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CHAPTER II.

THREE CENTURIES OF WILD TALK ABOUT GOLD IN CALI

FORNIA.-1537-1837.

Thrusting, toiling, wailing, moiling,

Frowning, preaching-such a riot!
Each with never-ceasing labor,
Whilst he thinks he cheats his neighbor,
Cheating his own heart of quiet.

-Shelley.

In those days of unbridled adventure, when man was permitted to prey upon his fellow-man, and when the many-sided world was as yet but partially known to civilization, gold was the chiefest good that strange lands could yield, and hence every strange land, in the imagination or desire of its discoverer, abounded in gold. So it was that California, even before it was seen by any Spaniard, was reputed, without reason, rich in gold. What stories Cabeza de Vaca had to tell, when he arrived from the Mexican gulf at Culiacan, in 1537, of the vast wealth of this whole northern region! As to the truth of the report, it must be true, for it was the people of the country who had informed him, though in language that he did not understand, and of realms of which they knew nothing. From the very first a strong conviction possessed the minds of the conquerors of Mexico that the western coast, particularly toward the north, was rich in gold and pearls; and so all through the century successive expeditions were sent to the gulf of California, and to the peninsula.

That most reverend and truthful man, Francis Fletcher, preacher to the pirate Drake, who, because God commanded Adam to subdue the earth, felt it his duty, as minister of God and son of Adam, to go abroad on this earth, and kill and steal to the full limit of his capabilities; and who felt it likewise his duty “to register the true and whole history of that his voyage, with as great indifferency of affection as a history doth require, and with the plain evidence of truth,”—this right rare and thrice worthy gentleman, as he would say of his captain, saw strange things in California ; that is to say, things strange to those who know California, but credible enough three hundred years ago to those who were never nearer to the spot than its antipode. In July of 1579, the pirate, as his preacher says, was met by peculiar and nipping colds. The natives, he affirms, “vsed to come shivering to vs in their warme furres, crowding close together, body to body, to receiue heate one of another.' Oh! “how vnhandsome and deformed appeared the face of the earth it selfe!” Birds dared not leave their nests after the first egg was laid until all were hatched; but nature had favored these poor fowl, so that they might not die in the operation. The causes of these phenomena he next explains on scientific principles. Because Asia and America are here so near together, and by reason of the high mountains and the like, “hence comes the generall squalidnesse and barrennesse of the countrie; hence comes it that, in the middest of their summer the snow hardly departeth euen from their very doores, but is neuer taken away from their hils at all; hence come those thicke mists and most stinking fogges.” Inland the country was better. “Infinite was the company of very large and fat Deere, which there we sawe by thousands besides a multitude of a strange kind of Conies . bis tayle like the tayle of a Rat.” The savages were exceedingly edified by the words of the preacher, by his psalm-singing, and his reading of the scriptures ; so much so, that when the gentle pirates took their leave, “with sighes and sorrowings, with heauy hearts and gricued minds, they powred out wofull complaints

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THE PIRATE'S PREACHER.

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and moanes, with bitter teares and wringing of their hands, tormenting themselues.” This was exceedingly like the California Digger, as was also their king, before whom on his appearing, “came a man of a large body and goodly aspect, bearing the Septer or royall mace, .. whereupon hanged two crownes, a bigger and a lesse, with three chaines of a maruellous length," and so on.

It was with difficulty that the Englishmen prevented these people from worshipping them, and offering sacrifice as unto gods; and the eagerness with which they accepted Elizabeth for their sovereign was pleasant to see. But about gold? “There is no part of earth,” says the preacher, “here to be taken up wherein there is not a reasonable quantity of gold or silver.” And again: “The earth of the country seeined to promise rich veins of gold and silver, some of the ore being constantly found on digging.” Even a school-girl would recognize in this the extravagance of fiction. Climates change; simple savages might mistake Drake's buccaneers for gods; but if gold and silver ever existed amid the rocks and hills in the neighborhood of Drake bay, the world has yet to know it.

In his Noticia de la California, Miguel Venegas, speaking of the voyage of Sebastian Vizcaino along the shore of Upper California in 1602, draws attention to the royal cédula of the 19th of August, 1606, granting Vizcaino permission to explore California, and inserts that document in the first volume of his history. The king says, referring to Vizcaino's voyage of 1602, "que descubrió el dicho Sebastian Vizcaino en la costa en mas de ochocientas leguas, que anduvo, se informó, y que todos decian, haver la tierra adentro grandes poblaciones, y plata, y oro,”—that the said Vizcaino was told by the Indians along the whole coast of 800 leagues which he discovered, of large settlements in the interior, and of silver and gold. “ Whence Vizcaino is inclined to believe," the king continues, "that great riches may be discovered, especially as in some parts of the land veins of metals are to be seen;"- porque en algunas partes en la tierra firme descubrian betas de metales. Thus, there is little wonder that very early the rumor was abroad that there was gold in California, though without any foundation, as the interior had never yet been visited by white men.

As far from the truth as the preacher's story and the king's story, is the statement passed from one writer to another without comment, that Loyola Cabello, a priest of the mission of San José, bay of San Francisco, on returning to Spain published, in 1690, a work on Alta California, in which the existence of gold in placers was mentioned. I do not know whom to hold responsible for starting this fiction, though one George M. Evans has been active in circulating it. We can only wonder that so many respectable persons have repeated it as fact. In the first place no such book was ever published. Secondly, in 1690, and for nearly a century thereafter, there was no San José mission on the Bay of San Francisco, though there was a San José del Cabo, near Cape St Lucas. Lastly, if there was such a man, and such a book, and such a place, there was no gold there.

Fortunately, for mankind, believing a thing, or fancying a belief in it, be it never so sincerely or strongly, does not make it true; nor is seeing always believing, when perforce, one must see through the eyes of sailors, whose statements are proverbially unreliable. “De Gualle saw many islands eastward of Japan in latitude 32° and 33°,” says old Arthur Dobbs; and sailing further east, he saw many populous and rich islands, some with volcanoes, which abounded with gold, cotton, and fish... Gemelli mentions rocks seen in latitude 30°, and an island said to be rich in gold; and also another in latitude 32°, called Rica de Plata, which from their names and abounding in gold, may be supposed to be well inhabited." By how many have these gold bearing islands been

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since visited, and how much metal has been taken from them?

Perhaps twenty times the following passage in She'vocke, A Voyage Round the World in 17 19-22, by no means a rare or remarkable book, has been pointed out to me by men whose superficial investigations have led them to believe that gold was known to exist in California nearly two centuries ago.

Here is the passage: "The eastern coast of that part of California which I had a sight of, appears to be mountainous, barren and sandy, and very like some parts of Peru; but nevertheless, the soil about Puerto Seguro, and very likely in most of the valleys, is a rich, black mould, which as you turn it fresh up to the sun appears as if intermingled with gold dust, some of which we endeavored to wash and purify froin the dirt; but though we were a little prejudiced against the thoughts that it could be possible that this metal should be so promiscuously and universally mingled with common earth, yet we endeavored to cleanse and wash the earth from some of it, and the more we did the more it appeared like gold; but in order to be further satisfied, I brought away some of it which we lost in our confusions in China.”

Now in the first place this navigator-whose map by the way shows the two Californias together as an island-never was in Alta California at all; and secondly, he may or he may not have seen particles of something resembling gold at Cape St Lucas, the only point at which he touched. In a word, whatever he saw or said has nothing whatever to do with the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills. And yet I have seen printed in more than one Pacific coast newspaper this statement of Shelvocke's without any reference to the fact, and apparently without the . knowledge of it, that the California referred to was not Upper California.

At the time Shelvocke was engaged in his circumnavigation, the Hudson's Bay Company was explor

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