Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

What I Saw in California by Edwin Bryant

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

to his mates, having gone a 'prospecting.' Uncle Sam's ships suffer a
little the same way, although they offer from 200 to 500 dollars for
the apprehension of a deserter. The Ohio, however, laid in the port of
Monterey about a month, and lost only 20 or 30 men. Colonel Stevenson's
regiment is disbanded, 99 out of 100 of whom have also gone 'prospecting,'
including the colonel, who arrived in Monterey last month, from his
last post, and was met by his men at the edge of the town, to escort
and cheer him into the town. The captains, etc., have bought up
country carts and oxen, turned drivers, and gone to the Placer. Our
worthy governor, Colonel of the 1st Dragoons, etc., having plenty of
carts, wagons, horses, and mules, with a few regulars left, has also
gone, but under better advantages, for the second or third time, to see
the Placer and the country, and have justice done to his countrymen or
himself. Commodore Jones, lately arrived in Monterey, supposed it to be
the capital, head-quarters, etc., but found not even the Governor left.
Where head-quarters are may be uncertain, whether in Monterey, Sutter's
Fort, or in a four-mule wagon travelling over the gold region. Now,
whether headquarters are freighted with munitions of war, etc., or
whether the cargo consists of blankets, shirts, etc., to clothe the
suffering Indians, for the paltry consideration of gold, no one cares
or knows; but the principle should be, that, if privates can or will be
off making their thousands, those who are better able should not go

The _Washington Union_ contains a letter from Lieutenant Larkin, dated
Monterey, November 16, received at the State Department, containing
further confirmation of the previous despatches, public and private,
and far outstripping all other news in its exciting character. The gold
was increasing in size and quality daily. Lumps were found weighing
from one to two pounds. Several had been heard of weighing as high as
16 pounds, and one 25 pounds. Many men, who were poor in June, were
worth 30,000 dollars, by digging and trading with the Indians. 100
dollars a-day is the average amount realized daily, from July to
October. Half the diggers were sick with fevers, though not many deaths
had occurred among them. The Indians would readily give an ounce of
gold for a common calico shirt; others were selling for ten dollars
each in specie. The gold region extends over a track of 300 miles, and
it was not known that it did not extend 1000. A letter from Commodore
Jones states that many of the petty officers and men had deserted and
gone in search of the gold. He adds, the Indians were selling gold at
50 cents the ounce. Many vessels were deserted by captain, cook, and
seamen. The ship _Isaac Walton_ offered discharged soldiers 50 dollars
per month to go to Callao, which was refused. She was supplied by
government sailors. All the naval vessels on the coast were short of
hands. Nearly the whole of the 3rd Artillery had deserted. Provisions
were scarce and high; board, 4 dollars a-day; washing, 6 dollars
a-dozen. Merchants' clerks get from 2000 to 3000 dollars a-year.


Route by land
Outfit, etc., and advice to intending Emigrants.

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

The lightest wagon that can be constructed, of sufficient strength to
carry 2500 pounds' weight, is the vehicle most desirable. No wagon
should be loaded over this weight, or if it is, it will be certain to
stall in the muddy sloughs and crossings on the prairie in the first
part of the journey. This wagon can be hauled by three or four yokes of
oxen or six mules. Oxen are usually employed by the emigrants for
hauling their wagons. They travel about 15 miles per day, and, all
things considered, are perhaps equal to mules for this service,
although they cannot travel so fast. They are, however, less expensive,
and there is not so much danger of their straying and of being stolen
by the Indians.

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

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

The provisions actually necessary per man are as follows:--

150 lbs. of flour.
150 do. bacon.
25 do. coffee.
30 do. sugar.

Added to these, the main items, there should be a small quantity of
rice, 50 or 75 lbs. of crackers, dried peaches, etc., and a keg of
lard, with salt, pepper, etc., and such other luxuries of light weight
as the person outfitting chooses to purchase. He will think of them
before he starts.

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

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

From Independence to the first settlement in California, which is near
the _gold region_, it is about 2050 miles--to San Francisco, 2290

The accounts that have been received and published in regard to the
wealth and productiveness of the gold mines, and other mines in
California, are undoubtedly true. They are derived from the most
authentic and reliable sources, and from individuals whose veracity may
be undoubtingly believed.

When a young man arrives there, he must turn his attention to whatever
seems to promise the largest recompense for his labour. It is
impossible in the new state of things produced by the late discoveries,
and the influx of population, to foresee what this might be. The
country is rich in agricultural resources, as well as in the precious
metals, and, with proper enterprise and industry, he could scarcely
fail to do well.

Families, as well as parties going out, should carry with them good
tents, to be used after their arrival as houses. The influx of
population will probably be so great that it will be difficult, if not
impossible, to obtain other shelter for some time after their arrival.
The climate of the country, however, even in winter, is so mild that,
with good tents, comfort is attainable. They should be careful, also,
to carry as much _subsistence_ into the country as they can; as what
they purchase there, after their arrival, they will be compelled to pay
a high price for.

The shortest route to California is unquestionably by the West India
Mail Packets, which leave Southampton on the 17th of every month. The
point to which they take passengers is Chagres. This voyage is usually
accomplished in about 22 to 26 days. From thence passengers proceed
across the Isthmus, a distance of about 52 miles (say three or four
days' journey) to Panama, and thence 3500 miles by sea in the Pacific
to St. Francisco. From the vast number of eager emigrants that it is
expected will assemble at Panama, it is very probable that great delay
will be occasioned from there not being sufficient number of vessels to
convey them to their destination. Unless such adventurers are
abundantly supplied with money, they will not be able to live in the
hot desolation of the tropics, where life is but little valued, and
where death is even less regarded. The entire route by sea (round Cape
Horn) cannot be less than 18,500 miles, and generally occupies from
five to six months, yet this route is much cheaper, safer, and in the
end (from the delay that will occur at Panama) quite as _short_. This
route, particularly to parties from England, is universally allowed to
be the best many, dangers and difficulties that attend the route across
the Isthmus of Panama (not noticing the probable delay) will be
avoided, and many a one will bitterly regret that he was ever induced
to attempt (as he perceives ship after ship sailing gallantly on to
these favoured regions) what he considered a shorter route, from the
want of the means of transit, while he is himself compelled idly to
waste his time, a prey to pestilence and to the "hope deferred that
maketh the heart sick."


The following are letters addressed to the Government at Washington,
and other communications, all of which, it will be seen, are fully
confirmatory of the accounts given in the preceding pages; with other
details of interest relative to the state of the gold districts:

_Extract from a Letter from Mr. Larkin, United States Consul at
Monterey, to Mr. Buchanan, Secretary of State at Washington._

"San Francisco (Upper California), June 1, 1848.

"Sir: * * * I have to report to the State Department one of the most
astonishing excitements and state of affairs now existing in this
country, that, perhaps, has ever been brought to the notice of the
Government. On the American fork of the Sacramento and Feather River,
another branch of the same, and the adjoining lands, there has been
within the present year discovered a placer, a vast tract of land
containing gold, in small particles. This gold, thus far, has been
taken on the bank of the river, from the surface to eighteen inches in
depth, and is supposed deeper, and to extend over the country.

"On account of the inconvenience of washing, the people have, up to
this time, only gathered the metal on the banks, which is done simply
with a shovel, filling a shallow dish, bowl, basket, or tin pan, with a
quantity of black sand, similar to the class used on paper, and washing
out the sand by movement of the vessel. It is now two or three weeks
since the men employed in those washings have appeared in this town
with gold, to exchange for merchandise and provisions. I presume nearly
20,000 dollars of this gold has as yet been so exchanged. Some 200 or
300 men have remained up the river, or are gone to their homes, for the
purpose of returning to the Placer, and washing immediately with
shovels, picks, and baskets; many of them, for the first few weeks,
depending on borrowing from others. I have seen the written statement
of the work of one man for sixteen days, which averaged 25 dollars per
day; others have, with a shovel and pan, or wooden bowl, washed out 10
dollars to even 50 dollars in a day. There are now some men yet washing
who have 500 dollars to 1,000 dollars. As they have to stand two feet
deep in the river, they work but a few hours in the day, and not every
day in the week.

"A few men have been down in boats to this port, spending twenty to
thirty ounces of gold each--about 300 dollars. I am confident that this
town (San Francisco) has one-half of its tenements empty, locked up
with the furniture. The owners--storekeepers, lawyers, mechanics, and
labourers--all gone to the Sacramento with their families. Small
parties, of five to fifteen men, have sent to this town and offered
cooks ten to fifteen dollars per day for a few weeks. Mechanics and
teamsters, earning the year past five to eight dollars per day, have
struck and gone. Several U.S. volunteers have deserted. U.S. barque
Anita, belonging to the Army, now at anchor here, has but six men. One
Sandwich Island vessel in port lost all her men; and was obliged to
engaged another crew at 50 dollars for the run of fifteen days to the

"One American captain having his men shipped on this coast in such a
manner that they could leave at any time, had them all on the eve of
quitting, when he agreed to continue their pay and food; leaving one on
board, he took a boat and carried them to the gold regions--furnishing
tools and giving his men one-third. They have been gone a week. Common
spades and shovels, one month ago worth 1 dollar, will now bring 10
dollars, at the gold regions. I am informed 50 dollars has been offered
for one. Should this gold continue as represented, this town and others
would be depopulated. Clerks' wages have risen from 600 dollars to 1000
per annum, and board; cooks, 25 dollars to 30 dollars per month. This
sum will not be any inducement a month longer, unless the fever and
ague appears among the washers. The _Californian_, printed here,
stopped this week. The _Star_ newspaper office, where the new laws of
Governor Mason, for this country, are printing, has but one man left. A
merchant, lately from China, has even lost his China servants. Should
the excitement continue through the year, and the whale-ships visit San
Francisco, I think they will lose most all their crews. How Col. Mason
can retain his men, unless he puts a force on the spot, I know not.

"I have seen several pounds of this gold, and consider it very pure,
worth in New York 17 dollars to 18 dollars per ounce; 14 dollars to 16
dollars, in merchandise, is paid for it here. What good or bad effect
this gold mania will have on California, I cannot foretell. It may end
this year; but I am informed that it will continue many years.
Mechanics now in this town are only wailing to finish some rude
machinery, to enable them to obtain the gold more expeditiously, and
free from working in the river. Up to this time, but few Californians
have gone to the mines, being afraid the Americans will soon have
trouble among themselves, and cause disturbance to all around. I have
seen some of the black sand, as taken from the bottom of the river (I
should think in the States it would bring 25 to 50 cents per pound),
containing many pieces of gold; they are from the size of the head of a
pin to the weight of the eighth of an ounce. I have seen some weighing
one-quarter of an ounce (4 dollars). Although my statements are almost
incredible, I believe I am within the statements believed by every one
here. Ten days back, the excitement had not reached Monterey. I shall,
within a few days, visit this gold mine, and will make another report
to you. Inclosed you will have a specimen.

"I have the honour to be, very respectfully,


"P.S. This placer, or gold region, is situated on public land."

"_Mr. Larkin to Mr. Buchanan._

"Monterey, California, June 28, 1848.

"SIR: My last dispatch to the State Department was written in San
Francisco, the 1st of this month. In that I had the honour to give some
information respecting the new 'placer,' or gold regions lately
discovered on the branches of the Sacramento River. Since the writing
of that dispatch I have visited a part of the gold region, and found it
all I had heard, and much more than I anticipated. The part that I
visited was upon a fork of the American River, a branch of the
Sacramento, joining the main river at Sutter's Fort. The place in which
I found the people digging was about twenty-five miles from the fort by

"I have reason to believe that gold will be found on many branches of
the Sacramento and the Joaquin rivers. People are already scattered
over one hundred miles of land, and it is supposed that the 'placer'
extends from river to river. At present the workmen are employed within
ten or twenty yards of the river, that they may be convenient to water.
On Feather river there are several branches upon which the people are
digging for gold. This is two or three days' ride from the place I

"At my camping place I found, on a surface of two or three miles on the
banks of the river, some fifty tents, mostly owned by Americans. These
had their families. There are no Californians who have taken their
families as yet to the gold regions; but few or none will ever do it;
some from New Mexico may do so next year, but no Californians.

"I was two nights at a tent occupied by eight Americans, viz., two
sailors, one clerk, two carpenters, and three daily workmen. These men
were in company; had two machines, each made from one hundred feet of
boards (worth there 150 dollars, in Monterey 15 dollars--being one
day's work), made similar to a child's cradle, ten feet long, without
the ends.

"The two evenings I saw these eight men bring to their tents the labour
of the day. I suppose they made each 50 dollars per day; their own
calculation was two pounds of gold a-day--four ounces to a man--64
dollars. I saw two brothers that worked together, and only worked by
washing the dirt in a tin pan, weigh the gold they obtained in one day;
the result was 7 dollars to one, 82 dollars to the other. There were
two reasons for this difference; one man worked less hours than the
other, and by chance had ground less impregnated with gold. I give this
statement as an extreme case. During my visit I was an interpreter for
a native of Monterey, who was purchasing a machine or canoe. I first
tried to purchase boards and hire a carpenter for him. There were but a
few hundred feet of boards to be had; for these the owner asked me 50
dollars per hundred (500 dollars per thousand), and a carpenter washing
gold dust demanded 50 dollars per day for working. I at last purchased
a log dug out, with a riddle and sieve made of willow boughs on it, for
120 dollars, payable in gold dust at 14 dollars per ounce. The owner
excused himself for the price, by saying he was two days making it, and
even then demanded the use of it until sunset. My Californian has told
me since, that himself, partner, and two Indians, obtained with this
canoe eight ounces the first and five ounces the second day.

"I am of the opinion that on the American fork, Feather River, and
Copimes River, there are near two thousand people, nine-tenths of them
foreigners. Perhaps there are one hundred families, who have their
teams, wagons, and tents. Many persons are waiting to see whether the
months of July and August will be sickly, before they leave their
present business to go to the 'Placer.' The discovery of this gold was
made by some Mormons, in January or February, who for a time kept it a
secret; the majority of those who are working there began in May. In
most every instance the men, after digging a few days, have been
compelled to leave for the purpose of returning home to see their
families, arrange their business, and purchase provisions. I feel
confident in saying there are fifty men in this 'Placer' who have on an
average 1,000 dollars each, obtained in May and June. I have not met
with any person who had been fully employed in washing gold one month;
most, however, appear to have averaged an ounce per day. I think there
must, by this time, be over 1,000 men at work upon the different
branches of the Sacramento; putting their gains at 10,000 dollars per
day, for six days in the week, appears to me not overrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To conclude; my letter is long, but I could not well describe what I
have seen in less words, and I now can believe that my account may be
doubted. If the affair proves a bubble, a mere excitement, I know not
how we can all be deceived, as we are situated. Governor Mason and his
staff have left Monterey to visit the place in question, and will, I
suppose, soon forward to his department his views and opinions on this
subject. Most of the land, where gold has been discovered, is public
land; there are on different rivers some private grants. I have three
such purchased in 1846 and 1847, but have not learned that any private
lands have produced gold, though they may hereafter do so. I have the
honour, dear sir, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


DESERTION FROM THE SHIPS.--We collate from other sources several other
interesting letters and documents, and which will be found well worth

"Monterey, Sept. 15, 1848.

"Messrs. Grinnell, Minturn, and Co.:

"Sirs--I embrace this opportunity to inform you of my new situation,
which is bad enough. All hands have left me but two; they will stay
till the cargo is landed and ballast in, then they will go. Both mates
will leave in a few days, and then I will have only the two boys, and I
am fearful that they will run. I have got all landed but 900 barrels;
on Monday I shall get off ballast if the weather is good. There's no
help to be got at any price. The store-ship that sailed from here ten
days ago took three of my men at 100 dollars per month; there is
nothing that anchors here but what loses their men. I have had a hard
time in landing the cargo; I go in the boat every load. If I can get it
on shore I shall save the freight. As for the ship she will lay here
for a long time, for there's not the least chance of getting a crew.
The coasters are giving 100 dollars per month. All the ships at San
Francisco have stripped and laid up. The Flora, of New London, is at
San Francisco; all left. You probably have heard of the situation of
things here. A sailor will be up at the mines for two months, work on
his own account, and come down with from two to three thousand dollars,
and those that go in parties do much better. I have been offered 20
dollars per day to go, by one of the first men here, and work one year.
It is impossible for me to give you any idea of the gold that is got
here. Yours respectfully,

Captain of the ship Isaac Walton."

Another letter dated St. Francisco, September 1st, contains the

"A day or two ago the Flora, Captain Potter, of New London, anchored in
Whaleman's Harbour, on the opposite side of the Bay. Yesterday the
captain, fearing he would lose all his men, weighed anchor, intending
to go to sea. After getting under weigh, the crew, finding the ship was
heading out, refused to do duty, and the captain was forced to return
and anchor here. Last night nine of the crew gagged the watch, lowered
one of the boats, and rowed off. They have not been heard of since, and
are now probably half way to the gold region. The Flora is twenty-six
months out, with only 750 bbls. of oil. Every vessel that comes in here
now is sure to lose her crew, and this state of things must continue
until the squadron arrives, when, if the men-o'-war-men do not run off
too, merchant-men may retain their crews.

"The whale-ship Euphrates, of New Bedford, left here a few weeks since,
for the United States, to touch on the coast of Chili to recruit. The
Minerva, Captain Perry, of New Bedford, has abandoned the whaling
business, and is now on his way hence to Valparaiso for a cargo of
merchandise. Although two large ships, four barks, and eight or ten
brigs and schooners have arrived here since my return from the mineral
country, about four weeks since, with large cargoes of merchandise,
their entire invoices have been sold. Vessels are daily arriving from
the islands and ports upon the coast, laden with goods and passengers,
the latter destined for the gold-washings.

"Much sickness prevails among the gold-diggers; many have left the
ground sick, and many more have discontinued their labours for the
present, and gone into more healthy portions of the country, intending
to return after the sickly season has passed. From the best information
I can obtain, there are from two to three thousand persons at work at
the gold-washings with the same success as heretofore."

THE DIGGINGS.--Extract of a letter from Monterey, Aug. 29.

"At present the people are running over the country and picking it out
of the earth here and there, just as a thousand hogs, let loose in a
forest, would root up ground-nuts. Some get eight or ten ounces a-day,
and the least active one or two. They make the most who employ the wild
Indians to hunt it for them. There is one man who has sixty Indians in
his employ; his profits are a dollar a-minute. The wild Indians know
nothing of its value, and wonder what the pale-faces want to do with
it; they will give an ounce of it for the same weight of coined silver,
or a thimbleful of glass beads, or a glass of grog. And white men
themselves often give an ounce of it, which is worth at our mint 18
dollars, or more, for a bottle of brandy, a bottle of soda-powders, or
a plug of tobacco.

"As to the quantity which the diggers get, take a few facts as
evidence. I know seven men who worked seven weeks and two days, Sundays
excepted, on Feather River; they employed on an average fifty Indians,
and got out in these seven weeks and two days 275 pounds of pure gold.
I know the men, and have seen the gold, and know what they state to be
a fact--so stick a pin there. I know ten other men who worked ten days
in company, employed no Indians, and averaged in these ten days 1500
dollars each; so stick another pin there. I know another man who got
out of a basin in a rock, not larger than a wash-bowl, two pounds and a
half of gold in fifteen minutes; so stick another pin there! Not one of
these statements would I believe, did I not know the men personally,
and know them to be plain matter-of-fact men--men who open a vein of
gold just as coolly as you would a potato-hill."

ASSAY OF THE GOLD.--Lieutenant Loeser having arrived at Washington with
specimens of the gold from the diggings, the following account of its
quality appeared in the "Washington Union," the government organ:--

"Understanding last evening that the lieutenant had arrived in this
city, and had deposited in the War Office the precious specimens he had
brought with him, we called to see them, and to free our mind from all
hesitation as to the genuineness of the metal. We had seen doubts
expressed in some of our exchange papers; and we readily admit that the
accounts so nearly approached the miraculous, that we were relieved by
the evidence of our own senses on the subject. The specimens have all
the appearance of the native gold we had seen from the mines of North
Carolina and Virginia, and we are informed that the Secretary would
send the small chest, called a caddy, containing about 3,000 dollars'
worth of gold, in lumps and scales, to the mint, to be melted into
coins and bars. The specimens have come to Washington as they were
extracted from the materials of the placer. The heaviest piece brought
by Lieutenant Loeser weighs a little more than two ounces; but the
varied contents of the casket (as described in Colonel Mason's
schedule) will be sent off to-day, by special messenger, to the mint at
Philadelphia for assay, and early next week we hope to have the
pleasure of laying the result before our readers." The assay was
subsequently made, and the result officially announced. The gold is
declared to be from 3 to 8 per cent. purer than American standard gold

ANOTHER ASSAY.--The following is the report of an assay of Californian
gold dust, received by Mr. T.O. Larkin, United States consul at

"New York, Dec. 8, 1848.

"Sir,--I have assayed the portion of gold dust, or metal, from
California, which you sent me, and the result shows that it is fully
equal to any found in our Southern gold mines. I return you 10-3/4
grains out of the 12 which I have tested, the value of which is 45
cents. It is 21-1/2 carats fine--within half a carat of the quality of
English sovereigns or American eagles--and is almost ready to go to the
mint. The finest gold metal we get is from Africa, which is 22-1/2 to
23 carats fine. In Virginia we have mines where the quality of the gold
is much inferior--some of it so low as 19 carats--and in Georgia the
mines produce it nearly 22 carats fine. The gold of California, which I
have now assayed, is fully equal to that of any, and much superior to
some produced from the mines in our Southern States.

Smelter and refiner, 17, John-Street."

INCONVENIENCES OF TOO MUCH GOLD.--The following letter (January 12)
from Captain Fulsom, of the United States Service, writing from San
Francisco, confirms the fact of the difficulty of procuring servants,
or indeed manual assistance of any description:--

"All sorts of labour is got at enormous rates of compensation. Common
clerks and salesmen in the stores about town often receive as high as
2500 dollars and their board. The principal waiter in the hotel where I
board is paid 1700 dollars per year, and several others from 1200 to
1500 dollars! I fortunately have an Indian boy, or I should be forced
to clean my own boots, for I could not employ a good body servant for
the full amount of my salary as a government officer. I believe every
army officer in California, with one or two exceptions, would have
resigned last summer could they have done it, and been free at once to
commence for themselves. But the war was not then terminated, and no
one could hope to communicate with Washington correspondents, to get an
answer in less than six, and perhaps ten, months. For some time last
summer (August and July) the officers at Monterey were entirely without
servants; and the governor (Colonel Mason) actually took his turn in
cooking for his mess."

upon the influence of this immense discovery, which appeared in a
popular New York journal on the 23rd January, proves the extent of
impression produced upon society in the States by the intelligence of
this new source of natural wealth:--

"The news (February 12) from California will attract the observation of
the whole community, A spirit is generated from those discoveries,
which is more active, more intense, and more widely spread, than that
which agitated Europe in the time of Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro.
There seems to be no doubt that, in a short time--probably less than
two years--those mines can be made to produce 100,000,000 dollars per
year. The region is the most extensive of the kind in the world, being
800 miles in length, and 100 in width, with every indication that gold
exists in large native masses, in the rocks and mountains of the Sierra
Nevada. But these vast gold mines are not the only mineral discoveries
that have been made. The quicksilver in the same region seems to be as
abundant as the gold, so that there are approximated to each other two
metals, which will have a most important effect and utility in making
the gold mines more valuable. Heretofore the gold and silver mines of
Mexico and Peru have been valuable to Spain, because she possessed a
monopoly of the quicksilver mines at Almaden in the Peninsula. This is
surpassed by California. According to the last accounts now given to
the public, emigrants were crowding in from every port in the Pacific
to California--from Mexico, Peru, the Sandwich Islands, Oregon; and we
have no doubt by this time the British possessions in the East, China,
and everywhere else in that region, are furnishing emigrants to the
wonderful regions of California. In less than a year there will
probably be a population of 100,000 to 200,000 souls, all digging for
gold, and capable of producing from 100,000,000 dollars to 300,000,000
dollars worth per annum of pure gold, to be thrown on the commerce of
the world at one fell swoop.

"What is to be the effect of such vast discoveries on the commerce of
the world--on old communities, on New York, London, and other great
commercial cities? Such a vast addition to the gold currency of the
world will at once disturb the prices and value of all productions and
merchandise to a similar extent to that which we see in Monterey and
San Francisco. The prices of every commodity will therefore rise
extravagantly during the next few years, according to the produce of
gold from that region. Now, in a rising market everything prospers;
every one gets rich, civilisation expands, industry increases, and all
orders of society are benefited. As soon as the first crop of gold from
California reaches New York, the impulse which it will give to
commercial enterprise, and the advance in the price of everything which
it will cause, will be tremendous. The bank currency will be expanded,
for the basis will be abundant; real estate will increase in value,
agricultural productions and agricultural labour will advance at once
10, 15, 20, 30, or 40 per cent., even to as great an extent, perhaps,
as was witnessed when the demand came from Ireland for the food of this
country to feed the starving Irish. New York and her sister cities will
be the centre of all those revolutionary movements which are certain to
spring from the gold productions of California, on the commerce of the
whole civilized world. Ship-building will increase in value,
steam-boats will be wanted, the railroads projected across the Isthmus
in various places, in Mexico and Central America will be pushed to
completion, and we should not be surprised to see an active attempt
made, under the auspices of the Federal Government, to construct a
railroad across the continent, through the South Pass, from St. Louis,
or some other point on the Mississippi, to San Francisco. The discovery
of these great gold mines will no doubt form the agent of the greatest
revolution in the commercial centres of the world and on the
civilisation of the human race that has ever taken place since the
first dawn of history. New York will henceforth, from its position to
the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, probably in less than a quarter of a
century, present a population greater than that of Paris, and display
evidences of wealth, grandeur, magnificence, and industry, in an equal
if not greater degree than what we see in London at this day. We expect
that, in the next twenty-five years, we shall make as rapid a march in
this metropolis, and in the neighbouring cities, as any city has done
during the last twenty-five centuries. There is no necessity for all
going to California. Those who remain, and will raise produce,
manufacture goods, build ships, construct steam-engines, and advance
the Fine Arts, will enjoy the benefits of those discoveries to as great
an extent as those who go to the Sacramento to dig for gold. All the
results of the labours of those diggers must come to this metropolis,
swell its magnificence, and increase the intensity of its action in
commercial affairs. Even in a political point of view the discovery of
these wonderful gold mines in California, under the Government of the
United States, will have a wonderful and astounding effect. We should
not be surprised to see, in a short time, all the old provinces of
Mexico, as far as the Isthmus of Darien, knocking for admission into
this union; while, on the other side, the British provinces of Canada,
and even the Spanish island of Cuba, may be begging and praying to be
let in at the same time, and be permitted to enjoy some of the vast
advantages, and participate a little in the energy, which this vast
confederacy will exhibit to the astonished world."

DISORDERS IN THE GOLD DISTRICT.--Up to the close of the year the
accounts were with few exceptions favourable to the morals and habits
of the masses of adventurers congregated on the banks of the San
Francisco and the vicinity; subsequently the statements on these points
began to change, and every letter noticed some robbery or murder,
generally both, as of frequent occurrence, and at length they became so
common that there was neither protection for life nor property. The
following ominous intelligence, which appeared in the _Washington
Union_ (the organ of government), created an immense sensation. It was
the substance of a letter from San Francisco, dated the end of
December, addressed to Commodore Jones. "This letter (according to the
_Union_) presents a desperate state of affairs as existing in
California. Everything is getting worse as regards order and
government. Murders and robberies were not only daily events, but
occurring hourly. Within six days more than twenty murders had been
perpetrated. The people were preparing to organise a provisional
government in order to put a stop to these outrages. Within five days
three men have been hung by Lynch Law. The United States revenue laws
are now in force, and will yield 400,000 dollars the first year. The
inhabitants are opposed to paying taxes."

LATEST ACCOUNTS (_from the New York Press_.)--The desperate state of
affairs in California is fully confirmed. Murders and robberies were
occurring daily. The following are particulars supplied by Lieutenant
Lanman, of the United States navy, who had returned to New York, after
having acted for a year past as collector at Monterey:--

"Only about an hour before he left, he saw a man on board the
flag-ship, just arrived from the mines, who confirmed the previous
reports in regard to the discoveries on the river Staneslow, where he
had seen a single lump of gold weighing nine pounds, and heard of one
that weighed twenty pounds. The gold excitement in Monterey had
entirely abated, the immense mineral wealth of the country being looked
upon as an established fact. There was no disposition (except among the
landholders) to exaggerate. For a year past Lieutenant Lanman has been
performing the duties of collector at the port of Monterey; and, having
seen every man who had returned from a visit to the mines, his
opportunities for obtaining authentic information were better than if
he had visited the mines in person. He informs us that no large
amounts of gold dust or ore were selling at a sacrifice; he does not
believe that one hundred ounces of the gold dust could have been
purchased at the reported rate of eight dollars, the ordinary prices
ranging from ten to twelve dollars per ounce. The weekly receipts of
gold at San Francisco were estimated at from thirty to fifty thousand
dollars, and Lieutenant Lanman knew of one individual who had in his
possession thirty thousand dollars' worth of pure ore and dust. The
current value of gold in trade was sixteen dollars per ounce. There was
a scarcity of coin throughout the country; but when Lieutenant Lanman
arrived at Panama, he was informed that 600,000 dollars had just been
shipped for California by certain Mexican gentlemen, and that the
American consul at Paita (Mr. Ruden) had in charge coin of the value of
118,000 dollars, which he intends to exchange for ore and dust. Peru
and Chili are not behind the United States in regard to the gold
excitement, no less than twenty vessels having sailed from these two
countries within a short time bound to San Francisco. They were all
well laden with provisions and other necessaries of life, and their
arrival would probably reduce the prices, which have heretofore been so
exorbitant. The whole amount of gold collected at the washings since
the excitement first broke out is variously estimated--some put it down
as high as 4,000,000 of dollars, but this I think is a little too

A private letter says the produce of a vineyard of 1,000 vines brought
1,200 dollars; the vegetables of a garden of one acre, near San
Francisco, 1,500 dollars. A snow-storm had covered the gold-diggings,
and the people were leaving, on account of sickness, intending to
return in the spring, which is said to be the best season for the gold
harvest. Labourers, according to one letter-writer, demanded a dollar
an hour! Adventurers continued to arrive at San Francisco from all
parts of the world; and several persons, who were reported to be laden
down with gold, were anxious to return to the United States, but could
not very readily find a conveyance, as the sailors deserted the ships
immediately on their arrival in port.

CALIFORNIAN GOLD 250 YEARS AGO.--Pinkerton, in an account of Drake's
discovery of a part of California, to which he gave the name of New
Albion, states:--"The country, too, if we can depend upon what Sir
Francis Drake or his chaplain say, may appear worth the seeking and the
keeping, since they assert that _the land is so rich in gold and
silver, that upon the slightest turning it up with a spade or pick-axe,
these rich metals plainly appear mixed with the mould_. It may be
objected that this looks a little fabulous; but to this two
satisfactory answers may be given: the first is, that later discoveries
on the same coast confirm the truth of it, which for anything I can see
ought to put the fact out of question; but if any doubts should remain,
my second answer should overturn these. For I say next, that the
country of New Mexico lies directly behind New Albion, on the other
side of a narrow bay, and in that country are the mines of Santa Fe,
which are allowed to be the richest in the world; here, then, is a
valuable country, to which we have a very fair title."

advertisements in the daily papers (says the _Examiner_) will show that
the public appetite for California is likely to be promptly met. The
burden of the various vessels already announced as ready for immediate
departure amounts to about 5,000 tons, distributed in ships ranging
from 190 to 700 tons, to say nothing of the West India mail-steamer,
which leaves on the 17th, carrying goods and passengers to Chagres, or
of a "short and pleasant passage" advertised to Galveston, in Texas, as
a cheap route to the Pacific. The rates range from L25 upwards to suit
all classes. Thus far, however, we have only the arrangements for those
who are able to move. The opportunities provided for those who wish to
share the advantages of the new region without its dangers are still
more ample. Indeed, so imposing are the plans for an extensive
investment of capital for carrying on the trade in shares of L5 each,
that it would seem as if the first effect of the affair would be to
cause a scarcity of money rather than an abundance. About a million and
a quarter sterling is already wanted, and the promoters stipulate for
the power of doubling the proposed amounts as occasion may offer. There
is a "California Gold-Coast Trading Association;" a "California Gold
Mining, Streaming, and Washing Company;" a "California Steam Trading
Company," a "California Gold and Trading Company;" and a "California
Gold Mining, etc., Trading Company." The last of these alone will
require L600,000 for its objects, but as half the shares are "to be
reserved for the United States of America," the drain upon our
resources will be lessened to that extent. Some of the concerns propose
to limit their operations to trading on the coast, sending out at the
same time "collecting and exploring parties" whenever the prospect may
be tempting. Others intend at once to get a grant from the legislature
at Washington of such lands "as they may deem necessary," while others
intend to trust to chance, simply sending out a "practical" manager,
accompanied by an adequate number of men "accustomed to the extraction
of gold in all its forms." Along with these advertisements are some of
a modified nature, to suit parties who may neither wish to go out with
a batch of emigrants, nor to stay at home and wait the results of a
public company. One "well-educated gentleman" seeks two others "to
share expenses with him." Another wishes for a companion who would
advance L200, "one half to leave his wife, and the other half for
outfit;" a third tells where "any respectable individuals with small
capital" may find persons willing to join them; a fourth states that
respectable persons having not less than L100 are wanted to complete a
party; and a fifth, that a "seafaring man is ready to go equal shares
in purchasing a schooner to sail on speculation." What number may be
found to answer those appeals it is impossible to conjecture. Common
sense would say not one, but experience of what has been practised over
and over again reminds us that the active parties on the present
occasion are not calculating too largely upon the credulity of their
countrymen. That the country will be a pandemonium long before any one
can reach it from this side is hardly to be doubted, unless, indeed,
the United States government shall have been able to establish a
blockade and cordon, in which case the new arrivals will have to get
back as well as they can.

mines, and rivers flowing over golden sands, we must be prepared for a
little over-colouring. Such discoveries have always excited sanguine
hopes, and dreams of exhaustless wealth; but if the accounts--and they
really appear well authenticated--of the golden treasures of California
be true, quantities of the most precious of all metals are found--not
buried in mines, but scattered on the surface of the earth, and the
fortunate adventurer may enrich himself beyond the dreams of avarice,
almost without labour, without capital, and with no care but that which
cupidity generates. The principle that the value of the precious
metals, like other products of industry, is determined primarily by the
cost of production, and then by scarcity, ideas of utility, and
convenience, seems to be neutralized by this new discovery; and it
becomes a curious question, how far it may affect the value of gold and
silver in Europe. If the abundance of gold flowing from America be such
as to exceed the demand, the value of gold will fall, and the price of
all other commodities relatively rise, and the relative proportion
between gold and silver be disturbed so as to affect the standards of
value in each country and the par of exchange between one and another.
The productiveness of the silver mines, there is no doubt, is greater
and more regular than those of gold; but the enormous increase of the
silver currency on the Continent, in the United States, and even in
India, and our own colonies, has kept the price of silver a little
below five shillings an ounce. On the other hand the English standard
of value being gold only, the drain of gold is generally towards
England, while that of silver is towards the Continent. We do not doubt
that the English Mint price of gold, L3 17s. 10-1/2d. an ounce, and the
price at which the Bank of England are compelled to purchase, L3 17s.
9d. an ounce, are causes which not only regulate, but, within certain
limits, determine, the price of gold throughout the world. Suppose, for
a moment, the circulation of England, exceeding thirty millions and the
Bank store of fifteen millions, to be thrown on the markets of Europe,
by an alteration of the standard of value--how material would be the
fall in price! It is equally obvious that England would be first and
most materially affected by any large and sudden production of her
standard of value; for though America would be enriched by the
discovery of the precious metals within her own territories, it is only
because she would possess a larger fund to exchange for more useful and
necessary products of labour. The value of silver would not fall,
assuming the supply and demand to be equalised, but gold would fall in
relation to silver, and the existing proportion (about 15 to 1) could
no longer be maintained. Then prices would rise of all articles now
estimated in our currency--i.e. an ounce of gold would exchange for
less than at present. And, assuming the price of silver to keep up as
heretofore, about 5s. an ounce, our sovereign would be valued less in
other countries, and all exchange operations would be sensibly
affected. The only countervailing influence in the reduction of gold
to, say, only double the price of silver, would be an increased
consumption in articles of taste and manufacture, which, however, can
only be speculative and uncertain. It is said by accounts from
California that five hundred miles lie open to the avarice of
gold-hunters, and that some adventurers have collected from 1,200 to
1,800 dollars a-day; the probable average of each man's earnings being
from 8 to 10 dollars a-day, or, let us say, L2. The same authority
avers there is room and verge enough for the profitable working, to
that extent, of a hundred thousand persons. And it is likely enough
before long that such a number may be tempted to seek their easily
acquired fortune in the golden sands of El Sacramento and elsewhere.
Now two pounds a-day for each man would amount to L200,000, which,
multiplied by 300 working days, will give L60,000,000 a-year! That is,
L600,000,000 in ten years! A fearful amount of gold dust, and far more
than enough to disturb the equanimity of ten thousand political
economists. The gold utensils found among the simple-minded and
philosophic Peruvians (who wondered at the eager desire of Christians
for what they scarcely valued), will be esteemed trifles with our
golden palaces, and halls paved with gold, when California shall have
poured this vast treasure into Europe. Assuming in round numbers each
2,000 lbs., or troy ton, to be equivalent to L100,000 sterling, the
above amount in one year would represent _six hundred_ tons, and in ten
years _six thousand_ tons of gold! The imagination of all-plodding
industrious England is incapable of grasping so great an idea! Can
there be any doubt, then, of a revolution in the value of the precious

PROHIBITION FROM THE GOVERNMENT.--It would seem that the government
have at length taken measures to preserve the gold districts from the
bands of foreign adventurers who are daily pouring in from every
quarter. Towards the end of January we learn that General Smith had
been sent out by the United States government, with orders to enforce
the laws against all persons, not citizens of the States, who should be
found trespassing on the public lands. Official notice to this effect
was issued to the American consul at Panama and other places, in order
that emigrants on their way to California might be made aware of the
determination of the government previous to their arrival. The
punishment for illegal trespassing is fine and imprisonment. It was not
known, at the date of the last intelligence from California how this
notification, which makes such an important change in the prospects of
the numerous bodies now on their way thither, has been received by the
population assembled at the land of promise.


The following general view of the nature of the country which divides
the United States from California is taken from a narrative, published
by Lieutenant Emory, of a journey from the Arkansas to the newly
annexed territory of the United States.

"The country," says the lieutenant, "from the Arkansas to the Colorado,
a distance of over 1200 miles, in its adaptation to agriculture, has
peculiarities which must for ever stamp itself upon the population
which inhabits it. All North Mexico, embracing New Mexico, Chihuahua,
Sonora, and the Californias, as far north as the Sacramento, is, as far
as the best information goes, the same in the physical character of its
surface, and differs but little in climate and products. In no part of
this vast tract can the rains from heaven be relied upon, to any
extent, for the cultivation of the soil. The earth is destitute of
trees, and in great part also of any vegetation whatever. A few feeble
streams flow in different directions from the great mountains, which in
many places traverse this region. These streams are separated,
sometimes by plains, and sometimes by mountains, without water and
without vegetation, and may be called deserts, so far as they perform
any useful part in the sustenance of animal life.

"The whole extent of country, except on the margin of streams, is
destitute of forest trees. The Apaches, a very numerous race, and the
Navajoes, are the chief occupants, but there are many minor bands, who,
unlike the Apaches and Navajoes, are not nomadic, but have fixed
habitations. Amongst the most remarkable of these are the Soones, most
of whom are said to be Albinoes. The latter cultivate the soil, and
live in peace with their more numerous and savage neighbours. Departing
from the ford of the Colorado in the direction of Sonora, there is a
fearful desert to encounter. Alter, a small town, with a Mexican
garrison, is the nearest settlement. All accounts concur in
representing the journey as one of extreme hardship, and even peril.
The distance is not exactly known, but it is variously represented at
from four to seven days' journey. Persons bound for Sonora from
California, who do not mind a circuitous route, should ascend the Gila
as far as the Pimos village, and thence penetrate the province by way
of Tucson. At the ford, the Colorado is 1,500 feet wide, and flows at
the rate of a mile and a half per hour. Its greatest depth in the
channel, at the ford where we crossed, is four feet. The banks are low,
not more than four feet high, and, judging from indications, sometimes,
though not frequently, overflowed. Its general appearance at this point
is much like that of the Arkansas, with its turbid waters and shifting
sand islands."

The narrative of Lieut. Emory, of his journey from this point across
the Desert of California, becomes highly interesting and

"_November 26_.--The dawn of day found every man on horseback, and a
bunch of grass from the Colorado tied behind him on the cantle of his
saddle. After getting well under way, the keen air at 26 deg. Fahrenheit
made it most comfortable to walk. We travelled four miles along the
sand butte, in a southern direction; we mounted the buttes and found a
firmer footing covered with fragments of lava, rounded by water, and
many agates. We were now fairly on the desert.

"Our course now inclined a few degrees more to the north, and at 10,
A.M., we found a large patch of grama, where we halted for an hour, and
then pursued our way over the plains covered with fragments of lava,
traversed at intervals by sand buttes, until 4, P.M., when, after
travelling 24 miles, we reached the Alamo or cotton-wood. At this
point, the Spaniards informed us, that, failing to find water, they had
gone a league to the west, in pursuit of their horses, where they found
a running stream. We accordingly sent parties to search, but neither
the water nor their trail could be found. Neither was there any
cotton-wood at the Alamo, as its name would signify; but it was
nevertheless the place, the tree having probably been covered by the
encroachments of the sand, which here terminates in a bluff 40 feet
high, making the arc of a great circle convexing to the north.
Descending this bluff, we found in what had been the channel of a
stream, now overgrown with a few ill-conditioned mesquite, a large hole
where persons had evidently dug for water. It was necessary to halt to
rest our animals, and the time was occupied in deepening this hole,
which, after a strong struggle, showed signs of water. An old champagne
basket, used by one of the officers as a pannier, was lowered in the
hole, to prevent the crumbling of the sand. After many efforts to keep
out the caving sand, a basket-work of willow twigs effected the object,
and, much to the joy of all, the basket, which was now 15 or 20 feet
below the surface, filled with water. The order was given for each mess
to draw a kettle of water, and Captain Turner was placed in charge of
the spring, to see fair distribution.

"When the messes were supplied, the firmness of the banks gave hopes
that the animals might be watered, and each party was notified to have
their animals in waiting; the important business of watering then
commenced, upon the success of which depended the possibility of their
advancing with us a foot further. Two buckets for each animal were
allowed. At 10, A.M., when my turn came, Captain Moore had succeeded,
by great exertions, in opening another well, and the one already opened
began to flow more freely, in consequence of which, we could afford to
give each animal as much as it could drink. The poor brutes, none of
which had tasted water in forty-eight hours, and some not for the last
sixty, clustered round the well and scrambled for precedence. At 12
o'clock I had watered all my animals, thirty-seven in number, and
turned over the well to Captain Moore. The animals still had an aching
void to fill, and all night was heard the munching of sticks, and their
piteous cries for more congenial food.

"_November 27 and 28_.--To-day we started a few minutes after sunrise.
Our course was a winding one, to avoid the sand-drifts. The Mexicans
had informed us that the waters of the salt lake, some thirty or forty
miles distant, were too salt to use, but other information led us to
think the intelligence was wrong. We accordingly tried to reach it;
about 3, P.M., we disengaged ourselves from the sand, and went due
(magnetic) west, over an immense level of clay detritus, hard and
smooth as a bowling-green. The desert was almost destitute of
vegetation; now and then an Ephedra, Oenothera, or bunches of Aristida
were seen, and occasionally the level was covered with a growth of
Obione canescens, and a low bush with small oval plaited leaves,
unknown. The heavy sand had proved too much for many horses and some
mules, and all the efforts of their drivers could bring them no further
than the middle of this desert. About 8 o'clock, as we approached the
lake, the stench of dead animals confirmed the reports of the Mexicans,
and put to flight all hopes of being able to use the water.

"The basin of the lake, as well as I could judge at night, is about
three-quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide. The water had
receded to a pool, diminished to one half its size, and the approach to
it, was through a thick soapy quagmire. It was wholly unfit for man or
brute, and we studiously kept the latter from it, thinking that the use
of it would but aggravate their thirst. One or two of the men came in
late, and, rushing to the lake, threw themselves down and took many
swallows before discovering their mistake; but the effect was not
injurious except that it increased their thirst. A few mezquite trees
and a chenopodiaceous shrub bordered the lake, and on these our mules
munched till they had sufficiently refreshed themselves, when the call
to saddle was sounded, and we groped silently our way in the dark. The
stoutest animals now began to stagger, and when day dawned scarcely a
man was seen mounted.

"With the sun rose a heavy fog from the south-west, no doubt from the
gulf, and, sweeping towards us, enveloped us for two or three hours,
wetting our blankets and giving relief to the animals. Before it had
disappeared we came to a patch of sun-burned grass. When the fog had
entirely dispersed we found ourselves entering a gap in the mountains,
which had been before us for four days. The plain was crossed, but we
had not yet found water. The first valley we reached was dry, and it
was not till 12 o'clock, M., that we struck the Cariso (cane) creek,
within half a mile of one of its sources, and although so close to the
source, the sands had already absorbed much of its water, and left but
little running. A mile or two below, the creek entirely disappears. We
halted, having made fifty-four miles in the two days, at the source, a
magnificent spring, twenty or thirty feet in diameter, highly
impregnated with sulphur, and medicinal in its properties.

"The desert over which we had passed, ninety miles from water to water,
is an immense triangular plain, bounded on one side by the Colorado, on
the west by the Cordilleras of California, the coast chain of mountains
which now encircles us, extending from the Sacramento river to the
southern extremity of Lower California, and on the north-east by a
chain of mountains, running southeast and northwest. It is chiefly
covered with floating sand, the surface of which in various places is
white, with diminutive spinelas, and everywhere over the whole surface
is found the large and soft muscle shell. I have noted the only two
patches of grass found during the 'jornada.' There were scattered, at
wide intervals, the Palafoxia linearis, Atriplex, Encelia farinosa,
Daleas, Euphorbias, and a Simsia, described by Dr. Torrey as a new

"The southern termination of this desert is bounded by the Tecate chain
of mountains and the Colorado; but its northern and eastern boundaries
are undefined, and I should suppose from the accounts of trappers, and
others, who have attempted the passage from California to the Gila by a
more northern route, that it extends many days' travel beyond the chain
of barren mountains which bound the horizon in that direction. The
portal to the mountains through which we passed was formed by immense
buttes of yellow clay and sand, with large flakes of mica and seams of
gypsum. Nothing could be more forlorn and desolate in appearance. The
gypsum had given some consistency to the sand buttes, which were washed
into fantastic figures. One ridge formed apparently a complete circle,
giving it the appearance of a crater; and although some miles to the
left, I should have gone to visit it, supposing it to be a crater, but
my mule was sinking with thirst, and water was yet at some distance.
Many animals were left on the road to die of thirst and hunger, in
spite of the generous efforts of the men to bring them to the spring.
More than one was brought up, by one man tugging at the halter and
another pushing up the brute, by placing his shoulder against its
buttocks. Our most serious loss, perhaps, was that of one or two fat
mares and colts brought with us for food; for, before leaving camp,
Major Swords found in a concealed place one of the best pack mules
slaughtered, and the choice bits cut from his shoulders and flanks,
stealthily done by some mess less provident than others.

"_Nov. 29_.--The grass at the spring was anything but desirable for our
horses, and there was scarcely a ration left for the men. This last
consideration would not prevent our giving the horses a day's rest
wherever grass could be found. We followed the dry sandy bed of the
Cariso nearly all day, at a snail's pace, and at length reached the
'little pools' where the grass was luxuriant but very salt. The water
strongly resembled that at the head of the Cariso creek, and the earth,
which was very tremulous for many acres about the pools, was covered
with salt. This valley is not more than half a mile wide, and on each
side are mountains of grey granite and pure quartz, rising from 1,000
to 3,000 feet above it.

"We rode for miles through thickets of the centennial plant, Agave
Americana, and found one in full bloom. The sharp thorns terminating
every leaf of this plant were a great annoyance to our dismounted and
wearied men, whose legs were now almost bare. A number of these plants
were cut by the soldiers, and the body of them used as food. The day
was intensely hot, and the sand deep; the animals, inflated with water
and rushes, gave way by scores; and although we advanced only sixteen
miles, many did not arrive at camp until 10 o'clock at night. It was a
feast day for the wolves, which followed in packs close on our track,
seizing our deserted brutes, and making the air resound with their
howls as they battled for the carcases.

"_December 12_.--We followed the Solidad through a deep fertile valley
in the shape of a cross. Here we ascended to the left a steep hill to
the table lands, which, keeping for a few miles, we descended into a
waterless valley, leading into False Bay at a point distant two or
three miles from San Diego. At this place we were in view of the fort
overlooking the town of San Diego and the barren waste which surrounds

"The town consists of a few adobe houses, two or three of which only
have plank floors. It is situated at the foot of a high hill on a sand
flat, two miles wide, reaching from the head of San Diego Bay to False
Bay. A high promontory, of nearly the same width, runs into the sea
four or five miles, and is connected by the flat with the main land.
The road to the hide-houses leads on the east side of this promontory,
and abreast of them the frigate Congress and the sloop Portsmouth are
at anchor. The hide-houses are a collection of store-houses where the
hides of cattle are packed before being shipped, this article forming
the only trade of the little town.

"The bay is a narrow arm of the sea indenting the land some four or
five miles, easily defended, and having twenty feet of water at the
lowest tide. The rise is five feet, making the greatest water
twenty-five feet.

"Standing on the hill which overlooks the town, and looking to the
north-east, I saw the mission of San Diego, a fine large building now
deserted. The Rio San Diego runs under ground in a direct course from
the mission to the town, and, sweeping around the hill, discharges
itself into the bay. Its original debouche was into False bay, where,
meeting the waters rolling in from the seaward, a bar was formed by the
deposit of sand, making the entrance of False Bay impracticable.

"_January 2_.--Six and a half miles' march brought us to the deserted
mission of San Luis Rey. The keys of this mission were in charge of the
alcalde of the Indian village, a mile distant. He was at the door to
receive us and deliver up possession. There we halted for the day, to
let the sailors, who suffered dreadfully from sore feet, recruit a
little. This building is one which, for magnitude, convenience, and
durability of architecture, would do honour to any country.

"The walls are adobe, and the roofs of well-made tile. It was built
about sixty years since by the Indians of the country, under the
guidance of a zealous priest. At that time the Indians were very
numerous, and under the absolute sway of the missionaries. These
missionaries at one time bid fair to christianize the Indians of
California. Under grants from the Mexican government, they collected
them into missions, built immense houses, and began successfully to
till the soil by the hands of the Indians for the benefit of the

"The habits of the priests, and the avarice of the military rulers of
the territory, however, soon converted these missions into instruments
of oppression and slavery of the Indian race.

"The revolution of 1836 saw the downfall of the priests, and most of
these missions passed by fraud into the hands of private individuals,
and with them the Indians were transferred as serfs of the land.

"This race, which, in our country, has never been reduced to slavery,
is in that degraded condition throughout California, and does the only
labour performed in the country. Nothing can exceed their present

The general closing remarks of Lieutenant Emory are as follow:

"The region extending from the head of the Gulf of California to the
parallel of the Pueblo, or Ciudad de los Angeles, is the only portion
not heretofore covered by my own notes and journal, or by the notes and
journals of other scientific expeditions fitted out by the United
States. The journals and published accounts of these several
expeditions combined will give definite ideas of all those portions of
California susceptible of cultivation or settlement. From this remark
is to be excepted the vast basin watered by the Colorado, and the
country lying between that river and the range of Cordilleras,
represented as running east of the Tulare lakes, and south of the
parallel of 36 deg., and the country between the Colorado and Gila rivers.

"Of these regions nothing is known except from the reports of trappers,
and the speculations of geologists. As far as these accounts go, all
concur in representing it as a waste of sand and rock, unadorned with
vegetation, poorly watered, and unfit, it is believed, for any of the
useful purposes of life. A glance at the map will show what an immense
area is embraced in these boundaries; and, notwithstanding the oral
accounts in regard to it, it is difficult to bring the mind to the
belief in the existence of such a sea of waste and desert; when every
other grand division of the earth presents some prominent feature in
the economy of nature, administering to the wants of man. Possibly this
unexplored region may be filled with valuable minerals.

"Where irrigation can be had in this country, the produce of the soil
is abundant beyond description. All the grains and fruits of the
temperate zones, and many of those of the tropical, flourish
luxuriantly. Descending from the heights of San Barnardo to the Pacific
one meets every degree of temperature. Near the coast, the winds
prevailing from the south-west in winter, and from the north-west in
summer, produce a great uniformity of temperature, and the climate is
perhaps unsurpassed in salubrity. With the exception of a very few
cases of ague and fever of a mild type, sickness is unknown.

"The season of the year at which we visited the country was
unfavourable to obtaining a knowledge of its botany. The vegetation,
mostly deciduous, had gone to decay, and no flowers nor seeds were
collected. The country generally is entirely destitute of trees. Along
the principal range of the mountains are a few live oaks, sycamore and
pine; now and then, but very rarely, the sycamore and cotton-wood occur
in the champaign country, immediately on the margins of the streams.
Wild oats everywhere cover the surface of the hills, and these, with
the wild mustard and carrots, furnish good pasturage to the immense
herds of cattle which form the staple of California. Of the many fruits
capable of being produced with success, by culture and irrigation, the
grape is perhaps that which is brought nearest to perfection.
Experienced wine-growers and Europeans, pronounce this portion of
California unequalled for the quality of its wines."

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest