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half the ounce.
The next day the Chino returned to his claim; but as large numbers had been working it by night, with the aid of candles, he decided on abandoning the mine and starting upon a new venture. Purchasing a bottle of whiskey for a double-handful of gold, and spreading a blanket on the ground, he opened a monte bank. By ten o'clock that night he was both penniless and drunk.25 Such is one of the many phases of mining as told by the men of 1848.
25 Coronel, Cosas de Cal., MS., 146–51.
HIST. CAL., VOL. VI. 6
AT THE MINES.
VARIETY OF SOCIAL PHASES-INDIVIDUALITY OF THE YEAR 1848-NOTICEABLE ABSENCE OF BAD CHARACTERS DURING THIS YEAR-MINING OPERATIONS -IGNORANCE OF THE MINERS OF MINING-IMPLEMENTS AND PROCESSES -YIELD IN THE DIFFERENT DISTRICTS-PRICE OF GOLD-DUST-PRICES OF MERCHANDISE-A NEW ORDER OF THINGS-EXTENSION OF DevelopMENT AFFAIRS AT SUTTER'S FORT-BIBLIOGRAPHY-EFFECT ON SUTTER AND MARSHALL-CHARACTER AND CAREER OF THESE TWO MEN.
SOCIETY in California from the beginning presents itself in a multitude of phases. First there is the aboriginal, wild and tame, half naked, eating his grasshopper cake, and sleeping in his hut of bushes, or piously sunning himself into civilization upon an adobe inission fence, between the brief hours of work and prayer; next the Mexicanized European, priest and publican, missionary and military man, bland yet coercive, with the work-hating ranchero and settler; and then the restless rovers of all nations, particularly the enterprising and impudent Yankee. With the introduction of every new element, and under the developments of every new condition, the face of society changes, and the heart of humanity pulsates with fresh purposes and aspirations.
The year of 1848 has its individuality. It is different from every other California year before or since. The men of '48 were of another class from the men of '49. We have examined the ingredients composing the community of 1848; the people of 1849 will in due time pass under analysis. Suffice it to say
THE INFLOWING CURRENT.
here, that the vile and criminal element from the continental cities of civilization and the isles of ocean, which later cursed the country, had not yet arrived. Those first at the mines were the settlers of the California Valley, just and ingenuous, many of them with their families and Indian retainers; they were neighbors and friends, who would not wrong each other in the mountains more than in the valley. The immigrants from the Mississippi border were accustomed to honest toil; and the men from San Francisco Bay and the southern seaboard were generally acquainted, and had no thought of robbing or killing each other.
After the quiet inflowing from the valley adjacent to the gold-fields came the exodus from San Francisco, which began in May; in June San José, Monterey, and the middle region contributed their quota, followed in July and August by the southern settlements. The predominance thus obtained from the start by the Anglo-American element was well sustained, partly from the fact that it was more attracted by the glitter of gold than the lavish and indolent ranchero of Latin extraction, and less restrained from yielding to it by ties of family and possessions. The subsequent influx during the season from abroad preponderated in the same direction. It began in September, although assuming no large proportions until two months later. The first flow came from the Hawaiian Islands, followed by a larger stream from Oregon, and a broad current from Mexico and beyond, notably of Sonorans, who counted many experienced miners in their ranks. Early in the season came also an accidental representation from the Flowery kingdom.1
It is not to be denied that this mixture of nationalities, with a tinge of inherited antipathy, and variety
Charles V. Gillespie, who reached S. F. from Hong-Kong in the brig Eagle, Feb. 2, 1848, brought three Chinese, two men and a woman. The men subsequently went to the mines. These, he says, were the first Chinamen in Cal., with the exception of a very few who had come over as cooks or stewards of vessels. Gillespie's Vig. Com., MS., 1.
of character, embracing some few aimless adventurers and deserters as well as respectable settlers, could not fail to bring to the surface some undesirable features. Yet the crimes that mar this period are strikingly few in comparison with the record of the following years, when California was overrun by the dregs of the world's society. Indeed, during this first year theft was extremely rare, although temptations abounded, and property lay almost unguarded.2 Murder and violence were almost unknown, and even disputes seldom arose. Circumstances naturally required the miners to take justice into their own hands; yet with all the severity and haste characterizing such administration, I find only two instances of action by a popular tribunal in the mining region. In one case a Frenchman, a notorious horse-thief, was caught in the act of practising his profession at the Dry Diggings; in the other, a Spaniard was found with a stolen bag of gold-dust in his possession, on the middle branch of the American River.3 Both of these men were tried, convicted, and promptly hanged by the miners.
It has been the fashion to ascribe most infringeinents of order to the Latin race, mainly because the recorders nearly all belonged to the other side, and because Anglo-Saxon culprits met with greater leniency, while the least infraction by the obnoxious Spanish-speaking southerner was met by exemplary
2 Degroot, Six Months in '49, in Overland Monthly, xiv. 321. 'Honest miners left their sacks of gold-dust exposed in their tents, without fear of loss. Towards the close of the year a few robberies and murders were committed.' Burnett's Recollections, MS., ii. 142-3. Gov. Mason writing to L. W. Hastings from New Helvetia Oct. 24, 1848, says: 'Although some murders have been committed and horses stolen in the placer, I do not find that things are worse here, if indeed they are so bad, as they were in our own mineral regions some years ago, when I was stationed near them.' U. S. Gov. Docs, 31st cong. 1st sess., H. Ex. Doc. 17. On the other hand, I find complaints of cutrages committed by disbanded volunteers at Monterey. Cal. Star and Californian, Dec. 9, 1848; of robbery and horse-thieving around the bay missions, by a gang from the Tulare Valley, said to be composed chiefly of deserters. Dr Marsh's residence on the Pulpunes rancho being plundered. Cal. Star, Feb. 26, June 3, 1848.
3 Hancock's Thirteen Years' Residence on the Northwest Coast, MS., 119-20; Carson's Early Recoll., 26. Early instances of popular punishment of crime at San José and elsewhere are mentioned in Popular Tribunals, i. 67-9, etc., this series.
QUALITY OF DIGGINGS.
punishment at the hands of the overbearing and dominant northerner. Even during these early days, some of the latter rendered themselves conspicuous by encroachments on the rights of the former, such as unwarrantable seizure of desirable claims. While the strict and prompt treatment of crime tended to maintain order in the mining regions, the outskirts, or rather the southern routes to the placers, became toward the end of the season haunted by a few robbers.5
Another source of danger remained in the hostility of the savages, who, already imbittered by the encroachments and spoliation suffered in the coast valleys, and from serf-hunting expeditions, naturally objected to an influx that threatened to drive them out of this their last retreat in the country. This attitude, indeed, served to check the expansion of the mining field for a time. In the south it was mainly due to Mexican aggression, and in the north to inconsiderate action on the part of immigrants and Oregonian parties, whose prejudices had been roused by conflicts on the plains and in the Columbia region.
Mining operations so far embraced surface picking, shallow digging along the rivers and the tributary ravines, attended by washing of metal-bearing soil, and dry diggings, involving either laborious conveyance, or 'packing,' of 'pay-dirt' to the distant water, or the bringing of water, or the use of a special cleaning process. This feature rendered the dry diggings more precarious than river claims, with their extensive veins
A. Janssens declares, in Vida y Avent., MS., that he and several friends were threatened in life and property; yet in their case all was amicably arranged, after many contests.
Men whose lack of success in the gold-fields prompted to an indulgence of hitherto restrained propensities. There are always travellers, however, who love to tell thrilling tales. Janssens relates that, on turning homeward in Dec., his small party was recommended to avoid the main road to and from Stockton, and speaks of the two headless bodies they found in a hut of branches.
"As related in the Merced People, June 8, 1872, on the authority of Reading. Brooks, Four Months, states that his party was attacked on Bear River, had one killed and two wounded, and was subsequently robbed of 70 pounds of gold by bandits.