Slike strani
PDF
ePub

THE NORTHERN SEABOARD.

57

coast are the tracts of William Benitz and Ernest Rufus, the latter with a grist-mill.56 Along Russian River stretches the Sotoyome grant of H. D. Fitch, with vineyards and mill. Cyrus Alexander, lately Fitch's agent, had occupied Alexander Valley, and below him now live Lindsay Carson and Louis Legendre. 58

21

59

tate.

The hilly peninsula between the bay and ocean, named after the Indian chief Marin, is indebted for a comparatively compact occupation mainly to its position relative to other settlements, and to the impulse given by the now secularized and decaying mission establishment of San Rafael. This lovely spot was budding into a town, and contained several settlers," besides Timoteo Murphy, in charge of the mission esAbove extend the tracts of Novato and Nicasio, the latter owned by James Black, and adjoining, those of Ramon Mesa and Bartolomé Bojorques. Rafael García and Gregorio Briones are located on the ranchos of Tomales and Bolinas, owning many cattle; and William A. Richardson holds that of Sauzalito, which is already an anchorage and supply station, yet with aspirations cramped by the closely pressing hills, and overshadowed by the looming metropolis.63

61

62

56 Erected by H. Hägler on Walhalla River, which is now usually called Gualala River.

57 Covering the present site of Healdsburg.

58 Among other settlers may be mentioned Frank Bedwell, Mose Carson, Fred. Starke, Hoeppner, Wilson, the Piñas, and the Gordons.

39 Among them Mrs Merriner and sons, Jacob and J. O. B.; Short and Mrs Miller near by. Ignacio Pacheco was justice of the peace.

60 Obtained by F. Fales in 1839 and transferred to Leese.

Who had obtained it from J. O'Farrell, in exchange for his grant near

Bodega.

62 The earliest settler here, since 1826, had been John J. Read, who subsequently obtained the Corte de Madera rancho, where he planted orchards and erected a grist-mill, followed by a saw-mill in 1843, the year of his death. Angel Island was for a time occupied by A. M. Osio. Among other settlers were Martin and Tom Wood, the latter a famous vaquero.

63 On the map presented I mark with preference the names of settlers, giving the rancho only when the actual holder is in doubt, as represented by proxy or tenant, or claiming merely by virtue of grant. The preceding matter has been drawn from official documents, books, and manuscripts, with no small supplementing by the mouths of living men

Such is the detail of the picture which I wish to present of central and northern California in January 1848. I will complete it with some generalities of physical features and population, thus giving as a whole the inhabitants and their environment.

It is the dawn of history in these parts, presently to be followed by a golden sunlight flooding the whole western world. All along the centuries California had lain slumbering, wrapt in obscurity, and lulled by the monotone of ocean. The first fitful dreams of explorers in search of an ever-eluding strait, of cities stored with treasures, had subsided into pastoral scenes, with converts and settlers clustering round white-walled missions in the shadow of the cross. Then came the awakening, impelled by a ruder invasion of soldiers and land-greedy backwoodsmen, the premonitory ripple of international interest and world-absorbing excitement.

Strewn lavishly about is what men most covet, those portions of nature's handiwork called wealth and wealth-making material, the acquisition of which is the great burden progressive men conventionally lay upon themselves as the price of their civilization. These resources reveal themselves in the long snow-clad uplands of the Sierra, with their timber and metals, in the northern foothills, revelling in perennial spring, and in the semi-tropic vegetation of the central and southern valleys. The extremes of heat and cold, of desert aridity and unhealthy rankness, are rare and of small extent, serving rather to illustrate as remnants the method and means of nature in producing one of her masterpieces. Such are the unsightly marshes in different localities; the Colorado desert bordering the river of that name, and its link along the eastern declivity of the Sierra Nevada with the great basin of the interior, which in the south is marked by a dismal stretch of bare ridges and intervening valleys of sand and volcanic scoria, with occasional muddy salt pools and cracked surfaces frosted

SOME PHYSICAL FEATURES.

23

with alkali, and in the south by a rugged lake basin. Yet even here the evil is superficial, for nature has left compensation in many valuable minerals; and art promises to continue her task of reclamation by means of palm-lined canals, health-bringing eucalyptus groves, and rain-inviting forests.

pas

It is a terrane younger than the eastern seaboard, wrought not by the same slow and prosy process of ordinary strata formation, but in many a fit of sion, with upheavals and burstings asunder, with surging floods and scorching blasts. The soil yet quivers and is quick with electric force, and climatic moods are fitful as ever; here a gentle summer's holiday, there a winter of magnificent disorder; between, exhilarating spring, with buds and freshness, and beyond, a torrid fringe, parched and enervating. Side by side in close proximity are decided differences, with a partial subordination of latitude and season to local causes. Thus, on the peninsula of San Francisco winter appears in vernal warmth and vigor, and summer as damp and chilly autumn, while under the shelter of some ridge, or farther from the ocean, summer is hot and arid, and winter cold and frosty.

While configuration permits surprises, it also tempers them, and as a rule the variations are not sudden. The sea breezes are fairly constant whenever their refreshing presence is most needed, leaving rarely a night uncooled; and the seasons are marked enough within their mild extremes. At San Francisco a snow-fall is almost unknown, and a thunderstorm or a hot night extremely rare. Indeed, the sweltering days number scarcely half a dozen during the year. The average temperature is about 56 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the mean for spring. In summer and autumn this rises to 60 and 59, respectively, falling in winter to 51, while at Sacramento the average is 58 degrees, with 56°, 69°, 61°, and 45° for the four seasons respectively. At Humboldt Bay, in the north, the temperature varies from 43 degrees in

64

the winter to 57° in the summer, averaging 51°; and at San Diego, in the south, it ranges as the extremes from 52 to 71 degrees, while the average of summer and winter and night and day does not vary over ten degrees.

on.

In summer an equilibrium is approached; in winter the tiresome reserve is broken. By early autumn a wide-spread deadness obtains; the hills wear a bleached appearance, the smaller streams are empty, the plain is parched and dusty, the soil cracked in fissures from excessive dryness; green fields have turned sere and yellow, and the weeds snap like glass when trodden It is the period of nature's repose. The grass is not dead, but sleepeth. When the winter rains begin, in November, after a respite of six months, vegetal life revives; the softened soil puts on fresh garments; the arid waste blossoms into a garden. The cooler air of winter condenses the vapor-laden winds of ocean, which, during the preceding months, are sapped of their moisture by the hot and thirsty air. And all this is effected with only half the amount of rain falling in the Atlantic states, the average at San Francisco being little over twenty inches annually, at Sacramento one tenth less, and at San Diego one half; while in the farther north the fall is heavier and more evenly distributed.

In this dry, exhilarating atmosphere the effect of the sun is not so depressing as in moister regions, and with cool, refreshing nights, the hottest days are bearable. It is one of the most vitalizing of climates for mind and body, ever stimulating to activity and enjoyment. Land and sea vie with each other in lifegiving supremacy, while man steps in to enjoy the benefits. When the one rises in undue warmth, the other frowns it down; when one grows cold and sullen, the other beams in happy sunshine. Winds and

64 Severe extremes are confined to a few torrid spots like Fort Yuma, and to the summits of the eastern ranges. Comprehensive data on climate in Hittell's Comm. and Indust., 62-81.

THE AWAKENING AT HAND.

25

currents, sun and configuration, the warm stream from ancient Cathay, and the dominating mountains, all aid in the equalization of differences.

Thus lay the valley of California a-dreaming, with visions of empire far down the vistas of time, when behold, the great awakening is already at hand! Even now noiseless bells are ringing the ingathering of the nations; for here is presently to be found that cold, impassive element which civilization accepts as its symbol of the Most Desirable, and for which accordingly all men perform pilgrimage and crusade, to toil and fight and die.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »