Four Months among the Gold-Finders, Being the Diary of an Expedition from San Francisco to the Gold Districts
J. TYRWHITT BROOKS, M.D.
The accompanying diary—some interesting circumstances connected with which will be found in a letter given at the end of the present volume—was sent home by the Author merely for the entertainment of the members of his own family and a few private friends. It has been submitted to the public in the hope that, as an authentic record of a variety of interesting particulars connected with the original discovery and present condition of the Gold Districts of California, it will not fail to prove acceptable.
Clearing the Faranolles Making the entrance to the Bay of San Francisco The passage through the Strait Appearance of the Bay Town of San Francisco The anchor is let go The Author goes on shore His bad luck Sweeting's Hotel The Author and Mr. Malcolm propose visiting the American settlements They become acquainted with Captain Fulsom and Mr. Bradley Object of the Author's visit to California Mr. McPhail leaves for Sonoma The Houses of San Francisco, and their inhabitants Native California Senoritas and cigarettos.
... I felt heartily glad to hear that we were then clearing the Faranolles, and soon hurried up on deck, but we continued beating about for several hours before we made the entrance to the Bay of San Francisco. At length, however, we worked our way in between the two high bluffs, and along a strait a couple of miles wide and nearly five miles long, flanked on either side with bold broken hills—passing on our right hand the ricketty-looking fortifications erected by the Spaniards for the defence of the passage, but over which the Yankee stars and stripes were now floating. On leaving the strait we found ourselves on a broad sheet of rippling water looking like a great inland lake, hemmed in on all sides by lofty hills on which innumerable herds of cattle and horses were grazing, with green islands and clusters of rock rising up here and there, and a little fleet of ships riding at anchor. On our right was the town of San Francisco.
I had suffered so much from the voyage, that when the anchor was let go I felt no inclination to hurry on shore. McPhail and Malcolm, however, went off, but promised to return to the ship that night. I soon after turned into my hammock, and, thanks to the stillness of the water in which we rode, slept soundly till morning.
April 29th.—This morning we all rose early, and went on shore. The little baggage we had we took in the boat. Malcolm told me that he had heard the war was over between the United States and Mexico, and I bitterly congratulated myself on experiencing my usual run of bad luck. We made our way to Sweeting's hotel, which Malcolm and McPhail had visited yesterday, and stated to be the best of the three hotels which have sprung up here since the Americans became masters of the place.
Malcolm intends making an excursion to the interior. He proposes to visit the American settlements, and to satisfy himself as to the reputed advantages which California presents as an agricultural country. I have agreed to accompany him. We have fallen in with two very pleasant American gentlemen at our hotel to-day—one, a Captain Fulsom, holding some appointment under Government here; the other, a young friend of his named Bradley. We had some conversation together on the subject of the Mexican war, in the course of which I learnt that Mr. Bradley has been a resident in California for the last eight years, and that he was one of the officers of the volunteer corps attached to the army of the United States, while military operations were going on in this country. I told him of my desire to enter as a surgeon in the service of the States, and he promised to speak to Captain Fulsom on the subject, and obtain from him a letter to Colonel Mason, the new governor; but he is afraid there is little chance of my meeting with success, as nearly all the volunteer corps have been, or are about to be, disbanded. Both Mr. Bradley and Captain Fulsom speak very favourably of the climate and soil of California, and say that an enterprising agriculturist is sure to make a speedy fortune. Mr. Bradley, who has agreed to accompany us on our trip, strongly advises Malcolm to shift his quarters from Oregon, and settle here, saying that he is sure my friend will do so when he has once seen the farms in the Sacramento valley, whither we are to start early next week. McPhail left us to-day, to make a trip to Sonoma.
San Francisco, although as yet but a poor place, will no doubt become a great emporium of commerce. The population may be about a couple of thousands; of these two-thirds are Americans. The houses, with the exception of some few wooden ones which have been shipped over here by the Americans, are nearly all built of unburnt bricks. The appearance of the native Californian is quite Spanish. The men wear high steeple-like hats, jackets of gaudy colours, and breeches of velvet, generally cotton. They are a handsome swarthy race. The best part in the faces of the women are their eyes, which are black and very lustrous. The Californian belles, I am sorry to say, spoil their teeth by smoking cigarettos.
Start for Monterey Horse equipments in California The advantages of them Rifles and Ruffians Californian Scenery Immense herds of cattle Mission of Santa Clara Pueblo of San Jose A Californian farm-house What it is like inside and out Prolific crops of wheat Saddle-sickness The journey is resumed Mission of San Jose Arrival at Monterey The Author's visit to Colonel Mason Surgeons not wanted in California Rumours of gold being found on the Sacramento Characteristics of Monterey Don Luis Palo and his sisters What all Californian dinners consist of The party return to San Francisco.
Monterey.—May 4th.—Started off early on the morning of the 2nd on our journey to Monterey. We found our horses in readiness in the hotel yard, in charge of a servant (here called a vaquero) of Mr. Bradley's. The latter, having business to transact at Monterey, accompanied us. My horse was equipped after the Spanish fashion, with the usual high-pommelled cumbrous saddle, with a great show of useless trappings, and clumsy wooden stirrups, and for a long time I found the riding sufficiently disagreeable, though, doubtless, far more pleasant than a coast journey would have been, with a repetition of the deadly sea-sickness from which I had already suffered so much. I soon found out, too, the advantages of the Spanish saddle, as enabling one to keep one's seat when travelling over thorough broken country through which our road ran. Bradley had told us to have our rifles in readiness, as no one travels any distance here without that very necessary protection, the mountains near the coast being infested with lawless gangs of ruffians, who lie in wait for solitary travellers.
The first part of our ride lay through a dense thicket of underwood, and afterwards across parched up valleys, and over low sandy hills; then past large grazing grounds—where cattle might be counted by the thousand—and numerous ranchos or farms, the white farm buildings, surrounded by little garden patches, scattered over the hill sides. We at length came to an extensive plain, with groups of oaks spread over its surface, and soon afterwards reached the neglected Mission of Santa Clara, where we halted for a few hours. On leaving here our road was over a raised causeway some two or three miles in length, beneath an avenue of shady trees, which extended as far as the outskirts of the town of St. Jose. This town, or pueblo as it is called, is nothing more than a mass of ill-arranged and ill built houses, with an ugly church and a broad plaza, peopled by three or four hundred inhabitants. Not being used to long journeys on horseback, I felt disposed to stop here for the night, but Bradley urged us to proceed a few miles farther, where we could take up our quarters at a rancho belonging to a friend of his. Accordingly we pushed on, and, after a ride of about seven miles, diverged from the main road, and soon reached the farm-house, where we were well entertained, and had a good night's rest.
Like the generality of houses in California, this was only one story high, and was built of piles driven into the ground, interlaced with boughs and sticks, and then plastered over with mud and whitewashed. The better class of farm-houses are built of adobes, or unburnt bricks, and tiled over. The interior was as plain and cheerless as it well could be. The floor was formed of the soil, beaten down till it was as firm and hard as a piece of stone. The room set apart for our sleeping accommodation boasted as its sole ornaments a Dutch clock and a few gaudily-coloured prints of saints hung round the walls. The beds were not over comfortable, but we were too tired to be nice. In the morning I took a survey of the exterior, and saw but few cattle stalled in the sheds around the house. The greater part, it sterns, after being branded, are suffered to run loose over the neighbouring pastures. There was a well-cultivated garden in the rear of the house, with abundance of fruit trees and vegetables.
While we were at breakfast, Malcolm asked our host several questions about his crops, and soon found that he was no practical agriculturist. He had, however, at Bradley's suggestion, discarded the native wooden plough for the more effective American implement. He told us that he calculated his crop of wheat this year would yield a hundred fanegas for every one sown; and, on our expressing our surprise at such a bountiful return, said that sixty or over was the usual average. If so, the soil must be somewhat wonderful. After expressing our thanks, for the hospitality shown us, to the wife of our host, who was a very pretty little dark-eyed woman, with a most winning way about her, we started off to resume our journey. For my own part, I felt very loth to proceed, for I was terribly fatigued by my performance of yesterday, and suffered not a little from that disagreeable malady called "saddle-sickness." Our Californian accompanied us some short distance on our road, which lay for many miles through a wide valley, watered by a considerable stream, and overgrown with oaks and sycamores. Low hills rose on either hand, covered with dark ridges of lofty pine trees, up which herds of elk and deer were every now and then seen scampering. We at length entered upon a narrow road through a range of green sheltering hills, and, passing the Mission of San Juan, crossed a wide plain and ascended the mountain ridge which lay between us and Monterey, where we arrived late in the day.
Next morning Mr. Bradley accompanied me to the Governor's house, where we saw Colonel Mason, the new governor of the State. He received us with great politeness, but said that the war, if war it deserved to be called, was now at an end, that but a small number of troops were stationed in the country, and that there was no vacancy for a surgeon. "Indeed," he said, "considering that we have given up head-breaking, and the climate is proverbially healthy, California is hardly the place for doctors to settle in. Besides," said he, "the native Californians all use the Temescal (a sort of air-bath) as a remedy for every disorder." Colonel Mason then asked Mr. Bradley if he had heard the reports of gold having been found on the Sacramento, as Mr. Fulsom had casually mentioned in a letter to him that such rumours were prevalent at San Francisco. Bradley replied that he had heard something about it, but believed that there was no truth in the matter, although a few fools had indeed rushed off to the reputed gold mines forthwith. With this our interview terminated.
Monterey seems to be a rising town. The American style of houses is superseding the old mud structures, and numbers of new huildings are being run up every month. The hotel we stopped at has only been recently opened by an American. Monterey is moreover a port of some importance, if one may judge from the number of vessels lying at anchor.
May 7th.—On Friday we dined at the house of Don Luis Palo, a Californian gentleman of agreeable manners, whose father held office here under the Spanish government previous to the Mexican Revolution. I believe it is Don Luis's intention shortly to return to Spain. He is unmarried, and his two sisters are the handsomest women I have yet seen in this country; their beauty is quite of the Spanish style. A dinner in California seems to be always the same—first soup and then beef, dressed in various ways, and seasoned with chillies, fowls, rice, and beans, with a full allowance of pepper and garlic to each dish.
On Saturday we set out on our return, and after two days' hard riding reached San Francisco to-day at 4, P.M.
An arrival at San Francisco from the gold district Captain Fulsom intends visiting the mine The first Alcalde and others examine the gold Parties made up for the diggings Newspaper reports The Government officers propose taking possession of the mine The Author and his friends decide to visit the Sacramento Valley A horse is bought Increase of the gold excitement Work-people strike work and prepare to move off Lawyers, storekeepers, and others follow their example The Author's journey delayed Ten dollars a day for a negro waiter Waiting for a saddler Don Luis Palo arrives from Monterey on his way to the mines The report of the Government taking possession of the mines contradicted Desertion of part of the Monterey garrison Rumoured extent of the mines The Author and his friends agree to go in company Return of McPhail Preparations for the journey "Gone to the diggings."
May 8th.—Captain Fulsom called at Sweeting's to-day. He had seen a man this morning who reported that he had just come from a river called the American Fork, about one hundred miles in the interior, where he had been gold-washing. Captain Fulsom saw the gold he had with him; it was about twenty-three ounces weight, and in small flakes. The man stated that he was eight days getting it, but Captain Fulsom hardly believed this. He says that he saw some of this gold a few weeks since, and thought it was only "mica," but good judges have pronounced it to be genuine metal. He talks, however, of paying a visit to the place where it is reported to come from. After he was gone Bradley stated that the Sacramento settlements, which Malcolm wished to visit, were in the neighbourhood of the American Fork, and that we might go there together; he thought the distance was only one hundred and twenty miles.
May 10th.—Yesterday and to-day nothing has been talked of but the new gold "placer," as people call it. It seems that four other men had accompanied the person Captain Fulsom saw yesterday, and that they had each realized a large quantity of gold. They left the "diggings" on the American Fork (which it seems is the Rio de los Americanos, a tributary to the Sacramento) about a week ago, and stopt a day or two at Sutter's fort, a few miles this side of the diggings, on their way; from there they had travelled by boat to San Francisco. The gold they brought has been examined by the first Alcalde here, and by all the merchants in the place. Bradley showed us a lump weighing a quarter of an ounce, which he had bought of one of the men, and for which he gave him three dollars and a half. I have no doubt in my own mind about its being genuine gold. Several parties, we hear, are already made up to visit the diggings; and, according to the newspaper here, a number of people have actually started off with shovels, mattocks, and pans to dig the gold themselves. It is not likely, however, that this will be allowed, for Captain Fulsom has already written to Colonel Mason about taking possession of the mine on behalf of the Government, it being, as he says, on public land.
May 13.—It is now finally settled that we start off on Wednesday to the Sacramento Valley. To-day, under Bradley's direction, I have bought a good horse, for which I paid only fifteen dollars. It will be very little more expense than hiring a horse of the hotel-master here, besides being far more agreeable to have a horse of one's own; for everybody, the commonest workman even, rides in this country. The gold excitement increases daily, as several fresh arrivals from the mines have been reported at San Francisco. The merchants eagerly buy up the gold brought by the miners, and no doubt, in many cases, at prices considerably under its value. I have heard, though, of as much as sixteen dollars an ounce having been given in some instances, which I should have thought was over rather than under the full value of gold in the United States. I confess I begin to feel seriously affected with the prevailing excitement, and am anxious for Wednesday to arrive.
May 17th.—This place is now in a perfect furor of excitement; all the work-people have struck. Walking through the town to-day, I observed that labourers were employed only upon about half a-dozen of the fifty new buildings which were in course of being run up. The majority of the mechanics at this place are making preparations for moving off to the mines, and several hundred people of all classes—lawyers, store-keepers, merchants, etc.,—are bitten with the fever; in fact, there is a regular gold mania springing up. I counted no less than eighteen houses which were closed, the owners having left. If Colonel Mason is moving a force to the American Fork, as is reported here, their journey will be in vain.
Our trip has been delayed to-day, for the saddler cannot get our equipments in readiness for at least forty-eight hours. He says that directly he has finished the job he shall start off himself to the diggings. I have bribed him with promises of greatly increased pay not to disappoint us again. As it was, we were to pay him a very high price, which he demanded on account of three of his men having left him, and there being only himself and two workmen to attend to our order.
I told Mr. Bradley of our misfortune. He promised to wait for us, but recommended me to keep going in and out of the saddler's all day long, in order to make sure that the man was at work, otherwise we might be kept hanging about for a fortnight.
May 20th.—It requires a full amount of patience to stay quietly watching the proceedings of an inattentive tradesman amid such a whirlpool of excitement as is now in action. Sweeting tells me that his negro waiter has demanded and receives ten dollars a-day. He is forced to submit, for "helps" of all kinds are in great demand, and very difficult to meet with. Several hundred people must have left here during the last few days. Malcolm and I have our baggage all in readiness to start on Monday.
May 22nd.—To-day all our arrangements have been changed; the saddler did not keep his promise, and while Malcolm, Bradley, and myself were venting our indignation against him, Don Luis Palo made his appearance. The gold fever had spread to Monterey, and he had determined to be off to the mines at once. He had brought his servant (a converted Indian, named Jose) with him, and extra horses with his baggage; he intended to set to work himself at the diggings, and meant to take everything he required with him. He says the report about Colonel Mason's moving a force off to the mines to take possession of them is all nonsense; that some of the garrison of Monterey have already gone there, is quite true, but they have deserted to dig sold on their own account. Colonel Mason, he says, knows too well that he has no efficient force for such a purpose, and that, even if he had, he would not be able to keep his men together. It appears, also, that the mines occupy several miles of ground, the gold not being confined to one particular spot. On hearing this intelligence we at once determined to follow Don Luis's example, and although there seemed a certain degree of absurdity in four people, all holding some position in society, going off on what might turn out to be only a fool's errand, still the evidence we had before us, of the gold which had actually been found, and the example of the multitudes who were daily hastening to the diggings, determined us to go with the rest. We therefore held a council upon the best method of proceeding, at which every one offered his suggestions.
While we were thus engaged, McPhail, our fellow-passenger from Oregon, made his appearance, having only just then returned from Sonoma. He had heard a great deal about the new gold placer, and he had merely come back for his baggage, intending to start off for the mines forthwith. The result of our deliberations was to this effect. Each man was to furnish himself with one good horse for his own use, and a second horse to carry his personal baggage, as well as a portion of the general outfit; we were each to take a rifle, holster pistols, etc. It was agreed, moreover, that a tent should be bought immediately, if such a thing could be procured, as well as some spades, and mattocks, and a good stout axe, together with a collection of blankets and hides, and a supply of coffee, sugar, whisky, and brandy; knives, forks, and plates, with pots and kettles, and all the requisite cooking utensils for a camp life. The tent is the great difficulty, and fears are entertained that we shall not be able to procure one; but Bradley thinks he might buy one out of the Government stores.
I followed the saddler well up during the day, and was fortunate enough to obtain our saddles, saddle-bags, etc., by four o'clock. On going to his house a couple of hours after about some trifling alteration I wished made, I found it shut up and deserted. On the door was pasted a paper with the following words, "Gone to the diggings."
The party leave San Francisco Cross to Sausalitto with horses and baggage Appearance of the cavalcade Jose's method of managing horses Character of the country passed through Stay at Sonoma for the night A Yankee hotel-keeper's notion The Author meets with Lieutenant Sherman Receives from him a letter of introduction to Captain Sutter Napper Valley Sleep at the house of a settler Troublesome bedfellows Wild-looking scenery Bradley is injured by a fall from his horse Difficulties in the way of pitching a tent A hint to the bears Supper and bed Resume the journey Sacramento valley Elk and wild fowl A long halt A hunting party A missing shot.
Sonoma.—May 24th.—This morning at last saw us off. We left San Francisco shortly after seven, and embarked with our horses and baggage in a launch, which landed us at Sausalitto before ten. From thence we made our way to Sonoma, where we put up for the night. We formed quite a cavalcade, and presented a tolerably imposing appearance. First came the horses (six in number), which carried our baggage, camp equipments, etc. After these came Jose, Don Luis's Indian servant (who seems to be a far more lively fellow than Indians are generally), having these extra horses in his charge; and he really managed them admirably. For what with whistling, and coaxing, and swearing, and swinging his "riatta" over their heads, he had them as much under his command as ever a crack dragsman had his four-in-hand in the good old coaching times of my own dear England. We followed after, riding, when the road would admit of it, all abreast, and presenting a bold front to any gang of desperadoes who might be daring enough to attack us. There was little fear of this, however, for we hardly rode a mile without falling in with scattered parties bound to the gold mines.
We made our way but slowly during the first portion of our ride, for the road wound up steep hills and down into deep hollows, but when at last we came upon a winding valley some miles in extent, our horses got over the ground in a style which only Californian steeds could achieve after the hard work which had already been performed. Towards evening, we crossed the hills which divided the valley from Sonoma plain, and on reaching Sonoma put up at an hotel recently opened here by a citizen from the United States, who coolly told us, in the course of conversation, that he guessed he didn't intend shearing off to the gold mines, until he had drawn a few thousand dollars from the San Francisco folk who pass through here to and from the diggings.
May 27th.—We stopped at Sonoma the greater part of Thursday, to give our horses rest. At the hotel, I met Lieutenant Sherman, who had brought dispatches to the officer in command here from Colonel Mason. I was much delighted in again meeting with this gentleman, and we had a long talk together over the merry times we had when we were both slaying at Washington. When he heard our destination he kindly offered to give me a letter of introduction to a very old friend of his, Captain Sutter, the proprietor of Sutter's fort, and one of the earliest settlers on the Sacramento. I availed myself of his offer, and about three o'clock we started off across the plain, and made our way through the groves of fine oak trees which cover it in every direction. We next ascended the hills which lay between us and Napper Valley, and, after crossing them, made for the house of an American settler, a friend of Bradley's, who provided us with the best accommodation his house would furnish for the night. We turned in early, but the legions of fleas which were our bedfellows exerted themselves to such a degree that for hours sleep was out of the question. The country is terribly plagued with these vermin. I do not know how the settlers get on; perhaps they are accustomed to the infliction, but a stranger feels it severely.
The next day we travelled over the corresponding range of hills to those crossed on Thursday, and were soon in the midst of a much wilder-looking country—a rapid succession of steep and rugged mountains, thickly timbered with tall pine-trees and split up with deep precipitous ravines, hemming in beautiful and fertile valleys, brilliant with golden flowers and dotted over with noble oaks. While we were riding down one of these dangerous chasms, Bradley, who was showing off his superior equitation, was thrown from his horse, and fell rather severely on his arm. On examining it, I was surprised to find he had escaped a fracture. As it is, he has injured it sufficiently to prevent him from using the limb for several days. I bandaged it up, put it in a sling, and he proceeded in a more cautious manner.
To-night we used our tent for the first time. We were somewhat awkward in pitching it, and three times did the whole structure come down by the run, burying several of us in the flapping canvas, and inflicting some tolerably hard knocks with the poles. However, at length we succeeded in getting it fixed; and, kindling a blazing fire close to it, as a polite intimation to the bears that they were not wanted, cooked our supper over the embers, and then, wrapped in our blankets, slept far better than the fleas had allowed us to do the night before.
This morning I examined Bradley's arm, and was glad to find the inflammation somewhat reduced. He was bruised a good deal about the body generally, and complained to-day sorely of the pain he felt while being jolted over the broken ground which we crossed in our ascent of the tall mountains that bound the Sacramento Valley. From their summit we obtained a noble view of the broad winding river and its smaller tributaries, thickly studded with islands overgrown with noble oaks and sycamores. We encamped to-night at the foot of these hills, near a little stream which gurgled merrily by. We have seen several herds of elk to-day, and a large quantity of wild fowl.
Sunday, May 28th.—To-day we made a long halt, for we were all exceedingly tired, and some of our pack-horses, which were heavily laden, showed symptoms of "giving out." We determined, therefore, to stay here till late in the day, and then to follow the course of the creek for a few miles, and there pitch our tent. Turning our horses loose to graze, several of the party went off on a hunting excursion on foot, but their only success was about a score of wild geese, which are very plentiful in the marshy land bordering the creek. I got a shot at an elk which came down to the water to drink, but he made off unhurt.
Encampment for the night Symptoms of neighbours not far off Reach the Sacramento River Sutter's Fort Captain Sutter His offer of accommodation Various matters to be seen to A walk through the Fort Desertion of the guard to the "diggings" Work and whisky Indians and their bargains A chief's effort to look like a civilised being Yankee traders Indians and trappers "Beats beaver skins" Death to the weakest A regular Spanish Don and his servant Captain Sutter a Swiss Guard His prejudice in favour of "constituted authorities."
May 29th.—Last night we encamped under a group of oaks, and we "knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled" over other parts of the valley, that there were several other camps pitched at no great distance. When we started in the morning we fell in with a few parties moving towards the Sacramento. A ride of a few hours brought us to the borders of that noble river, which was here about a couple of hundred yards wide, and we immediately made preparations for crossing it. After several mishaps and delays, we at length succeeded in getting over in a launch. The new town of Suttersville, numbering some ten or twelve houses, is laid out within half a mile of the banks of the river. From here a brisk ride over a level plain—parcelled out into fields of wheat and pasture-grounds, dotted with hundreds upon hundreds of grazing cattle, and here and there a loitering team—brought us to Sutter's Fort, an extensive block of building planted on the top of a small hill which skirts a creek running into the Americanos, near its junction with the Rio Sacramento. A schooner and some small craft were beating up the Americanos River towards the Fort, and alongside the landing-place several launches were lying unshipping cargoes. As we made the spot, we soon saw that here all was bustle and activity. Boatmen were shouting and swearing; wagoners were whistling and hallooing and cracking their whips at their straining horses, as these 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 that the gold mania increased in force as we approached the now eagerly longed for El Dorado.
On inquiring of a squaw we met at the entrance of the Fort, and who knew just sufficient English to understand our question, she pointed out to us as Captain Sutter a very tall good-looking sort of personage, wearing a straw hat and loose coat and trousers of striped duck, but with features as unlike those of a Yankee as can well be imagined. I at once introduced myself, and handed him the letter which Lieutenant Sherman had given me. After reading it, the Captain informed me that he was happy enough to see me, although he feared, from the great change which a few weeks had made in this part of the world, that he could offer me but indifferent hospitality. Every store and shed was being crammed with bales of goods, barrels of flour, and a thousand other things for which a demand has suddenly sprung up. The Captain's own house was indeed just like an hotel crowded with many more visitors than it could accommodate; still no one who came there, so the Captain was good enough to say, recommended by his friend Sherman, should have other than an hospitable reception. All that he could do, however, he said, would be to place one sleeping-room at my service for myself and such of my friends as I liked to share it with; and, leaving me to arrange the matter with them, he went away, promising to return and show us our quarters.
I told my companions of the Captain's offer, but they were satisfied to rough it out of doors again to-night, and it was arranged that only Bradley and myself should accept the sleeping accommodation offered by Captain Sutter, as a good night's rest in comfortable quarters would be more beneficial to our friend with the injured limb, than an outdoor nap with a single blanket for a bed and a saddle for a pillow.
Two of our horses having cast their shoes, Malcolm and Jose walked them round to the blacksmith's shop, where, after their losses were repaired, a stock of shoes, nails, etc., were to be laid in for future contingencies. McPhail and our Spanish friend undertook at the same time to purchase a ten days' supply of provisions for us, and Bradley agreed to look about the Fort and see if he could meet with another servant. In this errand, I am sorry to say, he was not successful.
While these several commissions were executing, the Captain returned and walked with me through the Fort. On our way he pointed out the guard-house, the Indian soldiers attached to which had deserted to the mines almost to a man; the woollen factory, with some thirty women still at work; the distillery house, where the famous pisco is made; and the blacksmiths' and wheelwrights' shops, with more work before them than the few mechanics left will be able to get through in a month. Yet all these men talked of starting off to the diggings in a day or two. The Captain told me he had only been able to keep them by greatly increased pay, and by an almost unlimited allowance of pisco and whisky.
It was not easy to pick our way through the crowds of strange people who were moving backwards and forwards in every direction. 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, while their squaws looked on with the most perfect indifference. I saw one chief, who had gone for thirty years with no other covering than a rag to hide his nakedness, endeavouring to thrust his legs into a pair of sailor's canvas trousers with very indifferent success.
Inside the stores the bustle and noise were oven greater. Some half-a-dozen sharp-visaged Yankees, in straw hats and loose frocks, were driving hard bargains for dollars with the crowds 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 of dollars. Those dollars quickly returned to the original deposit, in payment for goods bought at the other end of the store.
Among the clouds of smoke puffed forth by some score of pipes and as many cigarettos, there were to be seen, mingled together, Indians of various degrees of civilisation, and corresponding styles of dress, varying from the solitary cloth kilt to the cotton shirts and jackets and trousers of Russia duck; with groups of trappers from as far up as Oregon, clad in coats of buffalo hide, and with faces and hands so brown and wrinkled that one would take their skins to be as tough as the buffalo's, and almost as indifferent to a lump of lead. "Captain," said one of these gentry, shaking a bag of gold as we passed, "I guess this beats beaver skins—eh, captain?" Another of them, who had a savage-looking wolf-dog with him, was holding a palaver with an Indian from the borders of the Klamath Lake; and the most friendly understanding seemed to exist between them. "You see those two scoundrels?" said the Captain to me. "They look and talk for all the world like brothers; but only let either of them get the chance of a shot at the other after scenting his trail, may be for days, across those broad hunting-grounds, where every man they meet they look upon as a foe, and the one that has the quickest eye and the readiest hand will alone live to see the sun rise next day."
Threading his way amongst the crowd, I was somewhat struck by the appearance of a Spanish Don of the old school, looking as magnificent as a very gaudy light blue jacket with silver buttons and scarlet trimmings, and breeches of crimson velvet, and striped silk sash, and embroidered deer-skin shoes, and a perfumed cigaretto could make him. He wore his slouched sombrero jauntily placed on one side, and beneath it, of course, the everlasting black silk handkerchief, with the corners dangling over the neck behind. Following him was his servant, in slouched hat and spangled garters, carrying an old Spanish musket over his shoulder, and casting somewhat timid looks at the motley assemblage of Indians and trappers, who every now and then jostled against him. Beyond these, there were a score or two of go-ahead Yankees—"gentlemen traders," I suppose they called themselves—with a few pretty Californian women, who are on their way with their husbands to the mines. I noticed that the Captain had a word for almost every one, and that he seemed to be held in very great respect.
Bradley informed me to-night of the origin of a scar which is just distinguishable in Captain Sutter's face. It seems that the Captain, who is a Swiss, was one of Charles the Tenth's guards in 1830, and that a slight cut from the sabre of one of the youths of the Polytechnic School had left in his visage a standing memorial of the three glorious days. Indeed the Captain seems generally to have taken the side of the constituted authorities, as in thy revolution of 1845 he turned out with all his people for the Mexican Government. However, he was more fortunate in California than in Paris, as he didn't even get his skin scratched on this occasion.
The journey delayed A walk to the camp A list of wants Captain Sutter's account of his first settlement in California How he served the Indians, and how he civilised them Breakfast Captain Sutter's wife and daughter Ridiculous stories about the discovery of the goldmines Joe Smith's prophecy An Indian ghost Something about a ship-load of rifles.
May 30th.—To my great disappointment, our journey was not resumed to-day. As I had expected, Malcolm had found there was no chance of getting the farrier's assistance yesterday, and he came to me in the evening to inform me that he and the rest were going into camp for the night. Bradley and myself found an ample supper prepared for us; and, after doing due justice to the eatables, and dressing Bradley's arm, I shortened the night a couple of hours by jotting down the events of the day.
This morning I rose early and walked to the camp, which I found, about half a mile off, under some oaks in a piece of pasture land on the Captain's farm. I had some difficulty in finding it out, for there were at least fifteen or twenty tents of one kind or another in the "bottom." The party were all roused, and breakfast was preparing under Don Luis's superintendence. It was the general opinion that we must buy two extra horses to carry our breadstuffs, etc. Malcolm reported that there were a variety of articles we were still in want of; namely, tin drinking-cups, some buckets for water, with forks, and other small articles. He recommended that a couple more axes and a strong saw be bought at Brannan's, together with hammers, nails, etc., and some of the Indian baskets which seem to be so common about here.
On my return to the Fort, I fell in with the Captain, rigged out in a military undress uniform. I chatted with him for half an hour about his farm, etc. He told me that he was the first white man who settled in this part of the country; that some ten years ago, when the Mexican government was full of colonization schemes, the object of which was to break up the Missions, and to introduce a population antagonistic to the Californians, he received a grant of land, sixty miles one way and twelve another, about sixteen or seventeen hundred acres of which he had now brought under cultivation. "When I came here," said the Captain, "I knew the country and the Indians well. Eight years ago these fields were overgrown with long rank grass, with here and there an oak or pine sprouting out from the midst. You can see what they are now. As to the Indians, they gave me a little more trouble. I can boast of fourteen pieces of cannon, though one has little occasion for them now, except to fire a few salutes on days of rejoicing. Well! most of these guns came from Ross within the last four years; but when I first arrived here, I brought with me a couple of howitzers, from which one night, when these thieves were hemming me in on all sides, I discharged a shell right over their heads. The mere sight of it, when it bursted, was sufficient to give them a very respectful notion of the fighting means at my command. But though this saved me from any direct attack, it did not secure me against having my horses and cattle stolen on every convenient occasion." The Captain went on to say, that he at last brought the Indians pretty well under control; and that, by promises of articles of clothing, they became willing to work for him. He took good care to trust very few of them with rifles or powder and shot. Nearly every brick in the buildings of the Fort, he tells me, was made by the Indians, who, moreover, dug all the ditches dividing his wheat-fields. These ditches are very necessary, to prevent the large number of cattle and horses on the farm from straying among the crops.
On our way to the house, I got the Captain to speak to the head blacksmith about our horses, after which we went in to breakfast, when I saw his wife and daughter for the first time. They are both very ladylike women, and both natives of France. During the meal, I found Captain Sutter communicative on the subject of the discovery of the gold mines, which I was very glad of, as I was anxious to learn the true particulars of the affair, respecting which so many ridiculous stories had been circulated. One was to the effect that the mines had been discovered by the Mormons, in accordance with a prophecy made by the famous Joe Smith. Another tale was, that the Captain had seen the apparition of an Indian chief, to whom he had given a rifle (the possession of which he only lived three months to enjoy, having been trampled down by a buffalo in the neighbourhood of the Rocky Mountains, on his way with his tribe to make an attack on the Pawnees), when the ghost in question told the Captain that he would make him very rich, and begged that, with this promised cash, the Captain would immediately buy a ship-load of rifles, and present one to every member of his tribe. Such were the absurd stories circulated. The true account of the discovery I here give, as near as I can recollect, in the Captain's own words.
Captain Sutter's account of the first discovery of the gold His surprise at Mr. Marshall's appearance at the Fort Mr. Marshall's statement The mill-wheel thrown out of gear The water channel enlarged Mr. Marshall's attention attracted by some glittering substance Finds it to be gold First imagines it to have been buried there Discovers it in great abundance Takes horse to Sutter's Fort Captain Sutter and Mr. Marshall agree to keep the matter secret They start off to the mill Proceed up the Fork Find the gold in great abundance Return to the mill The work-people meet them A knowing Indian and a sly Kentuckian A labouring party organised Digging and washing for gold The news spreads People flock to the diggings Arrival of Mormons The gold found to be inexhaustible Men of science as blind as the rest of the world.
"I was sitting one afternoon," said the Captain, "just after my siesta, engaged, by-the-by, in writing a letter to a relation of mine at Lucerne, when I was interrupted by Mr. Marshall—a gentleman with whom I had frequent business transactions—bursting hurriedly into the room. From the unusual agitation in his manner I imagined that something serious had occurred, and, as we involuntarily do in this part of the world, I at once glanced to see if my rifle was in its proper place. You should know that the mere appearance of Mr. Marshall at that moment in the Fort was quite enough to surprise me, as he had but two days before left the place to make some alterations in a mill for sawing pine planks, which he had just run up for me, some miles higher up the Americanos. When he had recovered himself a little, he told me that, however great my surprise might be at his unexpected reappearance, it would be much greater when I heard the intelligence he had come to bring me. 'Intelligence,' he added, 'which, if properly profited by, would put both of us in possession of unheard-of wealth—millions and millions of dollars in fact.' I frankly own, when I heard this, that I thought something had touched Marshall's brain, when suddenly all my misgivings were put an end to by his flinging on the table a handful of scales of pure virgin gold. I was fairly thunderstruck, and asked him to explain what all this meant, when he went on to say, that, according to my instructions, he had thrown, the mill-wheel out of gear, to let the whole body of the water in the dam find a passage through the tail-race, which was previously too narrow to allow the water to run off in sufficient quantity, whereby the wheel was prevented from efficiently performing its work. By this alteration the narrow channel was considerably enlarged, and a mass of sand and gravel carried off by the force of the torrent. Early in the morning after this took place, he (Mr. Marshall) was walking along the left bank of the stream, when he perceived something which he at first took for a piece of opal—a clear transparent stone very common here—glittering on one of the spots laid bare by the sudden crumbling away of the bank. He paid no attention to this; but while he was giving directions to the workmen, having observed several similar glittering fragments, his curiosity was so far excited, that he stooped down and picked one of them up. 'Do you know,' said Mr. Marshall to me, 'I positively debated within myself two or three times whether I should take the trouble to bend my back to pick up one of the pieces, and had decided on not doing so, when, further on, another glittering morsel caught my eye—the largest of the pieces now before you. I condescended to pick it up, and to my astonishment found that it was a thin scale of what appears to be pure gold.' He then gathered some twenty or thirty similar pieces, which on examination convinced him that his suppositions were right. His first impression was, that this gold had been lost or buried there by some early Indian tribe—perhaps some of those mysterious inhabitants of the west, of whom we have no account, but who dwelt on this continent centuries ago, and built those cities and temples, the ruins of which are scattered about these solitary wilds. On proceeding, however, to examine the neighbouring soil, he discovered that it was more or less auriferous. This at once decided him. He mounted his horse, and rode down to me as fast as it would carry him with the news.
"At the conclusion of Mr. Marshall's account," continued Captain Sutter, "and when I had convinced myself, from the specimens he had brought with him, that it was not exaggerated, I felt as much excited as himself. I eagerly inquired if he had shown the gold to the work-people at the mill, and was glad to hear that he had not spoken to a single person about it. We agreed," said the Captain, smiling, "not to mention the circumstance to any one, and arranged to set off early the next day for the mill. On our arrival, just before sundown, we poked the sand about in various places, and before long succeeded in collecting between us more than an ounce of gold, mixed up with a good deal of sand. I stayed at Mr. Marshall's that night, and the next day we proceeded some little distance up the South Fork, and found that gold existed along the whole course, not only in the bed of the main stream, where the water had subsided, but in every little dried-up creek and ravine. Indeed I think it is more plentiful in these latter places, for I myself, with nothing more than a small knife, picked out from a dry gorge, a little way up the mountain, a solid lump of gold which weighed nearly an ounce and a half.
"On our return to the mill, we were astonished by the work-people coming up to us in a body, and showing us small flakes of gold similar to those we had ourselves procured. Marshall tried to laugh the matter off with them, and to persuade them that what they had found was only some shining mineral of trifling value; but one of the Indians, who had worked at the gold mine in the neighbourhood of La Paz, in Lower California, cried out, 'Oro! oro!' We were disappointed enough at this discovery, and supposed that the work-people had been watching our movements, although we thought we had taken every precaution against being observed by them. I heard afterwards, that one of them, a sly Kentuckian, had dogged us about, and that, looking on the ground to see if he could discover what we were in search of, he had lighted on some flakes of gold himself.
"The next day I rode back to the Fort, organised a labouring party, set the carpenters to work on a few necessary matters, and the next day accompanied them to a point of the Fork, where they encamped for the night. By the following morning I had a party of fifty Indians fairly at work. The way we first managed was to shovel the soil into small buckets, or into some of our famous Indian baskets; then wash all the light earth out, and pick away the stones; after this, we dried the sand on pieces of canvas, and with long reeds blew away all but the gold. I have now some rude machines in use, and upwards of one hundred men employed, chiefly Indians, who are well fed, and who are allowed whisky three times a-day.
"The report soon spread. Some of the gold was sent to San Francisco, and crowds of people flocked to the diggings. Added to this, a large emigrant party of Mormons entered California across the Rocky Mountains, just as the affair was first made known. They halted at once, and set to work on a spot some thirty miles from here, where a few of them still remain. When I was last up at the diggings, there were full eight hundred men at work, at one place and another, with perhaps something like three hundred more passing backwards and forwards between here and the mines. I at first imagined the gold would soon be exhausted by such crowds of seekers, but subsequent observations have convinced me that it will take many years to bring about such a result, even with ten times the present number of people employed.
"What surprises me," continued the Captain, "is that this country should have been visited by so many scientific men, and that not one of them should have ever stumbled upon these treasures; that scores of keen-eyed trappers should have crossed this valley in every direction, and tribes of Indians have dwelt in it for centuries, and yet that this gold should have never been discovered. I myself have passed the very spot above a hundred times during the last ten years, but was just as blind as the rest of them, so I must not wonder at the discovery not having been made earlier."
While the Captain was proceeding with his narrative, I must confess that I felt so excited on the subject as to wish to start off immediately on our journey. When he had finished, I walked off to see after the horses, but, although they were ready, the additional shoes we wanted to carry with us would not be furnished for several hours; it was late in the afternoon before we got them. We bought two horses of Captain Sutter (very strong animals), and McPhail managed to engage a big lad as a servant—a rough-looking fellow, who appears to have deserted from some ship, and worked his way up here. All things considered, it was agreed that we should remain here another night, and resume our march as early as we could in the morning.
The Author and his friends leave Sutter's Fort Tents in the bottom A caravan in motion Green hills and valleys Indian villages Californian pack-Horses A sailor on horseback Lunch at noon A troublesome beast Sierra Nevada First view of the lower mines How the gold is dug and washed The "cradle" The diggers and their stock of gold A store in course of construction The tent is pitched The golden itch First attempts at gold-finding A hole in the saucepan Sound asleep.
Sunday, June 4th.—The morning we left the Fort the scene was one of great excitement. Down in the bottom some twenty tents were pitched, outside which big fires were smoking; and, while breakfast was being prepared, the men of each company were busily engaged in saddling their horses and arranging their baggage; several wagons and teams were already in motion, following the road along the windings of the river. The tents were soon all struck, the smoke from the fires was dying away, and a perfect caravan was moving along in the direction of the now no longer ridiculed El Dorado.
We pushed along, as may be believed, with the utmost impatience, conjuring up the most flattering visions of our probable success as gold-hunters. The track lay through a spacious grassy valley, with the Americanos River winding along it, on our left hand. At first, the stream was nearly two miles distant from the track of our caravan, but as we advanced we approached its banks more nearly. The country was pleasant, consisting of a succession of small hills and valleys, diversified here and there by groves of tall oak trees. We passed several wretched Indian villages—clusters of filthy smoky hovels, and now and then caught sight of the river and the line of oak trees which bordered it. We managed tolerably well with our horses, but it requires great experience to be able to fasten securely the loads of provisions and stores which they carry on their backs. Flour, of course, formed the principal article of our commissariat. This was packed up in sacks, which were again enclosed in long pockets, made of hides, and called "parfleshes," the use of which is to defend the canvas of the sacking from being torn by branches of fern and underwood. The sacks we secured on strong pack-saddles, between which and the back of the horse were some thick soft cloths. All our baggage-horses were furnished with trail ropes, which were allowed to drag on the ground after the horse, for the purpose of enabling us to catch him more readily. Besides the animals we rode, we had seven horses, for the conveyance of our provisions, tents, etc. The two we bought from Captain Sutter, though strong, were skittish, and gave us much trouble, for our newly engaged servant, whose name is James Horry, knew more about harpooning and flenching whales than about the management of horses. He was certainly willing and did his best, but he occasioned some mirth during the day's march by his extreme awkwardness on horseback. However, to do him justice, he bore the numerous falls which he came in for with great philosophy, starting up again every time he was "grassed," and laughing as loudly as the rest.
At noon we halted to refresh by the side of a small stream of crystal purity. While making preparations for our hurried meal, we had all our eyes about us for gold in the channel of the rivulet, but saw none. We had not yet reached the favoured spot. After some difficulty in catching the pack-horses, one of the perverse brutes having taken it into its head to march up to its belly in the stream, where he floundered about for some time, enjoying the coolness of the water, we set forward, determined to reach the lower diggings by sundown. As we neared the spot the ground gradually became more broken and heavily timbered with oak and pine, while in the distance, and separated from us by deep forests of these trees, might be seen a long ridge of snow-capped mountains—the lofty Sierra Nevada. But we were too anxious to reach the gold to care much about the more unprofitable beauties of Nature, and accordingly urged our horses to the quickest speed they could put forth. We were now travelling along the river's banks, and towards evening came in sight of the lower mines, here called the "Mormon" diggings, which occupy a surface of two or three miles along the river. There were something like forty tents scattered up the hill sides, occupied mostly by Americans, some of whom had brought their families with them. Although it was near sundown, everybody was in full occupation. At every few yards there were men, with their naked arms, busily employed in washing out the golden flakes and dust from spadefuls of the auriferous soil. Others were first passing it through sieves, many of them freshly made with intertwisted willow branches, to get rid of the coarse stones, and then washing the lumps of soil in pots placed beneath the surface of the water, the contents of the vessel being kept continually stirred by the hand until the lighter particles of earth or gravel were carried away.
A great number of the settlers, however, were engaged in making what are here called "cradles;" partly, I suppose, from their shape, and partly from the rocking motion to which they are subjected. These machines were being roughly constructed of dealboards. Later in the day I watched one of them at work, and had the process explained to me. Four men were employed at it. The first shovelled up the earth; another carried it to the cradle, and dashed it down on a grating or sieve—placed horizontally at the head of the machine—the wires of which, being close together, only allowed the smaller particles of earth and sand to fall through; the third man rocked the cradle—I must confess I never saw one so perseveringly rocked at home; while the fourth kept flinging water upon the mass of earth inside. The result of this fourfold process is, that the lighter earth is gradually carried off by the action of the water, and a sort of thick black sediment of sand is left at the bottom of the cradle. This was afterwards scooped out, and put aside to be carefully dried in the sun to-morrow morning.
I can hardly describe the effect this sight produced upon our party. It seemed as if the fabled treasure of the Arabian Nights had been suddenly realised before us. We all shook hands, and swore to preserve good faith with each other, and to work hard for the common good. The gold-finders told us that some of them frequently got as much as fifty dollars a-day. As we rode from camp to camp, and saw the hoards of gold—some of it in flakes, but the greater part in a coarse sort of dust—which these people had amassed during the last few weeks, we felt in a perfect fluster of excitement at the sight of the wealth around us. One man showed us four hundred ounces of pure gold dust which he had washed from the dirt in a tin pan, and which he valued at fourteen dollars an ounce.
As may be imagined, the whole scene was one well calculated to take a strong hold upon the imagination. The eminences, rising gradually from the river's banks, were dotted with white canvas tents, mingled with the more sombre-looking huts, constructed with once green but now withered branches. A few hundred yards from the river lay a large heap of planks and framings, which I was told were intended for constructing a store; the owner of which, a sallow Yankee, with a large pluffy cigaretto in his mouth, was labouring away in his shirt sleeves.
Bewildered and excited by the novelty of the scene, we were in haste to pitch our camp, and soon fixed upon a location. This was by the side of a dried-up water-course, through which, in the wet season, a small rivulet joined the larger stream; we did not, however, immediately set to work to make the necessary arrangements for the night. Our fingers were positively itching for the gold, and in less than half an hour after our arrival, the pack-horse which carried the shovels, scoops, and pans, had been released of his burden, and all our party were as busily employed as the rest. As for myself, armed with a large scoop or trowel, and a shallow tin pail, I leapt into the bed of the rivulet, at a spot where I perceived no trace of the gravel and earth having been artificially disturbed. Near me was a small clear pool, which served for washing the gold. Some of our party set to work within a short distance of me, while others tried their fortune along the banks of the Americanos, digging up the shingle which lay at the very brink of the stream. I shall not soon forget the feeling with which I first plunged my scoop into the soil beneath me. Half filling my tin pail with the earth and shingle, I carried it to the pool, and placing it beneath the surface of the water, I began to stir it with my hand, as I had observed the other diggers do. Of course I was not very expert at first, and I dare say I flung out a good deal of the valuable metal. However, I soon perceived that the earth was crumbling away, and was being carried by the agitation of the water into the pool, which speedily became turbid, while the sandy sediment of which I had heard remained at the bottom of the pail. Carefully draining the water away, I deposited the sand in one of the small close-woven Indian baskets we had brought with us, with the intention of drying it at the camp fire, there not being sufficient time before nightfall to allow the moisture gradually to absorb by the evaporation of the atmosphere.
After working for about half an hour, I retraced my steps with my basket to the spot where we had tethered the horses, and found the animals still standing there with their burdens on their backs. Mr. Malcolm was already there; he had with him about an equal quantity of the precious black sand; it remained, however, to be seen what proportion of gold our heaps contained. In a short time Bradley and Don Luis joined us, both of them in tip-top spirits. "I guess this is the way we do the trick down in these clearings," said the former, shaking a bag of golden sand. As for Jose, Don Luis's Indian servant, he was devout in his expressions of thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary and the Great Spirit, whom he would insist upon classifying together, in a most remarkable and not quite orthodox manner.
We now set to work to get up our tent. Malcolm, in the meantime, prepared coffee and very under-baked cakes, made of the flour we had brought with us. His cooking operations were greatly impeded by our eagerness to dry the sand we had scraped up—a feat in the achievement of which Bradley was clumsy enough to burn a hole in our very best saucepan. However, we managed to get the moisture absorbed, and, shutting our eyes, we commenced blowing away the sand with our mouths, and shortly after found ourselves the possessors of a few pinch's of gold. This was encouraging for a beginning. We drunk our coffee in high spirits, and then, having picketted our horses, made ourselves as snug as our accommodation would allow, and, being tired out, not only with the journey and the work, but with excitement and anxiety, slept soundly till morning.
Two horses stray away How orders were enforced at the diggings Sunday work Nature of the soil Inconveniences even in gold getting Dinner and rest A strike for higher wages A walk through the diggings Sleeping and smoking Indians and finery Californians and Yankee Runaway sailors and stray negroes A native born Kentuckian "That's a fact" A chapel at the diggings A supper with an appetite.
The morning broke brilliantly, and the first thing we discovered on rising was, that two of the horses had broken their fastenings during the night, and strayed. As we could not afford to lose the animals, Jose and Horry were despatched lo look after them, and they grumbled not a little at being thus sent off from the scene of golden operations; but Bradley, producing a rifle, swore that he would shoot them both unless they obeyed orders; so, after a little altercation, away they went.
Breakfast was soon despatched, and the question as to the day's operations asked. Don Luis was the only one who, on the score of its being Sunday, would not go to the diggings. He had no objection to amuse himself on Sunday, but he would not work. To get over the difficulty, we agreed to go upon the principle of every man keeping his own findings, our bonds of unity as a party to extend merely to mutual protection and defence. Leaving Don Luis, then, smoking in the tent, we proceeded to work, and found that the great majority of the gold-finders appeared to entertain our opinions, or at all events to imitate our practice, as to labouring on the Sunday. I had now leisure more particularly to remark the nature of the soil in which the gold was found. The dust is found amid the shingle actually below water, but the most convenient way of proceeding is to take the soil from that portion of the bed which has been overflowed but is now dry. It is principally of a gravelly nature, full of small stones, composed, as far as I could make out, of a species of jasper and milky quality, mingled with fragments of slate and splinters of basalt. The general opinion is, that the gold has been washed down from the hills.
I worked hard, as indeed we all did, the whole morning. The toil is very severe, the constant stooping pressing, of course, upon the spinal column, whilst the constant immersion of the hands in water causes the skin to excoriate and become exceedingly painful. But these inconveniences are slight when compared to the great gain by which one is recompensed for them.
At twelve o'clock, our usual primitive dinner hour, we met at the tents, tolerably well tired with our exertions. No dinner, however, was prepared, both Jose and Horry being still absent in pursuit of the strayed horses. We had, therefore, to resort to some of our jerked beef, which, with biscuits and coffee, formed our fare. After dinner, we determined to rest until the next day. The fact is, that the human frame will not stand, and was never intended to stand, a course of incessant toil; indeed, I believe that in civilized—that is to say, in industrious—communities, the Sabbath, bringing round as it does a stated remission from labour, is an institution physically necessary.
We therefore passed some time in conversation, which was interrupted by the arrival of Jose and Horry with the strayed horses. Horry demanded an immediate increase of wages, threatening to leave us and set to work on his own account if we refused. Bradley tried to talk big and bully him, but in vain. Jose had a sort of fear of Don Luis—who in return looked on his servant as his slave—so he said nothing. We could see, however, that they had evidently been in communication with the diggers around, and so we gave in. Later in the afternoon I started with Malcolm and McPhail for a walk through the diggings. We found comparatively a small proportion of the people who had commenced work in the morning still at their pans. Numbers were lying asleep under the trees, or in the shade of their tents and wagons. Others sat smoking and chatting in circles upon the grass, mending their clothes or performing other little domestic duties at the same time. It was really a motley scene. Indians strutted by in all the pride of gaudy calico, the manners of the savage concealed beneath the dress of the civilized man. Muscular sun-burnt fellows, whose fine forms and swarthy faces pronounced that Spanish blood ran through their veins, gossiped away with sallow hatchet-faced Yankees, smart men at a bargain, and always on the lookout for squalls. Here, and there one spied out the flannel shirt and coarse canvas trousers of a seaman—a runaway, in all probability, from a South Sea whaler; while one or two stray negroes chattered with all the volubility of their race, shaking their woolly heads and showing their white teeth. I got into conversation with one tall American; he was a native-born Kentuckian, and full of the bantam sort of consequence of his race. He predicted wonderful things from the discovery of the mineral treasures of California, observing that it would make a monetary revolution all over the world, and that nothing similar, at least to so great an extent, was ever known in history. "Look around! for, stranger," said he to me, "I guess you don't realise such a scene every day, and that's a fact. There's gold to be had for the picking of it up, and by all who choose to come and work. I reckon old John Bull will scrunch up his fingers in his empty pockets when he comes to hear of it. It's a most everlasting wonderful thing, and that's a fact, that beats Joe Dunkin's goose-pie and apple sarse."
Farther on we came upon a tremendous-looking tent, formed by two or three tents being flung into one, which, on examination, we found was doing duty as a chapel. A missionary, from one of the New England States, as I hear, was holding forth to a pretty large congregation. The place was very hot and chokey, and I only stayed long enough to hear that the discourse abounded in the cloudy metaphors and vague technicalities of Calvinistic theology.
The remainder of the afternoon I have been devoting to writing my journal, which I here break off to commence a hearty good supper, in revenge for the scrambling sort of dinner one has had to-day. The beef doesn't look roasted as they would put it on the table at the Clarendon, or at Astor House even; but none of those who sit down to the Clarendon table, at any rate, have such an appetite as I now have, far away beyond care and civilisation, in the gold-gathering region of California.
Digging and washing, with a few reflections A cradle in contemplation Scales to sell, but none to lend Stack of gold weighed More arrivals Two newcomers Mr. Biggs and Mr. Lacosse Good order prevails at the mines Timber bought for the cradles The cradles made The cradles worked The result of the first day's trial.
June 5th.—We have laboured hard all day, digging and washing, and with good success. I begin to hope now that I have really laid the foundation of a fortune, and I thank God for it. I have been kicked tolerably well about the world, and the proverb, that a "rolling stone gathers no moss," has, I am sure, been abundantly proved by my case. Now, however, I have a grand chance, and I am resolved that all that industry and perseverance can do shall be done to improve it.
Before starling for work this morning, it was agreed that Jose should act as cook for the day; it being stipulated that he was to have the afternoon to himself for digging. Horry was left in charge of the horses. I worked hard, keeping near Bradley, and conversing with him as I shovelled the gravel into the pail, and stirred it about in the clear pools. We had very fair success, but still we could not but think that this was a poor way of proceeding; besides, I didn't like the back-breaking work of stooping all day. I therefore proposed that we should endeavour to knock up a cradle. The expense for wood would certainly be great, but it would be better to incur it than keep to the present rude and toilsome plan of operation.
We proposed the plan to our comrades at dinner-time, and it was, on the whole, well received. Malcolm and McPhail entered into the notion, and we determined to try whether we could not put forth sufficient carpentering ability to carry it out. The next day was fixed upon for commencing the work.
After dinner we returned to our shovels and pails. In the evening we were anxious to know how much gold we had realised by our labours up to the present time; and, accordingly, I set off to borrow a pair of scales. After entering several tents in vain, I was directed to the Yankee who had the materials for a store, and whose name was Hiram Ensloe. He had several pairs to sell, but none to lend. I asked his prices, and now had, for the first time, a real example of the effects of plenty of gold and scarcity of goods. For a small pair of ordinary brass scales, with a set of troy weights, I paid, on behalf of the party, fifteen dollars, the seller consoling me by the information that in his opinion, if the gold-hunters continued to pour in for a fortnight longer, I would not have got the article for three times the amount.
Furnished with my purchase, I returned to the tent, and the stock of gold dust realised by each man was weighed, and computed at the current rate in which the mercantile transactions of this little colony are reckoned—namely, fourteen dollars each ounce of gold dust. We found that McPhail and Malcolm had been, upon the whole, the most successful, each having obtained nearly two ounces of pure gold dust, valued at twenty-eight dollars. I myself had about twenty-three dollars' worth, and Bradley had twenty-five dollars' worth. An amount which, considerable though it was, we hope greatly to increase as soon as we get our cradle into operation.
During the day, there were numerous arrivals from Sutter's Fort; and in my opinion, these diggings will soon be overcrowded. Two of the new-comers were known to Bradley—one, a Mr. Biggs, a shipping agent from San Francisco; the other, Mr. Lacosse, a French Canadian, who has recently settled in California. They accepted our offer for them to join our party. If this influx of people continues, I think the Yankee with the store will do better than any one; and keeping a shanty will be a far more profitable speculation than handling a shovel or working a cradle. What surprises me is, that in this remote spot, so distant from anything that can be called Law, so much tranquillity prevails under the circumstances. One hears of no deeds of violence, or even dishonesty. In fact, theft would hardly pay. The risk would be more than the advantage; for if any one was detected plundering, he would soon have a rifle-bullet put through him. One thing in favour of good order is, that here there is no unequal distribution of property—no favoured classes. Every man who has a spade or a trowel, and hands to use them, is upon an equality, and can make a fortune with a rapidity hitherto almost unknown in the history of the world.
Sunday, June 11th.—Nearly a week has elapsed since I last opened my diary. On Tuesday, we set to work upon our cradle. We resolved upon the construction of two; and, for this purpose, went down to the store in a body, to see about the boards. We found the timber extravagantly dear, being asked forty dollars a-hundred. After some bargaining, we obtained sufficient for our purpose, at the rate of thirty-five dollars.
The next question was, as to whether we should hire a carpenter. We were told there were one or two in the diggings who might be hired, though at a very extravagant rate. Accordingly, Bradley and I proceeded to see one of these gentlemen, and found him washing away with a hollow log and a willow-branch sieve. He offered to help us at the rate of thirty-five dollars a-day, we finding provisions and tools, and could not be brought to charge less. We thought this by far too extravagant, and left him, determined to undertake the work ourselves. Meantime, Horry had brought down two of our horses with him to the store. We loaded them immediately with boards, and returned to our tent.
After breakfast, which consisted of coffee without milk, flour cakes, and strips of dried beef, roasted on the embers, we set to work. We had a sufficient number of axes and a good stout saw, one large plane, and a few strong chisels, with plenty of nails. As may be expected, we proved to be very awkward carpenters. Mr. Lacosse was perhaps the handiest, and Malcolm not much inferior to him, until the latter unfortunately received a severe cut with a chisel, extending in a transverse line along the joint of the forefinger of the left hand. I strapped up the wound, but the rough work soon tore away the diaculum: no bad consequences, however, ensued. The wound, in spite of the hard treatment which it received, closed and healed by the first intention—proving the healthy habit of body engendered by temperance and constant exercise in the open air.
In building our cradles, or "gold canoes," as the Indians called them, we found that to mortice the planks into each other was a feat of carpentering far above our skill, particularly as we had no mortice chisels. We were therefore obliged to adopt the ruder experiment of making the boards overlap each other by about an inch, nailing them firmly together in that position. As, however, the inequality of surface at the bottom of the cradle, produced by the mode of building, would have materially impeded our operations, we strained some pieces of tarred canvas, which we fortunately possessed amongst our tent cloths, over the bottoms, thus rendering the surface even, and suited to our purpose. By the time we had got so far with our undertaking, we fell sufficiently tired to give over work for the night. We had laboured unceasingly at them, pausing only to swallow a hasty meal, and stuck by our hammers and chisels till dusk. We were up early the next morning, and toiled away to get the cradles completed, as we were constantly seeing proofs of the great advantages of these machines. We fixed a wicker sieve over the head, by means of a couple of transverse bars, and then set about to construct the working Apparatus, which we had all along feared would put our mechanical skill to rather a severe test; but we found it easier than we had anticipated, and before sundown the rockers were fixed on both cradles, which, to all intents and purposes, were now ready for use. The work was rather rough, but it was firm and strong. So fearful were we first of all that our cradles might be removed or tampered with in the night, that I jocularly proposed two of us should give up the shelter of the tent, and, like pretty little children, sleep in our cradles till the morning.
The next day we set to work with them with the utmost eagerness, having first dragged the lumbering machines to a likely spot in the vicinity of the water. The labour was hard enough, but nothing compared to the old plan of pot-washing, while it saved the hands from the injury inflicted by continual dabbling in sand and water. We took the different departments of labour by turns, and found that the change, by bringing into play different sets of muscles, greatly relieved us, and enabled us to keep the stones rolling with great energy. In the evening, with the help of our newly purchased scales, we tested our gains. The cradle which was worked by Don Luis, Malcolm, and myself, for it was so near the water that three hands were sufficient, had realised six ounces of gold dust; the other, attended to by Bradley, McPhail, Biggs, and Lacosse, had nearly as much. During the day there was another considerable influx of people to the diggings; the banks of the river are therefore getting more and more crowded, and we hear that the price of every article of subsistence is rising in the same proportion.
The proceedings of the week Visit from Mr. Larkin What will the Government do? What "enough" is San Francisco Houses and ships deserted A captain and ship without a crew A ship without a crew or captain Wages, newspapers, and shovels The Attorney-General to the King of the Sandwich Islands Something for the lawyers Gold-diggers by moonlight Mr. Larkin's departure Provisions run short Seek a supply at Salter's Good luck Diggings' law Provisions arrive A wagon wanted Arrival of Californians and their families Gay dresses and coquettish manners Fandangos El Jarabe The waltz Lookers-on and dancers Coffee, and something stronger No more Sunday work Jose and the saints The Virgin Mary cheated Contemplated migration.
June 18th, Sunday.—The proceedings of the past week have been but a repetition of those of the week previous, the amount of gold dust realised being rather greater, and amounting on an average to very nearly sixteen ounces per day. Cradles are now in use everywhere around us; nevertheless, the numbers who stand in the water washing with tin or wooden bowls do not appear to be diminished.
On the evening of Thursday we were visited by a gentleman from Monterey, a Mr. Larkin, who, I believe, is connected with the States Government, and who has arrived in the diggings with the view of making a report to the authorities at Washington. Don Luis immediately recognised him, and invited him to spend the evening and night in our tent. We were very anxious to hear the news from the coast, and Mr. Larkin in turn was very anxious to pick up all the information he could get respecting the diggings. Don Luis says he is a man of large fortune, so his tour is purely one of inspection, and not with any eye to business. We made him as comfortable as we could; Lacosse exerted himself in the manufacture of the coffee in honour of our guest, and we had several hours of interesting conversation.
Mr. Larkin said he had no idea what steps the Government at Washington would take with reference to the "placer." "It can't matter much to you, gentlemen," observed he, "for although there can be no doubt of its being upon public territory, still, before any instructions can be received from Washington, the great body of the diggers and washers here will be enriched to their heart's content, if a man ever does feel contented with any amount of wealth."—"Your observation," exclaimed Malcolm, "puts me in mind of a story which my father used to tell of a farmer, a friend of his, who once took his rent, the odd money short, to an old miserly landlord rolling in wealth. He was asked by him why he had not brought the full amount. 'Why,' replied the farmer, 'I thought you had enough.'—'Enough!' said the miser; 'do you know what enough is? I'll tell you—Enough is something more than a man hath!'"
Mr. Larkin then spoke of the effects of the "mineral yellow fever," as he called it, having been most extraordinary in San Francisco. When he left that town, he said more than two-thirds of the houses were deserted. We were not surprised at this, as we knew the people who were continually arriving here must have come from somewhere. Nearly all the ships in the harbour too had lost a great part of their crews by desertion. A barque called the Amity had only six men left when Mr. Larkin started from the port. On board another ship from the Sandwich Islands the captain was left actually and literally alone. On the road Mr. Larkin fell in with another captain who had started off for the gold region with every man of his crew, leaving his ship unprotected in port. On Mr. Larkin remonstrating with him on the flagrancy of his conduct, he merely replied, "Oh, I warrant me her cables and anchors are strong enough to last till we get back." Mr. Larkin told us what we were fully prepared to hear, namely, that wages and salaries of all classes have risen immensely; clerks, he said, were getting from nine hundred to twelve hundred dollars, instead of from four hundred to five hundred and fifty dollars, with their board. Both the Star and Californian newspapers, he said, had stopped. Thinking to surprise us, he told us that shovels which used to be one dollar were selling in San Francisco, when he left, for five and six dollars each. Bradley replied that he thought this was a very reasonable figure, for he had heard thirty dollars offered for a spade that very day.
"Do you know, by-the-by," said Mr. Larkin, "who I saw here to-day, up to his knees in water, washing away in a tin pan? Why, a lawyer who was the Attorney-General to the King of the Sandwich Islands, not eighteen months ago."—"I guess," said Bradley, "he finds gold-washing more profitable than Sandwich Island law; but he's not the only one of his brethren that is of much the same spirit; there's lots of lawyers in these diggings. Well! they are better employed now than ever they were in their lives. They're money-getting rascals all the world over; but here they do have to work for it, that's one comfort." Before turning in, we took a stroll through the camp with Mr. Larkin. It was a bright moonlight night, and some of the more eager diggers were still at work. These were the new-comers, probably, who were too much excited to sleep without trying their hands at washing the golden gravel. Mr. Larkin left us the following day.
June 23rd, Friday.—The last entry in my diary seems to have been written last Sunday. Next day we began to find the provisions running short. A consultation was accordingly held upon the subject. It was quite out of the question to buy provisions in the diggings. Work as one might, the day's living of any man with a respectable appetite—and one seems always to feel hungry here—would pretty well absorb the day's labour. We therefore determined to dispatch Bradley and Jose back to Sutter's Fort for a supply, it being stipulated that Bradley should share in the gold we might find during their absence. This arrangement being duly concluded, they started off the following morning on horseback, driving before them the two beasts we purchased at Sutter's. We instructed Bradley, if possible, to buy a light wagon, in which to store the provisions he was to bring back. The two extra horses would be able to draw it, and such a vehicle would be useful in many respects. He took with him two hundred and fifty dollars' worth of gold, so as to be in sufficient funds, in case the sum demanded should be an over-exorbitant one.
They departed on Tuesday, and we continued our labours. Towards the afternoon of that day, I had a piece of great good luck. I was digging up the earth to throw into the cradle, when I turned up a lump of ore about the size of a small walnut, which I knew at once was a piece of gold. It weighed two ounces and three-quarters. This, by the law of the diggings—for it is curious how soon a set of rude regulations sprung into existence, which everybody seemed to abide by—belonged to myself and not to the party, it being found before the earth was thrown into the cradle, and being over half an ounce in weight. Higher up the Sacramento, and particularly on Bear River, one of its tributaries, these lumps and flakes were said to be frequently met with; but at the Mormon digging they are very rare.
On Thursday, about sundown, we were delighted to see the approach of Bradley with a well-loaded wagon of light but strong construction. He had just arrived in time, for our larder was almost exhausted. We were prepared, however, to have stood out another day or two on short rations, rather than pay the prices asked at the shanties. Bradley gave us a short account of the expedition. They reached Sutter's in safety, and found the Fort as busy as though it was tenanted by a swarm of bees. A sort of hotel had at last been opened, and the landlord was driving a roaring trade. The emigrants were pouring in, purchasing shovels, trowels, pans, and whatever else they wanted, at high prices. Profitable as was the washing business, Bradley said he suspected the storekeepers at the Fort were clearing more by their branch of the enterprise than if they had their hands in the pan themselves. He found Captain Sutter well and hearty, and, the morning after his arrival, consulted him about a wagon. The Captain, however, had none he felt inclined to sell, nor was there such a thing to be got in the fort. After some consideration, however, Captain Sutter said that Mr. Sinclair, whose rancho was about three miles off, on the opposite bank of the river, might be able to accommodate him. Accordingly, Bradley made the best of his way there, but found Mr. Sinclair indisposed to trade. At length, after a good deal of persuasion, Bradley succeeded in hiring a wagon and a wagoner of him for a week. The vehicle was got across the river that night. In the morning he started it off well laden with provisions, and arrived here without any accident the same evening. We were now well victualled for a month, but were puzzled how to stow away our large stock of provisions, and only accomplished it satisfactorily by giving up the tent for this purpose. This compelled us all to sleep in the open air; but as yet the nights are very mild and pleasant.
Among the fresh arrivals at the diggings the native Californians have begun to appear in tolerable numbers. Many of these people have brought their wives, who are attended usually by Indian girls. The graceful Spanish costume of the new-comers adds quite a feature to the busy scene around. There, working amidst the sallow Yankees, with their wide white trousers and straw hats, and the half-naked Indian, may be seen the native-born Californian, with his dusky visage and lustrous black eye, clad in the universal short tight jacket with its lace adornments, and velvet breeches, with a silk sash fastened round his waist, splashing away with his gay deerskin botas in the mudded water. The appearance of the women is graceful and coquettish. Their petticoats, short enough, to display in most instances a well-turned ankle, are richly laced and embroidered, and striped and flounced with gaudy colours, of which scarlet seems to have the preference. Their tresses hang in luxuriant plaits down their backs: and in all the little accessories of dress, such as ear-rings, necklaces, etc., the costume is very rich. Its distinguishing, feature, however, is the reboso, a sort of scarf, generally made of cotton, which answers to the mantilla of Old Spain. It is worn in many different and very graceful fashions—sometimes twined round the waist and shoulders; at others, hanging in pretty festoons about the figure, but always disposed with that indescribable degree of coquettish grace which Spanish women have been for ages, allowed to possess in the management of the fan and the mantilla. Since these arrivals almost every evening a fandango is got up on the green, before some of the tents. The term fandango, though originally signifying a peculiar kind of dance, seems to be used here for an evening's dancing entertainment, in which many different pas are introduced. I was present at a fandango a few nights ago where a couple of performers were dancing "el jarabe," which seemed to consist chiefly of a series of monotonous toe and heel movements on the ground. The motions of the foot were, however, wonderfully rapid, and always in exact time to the music. But at these entertainments the waltz seems to be the standing dish. It is danced with numerous very intricate figures, to which, however, all the Californians appear quite au fait. Men and women alike waltz beautifully, with an easy, graceful, swinging motion.
It is quite a treat, after a hard day's work, to go at nightfall to one of these fandangos. The merry notes of the guitar and the violin announce them to all comers; and a motley enough looking crowd, every member of which is puffing away at a cigar, forms are applauding circle round the dancers, who smoke like the rest. One cannot help being struck by the picturesque costumes and graceful motions of the performers, who appear to dance not only with their legs, but with all their hearts and souls. Lacosse is a particular admirer of these fandangos, and he very frequently takes a part in them himself. During the interval between the dances, coffee is consumed by the senoras, and coffee with something, stronger by the senors; so that, as the, night advances, the merriment gets, if not "fast and furious," at least animated and imposing.
25th June, Sunday.—We have all of us, given over working on Sundays, as we found the toil on six successive days quite hard enough. Last week we had rather indifferent success, having realized only nineteen ounces of gold, barely three ounces a man. The dust is weighed out and distributed every evening, and each man carries his portion about his person. Jose, who has amassed a tolerable quantity by working in his spare time, is constantly feeling to see whether his stock is safe. He weighs it two or three times a-day, to ascertain, I suppose, whether it exhausts itself by insensible perspiration, or other means, and invokes, by turns, every saint in the calendar—his patron-saint, Joseph, in particular—and all his old heathenish spirits, to keep his treasure safe. In accordance with a vow he made before he started from Monterey, he has set apart one-fourth of his treasure for the Big Woman, as he calls the Virgin Mary—in contradistinction to the Great Spirit, I imagine; but I fancy her stock of gold decreases every day, and that Jose doesn't play her fair.
We had a great deal of serious conversation this afternoon upon the propriety of moving farther up the river, and trying some of the higher washings; for our last week's labour was a terribly poor yield. We remembered Captain Sutter's account of how Mr. Marshall had first discovered the gold in the vicinity of his mill, and how plentiful it seemed to lie there. Besides, the diggings are getting overcrowded; the consequence of which is, that we have had several of our pans and baskets stolen. We therefore decided that, if we could sell our cradles to advantage—and there is some likelihood of this, for there is not a carpenter left all through these diggings to make others for the constant new-comers—to move higher up the Fork, and try our fortune at a less crowded spot. There is one thing that I think I shall regret leaving myself, and that is, the fandango and the two or three pretty senoritas one has been in the habit of meeting at it almost every night.
The party leave the Mormon diggings Cradles sold by auction Laughter and biddings The wagon sent back The route to the saw-mills A horse in danger A miss at a Koyott An antelope hit Mr. Marshall Venison steaks for supper The saw-mills Indians at work Acorn bread Where the gold was How it was got Gentlemen and horses New-comers "Yankee Doodle" and the "Star-spangled Banner."
Sunday, July 2nd.—Yesterday, in accordance with the resolutions debated this day week, we left the Mormon diggings, and pursued our course up the Americans' River. It was on Thursday night that we adopted the final determination of moving off from our late quarters; and, accordingly, next day I walked with Bradley and McPhail through the diggings, to try to find purchasers for our cradles. This was not a difficult task. We had plenty of offers; and we were so importuned by some six or eight people, who were anxious to trade with us, that we decided in a minute on having an auction of them. I was not bold enough to play the part of auctioneer myself; but Bradley very coolly mounted on the top of one of the machines, and called upon "gentlemen traders" for their biddings. This was a capital move. The highest offer we had previously obtained was one hundred and sixty dollars for the largest of the two machines; but Bradley succeeded in coaxing the purchasers on—stopping now and then to expatiate on the mint of gold which, he guessed, he would warrant it to produce daily; and then calling to their minds the fact that this was "the identical cradle into which the lump of gold weighing two ounces and three-quarters—the largest piece ever found at the Mormon diggings—was about to have been shovelled, when it was discovered and seized hold of by the fortunate digger—the gentleman on my right hand—who, as you all know, in accordance with the admirable laws of these diggings, laid claim to it as his private property." This produced a roar of laughter; but, what was better, it produced a roar of biddings, and the cradle was knocked down at one hundred and ninety-five dollars, payable in gold dust, at the standard rate of fourteen dollars the ounce, or a discount of ten per cent, if settled in broad silver pieces. The other cradle fetched us one hundred and eighty dollars.
For these two cradles, therefore, we got three hundred and seventy-five dollars' worth of dust. The same night we occupied ourselves in constructing strong bags, made of rough hides, and well strapped round the person for the conveyance of the gold dust and scales which we had already amassed.
On Wednesday morning, before sunrise, we had sent the wagon and wagoner back to Mr. Sinclair's rancho, accompanied by Jose, who returned on the evening of Thursday with the horses.
We found, on starting, that our horses could not carry all the provisions, and at the same time perform a good day's work. We, therefore, left some of the more bulky articles under the charge of a man from San Francisco, known to Bradley, and departed. We made good progress for a mile or two; and, as we crossed the brow of a hill, halted a moment to observe the busy aspect of the washings, as they appeared from a distance. The country, as we ascended the stream, became hourly more hilly and broken. Its general aspect was grassy, and the soil appeared fertile. Here and there deep gullies crossed our path, over which we had great difficulty in urging the horses, heavily loaded as they were. At one of these ravines, the animal which conveyed the tent-poles lost his footing, and went scrambling down the edge of the descent, bearing with him a whole avalanche of gravel and shingles. Malcolm and Lacosse went after the brute, and succeeded in forcing it up by a less precipitous path.