Slike strani




so freely that it seemed as if it would never be wanting again. Between the embarcadero and the fort, “boatmen were shouting and swearing; waggoners were whistling and hallooing, and cracking their whips at their straining horses, as they toiled along with heavily laden wagons to the different stores within the building; groups of horsemen were riding to and fro, and crowds of people were moving about on foot. It was evident the gold mania increased in force as the eagerly longed-for El Dorado was approached. Every store and shed was being crammed with bales of goods, barrels of flour, and a thousand other things for which a demand had suddenly sprung up. The captain's own house was like a hotel crowded with more visitors than it could accommodate."

The incomers could not obtain accommodations within the fort, and were obliged to content themselves with camping outside. “It was not easy to pick our way through the crowds of strange people who were moving backwards and forwards in every direction, ' says one who was present. “Carts were passing to and fro; groups of Indians squatting on their haunches were chattering together, and displaying to one another the flaring red and yellow handkerchiefs, the scarlet blankets, and muskets of the most worthless Brummagem make, for which they had been exchanging their bits of gold. Inside the stores the bustle and noise were even greater. Some half a dozen sharp-visaged Yankees, in straw hats and loose frocks, were driving hard bargains for dollars with the crowd of customers who were continually pouring in to barter a portion of their stock of gold for coffee and tobacco, breadstuff, brandy, and bowie-knives. Of spades and mattocks there were none to be had. In one corner, at a railed-off desk, a quick-eyed old man was busily engaged with weights and scales, setting his own value on the lumps of golden ore or the bags of dust which were being handed over to him, and in exchange for which he told out the estimated quantity

[ocr errors]


of dollars. These dollars quickly returned to the original deposit, in payment for goods bought at the other end of the store.

Owing to the scarcity of coin, gold-dust did not bring over two thirds of its real value. On the fourth of June, Mormon island and its approaches presented scenes of the greatest excitement. A numerous caravan was moving along toward the no longer ridiculed El Dorado.

In July, Colonel Mason, then military governor of California, visited Coloma, and found Marshall living near the mill, while there were many persons at work on the river above and below him. Crossing over to a stream, since known as Weber creek, three or four miles below the mill, he found at work one Suñol, with about thirty employed natives, who received their pay in merchandise. Eight miles above was a large number of whites and Indians, some working in the river bed, and others in the small valleys. These latter were exceedingly rich, two ounces being considered the average yield for a day's work. In a small gutter, not more than a hundred yards long by four feet wide and two or three feet deep, two men had shortly before obtained $17,000 worth of gold. Another small ravine had yielded $12,000, and on every side there were hundreds of such.

The poor natives gathered round to pick up a few crumbs of civilization, and with a new money buy new comforts to supply new wants. Gold-dust by the bushel had been within their reach for ages; but without the conventional value placed upon it by the cunning of progress, it was of no use to them. Now, deprived of their natural resources, they herded about the mining camps, being permitted occasionally by the kinder-hearted miners to wash a pan of dirt from their claims, or to sweep the sluice-boxes. Frequently they obtained quite a little quantity of gold on the rivers by scraping the crevices of claims abandoned by the white men. Even in the days of their degeneration,



the men maintained their lordly dignity, and left all the gold-digging to the women. These obtained sometimes two or three dollars a day each, and with the proceeds of their labor they bought food and finery.

One would think that with thousands of acres of valuable land stocked by immense herds, with gardens and orchards and fields of grain, the influx of a vast gold-producing and agricultural population, requiring food and farms, would have made the great grantholders monarchs of wealth and industry. But such was not the result. The old Mexican-Californians hereupon proved themselves a community of children. No sooner was the discovery of gold announced than hired laborers, mechanics, herders, and retainers dropped their implements, abandoned their trust, and rushed for the mines. No amount of

No amount of money which the landed proprietor could offer was sufficient to hold them. Thus left defenceless, he was overrun by swarms of adventurers, who drove off his cattle, shot his Indians, and took possession of his ground.

Even the sedate gente de razon caught the infection, and taking with them their servants and retainers, hastened to the mines, and selecting a favorable spot, put their men at work, while they sat in their tents in state, or strutted about from camp to camp, or lounged down among the boulders. The relations of man and master, however, were soon severed in the mines, the one casting off old ties and and affections and setting up for himself, and the other returning home to mourn to the end of his days over the rapacity of the Yankees, and his loss of opportunity and loss of property, which, after all, were due for the most part to himself.

The soldiers in the service of the United States were also seized with the gold fever, and abandoning their posts, ran off to the placers. It was almost impossible to retain crews on their ships. The pioneer steamship, California, on her first voyage lost all her crew; and in order to return to Panama had to engage men at enormous wages. Thus, while her commander, engaged by the owners in New York, was receiving $250 per month, the chief engineer and the black cook had $500 each, the firemen $250 each, and the seamen $200 per man. This state of things did not last long. The next steamship of the line anchored under the guns of the United States line-of-battle ship Ohio, and her men could not desert.



I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.


CALIFORNIA, in 1848, stood on none of the world's highways. It was an isolated amphitheatre, a valley on which the sun was ever setting, far away from civilization and the homes of the gold-worshippers. On one side were seas of land, on the other seas of water. And the water and the land both were vast and billowy, trackless, and often showing their hostility to man each after its fashion. One or the other of these seas of desolation, or their equivalent in obstacles, must be crossed before the dragon-guarded treasure could be touched.

Now the journey to the mines, occupying as it did weeks or months, and being made by companies or aggregations of men, women, and children, called forth new phases of human conduct, no less than did life at the diggings. Two days out, whether on plain or ocean, and the pilgrim began to feel himself a new being, the chrysalis from which he had emerged being his late environs. The metal of which he was made was as yet scarcely recognizable, but the fire was a-kindling which should quickly determine it. Therefore it is proper to delineate and preserve characteristic sketches of overland and ocean travel to California during the flush times.

And first as to travel overlande The prairie seas were not wholly unknown; even the prairie schooner

« PrejšnjaNaprej »