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TREATY WITH THE CULUMAS.
his other affairs so arranged as to enable him to withstand the result. The men, indeed, were not yet prepared to relinquish good wages for the uncertainties of gold-gathering.
If only the land could be secured on which this gold was scattered—for probably it did not extend far in any direction—then interloping might be prevented, mining controlled, and the discovery made profitable. It was worth trying, at all events. Mexican grants being no longer possible, Sutter began by opening negotiations with the natives, after the manner of the English colonists on the other side of the continent. Calling a council of the Culumas and some of their neighbors, the lords aboriginal of those lands, Sutter and Marshall obtained from them a three years' lease of a tract some ten or twelve miles square, on payment of some shirts, hats, handkerchiefs, flour, and other articles of no great value, the natives meanwhile to be left unmolested in their homes.28 Sutter then returned to New Helvetia, and the great discovery was consummated.
26 Biglers' Diary, MS., 66. Marshall speaks of this as the consummation of an agreement we had made with this tribe of Indians in the month of September previous, to wit, that we should live with them in peace on the same land.' Discovery of Goud, in Hutchings' Mag., ii. 200.
THE SECRET ESCAPES.
BENNETT GOES TO MONTEREY-SEES PFISTER AT BENICIA—"THERE IS WHAT
WILL BEAT COAL!'- BENNETT MEETS Isaac HUMPHREY AT SAN FRANCISCO
OCCASIONALLY instances occur where one's destiny, hitherto seemingly confined in the clouds, is let out in a flood, and if weak, the recipient is overwhelmed and carried down the stream by it; if he be strong, and makes avail of it, his fortune is secured; in any event, it is his opportunity.
Opportunity here presented itself in the first instance to a chosen dozen, none of whom appear to have taken due advantage of it. Having no realization of their situation, they left the field to aftercomers, who by direct or indirect means drew fortune from it. The chief actors, Marshall and Sutter, with proportionately greater interests at stake, primarily displayed no more skill than the others in making avail of opportunity, the former drifting away without one successful grasp, the latter making a brief stand against the torrent, only in the end to sink amidst the ruins of his projects and belongings.
Sutter disclosed his weakness in several ways. Although enjoining secrecy upon all concerned, and showing extreme fear lest the discovery should be known by those about him, the inconstant Swiss could not himself resist the temptation of telling it to his friends at a distance. Writing Vallejo the 10th of February, he says: “I have made a discovery of a gold mine, which, according to experiments we have made, is extraordinarily rich.” Moreover, not wholly satisfied with his Indian title, Sutter determined to despatch a messenger to Monterey, for the purpose of further securing the land to himself and Marshall through Colonel R. B. Mason, chief representative of the United States government in California. For this mission was chosen Charles Bennett, one of Marshall's associates, and standing next to him in intelligence and ability at the saw-mill. The messenger was instructed to say nothing about the discovery of gold, but to secure the land with mill, pasture, and mineral privileges, giving as a reason for including the last the appearance of lead and silver in the soil. The man, however, was too weak for the purpose.
With him in a buckskin bag he carried some six ounces of the secret, which, by the time he reached Benicia, became too heavy for him. There, in Pfister's store, hearing it said that coal had been found near Monte del Diablo, and that in consequence California would assume no small importance in the eyes of her new owners, Bennett could contain hiniself no longer. “Coal!” he exclaimed; “I have something here which will beat coal, and make this the greatest country in the world.” Whereupon he produced his bag, and passed it around among his listeners.3
The accomplished potentate writes every man in his own language, though his Spanish is not much better than his English. “Y he hecho un descubrimiento de mina de oro, qe sigun hemos esperimentado es extraordinarimente rica.' Vallejo, Docs, MS., xii. 332.
* This on the authority of Bigler. Diary of a Mormon, MS., 66. Some say that Bennett held contracts with Marshall under Sutter. Hunt's Mer. Mag., xx. 59; but for this there is no good authority. He set out for Monterey toward the middle of February.
3 Several claim the honor of carrying the first gold beyond the precincts of
On reaching San Francisco Bennett heard of one Isaac Humphrey, who,among other things, knew something of gold-mining. He had followed that occupation in Georgia, but hardly expected his talents in that direction to be called in requisition in California. Bennett sought an introduction, and again brought forth his purse. Thus Sutter's secret was in a tine way of being kept i Humphrey at once pronounced the contents of the purse to be gold. At Monterey Mason declined to make any promise respecting title to lands," and Bennett consoled himself for the failure of his mission by offering further glimpses of his treasure.
In order to prevent a spreading infection among his dependents, Sutter determined that so far as possible all cominunication with the saw-mill should for the present be stopped. Toward the latter end of February, however, he found it necessary to send thither provisions. To a Swiss teamster, as a perthe California Valley. Bidwell, California 1841-8, MS., 231, says he was the first to proclaim the news in Sonorna and S. F. “I well remember Vallejo's words,' he writes, when I told him of the discovery and where it had taken place. He said, “As the water flows through Sutter's mill-race, may the gold flow into Sutter's purse.
This must have been after or at the time of Bennett's journey; I do not think it preceded it. Bidwell calls the chief ruler at Monterey Gov. Riley, instead of Col Mason; and if his memory is at fault npon so conspicuous a point, he might easily overlook the fact that Bennett preceded him. Furthermore, we have many who speak of meeting Bennett at 8. F., and of examining his gold, but not one who mentions Bidwell's name in that connection. Sutter was adopting a singular course, certainly, to have his secret kept. Gregson, Stat., MS., 8, thinks that the first gold was taken by McKinstry in Sutter's launch to S. F., and there delivered to Folsom. Such statements as the following, though made in good faith, amount to little in determining as to the first. That first seen or known by a person to him is first, notwithstanding another's first may have been prior to his. I saw the first gold that was brought down to S. F. It was in Howard & Mellus' store, and in their charge. It was in four-ounce vial, or near that size.' Ayer's Per. 8onal Adv., MS., 2.
*Sherman, Memoirs, i. 40, states that this application was made by two persons, froin which one might infer that Humphrey accompanied Bennett to Monterey. They there displayed about half an ounce of placer gold.' They presented a letter from Sutter, to which Mason replied • that Califor. nia was yet a Mexican province, simply held by us as a conquest; that no laws of the U. S. yet applied to it, much less the land laws or prëeinption laws, which could only apply after a public survey.' See, further, Buffum's Six Months in Gold Mines, 68; Bigler's Diary of a Mormon, MS., 66; Bidwell's Cal. ifornia 1841-8, MS., 231; Browne's Min. Res., 14; Hiltell's llist. S. F., 125. Gregson, Stat., MS., says that Bennett died in Oregon.
5.We had salt salmon and boiled wheat, and we, the discoverers of gold,
THE DRUNKEN TEAMSTER.
son specially reliable, this mission was intrusted. The man would indeed die rather than betray any secret of his kind countryman and master; but alas I he loved intoxication, that too treacherous felicity. Arrived at Coloma, the teamster encountered one of the Wimmer boys, who exclaimed triumphantly, “We have found gold up here.” The teamster so ridiculed the idea that the mother at length became somewhat nettled, and to prove her son truthful, she not only produced the stuff
, but gave some to the teamster. Returned to the fort, his arduous duty done, the man must have a drink. Often he had tried at Smith and Brannan's store to quench his thirst from the whiskey barrel, and pay for the same in promises. On this occasion he presented at the counter a bold front and demanded a bottle of the delectable, at the same time laying down the dust. • What is that?” asked Smith. Gold,” was the reply. Smith thought the fellow was quizzing him; nevertheless he spoke of it to Sutter, who finally acknowledged the fact.
About the time of Bennett's departure Sutter's schooner went down the river, carrying specimens of the new discovery, and Folsom, the quartermaster in San Francisco, learned of the fact, informed, it is said, by McKinstry. Then John Bidwell went to the Bay and spread the news broadcast. Smith, store-keeper at the fort, sent word of it to his partner, Brannan; and thus by various ways the knowledge became general.
It was not long before the saw-mill society, which numbered among its members one woman and two were living on that when gold was found, and we were suffering from scurvy afterward.' Gregson's Statement, MS., 9. An infliction this man might undergo almost anywhere, being, if like his manuscript, something of a scurvy fellow. Mark the 'we, the discoverers of gold,' before noticed. Gregson was not at the mill when gold was found.
6 • I should have sent my Indians,' groaned Sutter 28 years afterward. It Boems that the gentle Swiss always found his beloved aboriginals far less treacherous than the white-skinned parasites. See Sutter's Rem., MS., 171-3; Inter Pocula, this series; Hutchings' Mag., ii. 196; Dunbar'o Romance of the Age, 114-15.