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Introduction—Origin of the Name—By Whom Discovered—The Changes in its Boundaries —The Missions—their Beginning and End—The Aborigines of California —The Early Settlers—Commerce of California while under Spanish and Mexican Eule—The Acquisition of California by the United States.
This book, being more particularly intended as an exhibit of the natural wealth of the State of California, makes no pretensions to being a history of the Pacific Coast; but the two subjects are so intimately blended, that it is not possible to write about one without referring to the other. The limits of the portion of the work proposed to be devoted to the historical branch of the subject, compel us to confine ourselves, as much as possible, to facts and events connected with that portion of the coast embraced within the boundaries of this State—a somewhat difficult task, as, until a comparatively recent period, the whole country, from the boundaries of South America, to the late Russian possessions on the north, and from the Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, was included in California.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME.
There are few countries, the origin of the name of which is involved in as much mystery as that of California. A compound of Greek and Latin, it is not positively known by whom or when compounded; nor the reason why, although many profound scholars in Europe and in the United States have endeavored, during the past century, to trace its origin. It is first met with in a once popular, but now almost forgotten romance, entitled "The Sergas of Esplandian, the son of Amadis, of Gaul," published at Seville, (Spain), in 1510, in which it occurs three times. In one passage, thus:
"Know that on the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very near to the Terrestrial Paradise, which was peopled by black women, without any men among them, because they were accustomed to live after the manner of the Amazons. They were of strong and hardened bodies, of en courage, and of great force. The island was tho strongest in the world, from its steep rocks and great cliffs. Their arms were all of gold, and so were the caparisons of the wild beasts they rode."
Another passage reads:
"In the island called California are many griffins, on account of the great savageness of the country and the immense quantity of wild game to be found there."
This romance was very popular in Europe, passed through several editions during the twenty-five years immediately preceding the discovery of this country, and it is quite possible that Hernando Grixalva —one of Cortez' officers to whom the honor of making that discovery belongs—or some of his companions, may have read it, and, finding what they supposed to be an island while sailing "towards the Terrestrial Paradise," along the coast of Mexico, which is "on the right hand of the Indies," they called it California—not because it answered to the description in the romance, but to secure an additional interest in the discovery, by giving it a name that possessed the attraction created by that popular work. They must have drawn on their imagination immensely, however, when adapting such a description to that portion of the coast first discovered, which is near the site of the present port of La Paz, in Lower California.
There is a tradition among the native Californians, that, in an expedition of the Spaniards against the Indians, in 1829, they found in the country between Tomales Bay and Cape Mendocino, a tribe in which the squaws had as much to say, and to do with the affairs of peace and war, as the men. These women are stated to have been stout and well made, and are remembered, in the old traditions, as "Los Amazones."
Where the author of the romance obtained the name, has not been ascertained. It is probable that he took the idea of the location of the "Terrestrial Paradise" from a letter, written by Columbus to Ferdinand and Isabella, many years previously, when the great navigator was about to make a voyage in the same direction as that followed by Grixalva, in which he informed his sovereigns that "he shall be sailing towards the Terrestrial Paradise."
It may be stated, in explanation, that long after the discovery made by Grixalva, California was considered an island. The peninsula was subsequently called the Island of Santa Cruz, and, more than a century afterwards, it was renamed the "Islas Carolinas," in honor of Charles II of Spain.
Some authorities insist that the name is derived from calidus fornus, two Latin words signifying "hot oven," giving as a reason for such an hypothesis, that it is a custom of immemorial antiquity, among the aborigines of this section of the coast, to use "hot ovens" called temescal, as a remedy for most of the diseases to which they are subject. Every tribe had one or more of these "hot ovens" near their villages. These "sweat houses" were quite familiar to the missionaries and early settlers, and may be found in many parts of the State at the present time. It is very probable that the earliest explorers may have seen some of them; and, because the natives used "hot ovens" to heal their bodies, may have called the country "a land of hot ovens, or calidus fornus.
Clavigero, who wrote a history of California many years ago, quotes the opinion of D. Guiseppo Compoi, a learned Jesuit, on this subject, who states that the name is derived from the Spanish word cala, which means "a little cove of the sea," and the Latin word fornix, "the vault, or concave roof of a building"—giving, as a reason for this extraordinary interpretation, that within Cape St. Lucas (near where Grixalva is supposed to have landed) there is "a little cove of the sea," near which there was a rock so worn by the waves, that its upper part was hollow, like "a vaulted roof," and from these circumstances its discoverers called the place cala forn ix, which has since been softened down to California, and applied to the whole country.
A learned Greek scholar suggests that the name may have been compounded from the Greek words hala-phora-nea, signifying a beautiful young woman, or new country. Another Greek scholar suggests that it may be derived from kala-phorneia, signifying beautiful adultery. The application of such an interpretation is not very clear, though Powers' statue of California represents a beautiful, nude female, holding a bundle of thorns behind her, which is claimed to be an embodiment of this interpretation; but it may be quite as appropriate to explain such a figure by the seductive beauty of the country, and the disappointments so many of its earlier visitors encountered. It is quite clear that the Spanish explorers, who are credited with giving the name, had no acquaintance with the seductions that lured so many here in after years, because that portion of the country they applied this name to, is the most barren and uninviting on the coast.
Venegas, the most learned of all the early historians of the coast, in his "Natural and Civil History of California," published in 1758, states that the name was first used by Bernal Diaz, an officer who had served under Cortez, during the conquest of Mexico, and applied by him to a bay which he discovered during one of the earliest voyages. This learned historian objects to the proposition that the name is derived from calida fornax, alleged to have been given to it by the early navigators, on the very probable ground that these persons did not possess sufficient knowledge of the Latin to make such a combination.
There is still another alleged origin for the name, mentioned by Captain Beechey, in his account of his voyage to this coast in 1826, wherein he relates a conversation on this subject, between himself and Father Felipe Arroyo, who was at that time in charge of the Mission of San Juan Bautista. The worthy father is stated to have expressed his belief that the name originated from colofonia, the Spanish word for rosin; giving his reason for such belief—that the great number of resinous trees the discoverers of the country saw, when they landed, impelled them to exclaiml colofonia I—or rosin.
This story is so absurd, as to be almost unworthy of notice; but having been quoted by a gentleman who has obtained some reputation as an authority on California archaeology, it deserves consideration. The fact that the portion of the peninsula where these discoverers landed, and to which it is admitted they gave the name, is one of the most barren, treeless sections of the coast, demolishes the whole story.
The records of the Jesuit Missions, on the peninsula, say the "extreme barrenness of the soil prevented the growth of trees of any magnitude." Father Ugarte, who built the first vessel constructed in California—The Triumph of the Cross—in 1772, had to haul the timber used in its construction "full thirty leagues from the river Mulege, where she was built," because there was none growing any nearer.
According to these records, the first discoverers had but little cause to exclaim "colofonia!"
It may be mentioned as a curious fact, although one not having any particular reference to this subject, that in Bavaria, and other portions of the south of Germany, rosin is called "Kalifornea," the