary institutions were secularized, may be interesting, I will
insert the following returns of 1831 and 1842, to contrast the same
with its present condition:--

1st. In 1832 the white population throughout Alta-California did not
exceed 4,500, while the Indians of the twenty-one missions amounted to
19,000; in 1842, the former had increased to 7,000, and the latter
decreased to about 5,000.

2nd. In the former year, the number of horned cattle, including
individual possessions, amounted to 500,000; in the latter, to 40,000.

3rd. At the same period, the number of sheep, goats, and pigs, was
321,000; at the latter, 32,000.

4th. In 1831 the number of horses, asses, mules, etc., was 64,000; in
1842 it was 30,000.

5th. The produce in corn, etc., had decreased in a much greater
proportion--that of seventy to four.

The amount of duties raised at the customhouse in Monterey, from 1839
to 1842, was as follows, viz.:--

1839 85,613 dollars.
1840 72,308 dollars
1841 101,150 dollars
1842 73,729 dollars.

The net amount of revenue seldom exceeding in any year eighty thousand
dollars; so that, when a deficiency took place, to supply the
expenditures of government, it had been usual to call upon the missions
for aid.

The value of the hides and tallow derived from the annual _matanzas_
may be estimated at 372,000 dollars. These two commodities, with the
exception of some beaver, sea-otter, and other furs, comprise the most
important part of the exportations, which in addition, would augment
the value of exports to 400,000 dollars.

The permanent population of that portion of Upper California situated
between the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific, I estimate at 25,000. Of
this number, 8,000 are Hispano-Americans, 5,000 foreigners, chiefly
from the United States, and 12,000 christianized Indians. There are
considerable numbers of wild or Gentile Indians, inhabiting the valley
of the San Joaquin and the gorges of the Sierra, not included in this
estimate. They are probably as numerous as the Christian Indians. The
Indian population inhabiting the region of the Great Salt Lake, Mary's
River, the oases of the Great Desert Basin, and the country bordering
the Rio Colorado and its tributaries, being spread over a vast extent
of territory, are scarcely seen, although the aggregate number is

The Californians do not differ materially from the Mexicans, from whom
they are descended, in other provinces of that country. Physically and
intellectually, the men, probably, are superior to the same race
farther south, and inhabiting the countries contiguous to the city of
Mexico. The intermixture of blood with the Indian and negro races has
been less, although it is very perceptible.

The men, as a general fact, are well made, with pleasing sprightly
countenances, and possessing much grace and ease of manners, and
vivacity of conversation. But hitherto they have had little knowledge
of the world and of events, beyond what they have heard through Mexico,
and derived from the supercargoes of merchant-ships and whalemen
touching upon the coast. There are no public schools in the country--at
least I never heard of one. There are but few books. General Vallejo
has a library with many valuable books, and this is the only one I saw,
although there are others; but they are rare, and confined to a few

The men are almost constantly on horseback, and as horsemen excel any I
have seen in other parts of the world. From the nature of their
pursuits and amusements, they have brought horsemanship to a perfection
challenging admiration and exciting astonishment. They are trained to
the horse and the use of the lasso (_riata_, as it is here called) from
their infancy. The first act of a child, when he is able to stand
alone, is to throw his toy lasso around the neck of a kitten; his next
feat is performed on the dog; his next upon a goat or calf; and so on,
until he mounts the horse, and demonstrates his skill upon horses and
cattle. The crowning feat of dexterity with the _riata_, and of
horsemanship, combined with daring courage, is the lassoing of the
grisly bear. This feat is performed frequently upon this large and
ferocious animal, but it is sometimes fatal to the performer and his
horse. Well drilled, with experienced military leaders, such as would
inspire them with confidence in their skill and prowess, the
Californians ought to be the finest cavalry in the world. The
Californian saddle is, I venture to assert, the best that has been
invented, for the horse and the rider. Seated in one of these, it is
scarcely possible to be unseated by any ordinary casualty. The
bridle-bit is clumsily made, but so constructed that the horse is
compelled to obey the rider upon the slightest intimation. The spurs
are of immense size, but they answer to an experienced horseman the
double purpose of exciting the horse, and of maintaining the rider in
his seat under difficult circumstances.

For the pleasures of the table they care but little. With his horse and
trappings, his sarape and blanket, a piece of beef and a _tortilla_,
the Californian is content, so far as his personal comforts are
concerned. But he is ardent in his pursuit of amusement and pleasure,
and these consist chiefly in the fandango, the game of monte,
horse-racing, and bull and bear-baiting. They gamble freely and
desperately, but pay their losses with the most strict punctuality, at
any and every sacrifice, and manifest but little concern about them.
They are obedient to their magistrates, and in all disputed cases
decided by them, acquiesce without uttering a word of complaint. They
have been accused of treachery and insincerity. Whatever may have been
the grounds for these accusations in particular instances, I know not;
but, judging from my own observation and experience, they are as free
from these qualities as our own people.

While the men are employed in attending to the herds of cattle and
horses, and engaged in their other amusements, the women (I speak of
the middle classes on the ranchos) superintend and perform most of the
drudgery appertaining to housekeeping, and the cultivation of the
gardens, from whence are drawn such vegetables as are consumed at the
table. These are few, consisting of _frijoles_, potatoes, onions, and
_chiles_. The assistants in these labours are the Indian men and women,
legally reduced to servitude.

The soil of that portion of California between the Sierra Nevada and
the Pacific will compare, in point of fertility, with any that I have
seen elsewhere. As I have already described such portions of it as have
come under my observation, it is unnecessary for me here to descend to
particulars. Wheat, barley, and other small grains, with hemp, flax,
and tobacco, can be produced in all the valleys, without irrigation. To
produce maize, potatoes, and other garden vegetables, irrigation is
necessary. Oats and mustard grow spontaneously, with such rankness as
to be considered nuisances upon the soil. I have forced my way through
thousands of acres of these, higher than my head when mounted on a
horse. The oats grow to the summits of the hills, but they are not here
so tall and rank as in the valleys.

The varieties of grasses are greater than on the Atlantic side of the
continent, and far more nutritious. I have seen seven different kinds
of clover, several of them in a dry state, depositing a seed upon the
ground so abundant as to cover it, which is lapped up by the cattle and
horses and other animals, as corn or oats, when threshed, would be with
us. All the grasses, and they cover the entire country, are heavily
seeded, and, when ripe, are as fattening to stock as the grains which
we feed to our beef, horses, and hogs. Hence it is unnecessary to the
sustenance or fattening of stock to raise corn for their consumption.

Agriculture is in its rudest state. The farming implements which have
been used by the Californians, with few exceptions, are the same as
were used three hundred years ago, when Mexico was conquered by Cortez.
A description of them would be tedious. The plough, however, which
merely scratches the ground, is the fork of a small tree. It is the
same pattern as the Roman plough, two thousand years ago. Other
agricultural implements are of the same description. The Americans, and
other foreigners, are, however, introducing the American plough, and
other American farming tools, the consequence of which has already
been, to some extent, to produce a revolution in agriculture. The crops
of wheat and barley, which I saw about the 1st of June, while passing
through the country on my journey to the United States, exceeded in
promise any which I have seen in the United States. It was reported to
me that Captain Sutter's crop of wheat, for 1847, would amount to
75,000 bushels.

The natural vegetable productions of California have been sufficiently
noticed in the course of this work, for the reader to form a correct
estimate of the capabilities of the soil and climate. It is supposed by
some, that cotton, sugar, and rice, could be produced here. I do not
doubt but there are portions of the country where these crops would
thrive; but I question whether, generally, they could be cultivated to
advantage. Nearly all the fruits of the temperate and tropical climates
are produced in perfection in California, as has before been stated.

The principal product of the country has been its cattle and horses.
The cattle are, I think, the largest and finest I ever saw, and the
beef is more delicious. There are immense herds of these, to which I
have previously referred; and their hides and tallow, when slaughtered,
have hitherto composed the principal exports from the country. If I
were to hazard an estimate of the number of hides annually exported, it
would be conjectural, and not worth much. I would suppose, however, at
this time (1847), that the number would not fall much short of 150,000,
and a corresponding number of arrobas (25 pounds) of tallow. The
average value of cattle is about five dollars per head.

The horses and mules are correspondingly numerous with the cattle; and
although the most of them are used in the country, considerable numbers
are driven to Sonora, New Mexico, and other southern provinces, and
some of them to the United States, for a market. They are smaller than
American horses, and I do not think them equal for continuous hard
service; but on short trips, for riding, their speed and endurance are
not often, if ever, equalled by our breed of horses. The value of good
horses is from ten to twenty-five dollars; of mares, five dollars. The
prices have, however, since the Americans came into the country, become
fluctuating, and the value of both horses and cattle is increasing

The wild animals of California are the wild-horse, the elk, the
black-tailed deer, antelope, grizly bear, all in large numbers. Added
to these are the beaver, otter, coyote, hare, squirrel, and the usual
variety of other small animals. There is not so great a variety of
small birds as I have seen elsewhere. I do not consider that the
country presents strong attractions for the ornithologist. But what is
wanting in variety is made up in numbers. The bays and indentations on
the coast, as well as the rivers and lakes interior, swarm with myriads
of wild geese, ducks, swans, and other water birds. The geese and ducks
are a mongrel race, their plumage being variegated, the same as our
barn-yard fowls. Some of the islands in the harbour, near San
Francisco, are white with the _guano_ deposited by these birds; and
boat-loads of eggs are taken from them. The pheasant and partridge are
abundant in the mountains.

In regard to the minerals of California, not much is yet known. It has
been the policy of the owners of land upon which there existed minerals
to conceal them as much as possible. A reason for this has been, that
the law of Mexico is such, that if one man discovers a mine of any kind
upon another man's land, and the proprietor does not work it, the
former may _denounce_ the mine, and take possession of it, and hold it
so long as he continues to work it. Hence the proprietors of land upon
which there are valuable mineral ores conceal their existence as much
as possible. While in California I saw quicksilver, silver, lead, and
iron ores, and the specimens were taken from mines said to be
inexhaustible. From good authority I learned the existence of gold and
copper mines, the metals being combined; and I saw specimens of coal
taken from two or three different points, but I do not know what the
indications were as to quality. Brimstone, saltpetre, muriate and
carbonate of soda, and bitumen, are abundant. There is little doubt
that California is as rich in minerals of all kinds as any portion of

I have taken much pains to describe to the reader, from day to day, and
at different points during my travels in California, the temperature
and weather. It is rarely so cold in the settled portions of California
as to congeal water. But twice only while here I saw ice, and then not
thicker than window-glass. I saw no snow resting upon the ground. The
annual rains commence in November, and continue, with intervals of
pleasant springlike weather, until May. From May to November, usually,
no rain falls. There are, however, exceptions. Rain sometimes falls in
August. The thermometer, at any season of the year, rarely sinks below
50 deg. or rises above 80 deg.. In certain positions on the coast, and
especially at San Francisco, the winds rise diurnally, and blowing
fresh upon the shore render the temperature cool in midsummer. In the
winter the wind blows from the land, and the temperature at these
points is warmer. These local peculiarities of climate are not
descriptive of the general climate of the interior.

For salubrity I do not think there is any climate in the world superior
to that of the coast of California. I was in the country nearly a year,
exposed much of the time to great hardships and privations, sleeping,
for the most part, in the open air, and I never felt while there the
first pang of disease, or the slightest indication of bad health. On
some portions of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, where
vegetation is rank, and decays in the autumn, the malaria produces
chills and fever, but generally the attacks are slight, and yield
easily to medicine. The atmosphere is so pure and preservative along
the coast, that I never saw putrified flesh, although I have seen, in
midsummer, dead carcasses lying exposed to the sun and weather for
months. They emitted no offensive smell. There is but little disease in
the country arising from the climate.

The botany and flora of California are rich, and will hereafter form a
fruitful field of discovery to the naturalist. There are numerous
plants reported to possess extraordinary medical virtues. The
"soap-plant" (_amole_) is one which appears to be among the most
serviceable. The root, which is the saponaceous portion of the plant,
resembles the onion, but possesses the quality of cleansing linen equal
to any "oleic soap" manufactured by my friends Cornwall and Brother, of
Louisville, Ky.

There is another plant in high estimation with the Californians, called
_canchalagua_, which is held by them as an antidote for all the
diseases to which they are subject, but in particular for cases of
fever and ague. For purifying the blood, and regulating the system, I
think it surpasses all the medicinal herbs that have been brought into
notice, and it must become, in time, one of the most important articles
in the practice of medicine. In the season for flowers, which is
generally during the months of May and June, its pretty pink-coloured
blossoms form a conspicuous display in the great variety which adorn
the fields of California.

The water-power in California is ample for any required mill purposes.
Timber for lumber is not so convenient as is desirable. There is,
however, a sufficiency of it, which, when improvements are made, will
be more accessible. The timber on the Sierra Nevada, the most
magnificent in the world, cannot be, at present, available. The
evergreen oak, that grows generally in the valleys, is not valuable,
except for fuel. But in the _canadas_ of the hills, and at several
places on the coast, particularly at Santa Cruz and Bodega, there is an
amount of pine and fir, adapted for lumber, that will not be consumed
for a long time.

The religion of the Californians is the Roman Catholic, and, like the
people of all Roman Catholic countries, they appear to be devotedly
attached to the forms of their religion. That there are some, I will
not say how many, paganish grafts upon the laws, formalities, and
ceremonies, as prescribed by the "Holy Church Universal" for its
government and observance, is undeniable, but these probably do not
materially affect the system. The females, I noticed, were nearly all
devoutly attached to their religious institutions. I have seen, on
festival or saint days, the entire floor of a church occupied by pious
women, with their children, kneeling in devout worship, and chanting
with much fervency some dismal hymn appertaining to the service. There
are but few of the Jesuit fathers who established the missions now
remaining in the country. The services are performed at several of the
churches that I visited, by native Indians, educated by the _padres_
previous to their expulsion by the Mexican government.



The following is an official account of a visit paid to the gold region
in July by Colonel Mason, who had been appointed to the military
command in California, and made his report to the authorities at
Washington. It is dated from head-quarters at Monterey, August 17,

"Sir,--I have the honour to inform you that, accompanied by Lieut. W.T.
Sherman, 3rd Artillery, A.A.A. General, I started on the 12th of June
last to make a tour through the northern part of California. 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. Along the whole
route mills were lying idle, fields of wheat were open to cattle and
horses, houses vacant, and farms going to waste.

"On the 5th we arrived in the neighbourhood of the mines, 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-harbours; a store was erected, and several
boarding shanties in operation. The day was intensely hot, yet about
200 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 its head had 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, whilst 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, average 100
dollars 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 south branch of the American fork, the country
became more broken and mountainous, and twenty-five miles below the
lower washings the hills rise to about 1000 feet above the level of the
Sacramento Plain. Here a species of pine occurs, which led to the
discovery of the gold. Captain 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 labour, 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 Captain 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 labours of
the first explorers, and, in a few weeks, hundreds of men were drawn
thither. At the time of my visit, but little more than three months
after its 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, though 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 a 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 as 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 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 wash-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 small stream emptying into the American fork,
three or four miles below the saw-mill. I struck the stream (now known
as Weber's Creek) at the washings of Sunol and Company. They had about
thirty Indians employed, whom they pay in merchandise. They were
getting gold of a character similar to that found in 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, two ounces being considered an ordinary yield for a
day's work. A small gutter, not more than 100 yards long by four feet
wide, and two or three deep, was pointed out to me as the one where two
men (W. Daly and Percy McCoon) had a short time before obtained. 17,000
dollars' worth of gold. Captain Weber informed me, that he knew that
these two men had employed four white men and about 100 Indians, and
that, at the end of one week's work, they paid off their party, and had
left 10,000 dollars' worth of this gold. Another small ravine was shown
me, from which had been taken upwards of 12,000 dollars' 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 neighbourhood, and showed me, in bags and bottles, 2000 dollars'
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 fifty dollars
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.

"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 July I returned to the lower mines, and eventually to
Monterey, where I arrived 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 small streams that lie
between the latter and the American fork; also, that it had been found
in the Consummes, 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 net proceeds (which I
saw) were about 16,000 dollars' worth of gold. He showed me the
proceeds of his last week's work--14 lbs. avoirdupois of clean-washed

"The principal store at Sutter's fort, that of Brannan and Co., had
received in payment for goods 36,000 dollars' 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 Captain Sutter,
who was carefully gathering his wheat, estimated at 40,000 bushels.
Flour is already worth, at Sutter's, 36 dollars a-barrel, and will soon
be 50. 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 the 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 4,000 men were working in the gold
district, of whom more than one-half were Indians, and that from 30,000
to 50,000 dollars' worth of gold, if not more, were 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 to me, how I could
secure to the Government certain rents or fees for the privilege of
securing 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 permit all to work freely,
unless broils and crimes should call for interference.

"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. Labourers 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. 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 labouring 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
knives, in pieces of from one to six ounces.

"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

"I have the honour to be,

"Your most obedient Servant,

"R.B. MASON, Colonel 1st Dragoons, commanding.

"Brigadier-General R. Jones,
Adjutant-General, U.S.A., Washington, D.C."


Rate of Wages
Mode of procuring the Gold
Extent of Gold Region
Price of Provisions.

It will be seen, from the later accounts that each new report continues
to realize the wildest expectation. The following letter dated
Monterey, November 16th, is highly interesting--

"We can now call ourselves citizens of the United States. We have now
only to go by law, as we formerly went by custom; that is, when
Congress gives us a government and code. The old foreign residents of
California, having done very well ten or twenty years without law, care
but very little whether Congress pays early or late attention to the
subject. Those who have emigrated from the Atlantic States within the
last three or four years deem the subject an important one; I only call
it difficult. The carrying out a code of laws, under existing
circumstances, is far from being an easy task. The general Government
may appoint governors, secretaries, and other public functionaries; and
judges, marshals, collectors, etc., may accept offices with salaries of
3000 or 4000 dollars per annum; but how they are to obtain their petty
officers, at half these sums, remains to be seen. The pay of a member
of Congress will be accepted here by those alone who do not know enough
to better themselves. Mechanics can now get 10 to 16 dollars per day;
labourers on the wharfs or elsewhere, 5 to 10 dollars; clerks and
storekeepers, 1000 to 3000 dollars per annum--some engage to keep store
during their pleasure at 8 dollars per day, or 1 lb. or 1-1/2 lb. of
gold per month; cooks and stewards, 60 to 100 dollars per month. In
fact, labour of every description commands exorbitant prices.

"The Sandwich Islands, Oregon, and Lower California are fast parting
with their inhabitants, all bound for this coast, and thence to the
great 'placer' of the Sacramento Valley, where the digging and washing
of one man that does not produce 100 troy ounces of gold, 23 carats,
from the size of a half spangle to one pound in a month, sets the
digger to 'prospecting,' that is, looking for better grounds. Your
'Paisano' can point out many a man who has, for fifteen to twenty days
in succession, bagged up five to ten ounces of gold a-day. Our placer,
or gold region, now extends over 300 or 400 miles of country, embracing
all the creeks and branches on the east side of the river Sacramento
and one side of the San Joaquin. In my travels I have, when resting
under a tree and grazing my horse, seen pieces of pure gold taken from
crevices of the rocks or slate where we were stopping. On one occasion,
nooning or refreshing on the side of a stream entirely unknown to
diggers or 'prospectors,' or rather, if known not attended to, one of
my companions, while rolling in the sand, said, 'Give me a tin pan; why
should we not be cooking in gold sand?' He took a pan, filled it with
sand, washed it out, and produced in five minutes two or three dollars'
worth of gold, merely saying, as he threw both pan and gold on the
sand, 'I thought so.' Perhaps it is fair that your readers should
learn, that, however plenty the Sacramento Valley may afford gold, the
obtaining of it has its disadvantages. From the 1st of July to the 1st
of October, more or less, one half of the people will have fever and
ague, or intermittent fever. In the winter, it is too cold to work in
the water. Some work in the sand by washing from the surface in a
wooden bowl, or tin pan; some gouge it out from the rocks or slate; the
more lazy ones roll about and pick up the large pieces, leaving the
small gold for the next emigration. The extent of the gold region on
the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers extends a distance of 800 miles
in length by 100 in width. It embraces not only gold, but quantities of
quicksilver in almost general abundance. It is estimated that a small
population actively engaged in mining operations in that region could
export 100,000,000 dollars in gold in every year, and that an increased
population might increase that amount to 300,000,000 dollars annually.
You may believe me when I say that for some time to come California
will export, yearly, nearly or quite 500,000 ounces of gold, 22 to 24
carats fine; some pieces of that will weigh 16 lbs., very many 1 lb.
Many men who began last June to dig gold with a capital of 50 dollars
can now show 5000 to 15,000 dollars. I saw a man to-day making
purchases of dry goods, etc., for his family, lay on the counter a bag
of raw hide, well sewed up, containing 109 ounces. I observed, 'That is
a good way to pack gold dust.' He very innocently replied, 'All the
bags I brought down are that way; I like the size!' Five such bags in
New York would bring nearly 10,000 dollars. This man left his family
last August. Three months' digging and washing, producing four or five
bags, of 100 ounces each, is better than being mate of a vessel at 40
dollars per month, as the man formerly was. His companion, a Mexican,
who camped and worked with him, only had two or three cow-hide bags of
gold. In this tough, but true, golden tale, you must not imagine that
all men are equally successful. There are some who have done better,
even to 4000 dollars in a month; many 1000 dollars during the summer;
and others, who refused to join a company of gold-washers who had a
cheap-made machine, and receive one ounce per day, that returned to the
settlement with not a vest pocket-full of gold. Some left with only
sufficient to pay for a horse and saddle, and pay the physician six
ounces of gold for one ounce of quinine, calomel, and jalap in
proportion. An ounce of gold for advice given, six ounces a visit,
brings the fever and ague to be rather an expensive companion. A 'well'
man has his proportionate heavy expenses also, to reduce his piles or
bags of gold. Dry beef in the settlements, at 4 cents per lb., at the
Placer, 1 to 2 dollars per lb.; salt beef and pork, 50 to 100 dollars
per barrel; flour, 30 to 75 dollars per barrel; coffee, sugar, and
rice, 50 cents to 1 dollar per lb. As washing is 50 cents to 1 dollar a
garment, many prefer throwing away their used-up clothes to paying the
washerwoman; that is, if they intend returning to the settlements soon,
where they can purchase more. As to shaving, I have never seen a man at
the Placer who had time to perform that operation. They do not work on
Sundays, only brush up the tent, blow out the emery or fine black sand
from the week's work. Horses that can travel only one day, and from
that to a week, are from 100 to 300 dollars. Freight charge by launch
owners for three days' run, 5 dollars per barrel. Wagoners charge 50 to
100 dollars per load, 20 to 50 miles, on good road. Corn, barley, peas,
and beans, 10 dollars a-bushel. Common pistols, any price; powder and
lead very dear. I know a physician who, in San Francisco, purchased a
common made gold-washer at 20 or 30 dollars, made of 70 or 80 feet of
boards. At a great expense he boated it up to the first landing on the
Sacramento, and there met a wagoner bound to one of the diggings with
an empty wagon, distant about 50 miles. The wagoner would not take up
the machine under 100 dollars. The doctor had to consent, and bided his
time. June passed over, rich in gold; all on that creek did wonders,
when the wagoner fell sick, called on his friend the doctor, whose tent
was in sight; the doctor came, but would not administer the first dose
under the old sum of 100 dollars, which was agreed to, under a proviso
that the following doses should be furnished more moderate. When a
man's time is worth 100 dollars a-day, to use a spade and tin pan,
neither doctors nor wagoners can think much of a pound of gold, and you
may suppose merchants, traders, and pedlars are not slow to make their
fortunes in these golden times. In San Francisco there is more
merchandize sold now, monthly, than before in a year. Vessels after
vessels arrive, land their cargoes, dispose of them, and bag up the
dust and lay up the vessel, as the crew are soon among the missing. The
cleanest clear out is where the captain follows the crew. There are
many vessels in San Francisco that cannot weigh anchor, even with the
assistance of three or four neighbouring vessels. Supercargoes must
land cargo on arriving, or have no crew to do it for them. Some vessels
continue to go to sea, with small crews, at 50 dollars per month for
green hands. Old hands are too wise for them, and prefer digging an
ounce or two a-day, and drinking hock and champagne at half an ounce
a-bottle, and eating bad sea bread at 1 dollar per pound. I have seen a
captain of a vessel, who, by his old contract in the port whence he
sailed, was getting 60 dollars per month, paying his cook 75 dollars,
and offering 100 dollars per month for a steward; his former crew, even

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