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Copyright, 1918, by Yale Universify Press 

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INDEX - 271 


13 * 




































The dominant people of CaJifomia have been 
successively aborigines, conquistador es^ monks, 
the dreamy, romantic, imenergetic peoples of 
Spain, the roaring melange of Forty-nine, and 
finally the modem citizens, who are so distinctive 
that they bid fair to become a subspecies of their 
own. This modem society has, in its evolution, 
something imique. To be sure, other countries 
also have passed through these same phases. But 
while the processes have consumed a leisurely five 
hundred years or so elsewhere, here they have 
been subjected to forced growth. 

The tourist traveler is inclined to look upon the 
cmmbling yet beautiful remains of the old mis- 
sions, those venerable relics in a bustlisv^\jaa^'sc^ 


land, as he looks upon the enduring remains of old 
Rome. Yet there are today many unconsidered 
New England farmhouses older than the oldest 
western mission, and there are men now living 
who witnessed the passing of Spanish California. 

Though the existence of California had been 
known for centuries, and the dates of her first visi- 
tors are many hundreds of years old, nevertheless 
Spain attempted no actual occupation until she 
was forced to it by political necessity. Until that 
time she had little use for the country. After 
early investigations had exploded her dream of 
more treasure cities similar to those looted by 
Cortes and Pizarro, her interest promptly died. 

But in the latter part of the eighteenth century 
Spain began to awake to the importance of action. 
Fortunately ready to her hand was a tried and 
tempered weapon. Just as the modem statesmen 
turn to commercial penetration, so Spain turned, 
as always, to religious occupation. She made 
use of the missionary spirit and she sent forth 
her expeditions ostensibly for the purpose of con- 
verting the* heathen. The result was the so-called 
Sacred Expedition imder the leadership of Junl- 
pero Serra and Portola. In the face of incredible 
hardships and discouragements, these devoted. 


if narrow and simple, men succeeded in establish- 
ing a string of missions from San Diego to Sonoma. 
The energy, self-sacrifice, and persistence of the 
members of this expedition furnish inspiring read- 
ing today and show clearly of what the Spanish 
character at its best is capable. 

For the next thirty years after the foimding of 
the first mission in 1769, the grasp of Spain on^ 
California was assured. Men who could do, suffer, 
and endure occupied the land. They made their 
mistakes in judgment and in methods, but the 
strong fiber of the pioneer was there. The original 
padres were almost without exception zealous, 
devoted to poverty, uplifted by a fanatic desire 
to further their cause. The original Spanish 
temporal leaders were in general able, energetic, 
courageous, and not afraid of work or fearful of 

At the end of that period, however, things 
began to suffer a change. The time of pioneering 
came to an end, and the new age of material 
prosperity began. Evils of various sorts crept 
in. The pioneer priests were in some instances 
replaced by men who thought more of the flesh- 
pot than of the altar, and whose treatment of the 
Indians left very much to be desired. S^csjsaaScJv^^^ 


arose between the civil and the religious powers. 
Envy of the missions' immense holdings imdoubt- 
edly had its influence. The final result of the 
struggle could not be avoided, and in the end 
the complete secularization of the missions took 
place, and with this inevitable change the real 
influence of these religious outposts came to an 

Thus before the advent in California of the 
American as an American, and not as a traveler 
or a naturalized citizen, the mission had disap- 
peared from the land, and the land was inhabited 
by a race calling itself the gente de raz6n, in presumed 
contradistinction to human beasts with no reason- 
ing powers. Of this period the lay reader finds such 
conflicting accounts that he either is bewildered 
or else boldly indulges his prejudices. According 
to one school of writers — mainly those of modern 
fiction — California before the advent of the 
gringo was a sort of Arcadian paradise, populated 
by a people who were polite, generous, pleasure- 
loving, high-minded, chivalrous, aristocratic, and 
above all things romantic. Only with the coming 
of the loosely sordid, commercial, and despicable 
American did this Arcadia fade to the strains of 
dying and pathetic music. According to another 


school of writers — mainly authors of personal 
reminiscences at a time when growing antagonism 
was accentuating the diflPerence in ideals — the 
"greaser" was a dirty, idle, shiftless, treacherous, 
tawdry vagabond, dwelling in a disgracefully 
primitive house, and backward in every aspect 
of civilization. 

The truth, of course, lies somewhere between 
the two extremes, but its exact location is difficult 
though not impossible to determine. The influ- 
ence of environment is sometimes strong, but hu- 
man nature does not differ much from age to age. 
Racial characteristics remain approximately the 
same. The Califomians were of several distinct 
classes. The upper class, which consisted of a very 
few families, generally included those who had held 
office, and whose pride led them to intermarry. 
Pure blood was exceedingly rare. Of even the 
best the majority had Indian blood; but the 
slightest mixture of Spanish was a sufficient claim 
to gentiKty. Outside of these "first families," 
the bulk of the population came from three sources: 
the original military adjuncts to the missions, 
those brought in as settlers, and convicts imported 
to support one side or another in the inhumer-\ 
able political squabbles. These diverse eUxsL^^s^-^^ 


shared one sentiment only — an aversion to work. 
The feeling had grown up that in order to main- 
tain the prestige of the soldier in the eyes of the 
natives it was highly improper that he should ever 
do any labor. The settlers, of whom there were 
few, had themselves been induced to immigrate by 
rather extravagant promises of an easy life. The 
convicts were only what was to be expected. 

If limitations of space and subject permitted, it 
would be pleasant to portray the romantic life of 
those pastoral days. Arcadian conditions were 
then more nearly attained than perhaps at any 
other time in the world's history. The picturesque, 
easy, idle, pleasant, fiery, aristocratic life has been 
elsewhere so well depicted that it has taken on the 
I quality of rosy legend. Nobody did any more 
work than it pleased him to do; everybody was 
well-fed and happy; the women were beautiful 
and chaste; the men were bold, fiery, spirited, 
gracefully idle; life was a succession of picturesque 
merrymakings, lovemakings, intrigues, visits, 
lavish hospitalities, harmless politics, and revolu- 
tions. To be sure, there were but few signs of 
progressive spirit. People traveled on horseback 
because roads did not exist. They wore silks and 
diamonds, lace and satin, but their houses were 


crude, and conveniences were simple or entirely 
lacking. Their very vehicles, with wooden axles 
and wheels made of the cross-section of a tree, 
were such as an East African savage would be 
ashamed of. But who cared? And since no one 
wished improvements, why worry about them? 

Certainly, judged by the standards of a truly pro- 
gressive race, the Spanish occupation had many 
shortcomings. Agriculture was so little known 
that at times the country nearly starved. Con- 
temporary travelers mention this fact with wonder. 
"There is," says Ryan, "very little land under 
cultivation in the vicinity of Monterey. That 
which strikes the foreigner most is the utter 
neglect in which the soil is left and the indifference 
with which the most charming sites are regarded. 
In the hands of the English and Americans, Monte- 
rey would be a beautiful town adorned with 
gardens and orchards and surrounded with pictur- 
esque walks and drives. The natives are, unfortu- 
nately, too ignorant to appreciate and too indolent 
even to attempt such improvement." And 
Captain Charles Wilkes asserts that "notwith- 
standing the immense number of domestic animals 
in the country, the Califomians were too lazy 
to make butter or cheese, and even rmlk^^^^'«2t^' 


If there was a little good soap and leather occasion- 
ally found, the people were too indolent to make 
them in any quantity. The earth was simply 
scratched a few inches by a mean and ill-contrived 
plow. When the ground had been turned up by 
repeated scratching, it was hoed down and the 
clods broken by dragging over it huge branches 
of trees. Threshing was performed by spreading 
the cut grain on a spot of hard ground, treading it 
with cattle, and after taking oflF the straw throwing 
the remainder up in the breeze, much was lost 
and what was saved was foul." 

General shiftlessness and inertia extended also 
to those branches wherein the Califomian was 
supposed to excel. Even in the matter of cattle 
and sheep, the stock was very inferior to that 
brought into the coimtry by the Americans, and 
such a thing as crossing stock or improving the 
breed of either cattle or horses was never thought 
of. The cattle were long-homed, rough-skinned 
animals, and the beef was tough and coarse. The 
sheep, while of Spanish stock, were very far from 
being Spanish merino. Their wool was of the 
poorest quality, entirely unfit for exportation, 
and their meat was not a favorite food. 

There were practically no manufactures on the 


whole coast. The inhabitants depended for all 
luxuries and necessities on foreign trade, and 
in exchange gave hide and tallow from the semi- 
wild cattle that roamed the hills. Even this 
trade was discouraged by heavy import duties 
which amounted at times to one hundred per 
cent of the value. Such conditions naturally 
led to extensive smuggling which was connived 
at by most officials, high and low, and even by 
the monks of the missions themselves. 

Although the chief reason for Spanish occupancy 
was to hold the coimtry, the provisions for defense 
were not only inadequate but careless. Thomes 
says, in Land and Sea^ that the fort at Mon- 
terey was "armed with four long brass nine- 
pounders, the handsomest guns that I ever saw 
all covered with scroll work and figures. They 
were mounted on ruined and decayed carriages. 
Two of them were pointed toward the planet 
Venus, and the other two were depressed so that 
had they been loaded or fired the balls would 
have startled the people on the other side of the 
hemisphere.'* This condition was typical of those 
throughout the so-called armed forts of California. 

The picture thus presented is unjustly shaded^ ot 
course, for Spanish CaliiomiaYLa^SX^V^^^^^^^'^^ 


and romantic side. In a final estimate no one 
could say where the balance would be struck; but 
our purpose is not to strike a final balance. We 
are here endeavoring to analyze the reasons why 
the task of the American conquerors was so easy, 
and to explain the facility with which the original 
population was thrust aside. 

It is a sometimes rather annoying anomaly of 
human nature that the races and individuals about 
whom are woven the most indestructible mantles 
of romance are generally those who, from the stand- 
point of economic stability or solid moral quality, 
are the most variable. We staid and sober citizens 
are inclined to throw an aura of picturesqueness 
about such creatures as the Stuarts, the dissipated 
Virginian cavaliers, the happy-go-lucky barren 
artists of the Latin Quarter, the fiery touchiness of 
that so-called chivalry which was one of the least 
important features of Southern life, and so on. 
We staid and sober citizens generally object strenu- 
ously to living in actual contact with the unpunctu- 
ality, unreliability, unreasonableness, shiftlessness, 
and general irresponsibility that are the invariable 
concomitants of this picturesqueness. At a safe 
distance we prove less critical. We even go so 
far as to r^ard this unfamiliar life as a mental 


anodyne or antidote to the rigid responsibility of 
our own everyday existence. We use these his- 
torical accounts for moral relaxation, much as 
some financiers or statisticians are said to read 
cheap detective stories for complete mental 

But the Califomian's imdoubtedly admirable 
qualities of generosity, kindheartedness (when- 
ever narrow prejudice or very lofty pride was not 
touched), hospitality, and all the rest, proved, in 
the eyes of a practical people confronted with a 
large and practical job, of little value in view of his 
predominantly negative qualities. A man with 
all the time in the world rarely gets on with a man 
who has no time at all. The newcomer had his 
house to put in order; and it was a very big house. 
The American wanted to get things done at once; 
the Californian could see no especial reason 
for doing them at all. Even when his short-lived 
enthusiasm happened to be aroused, it was for 
action tomorrow rather than today. 

For all his amiable qualities, the mainspring of 
the Californian's conduct was at bottom the 
impression he could make upon others. The 
magnificence of his apparel and his accoutrement 
indicated no feeling for luxury bu\, T^XJaet ^ V>pcl^' 


ness for display. His pride and quick-tempered 
honor were rooted in a desire to stand well in the 
eyes of his equals, not in a desire to stand well 
with himself. In consequence he had not the 
builder's fundamental instinct. He made no 
effort to supply himself with anything that did not 
satisfy this amiable desire. The contradictions of 
his conduct, therefore, become comprehensible. 
We begin to see why he wore silks and satins and 
why he neglected what to us are necessities. We 
see why he could display such admirable carriage 
in rough-riding and lassoing grizzlies, and yet 
seemed to possess such feeble military eflSciency. 
We comprehend his generous hospitality coupled 
with his often narrow and suspicious cruelty. In 
fact, all the contrasts of his character and action 
begin to be clear. His displacement was natural 
when confronted by a people who, whatever their 
serious faults, had wants and desires that came 
from within, who possessed the instinct to create 
and to hold the things that would gratify those 
desires, and who, in the final analysis, began to 
care for other men's opinions only after they had 
satisfied their own needs and desires. 



FfiOM the earliest period Spain had discouraged 
foreign immigration into California. Her object 
was neither to attract settlers nor to develop the 
country, but to retain political control of it, and 
to mal^e of it a possible asylum for her own people. 
Fifty years after the foimding of the first mission 
at San Di^o, California had only thirteen inhabi- 
tants of foreign birth. Most of these had become 
naturalized citizens, and so were in name Spanish. 
Of these but three were American ! 

Subsequent to 1822, however, the number of 
foreign residents rapidly increased. These people 
were mainly of substantial character, possessing a 
real interest in the coimtry and an intention of per- 
manent settlement. Most of them became natural- 
ized, married Spanish women, acquired property, 
and became trusted citizens. In marked contrast 

to their nea^^hbors, they invanaXA^ d^&'^'a.^^ ^'^'^ 



greatest energy and enterprise. They were gener- 
ally liked by the natives, and such men as Hartnell, 
Richardson, David Spence, Nicholas Den, and 
many others, lived lives and left reputations to 
be envied. 

Between 1830 and 1840, however, Americans 
of a diflPerent type began to present themselves. 
Southwest of the Missouri River the ancient town 
of Santa Fe attracted trappers and traders of all 
nations and from all parts of the great West. There 
they met to exchange their wares and to organ- 
ize new expeditions into the remote territories. 
Some of them naturally found their way across the 
western mountains into California. One of the 
most notable was James Pattie, whose personal 
narrative is well worth reading. These men were 
bold, hardy, rough, energetic, with little patience 
for the refinements of life — in fact, diametrically 
opposed in character to the easy-going inhabitants 
of California. Contempt on the one side and 
distrust on the other were inevitable. The trap- 
pers and traders, together with the deserters 
from whalers and other ships, banded together in 
small communities of the rough type familiar to 
any observer of our frontier commimities. They 
looked down upon and despised the "greasers," 


who in turn did everything in their power to harass 
them by political and other means. 

At first isolated parties, such as those of Jedediah 
Smith, the Patties, and some others, had been 
imprisoned or banished eastward over the Rockies. 
The pressure of increasing numbers, combined 
with the rather idle carelessness into which all 
California-Spanish regulations seemed at length 
to fall, later nullified this drastic policy. Notori- 
ous among these men was one Isaac Graham, an 
American trapper, who had become weary of wan- 
dering and had settled near Natividad. There he 
established a small distillery, and in consequence 
drew about him all the rough and idle characters 
of the country. Some were trappers, some sailors; 
a few were Mexicans and renegade Indians. Over 
all of these Graham obtained an absolute control. 
They were most of them of a belligerent nature and 
expert shots, accustomed to taking care of them- 
selves in the wilds. This little band, though it 
consisted of only thirty-nine members, was there- 
fore considered formidable. 

A rumor that these people were plotting an 
uprising for the purpose of overturning the govern- 
ment aroused Governor Alvarado to action. It is 
probable that the rumors in quest\oTL^^x^\s:^<et<Sci 




the reports of boastful drunken vaporings and 
would better have been ignored. However, at thia 
time Alvarado, recently arisen to power through 
the usual revolutionary tactics, felt himself not en- 
tirely secure in his new position. He needed some 
distraction, and he therefore seized upon the 
rumor of Graham's uprising as a means of solidify- 
ing his influence — an expedient not unknown to 
modem rulers. He therefore ordered the prefect 
Castro to arrest the party. This was done by sur- 
prise. Graham and his companions were taken 
from their beds, placed upon a ship at Monterey, 
and exiled to San Bias, to be eventually delivered 
to the Mexican authorities. There they were 
held in prison for some months, but being at last 
released through the efforts of an American lawyer, 
most of them returned to California rather better 
off than before their arrest. It is typical of the 
vacillating Californian policy of the day that, 
on their return, Graham and his riflemen were 
at once made use of by one of the revolutionary 
parties as a reinforcement to their military power! 
By 1840 the foreign population had by these 
rather desultory methods been increased to a 
few over four hundred souls. The majority could 
not be described as welcome guests. They had 


rarely come into the country with the deliberate 
intention of settling but rather as a traveler's 
chance. In November, 1841, however, two par- 
ties of quite a diflFerent character arrived. They 
were the first true immigrants into California, and 
their advent is significant a^ marking the beginning 
of the end of the old order. One of these parties 
entered by the Salt Lake Trail, and was the 
forerunner of the many pioneers over that great 
central route. The other came by Santa Fe, over 
the trail that had by now become so well marked 
that they hardly suflFered even inconvenience on 
their journey. The first party arrived at Monte 
Diablo in the north, the other at San Gabriel 
Mission in the south. Many brought their fami- 
lies with them, and they came with the evident 
intention of settling in California. 

The arrival of these two parties presented to the 
Mexican Government a problem that required 
immediate solution. Already in anticipation of 
such an event it had been provided that nobody 
who had not obtained a legal passport should be 
permitted to remain in the country; and that even 
old settlers, unless naturalized, should be required 
to depart unless they procured official permission 
to remain. Naturally none of tha tl^^ ^rKM'sSSa^ 


had received notice of this law, and they were in 
consequence unprovided with the proper passports. 
Legally they should have been forced at once to 
turn about and return by the way they came. 
Actually it would have been inhuman, if not 
impossible, to have forced them at that season of 
the year to attempt the moimtains. General 
Vallejo, always broad-minded in his policies, used 
discretion in the matter and provided those in his 
district with temporary permits to remain. He 
required only a bond signed by other Americans 
who had been longer in the country. 

Alvarado and Vallejo at once notified the 
Mexican Government of the arrival of these 
strangers, and both expressed fear that other and 
larger parties would follow. These fears were 
very soon realized. Succeeding expeditions set- 
tled in the State with the evident intention of 
remaining. No serious effort was made by the 
California authorities to keep them out. From 
time to time, to be sure, formal objection was 
raised and regulations were passed. However, 
as a matter of plain practicability, it was mani- 
festly impossible to prevent parties from starting 
across the plains, or to inform the people living 
in the Eastern States of the regulations adopted 


by California. It must be remembered that 
communication at that time was extraordinarily 
slow and broken. It would have been cruel and 
unwarranted to drive away those who had already 
arrived. And even were such a course to be con- 
templated, a garrison would have been necessary at 
every moimtain pass on the East and North, and 
at every crossing of the Colorado River, as well as 
at every port along the coast. The government 
in California had not men sufficient to handle 
its own few antique guns in its few coastwise 
forts, let alone a surplus for the purpose just 
described. And to cap all, provided the garri- 
sons had been available and could have been 
placed, it would have been physically impossible 
to have supplied them with provisions for even a 
single month. 

Truth to tell, the newcomers of this last class were 
not personally objectionable to the Califomians. 
The Spanish considered them no diflFerent from 
those of their own blood. Had it not been for an 
uneasiness lest the enterprise of the American 
settlers should in time overcome Californian in- 
terests, had it not been for repeated orders from 
Mexico itself, and had it not been for reports that 
ten thousand Mormons had receiilV^ V5S\.^^K&a^sssa 


for California, it is doubtful if much attention 
would have been paid to the first immigrants. 

Westward migration at this time was given an 
added impetus by the Or^on question. The 
status of Or^on had long been in doubt. Both 
England and the United States were inclined to 
claim priority of occupation. The boundary 
between Canada and the United States had not 
yet been decided upon between the two countries. 
Though they had agreed upon the compromise of 
joint occupation of the disputed land, this arrange- 
ment did not meet with public approval. The 
land-hungry took a particular interest in the 
question and joined their voices with those of men 
actuated by more patriotic motives. In public 
meetings which were held throughout the country 
this joint occupation convention was explained 
and discussed, and its abrogation was demanded. 
These meetings helped to form the patriotic 
desire. Senator Tappan once said that thirty 
thousand settlers with their thirty thousand 
rifles in the valley of the Columbia would quickly 
settle all questions of title to the country. This 
saying was adopted as the slogan for a campaign 
in the West. It had the same inspiring effect as 
the later famous "54-40 or fight." People were 


aroused as in the olden times they had been aroused 
to the crusades. It became a form of mental 
contagion to talk of, and finally to accomplish, 
the journey to the Northwest. Though no accu- 
rate records were kept, it is estimated that in 
1843 over 800 people crossed to Willamette 
Valley. By 1845 this immigration had increased 
to fully 3000 within the year. 

Because of these conditions the Oregon Trail 
had become a national highway. Starting at 
Independence, which is a suburb of the present 
Kansas City, it set out over the rolling prairie. 
At that time the wide "plains were bright with 
wild flowers and teeming with game. Elk, 
antelope, wild turkeys, buffalo, deer, and a great 
variety of smaller creatures supplied sport and food 
in plenty. Wood and water were in every ravine; 
the abimdant grass was sufficient to maintain the 
swarming hordes of wild animals and to give rich 
pasture to horses and oxen. The journey across 
these prairies, while long and hard, could rarely 
have been tedious. Tremendous thunderstorms 
succeeded the sultry heat of the West, an occa- 
sional cyclone added excitement; the cattle were 
apt to stampede senselessly; and, while the Indian 
had not yet developed the hostility \3aaX. \saJwet 


made a journey across the plains so dangerous, 
nevertheless the possibilities of theft were always 
near enough at hand to keep the traveler alert and 
interested. Then there was the sandy country 
of the Platte River with its buffalo — buffalo by 
the hundreds of thousands, as far as the eye could 
reach — a marvelous sight: and beyond that again 
the Rockies, by way of Fort Laramie and South 

Beyond Fort Hall the Oregon Trail and the 
trail for California divided. And at this point 
there began the terrible part of the journey — 
the arid, alkaline, thirsty desert, short of game, 
horrible in its monotony, deadly with its thirst. 
It is no wonder that, weakened by their sufferings 
in this inferno, so many of the immigrants looked 
upon the towering walls of the Sierras with a 
sinking of the heart. 

While at first most of the influx of settlers was by 
way of Oregon, later the stories of the new coimtry 
that made their way eastward induced travelers 
to go direct to California itself. The immigra- 
tion, both from Oregon in the North and by the 
route over the Sierras, increased so rapidly that 
in 1845 there were probably about 700 Ameri- 
cans in the district. Those coming over the 


Sierras by the Carson Sink and Salt Lake trails 
arrived first of all at the fort built by Captain 
Sutter at the junction of the American and 
Sacramento rivers. 

Captain Sutter was a man of Swiss parentage 
who had arrived in San Francisco in 1839 without 
much capital and with only the assets of consider- 
able ability and great driving force. From the 
Governor he obtained grant of a large tract of 
land "somewhere in the interior" for the purposes 
of colonization. His colonists consisted of one 
German, four other white men, and eight Kana- 
kas. The then Governor, Alvarado, thought this 
rather a small beginning, but advised him to 
take out naturalization papers and to select a loca- 
tion. Sutter set out on his somewhat vague quest 
with a four-oared boat and two small schooners, 
loaded with provisions, implements, ammimition, 
and three small cannon. Besides his original party 
he took an Indian boy and a dog, the latter prov- 
ing by no means the least useful member of the 
company. He found at the junction of the 
American and Sacramento rivers the location that 
appealed to him, and there he established himself# 
His knack with the Indians soon enlisted their 
services. He seems to have been. «Sc\^ \o Vk^v^'^'^'* 



agreements with them and at the same time 1 
maintain rigid discipline and control. 

Within an incredibly short time he had estab- 
lished a feudal barony at his fort. He owned 
eleven square leagues of land, four thousand two 
hundred cattle, two thousand horses, and about as 
many sheep. His trade in beaver skins was most 
profitable. He maintained a force of trappers 
who were always welcome at his fort, and whom he 
generously kept without cost to themselves. He 
taught the Indians blanket-weaving, hat-making, 
and other trades, and he even organized them into 
military companies. The fort which he built was 
enclosed on tour sides and of imposing dimensions 
and convenience. It mounted twelve pieces of 
artillery, supported a regular garrison of forty in 
uniform, and contained within its walls a black- 
smith shop, a distillery, a flour mill, a cannery, 
and space for other necessary industries. Outside 
the walls of the fort Captain Sutter raised wheat, 
oats, and barley in quantity, and even established 
an excellent fruit and vegetable garden. 

Indeed, in every way Captain Sutter's environ- 
ment and the results of his enterprises were in signi- 
ficant contrast to the inactivity and backwardness 
of bis neighbors. He showed what an energetic 


man could accomplish with exactly the same hu- 
man powers and material tools as had always 
been available to the Califomians. Sutter him- 
self was a rather short, thick-set man, exquisitely 
neat, of military bearing, carrying himself with 
what is called the true old-fashioned courtesy. 
He was a man of great generosity and of high spirit. 
His defect was an excess of ambition which in 
the end overleaped itself. There is no doubt that 
his first expectation was to found an independent 
state within the borders of California. His loyalty 
to the Americans was, however, never questioned, 
and the fact that his lands were gradually taken 
from him, and that he died finally in comparative 
poverty, is a striking comment on human injustice. 
The important point for us at present is that 
Sutter's Fort happened to be exactly on the line 
of the overland immigration. For the trail- 
weary traveler it was the first stopping-place 
after crossing the high Sierras to the promised 
land. Sutter's natural generosity of character in- 
duced him always to treat these men with the 
greatest kindness. He made his profits from such 
as wished to get rid of their oxen and wagons in ex- 
change for the commodities which he had to oflfer. 
But there is no doubt that the vjotVJkj ^«:^\sJsss. 


displayed the utmost liberality in dealing with 
those whom poverty had overtaken. On several 
occasions he sent out expeditions at his personal 
cost to rescue parties caught in the mountains 
by early snows or other misfortunes along the road. 


Especially did he go to great expense in the matter 
of the ill-fated Donner party, who, it will be re- 
membered, spent the winter near Truckee, and 
were reduced to cannibalism to avoid starvation.' 
Now Sutter had, of course, been naturalized 
in order to obtain his grant of land. He had also 
been appointed an oflScial of the California- 
Mexican Government. Taking advantage of this 
fact, he was accustomed to issue permits or pass- 
ports to the immigrants, permitting them to 
remain in the country. This gave the immi- 
grants a certain limited standing, but, as they 
were not Mexican citizens, they were disqualified 
from holding land. Nevertheless Sutter used his 
good oflSces in showing desirable locations to the 
would-be settlers.^ 

« See The Passing of the Frontier, in " The Chronicles of America." 
^ It is to be remarked that, prior to the gold rush, American settle- 
ments did not take place in the Spanish South but in the unoccupied 
North. In 1845 Castro and Castillero made a tour through the Sacra* 
mento Valley and the northern regions to inquire about the new ar- 
rivals. Castro displayed no personal uneasiness at their presence and 
made no attempt or threat to deport them. 


As far as the Califomians were concerned, 
there was little rivalry or interference between 
the immigrants and the natives. Their interests 
did not as yet conflict. Nevertheless the central 
Mexican Government continued its commands to 
prevent any and all immigration. It was rather 
well justified by its experience in Texas, where 
settlement had ended by final absorption. The 
local Califomian authorities were thus thrust be- 
tween the devil and the deep blue sea. They were 
constrained Ay the very positive and repeated 
orders from their home government to keep out 
all immigration and to eject those already on the 
ground. On the other hand, the means for doing 
so were entirely lacking, and the present situation 
did not seem to them alarming. 

Thus matters drifted along until the Mexican 
War. For a considerable time before actual hos- 
tilities broke out, it was well known throughout 
the country that they were imminent. Every 
naval and military commander was perfectly 
aware that, sooner or later, war was inevitable. 
Many had received their instructions in case of 
that eventuality, and most of the others had indi- 
vidual plans to be put into execution at the earli- 
est possible moment. Indeed, as eas^-^ ^s» ^SA^* 



Commodore Jones, being misinformed of a state 
of war, raced with what he supposed to be Eng- 
lish war-vessels from South America, entered the 
port of Monterey hastily, captured the fort, and 
raised the American flag. The next day he dis- 
covered that not only was there no state of war, 
but that he had not even raced British ships! 
The flag was thereupon hauled down, the Mexican 
emblem substituted, appropriate apologies and 
salutes were rendered, and the incident was con- 
sidered closed. The easy-going Californians ac- 
cepted the apology promptly and cherished no 
rancor for the mistake. 

In the meantime Thomas O. Larkin, a veiy 
substantial citizen of long standing in the country, 
had been appointed consul, and in addition re- 
ceived a sum of six dollars a day to act as secret 
agent. It was hoped that his great influence 
would avail to inspire the Californians with a 
desire for peaceful annexation to the United 
States. In case that policy failed, he was to use 
all means to separate them from Mexico, and so 
isolate them from their natural alliances. He 
was furthermore to persuade them that England, 
France, and Russia had sinister designs on their 
Kberty. It was hoped that his good offices would 


slowly influence public opinion, and that, on the 
declaration of open war with Mexico, the United 
States flag could be hoisted in California not only 
without opposition but with the consent and 
approval of the inhabitants. This type of peace- 
ful conquest had a very good chance of success. 
Larkin possessed the confidence of the better 
class of Califomians and he did his duty faithfully. 
Just at this moment a picturesque, gallant, 
ambitious, dashing, and rather imscrupulous 
character appeared inopportunely on the horizon. 
His name was John C. Fr6mont. He was the son 
of a French father and a Virginia mother. He was 
thirty-two years old, and was married to the daugh- 
ter of Thomas H. Benton, United States Senator 
from Missouri and a man of great influence in 
the coimtry. Possessed of an adventurous spirit, 
considerable initiative, and great persistence, 
Fremont had already performed the feat of cross- 
ing the Sierra* Nevadas by way of Carson River 
and Johnson Pass, and had also explored the Col- 
umbia River and various parts of the Northwest. 
Fremont now entered California by way of Walker 
Lake and the Truckee, and reached Sutter's 
Fort in 1845. He then turned southward to meet 
a division of his party under Josep\i'^«J^«t* 


His expedition was friendly in character, with 
the object of surveying a route westward to 
the Pacific, and then northward to Or^on. It 
supposedly possessed no military importance 
whatever. But his turning south to meet Walker 
instead of north, where ostensibly his duty called 
him, immediately aroused the suspicions of the 
Califomians. Though ordered to leave the dis- 
trict, he refused compliance, and retired to a 
place called Gavilan Peak, where he erected 
fortifications and raised the United States flag. 
Probably Fremont's intentions were perfectly 
friendly and peaceful. He made, however, a 
serious blunder in withdrawing within fortifica- 
tions. After various threats by the Califomians 
but no performance in the way of attack, he 
withdrew and proceeded by slow marches to Sut- 
ter's Fort and thence towards the north. Near 
Klamath Lake he was overtaken by Lieutenant 
Gillespie, who delivered to him certain letters and 
papers. Fremont thereupon calmly turned south 
with the pick of his men. 

Li the meantime the Spanish sub-prefect, Guer- 
rero, had sent word to Larkin that "a multitude 
of foreigners, having come into California and 
bought property, a right of naturaUzed foreigners 


only, he was under necessity of notifying the 
authorities in each town to inform such pur- 
chasers that the transactions were invalid, and 
that they themselves were subject to be expelled." 
This action at once caused widespread conster- 
nation among the settlers. They remembered 
the deportation of Graham and his party some 
years before, and were both alarmed and thor- 
oughly convinced that defensive measures were 
necessary. Fremont's return at precisely this 
moment seemed to them very significant. He 
was a United States army oflScer at the head of a 
government expedition. When on his way to 
the North he had been overtaken by Gillespie, an 
oflScer of the United States Navy. Gillespie had 
dehvered to him certain papers, whereupon he 
had immediately returned. There seemed no 
other interpretation of these facts than that the 
Government at Washington was prepared to up- 
hold by force the American settlers in California. 

This reasoning, logical as it seems, proves mis- 
taken in the perspective of the years. Gillespie, it 
is true, delivered some letters to Fremont, but it is 
extremely imlikely they contained instructions 
having to do with interference in Calif ornian affairs. 
Gillespie, at the same time that k^ Vstwy^cX, S^ase^^^ 


dispatches to Fremont, brought also instructions to 
Larkin creating the confidential agency above de- 
scribed, and these instructions specifically forbade 
interference with Califomian affairs. It is un- 
reasonable to suppose that contradictory dis- 
patches were sent to one or another of these two 
men. Many years later Fremont admitted that the 
dispatch to Larkin was what had been commimi- 
cated to him by Gillespie. His words are: "This 
officer [Gillespie] informed me also that he was 
directed by the Secretary of State to acquaint 
me with his instructions to the consular agent, 
Mr. Larkin." Reading Fremont's character, 
understanding his ambitions, interpreting his 
later lawless actions that resulted in his court- 
martial, realizing the recklessness of his spirit, 
and his instinct to take chances, one comes to the 
conclusion that it is more than likely that his 
move was a gamble on probabilities rather than a 
residt of direct orders. 

Be this as it may, the mere fact of Fremont's 
turning south decided the alarmed settlers, and 
led to the so-called "Bear Flag Revolution." A 
number of settlers decided that it woidd be expedi- 
ent to capture Sonoma, where under Vallejo were 
nine cannon and some two hundred musketa. 


It was, in fact, a sort of military station. The 
capture proved to be a very simple matter. 
Thirty-two or thirty-three men appeared at dawn 
before Vallejo's house, imder Merritt and Semple. 
They entered the house suddenly, called upon 
Jacob Leese, Vallejo's son-in-law, to interpret, 
and demanded immediate surrender. Richman 
says "Leese was surprised at the * rough looks' of 
the Americans. Semple he describes as *six feet 
six inches tall, and about fifteen inches in diameter, 
dressed in greasy buckskin from neck to foot, 
and with a fox-skin cap.'" The prisoners were 
at once sent by these raiders to Fremont, who was 
at that time on the American River. He im- 
mediately disclaimed any part in the affair. How- 
ever, instead of remaining entirely aloof, he gave 
further orders that Leese, who was still in attend- 
ance as interpreter, should be arrested, and also 
that the prisoners should be confined in Sutter's 
Fort. He thus definitely and oflScially entered 
the movement. Soon thereafter Fremont started 
south through Sonoma, collecting men as he went. 
The following quotation from a contemporary 
writer is interesting and iUuminating. "A vast 
doud of dust appeared at first, and thence in 
long files emerged this wildest oi 'w^'^l ^^a;:^^^' 


Fremont rode ahead, a spare active looking man, 
with such an eye! He was dressed in a blouse 
and leggings, and wore a felt hat. After him 
came five Delaware Indians who were his body- 
guard. They had charge of two baggage-horses. 
The rest, many of them blacker than Indians, 
rode two and two, the rifle held by one hand 
across the pummel of the saddle. The dress of 
these men was principally a long loose coat 
of deerskin tied with thongs in front, trousers of 
the same. The saddles were of various fashions, 
though these and a large drove of horses and a 
brass field gun were things they had picked up in 

Meantime, the Americans who had collected in 
Sonoma, under the lead of William B. Ide, raised 
the flag of revolution — "a standard of somewhat 
uncertain origin as regards the cotton doth 
whereof it was made," writes Royce. On this, 
they painted with berry juice " something that they 
called a Bear." By this capture of Sonoma, and 
its subsequent endorsement by Fremont, Larkin's 
instructions — that is, to seciu-e California by quiet 
diplomatic means — were absolutely nullified. A 
second result was that Englishmen in California 
were much encouraged to hope for English inters 


vention and protection. The VaJlejo circle had 
always been strongly favorable to the United 
States. The effect of this raid and capture by 
United States citizens, with a United States officer 
endorsing the action, may well be guessed. 

Inquiries and protests were lodged by the Cali- 
fornia authorities with Sloat and Lieutenant 
Montgomery of the United States naval forces. 
Just what effect these protests would have had, 
and just the temperature of the hot water in 
which the dashing Fremont would have found 
himself, is a matter of surmise. He had gambled 
strongly — on his own responsibility or at least 
at the imofficial suggestion of Benton — on an 
early declaration of war with Mexico. Failing 
such a declaration, he would be in a precarious 
diplomatic position, and must by mere force 
of automatic discipline have been heavily pim- 
ished. However the dice fell for him. War 
with Mexico was almost immediately an actual 
fact. Fremont's injection into the revolution had 
been timed at the happiest possible moment for 

The Bear Flag Revolution took place on June 
14, 1846. On July 7 the American flag was hoisted 
over the post at Monterey by CoTMcoG^o-t^ ^^^^j^-- 


Though he had knowledge from June 5 of a state 
of war, this knowledge, apparently, he had shared 
neither with his officers nor with the public, and 
he exhibited a want of initiative and vigor which 
is in striking contrast to Fremont's ambition and 

Shortly after this incident Commodore Sloat 
was allowed to return "by reason of ill health,*' 
as has been heretofore published in most histories. 
His imdoubted recall gave room to G>mmodore 
Robert Stockton, to whom Sloat not only turned 
over the command of the naval forces, but whom he 
also directed to "assume command of the forces 
and operations on shore." 

Stockton at once invited Fremont to enlist 
under his command, and the invitation was ac- 
cepted. The entire forces moved south by sea 
and land for the purpose of subduing southern 
(^i^lifomia. This end was temporarily accom- 
plished with almost ridiculous ease. At this dis- 
tance of time, allowing all obvious explanations of 
lack of training, meager equipment, and internal 
dissension, we find it a little difficult to understand 
why the Califomians did not make a better stand. 
Most of the so-called battles were a sort of 
opera bouffe. Califomians entrenched with cannon 


were driven contemptuously forth, without casual- 
ties, by a very few men. For example, a lieu- 
tenant and nine men were sufficient to hold Santa 
Barbara in subjection. Indeed, the conquest was 
too easy, for, lulled into false security, Stock- 
ton departed, leaving as he supposed sufficient 
men to hold the coimtry. The Califomians man- 
aged to get some coherence into their councils, 
attacked the Americans, and drove them forth 
from their garrisons. 

Stockton and Fremont immediately started 
south. In the meantime an overland party imder 
General Kearny had been dispatched from the East. 
His instructions were rather broad. He was to 
take in such small sections of the coimtry as New 
Mexico and Arizona, leaving sufficient garrisons 
on his way to California. As a result, though his 
command at first numbered 1657 men, he arrived 
in the latter state with only about 100. From 
Warner's Ranch in the mountains he sent word 
to Stockton that he had arrived. Gillespie, 
whom the Commodore at once dispatched with 
thirty-nine men to meet and conduct him to San 
Diego, joined Kearny near San Luis Rey Mission. 

A force of Califomians, however, under com- 
mand of one Andres Pico liad V^^feXL Vcsvi^sras.^ 


about the hills watching the Americans. It was 
decided to attack this force. Twenty men were 
detailed under Captain Johnston for the purpose. 
At dawn on the morning of the 6th of Decem- 
ber the Americans charged upon the Califomian 
camp. The Californians promptly decamped 
after having delivered a volley which resulted 
in killing Johnston. The Americans at once 
piu'sued them hotly, became much scattered, and 
were turned upon by the fleeing enemy. The 
Americans were pooriy moimted after their 
journey, their weapons were now empty, and 
they were unable to give mutual aid. The 
Spanish were armed with lances, pistols, and 
the deadly riata. Before the rearguard could 
come up, sixteen of the total American force were 
killed and nineteen badly wounded. This battle 
of San Pascual, as it was called, is interesting as 
being the only engagement in which the Cali- 
fornians got the upper hand. Whether their 
Parthian tactics were the result of a preconceived 
policy or were merely an expedient of the moment, 
it is impossible to say. The battle is also notable 
because the well-known scout, Kit Carson, took 
part in it. 

The forces of Stockton and Kearny joined a 


few days later, and very soon a conflict of author- 
ity arose between the leaders. It was a childish 
affair throughout, and probably at bottom arose 
from Fremont's usual over-ambitious designs. To 
Kearny had undoubtedly been given, by the 
properly constituted authorities, the command 
of all the land operations. Stockton, however, 
claimed to hold supreme land conamand by in- 
structions from Commodore Sloat already quoted. 
Through the internal evidence of Stockton's 
letters and proclamations, it seems he was a trifle 
inclined to be bombastic and high-flown, to usurp 
authority, and perhaps to consider himself and his 
operations of more importance than they actually 
were. However, he was an oflScer disciplined 
and trained to obedience, and his absurd conten- 
tion is not in character. It may be significant 
that he had promised to appoint Fremont Gover- 
nor of California, a promise that natiu'ally could 
not be fulfilled if Kearny's authority were fully 

Furthermore, at this moment Fremont was at 
the zenith of his career, and his influence in such 
matters was considerable. As Hittell says, "At 
this time and for some time afterwards, Fremont 
was represented as a sort oi ^oxxxv^ X^ssvjl- ^X^^^ 


several trips he had made across the continenl, 
and the several able and interesting reports he 
had published over his name attracted great 

■ public attention. He was hardly ever mentioned 

■ except m a high-flown hyperbolical phrase. Ben- 
ton was one of the most influential men of his day, 
and it soon became well understood that the 
surest way of reaching the father-in-law's favor 
was by furthering the son-in-law's prospects; 
everybody that wished to court Benton praised 
Fremont. Besides this political influence Benton 
exerted in Fremont's behalf, there was an almost 
equally strong social influence." It might be added 
that the nature of his public service had been 
such as to throw him on his own responsibility, 
and that he had always gambled with fortune, 
as in the Bear Flag Revolution already mentioned. 
His star had ever been in the ascendant. He was a 
spoiled child of fortune at this time, and bitterly 
and haughtily resented any check to his ambition. 
The mixture of his blood gave him that fine sense 
of the dramatic which so easily descends to posing. 
His actual accomplishment was without doubt 
great; but his own appreciation of that accomplish- 
ment was also undoubtedly great. He was one of 
those interesting characters whose activities are so 


near the line between great deeds and charlatanism 
that it is sometimes difficult to segregate the pose 
from the performance. 

The end of this row for precedence did not 
come imtil after the so-called battles at the San 
Gabriel River and on the Mesa on January 8 and 
9, 1847. The first of these conflicts is so typical 
that it is worth a paragraph of description. 

The Califomians were posted on the opposite 
bank of the river. They had about five hundred 
men, and two pieces of artillery well placed. 
The bank was elevated some forty feet above the 
stream and possibly four or six himdred back from 
the water. The American forces, all told, con- 
sisted of about five hundred men, but most of 
them were dismounted. The tactics were ex- 
ceedingly simple. The Americans merely forded 
the river, dragged their guns across, put them in 
position, and calmly commenced a vigorous 
bombardment. After about an hour and a half 
of circling about and futile half -attacks, the Cali- 
fomians withdrew. The total American loss in 
this and the succeeding "battle,** called that of 
the Mesa, was three killed and twelve wounded. 

After this latter battle, the Califomians broke 
completely and hurtled toward \ii^ ^qt^Ocl* ^^ 


yond Los Angeles, near San Fernando, they ran 
head-on into Fremont and his California battalion 
marching overland from the North. Fremont 
had just learned of Stockton's defeat of the 
Califomians and, as usual, he seized the happy 
chance the gods had offered him. He made 
haste to assiu'e the Califomians through a messen- 
ger that they woidd do well to negotiate with him 
rather than with Stockton. To these suggestions 
the Califomians yielded. Commissioners ap- 
pointed by both sides then met at Cahuenga on 
January 13, and elaborated a treaty by which the 
Califomians agreed to surrender their arms and not 
to serve again during the war, whereupon the vic- 
tors allowed them to leave the coimtry. Fremont 
at once proceeded to Los Angeles, where he reported 
to Kearny and Stockton what had happened. 

In accordance with his foolish determination, 
Stockton still refused to acknowledge Kearny's 
direct authority. He appointed Fremont Gover- 
nor of California, which was one mistake; and 
Fremont accepted, which was another. Un- 
doubtedly the latter thought that his pretensions 
would be supported by personal influence in 
Washington. From former experience he had 
every reason to believe so. In this case, however. 


he reckoned beyond the resources of even his 
powerfid father-in-law. Keamy, who seems to 
have been a direct old war-dog, resolved at once 
to test his authority. He ordered Fremont to 
muster the California battalion into the regular 
service, under his (Kearny's) command; or, if 
the men did not wish to do this, to discharge them. 
This order did not in the least please Fremont. 
He attempted to open negotiations, but Keamy 
was in no manner disposed to talk. He said 
curtly that he had given his orders, and merely 
wished to know whether or not they would be 
obeyed. To this, and from one army oflScer to 
another, there could be but one answer, and that 
was in the affirmative. 

Colonel Mason opportimely arrived from Wash- 
ington with instructions to Fremont either to 
join his regiment or to resume the explorations 
on which he had originally been sent to this 
coimtry. Fremont was still pretending to be 
Governor, but with nothing to govern. His game 
was losing at Washington. He could not know 
this, however, and for some time continued to 
persist in his absurd claims to governorship. 
Finally he begged permission of Keamy to form 
an expedition against Mexico. B\it \^. ^^a^ ^^^JQasst 





late in the day for the spoiled child to ask for 
favors, and the permission was refused. Upon 
his return to Washington under further orders, 
Fremont was court-martialed, and was found 
guilty of mutiny, disobedience, and misconduct. 
He was ordered dismissed from the service, but 
was pardoned by President Polk in view of his past 
services. He refused this pardon and resigned. 

Fremont was a picturesque figure with a great 
deal of persona] magnetism and dash. The halo of 
romance has been fitted to his head. There is no 
doubt that he was a good wilderness traveler, a 
keen lover of adventure, and a likable personaUty. 
He was, however, over-ambitious; he advertised 
himself altogether too well; and he presumed on 
the imdoubtedly great personal influence he 
sd. He has been nicknamed the Path- 
finder, but a better title would be the Pathfol- 
lower. He found no paths that had not already 
been traversed by men before him. Unless the 
silly sentiment that persistently glorifies such 
despicable characters as the English Stuarts 
continues to surround this interesting character 
with fallacious romance, Fremont will undoubtedly 
take his place in history below men now more 
obscure but more solid than he was. His services 


and his ability were both great. If he, his friends, 
and historians had been content to rest his fame 
on actualities, his position would be high and 
honorable. The presumption of so much more 
than the man actually did or was has the unfortu- 
nate effect of minimizing his real accomplishment. 



The military conquest of California was now an 
accomplished fact. As long as hostilities should 
continue in M exico, California must remain imder a 
military government, and such control was at once 
inaugurated. The questions to be dealt with, as 
may well be imagined, were delicate in the extreme. 
In general the military Governors handled such 
questions with tact and eflSciency. This ability 
was especially true in the case of Colonel Mason, 
who succeeded General Kearny. The under- 
standing displayed by this man in holding back 
the over-eager Americans on one side, and in 
mollifying the sensitive Califomians on the other, 
is worthy of all admiration. 

The Mexican laws were, in lack of any others, 
supposed to be enforced. Under this system all 
trials, except of course those having to do with 
military affairs, took place before officials called 



alcaldes, who acknowledged no higher authority 
than the Governor himself, and enforced the 
laws as autocrats. The new military Governors 
took over the old system bodily and appointed 
new alcaldes where it seemed necessary. The 
new alcaldes neither knew nor cared anything 
about the old Mexican law and its provisions. 
This disregard cannot be wondered at, for even a 
cursory examination of the legal forms convinces 
one that they were meant more for the enormous 
leisure of the old times than for the necessities 
of the new. In the place of Mexican law each 
alcalde attempted to substitute his own sense of 
justice and what recollection of common-law 
principles he might be able to summon. These 
common-law principles were not technical in the 
modem sense of the word, nor were there any 
printed or written statutes containing them. In 
this case they were simply what could be recalled 
by non-technical men of the way in which business 
had been conducted and disputes had been arranged 
back in their old homes. But their main reliance 
was on their individual sense of justice. As 
Hittell points out, even well-read lawyers who 
happened to be made alcaldes soon came to pay 
little attention to technicalities apd to %^^ "Cssr. 



merit of cases without regard to rules or forms. - 
All the administration of the law was in the hands 
of these alcaldes. Mason, who once made the ex- 
periment of appointing a special court at Sutter's 
Fort to try a man known as Growling Smith for 
the murder of Indians, afterwards declared that he 
would not do it again except in the most extra- 
ordinary emergency, as the precedent was bad. 
As may well be imagined, this uniquely in- 
dividualistic view of the law made interesting 
legal history. Many of the incumbents were of 
the rough diamond type. Stories innumerable 
are related of them. They had little regard for 
the external dignity of the court, but they strongly 
insisted on its discipline. Many of them sat with 
their feet on the desk, chewing tobacco, and 
whittling a stick. During a trial one of the 
counsel referred to his opponent as an "oscillating 
Tarquin." The judge roared out "A what?" 
. "An oscillating Tarquin, your honor." 
■ The judge's chair came down with a thump. 
F "If this honorable court knows herself, and she 
thinks she do, that remark is an insult to this 
honorable court, and you are fined two ounces." 
Expostulation was cut short. 
*' Silence, sir ! This honorable court won't 




tolerate cussings and she never goes back on her 

And she didn't! 

Nevertheless a sort of rough justice was gen- 
erally accomplished. These men felt a respon- 
sibility. In addition they possessed a grim 
commonsense earned by actual experience. 

There is an instance of a priest from Santa 
Clara, sued before the alcalde of San Jose for a 
breach of contract. His plea was that as a 
churchman he was not amenable to civil law. 
The American decided that, while he could not 
tell what peculiar privileges a clergyman enjoyed 
as a priest, it was quite evident that when he 
departed from his religious calling and entered 
into a secular bargain with a citizen he placed 
himself on the same footing as the citizen, and 
should be required like anybody else to comply 
with his agreement. This principle, which was 
good sense, has since become good law. 

The alcalde refused to be bound by trivial 
concerns. A Mexican was accused of stealing; 
a pair of leggings. He was convicted and fined 
three ounces for stealing, while the prosecuting 
witness was also fined one ounce for bothering 
the court with such a complaint. Ckv laxwa'Ciss^ 


occasion the defendant, on being fined, was found 
to be totally insolvent. The alcalde thereupon 
ordered the plaintiflE to pay the fine and costs 
for the reason that the court could not be expected 
to sit without remuneration. Though this naive 
system worked out well enough in the new and 
primitive community, nevertheless thinking men 
realized that it could be for a short time only. 

As long as the war with Mexico continued, 
naturally California was under military Governors, 
but on the declaration of peace military govern- 
ment automatically ceased. Unfortunately, ow- 
ing to strong controversies as to slavery or 
non-slavery. Congress passed no law organizing 
California as a territory; and the status of the 
newly-acquired possession was far from clear. 
The people held that, in the absence of congres- 
sional action, they had the right to provide for 
their own government. On the other hand. 
General Riley contended that the laws of Cali- 
fornia obtained until supplanted by act of Con- 
gress. He was under instructions as Governor to 
enforce this view, which was, indeed, sustained 
by judicial precedents. But for precedents the 
inhabitants cared little. They resolved to call 
a constitutional convention. After considerable 


negotiation and thought, Governor Riley resolved 
to accede to the wishes of the people. An election 
of delegates was called and the constitutional 
convention met at Monterey, September 1, 1849. 

Parenthetically it is to be noticed that this 
event took place a considerable time after the 
first discovery of gold. It can in no sense be 
considered as a sequel to that fact. The numbers 
from the gold rush came in later. The con- 
stitutional convention was composed mainly of 
men who had previous interests in the country. 
They were representative of the time and place. 
The oldest delegate was fifty-three years and the 
youngest twenty-five years old. Fourteen were 
lawyers, fourteen were farmers, nine wfere mer- 
chants, five were soldiers, two were printers, one 
was a doctor, and one described himself as "a 
gentleman of elegant leisure." 

The deliberations of this body are very interest- 
ing reading. Such a subject is usually dry in the 
extreme; but here we have men assembled from 
all over the world trying to piece together a form 
of government from the experiences of the diflFerent 
communities from which they originally came. 
Many Spanish Calif ornians were represented on 
the floor. The diflEerent points hi:o\\!^ci!!c \x^ 'sjs^^ 


discussed, in addition to those finally incorporated 
in the constitution, are both a valuable measure 
of the degree of intelligence at that time, and an 
indication of what men considered important in 
the problems of the day. The constitution 
itself was one of the best of the thirty-one state 
constitutions that then existed. Though almost 
every provision in it was copied from some other 
instrument, the choice was good. A provision 
prohibiting slavery was carried by a unanimous 
vote. When the convention adjourned, the new . 
commonwealth was equipped with all the neces-^-J 
sary machinery for regular government.' 
J It is customary to say that the discovery of 
gold made the State of California. As a matter 
of fact, it introduced into the history of California 
a new solvent, but it was in no sense a determining 
factor in either the acquisition or the assuring 
of the American hold. It must not be forgotten 
that a rising tide of American immigration had 
already set in. By 1845 the white population had 
increased to about eight thousand. At the close 
of hostilities it was estimated that the white 

' The constitution was ratified by popular vote, November 13, 
1849; and the machinery of slate government was at once set in 
motion, though the State was not ftdmittetj into the Union until 
September 9, 18^0, 



population had increased to somewhere between 
twelve and fifteen thousand. Moreover this 
immigration, though established and constantly 
growing, was by no means topheavy. There was 
plenty of room in the north for the Americans, 
and they were settling there peaceably. Those 
who went south generally bought their land in 
due form. They and the Califomians were get- 
ting on much better than is usual with conquering 
and conquered peoples. 

But the discovery of gold upset all this orderly 
development. It wiped out the usual evolution. 
It not only swept aside at once the antiquated 
Mexican laws, but it submerged for the time being 
the first stirrings of the commonwealth toward 
due convention and legislation after the American 
pattern. It produced an interim wherein the 
only law was that evolved from men's consciences 
and the Anglo-Saxon instinct for order. It 
brought to shores remote from their native lands 
a cosmopolitan crew whose only thought was 
a fixed determination to undertake no new re- 
sponsibilities. Each man was living for himself. 
He intended to get his own and to protect his own, 
and he cared very little for the difficulties of his 
neighbors. In other words, the diseoN^x^ ^ ^^^ 


oflFered California as the blank of a mint to receive 
the impress of a brand new civilization. And 
furthermore it gave to these men and, through 
them, to the world an impressive lesson that social 
responsibility can be evaded for a time» to be sure, 
but only for a time; and that at the last it must be 
taken up and the arrears must be paid. 



The discovery of gold — made, as everyone knows, 
by James Marshall, a foreman of Sutter's, engaged 
in building a sawmill for the Captain — came at a 
psychological time.^ The Mexican War was just 
over and the adventurous spirits, unwilling to 
settle down, were looking for new excitement. 
Furthermore, the hard times of the Forties had 
blanketed the East with mortgages. Many sober 
communities were ready, deliberately and without 
excitement, to send their young men westward 
in the hope of finding a way out of their financial 
difficulties. The Oregon question, as has been 
already indicated, had aroused patriotism to 
such an extent that westward migration had 
become a sort of mental contagion. 

It took some time for the first discoveries to 
feak out, and to be believed after they had gained 

' January 24, 1848, is the date usually given. 



currency. Even in California itself interest was 
rather tepid at first. Gold had been found in 
small quantities many years before, and only the 
actual sight of the metal in considerable weight 
could rouse men's imaginations to the blazing point. 

Among the most enthusiastic protagonists was 
one Sam Brannan, who often appeared after- 
wards in the pages of Califomian history. Bran- 
nan was a Mormon who had set out from New 
York with two hundred and fifty Mormons to 
try out the land of California as a possible refuge 
for the persecuted sect. That the westward 
migration of Mormons stopped at Salt Lake may 
well be due to the fact that on entering San 
Francisco Bay, Brannan found himself just too 
late. The American flag was already floating 
over the Presidio. Eye-witnesses say that Bran- 
nan dashed his hat to the deck, exclaiming, "There 
is that damned rag again.'* However, he proved 
an adaptable creature, for he and his Mormons 
landed nevertheless, and took up the industries 
of the country. 

Brannan collected the usual tithes from these 
men, with the ostensible purpose of sending them 
on to the Church at Salt Lake. This, however, 
he consistently failed to do. One of the Mormons, 



GOLD 57 

on asking Sutter how long they should be expected 
to pay these tithes, received the answer, "As 
long as you are fools enough to do so." But they 
did not remain fools very much longer, and Bran- 
nan found himself deprived of this source of 
revenue. On being dumied by Brigham Young 
for the tithes already collected, Brannan blandly 
resigned from the Church, still retaining the assets. 
With this auspicious beginning, aided by a burly, 
engaging personality, a coarse, direct manner that 
appealed to men, and an instinct for the lime- 
light, he went far. Though there were a great 
many admirable traits in his character, people 
were forced to like him in spite of rather than 
because of them. His enthusiasm for any public 
agitation was always on tap- 
In the present instance he rode down from 
Sutter's Fort, where he then had a store, bringing 
with him gold-dust and nuggets from the new 
placers. "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American 
River!" shouted Brannan, as he strode down the 
street, swinging his hat in one hand and holding 
aloft the bottle of gold-dust in the other. This he 
displayed to the crowd that immediately gathered. 
With such a start, this new interest brought about 
stampede that nearly depopulated tha t\^:^ . 


The fever spread. People scrambled to the 
mines from all parts of the State. Practically 
every able-bodied man in the community, except 
the Spanish Califomians, who as usual did not 
join this new enterprise with any unanimity, 
took at least a try at the diggings. Not only did 
they desert almost every sort of industry, but 
soldiers left the ranks and sailors the ships, so that 
often a ship was left in sole charge of its captain. 
All of American and foreign California moved to 

the foothills. 

Then ensued the brief period so aflFectionately 
described in all literalness as the Arcadian Age. 
Men drank and gambled and enjoyed themselves 
in the rough manner of mining camps; but they 
were hardly ever drunken and in no instance 
dishonest. In all literalness the miners kept 
their gold-dust in tin cans and similar recep- 
tacles, on shelves, unguarded in tents or open 
cabins. Even quarrels and disorder were practi- 
cally unknown. The communities were indivi- 
dualistic in the extreme, and yet, with the 
Anglo-Saxon love of order, they adopted rules and 
regulations and simple forms of government that 
proved entirely adequate to their needs. When 
the "good old days" are mentioned with the 

GOLD 59 

lingering regret associated with that phrase, the 
reference is to this brief period that came between 
the actual discovery and appreciation of gold and 
the influx from abroad that came in the following 

This condition was principally due to the class 
of men concerned. The earliest miners were a very 
different lot from the majority of those who arrived 
in the next few years. They were mostly the origi- 
nal population, who had come out either as pioneers 
or in the government service. They included 
the discharged soldiers of Stevenson's regiment of 
New York Volunteers, who had been detailed 
for the war but who had arrived a little late, the 
so-called Mormon Battalion, Sam Brannan's im- 
migrants, and those who had come as settlers 
since 1842. They were a rough lot with both the 
virtues and the defects of the pioneer. Neverthe- 
less among their most marked characteristics were 
their honesty and their kindness. Hittell gives 
an incident that illustrates the latter trait very 
well. "It was a little camp, the name of which 
is not given and perhaps is not important. The 
day was a hot one when a youth of sixteen 
came limping along, footsore, weary, hungry, and 
penniless. There were at least thirty \^<5fosi^ 




miners at work in the ravine and it may well b^ 
believed they were cheerful, probably now and 
then joining in a chorus or laughing at a joke. 
The lad as he saw and heard them sat down upon 
the bank, his face telling the sad story of his 
misfortunes. Though he said nothing he was not 
unobserved. At length one of the miners, a 
stalwart fellow, pointing up to the poor fellow on 
the bank, exclaimed to his companions, 'Boys, 
I'll work an hour for that chap if you will.' All 
answered in the affirmative and picks and shovels 
were plied with even more activity than before. 
At the end of an hour a hundred dollars' worth of 
gold-dust was poured into his handkerchief. As 
this was done the miners who had crowded around 
the grateful boy made out a list of tools and said to 
him: 'You go now and buy these tools and come 
back. We'll have a good claim staked out for 
you; then you've got to paddle for yourself.'" 

Another reason for this distinguished honesty 
was the extent and incredible richness of the dig- 
gings, combined with the firm belief that this rich- 
ness would last forever and possibly increase. 
The first gold was often found actually at the 
roots of bushes, or could be picked out from the 
veins in the rocks by the aid of an ordinary 

GOLD 61 

hunting-knife. Such pockets were, to be sure, 
by no means numerous; but the miners did not 
know that. To them it seemed extremelj^ possible 
that gold in such quantities was to be foimd 
almost anywhere for the mere seeking. Authenti- 
cated instances are known of men getting ten, 
fifteen, twenty, and thirty thousand dollars within 
a week or ten days, without particidarly hard 
work. Gold was so abundant it was much easier 
to dig it than to steal it, considering the risks 
attendant on the latter course. A story is told 
of a miner, while paying for something, dropping a 
small lump of gold worth perhaps two or three 
dollars. A bystander picked it up and oflEered 
it to him. The miner, without taking it, looked 
at the man with amazement, exclaiming: "Well, 
stranger, you are a curiosity. I guess you haven't 
been in the diggings long. You had better keep 
that lump for a sample." 

These were the days of the red-shirted miner, of 
romance, of Arcadian simplicity, of clean, honest 
working imder blue skies and beneath the warm 
California sun, of immense fortunes made quickly, 
of faithful "pardners," and all the rest. This life 
was so complete in all its elements that, as we look 
back upon it, we unconsciously g>N^ \J^ ^Vsv^s?^ 


period than it actuaUy occupied. It seems to be an 
epoch, as indeed it was; but it was an epoch of less 
than a single year, and it ended when the immi- 
gration from the world at large b^an. 

The first news of the gold discovery filtered to 
the east in a roundabout fashion through vessels 
from the Sandwich Islands. A Baltimore paper 
published a short item. Everybody laughed at 
the rumor, for people were ah-eady beginning to 
discoimt California stories. But they remembered 
it. Romance, as ever, increases with the square 
of the distance; and this was a remote land. But 
soon there came an official letter written by Gover- 
nor Mason to the War Department wherein he said 
that in his opinion, ^^ There is more gold in the 
country drained by the Sacramento and San Joa- 
quin rivers than would pay the cost of the late 
war with Mexico a himdred times over." The 
public immediately was alert. And then, strangely 
enough, to give direction to the restless spirit 
seething beneath the surface of society, came a 
silly popular song. As has happened many times 
before and since, a great movement was set to 
the lilt of a commonplace melody. Minstrels 
started it; the public caught it up. Soon in every 
quarter of the world were heard the strains of 


Ohy Susannahl or rather the modification of it made 
to fit this ease: 

''I'll scrape the mountains clean, old girl, 
I'll drain the rivers dry. 

I'm oflE for California, Susannah, don't you cry. 
Oh, Susannah, don't you cry for me, 
I'm oflE to California with my wash bowl on my 
knee !" 

The public mind already prepared for excitement 
by the stirring events of the past few years, but 
now falling into the doldrums of both monoto- 
nous and hard times, responded eagerly. Every 
man with a drop of red blood in his veins wanted 
to go to California. But the journey was a long 
one, and it cost a great deal of money, and 
there were such things as ties of family or business 
impossible to shake oflE. However, those who saw 
no immediate prospect of going often joined the 
curious clubs formed for the purpose of getting 
at least one or more of their members to the El 
Dorado. These clubs met once in so often, talked 
over details, worked upon each other's excitement, 
even occasionally and oflScially sent some one of 
their members to the point of running amuck. 
Then he usually broke oflE all responsibilities and 
rushed headlong to the gold coast. 


The most absurd ideas obtained currency. Stor- ' 
■ies did not lose in travel. A work entitled Three 
F Weeks in the Gold Mines, written by a menda- 
cious individual who signed himself H. I. Simp- 
son, had a wide vogue. It is doubtful if the author 
bad ever been ten miles from New York; but he 
wrote a marvelous and at the time convincing tale. 
According to his account, Simpson had only three 
weeks for a tour of the gold-fields, and considered 
ten days of the period was all he could spare the 
imimportant job of picking up gold. In the ten 
days, however, with no other implements than 
a pocket-knife, he accumulated fifty thousand 
dollars. The rest of the time he really preferred 
to travel about viewing the country! He con- 
descended, however, to pick up Incidental nuggets 
that happened to lie under hb very footstep. Said 
one man to his friend: "I believe I'll go. I know 
most of this talk is wildly exaggerated, but I am 
sensible enough to discount all that sort of thing 
and to disbelieve absurd stories. I shan't go with 
.the shghtest notion of finding the thing true, but 
will be satisfied if I do reasonably well. In fact, 
if I don't pick up more than a hatful of gold a day 
I shall be perfectly satisfied." 

Men's minds were full of strange positive 


GOLD 65 

knowledge, not only as to the extent of the gold- 
mines, but also as to theory and practice of the 
actual mining. Contemporary writers tell us of the 
hundreds and hundreds of different strange ma- 
chines invented tor washing out the gold and actu- 
ally carried around the Horn or over the Isthmus of 
Panama to San Francisco. They were of all types, 
from little pocket-sized affairs up to huge arrange- 
ments with windmill arms and wings. Their des- 
tination was inevitably the beach below the San 
tlVancisco settlement, where, half buried in the 
sand, torn by the trade winds, and looted for 
whatever of value might inhere in the metal parts, 
they rusted and disintegrated, a pathetic and 
grisly reminder of the futile greed of men. 

Nor was this excitement' confined to the eastern 
United States. In France itself lotteries were 
held, called, I believe, the Lotteries of the Golden 
Ingot. The holders of the winning tickets were 
given a trip to the gold-fields, A considerable 
number of French came over in that manner, so 
that life in California was then, as now, consider- 
ably leavened by Gallicism. Their ignorance of 
English together with their national clannishness 
caused them to stick together in communities. 

ley soon became known as Keskydeea. 'S^tj 


few people knew why. It was merely the frontiers- 
men's understanding of the invariable French 
phrase ^'Qu^esUce quHl dit?" In Great Britain, 
Norway, to a certain extent in Germany, South 
America, and even distant Australia, the adven- 
turous and impecimious were pricking up their 
ears and laying their plans. 

There were oflFered three distinct channels for 
this immigration. The first of these wa^ by sailing 
around Cape Horn. This was a slow but fairly 
comfortable and reasonably safe route. It was 
never subject to the extreme overcrowding of the 
Isthmus route, and it may be dismissed in this 
paragraph. The second was by the overland 
route, of which there were several trails. The 
third was by the Isthmus of Panama. Each of 
these two is worth a chapter, and we shall take up 
the overland migration first. 



The overland migration attracted the more hardy 
and experienced pioneers, and also those whose 
assets lay in cattle and farm equipment rather 
than in money. The majority came from the 
more western parts of the then United States, and 
therefore comprised men who had already some 
experience in pioneering. As far as the Mississippi 
or even Kansas these parties generally traveled 
separately or in small groups from a single locality. 
Before starting over the great plains, however, it 
became necessary to combine into larger bands 
for mutual aid and protection. Such recognized 
meeting-points were therefore generally in a state 
of congestion. Thousands of people with their 
equipment and animals were crowded together in 
some river-bottom awaiting the propitious mo- 
ment for setting forth. 

The journey ordinarily required about fc^^i 



months, provided nothing untoward happened 
in the way of delay, A start in the spring there- 
fore allowed the traveler to surmount the Sierra 
Nevada mountains before the first heavy snow- 
falls. One of the inevitable anxieties was whether 
or not this crossing could be safely accomplished. 
At first the migration was thoroughly orderly and 
successful. As the stories from California became 
more glowing, and as the fever for gold mounted 
higher, the pace accelerated. 

A book by a man named Harlan, written in 
the County Farm to which his old age had brought 
him, gives a most interesting picture of the times. 
His party consisted of fourteen persons, one of 
whom, Harlan's grandmother, was then ninety 
years old and blind! There were also two very 
small children. At Indian Creek in Kansas they 
caught up with the main body of immigrants and 
soon made up their train. He says: "We pro- 
ceeded very happily until we reached the South 
Platte. Every night we young folks had a dance 
on the green prairie," Game abounded, the 
party was in good spirits and underwent no 
especial hardships, and the Indian troubles fur- 
nished only sufficient excitement to keep the 
men interested and alert. After leaving Salt 




"Lake, however, the passage across the desert 
suddenly loomed up as a terrifying thing. "We 
started on our passage over this desert in the 
early morning, trailed all next day and all night, 
and on the morning of the third day our guide 
told us that water was still twenty-five miles 
away. William Harlan here lost his seven yoke 
of oxen. The man who was in charge of them went 
to sleep, and the cattle turned back and recrossed 
the desert or perhaps died there. . . . Next day I 
^started early and drove till dusk, as I wished to 
^e the cattle so that they would lie down and 
give me a chance to sleep. They would rest for 
two or three hours and then try to go back 
home to their former range." The party won 
through, however, and descended into the smil- 
ing valleys of California, ninety-year-old lady 


These parties which were hastily got together for 
the mere purpose of progress soon found that they 
must have some sort of government to make the 
trip successful. A leader was generally elected to 
jw^hom implicit obedience was supposed to be 
rded. Among independent and hot-headed 
men quarrels were not infrequent. A rough sort 
of justice was, however, invoked by vcAs. i^A. '^'si 


trip i 


majority. Though a "split of blankets'' was not 
unknown, usually the party went through under 
one leadership. Fortunate were those who pos* 
sessed experienced men as leaders, or who in 
hiring the services of one of the numerous plains 
guides obtained one of genuine" experience. In- 
experience and graft were as fatal then as now. 
It can well be imagined what disaster could 
descend upon a camping party in a wilderness 
such as the Old West, amidst the enemies which 
that wilderness supported. It is bad enough 
today when inexperienced people go to camp 
by a lake near a farm-house. Moreover, at that 
time everybody was in a hurry, and many sus- 
pected that the other man was trying to obtain 
an advantage. 

Hittell tells of one ingenious citizen who, in 
trying to keep ahead of his fellow inmiigrants as 
he hvuried along, had the bright idea of setting 
on fire and destroying the dry grass in order to 
retard the progress of the parties behind. Grass 
was scarce enough in the best circumstances, and 
the burning struck those following with starvation. 
He did not get very far, however, before he was 
caught by a posse who mounted their best horses 
for pursuit. They shot him from his saddle and 


turned back. This attempt at monopoly was thus 
nipped in the bud. 

Probably there would have been more of this 
sort of thing had it not been for the constant 
menace of the Indians. The Indian attack on the 
inmiigrant train has become so familiar through 
Wild West shows and so-called literature that it 
is useless to redescribe it here. Generally the 
object was merely the theft of horses, but occa- 
sionally a genuine attack, followed in case of 
success by massacre, took place. An experience 
of this sort did a great deal of good in holding 
together not only the parties attacked, but also 
those who afterwards heard of the attempt. 

There was, however, another side to the shield, 
a very encouraging and cheerful side. For 
example, some good-hearted philanthropist es- 
tablished a kind of reading-room and post-oflSce . 
in the desert near the headwaters of the Humboldt 
River. He placed it in a natural circular wall of 
rock by the road, shaded by a lone tree. The 
original founder left a lot of newspapers on a 
stone seat inside the wall with a written notice 
to "Read and leave them for others.** 

Many trains, well equipped, well formed, well 
led, went through without trouble — indsftAL^''^^>5^ 


real pleasure. Nevertheless the overwhelmin" 
testimony is on the other side. Probably this was 
due in large part to the irritability that always 

■ seizes the mind of the tenderfoot when he is con- 
P fronted by wilderness conditions. A man who is a 

perfectly normal and agreeable citizen in his own 
environment becomes a suspicious half-lunatic 
when placed in circumstances uncomfortable and 
unaccustomed. It often happened that people 
were obliged to throw things away in order to 
lighten their loads. When this necessity occurred, 
lliey generally seemed to take an extraordinary 
delight in destroying their property rather than in 
leaving it for anybody else who might come along. 
HIttell tells us that sugar was often ruined by 

■ having turpentine poured over it, and flour was 
F mixed with salt and dirt; wagons were burned; 

clothes were torn into shreds and tatters. All of 
this destruction was senseless and useless, and was 
probably only a blind and instinctive reaction 
against hardships. 

Those hardships were considerable. It is esti- 
mated that during the height of the overland 
migration in the spring of 1849 no less than fifty 
thousand people started out. The wagon trains fol- 
lowed almost on one another's heels, so hot was the 


pace. Not only did the travelers wish to get to 
the Sierras before the snows blocked the passes, 
not only were they eager to enter the gold mines, 
but they were pursued by the specter of cholera 
in the concentration camps along the Mississippi 
Valley. This scourge devastated these gatherings. 
It followed the men across the plains like some 
deadly wild beast, and was shaken oflF only 
when the high clear climate of desert altitude was 
eventually reached. 

But the terrible part of the journey began with 
the entrance into the great deserts, like that of 
the Humboldt Sink. There the conditions were 
almost beyond belief. Thousands were left be- 
hind, fighting starvation, disease, and the loss of 
cattle. Women who had lost their husbands from 
the deadly cholera went staggering on without 
food or water, leading their children. The trail 
was literally lined with dead animals. Often in 
the middle of the desert could be seen the camps 
of death, the wagons drawn in a circle, the dead 
animals tainting the air, every living human being 
crippled from scurvy and other diseases. There 
was no fodder for the cattle, and very little water. 
The loads had to be lightened almost every mile 
by the discarding of valuable good&. Mass^ ^ 


the immigrants who survived the struggle reached 
the goal in an impoverished condition. The road 
was bordered with an almost unbroken barrier of 
abandoned wagons, old mining implements, clothes, 
provisions, and the like. As the cattle died, the 
problem of merely continuing the march became 
worse. Often the rate of progress was not more 
than a mile every two or three hours. Each mile 
had to be relayed back and forth several times. 
And when this desert had sapped their strength, 
they came at last to the Sink itself, with its long 
white fields of alkali with drifts of ashes across 
them, so soft that the cattle sank half-way to their 
bellies. The dust was fine and light and rose 
chokingly; the sun was strong and fierce. All but 
the strongest groups of pioneers seemed to break 
here. The retreats became routs. Each one put 
out for himself with what strength he had left. 
The wagons were emptied of everything but the 
barest necessities. At every stop some animal fell 
in the traces and had to be cut out of the yoke. 
If a wagon came to a full stop, it was abandoned. 
The animals were detached and driven forward. 
And when at last they reached the Humboldt River 
itself, they found it almost impossible to ford. 
The best feed lay on the other side. In the 


distance the high and forbidding ramparts of the 
Sierra Nevadas reared themselves. 

One of these Forty-niners, Delano, a man of 
some distinction in the later history of the mining 
communities, says that five men drowned them- 
selves in the Humboldt River in one day out oi 
sheer discouragement. He says that he had to 
save the lives of his oxen by giving Indians fifteen 
dollars to swim the river and float some grass 
across to him. And with weakened cattle, dis- 
couraged hearts* no provisions, the travelers 
had to tackle the high rough road that led across 
the mountains. 

Of course, the picture just drawn is of the 
darkest aspect. Some trains there were under 
competent pioneers who knew their job; who 
were experienced in wilderness travel; who under- 
stood better than to chase madly away after every 
cut-oflP reported by irresponsible trappers; who 
comprehended the handling and management of 
cattle; who, in short, knew wilderness travel. 
These came through with only the ordinary hard- 
ships. But take it all in all, the overland trail 
was a trial by fire. One gets a notion of its deadli- 
ness from the fact that over five thousand people 
died of cholera alone. The trail ^^^ tdl^js;:^^^ 


throughout its length by the shallow graves of 
those who had succumbed. He who arrived in 
Califomia was a different person from the one 
who had started from the East. Experience had 
even in so short a time fused his elements into 
something new. This alteration must not be 
forgotten when we turn once more to the internal 
affairs of the new commonwealth. 



In the westward overland migration the Salt Lake 
Valley Mormons played an important part. These 
strange people had but recently taken up their 
abode in the desert. That was a fortunate circum- 
stance, as their necessities forced them to render 
an aid to the migration that in better days would 
probably have been refused. 

The founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph 
Smith, Jr., came from a commonplace family. 
Apparently its members were ignorant and super- 
stitious. They talked much of hidden treasure and 
of supernatural means for its discovery. They be- 
lieved in omens, signs, and other superstitions. As 
a boy Joseph had been shrewd enough and super- 
. stitious enough to play this trait up for all it was 
worth. He had a magic peep-stone and a witch- 
hazel divining-rod that he manipulated so skill- 
fully as to cause other boys and even oldjKt Ts^ssa. 





to dig for him as he wished. He seemed to delight 
in tricklDg his companions in various ways, by tell- 
ing fortunes, reeling o£f tall yarns, and posing as 
one possessed of occult knowledge. 

According to Joseph's autobiography, the dis- 
covery of the Mormon Bible happened in this wise: 
on the night of September 21, 1823, a vision fell 
upon him; the angel Moroni appeared and directed 
him to a cave on the hillside ; in this cave he found 
some gold plates, on which were inscribed strange 
characters, written in what Smith described as 
"reformed Egj'ptian"; they were undecipherable 
except by the aid of a pair of magic peep-stones 
named TJrim and Thummim, delivered him for the 
purpose by the angel at Palmyra; looking through 
the hole in these peep-stones, he was able to inter- 
pret the gold plates. This was the skeleton of the 
story embellished by later ornamentation in the 
way of golden breastplates, two stones bright and 
shining, golden plates united at the back by rings, 
the sword of Laban, square stone boxes, cemented 
clasps, invisible blows, suggestions of Satan, and 
similar mummery born from the quickened imagi- 
nation of a zealot. 

Smith succeeded in interesting one Harris to 
f IKt as his amanuensis in his interpretation of these 



books of Mormon. The future prophet sat be- 
hind a, screen with the supposed gold plates in his 
hat. He dictated through the stones Urim and 
Thummini. With a keen imagination and natural 
aptitude for the strikingly dramatic, he was able 
to present formally his ritual, tabernacle, holy of 
holies, priesthood and tithings, constitution and 
councils, blood atonement, anointment, twelve 
apostles, miracles, his spiritual manifestations and 
revelations, aU in reminiscence of the religious 
tenets of many lands. 

Such religious movements rise and fall at peri- 
odic intervals. Sometimes they are never heard 
of outside the small communities of their birth; 
at other times they arise to temporary nation-wide 
importance, but they are unlucky either in leader- 
ship or environment and so perish. The Mormon 
Church, however, was fortunate in all respects. 
Smith was in no manner a successful leader, but 
he made a good prophet. He was strong physi- 
cally, was a great wrestler, and had an abundance 
of good nature; he was personally popular with the 
type of citizen with whom he was thrown. He 
could impress the ignorant mind with the reality of 
his revelations and the potency of his claims. He 
could impress the more intelligent, but ^^ ^sa.- 


scrupulous, half fanatical minds of the leaders with 
the power of his idea and the opportunities offered 
for leadership. 

Two men of the latter type were Parley P. Pratt 
and Sidney Rigdon. The former was of the narrow, 
strong, fanatic type; the latter had the cool con- 
structive brain that gave point, direction, and 
consistency to the Mormon system of theology. 
Had it not been for such leaders and others like 
them, it is quite probable that the Smith move- 
ment would have been lost like himdreds of 
others. That Smith himself lasted so long as 
the head of the Church, with the powers and 
perquisites of that position, can be explained 
by the fact that, either by accident or shrewd 
design, his position before the unintelligent masses 
had been made impregnable. If it was not 
true that Joseph Smith had received the golden 
plates from an angel and had translated them — 
again with the assistance of an angel — and had 
received from heaven the revelations vouchsafed 
from time to time for the explicit guidance of the 
Church in moral, temporal, and spiritual matters, 
then there was no Book of Mormon, no new revela- 
tion, no Mormon Church. The dethronement of 
Smith meant that there could be no successor 


to Smith, for there would be nothing to which 
to succeed. The whole church structure must 
crumble with him. 

The time was psychologically right. Occa- 
sionally a contagion of religious need seems to 
sweep the coimtry. People demand manifesta- 
tions and signs, and wiU flock to any who can 
promise them. To this class the Book of Mormon, 
with its definite sort of mysticism, appealed 
strongly. The promises of a new Zion were con- 
crete; the power was centralized, so that people 
who had heretofore been floundering in doubt felt 
they could lean on authority, and shake oflF the 
personal responsibility that had weighed them 
down. The Mormon communities grew fast, and 
soon began to send out proselyting missionaries. 
England was especially a fruitful field for these 
missionaries. The great manufacturing towns 
were then at their worst, containing people des- 
perately ignorant, superstitious, and so deeply 
poverty-stricken that the mere idea of owning 
land of their own seemed to them the height of 
affluence. Three years after the arrival of the 
missionaries the general conference reported 4019 
converts in England alone. These were good 
material in the hands of strong, fanatical^ ort nssn.- 


scrupulous leaders. They were religious enthusi-* 
asts, of course, who believed they were coming to 
a. real city of Zion. Most of them were in debt to 
the Church for the price of their passage, and their 
expenses. They were dutiful in their acceptance 
of miracles, signs, and revelations. The more 
intelligent among them realized that, having come 
so far and invested in the enterprise their all, it was 
essential that they accept wholly the discipline 
and authority of the Church. 

Before their final migration to Utah, the Mor- 
mons made three ill-fated attempts to found the 
city of Zion, first in Ohio, then in western Mis- 
souri, and finally, upon their expulsion from 
Missouri, at Nauvoo in Illinois. In every case 
ihey both inspired and encountered opposition 
and sometimes persecution. As the Mormons 
increased in power, they became more self-suf- 
ficient and arrogant. They at first presumed to 
dictate politically, and then actually began to 
consider themselves a separate political entity. 
One of their earliest pieces of legislation, under the 
act incorporating the city of Nauvoo, was an 
ordinance to protect the inhabitants of the Mor- 
mon communities from all outside legal processes. 
No writ for the arrest of any Mormon inhabitants 


of any Mormon city could be executed until it had 
received the mayor's approval. By way of a mild 
and adequate penalty, anyone violating this ordi- 
nance was to be imprisoned for life with no jKiwer 
of pardon in the governor without the mayor's 

Of course this was a welcome opportunity for the 
lawless and desperate characters of the surround- 
ing country. They became Mormon to a man. 
Under the shield of Mormon protection they could 
steal and raid to their heart's content. Land 
speculators also came into the Church, and bought 
land in the expectation that New Zion property 
would largely rise. Banking grew somewhat 
frantic. Complaints became so bitter that even 
the higher church authorities were forced to 
take cognizance of the practiceB. In 1840 Smith 
himself said: "We are no longer at war, and you 
must stop stealing. When the right time comes, 
we will go in force and take the whole State 

I of Missouri. It belongs to us as our inheritance, 
but I want no more petty stealing. A man that 
will steal petty articles from his enemies will, 
when occasion offers, steal from his brethren too. 
Now I command you that have stolen must steal 
no more. " 



At Nauvoo, on the eastern bank of the Missis- 
sippi, they built a really pretentious and beautiful 
city, and all but completed a temple that was, from 
ftvery account, creditable. However, their arro- 
gant relations with their neighbors and the extreme 
isolation in which they held themselves soon earned 
them the dislike and distrust of those about them. 
The practice of polygamy had begun, although 
even to the rank and file of the Mormons them- 
selves the revelation commanding it was as yet 
unknown. Still, rumors had leaked forth. The 
community, already severely shocked in its eco- 
nomic sense, was only too ready to be shocked in 
its moral sense, as is the usual course of human 
nature. The rather wild vagaries of the converts, 
too, aroused distrust and disgust in the sober 
minds of the western pioneers. At religious meet- 
ings converts would often arise to talk in gibberish 
— utterly nonsensical gibberish. This was called 
a, "speaking with tongues," and could be trans- 
lated by the speaker or a bystander in any way 
he saw fit, without responsibility for the saying. 
This was an easy way of calling a man names 
without standing behind it, so to speak. The 
congregation saw visions, read messages on stones 
red up in the field — messages which disap- 


peared as soon as interpreted. They Had fits in 
meetings, they chased balls of fire through the 
fields, they saw wonderful lights in the air, in 
short they went through all the hysterical vagaries 
formerly seen also in the Methodist revivals imder 
John Wesley. 

Turbulence outside was accompanied by tur- 
bulence within. Schisms occurred. Branches 
were broken oflf from the Church. The great 
temporal power and wealth to which, owing to the 
obedience and docility of the rank and file, the 
leaders had fallen practically sole heirs, had gone 
to their heads. The Mormon Chulxjh gave every 
indication of breaking up into disorganized smaller 
units, when fortimately for it the prophet Joseph 
Smith and his brother Hyriria-were killed by a mob. 
This martyrdom consolidated the • church body 
once more; and before disintegrating influences 
could again exert themselves, the reins of power 
were seized by the strong hand of a remarkable 
man, Brigham Yoimg, who thrust aside the logical 
successor, Joseph Smith's son. 

Young was an imeducated man, but with a deep 
insight into hmnan nature. A shrewd practical 
ability and a rugged intelligence, combined with 
absolute cold-blooded unscTup\Ao\vstLe^'8»\s^^Ji^^^^s^^ 



his ends, were qualities amply sufficient to put 
Young in the front rank of the class of people who 
composed the Mormon Church. He early estab- 
lished a hierarchy of sufficient powers so that 
always he was able to keep the strong men of the 
Church loyal to the idea he represented. He paid 
them well, both in actual property and in power 
that was dearer to them than property. Further- 
more, whether or not be originated polygamy, be 
not only saw at once its uses in increasing the 
population of the new state and in takmg care of 
the extra women such fanatical reUgions always 
attract, but also, more astutely, he realized that 
the doctrine of polygamy would set his people apart 
from all other people, and probably call down upon 
them'the direct opposition of the Federal Govern- 
ment, A feeling of persecution, opposition, and 
possible punishment were all potent to segregate 
the Mormon Church from the rest of humanity 
and to assure its coherence. Further, he under- 
stood thoroughly the results that can be obtained 
by cooperation of even mediocre people under able 
leadership. He placed his people apart by thor- 
oughly impressing upon their minds the idea of 
their superiority to the rest of the world. They 
'ere the chosen people, hitherto scattered, but now 


at last gathered together. His followers had just the 
degree of intelligence necessary to accept leadership 
gracefully and to rejoice in a supposed superiority 
because of a sense of previous inferiority. 

This ductile material Brigham welded to his own 
forms. He was able to assume consistently an 
appearance of uncouth ignorance in order to retain 
his hold over his imcultivated flock. He delivered 
vituperative, even obscene sermons, which may 
still be read in his collected works. But he was 
able also on occasions, as when addressing agents 
of the Federal Government or other outsiders 
whom he wished to impress, to write direct and 
dignified English. He was resourceful in obtain- 
ing control over the other strong men of his 
Church; but by his very success he was blinded to 
due proportions. There can be little doubt that at 
one time he thought he could defy the United States 
by force of arms. He even maintained an organi- 
zation called the Danites, sometimes called the 
Destroying Angels, who carried out his decrees. ^ 

Brigham could welcome graciously and leave 

' The Mormon Church has always denied the existence of any such 
organization; but the weight of evidence is against the Church. In 
one of his discourses. Young seems inadvertently to have admitted the 
existence of the Danites. The organization dates {tomX^^^^^^ssx^^^'^c^ 
Mormons in Missouri. See linn. The Story oj iK6Ma^IwmA;V^*'^S5^^■=^Sft« 

a good impression upon important visitors. He 
was not a good business man, however, and almost 
every enterprise he directly undertook proved to 
be a complete or partial failure. He did the most 
extraordinarily stupid things, as, for instance, when 
he planned the so-called Cottonwood Canal, the 
mouth of wliich was ten feet higher than its source' 
Nevertheless he had sense to utilize the business 
ability of other men, and was a good accumulator 
of properties. His estate at his death was valued 
at between two and three million dollars. This 
was a pretty good saving for a pioneer who had 
come into the wilderness without a cent of his own, 
who had always spent lavishly, and who had sup- 
ported a family of over twenty wives and fifty 
children^ all this without a salary as an oflScer. 
Tithes were brought to him personally, and he 
rendered no accounting. He gave the strong men 
of his hierarchy power and opportunity, played 
them against each other to keep his own lead, and 
made holy any of their misdeeds which were not 
directed against himself. 

The early months of 1846 witnessed a third 
Mormon exodus. Driven out of Illinois, these 
Latter-day Saints crossed the Mississippi In or- 
ffauizeS bands, with Council Bluffs as their first 


objective. Through the winter and spring some 
fifteen thousand Mormons with three thousand 
wagons foimd their way from camp to camp, 
through snow, ice, and mud, over the weary stretch 
of four hundred miles to the banks of the Missouri. 
The epic of this westward migration is almost 
biblical. Hardship brought out the heroic in 
many characters. Like true American pioneers, 
they adapted themselves to circumstances with 
fortitude and skill. Linn says: "When a halt 
occurred, a shoemaker might be seen looking for a 
stone to serve as a lap-stone in his repair work, 
or a gunsmith mending a rifle, or a weaver at a 
wheel or loom. The women learned that the 
jolting wagons would chum their milk, and when 
a halt occurred it took them but a short time to 
heat an oven hollowed out of the hillside, in which 
to bake the bread already raised. " Colonel Kane 
says that he saw a piece of cloth, the wool for 
which was sheared, dyed, spim, and woven, during 
the march. 

After a winter of sickness and deprivation in 
camps along "Misery Bottom," as they called the 
river flats, during which malaria carried oflF hun- 
dreds, Brigham Young set out with a pioneer band 
of a himdred and fifty to find a ne^ Tlvcya., ^os^^x^ 


the end of July, this expedition by design or chance 
entered Salt Lake Valley, At sight of the lake 
glistening in the sun, "Each of us," wrote one of 
the party, "without saying a word to the other, 
instinctively, as if by inspiration, raised our hats 
from our heads, and then, swinging our hats, 
shouted, 'Hosannah to God and the Lamb!'" 

Meantime the first emigration from winter 
quarters was under way, and in the following 
spring Young conducted a train of eight hundred 
wagons across the plains to the great valley where 
a city of adobe and log houses was aheady building. 
The new city was laid off into numbered lots. 
The Presidency had charge of the distribution of 
these lots. You may be sure they did not reserve 
the worst for their use, nor did they place about 
themselves undesirable neighbors. Immediately 
after the assignments had been made, various 
people began at once to speculate in buying and 
selling according to the location. The spiritual 
power immediately anathematized this. No one 
was permitted to trade over property. Any sales 
were made on a basis of the first cost plus the value 
of the improvement, A community admirable in 
almost every way was improvised as though by 
magic. Among themselves the Mormons were 



sober, industrious. God-fearing, peaceful. Their 
difficulties with the nation were yet to come. 

Throughout the year, 1848, the weather was 
propitious for ploughing and sowing. Before the 
crops could be gathered, however, provisions ran 
so low that the large community was in actual 
danger of starvation. Men were reduced to eating 
skins of slaughtered animals, the raw hides from 
the roofs of houses, and even a wild root dug by 
the miserable Ute Indians. To cap the chmax, 
when finally the crops ripened, they were attacked 
by an army of crickets that threatened to destroy 
them utterly. Prayers of desperation were mir- 
aculously answered by a flight of white sea-gulls 
I that destroyed the invader and saved the crop. 
Since then this miracle has been many times 
It was in August, 1849, that the first gold rush 
began. Some of Brannan's company from Cali- 
fornia had already arrived with samples of gold- 
dust. Brigham Young was too shrewd not to 
discourage all mining desires on the part of his 
people, and he managed to hold them. The 
Mormons never did indulge in gold-mining. But 
the samples served to inflame the ardor of the ira.- 
migrants from the east. TkeVr one dea«e aN- ■=.■&':» 




became to H^ten their loads so that they could 
get to the diggings in the sh(»test poss3>le time. 
Then the Mormons hegan to reap their hanresL 
Animals wcnih only twenty-five or thirty dollars 
would bring two hundred dollars in exchange for 
goods brouj^t in by the travders. Yot a light 
wagon the immigrants did not hesitate to offer 
three or four heavy ones, and sometimes a yoke of 
oxen to boot* Such very desirable things to a new 
community as sheeting, or spades and shovels, 
since the miners were overstocked, could be had 
for almost nothing. Indeed, everything, except 
coffee and sugar, was about half the wholesale 
rate in the East. The profit to the Mormons from 
this migration was even greater in 1850. The 
gold-seeker sometimes paid as hi^ as a dollar a 
pound for flour; and, conversely, as many of the 
wayfarers started out with heavy loads of mining 
machinery and miscellaneous goods, as is the habit 
of the tenderfoot camper even imto this day, they 
had to sell at the buyers' prices. Some of the enter- 
prising miners had even brought large amounts of 
goods for sale at a hoped-for profit in California. 
At Salt Lake City, however, the information was 
industriously circulated that shiploads of similar 
merchandiae were on their ^ d the Horn, 


and consequently the would-be traders often sacri- 
ficed their own stock. ' 

This friendly condition could not, of course, long 
obtain. Brigham Young's policy of segregation was 
absolutely opposed to permanent friendly relations. 
The immigrants on the other hand were violently 
prejudiced against the Mormon faith. The valley 
of the Salt Lake seemed to be just the psycho- 
logical point for the breaking up into fragments of 
the larger companies that had crossed the plains. 
The division of property on these separations some- 
times involved a considerable amount of diflSculty. 
The disputants often applied to the Mormon courts 
for decision. Somebody was sure to become dis- 
satisfied and to accuse the courts of imdue influ- 
ence. Rebellion against the decision brought upon 
them the full force of civil power. For contempt of 
court they were most severely fined. The fields 
of the Mormons were imperfectly fenced; the cattle 
of the immigrants were very numerous. Trespass 
cases brought heavy remuneration, the value 
being so much greater for damages than in the 
States that it often looked to the stranger like an 
injustice. A protest would be taken before a 
bishop who charged costs for his decision., dssk 

* Linn, The Story of the Mormons^ 406. 




unreasonable prejudice against the Mormons often 
arose from these causes. On the other hand there 
is no doubt that the immigrants often had right on 
their side. Not only were the Mormons human 
beings, with the usual qualities of love of gain and 
desire to take advantage of their situation; but, 
further, they belonged to a sect that fostered the 
belief that they were superior to the rest of man- 
kind, and that it was actually meritorious to "spoil 
the Philistines. " 

Many gold-diggers who started out with a com- 
plete outfit finished their journey almost on foot. 
Some five hundred of these people got together 
later in California and compared notes. Finally 
theyi drew up a series of affidavits to be sent 
back home. A petition was presented to Congress 
charging that many immigrants had been murdered 
by the Mormons; that, when members of the Mor- 
mon community became dissatisfied and tried to 
leave, they were subdued and killed ; that a two per 
cent tax on the property was levied on those im- 
migrants compelled to stay through the winter; 
that justice was impossible to obtain in the Mor- 
mon courts; that immigrants' mail was opened and 
destroyed; and that all Mormons were at best 
treasonable in sentiment. Later t\ie \>Teajcii liC;- 


tween the Mormons and the Americans became 
more marked, until it culminated in the atrocious 
Mountain Meadows massacre, which was probably 
only one of several similar but lesser occurrences. 
These things, however, are outside of our scope, 
as they occurred later in history. For the moment, 
it is only necessary to note that it was extremely 
fortunate for the gold immigrants, not only that 
the half-way station had been established by the 
Mormons, but also that the necessities of the 
latter forced them to adopt a friendly policy. By 
the time open enmity had come, the first of the 
rush had passed and other routes had been well 



Of the three roads to California that by Panama 
was the most obvious, the shortest* and therefore 
the most crowded. It was likewise the most ex- 
pensive. To the casual eye this route was also the 
easiest. You got on a ship in New York, you dis- 
embarked for a very short land journey, you re- 
embarked on another ship, and landed at San 
Francisco. This route therefore attracted the 
more unstable elements of society. The journey 
by the plains took a certain grim determination 
and courage; that by Cape Horn, a slow and 
persistent patience. 

The route by the Isthmus, on the other hand, 
allured the impatient, the reckless, and those who 
were unaccustomed to and undesirous of hard- 
ships. Most of the gamblers and speculators, 
for example, as well as the cheaper politicians, 
went by Panama. 



In October, 1848, the first steamship of the 
Pacific Steamship Company began her voyage 
from New York to Panama and San Francisco, 
and reached her destination toward the end of 
February. On the Atlantic every old tub that 
could be made to float so far was pressed into 
service. Naturally there were many more vessels 
on the Atlantic side than on the Pacific side, and 
the greatest congestion took place at Panama. 
Every man was promised by the shipping agent 
a through passage, but the shipping agent was 
careful to remain in New York.. 

The overcrowded ships were picturesque though 
uncomfortable. They were crowded to the guards 
with as miscellaneous a lot of passengers as were 
ever got together. It must be remembered that 
they were mostly young men in the full vigor of 
youth and thoroughly imbued with the adventur- 
ous spirit. It must be remembered again, if the 
reader can think back so far in his own experience, 
that youth of that age loves to deck itself out both 
physically and mentally in the trappings of ro- 
mance. Almost every man wore a red shirt, a slouch 
hat, a repeating pistol, and a bowie knife; and most 
of them began at once to grow beards. TVve^j ^sasofc 
from all parts of the country. T\i^ Yax^^XaSo^^ 


Yankee elbowed the tall, sallow, black-hai 
Southerner. Social distinctions soon fell away 
and were forgotten. No one could tell by speech, 
manners, or dress whether a man's former status 
was lawyer, physician, or roustabout. The days 
were spent in excited discussions of matters per- 
taining to the new country and the theorj- and 
practice of gold-mining. Only two things were 
said to be capable of breaking in on this inter- 
minable palaver. One was dolphins and the other 
the meal-gong. TVTien dolphins appeared, eacli 
passenger promptly rushed to the side of the ship | 
and discharged his revolver in a fusillade that was 
usually harmless. Meal time always caught the 
majority unawares. They tumbled and jostled 
down the companionway only to find that the wise 
and forethoughtful had preempted every chair. 
There was very little quarreling. A holiday spirit I 
seemed topervadethecrowd. Everybody was more I 
or less elevated in mood and everybody was imbued 
with the same spirit of comradeship in adventure. 
But with the sight of shore, the low beach, and 
the round high bluffs with the castle atop that 
meant Chagres, this comradeship rather fell 
apart. Soon a landing was to be made and ' 
transportation across the Isthmus liad to be oh- 


tained. Men at once became rivals for prompt 
service. Here, for the first time, the owners of the 
weird mining-machines already described found 
themselves at a disadvantage, while those who 
carried merely the pick, shovel, and small personal 
equipment were enabled to make a flying start. 
On the beach there was invariably an immense 
wrangle over the hiring of boats to go up the river. 
These were a sort of dug-out with small decks in 
the bow and in the stern, and with low roofs of 
palmetto leaves amidships. The fare to Cruces 
was about fifteen dollars a man. Nobody was 
in a hurry but the Americans. 

Chagres was a collection of cane huts on level 

ground, with a swamp at the back. Men and 

women clad in a single cotton garment lay about 

smoking cigars. Naked and pot-bellied children 

played in the mud. On the threshold of the doors, 

in the huts, fish, bullock heads, hides, and carrion 

were strewn, all in a state of decomposition, while 

I. in the rear was the jungle and a lake of stagnant 

I water with a delicate bordering of greasy blue mud. 

I There was but one hotel, called the Crescent City, 

[ which boasted of no floor and no food. The new- 

s who were unsupplied with provisions had 

eat what they could pick up. \5n^ea."TOE)\iia^'3'- 


in tropical ways, they wasted a tremendous lot of 
nervous energy in trying to get the natives started. 
The natives, calm in the consciousness that there 
was plenty of demand, refused to be hurried. 
Many of the travelers, thinking that they had 
closed a bargain, returned from sightseeing only 
to find their boat had disappeared. The only safe 
way was to sit in the canoe until it actually started. 

With luck they got ofiF late in the afternoon, and 
made ten or twelve miles to Gatun. The journey 
up the lazy tropical river was exciting and inter- 
esting. The boatmen sang, the tropic forests came 
down to the banks with their lilies, shrubs, man- 
goes, cocos, sycamores, palms; their crimson, 
purple, and yellow blossoms; their bananas with 
torn leaves; their butterflies and paroquets; their 
streamers and vines and scarlet flowers. It was 
like a vision of fairyland. 

Gatun was a collection of bamboo huts, in- 
habited mainly by fleas. One traveler tells of 
attempting to write in his journal, and finding 
the page covered with fleas before he had inscribed 
a dozen words. The gold seekers slept in ham- 
mocks, suspended at such a height that the native 
dogs found them most convenient back-scratchers. 
The fleas were not inactive. On all sides the na- 


tives drank, sang, and played monte. It generally 
rained at night, and the flimsy huts did little to 
keep out the wet. Such things went far to take 
away the first enthusiasm and to leave the travel- 
ers in rather a sad and weary-eyed state. 

By the third day the river narrowed and became 
swifter. With luck the voyagers reached Gor- 
gona on a high bluff. This was usually the end 
of the river journey. Most people bargained for 
Cruces six miles beyond, but on arrival decided 
that the Gorgona trail would be less crowded, and 
with unanimity went ashore there. Here the bar- 
gaining had to be started all over again, this time 
for mules. Here also the demand far exceeded 
the supply, with the usual result of arrogance, 
indifference, and high prices. The diflScult ride 
led at first through a dark deep wood in clay soil 
that held water in every depression, seamed with 
steep eroded ravines and diversified by low passes 
over projecting spurs of a chain of mountains. 
There the monkeys and parrots furnished the 
tropical atmosphere, assisted somewhat by in- 
numerable dead mules along the trail. Vultures 
sat in every tree waiting for more things to happen. 
The trail was of the consistency of very thick mud. 
In this mud the first mule \iad xiaXxvt^SN:^ \<^x.>sNa» 


tracks; the next mules trod carefully in the first 
mule's footprints, and ail subsequent mules did 
likewise. The consequence was a succession of 
narrow deep holes in the clay into which an animal 
sank half-way to the shoulder. No power was 
sufficient to make these mules step anywhere else. 
Each hole was full of muddy water. When the 
mule inserted his hoof, water spurted out violently 
as though from a squirt-gun. Walking was simpl 

All this was merely adventure for the young, 
strong, and healthy; but the terrible part of the 
Panama Trail was the number of victims claimed 
by cholera and fever. The climate and the un- 
wonted labor brought to the point of exhaustion 
men unaccustomed to such exertions. They lay 
flat by the trail as though dead. Many actually 
did die either from the jungle fever or the yellow- 
jack. The universal testimony of the times is 
that this horseback journey seemed interminable; 
and many speak of being immensely cheered when 
their Indian stopped, washed his feet in a wayside 
mudhole, and put on his pantaloons. That in- 
dicated the proximity, at last, of the city of 

It was a quaint old place. The two-story 





wooden houses with corridor and verandah across 
the face of the second story, painted in bright colors, 
leaned crazily out across the streets. Narrow and 
mysterious alleys led between them. Ancient 
cathedrals and churches stood gray with age before 
the grass-grown plazas. In the outskirts were 
massive masonry ruins of great buildings, convents, 
and colleges, some of which had never been finished. 
The immense blocks lay about the ground in con- 
fusion, covered by thousands of little plants, or 
soared against the sky in broken arches and cor- 
ridors. But in the body of the town, the old 
picttiresque houses had taken on a new and tempor- 
ary smartness which consisted mostly of canvas 
signs. The main street was composed of hotels, 
eating-houses, and assorted hells. At times over a 
thousand men were there awaiting transportation. 
Some of them had been waiting a long time, and 
had used up all their money. They were broke 
and desperate. A number of American gambling- 
houses were doing business, and of course the 
saloons were much in evidence. Foreigners kept 
two of the three hotels; Americans ran the gam- 
bling joints ; French and Germans kept the restaur- 
ants. The natives were content to be interestai. 
but not entirely idle spectaYots. 'YVex^i 'W'as "» 


terrible amount of sickness aggravated by Ameri- 
can quack remedies. Men rejoiced or despaired 
according to their dispositions. Every once in a 
while a train of gold bullion would start back across 
the Isthmus with mule-loads of huge gold bars, so 
heavy that they were safe, for no one could carry 
them ofiF to the jungle. On the other hand there 
were some returning Califomians, drunken and 
wretched. They delighted in telling with grim joy 
of the disappointments of the diggings. But prob- 
ably the only people thoroughly unhappy were the 
steamship officials. These men had to bear the 
brunt of disappointment, broken promises, and 
savage recrimination, if means for going north 
were not very soon forthcoming. Every once in a 
while some ship, probably an old tub, would come 
wallowing to anchor at the nearest point, some 
eleven miles from the city. Then the raid for 
transportation took place all over again. There 
was a. limited number of small boats for carrying 
purposes^ and these were pounced on at once by 
ten times the number they could accommodate. 
Ships went north scandalously overcrowded and 
underprovisioned. Mutinies were not infrequent. 
It took a good captain to satisfy everybody, and 
there were many bad ones. Some men got so des- 


perate that, with a touching ignorance of geogra- 
phy, they actually started out in small boats to 
row to the north. Others attempted the overland 
route. It may well be believed that the reaction 
from all this disappointment and delay lifted the 
hearts of these argonauts when they eventually 
sailed between the Golden Gates. 

This confusion, of course, was worse at the be- 
ginning. Later the journey was to some extent 
systematized. The Panama route subsequently 
became the usual and fashionable way to travel. 
The ship companies learned how to handle and 
treat their patrons. In fact, it was said that every 
jewelry shop in San Francisco carried a large stock 
of fancy silver speaking-trumpets because of the 
almost invariable habit of presenting one of 
these to the captain of the ship by his grateful 
passengers. One captain swore that he possessed 
eighteen of them! 




The two streams ot immigrants, by sea and over- 
land, thus differed, on the average, in kind. They 
also landed in the country at different points. The 
overlanders were generally absorbed before they 
reached San Francisco. They arrived first at 
Port Sutter, whence they distributed themselves; 
or perhaps they even stopped at one or another of 
the diggings on their way in. 

Of those coming by sea all landed at San Fran- 
cisco. A certain proportion of the yoimger and 
more enthusiastic set out for the mines, but only 
after a few days had given them experience of the 
new city and had impressed them with at least a 
subconscious idea o! opportunity. Another cer- 
tain proportion, however, remained in San Fran- 
cisco without attempting the mines. These were 
either men who were discouraged by pessimistic 
tales, men who had sickened of the fever, or more 



(rften men who were attracted by the big oppor- 
tunities for wealth which the city then afforded. 
Thus at once we have two different types to con- 
sider, the miner and the San Franciscan. 

The mines were worked mostly by young men. 
They journeyed up to the present Sacramento 
either by river-boats or afoot. Thence they took 
their outfits into the diggings. It must have 
seemed a good deal like a picnic. The goal was 
near; rosy hope had expanded to fill the horizon; 
breathless anticipation pervaded them — a good deal 
like a hunting-party starting off in the freshness 
of the dawn. 

The diggings were generally found at the bottoms 
of the deep river-beds and ravines. Since trails, 
in order to avoid freshets and too many crossings 
of the water-courses, took the higher shoulder 
■of the hill, the newcomer ordinarily looked down 
>upon his first glimpse of the mines. The sight 
must have been busy and animated. The miners 
dressed in bright-colored garments, and dug them- 
selves in only to the waist or at most to the 
shoulders before striking bed rock, so that they 
were visible as spots of gaudy color. The camps 
'ere placed on the hillsides or little opeiifta.\a,^^sA 

lasionalJy were set in, l\ie\>edol a. vwet- "^^^"^ 


were composed of tents, and of rough log or bark 

The newcomers did not spend much time in 
establishing themselves comfortably or luxuriously. 
They were altogether too eager to get at the actual 
digging. There was an immense excitement of 
the gamble in it all. A man might dig for days 
without adequate results and then of a sudden 
run into a rich pocket. Or he might pan out an 
immense sum within the first ten minutes of strik- 
ing his pick to earth. No one could tell. The 
fact that the average of all the days and all the 
men amounted to very little more than living wages 
was quite lost to sight. At first the methods 
were very crude. One man held a coarse screen 
of wiUow branches which he shook continuously 
above an ordinary cooking pot, while his partner 
slowly shovelled earth over this impromptu sieve. 
When the pots were filled with siftings, they were 
carried to the river, where they were carefully sub- 
merged, and the contents stirred about with 
sticks. The light earth was thus flowed over the 
rims of the pots. The residue was then dried, and 
the lighter sand was blown away. The result was 
gold, though of course with a strong mixture of 
foreign substance. The pan miners soon followed; 


and the cradle or rocker with its riflBie-board was 
not long delayed. The digging was free. At first 
it was supposed that a new holding should not be 
started within fifteen feet of one already in oper- 
ation. Later, claims of a definite size were 
established. A camp, however, made its own laws 
in regard to this and other matters. 

Most of the would-^be miners at first rather 
expected to find gold lying on the surface of the 
earth, and were very much disappointed to learn 
that they actually had to dig for it. Moreover, 
digging in the boulders and gravel, imder the 
terrific heat of the California sim in midsummer, 
was none too easy; and no matter how rich the 
diggings averaged — short of an actual bonanza — - 
the miner was disappointed in his expectations. 
One man is reported saying: "They tell me I can 
easily make there eleven himdred dollars a day,^ 
You know I am not easily moved by such reports. 
I shall be satisfied if I make three hundred dollars 
per day. " Travelers of the time comment on the 
contrast between the returning stream of dis- 
couraged and disgruntled men and the cheerfulness 
of the lot actually digging. Nobody had any 
scientific system to go on. Often a divining-rod 
was employed to determine 'w\iete Vo ^\%* ^^i5k»s2^ 



stories were current of accidental finds; as vfh& 
one man, tiring of waiting for his dog to get through 
digging out a ground squirrel, pulled the animal 
out by the tail, and with it a large nugget, An- 
other story is told of a sailor who asked some 
miners resting at noon where he could dig and as a 
joke was directed to a most improbable side hill. 
He obeyed the advice, and uncovered a rich 
pocket. With such things actually happening, 
naturally it followed that every report of a real or 
rumored strike set the miners crazy. Even those 
who had good claims always suspected that 
they might do better elsewhere. It is significant 
that the miners of that day, like hunters, always 
had the notion that they had come out to Cali- 
fornia just one trip too late for the best pickings. 
The physical life was very hard, and it is no 
wonder that the stragglers back from the mines 
increased in numbers as time went on. It was a 
true case of survival of the fittest. Those who 
remained and became professional miners were the 
hardiest, most optimistic, and most persistent of 
the population. The mere physical labor was 
very severe. Any one not raised as a day laborer 
who has tried to do a hard day's work in a new 
garden can understand what pick and shovel 


digging in the bottoms of gravel and boulder" 
streams can mean. Add to this the tact that evety 
man overworked himself under the pressure of 
excitement; that he was up to his waist in the cold 
water from the Sierra snows, with his head exposed 
at the same time to the tremendous heat of the 
California sun; throw in for good measure that he 
generally cooked for himself, and that his food 
was coarse and badly prepared; and that in his 
own mind he had no time to attend to the ordinary 
comforts and decencies of life. It can well be 
imagined that a man physically unfit must soon 
succumb. But those who survived seemed to 
thrive on these hardships. ' 

California camps by their very quaint and 
whimsical names bear testimony to the over- 
flowing good humor and high spirits of the early 
miners. No one took anything too seriously, not 
even his own success or failure. The very hard- 
ness of the life cultivated an ability to snatch 
joy from the smallest incident. Some of the 
joking was a little rough, as when some merry 
jester poured alcohol over a bully's head, touched 
a match to it, and chased him out of camp yelling, 
"Man on fire — put him out!" It is evident 
that the time was not one tor men ol -ve^ xi^asis^ 


oi" sensitive nature, unless they possessed at 
bottom the strong iron of character. The ill- 
balanced were swept away by the current of excite- 
ment, and fell readily into dissipation. The 
pleasures were rude; the life was hearty; vices 
unknown to their possessors came to the surface. 
The most signiiBcant tendency, and one that had 
much to do with later social and political life in 
California, was the leveling effect of just this hard 
physical labor. The man with a strong back and 
the most persistent spirit was the superior of the 
man with education but with weaker muscles. 
Each man, jBnding every other man compelled to 
labor, was on a social equality with the best. The 
usual superiority of head- workers over hand- work- 
ers disappeared. The low-grade man thus felt 
himself the equal, if not the superior, of any one 
else on earth, especially as he was generally able to 
put his hand on what were to him comparative 
riches. The pride of employment disappeared 
completely. It was just as honorable to be a cook 
or a waiter in a restaurant as to dispense the law, 
— where there was any. The period was brief, but 
while it lasted, it produced a true social democ- 
racy. Nor was there any pretense about it. The 
rudest miner was on a plane of perfect equality 


with lawyers, merchants, or professional men. 
Some men dressed in the very height of style, 
decking themselves out with all the nainute care 
of a dandy; others were not ashamed of, nor did 
they object to being seen in, ragged garments. 
No man could be told by his dress. 

The great day of days in a mining-camp was 
Simday. Some over-enthusiastic fortime-seekers 
worked the diggings also on that day; but by 
general consent — uninfluenced, it may be re- 
marked, by religious considerations — the miners 
repaired to their little town for amusement and 
relaxation. These little towns were almost all 
alike. There were usually two or three combined 
hotels, saloons, and gambling-houses, built of logs, 
of slabs, of canvas, or of a combination of the 
three. There was one store that dispensed 
whiskey as well as dryer goods, and one or two 
large places of amusement. On Sunday every- 
thing went full blast. The streets were crowded 
with men; the saloons were well patronized; the 
gambling games ran all day and late into the night. 
Wrestling-matches, jumping-matches, other ath- 
letic tests, horse-races, lotteries, fortune-telling, 
singing, anything to get a pinch or two of the dust 
out of the good-natured miners — all \3cve^^ ^<et^ 



going strong. The American, English, and otha 
continentals mingled freely, with the exception 
of the French, who kept to themselves. Success- 
ful Germans or Hollanders of the more stupid 
class ran so true to type and were so numerous 
that they earned the generic name of "Dutch 
Charley." They have been described as moon- 
faced, bland, bullet-headed men, with walrus mous- 
taches, and fatuous, placid smiles. Value meant 
nothing to them. They only knew the difference 
between having money and having no money. 
They carried two or three gold watches at the end 
of long home-made chains of gold nuggets fastened 
together with links of copper wire. The chains 
were sometimes looped about their necks, their 
shoulders, and waists, and even hung down in long 
festoons. When two or three such Dutch Charleys 
inhabited one camp, they became deadly rivals 
in this childlike display, parading slowly up and 
down the street, casting malevolent glances at each 
other as they passed. Shoals of phrenologists, 
fortune-tellers, and the like, generally drunken 
old reprobates on their last legs, plied their trades. 
One artist, giving out under the physical labor 
of mining, built up a remarkably profitable trade 
in sketching portraits. Incidentally he had to pay 


two dollars and a half for every piece of paper! 
John Kelly, a wandering minstrel with a violin, 
became celebrated among the camps, and was 
greeted with enthusiasm wherever he appeared. 
He probably made more with his fiddle than he 
could have made with his shovel. The influence 
of the "forty-two caliber whiskey" was dire, and 
towards the end of Sunday the sports became 
pretty rough. 

This day was also considered the time for the 
trial of any cases that had arisen during the week. 
The miners elected one of their number to act as 
presiding judge in a "miners' meeting." Justice 
was dealt out by this man, either on his own 
authority with the approval of the crowd, or by 
popular vote. Disputes about property were ad- 
judicated as well as offenses against the criminal 
code. Thus a body of precedent was slowly built 
up. A new case before the alcalde of Hangtown 
was often decided on the basis of the procedure at 
Grub Gulch. The decisions were characterized 
by direct common sense. It would be most 
interesting to give adequate examples here, but 
spsfce forbids. Suffice it to say that a Mexican 
horse-thief was convicted and severely flogged; 
and then a collection was taken w^ \at \ficca. ^^ 


the ground that he was on the whole unfortunate! 
A thief apprehended on a steamboat was punished 
by a heavy fine for the benefit of a sick man on 

Simday evening usually ended by a dance. As 
women were entirely lacking at first, a proportion 
of the men was told oflF to represent the fair sex. 
At one camp the invariable rule was to consider 
as ladies those who possessed patches on the seats 
of their trousers. This was the distinguishing 
mark. Take it all around, the day was one oi 
noisy, good-humored fun. There was very little 
sodden drunkenness, and the miners went back 
to their work on Monday morning with freshened 
spirits. Probably just this sort of irresponsible 
ebullition was necessary to balance the hardness 
of the life. 

In each mining-town was at least one Yankee 
storekeeper. He made the real profits of the 
mines. His buying ability was considerable; his 
buying power was often limited by what he could 
get hold of at the coast and what he could trans- 
port to the camps. Often his consignments were 
quite arbitrary and not at all what he ordered. 
The story is told of one man who received what, 
to judge by the smell, he thought was three 


barrels of spoiled beef. Throwing them oiit in 
the back way, he was interested a few days later 
to find he had acquired a rapidly increasing flock . 
of German scavengers. They seemed to be investi- 
gating the barrels and carrying away the spoiled 
meat. When the barrels were about empty, the 
storekeeper learned that the supposed meat was in 
reality sauerkraut! 

The outstanding fact about these camps was 
that they possessed no solidarity. Each man 
expected to exploit the diggings and then to 
depart for more congenial climes. He wished 
to undertake just as little responsibility as he 
possibly could. With so-called private affairs 
other than his own he would have nothing to do. 
The term private affairs was very elastic, stretch- 
ing often to cover even cool-blooded murder. 
When matters arose affecting the whole public wel- 
fare in which he himself might possibly become in- 
terested, he was roused to the point of administering 
justice. The pimishments meted out were fines, 
flogging, banishment, and, as a last resort, lynch- 
ing. Theft was considered a worse offense than 
killing. As the mines began to fill up with the 
more desperate characters who arrived in 1850 
and 1851, the necessity for goveniisieiiV*Vas2t^»aft^* 


At this time, but after the leveling eflPect of uni- 
versal labor had had its full effect, the men of 
personality, of force and influence, began to come 
to the front. A fresh aristocracy of ability, of in- 
fluence, of character was created. 



In popular estimation the interest and romance of 
the Forty-niners center in gold and mines. To 
the close student, however, the true significance 
of their lives is to be f oimd even more in the city 
of San Francisco. 

At first practically everybody came to CaJi- 
f omia imder the excitement of the gold rush and 
with the intention of having at least one try at the 
mines. But though gold was to be found in 
xmprecedented abimdance, the getting of it was at 
test extremely hard work. Men fell sick both 
in body and spirit. They became discouraged. 
Extravagance of hope often resulted, by reaction, 
in an equal exaggeration of despair. The prices 
of everything were very high. The cost of medi- 
cal attendance was almost prohibitory. Men 
4Sometimes made large daily sums in the placers; 
but necessary expenses reduced tTafcVt ti<^\. VaRsso^^Xs^ 



small wages. Ryan gives this account of an inter- 
view with a returning miner: "He readily entered 
into conversation and informed us that he had 
passed the summer at the mines where the exces- 
sive heat during the day, and the dampness of the 
ground where the gold washing is performed, to- 
gether with privation a^d fatigue, had brought on 
fever and ague which nearly proved fatal to him. 
He had frequently given an oimce of gold for the 
visit of a medical man, and on several occasions 
had paid two and even three oimces for a single 
dose of medicine. He showed us a pair of shoes, 
nearly worn out, for which he had paid twenty- 
four dollars. '* Later Ryan says: "Only such men 
as can endure the hardship and privation inciden- 
tal to life in the mines are likely to make fortunes 
by digging for the ore. I am unequal to the task 
... I think I could within an hour assemble in 
this very place from twenty to thirty individuals 
of my own acquaintance who had all told the same 
story. They were thoroughly dissatisJBed and 
disgusted with their experiment in the gold coun- 
try. The truth of the matter is that only traders, 
speculators, and gamblers make large fortunes.'* 
Only rarely did men of cool enough heads and 
far enough sight eschew from the very beginning 


all notion of getting rich quickly in the placers, 
and deliberately settle down to make their for- 
times in other ways. 

This conclusion of Ryan's throws, of course, 
rather too dark a tone over the picture. The 
"hardy miner" was a reality, and the life in the 
placers was, to such as he, proiBtable and pleasant. 
However, this point of view had its influence in 
turning back from the mines a very large propor- 
tion of those who first went in. Many of them 
drifted into mercantile pursuits. Harlan tells us: 
"During my sojourn in Stockton I mixed freely 
with the returning and disgusted miners from 
whom I learned that they were selling their min- 
ing implements at ruinously low prices. An idea 
struck me one day which I immediately acted 
upon for fear that another might strike in the 
same place and cause an explosion. The heaven- 
bom idea that had penetrated my cranium was 
this : start in the mercantile line, purchase the kits 
and implements of the returning miners at low 
figures and sell to the greenhorns en route to the 
mines at California prices. " In this manner 
innumerable occupations supplying the obvious 
needs were taken up by many returned miners. A 
certain proportion drifted to crima ot ^^^ ^kj» 

vices, but the large majority returned to San 
Francisco, whence they either went home com- 
pletely discouraged, or with renewed energy 
and better-appHcd ability took hold of the des- 
tinies of the new city. Thus another sort of 
Forty-niner became in his way as significant and 
strong, as effective and as romantic as his brother, 
the red-shirted Forty-niner of the diggings. 

But in addition to the miners who had made 
their stakes, who had given up the idea of mining, 
or who were merely waiting for the winter's rains 
to be over to go back again to the diggings, an ever 
increasing immigration was coming to San Fran- 
cisco with the sole idea of settling in that place.. I 
All classes of men were represented. Many of the 
big mercantile establishments of the East were 
sending out their agents. Independent merchants 
sought the rewards of speculation. Gamblers also 
perceived opportunities for big killings. Pro- 
fessional politicians and cheap lawyers, largely 
from the Southern States, unfortunately also 
saw their chance to obtain standing in a new 
community, having lost all standing in their own. 
The result of the mixing of these various chemical 
elements of society was an extraordinary boiling , 
and bubbling. 


When Commander Montgomery hoisted the 
American flag in 1846, the town of Yerba Buena, 
as San Francisco was called, had a population of 
about two himdred. Before the discovery of gold 
it developed under the influence of American 
enterprise normally and rationally into a prosper- 
ous little town with two hotels, a few private 
dwellings, and two wharves in the process of 
construction. Merchants had established them- 
selves with connections in the Eastern States, 
in Great Britain, and South America. Just be- 
fore the discovery of gold the population had 
increased to eight hundred and twelve. 

The news of the placers practically emptied 
the town. It would be curious to know exactly 
how many human souls and chickens remained 
after Brannan's Califomia Star published the 
authentic news. The commonest necessary activi- 
ties were utterly neglected, shops were closed 
and barricaded, merchandise was left rottmg 
on the wharves and the beaches, and the prices 
of necessities rose to tremendous altitudes. The 
place looked as a deserted mining-camp does now. 
The few men left who would work wanted ten or 
even twenty dollars a day for the commonest 


However, the eaxly pioneers were hard-headed 
citizens. Many of the shopkeepers and mer-^ 
chants, after a short experience of the mines,, 
hurried back to make the inevitable fortune that 
must come to the middleman in these extraordi- 
nary times. Within the first eight weeks of the gold 
excitement two hundred and fifty thousand dollars 
in gold dust reached San Francisco, and within 
the following eight weeks six hundred thousand 
dollars more came in. All of this was to purchase 
supplies at any price for the miners. 

This was in the latter days of 1848. In the first 
part of 1849 the immigrants began to arrive. 
They had to have places to sleep, things to eat, 
transportation to the diggings, outfits of various 
sorts. In the first six months of 1849 ten thou- 
sand people piled down upon the little city built 
to accommodate eight hundred. And the last six 
months of the year were still more extraordinary,^ 
as some thirty thousand more dumped themselves 
on the chaos of the first immigration. The result 
can be imagined. The city was mainly of canvas 
either in the form of tents or of crude canvas and 
wooden houses. The few substantial buildings 
stood like rocks in a tossing sea. No attempt, 
of course, had been made as yet toward public 


improvements. The streets were ankle-deep in 
dust or neck-deep in mud. A great smoke of dust 
hung perpetually over the city, raised by the trade 
winds of the afternoon. Hundreds of ships lay at 
anchor in the harbor. They had been deserted by 
their crews, and, before they could be re-manned, 
the faster clipper ships, built to control the 
fluctuating western trade, had displaced the^m, 
so that the majority were fated never again to 
put to sea. 

Newcomers landed at first on a flat beach of 
deep black sand, where they generally left their 
personal effects for lack of means of transportation. 
They climbed to a ragged thoroughfare of open 
sheds and ramshackle buildings, most of them in 
the course of construction. Beneath crude shel- 
ters of all sorts and in great quantities were goods 
brought in hastily by eager speculators on the 
high prices. The four himdred deserted ships 
lying at anchor in the harbor had dumped down 
on the new community the most ridiculous assort- 
ment of necessities and luxuries, such as calico, 
silk, rich furniture, mirrors, knock-down houses, 
cases and cases of tobacco, clothing, statuary, 
mining-implements, provisions, and the like. 

The hotels and lodging \io\]Lse^ \TXiECkfc$JsaXs§c^ 



became verj' numerous. Though they were m 
reality only overcrowded bunk-houses, the most 
enormous prices were charged for beds in them. 
People lay ten or twenty in a single room — in row 
after row of cots, in bunks, or on the floor. Be- 
tween the discomfort of hard beds, fleas, and over- 
crowding, the entire populace spent most of its 
time on the street or in the saloons and gambling- 
houses. As some one has pointed out, this custom 
added greatly to the apparent population of the 
place. Gambling was the gaudiest, the best- 
paying, and the most patronized industry. It 
occupied the largest structures, and it probably im- 
ported and installed the first luxuries. Of these 
resorts the EI Dorado became the most famous. 
It occupied at first a large tent but soon found 
itself forced to move to better quarters. The 
rents paid for buildings were enormous. Three 
thousand dollars a month in advance was charged 
for a single small store made of rough boards. A 
two-story frame building on Kearny Street near 
the Plaza paid its owners a hundred and twenty 
thousand dollars a year rent. The tent containing 
the El Dorado gambling saloon was rented for 
forty thousand dollars a year. The prices sky- 
rocketed stiU higher. Miners paid as high as 


two hundred dollars for an ordinary gold rocker, 
fifteen or twenty dollars for a pick, the same 
for a shovel, and so forth. A copper coui was 
considered a curiosity, a half-dollar was the mini- 
mum tip for any small service, twenty-five cents 
was the smallest coin in circulation, and the least 
price tor which anything could be sold. Bread 
came to fifty cents a loaf. Good boots were a 
hundred dollars. 

Affairs moved very swiftly. A month was 
the unit of time. Nobody made bargains for more 
than a month in advance. Interest was charged 
on money by the month. Indeed, conditions 
changed so fast that no man pretended to estimate 
them beyond thirty days ahead, and to do even 
that was considered rather a gamble. Real estate 
joined the parade of advance. Little holes in 
sand-hills sold for fabulous prices. The sick, 
destitute, and discouraged were submerged be- 
neath the moanting tide of vigorous optimism that 
bore on its crest the strong and able members 
of the community. Every one either was rich 
or expected soon to be so. Opportunity awaited 
every man at every comer. Men who knew how 
to take advantage of fortune's gifts were assured 
of immediate liigh returns. Those 'NWi «i'ii:^-*»N. 


were, of course, enabled to take advantage of 
the opportunities more quickly ; but the ingenious 
mind saw its chances even with nothing to start on. 

One man, who landed broke but who possessed 
two or three dozen old newspapers used as packing, 
sold them at a dollar and two dollars apiece and so 
made his start. Another immigrant with a few 
packages of ordinary tin tacks exchanged them 
with a man engaged in putting up a canvas house 
for their exact weight in gold dust. Harlan tells 
of walking along the shore of Happy Valley and 
finding it lined with discarded pickle jars and 
bottles. Remembering the high price of pickles 
in San Francisco, he gathered up several hundred 
of them, bought a barrel of cider vinegar from a 
newly-arrived vessel, collected a lot of cucumbers, 
and started a bottling works. Before night, he 
said, he had cleared over three hundred dollars. 
With this he made a comer in tobacco pipes by 
which he realized one hundred and fifty dollars 
in twenty-four hours. 

Mail was distributed soon after the arrival of 
the mail-steamer. The indigent would often sit 
up a day or so before the expected arrival of the 
mail-steamer holding places in line at the post-^ 
oflSce. They expected no letters but could sell 


the advantageous positions for high prices when 
the mail actually arrived. He was a poor-spirited 
man indeed who by these and many other 
equally picturesque means could not raise his gold 
slug in a reasonable time; and, possessed of fifty 
dollars, he was an independent citizen. He could 
increase his capital by interest compoimded every 
day, provided he used his wits; or for a brief span 
of glory he could live with the best of them. A 
story is told of a new-come traveler offering a 
small boy fifty cents to carry his valise to the 
hotel. The urchin looked with contempt at the 
coin, fished out two fifty-cent pieces, handed them 
to the owner of the valise, saying "Here^s a dollar; 
carry it yourself. " 

One John A. McGlynn arrived without assets. 
He appreciated the opportunity for ordinary team- 
ing, and hitching California mules to the only and 
exceedingly decrepit wagon to be found he started 
in business. Possessing a monopoly, he charged 
what he pleased, so that within a short time he 
had driving for him a New York lawyer, whom he 
paid a hundred and seventy-five dollars a month. 
His outfit was magnificent. When somebody 
joked with him about his legal talent, he replied, 
"The whole business of a lavryet \a\,o\sva^ V<3^ 




to manage mules and asses so as to make them 
pay." When within a month plenty of wagons 
were imported, McGlynn had so well established 
himself and possessed so much character that he 
became ex officio the head of the industry. He 
was evidently a man of great and solid sense and 
was looked up to as one of the leading citizens. 

Every human necessity was crying out for its 
ordinary conveniences. There were no streets,. 
there were no hotels, there were no lodging-houses, 
there were no warehouses, there were no stores, 
there was no water, there was no fuel. Any one 
who could improvise anything, even a bare substi- 
tute, to satisfy any of these needs, wa? sure of 
immense returns. In addition, the populace 
was so busy — so overwhelmingly busy — with its 
own affairs that it literally could not spare a 
moment to govern itself. The professional and 
daring politicians never had a clearer field. They 
went to extraordinary lengths in all sorts of graft- 
ing, in the sale of public real estate, in every " she- 
nanigan " known to skillful low-grade politicians. 
Only occasionally did they go too far, as when, in 
addition to voting themselves salaries of six 
thousand dollars apiece as aldermen, they coolly 
voted themselves also gold medals to the value of 


one hundred and fifty dollars apiece "for public 
and extra services." Then the determined citi- 
zens took an hour off for the council chambers. 
The medals were cast into the melting-pot. 

All writers agree, in their memoirs, that the 
great impression left on the mind by San Fran- 
cisco was its extreme busyness. The streets were 
always cranuned full of people running and darting 
in all directions. It was, indeed, a heterogeneous 
mixture. Not only did the Caucasian show him- 
self in every extreme of costume, from the most 
exquisite top-hatted dandy to the red-shirted 
miner, but there were also to be found all the 
picturesque and unknown races of the earth, 
the Chinese, the Chileno, the Moor, the Turk, the* 
Mexican, the Spanish, the Islander, not to speak of 
ordinary foreigners from Russia, England, France, 
Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the out-of-the-way 
comers of Europe. All these people had tre- 
mendous affairs to finish in the least possible time. 
And every once in a while some individual on 
horseback would sail down the street at full speed, 
scattering the crowd left and right. If any one 
remarked that the marauding individual should 
be shot, the excuse was always offered, "Oh, well, 
don't mind him. He's only drunk," as if that 


excused everything. Many of the activities of the 
day also were picturesque. As there were no 
warehouses in which to store goods, and as the few 
structures of the sort charged enormous rentals, 
it was cheaper to auction off immediately all 
consignments. These auctions were then, and 
remained for some years, one of the features of the 
place. The more pretentious dealers kept brass 
bands to attract the crowd. The returning miners 
were numerous enough to patronize both these 
men and the cheap clothing stores, and having 
bought themselves new outfits, generally cast the 
old ones into the middle of the street. Water was 
exceedingly scarce and in general demand, so that 
laundry work was high. It was the fashion of these 
gentry to wear their hair and beards long. They 
sported red shirts, flashy Chinese scarves around 
their waists, black belts with silver buckles, six- 
shooters and bowie-knives, and wide floppy hats. 
The business of the day over, the evening was 
open for relaxation. As the hotels and lodging- 
houses were nothing but kennels, and very crowded 
kennels, it followed that the entire population 
gravitated to the saloons and gambling places. 
Some of these were established on a very extensive 
scale. They had not yet attained the magnificence 


of the Fifties, but it is extraordinary to realize 
that within so few months and at such a great 
distance from civilization, the early and enter- 
prising managed to take on the trappings of lux- 
ury. Even thus early, plate-glass mirrors, expen- 
sive furniture, the gaudy, tremendous oil paintings 
peculiar to such dives, prism chandeliers, and the 
like, had made their appearance. Later, as will 
be seen, these gambling dens presented an aspect 
of barbaric magnificence, unique and peculiar to 
the time and place. In 1849, however gorgeous 
the trappings might have appeared to men long 
deprived of such things, they were of small impor- 
tance compared with the games themselves. At 
times the bets were enormous. Soule tells us 
that as high as twenty thousand dollars were 
risked on the turn of one card. The ordinary 
stake, however, was not so large, from fifty cents 
to five dollars being about the usual amount. 
Even at this the gamblers were well able to pay 
the high rents. Quick action was the word. 
The tables were always crowded and bystanders 
many deep waited to lay their stakes. Within a 
year or so the gambling resorts assumed rather the 
nature of club-rooms, frequented by every class, 
many of whom had no intention of gambling. 




len met to talk, read the newspapers, write<J I 
letters, or perhaps take a turn at the tables. But 
in 1849 the fever of speculation held every man 
in its grip. 

Again it must be noted how wide an epoch can 
be spanned by a month or two. The year 1849 
was but three hundred and sixty-five days long, 
and yet in that space the community of San Fran- 
cisco passed through several distinct phases. It 
grew visibly like the stalk of a century plant. 

Of public improvements there were aJmost 
none. The few that were undertaken sprang from 
absolute necessity. The town got through the 
summer season fairly well, but, as the winter that 
year proved to be an imusually rainy time, it 
soon became evident that something must be 
done. The streets became bottomless pits of 
mud. It is stated, as plain and sober fact, that in 
some of the main thoroughfares teams of mules 
and horses sank actually out of sight and were 
suffocated. Foot travel was almost impossible 
unless across some sort of causeway. Lumber 
was so expensive that it was impossible to use 
it for the purpose. Fabulous quantities of goods 
sent in by speculators loaded the market and 
would sell so low that it was actually cheaper to 


use bales of them than to use planks. Thus 
one muddy stretch was paved with bags of Chilean 
flour, another with tierces of tobacco, while over 
still another the wayfarers proceeded on the tops 
of cook stoves. These sank gradually in the soft 
soil until the tops were almost level with the mud. 
Of course one of the first acts of the merry jester 
was to shy the stove lids ofif into space. The 
footing especially after dark can be imagined. 
Crossing a street on these things was a perilous 
traverse watched with great interest by spectators 
on either side. Often the hardy adventurer, after 
teetering for some time, would with a descriptive 
oath sink to his waist in the slimy mud. If the 
wayfarer was drunk enough, he then proceeded 
to pelt his tormentors with missiles of the sticky 
slime. The good humor of the community saved 
it from absolute despair. Looked at with cold 
appraising eye, the conditions were decidedly 
uncomfortable. In addition there was a grimmer 
side to the picture. Cholera and intermittent 
fever came, brought in by ships as well as by over- 
land immigrants, and the death-rate rose by leaps 
and bounds. 

The greater the hardships and obstacles, the 
higher the spirit of the cornxmixdV.'^ xosfc \» TDkR5^ 


them. In that winter was bom the spirit that has 
animated San Francisco ever since, and that so 
nobly and cheerfully met the final great trial of 
the earthquake and fire of 1906. 

About this time an undesirable lot of immigrants 
began to arrive, especially from the penal colo- 
nies of New South Wales. The criminals of the 
latter class soon became known to the populace as 
"Sydney Ducks." They formed a nucleus for an 
adventurous, idle, pleasure-loving, dissipated set 
of young sports, who organized themselves into 
a loose band very much on the order of the East 
Side gangs in New York or the "hoodlums'* in 
later San Francisco, with the exception, however, 
that these young men affected the most meticulous 
nicety in dress. They perfected in the spring 
of 1849 an organization called the Regulators, 
announcing that, as there was no regular police 
force, they would take it upon themselves to 
protect the weak against the strong and the new- 
comer against the bunco man. Every Sunday 
they paraded the streets with bands and banners. 
Having no business in the world to occupy them, 
and holding a position unique in the community, 
the Regulators soon developed into practically a 
band of cut-throats and robbers, with the object 


of relieving those too weak to bear alone the 
weight of wealth. The Regulators, or Hounds, as 
they soon came to be called, had the great wisdom 
to avoid the belligerent and resourceful pioneer. 
They issued from their headquarters, a large tent 
near the Plaza, every night. Armed with clubs 
and pistols, they descended upon the settlements 
of harmless foreigners living near the outskirts, 
relieved them of what gold dust they possessed, 
beat them up by way of warning, and returned 
to headquarters with the consciousness of a duty 
well done. The victims found it of little use to 
appeal to the alcalde^ for with the best disposition 
in the world the latter could do nothing without 
an adequate police force. The ordinary citizen, 
much too interested in his own affairs, merely took 
precautions to preserve his own skin, avoided dark 
and unfrequented alleyways, barricaded his doors 
and windows, and took the rest out in contemptu- 
ous cursing. 

Encouraged by this indifference, the Hounds 
naturally grew bolder and bolder. They con- 
sidered they had terrorized the rest of the com- 
munity, and they began to put on airs and swagger 
in the usual manner of bullies everywhere. On 
Sunday afternoon of July 15, they isaajAfc ^ ^^^ 



on some California ranches across the bay, oarta 
sibly as a picnic expedition, returning triumphant 
and very drunk. For the rest of the afternoon 
with streaming banners they paraded the streets, 
discharging firearms and generally shooting up the 
town. At dark they descended upon the Chilean 
quarters, tore down the tents, robbed the Chileans, 
beat many of the men to insensibility, ousted the 
women, killed a number who had not already fled, 
and returned to town only the following morning. 
This proved to be the last straw. The busy 
citizens dropped their own affairs for a day and got 
together in a mass meeting at the Plaza. All work 
was suspended and all business houses were closed. 
Probably all the inhabitants in the city with the 
exception of the Hounds had gathered together. 
Our old friend, Sam Brannan, possessing the gift 
of a fiery spirit and an arousing tongue, addressed 
the meeting. A sum of money was raised for 
the despoiled foreigners. An organization was 
effected, and armed posses were sent out to arrest 
the ringleaders. They had little difficulty. Many 
left town for foreign parts or for the mines, where 
they met an end easily predicted. Others were 
condemned to various punishments. The Hounds 
'ere thoroughly broken up in an astonishingly 



brief time. The real significance of their great 
career is that they called to the attention of the 
better class of citizens the necessity for at least a 
sketchy form of government and a framework of 
law. Such matters as city revenue were biiought 
up for practically the first time. Gambling* 
houses were made to pay a license. Real estate, 
auction sales, and other licenses were also taxed. 
One of the ships in the harbor was drawn up on 
shore and was converted into a jail. A district- 
attorney was elected, with an associate. The 
whole municipal structure was still about as rudi- 
mentary as the streets into which had been thrown 
armfuls of brush in a rather hopeless attempt to 
furnish an artificial bottom. It was a beginning, 
however, and men had at last turned their eyes 
even momentarily from their private affairs to 
consider the welfare of this unique society which 
was in the making. 



San Francisco in the early years must be con- 
sidered, aside from the interest of its picturesque- 
ness and aside from its astonishing growth, as a 
crucible of character. Men had thrown oflF all 
moral responsibility. Gambling, for example, was 
a respectable amusement. People in every class 
of life frequented the gambling saloons openly 
and without thought of apology. Men were lead- 
ing a hard and vigorous life; the reactions were 
quick; and diversions were eagerly seized. Decent 
women were absolutely lacking, and the women 
of the streets had as usual followed the army of 
invasion. It was not considered at all out of the 
ordinary to frequent their company in public, and 
men walked with them by day to the scandal of no- 
body. There was neither law nor restraint. Most 
men were drunk with sudden wealth. The battle 
was, as ever, to the strong. 



There was every inducement to indulge the 
personal side of life. As a consequence, many 
formed habits they could not break, spent all of 
their money on women and drink and gambling, 
ruined themselves in pocket-book and in health, 
returned home broken, remained sodden and 
hopeless tramps, or joined the criminal class. 
Thousands died of cholera or pneumonia; hundreds 
committed suicide; but those who came through 
formed the basis of a race remarkable today for 
its strength, resourcefulness, and optimism. Char- 
acters solid at bottom soon come to the inevitable 
reaction. They were the forefathers of a race 
of people which is certainly diflFerent from the 
inhabitants of any other portion of the country. 

The first public test came with the earliest of 
the big fires that, within the short space of eighteen 
months, six times burned San Francisco to the 
groimd. This fire occurred on December 4, 1849. 
It was customary in the saloons to give negroes a 
free drink and tell them not to come again. One 
did come again to Dennison*s; he was flogged, and 
knocked over a lamp. Thus there started a confla- 
gration that consumed over a million dollars* worth 
of property. The valuable part of the property, 
it must be confessed, was in \Xi^ loxxa. c>\ ^qkAs^-. 


as the light canvas and wooden shacks were of 
little worth. Possibly the fire consumed enough 
germs and germ-breeding dirt to pay partiaUy for 
itself. Before the ashes had cooled, the enter- 
prising real estate owners were back reerecting 
the destroyed structures. 

This first fire was soon followed by others, each 
intrinsically severe. The people were splendid in 
enterprise and spirit of recovery; but they soon 
realized that not only must the buildings be 
made of more substantial material, but also that 
fire-fighting apparatus must be bought. In June, 
1850, four hundred houses were destroyed; in 
May, 1851, a thousand were burned at a loss 
of two million and a half; in June, 1851, the town 
was razed to the water's edge. In many places 
the wharves were even disconnected from the 
shore. Everywhere deep holes were burned in 
them, and some people fell through at night and 
were drowned. In this fire a certain firm, Dewitt 
and Harrison, saved their warehouse by knocking 
in barrels of vinegar and covering their building 
with blankets soaked in that liquid. Water was 
unobtainable. It was reported that they thus 
used eighty thousand gallons of vinegar, but 
saved their warehouse. 


The loss now had amounted to something like 
twelve million dollars for the large fires. It be- 
came more evident that something must be done. 
From the exigencies of the situation were developed 
the volunteer companies, which later became 
powerful political, as well as fire-fighting, organi- 
zations. There were many of these. In the old 
Volunteer Department there were foiuleen engines, 
three hook-and-ladder companies, and a number 
of hose companies. Each possessed its own house, 
which was in the nature of a club-house, well 
supplied with reading and drinking matter. The 
members of each company were strongly partisan. 
They were ordinarily drawn from men of similar 
tastes and position in life. Gradually they came 
to stand also for similar poUtical interests, and 
thus grew to be, like New York's Tammany 
Hall, instruments of the politically ambitious. 

On an alarm of fire the members at any time 
of the day and night ceased their occupation 
or leaped from their beds to run to the engine- 
house. Thence the hand-engines were dragged 
through the streets at a terrific rate of speed by 
hundreds of yelling men at the end of the ropes. 
The first engine at a fire obtained the place of 
honor; therefore every alaTm ^aa >i}tkfc «v^gaai Vst ^ 


breakneck race. Arrived at the scene of fire^ 
the water-box of one engine was connected by 
hose with the reservoir of the next, and so water 
was relayed from engine to engine until it was 
thrown on the flames. The motive power of the 
pump was supplied by the crew of each engine. 
The men on either side manipulated the pump 
by jerking the hand-rails up and down. Putting 
out the fire soon became a secondary matter. The 
main object of each company was to "wash** its 
rival; that is, to pump water into the water box 
of the engine ahead faster than the latter could 
pump it out, thus overflowing and eternally dis- 
gracing its crew. The foremen walked back and 
forth between the rails, as if on quarter-decks, ex- 
horting their men. Relays in uniform stood ready 
on either side to take the place of those who were 
exhausted. As the race became closer, the foremen 
would get more excited, begging their crews to 
increase the speed of the stroke, beating their 
speaking trumpets into shapeless and battered 

In the meantime the hook-and-ladder companies 
were plying their glorious and destructive trade. 
A couple of firemen would mount a ladder to the 
eaves of the house to be attacked, taking with 


them a heavy hook at the end of a long pole or 
rope. With their axes they cut a small hole in 
the eaves, hooked on this apparatus, and de- 
scended. At once as many firemen and volunteers 
as could get hold of the pole and the rope began 
to pull. The timbers would crack, break; the 
whole side of the house would come out with a 
grand satisfying smash. In this way the fire within 
was laid open to the attack of the hose-men. This 
sort of work naturally did little toward saving 
the building immediately aflFected, but it was in- 
tended to confine or check the fire within the area 
already burning. The occasion was a grand jubi- 
lation for every boy in the town — which means 
every male of any age. The roar of the flames, 
the hissing of the steam, the crash of the timber, 
the shrieks of the foremen, the yells of applause 
or of sarcastic conmaent from the crowd, and the 
thud of the numerous pumps made a glorious row. 
Everybody, except the owners of the buildings, 
was hugely delighted, and when the fire was all 
over it was customary for the unfortunate owner 
further to increase the amount of his loss by deal- 
ing out liquid refreshments to everybody con- 
cerned. On parade days each company turned 
out with its machine brougYA \,o a \3aj^ ^'sz*-^ ^ 


polish by varnish, and with the members resplend- 
ent in uniform, carrying pole-axes and banners. If 
the rivalries at the fire could only be ended in 
a general free fight, everybody was the better 

Thus by the end of the first period of its growth 
three necessities had compelled the careless new 
city to take thought of itself and of public con- 
venience. The mud had forced the cleaning and 
afterwards the planking of the principal roads; 
the Hounds had compelled the adoption of at 
least a semblance of government; and the re- 
peated fires had made necessary the semi- 
official organization of the fire department. 

By the end of 1850 we find that a considerable 
amoimt of actual progress has been made. This 
came not in the least from any sense of civic 
pride but from the pressure of stem necessity. 
The new city now had eleven wharves, for ex- 
ample, up to seventeen hundred feet in length. 
It had done no little grading of its sand-hills. 
The quagmire of its streets had been filled and in 
some places planked. Sewers had been installed. 
Flimsy buildings were being replaced by sub- 
stantial structures, for which the stones in some 
instances were imported from China. 


Yet it must be repeated that at this time little 
or no progress sprang from civic pride. Each 
man was for himself. But, unlike the native 
Califomian, he possessed wants and desires which 
had to be satisfied, and to that end he was forced, 
at least in essentials, to accept responsibility and 
to combine with his neighbors. 

The machinery of this early civic life was very 
crude. Even the fire department, which was by 
far the most efficient, was, as has been indicated, 
more occupied with politics, rivalry, and fun, than 
with its proper function. The plank roads were 
good as long as they remained unworn, but they 
soon showed many holes, large and small, jagged, 
splintered, ugly holes going down into the depths 
of the mud. Many of these had been mended 
by private philanthropists; many more had been 
labeled with facetious signboards. There were 
rough sketches of accidents taken from life, and 
various legends such as "Head of Navigation,'* 
"No bottom, " "Horse and dray lost here, " "Take 
soimding," "Storage room, inquire below," "Good 
fishing for teal, " and the like. As for the govern- 
ment, the less said about that the better. Re- 
sponsibility was still in embryo; but politics and 
the law, as an irritant, were hi^lii^ ^^^^sasR.^. 


The elections of the times were a farce and a 
holiday; nobody knew whom he was voting for 
nor what he was shouting for, but he voted as 
often and shouted as loud as he could. Every 
American citizen was entitled to a vote, and 
every one, no matter from what part of the world 
he came, claimed to be an American citizen and 
defied any one to prove the contrary. Proof 
consisted of club, sling-shot, bowie, and pistol. 
A grand free fight was a refreshment to the soul. 
After "a pleasant time by all was had," the 
populace settled down and forgot all about the 
officers whom it had elected. The latter went their 
own sweet way, unless admonished by spasmodic 
mass-meetings that some particularly unscrupu- 
lous raid on the treasury was noted and resented. 
Most of the revenue was made by the sale of 
city lots. Scrip was issued in payment of debt. 
This bore interest sometimes at the rate of six 
or eight per cent a month. 

In the meantime, the rest of the crowd went 
about its own affairs. Then, as now, the American 
citizen is wilhng to pay a very high price in dis- 
honesty to be left free for his own pressing affairs. 
That does not mean that he is himself either dis- 
honest or indifferent. When the price suddenly 


becomes too high, either because of the increase 
in dishonesty or the decrease in value of his own 
time, he suddenly refuses to pay. This happened 
not infrequently in the early days of California. 



In 1851 the price for one commodity became too 
high. That commodity was lawlessness. 

In two years the population of the city had 
vastly increased, mitil it now numbered over thirty 
thousand inhabitants. At an equal or greater 
pace the criminal and lawless elements had also 
increased. The confessedly criminal immigrants 
were paroled convicts from Sydney and other 
criminal colonies. These practiced men were 
augmented by the weak and desperate from other 
countries. Mexico, especially, was strongly repre- 
sented. At first few in numbers and poverty- 
stricken in resources, these men acted merely as 
footpads, highwaymen, and cheap crooks. As 
time went on, however, they gradually became 
more wealthy and powerful, until they had estab- 
lished a sort of caste. They had not the social 
importance of many of the "higher-ups" of 1856, 



but they were crude, powerful, and in many cases 
wealthy. They were ably seconded by a class 
of lawyers which then, and for some years later, 
infested the coujIs of California. These men had 
made little success at law, or perhaps had been 
driven forth from their native haunts because of 
evil practices. They played the game of law ex- 
actly as the cheap criminal lawyer does today, but 
with the added advantage that their activities were 
controlled neither by a proper public sentiment 
nor by the usual discipline of better colleagues. 
Unhappily we are not yet far enough removed 
from just this perversion to need further explana- 
tion of the method. Indictments were fought 
for the reason that the murderer's name was 
spelled wrong in one letter; because, while the 
accusation stated that the murderer killed his 
victim with a pistol, it did not say that it was 
by the discharge of said pistol; and so on. But 
patience could not endure forever. The decent 
element of the community was forced at last to 
beat the rascals. Its apparent indiflFerence had 
been only preoccupation. 

The immediate cause was the cynical and open 
criminal activity of an Englishman named James 
Stuart. This man was a Aegeaet^Xfc cxvss^sjm^ 


of the worst type, who came into a temporary 
glory through what he considered the happy cir- 
cumstances of the time. Arrested for one of his 
crimes, he seemed to anticipate the usual very 
good prospects of escaping all penalties. There 
had been dozens of exactly similar incidents, but 
this one proved to be the spark to ignite a long 
gathering pile of kindling. One himdred and 
eighty-four of the wealthiest and most prominent 
men of the city formed themselves into a secret 
Committee of Vigilance. As is usual when any- 
thing of importance is to be done, the busiest men 
of the commimity were summoned and put to 
work. Strangely enough, the first trial imder 
this Committee of Vigilance resulted also in a 
divided jury. The mob of eight thousand or 
more people who had gathered to see justice 
done by others than the appointed court finally 
though grumblingly acquiesced. The prisoners 
were turned over to the regular authorities, and 
were eventually convicted and sentenced. 

So far from being warned by this popular 

demonstration, the criminal offenders grew bolder 

than ever. The second great fire, in May, 1851, 

was commonly believed to be the work of incen- 

diaries. Patience ceased to be a virtue. The 


time for resolute repression of crime had arrived. 
In June the Vigilance Committee was formally 
organized! Our old and picturesque friend Sam 
Brannan was deeply concerned. In matters of 
initiative for the public good, especially where a 
limelight was concealed in the wing, Brannan 
was an able and eflScient citizen. Headquarters 
were chosen and a formal organization was per- 
fected. The Monumental Fire Engine Com- 
pany bell was to be tolled as a sumimons for the 
Committee to meet. 

Even before the first meeting had adjourned, 
this signal was given. A certain John Jenkins 
had robbed a safe and was caught after a long 
and spectacular pursuit. Jenkins was an Austral- 
ian convict and was known to numerous people as 
an old oflFender in many ways. He was therefore 
typical of the exact thing the Vigilance Committee 
had been formed to prevent. By eleven o'clock 
the trial, which was conducted with due decorum 
and formality, was over. Jenkins was adjudged 
guilty. There was no disorder either before or 
after Jenkins's trial. Throughout the trial and 
subsequent proceedings Jenkins's manner was un- 
afraid and arrogant. He fully expected not only 
that the nerve of the Committer ^oyJA ^^^ ^^^x., 


but that at any moment he would be rescued. 
It must be remembered that the sixty or seventy 
men m charge were known as peaceful unwarlike 
merchants, and that against them were arrayed 
all the belligerent swashbucklers of the town. 
While the trial was going on, the Committee 
was informed by its oflScers outside that already 
the roughest characters throughout the city had 
been told of the organization, and were gathering 
for rescue. The prisoner insulted his captors, 
still imconvinced that they meant business; then 
he demanded a clergyman, who prayed for three- 
quarters of an hour straight, until Mr. Ryckman, 
hearing of the gathering for rescue, no longer 
contained himself. Said he: "Mr. Minister, you 
have now prayed three-quarters of an hour. I 
want you to bring this prayer business to a halt. 
I am going to hang this man in fifteen minutes." 

The Committee itself was by no means sure at 
all times. Bancroft tells us that "one time djaring 
the proceedings there appeared some faltering 
on the part of the judges, or rather a hesitancy to 
take the lead in assuming responsibility and 
braving what might be subsequent odium. It 
was one thing for a half-drunken rabble to take 
the life of a fellow man, but quite another thing 


for staid church-going men of business to do it. 
Then it was that William A. Howard, after watch- 
ing the proceedings for a few moments, rose, and 
laying his revolver on the table looked over the 
assembly. Then with a slow enunciation he said, 
* Gentlemen, as I understand it, we are going to 
hang somebody.' There was no more halting." 

While these things were going on, Sam Brannan 
was sent out to communicate to the immense 
crowd the Committee's decision. He was in- 
structed by Ryckman, "Sam, you go out and 
harangue the crowd while we make ready to move." 
Brannan was an ideal man for just such a purpose. 
He was of an engaging personality, of coarse 
fiber, possessed of a keen sense of humor, a com- 
plete knowledge of crowd psychology, and a 
command of ribald invective that carried far. 
He spoke for some time, and at the conclusion 
boldly asked the crowd whether or not the Com- 
mittee's action met with its approval. The 
response was naturally very much mixed, but 
like a true politician Sam took the result he 
wanted. They found the lovers of order had 
already procured for them two ropes, and had 
gathered into some sort of coherence. The 
procession marched to the Plaza ^V^^^ "i^e^sss^a* 


was duly hanged. The lawless element gathered 
at the street comers, and at least one abortive 
attempt at rescue was started. But promptness 
of action combined with the uncertainty of the 
situation carried the Committee successfully 
through. The coroner's jury next day brought in 
a verdict that the deceased "came to his death on 
the part of an association styling themselves a 
Committee on Vigilance, of whom the following 
members are implicated." And then followed nine 
names. The Committee immediately countered 
by publishing its roster of one hundred and eighty 
names in full. 

The organization that was immediately per- 
fected was complete and interesting. This was 
an association that was banded together and close- 
knit, and not merely a loose body of citizens. It 
had headquarters, company organizations, police, 
equipment, laws of its own, and a regular routine 
for handling the cases brought before it. Its police 
force was large and active. Had the Vigilance 
movement m California begun and ended with the 
Committee of 1851, it would be not only necessary 
but most interesting to follow its activities in detail. 
But, as it was only the forenmner and trail-blazei 
for the greater activities of 1856, we must save our 


space and attention for the latter. SuflSce it to 
say that, with only nominal interference from the 
law, the first Conmiittee hanged four people and 
banished a great many more for the good of their 
country. Fifty executions in the ordinary way 
would have had little effect on the excited populace 
of the time; but in the peculiar circumstances 
these four deaths accomplished a moral regenera- 
tion. This revival of public conscience could not 
last long, to be sure, but the worst criminals were, 
at least for the time being, cowed. 

Spasmodic eflforts toward coherence were made 
by the criminals, but these attempts all proved 
abortive. Inflammatory circulars and newspaper 
articles, small gatherings, hidden threats, were 
all freely indidged in. At one time a rescue of 
two prisoners was accomplished, but the Monu- 
mental bell called together a determined band 
of men who had no great diflScidty in reclaiming 
their own. The Governor of the State, secretly in 
sympathy with the purposes of the Conmiittee, 
was satisfied to issue a formal proclamation. 

It must be repeated that, were it not for the 
later larger movement of 1856, this Vigilance 
ConMnittee would merit more extended notice. 
It gave a lead, however, and a Ix^xx^e^^^s^ ^'^ 


which the Vigilance Committee of 1856 was built. 
It proved that the better citizens, if aroused, 
could take matters into their own hands. But 
the opposing forces of 1851 were very diflFerent 
from those of five years later. And the transition 
from the criminal of 1851 to the criminal of 1856 
is the history of San Francisco between those two 



By the mid-fifties San Francisco had attained 
the dimensions of a city. Among other changes 
of public interest within the brief space of two 
or three years were a hospital, a library, a ceme- 
tery, several churches, public markets, bathing 
estabUshments, public schools, two race-courses, 
twelve wharves, five hundred and thirty-seven 
saloons, and about eight thousand women of 
several classes. The population was now about 
fifty thousand. The city was now of a fairly sub- 
stantial character, at least in the down-town dis- 
tricts. There were many structures of brick and 
stone. In many directions the sand-hills had been 
conveniently graded, down by means of a power 
shovel called the Steam Paddy in contradistinc- 
tion to the hand Paddy, or Irishman with a shovel. 
The streets were driven straight ahead regardless 
of contours. It is related that oftew. \3ckfc \xJmj5sss.- 



tants of houses perched on the sides of the sand- 
hills would have to scramble to safety as their 
dwellings rolled down the bank, undermined by 
some grading operation below. A water system 
had been established, the nucleus of the present 
Spring Valley Company. The streets had nearly 
all been planked, and private enterprise had 
carried the plank toll-road even to the Mission 
district. The fire department had been brought 
to a high state of perfection. The shallow waters 
of the bay were being filled up by the rubbish 
from the town and by the debris from the opera- 
tions of the Steam Paddies. New streets were 
formed on piles extended out into the bay. Houses 
were erected, also on piles and on either side of 
these marine thoroughfares. Gradually the rub- 
bish filled the skeleton framework. Occasionally 
old ships, caught by this seaward invasion, were 
built around, and so became integral parts of the 
city itself. 

The same insistent demand that led to increasing 
the speed of the vessels, together with the fact 
that it cost any ship from one hundred to two 
hundred dollars a day to lie at any of the wharves, 
developed an extreme eflSciency in loading and 
unloading cargoes. Hittell says that probably 


in no port of the world could a ship be emptied as 
quickly as at San Francisco. For the first and last 
time in the history of the world the profession of 
stevedore became a distinguished one. In addition 
to the overseas trade, there were now many ships, 
driven by sail or steam, plying the local routes. 
Some of the river steamboats had actually been 
brought around the Horn. Their free-board had 
been raised by planking-in the lower deck, and 
thus these frail vessels had sailed their long and 
stormy voyage — truly a notable feat. 

It did not pay to hold goods very long. Eastern 
shippers seemed, by a curious imanimity, to send 
out many consignments of the same scarcity. The 
result was that the high prices of today would be 
utterly destroyed by an oversupply of tomorrow. 
It was thus to the great advantage of every merchant 
to meet his ship promptly, and to gain knowledge 
as soon as possible of the cargo of the incoming 
vessels. For this purpose signal stations were 
established, rowboat patrols were organized, and 
many other ingenious schemes was applied to the 
secret service of the mercantile business. Both in 
order to save storage and to avoid the possibility 
of loss from new shipments coming in, the goods 
were auctioned oflf as soon as therj >««i^\^sjA^^- 



These auctions were most elaborate institutions 
involving brass bands, comfortable chairs, elo- 
quent "spielers," and all the rest. They were a 
feature of the street life, which in turn had an 
interest all its own. The planking threw back a 
hollow reverberating sound from the various 
vehicles. There seemed to be no rules of the 
road. Omnibuses careered along, every window 
rattling loudly; drays creaked and strained; non- 
descript delivery wagons tried to outrattle the 
omnibuses; horsemen picked their way amid the 
mSlee. The din was described as something ex- 
traordinary — hoofs drumming, wheels rumbling, 
oaths and shouts, and from the sidewalk the blare 
and bray of brass bands before the various auction 
shops. Newsboys and bootblacks darted in all 
directions. Cigar boys, a peculiar product of 
the time, added to the hubbub. Bootblacking 
stands of the most elaborate description were 
kept by French and Italians. The town was full 
of characters who delighted in their own eccen^ 
tricities, and who were always on public view, 
One individual possessed a remarkably intelligent 
pony who every morning, without guidance from 
his master, patronized one of the shoe-blacking 
stands to get his front hoofs polished. He pre- 


sented each one in turn to the foot-rest, and stood 
like a statue until the job was done. 

Some of the numberless saloons already showed 
signs of real magnificence. Mahogany bars with 
brass rails, huge mirrors in gilt frames, pyramids 
of delicate crystal, rich hangings, oil paintings of 
doubtful merit but indisputable interest, heavy 
chandeUers of glass prisms, the most elaborate 
of free lunches, skillful barkeepers who mixed 
drinks at arm's length, were common to all the 
better places. These things would not be so 
remarkable in large cities at the present time, but 
in the early Fifties, only three years after the tent 
stage, and thousands of miles from the nearest 
civilization, the enterprise that was displayed 
seemed remarkable. The question of expense did 
not stop these early worthies. Of one saloon- 
keeper it is related that, desiring a pimch bowl 
and finding that the only vessel of the sort was a 
soup-tureen belonging to a large and expensive 
dinner set, he bought the whole set for the sake of 
the soup-tureen. Some of the more pretentious 
places boasted of special attractions: thus one 
supported its ceiling on crystal pillars; another 
had dashing young women to serve the drinks, 
though the mixing was done by iriea. ^^ \\.^m^\ 


a third possessed a large musical-box capable of 
playing several very noisy tunes; a fourth had 
imported a marvelous piece of mechanism run 
by clockwork which exhibited the sea in motion, 
a ship tossing on the waves, on shore a windmill 
in action, a train of cars passing over a bridge, 
a deer chased by hounds, and the like. 

But these barrooms were a totally different 
institution from the gambling resorts. Although 
gambling was not now considered the entu-ely 
worthy occupation of a few years previous, and al- 
though some of the better citizens, while frequenting 
the gambling halls, still preferred to do their own 
playing in semi-private, the picturesqueness and 
glory of these places had not yet been dimmed by 
any general popular disapproval. The gambling 
halls were not only places to risk one's fortune, 
but they were also a sort of evening dub. They 
usually supported a raised stage with footlights, 
a negro minstrel troop, or a singer or so. On one 
side elaborate bars of rosewood or mahogany ran 
the entire length, backed by big mirrors of French 
plate. The whole of the very large main floor 
was heavily carpeted. Down the center generally 
ran two rows of gambling tables offering various 
games such as faro, keeno, roulette, poker, and the 


dice games. Beyond these tables, on the opposite 
side of the room from the bar, were the lounging 
quarters, with small tables, large easy-chairs, 
settees, and fireplaces. Decoration was of the 
most ornate. The ceilings and walls were gener- 
ally white with a great deal of gilt. All classes 
of people frequented these places and were wel- 
comed there. Some were dressed in the height 
of fashion, and some wore the roughest sort of 
miners' clothes — floppy old slouch hats, flannel 
shirts, boots to which the dried mud was clinging 
or from which it fell to the rich carpet. All were 
considered on an equal plane. The professional 
gamblers came to represent a type of their own, 
— weary, indifferent, pale, cool men, who had not 
only to keep track of the game and the bets, 
but also to assure control over the crowd about 
them. Often in these places immense sums were 
lost or won; often in these places occurred crimes 
of shooting and stabbing; but also into these 
places came many men who rarely drank or gam- 
bled at all. They assembled to enjoy each other's 
company, the brightness, the music, and the soci- 
able warmth. 

On Sunday the populace generally did one of two 
things : either it sallied out in small ^ws:^^ \£^J^l 


the surrounding country on picnics or celebrations 
at some of the numerous road-houses; or it swarmed 
out the plank toll-road to the Mission. To the 
newcomer the latter must have been much the 
more interesting. There he saw a congress of 
all the nations of the earth: French, Germans, 
Italians, Russians, Dutchmen, British, Turks, 
Arabs, Negroes, Chinese, Kanakas, Indians, the 
gorgeous members of the Spanish races, and all 
sorts of queer people to whom no habitat could be 
assigned. Most extraordinary perhaps were the 
men from the gold mines of the Sierras. The 
miners had by now distinctly segregated them- 
selves from the rest of the population. They led a 
hardier, more laborious life and were proud of the 
fact. They attempted generally to diflFerentiate 
themselves in appearance from all the rest of the 
human race, and it must be confessed that they 
succeeded. The miners were mostly young and 
wore their hair long, their beards rough; they 
walked with a wide swagger; their clothes were 
exaggeratedly coarse, but they ornamented them- 
selves with bright silk handkerchiefs, feathers, 
flowers, with squirrel or buck tails in their hats, 
with long heavy chains of nuggets, with glitter- 
ing and prominently displayed pistols, revolvers. 


stilettos, knives, and dirks. Some even plaited 
their beards in three tails, or tied their long hair 
under their chins; but no matter how bizarre they 
made themselves, nobody on the streets of blasS 
San Francisco paid the slightest attention to them. 
The Mission, which they, together with the crowd, 
frequented, was a primitive Coney Island. Bear 
pits, cockfights, theatrical attractions, side-shows, 
innumerable hotels and small restaurants, saloons, 
races, hammer-striking, throwing balls at negroes' 
heads, and a hundred other attractions kept the 
crowds busy and generally good-natured. If a 
fight arose, "it was," as the Irishman says, "con- 
sidered a private fight," and nobody else could 
get in it. Such things were considered matters 
for the individuals themselves to settle. 

The great feature of the time was its extrava- 
gance. It did not matter whether a man was a 
public servant, a private and respected citizen, 
or from one of the semi-public professions that 
cater to men's greed and dissipation, he acted as » 
though the ground beneath his feet were solid 
gold. The most extravagant public works were 
imdertaken without thought and without plan. 
The respectable women vied in the magnificence 
and ostentation of their costMme^ W\\3cl \3ckfc ^cFss^^eso. 


of the lower world. Theatrical attractions at high 
prices were patronized abundantly. Balls of great 
magnificence were given almost every night. Pri- 
vate carriages of really excellent appointment were 
numerous along the disreputable planked roads or 
the sandy streets strewn with cans and garbage. 

The feverish life of the times reflected itself 
domestically. No live red-blooded man could be 
expected to spend his evenings reading a book 
quietly at home while all the magnificent, splendid, 
seething life of down-town was roaring in his 
ears. All his friends would be out; all the news 
of the day passed around; all the excitements of 
the evening oflFered themselves. It was too much 
to expect of human nature. The consequence was 
that a great many young wives were left alone, 
with the ultimate result of numerous separations 
and divorces. The moral nucleus of really re- 
spectable society — and there was a noticeable 
one even at that time — was overshadowed and 
swamped for the moment. Such a social life as 
this sounds decidedly immoral but it was really 
unmoral, with the bright, eager, attractive un- 
morality of the vigorous child. In fact, in that 
society, as some one has expressed it, everything 
was condoned except meanness. 


It was the era of the grandiose. Even conversa- 
tion reflected this characteristic. The -myriad 
bootblacks had grand outfits and stands. The 
captain of a ship- offered ten dollars to a negro 
to act as his cook. The negro replied, "If you 
will walk up to my restaurant, I'll set you to 
work at twenty-five dollars immediately." From 
men in such humble stations up to the very highest 
and most respected citizens the spirit of gambling, 
of taking chances, was also in the air. 

As has been pointed out, a large proportion of 
the city's wealth was raised not from taxation 
but from the sale of its property. Under the 
heedless extravagance of the first government the 
municipal debt rose to over one million dollars. 
Since interest charged on this was thirty-six per 
cent annually, it can be seen that the financial 
situation was rather hopeless. As the city was 
even then often very short of funds, it paid for 
its work and its improvements in certificates of 
indebtedness, usually called "scrip." Naturally 
this scrip was held below par — a condition that 
caused all contractors and supply merchants to 
charge two or three hundred per cent over the nor- 
mal prices for their work and commodities in order 
to keep even. And this practice^ cotm^^^^sjl^ "v^^ 


vicious circle, increased the debt. An attempt was 
made to fund the city debt by handing in the scrip 
in exchange for a ten per cent obligation. This 
method gave promise of success ; but a number of 
holders of scrip refused to surrender it, and brought 
suit to enforce payment. One of these, a physician 
named Peter Smith, was owed a considerable 
sum for the care of indigent sick. He obtained 
a judgment against the city, levied on some of its 
property, and proceeded to sell. The city com- 
missioners warned the public that titles imder 
the Smith claim were not legal, and proceeded to 
sell the property on their own account. The 
speculators bought claims under Peter Smith 
amounting to over two millions of dollars at 
merely nominal rates. For example, one parcel 
of city lots sold at less than ten cents per lot. 
The prices were so absurd that these sales were 
treated as a joke. The joke came in on the other 
side, however, when the officials proceeded to 
ratify these sales. The public then woke up to 
the fact that it had been fleeced. Enormous 
prices were paid for unsuitable property, os- 
tensibly for the uses of the city.- After the 
money had passed, these properties were often 
declared unsuitable and resold at reduced 


prices ix) people already determined upon by 
tiie ring. 

Nevertheless commercially things went well 
for a time. The needs of himdreds of thousands 
of newcomers, in a coimtry where the manufac- 
tures were practically nothing, were enormous. 
It is related that at first laimdry was sent as far as 
the Hawaiian Islands. Every single commodity of 
civilized life, such as we imderstand it, had to be 
imported. As there was then no remote semblance 
of combination, either in restraint of or in en- 
couragement of trade, it followed that the market 
must fluctuate wildly. The local agents of eastern 
firms were often embarrassed and overwhelmed by 
the ill-timed consignments of goods. One Boston 
firm was alleged to have sent out a whole shipload 
of women's bonnets — to a commimity where a 
woman was one of the rarest sights to be foimd! 
Not many shipments were as silly as this, but the 
fact remains that a rumor of a shortage in any 
commodity would often be followed by rush 
orders on clipper ships laden to the guards with 
that same article. As a consequence the bottom 
fell out of the market completely, and the un- 
fortunate consignee found himself forced to auc- 
tion off the goods much below cos\,« 




During the year 1854, the tide of prosperity be- 
gan to ebb. A dry season caused a cessation of 
mining in many parts of the mountains. Of course 
it can be well understood that the immense pros- 
perity of the city, the prosperity that allowed it to 
recover from severe financial disease, had its spring 
in the placer mines. A constant stream of fresh 
gold was needed to shore up the tottering com- 
mercial structure. With the miners out of the 
diggings, matters changed. The red-shirted digger 
of gold had little idea of the value of money. 
Many of them knew only the difference between 
having money and having none. They had to have 
credit, which they promptly wasted. Extending 
credit to the miners made it necessary that credit 
should also be extended to the sellers, and so on 
back. Meanwhile the eastern shippers continued 
to pour goods into the flooded market. An auc- 
tion brought such cheap prices that they proved 
a temptation even to an overstocked public. 
The gold to pay for purchases went east, draining 
the country of bullion. One or two of the sup- 
posedly respectable and polished citizens such as 
Talbot Green and "honest Harry Meiggs" fell 
by the wayside. The confidence of the new com- 
munity began to be shaken. In 1854 came the 


crisis. Three hundred out of about a thousand 
business houses shut down. Seventy-seven filed 
petitions in insolvency with liabilities for many 
millions of dollars. In 1855 one hundred and 
ninety-seven additional firms and several banking 
houses went under. 

Thete were two immediate results of this state 
of affairs. In the first place, every citizen became 
more intensely interested and occupied with his 
own personal business than ever before; he had 
less time to devote to the real causes of trouble, 
that is the public instability; and he grew rather 
more selfish and suspicious of his neighbor than 
ever before. The second result was to attract 
the dregs of society. The pickings incident to 
demoraUzed conditions looked rich to these men. 
Professional politicians, shyster lawyers, political 
gangsters, flocked to the spoil. In 1851 the law- 
lessness of mere physical violence had come to a 
head. By 1855 and 1856 there was added to a 
recrudescence of this disorder a lawlessness of 
graft, of corruption, both political and financial, 
and the overbearing arrogance of a self-made 
aristocracy. These conditions combined to bring 
about a second crisis in the precarious life of this 
new society. 



The foundation of trouble in California at this time 
was formal legalism. Legality was made a fetish. 
The law was a game played by lawyers and not an 
attempt to get justice done. The whole of public 
prosecution was in the hands of one man, generally 
poorly paid, with equally underpaid assistants, 
while the defense was conducted by the ablest and 
most enthusiastic men procurable. It followed that 
convictions were very few. To lose a criminal case 
was considered even mildly disgraceful. It was a 
point of professional pride for the lawyer to get his 
client free, without reference to the circumstances 
of the time or the guilt of the accused. To fail was 
a mark of extreme stupidity, for the game was con- 
sidered an easy and fascinating one. The whole 
battery of technical delays was at the command of 
the defendant. If a man had neither the time nor 
the energy for the finesse that made the interest of 



the game, he could always procure interminable 
delays during which witnesses could be scattered 
or else wearied to the point of non-appearance. 
Changes of venue to courts either prejudiced or 
known to be favorable to the technical interpre- 
tation of the law were very easily procured. Even 
of shadier expedients, such as packing juries, there 
was no end. 

With these shadier expedients, however, your 
high-minded lawyer, moving in the best society, 
well dressed, proud, looked up to, and today 
possessing descendants who gaze back upon their 
pioneer ancestors with pride, had little directly to 
do. He called in as coimsel other lawyers, not 
so high-minded, so honorable, so highly placed. 
These little lawyers, shoulder-strikers, bribe-givers 
and takers, were held in good-humored contempt 
by the legal lights who employed them. The 
actual dishonesty was diluted through so many 
agents that it seemed an almost pure stream of 
lofty integrity. Ordinary jury-packing was an 
easy art. Of course the sheriff's ofiBce must con- 
nive at naming the talesmen; therefore it was 
necessary to elect the sheriff; consequently all the 
lawyers were in politics. Of course neither the 
lawyer nor the sheriff himself ever kive?« ^ «ss?^ 


individual transaction! A sum of money was 
handed by the leading counsel to his next in 
command and charged off as "expense." This 
fimd emerged considerably diminished in the 
sheriff's ofiBce as "perquisites." 

Such were the conditions in the realm of criminal 
law, the realm where the processes became so stand- 
ardized that between 1849 and 1856 over one thou- 
sand murders had been committed and only one 
legal conviction had been secured ! Dueling was a 
recognized institution, and a skillful shot could 
always "get" his enemy in this formal manner; but 
if time or skill lacked, it was still perfectly safe to 
shoot him down in a street brawl — provided one 
had money enough to employ talent for defense. 

But, once in politics, the law could not stop at 
the sheriff's ofiBce. It rubbed shoulders with 
big contracts and big financial operations of all 
sorts. The city was being built within a few 
years out of nothing by a busy, careless, and shift- 
ing population. Money was still easy, people 
could and did pay high taxes without a thought, 
for they would rather pay well to be let alone than 
be bothered with public affairs. Like hyenas to a 
kill, the public contractors gathered. Immense 
public works were undertaken at enormous prices. 


To get their deals through legally it was, of course, 
necessary that officials, councilmen, engineers, and 
others should be sympathetic. So, naturally, the 
big operators as well as the big lawyers had 
to go into politics. Legal efficiency coupled with 
the ineflSciency of the bench, legal corruption, 
and the arrogance of personal favor, dissolved 
naturally into poHtical corruption. 

The elections of those days would have been a 
joke had they been not so tragically significant. 
They came to be a sheer farce. The polls were 
guarded by bullies who did not hesitate at command 
to manhandle any decent citizen indicated by the 
local leaders. Such men were openly hired for the 
purposes of intimidation. Votes could be bought 
in the open market. "Floaters" were shame- 
lessly imported into districts that might prove 
doubtful; and, if things looked close, the election 
inspectors and the judges could be relied on to 
make things come out all right in the final coimt. 
One of the exhibits later shown in the Vigilante 
days of 1856 was an ingenious ballot box by which 
the goats could be segregated from the sheep as the 
ballots were cast. You may be sure that the sheep 
were the only ones counted. Election day was one 
of continuous whiskey drinking and brawling &o 



that decent citizens were forced to remain within 
doors. The returns from the different wards were 
announced as fast as the votes were coimted. It 
was therefore the custom to hold open certain 
wards imtil the votes of all the others were known. 
Then whatever tickets were lacking to secure the 
proper election were counted from the packed 
ballot box in the sure ward. In this manner five 
hundred votes were once returned from Crystal 
Springs precinct where there dwelt not over thirty 
voters. If some busybody made enough of a row 
to get the merry tyrants into court, there were 
always plenty of lawyers who could play the ultra- 
technical so well that the accused were not only re- 
leased but were returned as legally elected as well. 
With the proper officials in charge of the execu- 
tive end of the government and with a trained crew 
of lawyers making their own rules as they went 
along, almost any crime of violence, corruption, 
theft, or the higher grades of finance could be 
committed with absolute impunity. The state of 
the public mind became for a while apathetic. 
After numberless attempts to obtain justice, the 
public fell back with a shrug of the shoulders. The 
men of better feeling found themselves helpless. 
As each man's safety and ability to resent insult 


depended on his trigger finger, the newspapers of 
that time made interesting but scurrilous and 
scandalous reading. An appetite for personalities 
developed, and these derogatory remarks ordinarily 
led to personal encounters. The streets became 
battle-grounds of bowie-knives and revolvers, as 
rivals hunted each other out. This picture may 
seem lurid and exaggerated, but the cold statistics 
of the time supply all the details. 

The politicians of the day were essentially 
fighting men. The large majority were low-grade 
Southerners who had left their section, urged 
by unmistakable hints from their fellow-citizens. 
The political life of early California was colored 
very largely by the pseudo-chivalry which these 
people used as a cloak. They used the Southern 
code for their purposes very thoroughly, and 
bullied their way through society in a swash- 
buckling manner that could not but arouse admi- 
ration. There were many excellent Southerners 
in California in those days, but from the very start 
their influence was overshadowed by the more 
unworthy. Unfortunately, later many of the 
better class of Southerners, yielding to prejudice 
and sectional feeling, joined the so-called "Law 
and Order" party. 


It must be remembered, however, that whereas 
the active merchants and industrious citizens were 
too busy to attend to local politics, the professional 
low-class Southern politician had come out to Cali- 
fornia for no other purpose. To be successful, he 
had to be a fighting man. His revolver and his 
bowie-knife were part of his essential equipment. 
He used the word "honor'* as a weapon of defense, 
and battered down opposition in the most high- 
mannered fashion by the simple expedient of claim- 
ing that he had been insulted. The fire-eater was 
numerous in those days. He dressed well, had 
good manners and appearance, possessed abun- 
dant leisure, and looked down scornfully on those 
citizens who were busy building the city, "low 
Yankee shopkeepers" being his favorite epithet. 

Examined at close range, in contemporary docu- 
ments, this individual has about him little of 
romance and nothing whatever admirable. It 
would be a great pity, were mistaken sentimentality 
allowed to clothe him in the same bright-hued 
garments as the cavaliers of England in the time 
of the Stuarts. It would be an equal pity, were 
the casual reader to condemn all who eventually 
aligned themselves against the Vigilance move- 
ment as of the same stripe as the criminals who 


menaced society. There were many worthy people 
whose education thoroughly inclined them towards 
formal law, and who, therefore, when the actual 
break came, fdund themselves supporting law 
instead of justice. 

As long as the country continued to enjoy the 
full flood of prosperity, these things did not greatly 
matter. The time was individualistic, and every 
man was supposed to take care of himself. But in 
the year 1855 financial stringency overtook the 
new community. For lack of water many of the 
miners had stopped work and had to ask for credit 
in buying their daily necei^sities. The country 
stores had to have credit from the city because the 
miners could not pay, and the wholesalers of the 
city again had to ask extension from the East 
until their bills were met by the retailers. The 
gold of the country went East to pay its bills. 
Further to complicate the matter, all banking 
was at this time done by private firms. These 
could take deposits and make loans and could issue 
exchange, but they could not issue bank-notes. 
Therefore the currency was absolutely inelastic. 

Even these conditions failed to shake the public 
optimism, until out of a clear sky came announce- 
ment that Adams and Company Tcia.Al«^ft^. KSsasssa^ 


and Cotapany occupied in men's minds much the 
same position as the Bank of England. If Adams 
and Company were vuhierable, then nobody was 
secure. The assets of the bankrupt firm were 
turned over to one Alfred Cohen as receiver, with 
whom Jones, a member of the firm of Palmer, 
Cook, and Company, and a third individual were 
associated as assignees. On petition of other 
creditors the judge of the district court removed 
Cohen and appointed one Naglee in his place. 
This new man, Naglee, on asking for the assets 
was told that they had been deposited with Palmer, 
Cook, and Company. The latter firm refused to 
give them up, denying Naglee's jurisdiction in the 
matter. Naglee then commenced suit against 
the assignees and obtained a judgment against 
them for $269,000. On their refusal to pay over 
this sum, Jones and Cohen were taken into cus- 
tody. But Palmer, Cook, and Company.influenced 
the courts, as did about every large mercantile or 
political firm. They soon secured the release of 
the prisoners, and in the general scramble for the 
assets of Adams and Company they secured the 
Kon's share. 

It was the same old story. An immense amount 
of money had disappeared. Nobody had been pun- 


ished, and it was all strictly legal. Failures resulted 
right and left. Even Wells, Fargo, and Company 
closed their doors but reopened them within a 
few days. There was much excitement which 
would probably have died as other excitement had 
died before, had not the times produced a voice of 
compelling power. This voice spoke through an 
individual known as James King of William. 

King was a man of keen mind and dauntless 
courage, who had tried his luck briefly at the 
mines, reaUzed that the physical work was too 
much for him, and had therefore returned to 
mercantile and banking pursuits in San Francisco. 
His peculiar name was said to be due to the fact 
that at the age of sixteen, finding another James 
King in his immediate circle, he had added his 
father's name as a distinguishing mark. He was 
rarely mentioned except with the full designation — 
James King of William. On his return he opened a 
private banking-house, brought out his family, and 
entered the life of the town. For a time his bank- 
ing career prospered and he acquired a moderate 
fortune, but in 1854 unwise investments forced 
him to close his ofiBce. In a high-minded fashion, 
very unusual in those times and even now somewhat 
riu*e, he surrendered to his creditors eN^x^\3cSsv^<55^ 


earth he possessed. He then accepted a salaried 
position with Adams and Company, which he held 
until that house also failed. Since to the outside 
world his connection with the firm looked dubious, 
he exonerated himself through a series of pam- 
phlets and short newspaper articles. The vigor 
and force of their style arrested attention, so that 
when his dauntless crusading spirit, revolting 
against the carnival of crime both subtle and 
obvious, desired to edit a newspaper, he had no 
diflBculty in raising the small sum of money neces- 
sary. He had always expressed his opinions 
clearly and fearlessly, and the public watched 
with the greatest interest the appearance of the 
new sheet. 

The first number of the Daily Evening Bulletin 
appeared on October 8, 1855. Like all papers of 
that day and like many of the English papers now, 
its first page was completely covered with small 
advertisements. A thin driblet of local items 
occupied a column on the third and fourth pages, 
and a single column of editorials ran down the 
second. As a newspaper it seemed beneath con- 
tempt, but the editorials made men sit up and take 
notice. King started with an attack on Palmer, 
Cook, and Company's methods. He said nothing 


whatever about the robberies. He dealt exclu- 
sively with the excessive rentals for postal boxes 
charged the public by Palmer, Cook, and Company. 
That seemed a comparatively small and harmless 
matter, but King made it interesting by mention- 
ing exact names, recording specific instances, avoid- 
ing any generalities, and stating plainly that this 
was merely a beginning in the exposure of methods. 
Jones of Palmer, Cook, and Company — that same 
Jones who had been arrested with Cohen — immed- 
iately visited King in his office with the object of 
either intimidating or bribing him as the circum- 
stances seemed to advise. He bragged of horse- 
whips and duels, but returned rather noncommittal. 
The next evening the Bulletin reported Jones's 
visit simply as an item of news, faithfully, sarcas- 
tically, and in a pompous vein. There followed 
no comment whatever. The next number, now 
eagerly purchased by every one, was more interest- 
ing because of its hints of future disclosures rather 
than because of its actual information. One of 
the alleged scoimdrels was mentioned by name, and 
then the subject was dropped. The attention of 
the City Marshal was curtly called to disorderly 
houses and the statutes concerning them, and it 
was added " for his information** thai ^V ^ ess^vs^ca. 


address, which was given, a structure was then 
actually being built for improper purposes. Then, 
without transition, followed a list of official 
bonds and sureties for which Palmer, Cook, and 
Company were giving vouchers, amounting to over 
two millions. There were no comments on this 
list, but the inference was obvious that the firm 
had the whip-hand over many public officials. 

The position of the new paper was soon formally 
established. It possessed a large subscription 
list; it was eagerly bought on its appearance in the 
street; and its advertising was increasing. King 
again turned his attention to Palmer, Cook, and 
Company. Each day he explored succinctly, 
clearly, without rhetoric, some single branch of 
their business. By the time he had finished with 
them, he had not only exposed all their iniquities, 
but he had, which was more important, educated 
the public to the financial methods of the time. 
It followed naturally in this type of exposure that 
King should criticize some of the legal subterfuges, 
which in turn brought him to analysis of the firm's 
legal advisers, who had previously enjoyed a good 
reputation. From such subjects he drifted to 
dueling, venal newspapers, and soon down to the 
ordinary criminals such as Billy Mulligan, Wooley 


Kearny, Casey, Cora, Yankee Sullivan, Ned Me- 
Oowan, Charles Duane, and many others. Never 
did he hesitate to specify names and instances. 
He never dealt in innuendoes. This was bringing 
him very close to personal danger, for worthies of 
the class last mentioned were the sort who carried 
their pistols and bowie-knives prominently dis- 
played and handy for use. As yet no actual vio- 
lence had been attempted against him. Other 
methods of reprisal that came to his notice King 
published without comment as items of news. 

Mere threats had little eflFect in intimidating 
the editor. More serious means were tried. A 
dozen men publicly announced that they intended 
to kill him — and the records of the dozen were 
pretty good testimonials to their sincerity. In the 
gambling resorts and on the streets bets were made 
and pools formed on the probable duration of 
King's life. As was his custom, he commented 
even upon this. Said the Bulletin's editorial 
colmnns: "Bets are now being oflFered, we have 
been told, that the editor of the Bulletin will not 
be in existence twenty days longer. And the case 
of Dr. Hogan of the Vicksburg paper who was 
murdered by gamblers of that place is cited as a 
earning. Pah ! . . . War then is the ei:^ ^ v^ ^^ 


War between the prostitutes and gamblers on one 
side and the virtuous and respectable on the other I 
Be it so, then! Gamblers of San Francisco, you 
have made your election and we are ready on our 
side for the issue!** A man named Selover sent 
a challenge to King. King took this occasion to 
announce that he would consider no challenges 
and would fight no duels. Selover then announced 
his intention of killing King on sight. Says the 
Bulletin: "Mr. Selover, it is said, carries a knife. 
We carry a pistol. We hope neither will be 
required, but if this rencontre cannot be avoided, 
why will Mr. Selover persist in imperiling the 
lives of others.^ We pass every afternoon about 
half-past four to five o'clock along Market Street 
from Fourth to Fifth Streets. The road is wide 
and not so much frequented as those streets 
farther in town. If we are to be shot or cut to 
pieces, for heaven's sake let it be done there. 
Others will not be injured, and in case we fall our 
house is but a few hundred yards beyond and the 
cemetery not much farther." Boldness such as 
this did not act exactly as a soporific. 

About this time was perpetrated a crime of 
violence no worse than many hundreds which 
had preceded it, but occurring at a psychological 


time. A gambler named Charles Cora shot and 
killed William Richardson, a United States 
marshal. The shooting was cold-blooded and 
without danger to the murderer, for at the time 
Richardson was unarmed. Cora was at once 
hustled to jail, not so much for confinement as 
for safety against a possible momentary public 
anger. Men had been shot on the street before — 
many men, some of them as well known and as 
well liked as Richardson — but not since public 
sentiment had been aroused and educated as the 
Bulletin had aroused and educated it. Crowds; 
commenced at once to gather. Some talk of 
lynching went about. Men made violent street- 
comer speeches. The mobs finally surged to 
the jail, but were firmly met by a strong armedl 
guard and fell back. There was much destructivet 
and angry talk. 

But to swing a mob into action there must be 
determined men at its head, and this mob had no 
leader. Sam Brannan started to say something, but 
was promptly arrested for inciting riot. Though 
the situation was ticklish, the police seem to have 
handled it well, making only a passive opposition 
and leaving the crowd to fritter its energies in 
purposeless cursing, surging to and fco, «xA\sscca\r 


less threatenings. Nevertheless this crowd per* 
sisted longer than most of them. 

The next day the Bulletin vigorously counseled 
dq)endence upon the law, expressed confidence 
in the judges who were to try the case — Hager 
and Norton — and voiced a personal belief that 
the day had passed when it would ever be ne- 
cessary to resort to arbitrary measures. It may 
hence be seen how far from a contemplation of 
extra legal measures was King in his public at- 
titude. Nevertheless he added a paragraph of 
warning: "Hang Billy Mulligan — that's the 
word. If Mr. Sheriflf Scannell does not remove 
Billy Mulligan from his present post as keeper 
of the Coimty Jail and Mulligan lets Cora escape, 
hang Billy Mulligan, and if necessary to get rid 
of the sheriflf, hang him — hang the sheriflf!** 

Public excitement died. Conviction seemed 
absolutely certain. Richardson had been a public 
official and a popular one. Cora's action had 
been cold-blooded and apparently without pro- 
vocation. Nevertheless he had remained undis- 
turbed. He had retained one of the most brilliant 
lawyers of the time, James McDougall. McDou- 
gall added to his staflf the most able of the yoimger 
lawyers of the city. Immense sums of money 


were available. The source is not exactly known, 
but a certain Belle Cora, a prostitute afterwards 
married by Cora, was advancing large amounts. 
A man named James Casey, bound by some 
mysterious obligation, was active in taking up 
general collections. Cora lived in great luxury 
at the jail. He had long been a close personal 
friend of the sheriflf and his deputy. Mulligan. 
When the case came to trial, Cora escaped con- 
viction through the disagreement of the jury. 

This fiasco, foUowing King^s editorials, had a 
profoimd eflFect on the public mind. King took 
the outrage against justice as a fresh starting- 
point for new attacks. He assailed bitterly and 
fearlessly the countless abuses of the time, until 
at last he was recognized as a dangerous opponent 
by the heretofore cynically amused higher crimi- 
nals. Many rumors of plots against King^s life 
are to be found in the detailed history of the day. 
Whether his final assassination was the result of one 
of these plots, or simply the outcome of a burst 
of passion, matters little. Ultimately it had its 
source in the ungovemed spirit of the times. 

Four months after the farce of the Cora trial, 
on May 14, King published an ajia^ck on the 
appointment of a certain man to a posvtvo\5L\SLVlafc 




federal custom house. The candidate had hap^ 
pened to be involved with James P. Casey in a 
disgraceful election. Casey was at that time one 
of the supervisors. Incidental to his attack on the 
candidate. King wrote as follows; "It does not 
matter how bad a man Casey had been, or how 
much benefit it might be to the public to have him 
out of the way, we cannot accord to any one 
citizen the right to kill him or even beat him, 
without justifiable provocation. The fact that 
Casey has been an inmate of Sing Sing prison in 
New York is no offense against the laws of this 
Sbate; nor is the fact of his having stuffed himself 
through the ballot box, as elected to the Board of 
Supervisors from a district where it is said he was 
not even a candidate, any justification for Mr. 
Bagley to shoot Casey, however richly the latter 
may deserve to have his neck stretched for such 
fraud on the people. " 

Casey read this editorial in full knowledge 
that thousands of his fellow-citizens would also 
read it. He was at that time, in addition to his 
numerous political cares, editor of a small news- 
paper called The Sunday Times. This had been 
floated for the express purpose of supporting the 
extivmists of the legalists' party, which, as we have 


explained, now included the gambling and law- 
less element. How valuable he was considered 
is shown by the fact that at a previous election 
Casey had been returned as elected supervisor, 
although he had not been a candidate, his name 
had not been on the ticket, and subsequent private 
investigations could unearth no man who would 
acknowledge having voted for him. Indeed, he 
was not even a resident of that district. However, 
a slick politician named Yankee Sullivan, who ran 
the election, said oflScially that the most votes had 
been counted for him; and so his election was an- 
nounced. Casey was a handy tool in many ways, 
rarely 9'Ppearing in person but adept in selecting 
suitable agents. He was personally popular. In 
appearance he is described as a short, slight man 
with a keen face, a good forehead, a thin but florid 
countenance, dark curly hair, and blue eyes; a 
type of unscrupulous Irish adventurer, with per- 
haps the dash of romantic idealism sometimes 
found in the worst scoundrels. Like most of his 
confreres, he was particularly touchy on the sub- 
ject of his "honor." 

On reading the Bulletin editorials, he proceeded 
at once to King's office, announcing his intention 
of shooting the editor on sight. ProJa^V^ \3«^ 



would have don^ so except for the accidental cir- 
cumstance that King happened to be busy at a 
table with his back turned squarely to the door. 
Even Casey could not shoot a man in the back 
without a word of warning. He was stuttering 
and excited. The interview was overheard by two 
men in an adjoining office. 

"What do you mean by that article?" cried 

"What article?" asked King. 

**That which says I was formerly an inmate of 

"Is it not true?" asked King quietly. 

"That is not the question. I don't wish my 
past acts raked up. On that point I am sensi- 

A slight pause ensued. 

"Are you done?" asked King quietly. Then 
leaping from the chair he burst suddenly into 

"There's the door, go! And never show your 
face here again. " 

Casey had lost his advantage. At the door he 
gathered himself together again. 

"I'll say in my paper what I please, " he asserted 
with a show of bravado. 


King was again in control of himself. 

"You have a perfect right to do so, " he rejoined^ 
"I shall never notice your paper. " 

Casey struck himself on the breast. 

"And if necessary I shall defend myself," he 

King bounded again from his seat, livid with 

"Go," he commanded sharply, and Casey went. 

Outside in the street Casey found a crowd 
waiting. The news of his visit to the BuUetin- 
oflSce had spread. His personal friends crowded 
around asking eager questions. Casey answered 
with vague generalities: he wasn't a man to be 
trifled with, and some people had to find out! 
Blackmailing was not a healthy occupation when 
it aimed at a gentleman! He left the general 
impression that King had apologized. Bragging 
in this manner, Casey led the way to the Bank 
Exchange, the fashionable bar not far distant. 
Here he remained drinking and boasting for some 

In the group that surrounded him was a certain 
Judge Edward McGowan, a jolly, hard-drinking, 
noisy individual. He had been formerly a fugitive 
from justice. However, through the attractions 


of a gay life, a combination of bullying and 
intrigue, he had made himself a place in the new 
city and had at last risen to the bench. He was 
apparently easy to fathom, but the stream really 
ran deep. Some historians claim that he had 
furnished King the document which proved Casey 
an ex-convict. It is certain that now he had 
great influence with Casey, and that he drew 
him aside from the bar and talked with him some 
time in a low voice. Some people insist that he 
furnished the navy revolver with which a few 
moments later Casey shot King. This may be 
so, but every man went armed in those days, 
especially men of Casey's stamp. 

It is certain, however, that after his interview 
with McGowan, Casey took his place across the 
street from the Bank Exchange. There, wrapped 
in his cloak, he awaited King's usual promenade 

That for some time his intention was well 
known is proved by the group that little by little 
gathered on the opposite side of the street. It is a 
matter of record that a small boy passing by was 
commandeered and sent with a message for Peter 
Wrightman, a deputy sheriflf. Pete, out of 
breath, soon joined the group. T\iet^ V^ \S\fc^^ 


also watching, — an official charged with the main- 
tenance of the law of the land! 

At just five o'clock King turned the comer, his 
head bent. He started to cross the street di- 
agonally and had almost reached the opposite 
sidewalk when he was confronted by Casey who 
stepped forward from his place of concealment 
behind a wagon. 

"Come on," he said, throwing back his cloak, 
and immediately fired. King, who could not have 
known what Casey was saying, was shot through 
the left breast, staggered, and fell. Casey then 
took several steps toward his victim, looked at him 
closely as though to be sure he had done a good 
job, let down the hammer of his pistol, picked up 
his doak, and started for the police-station. All 
he wanted now was a trial under the law. 

The distance to the station-house was less than 
a block. Instantly at the sound of the shot his 
friends rose about him and guarded him to the 
shelter of the lock-up. But at last the public was 
aroused. Casey had unwittingly cut down a 
symbol of the better element, as well as a fearless 
and noble man. Someone rang the old Monu- 
mental Engine House bell — the bell that VssAVk^^?^ 
used to call together tloie Wg\3CQXfc"& ^^^ ^&V^* '^^ 


news spread about the city like wildfire. An 
immense mob appeared to spring from nowhere. 

The police oflScials were no fools; they recog- 
nized the quality of the approaching hurricane. 
The city jail was too weak a structure. It was 
desirable to move the prisoner at once to the 
county jail for safe-keeping. A carriage was 
brought to the entrance of an alley next the city 
jail; the prisoner, closely surrounded by armed 
men, was rushed to it; and the vehicle charged out 
through the crowd. The mob, as yet unorganized, 
recoiled instinctively before the plunging horses 
and the presented pistols. Before anybody could 
gather his wits, the equipage had disappeared. 

The mob surged after the disappearing vehicle, 
and so ended up finally in the wide open space 
before the county jail. The latter was a solidly 
built one-story building situated on top of a low 
cliflF. North, the marshal, had drawn up his 
armed men. The mob, very excited, vociferated, 
surging back and forth, though they did not 
rush, because ^s yet they had no leaders. At- 
tempts were made to harangue the gathering, but 
everywhere the speeches were cut short. At a 
crucial moment the militia appeared. The crowd 
thought at Grst that tlie voVwnVeet \xoo^^ ^^x^ 


coming to uphold their own side, but were soon 
undeceived. The troops deployed in front of the 
jail and stood at guard. Just then the mayor 
attempted to address the crowd. 

"You are here creating an excitement/* he 
said, "which may lead to occurrences this night 
which will require years to wipe out. You are 
now laboring under great excitement and I advise 
you to quietly disperse. I assure you the prisoner 
is safe. Let the law have its course and justice 
will be done. " 

He was listened to with respect, up to this 
point, but here arose such a chorus of jeers that 
he retired hastily. 

"How about Richardson?" they demanded of 
him. "Where is the law in Cora's case? To hell 
with such justice!" 

More and more soldiers came into the square, 
which was soon filled with bayonets. The favor- 
able moment had passed and this particular 
crisis was, like all the other similar crises, 
quickly over. But the city was aroused. Mass 
meetings were held in the Plaza and in other 
convenient localities. Many meetings took place 
in rooms in diflFerent parts ot l\i^ e\\-^ . "^<kcl ^ssrssss^ 
by the thousands. Ve\iemevi\. ox^XiOt^ V^$^ ^sses 


from every balcony. Some of these people were, 
as a chronicler of the times quaintly expressed it, 
"considerably tight." There was great diversity 
of opinion. All night the city seethed with ill- 
directed activity. But men felt helpless and 
hopeless for want of efficient organization. 

The so-called Southern chivalry called this 
affair a "fight." Indeed the Herald in its issue 
of the next morning, mistaking utterly the times, 
held boldly along the way of its sympathies. It 
also spoke of the assassination as an "affray," 
and stated emphatically its opinion that, "now 
that justice is regularly administered," there 
was no excuse for even the threat of public vio- 
lence. This utter blindness to the meaning of 
the new movement and the far-reaching effect of 
King's previous campaign proved fatal to the 
paper. It declined immediately. In the mean- 
time, attended by his wife and a whole score of 
volunteer physicians. King, lying in a room in the 
Montgomery block, was making a fight for his 

Then people began to notice a small advertise- 
ment on the first page of the morning papers, 
headed The Vigilance Committee. 

"The members of the Vigilance Committee in 


good standing will please meet at number 105}^ 
Sacramento Street, this day, Thiu-sday, fifteenth 
instant, at nine o'clock A. M. By order of the 
Committee op Thirteen." 

People stood still in the streets, when this 
notice met the eye. If this was actually the old 
Committee of 1851, it meant business. There 
was but one way to find out and that was to go 
and see. Number 105}^ Sacramento Street was a 
three-story bam-like structure that had been built 
by a short-lived political party called the "Know- 
Nothings." The crowd poured into the hall to 
its full capacity, jammed the entrance ways, and 
gathered for blocks in the street. There all waited 
patiently to see what would happen. 

Meantime, in the small room back of the stage, 
about a score of men gathered. Chief among 
all stood William T. Coleman. He had taken a 
prominent part in the old Committee of '51. 
With him were Clancey Dempster, small and mild 
of manner, blue-eyed, the last man in the room 
one would have picked for great stamina and 
courage, yet playing one of the leading r61es in 
this crisis; the merchant Truett, towering above 
all the rest; Farwell, direct, uncompromising, in- 
spired with tremendous single-minded eameat- 


ness; James Dows, of the rough and ready, humor- 
ous, blasphemous, horse-sense type; Hossefross, 
of the Committee of '51; Dr. Beverly Cole, high- 
spirited, distinguished-looking, and courtly; Isaac 
Bluxome, whose signature of "33 Secretary" was 
to become terrible, and who also had served well 
in 1851. These and many more of their type 
were considering the question dispassionately and 

"It is a serious business,'* said Coleman, 
summing up. "It is no child's play. It may- 
prove very serious. We may get through quickly 
and safely, or we may so involve oiu-selves as 
never to get through. " 

"The issue is not one of choice but of 
expediency," replied Dempster. "Shall we 
have vigilance with order or a mob with 

In this spirit Coleman addressed the crowd 
waiting in the large halL 

"In view of the miscarriage of justice in the 
courts," he announced briefly, "it has been 
thought expedient to revive the Vigilance Com- 
mittee. An Executive Council should be chosen, 
representative of the whole body. I have been 
&sked to take charge. I vriiW. do ^o, XsvsX, tcsk\^\ 


stipulate that I am to be free to choose the first 
council myself. Is that agreed?" 

He received a roar of assent. 

"Very well, gentlemen, I shall request you to 
vacate the hall. In a short time the books will be 
open for enrollment. '* 

With almost disciplined docility the crowd arose 
and filed out, joining the other crowd waiting 
patiently in the street. 

After a remarkably short period the doors were 
again thrown open. Inside the passage stood 
twelve men later to be known as the Executive 
Committee. These held back the rush, admitting 
but one man at a time. The crowd immediately 
caught the idea and helped. There was abso- 
lutely no excitement. Every man seemed grimly 
in earnest. Cries of "Order, order, line up!** 
came all down the street. A rough queue was 
formed. There were no jokes or laughing; there 
was even no talk. Each waited his turn. At the 
entrance every applicant was closely scrutinized 
and interrogated. Several men were turned back 
peremptorily in the first few minutes, with the 
warning not to dare make another attempt. 
Passed by this Committee, \Xie e»?CL^<ikaXfc ^&s^si^^ 
the stairs. In the second story \i^\sA ^ Xj^^*^ '^'^ 


Coleman, Dempster, and one other. These ad- 
ministered to him an oath of secrecy and then 
passed him into another room where sat Bluxome 
behind a ledger. Here his name was written and he 
was assigned a number by which henceforth in the 
activities of the Committee he was to be known. 
Members were instructed always to use numbers 
and never names in referring to other members. 

Those who had been enrolled waited for some 
time, but finding that with evening the applicants 
were still coming in a long procession, they gradu- 
ally dispersed. No man, however, departed far 
from the vicinity. Short absences and hastily 
snatched meals were followed by hurried returns, 
lest something be missed. From time to time 
rumors were put in circulation as to the activities 
of the Executive Committee, which had been in 
continuous session .since its appointment. An 
Examining Committee had been appointed to 
scrutinize the applicants. The number of the 
Executive Committee had been raised to twenty- 
six; a Chief of Police had been chosen, and he in 
turn appointed messengers and policemen, who 
set out in search of individuals wanted as 
door-keepers, guards, and so forth. Only regis- 
tered members were allowed on the floor of the 


hall. Even the newspaper reporters were gently 
but firmly ejected. There was no excitement or 

At length, at eight o'clock, Coleman came out 
of one of the side-rooms and, mounting a table, 
called for order. He explained that a military 
organization had been decided upon, advised 
that numbers 1 to 100 inclusive should assemble 
in one comer of the room, the second hundred 
at the first window, and so on. An mteresting 
order was his last. "Let the French assemble in 
the middle of the hall," he said in their language — 
an order significant of the great numbers of French 
who had first answered the call of gold in '49, and 
who now with equal enthusiasm answered the call 
for essential justice. Each company was advised to 
elect its own officers, subject to ratification by the 
Executive Committee. It was further stated that 
arrangements had been made to hire muskets to 
the number of several thousands from one George 
Law. These were only flintlocks, but efficient 
enough in their way, and supplied with bayonets. 
They were discarded government weapons, brought 
out some time ago by Law to arm some mysterious 
filibustering expedition that had fallen through. 
Li this manner, without confusion, an organizati^yoL 


of two thousand men was formed — sixteen mili- 
tary companies. 

By Saturday morning, May 17, the Committee 
rooms were overwhelmed by crowds of citizens 
who desired to be enrolled. Larger quarters 
had already been secured in a building on the 
south side of Sacramento Street. Thither the 
Committee now removed en masses without in- 
terrupting their labors. These new headquarters 
soon became famous in the history of this eventful 

In the meantime the representatives of the 
law had not been less alert. The regular police 
force was largely increased. The sheriflF issued 
thousands of siunmonses calling upon citizens for 
service as deputies. These summonses were made 
out in due form of law. To refuse them meant to 
put oneself outside the law. The ordinary citizen 
was somewhat puzzled by the situation. A great 
many responded to the appeal from force of habit. 
Once they accepted the oath these new deputies 
were confronted by the choice between perjury, 
and its consequences, or doing service. On the 
other hand, the issue of the summonses forced 
many otherwise neutral men into the ranks 
o/ the Vigilantes. If tliey leiusedL \.o ^^\- ^\kS2CL 


directly summoned by law, that very fact placed 
them on the wrong side ot the law. Therefore they 
felt that joining a party pledged to what prac- 
tically amounted to civil war was only a short step 
further. Against these the various military com- 
panies were mustered, reminded of their oath, called 
upon to fulfill their sworn duty, and sent to varioU" 
strategic points about the jail and elsewhere. The 
Governor was informally notified of a state of in- 
surrection and was requested to send in the state 
militia. By evening all the forces of organized 
society were under arms, and the result was a 
formidable, apparently impregnable force. 

Nor was the widespread indignation against 
the shooting of James King of William entirely 
unalloyed by bitterness. King had been a hard 
hitter, an honest man, a true crusader; but in the 
heat of battle he had not always had time to make 
distinctions. Thus he had quite justly attacked 
the Times and other venal newspapers, but in so 
doing had, by too general statements, drawn the 
fire of every other journal in town. He had 
attacked with entire reason a certain Catholic 
priest, a man the Church itself would probably 
soon have disciplined, but in so doing had matis-if^A. 
to enrage all Roman Cat\io\\ea. Vo-X^e. -oia--K^v« 


his scorn of the so-called "chivalry" was certainly 
well justified, but his manner of expression offended 
even the best Southerners. Most of us see no 
farther than the immediate logic of the situation. 
Those perfectly worthy citizens were inclined 
to view the Vigilantes, not as a protest against 
intolerable conditions, but rather as personal 
champions of King. 

In thus relying oh the strength of their position 
the upholders of law realized that there might be 
fighting, and even severe fighting, but it must be 
remembered that the Law and Order party loved 
fighting. It was part of their education and of 
their pleasure and code. No wonder that they 
viewed with equanimity and perhaps with joy 
the beginning of the Vigilance movement of 1856. 

The leaders of the Law and Order party chose 
as their military commander William Tecumseh 
Sherman, whose professional ability and integrity 
in later life are unquestioned, but whose military 
genius was equaled only by his extreme inability 
to remember facts. When writing his Memoirs, 
the General evidently forgot that original docu- 
ments existed or that statements concerning 
historical events can often be checked up. A 
mere mob is irresponsible and axvoxv^xcwow.^, "^>a*. 


it was not a mob with whom Sherman was faced, 
for, as a final satisfaction to the legal-minded, 
the men of the Vigilance Committee had put 
down their names on record as responsible for 
this movement, and it is upon contemporary 
record that the story of these eventful days must 
rely for its details. 



The Governor of the State at this time was J* 
Neely Johnson, a poKtician whose merits and 
demerits were both so slight that he would long 
since -have been forgotten were it not for the fact 
that he occupied oflSce during this excitement. 
His whole life heretofore had been one of trim- 
ming. He had made his way by this method, 
and he gained the Governor's chair by yielding to 
the opinion of others. He took his color and his 
temporary belief from those with whom he hap- 
pened to be. His judgment often stuck at trifles, 
and his opinions were quickly heated but as 
quickly cooled. The added fact that his private 
morals were not above criticism gave men an 
added hold over him. 

On receipt of the request for the state militia 
by the law party, but not by the proper authori- 
ties;, Governor Johnson bumed do^wia. VtoTxi^^vRx^- 



mento to San Francisco. Immediately on arriving 
in the city he sent word to Coleman requesting 
an interview. Coleman at once visited him at 
his hotel. Johnson apparently made every eflFort 
to appear amiable and conciliatory. In answer to 
all questions Coleman replied: 

"We want peace, and if possible without a 

"It is all very well," said Johnson, "to talk 
about peace with an army of insurrection newly 
raised. But what is it you actually wish to 

"The law is crippled," replied Coleman. "We 
want merely to accomplish what the crippled 
law should do but cannot. This done, we will 
gladly retire. Now you have been asked by the 
mayor and certain others to bring out the militia 
and crush this movement. I assure you it cannot 
be done, and, if you attempt it, it will cause 
you and us great trouble. Do as Governor 
McDougal did in *51. See in this movement 
what he saw in that — a local movement for a 
local reform in which the State is not concerned. 
We are not a mob. We demand no overthrow 
of institutions. We ask not a single court tf;^ 
adjourn. We ask not a sVni^^ oSkGet V^ ^"s^Rsa^ 


lis position. We demand only the enforcement 
of the law which we have made." 

This expression of mtention, with a little elabo- 
ration and argument, fired Johnson to enthusi- 
asm. He gave his full support, unofficially of 
course, to the movement. 

"But," he concluded, "hasten the undertaking 
as much as you can. The opposition is stronger 
than you suppose. The pressure on me is going 
to be terrible. What about the prisoners in the 

Coleman evaded this last question by saying 
that the matter was in the hands of the Com- 
mittee, and he then left the Governor. 

Coleman at once returned to headquarters 
where the Executive Committee was in session, 
getting rid of its routine business. V^ter a dozen 
matters were settled, it was moved "that the 
Committee as a body shall visit the county jail at 
such time as the Executive Committee might 
direct, and take thence James P. Casey and 
Charles Cora, give them a fair trial, and adminis- 
ter such punishment as justice shall demand." 

This, of course, was the real business for which 

all this organization had been planned. A mo- 

ment^s pause succeeded ftie pTo^o§»^, Vsvsl «ja 


instantaneous and unanimous assent followed the 
demand for a vote. At this precise instant a 
messenger opened the door and informed them 
that Governor Johnson was in the building 
requesting speech with Coleman. 

Coleman found Johnson, accompanied by Sher- 
man and a few others, lounging in the anteroom. 
The Governor sprawled in a chair, his hat pulled 
over his eyes, a cigar in the comer of his mouth. 
His companions arose and bowed gravely as 
Coleman entered the room, but the Governor 
remained seated and nodded curtly with an an- of 
bravado. Without waiting for even the ordinary 
courtesies he burst out. 

" We have come to ask what you intend to do,'* 
he demanded. 

Coleman, thoroughly surprised, with the full 
belief that the subject had all been settled in the 
previous interview, replied curtly. 

"I agree with you as to the grievances,*' rejoined 
the Governor, "but the courts are the proper 
remedy. The judges are good men, and there is 
no necessity for the people to turn themselves into 
a niob." 

"Sir!** cried Coleman. "This is no \sss^\ — 
You know this is no moV^V* 


The Governor went on to explain that it might 
become necessary to bring out all the force at his 
command. Coleman, though considerably taken 
aback, recovered himself and listened without 
comment. He realized that Sherman and the 
other men were present as witnesses. 

"I will report your remark to my associates/' 
he contented himself with saying. The question 
of witnesses, however, bothered Coleman. He 
darted in to the committee room and shortly 
returned with witnesses of his own. 

"Let us now imderstand each other clearly," 
he resumed. "As I understand your proposal, 
it is that, if we make no move, you guarantee 
no escape, an immediate trial, and instant 

Johnson agreed to this. 

"We doubt your ability to do this,** went on 
Coleman, "but we are ready to meet you half- 
way. This is what we will promise: we will take 
no steps without first giving you notice. But in 
return we insist that ten men of our own selection 
shall be added to the sheriff's force within the 

Johnson, who was greatly relieved and delighted, 
Bt once agreed to this proposal, and sooxL^^At^^ , 


But the blunder he had made was evident enough. 
With Coleman, who was completely outside the 
law, he, as an executive of the law, had no business 
treating or making agreements at all. Further- 
more, as executive of the State, he had no legal 
right to interfere with city affairs unless he were 
formally summoned by the authorities. Up to 
now he had merely been notified by private citi- 
zens. And to cap the whole sheaf of blunders, 
he had now in this private interview treated with 
rebels, and to their advantage. For, as Coleman 
probably knew, the last agreement was all for 
the benefit of the Committee. They gained the 
right to place a personal guard over the prisoners. 
They gave in return practically only a promise to 
withdraw that guard before attacking the jail — a 
procedure which was eminently practical if they 
cared anything for the safety of the guard. 

Johnson was thoroughly pleased with himself 
until he reached the hotel where the leaders of the 
opposition were awaiting him. Their keen legal 
minds saw at once the position in which he had 
placed himself. After a hasty discussion, it was 
decided to claim that the Committee had waived 
all right of action, and t\ia\, \\ie^ V^ ^-t^Tss^aR^ 
deSnitely to leave tlie case \,o >3cLe ^to\s^<^- ^'^k^^ 


this statement had been industriously circulated 
and Coleman had heard of it, he is said to have 

"The time has come. After that, it is either 
ourselves or a mob." 

He proceeded at once to the Vigilance head- 
quarters and summoned Olney, the appointed 
guardian of the jail. Him he commanded to get 
together sixty of the best men possible. A call 
was sent out for the companies to assemble. 
They soon began to gather, coming some in rank 
as they had gathered in their headquarters outside, 
others singly and in groups. Doorkeepers pre- 
vented all exit: once a man was in, he was not 
permitted to go out. Each leader received explicit 
directions as to what was to be done. He was 
instructed as to precisely when he and his command 
were to start; from what given point; along exactly 
what route to proceed; and. at just what time to 
arrive at a given point — not a moment sooner or 
later. The plan for concerted action was very 
carefully and skillfully worked out. Olney's sixty 
men were instructed to lay aside their muskets 
and, armed only with pistols, to make their way 
by different routes to the ^aiL 
Sunday morning dawned iair and eaVm^ ^>A. %a 


the day wore on, an air of unrest pervaded the 
city. Rumors of impending action were abeady 
abroad. The jail itself hummed like a hive. 
Men came and went, busily running errands, and 
darting about through the open door. Armed 
men were taking their places on the flat roof. 
Meantime the populace gathered slowly. At first 
there were only a score or so idling around the 
square; but little by little they increased in num- 
bers. Black forms began to appear on the roof- 
tops all about; white faces showed at the windows; 
soon the center of the square had filled; the con- 
verging streets became black with closely packed 
people. The windows and doors and balconies, the 
copings and railings, the slopes of the hills round 
about were all occupied. In less than an hour 
twenty thousand people had gathered. They took 
their positions quietly and waited patiently . It was 
evident that they had assembled in the r61e of spec- 
tators only, and that action had been left to more 
competent and better organized men. There was 
no shouting, no demonstration, and so little talking 
that it amounted only to a low murmur. Already 
the doors of the jail had been closed. The armed 
forces on the roof had been increa^^A.* 
After a time the congealed cto^^iL ^^sssrw ^^'^ ^ 


the side-streets was agitated by the approach of 
a body of armed men. At the same instant a 
similar group began to appear at the end of another 
and converging street. The columns came steadily 
forward, as the people gave way. The men wore no 
uniforms, and the glittering steel of their bayonets 
furnished the only military touch. The two 
columns reached the convergence of the street 
at the same time and as they entered the square 
before the jail a third and a fourth column de- 
bouched from other directions, while still others 
deployed into view on the hills behind. They all 
took their places in rank aroimd the square. 

Among the well-known characters of the times 
was a certain Colonel Gift. Mr. Hubert H. 
Bancroft, the chronicler of these events, describes 
him as "a tall, lank, empty-boweled, tobacco- 
spurting Southerner, with eyes like burning 
black balls, who could talk a company of listeners 
into an insane asylum quicker than any man in 
California, and whose blasphemy could not be 
equaled, either in quantity or quality, by the 
most profane of any age or nation." He remarked 
to a friend nearby, as he watched the spectacle 
below: "When you see these damned psalm- 
singing Yankees turn ou\. oi \]tifc\t Ocwct^t^^^ 


shoulder their guns, and march away of a Sun- 
day, you may know that hell is going to crack 

For some time the armed men stood rigid, four 
deep all around the square. Behind them the 
masses of the people watched. Then at a com- 
mand the ranks fell apart and from the side-streets 
marched the sixty men chosen by Olney, dragging 
a field gun at the end of a rope. This they wheeled 
into position in the square and pointed it at th^ 
door of the jail. Quite deliberately, the cannon 
was loaded with powder and balls. A man lit a 
slow match, blew it to a glow, and took his position 
at the breech. Nothing then happened for a 
full ten minutes. The six men stood rigid by the 
gun in the middle of the square. The sunlight 
gleamed from the ranks of bayonets. The vast 
multitude held its breath. The wall of the jail 
remained blank and inscrutable. 

Then a man on horseback was seen to make 
his way through the crowd. This was Charles 
Doane, Grand Marshal of the Vigilantes. He 
rode directly to the jafl door, on which he rapped 
with the handle of his riding-whip. After a 
moment the wicket in the doot o^^\i^^» "^\s^- 
out dismounting, the rider l[iaTidedL ^ ^o\-^ ^FrSJsiv^. 


and then, backing his horse the length of the 
square, came to rest. 

Again the ranks parted and closed, this time 
to admit of three carriages. As they came to a 
stop, the muskets all around the square leaped to 
"present arms!" From the carriages descended 
Coleman, Truett, and several others. In dead 
silence they walked to the jail door, Olney's men 
close at their heels. For some moments they 
spoke through the wicket; then the door swung 
open and the Committee entered. 

Up to this moment Casey had been fully con- 
tent with the situation. He was, of course, 
treated to the best the jail or the city could afford. 
It was a bother to have been forced to shoot 
James King of William; but the nuisance of in- 
carceration for a time was a small price to pay. 
His friends had rallied well to his defense. He 
had no doubt whatever, that, according to the 
usual custom, he would soon work his way through 
the courts and stand again a free man. His first 
intimation of trouble was the hearing of the 
resonant tramp of feet outside. His second was 
when Sheriff Scannell stood before him with the 
Vigilantes* note in his hand. Casey took one 
glance at Scannell's face. 


"You aren't going to betray me?" he cried. 
"You aren't going to give me up?" 

"James," replied Seannell solemnly, "there 
are three thousand armed men coming for you 
and I have not thirty supporters around the jail." 

"Not thirty!" cried Casey astonished. For a 
moment he appeared crushed; then he leaped to 
his feet flourishing a long knife. "I'll not be 
taken from this place alive!" he cried. "Where 
are all you brave fellows who were going to see me 
through this?" 

At this moment Coleman knocked at the door 
of the jail. The ^heriflf hurried away to answer 
the summons. 

Casey took the opportimity to write a note for 
the Vigilantes which he gave to the marshal. 
It read: 

^^To the Vigilante Committee. Gentlemen: — 
I am willing to go before you if you will let me 
speak but ten minutes. I do not wish to have 
the blood of any man upon my head." 

On entering the jail door Coleman and his 
companions bowed formally to the sheriflF. 

"We have come for the prisoner Casey," said 
Coleman. " We ask that lieb^^^^j^ifc'sSJ^ ^ksSJsM'es^e^ 
us bandcuSed at the door VmxsiftdLY^^ •^ 


"Under existing circumstances," replied Scan* 
nell, '^I shall make no resistance. The prison 
and its contents are yours." 

But Truett would have none of this. "We 
want only the man Casey at present," he said. 
"For the safety of all the rest we hold you strictly 

They proceeded at once to Casey's cell. The 
murderer heard them coming and sprang back 
from the door holding his long knife poised. 
Coleman walked directly to the door, where he 
stopped, looking Casey in the eye. At the end 
of a full minute he exclaimed sharply: 

"Lay down that knife!" 

As though the unexpected tones had broken a 
spell, Casey flung the knife from him and buried 
his face in his hands. Then, and not until then, 
Coleman informed him curtly that his request 
would be granted. 

They took Casey out through the door of the 
jail. The crowd gathered its breath for a frantic 
cheer. The relief from tension must have been 
great, but Coleman, bareheaded, raised his hand 
and, in instant obedience to the gesture, the cheer 
was stiBed. The leaders tiien enlet^d Ike carriage, 
which immediately turned and dTove a^a^ • 


Thus Casey was safely in custody. Charles 
Cora, who, it will be remembered, had killed 
Marshal Richardson and who had gained from 
the jury a disagreement, was taken on a second 

The street outside headquarters soon filled 
with an orderly crowd awaiting events. There 
was noticeable the same absence of excitement, 
impatience, or tumult so characteristic of the 
popular gatherings of that time, except perhaps 
when the meetings were conducted by the parti- 
sans of Law and Order. After a long interval 
one of the Committee members appeared at an 
upper window. 

'^It is not the intention of the Committee to 
be hasty," he announced. "Nothing will be 
done today." 

This statement was received in silence. At last 
someone asked: 

"Where are Casey and Cora?" 

"The Committee hold possession of the jail. 
All are safe, " said the Committee man. 

With this simple statement the crowd was 
completely satisfied, and dispersed quietly and 
at once. 

Of the three thousand em^'^'^^ xasa.^ ^i£ss5a^ 


hundred were retained under arms at headquarters, 
a hundred surrounded the jail, and all the rest 
were dismissed. Next day, Monday, head- 
quarters still remained inscrutable; but large 
patrols walked about the city, collecting arms. 
The gunshops were picketed and their owners 
were warned under no circumstances to sell 
weapons. Towards evening the weather grew 
colder and rain came on. Even this did not 
discourage the crowd, which stood about in its 
sodden clothes waiting. At midnight it reluct- 
antly dispersed, but by daylight the following 
morning the streets around headquarters were 
blocked. Still it rained, and still apparently 
nothing happened. All over the city business 
was at a standstill. Men had dropped their af- 
fairs, even the most pressing, either to take part 
in this movement or to lend the moral support of 
their presence and their interest. The partisans 
of Law and Order, so called, were also abroad. 
No man dared express himself in mixed company 
openly. The courts were empty. Some actually 
closed down, with one excuse or another; but most 
of them pretended to go through the forms of 
business. Many judges took the occasion to 
leave town — on vacation, tke^jr aYmowweed, These 


incidents occasioned lively comment. As our 
chronicler before quoted tells us: "A good 
many who had things on their minds left for the 
country." Still it rained steadily, and still the 
crowds waited. 

The prisoners, Casey and Cora, had expected, 
when taken from the jail, to be lynched at once. 
But, since the execution had been thus long post- 
poned, they began to take heart. They under- 
stood that they were to have a clear trial "ac- 
cording to law" — a phrase which was in those 
days immensely cheering to malefactors. They 
were not entirely cut oflf from outside communica- 
tion. Casey was allowed to see several men on 
pressing business, and permitted to talk to them 
freely, although before a witness from the Com- 
mittee. Cora received visits from Belle Cora, 
who in the past had spent thousands on his legal 
defense. Now she came to see him faithfully 
and reported every effort that was being made. 

On Tuesday, the 20th, Cora was brought before 
the Committee. He asked for counsel, and 
Truett was appointed to act for him. A list of 
witnesses demanded by Cora was at once sum- 
moned, and a sub-committee was sent to l;yM5s% 
tbem before the board ol IriaX. KSi. ^^ Q>>tJSsQsarj 



forms of law were closely followed, and all the 
essential facts were separately brought out. It 
was the same old Cora trial over again with one 
modification; namely > that all technicalities and 
technical delays were eliminated. Not an attempt 
was made to confine the investigation to the 
technical trial. By dusk the case for the prose- 
cution was finished, and that for the defense was 
supposed to begin. 

During all this long interim the Executive Com- 
mittee had sat in continuous session. They had 
agreed that no recess of more than thirty minutes 
should be taken until a decision had been reached. 
But of all the long list of witnesses submitted by 
Cora for the defense not one could be found. They 
were in hiding and afraid. The former perjurers 
would not appear. 

It was now falling dusk. The comers of the 
great room were in darkness. Beneath the ele- 
vated desk, behind which sat Coleman, Bluxome, 
the secretary, lighted a single oil lamp, the better 
to see his notes. In the interest of the proceed- 
ings a general illumination had not been ordered. 
Within the shadow, the door opened and Charles 
Doane, the Grand Marshal of the Vigilantesr 
advanced three steps into t\ie xoam.. 


"Mr. President," he said clearly, "I am in- 
structed to announce that James TCing of William 
is dead." 

The conviction of both men took place that 
night, and the execution was ordered, but in 

Thursday noon had been set for the funeral of 
James King of William. This ceremony was to take 
place in the Unitarian church. A great multitude 
had gathered to attend. The church was filled 
to overflowing early in the day. But thousands 
of people thronged the streets round about, and 
itood patiently and seriously to do the man honor. 
Historians of the time detail the names of many 
marching bodies from every guild and society in 
the new city. Hundreds of horsemen, carriages, 
and foot marchers got themselves quietly into the 
line. They also were excluded from the funeral 
ceremonies by lack of room, but wished to do 
honor to the cortege. This procession is said to 
have been over two miles in length. Each man 
wore a band of crfepe around his left arm. All the 
city seemed to be gathered there. And yet the 
time for the actual funeral ceremony was still 
some hours distant. 

Nevertheless the few vjTclo, Vxxflr^Vck^ \s^ ^^si& 


scene, had occasion to pass near the Vigilante 
headquarters, found the silent square guarded 
on all sides by a triple line of armed men. The 
side-streets also were filled with them. They stood 
in the exact alignment their constant drill had 
made possible, with bayonets fixed, staring straight 
ahead. Three thousand were under arms. Like 
the vast crowd a few squares away, they, too, 
stood silent and patiently waiting. 

At a quarter before one the upper windows of 
the headquarters building were thrown open and 
small planked platforms were thrust from two of 
them. Heavy beams were shoved out from the 
flat roof directly over the platforms. From the 
ends of the beams dangled nooses of rope. After 
this another wait ensued. Across the silence of 
the intervening buildings could be heard faintly 
from the open windows of the church the sound 
of an organ, and then the measured cadencies of 
an oration. The funeral services had begun. As 
though this were a signal, the blinds that had 
closed the window openings were thrown back 
and Cora was conducted to the end of one of the 
little platforms. His face was covered with a 
white handkerchief and he was bound. A mo- 
ment later Casey appeared. He had asked not 


to be blindfolded. Cora stood bolt upright, 
motionless as a stone, but Casey's courage broke. 
If he had any hope that the boastful promises 
of his friends would be fulfilled by a rescue, that 
hope died as he looked down on the set, grim faces, 
on the sinister ring of steel. His nerve then de- 
serted him completely and he began to babble. 

"Gentlemen," he cried at them, "I am not a 
murderer! I do not feel afraid to meet my God 
on a charge of murder! I have done nothing 
but what I thought was right! Whenever I was 
injured I have resented it! It has been part of 
my education during twenty-nine years! Gentle- 
men, I forgive you this persecution! O God! 
My poor Mother ! O God ! " 

It is to be noted that he said not one word of 
contrition nor of regret for the man whose funeral 
services were then going on, nor for the heart- 
broken wife who knelt at that coflBn. His words 
found no echo against that grim wall of steel. 
Again ensued a wait, apparently inexplicable. 
Across the intervening housetops the sound of the 
oration ceased. At the door of the church a slight 
commotion was visible. The coflBn was being 
carried out. It was placed in the hearse. Every 
head was bared. There followed a slight pause; 


then from overhead the church-bell boomed out 
once. Another bell in the next block answered; 
a third, more distant, chimed in. From all parts 
of the city tolled the requiem. 

At the first stroke of the bell the funeral cortege 
moved forward toward Lone Mountain cemetery. 
At the first stroke the Vigilantes as one man pre- 
sented arms. The platforms dropped, and Casey 
and Cora fell into eternity. 



This execution naturally occasioned a great stonn 
of indignation among the erstwhile powerful ad- 
herents of the law. The ruling, aristocratic class, 
the so-called chivalry, the best element of the 
city, had been slapped deliberately in the face, 
and this by a lot of Yankee shopkeepers. The 
Committee were stigmatized as stranglers. They 
ought to be punished as murderers ! They should 
be shot down as revolutionists ! It was realized, 
however, that the former customary street-shoot- 
ing had temporarily become unsafe. Otherwise 
there is no doubt that brawls would have been 
more frequent than they were. 

An undercurrent of confidence was apparent, 
however. The Law and Order men had been 
surprised and overpowered. They had yielded 
only to overwhelming odds. With the execution 
of Cora and Casey accomplished, the Committee 


might be expected to disband. And when the 
Committee disbanded, the law would have its 
innings. Its forces would then be better organized 
and consolidated, its power assured. It could then 
safely apprehend and bring to justice the ring- 
leaders of this imdertaking. Many of the hot- 
heads were in favor of using armed force to take 
Coleman and his fellow-conspirators into custody. 
But calmer spirits advised moderation for the 
present, until the time was more ripe. 

But to the siu*prise and indignation of these 
people, the Vigilantes showed no intention of 
disbanding. Their activities extended and their 
organization strengthened. The various military 
companies drilled daily until they went through 
the manual with all the precision of regular troops. 
The Committee's book remained opened, and by 
the end of the week over seven thousand men had 
signed the roll. Loads of furniture and various 
supplies stopped at the doors of headquarters and 
were carried in by members of the organization. 
No non-member ever saw the inside of the building 
while it was occupied by the Committee of Vigi- 
lance. So cooking utensils, cot-beds, provisions, 
blanketSs bulletin-boards, arms, chairs and tables, 
£eld'gunsy ammunition, and many other supplies 


seemed to indicate a permanent occupation. 
Doorkeepers were always in attendance, and 
sentinels patrolled in the streets and on the roof. 
Every day the Executive Committee was in 
session for all of the daylight hours. A black- 
list was in preparation. Orders were issued for 
the Vigilante police to arrest certain men and to 
warn certain others to leave town immediately. 
A choice haul was made of the lesser lights of the 
ward-heelers and chief politicians. A very good 
sample was the. notorious Yankee Sullivan, an 
ex-prize-fighter, ward-heeler, ballot-box stuffer, 
and shoulder-striker. He, it will be remembered, 
was the man who returned Casey as supervisor 
in a district where, as far as is known, Casey was 
not a candidate and no one could be f oimd who had 
voted for him. This individual went to pieces 
completely shortly after his arrest. He not only 
confessed the details of many of his own crimes 
but, what was more important, disclosed valuable 
information as to others. His testimony was im- 
portant, not necessarily as final proof against those 
whom he accused, but as indication of the need 
of thorough investigation. Then without warn- 
ing he committed suicide in his cell. On investi- 
gation it turned out that he had been accustomed 


to from sixty to eighty drinks of whiskey each day, 
and the sudden and complete deprivation had 
unhinged his mind. Warned by this unforeseen 
circumstance, the Committee henceforth issued 
regular rations of whiskey to all its prisoners, a 
fact which is a striking commentary on the 
character of the latter. It is to be noted, further- 
more, that liquor of all sorts was debarred from 
the deliberations of the Vigilantes themselves. 

Trials went briskly forward in due order, with 
counsel for defense and ample . opportunity to 
call witnesses. There were no more capital 
pimishments. It was made known that the 
Committee had set for itself a rule that capital 
punishment would be inflicted by it only for crimes 
so punishable by the r^ular law. But each out- 
going ship took a crowd of the banished. The 
majority of the first sweepings were low thugs — 
"Sydney Ducks,** hangers-on, and the worst class 
of criminals; but a certain number were taken 
from what had been known as the city*s best. 
In the law courts these men would have been 
declared as white as the driven snow; in fact, that 
had actually happened to some of them. But 
they were plainly undesirable citizens. The Com- 
mittee so decided and bade them depart. Among 


the names of men who were prominent and mfluen- 
tial in the early history of the city, but who now 
were told to leave, were Charles Duane, WooUey 
Keamy, William McLean, J. D. Musgrave, Peter 
Wightman, James White, and Edward McGowan. 
Hmidreds of others left the city of their own 
accord. Terror spread among the inhabitants 
of the underworld. Some of the minor offenders 
brought in by the Vigilante police were turned 
over by the Executive Committee to the regular 
law courts. It is significant that, whereas con- 
victions had been almost unknown up to this 
time, every one of these offenders was promptly 
sentenced by those courts. 

But though the underworld was more or less 
terrified, the upper grades were only the fiulher 
aroused. Many sincerely believed that this move- 
ment was successful only because it was organized, 
that the people of the city were scattered and 
powerless, that they needed only to be organized 
to combat the forces of disorder. In pursuance 
of the belief that the public at large needed merely 
to be called together loyally to defend its institu- 
tions, a meeting was set for June 2, in Ports- 
mouth Square. Elaborate secret preparations, in- 
cluding the distribution of armed men, were made 


to prevent interference. Such preparations were 
useless. Immediately after the appearance of the 
notice the Committee of Vigilance issued orders 
that the meeting was to be in no manner dis- 
couraged or molested. 

It was well attended. Enormous crowds gath- 
ered, not only in and around the Square itself, but 
in balconies and windows and on housetops. It 
was a very disrespectful crowd, evidently out for 
a good time. On the platform within the Square 
stood or sat the owners of many of the city *s proud 
names. Among them were well-known speakers, 
men who had never failed to hold and influence a 
crowd. But only a short distance away little could 
be heard. It early became evident that, though 
there would be no interference, the sentiment of the 
crowd was adverse. And what must have been 
particularly maddening was that the sentiment 
was good-humored. Colonel Edward Baker came 
forward to speak. The Colonel was a man of 
great eloquence, so that in spite of his considerable 
lack of scruples he had won his way to a pictiur- 
esque popularity and fame. But the crowd would 
have little of him this day, and an almost continu- 
ous uproar drowned out his efforts. The usual 
catch phrases, sucli as^Wfoerl^,"" "" Co\\&\1\\>;^^\3l * 


"habeas corpus, " "trial by jury, " and "freedom, ** 
occasionally became audible, but the people were 
not interested. "See Corals defender!" cried 
someone, voicing the general suspicion that Baker 
had been one of the little gambler's hidden counsel. 
"Cora!" "Ed. Baker!" "$10,000!" "Out of that, 
you old reprobate ! " He spoke ten minutes against . 
the storm and then yielded, red-faced and angry. 
Others tried but in vain. A Southerner, Benham, 
inveighing passionately against the conditions of 
the city, in throwing back his coiat happened in- 
advertently to reveal the butt of a Colt revolver. 
The bystanders immediately caught the point. 
"There's a pretty Law and Order man!" they 
shouted. "Say, Benham, don't you know it's 
against the law to go armed?" 

"I carry this weapon, " he cried, shaking his fist, 
"not as an instrument to overthrow the law, but 
to uphold it. " 

Someone from a balcony nearby interrupted: 
"In other words, sir, you break the law in order 
to uphold the law. What more are the Vigilantes 

The crowd went wild over this response. The 
confusion became worse. Upholders of Law andL 
Order thrust forward Judge CaTa^^^SL'^^'^'K^ss^ 


that his age and authority on the bench would 
command respect. He was unable, however, to 
utter even two consecutive sentences. 

"I once thought," he interrupted himself 
piteously, "that I was the free citizen of a free 
country. But recent occurrences have convinced 
. me that I am a slave, more a slave than any on a 
Southern plantation, for they know their masters, 
but I know not mine!** 

But his auditors refused to be affected by 

"Oh, yes you do,** they informed him. "You 
know your masters as well as anybody. Two 
of them were hanged the other day!** 

Though this attempt at home to gain coherence 
failed, the partisans at Sacramento had better luck. 
They collected, it was said, five hundred men 
hailing from all quarters of the globe, but chiefly 
from the Southeast and Texas. All of them were 
fire-eaters, reckless, and sure to make trouble. 
Two pieces of artillery were reported coming down 
the Sacramento to aid all prisoners, but especially 
Billy Mulligan. The numbers were not in them- 
selvas formidable as opposed to the enrollment 
of the Vigilance Committee, but it must be 
remembered that the city nv«^ W^ ol ^^-alti^ed 


warriors and of cowed members of the underworld 
waiting only leaders and a rallying point. Even 
were the Vigilantes to win in the long run, the 
material for a very pretty civil war was ready 
to hand. Two hundred men were hastily put to 
filling gunnybags with sand and to fortifying not 
only headquarters but the streets round about. 
Cannon were mounted, breastworks were piled, and 
embrasures were cut. By morning Fort Gunny- 
bags, as headquarters was henceforth called, had 
come into existence. 

The fire-eaters arrived that night, but they were 
not five hundred strong, as excited rumor had it. 
They disembarked, greeting the horde of friends 
who had come to meet them, marched in a body to 
Fort Gunnybags, looked it over, stuck their hands 
into their pockets, and walked peacefully away to 
the nearest bar-rooms. This was the wisest move 
on their part, for by now the disposition of the 
Vigilante men was so complete that nothing short 
of regularly organized troops could successfully 
have dislodged them. 

Behind headquarters was a long shed and stable 
in which were to be found at all hours saddle 
horses and artillery horses, saddled and bridled, 
ready for instant use. TweiAj-dy. ^\^cfc^ <cK «:^^* 


lery, most of them sent in by captains of vessels 
in the harbor, were here parked. Other camion 
were mounted for the defense of the fort itself. 
Muskets, rifles, and sabers had been accumulated. 
A portable barricade had been constructed in the 
event of possible street fighting — a sort of wheeled 
framework that could be transformed into lit- 
ters or scaling-ladders at will. Mess offices and 
kitchens were there that could feed a small army. 
Flags and painted signs carrying the open eye 
that had been adopted as emblematic of vigilance 
decorated the main room. A huge alarm bell had 
been mounted upon the roof. Mattresses, beds, 
cots, and other furniture necessary to accommodate 
whole companies on the premises themselves, had 
been provided. A completely equipped armorers' 
shop and a hospital with all supplies occupied the 
third story. The forces were divided into four 
companies of artillery, one squadron and two 
troops of cavalry, foiu: regiments and thirty-two 
companies of infantry, besides the small but very 
efficient police organization. A tap on the bell 
gathered these men in an incredibly short space of 
time. Bancroft says that, as a rule, within fifteen 
minutes of the first stroke seven-tenths of the 
entire forces would be on \iaxLd T^^^dy for combat. 


The Law and Order people recognized the 
strength of this organization and realized that they 
must go at the matter in a more thorough manner. 
They turned their attention to the politics of the 
structure, and here they had every reason to hope 
for success. No matter how well organized the 
Vigilantes might be or how thoroughly they 
might carry the sympathies of the general pubUc, 
there was no doubt that they were acting in 
defiance of constituted law, and therefore were 
nothing less than rebels. It was not only within 
the power, but it was also a duty, of the Governor 
to declare the city in a condition of insurrection. 
When he had done this, the state troops must put 
down the insurrection ; and, if they failed, then the 
Federal Government itself should be called on. 
Looked at in this way, the small handful of 
disturbers, no matter how well armed and dis- 
ciplined, amounted to very little. 

Naturally the Governor had first to be won 
over. Accordingly all the important men of San 
Francisco took the steamer Senator for Sacramento 
where they met Judge Terry, of the Supreme 
Court of Cahfornia, Volney Howard, and others 
of the same ilk. No governor of Johnson's nature 
could long withstand suck pxessvyx^* ^^^-^^aas^aRSw 



to issue the required proclamation of insurrection 
as soon as it could be "legally proved" that the 
Vigilance Committee had acted outside the law. 
The small fact that it had already hanged two and 
deported a great many others, to say nothing of 
taking physical possession of the city, meant little 
to these legal minds. 

In order that all things should be technically 
correct, then. Judge Terry issued a writ of habeas 
corpus for William Mulligan and gave it into the 
hands of Deputy Sheriff Harrison for service on the 
Committee. It was expected that the Committee 
would deny the writ, which would constitute legal 
defiance of the State. The Governor would then 
be justified in issuing the proclamation. If the 
state troops proved unwilling or inadequate, as 
might very well be, the plan was then to call on the 
United States. The local representatives of the 
central government were at that time General 
Wool conunanding the military department of 
California, and Captain David Farragut in com- 
mand of the navy-yard. Within their command 
was a force suflBcient to subdue three times the 
strength of the Vigilance Conmaittee. William 
Tecimiseh Sherman, then in private life, had been 
appointed major-general of a division of the 


state militia. As all this was strictly legal, the 
plan could not possibly fail. 

Harrison took the writ of habeas corpus and 
proceeded to San Francisco. He presented him- 
self at headquarters and oflFered his writ. Instead 
of denying it, the Committee welcomed him cor- 
dially and invited him to make a thorough search 
of the premises. Of coiurse Harrison found nothing 
— the Committee had seen to that — and departed. 
The scheme had failed. The Committee had in 
no way denied his authority or his writ. But 
Harrison saw clearly what had been expected of 
him. To Judge Terry he unblushingly returned 
the writ endorsed "prevented from service by 
armed men. " For the sake of his cause, Harrison 
had lied. However, the whole affair was now 
regarded as legal. 

Johnson promptly issued his proclamation. 
The leaders, in high feather, as promptly turned 
to the federal authorities for the assistance they 
needed. As yet they did not ask for troops but 
only for weapons with which to arm their own 
men. To their blank dismay General Wool 
refused to furnish arms. He took the position 
that he had no right to do so without orders 
from Washington. There is no doubt, however. 


that this technical position cloaked the doughty 
warrior's real sympathies. Colonel Baker and 
Volney Howard were instructed to wait on him. 
After a somewhat lengthy conversation, they 
made the mistake of threatening him with a 
report to Washington for refusing to uphold the 

"I think, gentlemen,** flashed back the veteran 
indignantly, "I know my duty and in its perform- 
ance dread no responsibility!" He promptly 
bowed them out. 

In the meantime the Executive Committee had 
been patiently working down through its black- 
list. It finally announced that after Jime 24 it 
would consider no fresh cases, and a few days later 
it proclaimed an adjournment parade on July 4. 
It considered its work completed and the city safe. 

It may be readily imagined that this peaceful 
outcome did not in the least* suit the more aristo- 
cratic members of the Law and Order party. 
They were a haughty, individualistic, bold, force- 
ful, sometimes charming band of fire-eaters. In 
their opinion they had been deeply insulted. 
They wanted reprisal and punishment. 

When therefore the Committee set a definite 
day for disbanding, l\ie \oe^ a\y>iicLOTv\A^% ^ssd 


Dpholders of law were distinctly disappointed. 
They saw slipping away the last chance for a 
clash of arms that would put these rebels in their 
places. There was some thought of arresting 
I the ringleaders, but the courts were by now so 
well terrorized that it was by no means certain 
that justice as defined by the Law and Order 
party could be accomplished. And even if 
conviction could be secured, the representatives 
of the law found little satisfaction in ordinary 
punishment. What they wanted was a fight. 

General Sherman had resigned his command 
of the military forces in disgust. In his stead 
[ was chosen General Volney Howard, a man 
I typical of his class, blinded by his prejudices and 
[ fais passions, filled with a sense of the importance 
I of his caste, and without grasp of the broader 
I aspects of the situation. In the Committee's 
I present attitude he saw not the signs of a job 
I well done, but indications of weakening, and 
lie considered this a propitious moment to show 
his power. In this attitude he received enthusi- 
astic backing from Judge Terry and his narrow 
coterie. Terry was then judge of the Supreme 
I Court; and a man more unfitted for the position 
I it woiild be difficult to find. A tall, att^^jrfwj^.. 


fire-eating Texan with a charming wife, he stood 
high in the social life of the city. His temper was 
imdisciplined and completely governed his judg- 
ment. Intensely partisan and, as usual with his 
class, touchy on the point of honor, he did precisely 
the wrong thing on every occasion where cool 
decision was demanded. 

It was so now. The Law and Order party 
persuaded Governor Johnson to order a parade 
of state troops in the streets of San Francisco. 
The argument used was that such a parade of 
legally organized forces would overawe the citizens. 
The secret hope, however, which was well f ounded> 
was that such a display would promote the desired 
conflict. This hope they shared with Howard^ 
after the Governor's orders had been obtained. 
Howard's vanity jumped with his inclination. He 
consented to the plot. A more ill-timed, idiotic 
maneuver, with the existing state of the public 
mind, it would be impossible to imagine. Either 
we must consider Terry and Howard weak* 
minded to the point of an inability to reason from 
cause to effect, or we must ascribe to them more 
sinister motives. 

• By now the Law and Order forces had become 
numerically more forandaVAe* TVkfcVyN^T ^\s^\xve;nt 


flocked to the colors through sheer fright. A 
certain proportion of the organized remained in 
the ranks, though a majority had resigned. There 
was, as is usual in a new commimity, a very large 
contingent of wild, reckless yoimg men without 
a care in the world, with no possible interest in 
the rights and wrongs of the case, or, indeed, in 
themselves. They were eager only for adventure 
and offered themselves just as soon as the prospects 
for a real fight seemed good. Then, too, they 
could always coimt on the five hundred Texans 
who had been imported. 

There were plenty of weapons with which to arm 
these partisans. Contrary to all expectations, the 
Vigilance Committee had scrupulously refrained 
from interfering with the state armories. All 
the muskets belonging to the militia were in the 
armories and were available in different parts of 
the city. In addition, the State, as a common- 
wealth, had a right to a certain number of federal 
weapons stored in arsenals at Benicia. These 
could be requisitioned in due form. 

But at this point, it has been said, the legal 
minds of the party conceived a bright plan. The 
muskets at Benicia on being Yea^\^\X\^\j^^^^^^^^ 
have to cross the bay in a v^^^^ ^^ ^ofcas. ^^^^ 


Until the muskets were actually delivered they 
were federal property. Now if the Vigilance 
Committee were to confiscate the arms while on 
the transporting vessel, and while still federal 
property, the act would be piracy; the interceptors, 
pirates. The Law and Order people could legally 
call on the federal forces, which would be com- 
pelled to respond. If the Committee of Vigilance 
did not fall into this trap, then the Law and Order 
people would have the muskets anyway. ' 

To carry out this plot they called in a saturnine, 
lank, drunken individual whose name was Rube 
Maloney. Maloney picked out two men of his 
own type as assistants. He stipulated only that 
plenty of "refreshments " should be supplied. Ac- 
cording to instructions Maloney was to operate 
boldly and flagrantly in full daylight. But the 
refreshment idea had been rather liberally inter- 
preted. By six o'clock Rube had just sense enough 
left to anchor oflF Pueblo Point. There all gave 
serious attention to the rest of the refreshments, 
and finally rolled over to sleep off the effects. 

Li the meantime news of the intended shipment 
had reached the headquarters of the Vigilantes. 

*Mr. H, H. Bancroft, in bis Po-pulor T-nbuiuil*^ liQlda that no 
proof of this plot exists. 


The Executive Committee went into immediate 
session. It was evident that the proposed dis- 
banding would have to be postponed. A discus- 
sion followed as to methods of procedure to meet 
this new crisis. The Committee fell into the trap 
prepared for it. Probably no one realized the 
legal status of the muskets, but supposed them to 
belong already to the State. Marshal Doane 
was instructed to capture them. He called to him 
the chief of the harbor police. 

"Have you a small vessel ready for immediate 
service?" he asked this man. 

"Yes, a sloop, at the foot of this street." 

"Be ready to sail in half an hour. " 

Doane then called to his assistance a quick- 
witted man named John Durkee. This man 
had been a member of the regular city police 
until the shooting of James King of William. At 
that time he had resigned his position and joined the 
Vigilance police. He was loyal by nature, steady 
in execution, and essentially quick-witted, quali- 
ties that stood everybody in very good stead as 
will be shortly seen. He picked out twelve 
reliable men to assist him, and set sail in the sloop. 

For some hours he beat against the wind and the 
tide; but finally these became ^o ^\xo\v^^^V^^'5i^ 


forced to anchor in San Pablo Bay untfl conditions 
had modified. Late in the afternoon he was again 
able to get under way. Several of the tramps 
sailing about the bay were overhauled and ex- 
amined, but none proved to be the prize. About 
dark the breeze died, leaving the little sloop barely 
under steerageway. A less persistent man than 
Durkee would have anchored for the night, but 
Durkee had received his instructions and intended 
to find the other sloop, and it was he himself who 
first caught the loom of a shadow imder Pueblo 

He bore down and perceived it to be the 
sloop whose discovery he desired. The twelve 
men boarded with a rush, but foimd themselves in 
possession of an empty deck. The fumes of 
alcohol and the sound of snoring guided the 
boarding-party to the object of their search and 
the scene of their easy victory. Durkee trans- 
ferred the muskets and prisoners to his own craft; 
and returned to the California Street wharf shortly 
after daylight. A messenger was dispatched to 
headquarters. He returned with instructions to 
deliver the muskets but to turn loose the prison- 
ers. Durkee was somewhat astonished at the 
latter order but complied. 


"All right, " he is reported to have said. "Now, 
you measly hounds, you've got just about twenty- 
eight seconds to make yourselves as scarce as your 

Maloney and his crew wasted few of the twenty- 
eight seconds in starting, but once out of sight they 
regained much of their bravado. A few drinks 
restored them to normal, and enabled them to 
put a good face on the report they now made to 
their employers. Maloney and his friends then 
visited in tiun all the saloons. The drunker they 
grew, the louder they talked, reviling the Com- 
mittee collectively and singly, bragging that they 
would shoot at sight Coleman, Truett, Durkee, 
and several others whom they named. They flour- 
ished weapons publicly, and otherwise became 
obstreperous. The Committee decided that their 
influence was bad and instructed Sterling Hopkins, 
with four others, to arrest the lot and bring them 

The news of this determination reached the 
offending parties. They immediately fled to their 
masters like cur dogs. Their masters, who 
included Terry, Bowie, and a few others, hap- 
pened to be discussing the situation in the oflSce 
of Richard Ashe, a Texan. TVifc cx^-^ \svsr^ xs^j^^ 


this gathering very much scared, with a statement 
that a "thousand stranglers" were at their heels. 
Hopkins, having left his small posse at the foot of 
the stairs, knocked and entered the room. He was 
faced by the muzzles of half a dozen pistols and 
told to get out of there. Hopkins promptly 

If Terry had possessed the slightest degree of 
leadership he would have seen that this was the 
worst of all moments to precipitate a crisis. The 
forces of his own party were neither armed nor 
ready. But here, as in all other important crises 
of his career, he was governed by the haughty and 
headstrong passion of the moment. 

Hopkins left his men on guard at the foot of the 
stairs, borrowed a horse from a passer-by, and 
galloped to headquarters. There he was instruc- 
ted to return and stay on watch, and was told that 
reinforcements would soon follow. He arrived 
before the building in which Ashe's oflSce was 
located in time to see Maloney, Terry, Ashe, 
McNabb, Bowie, and Rowe, all armed with shot- 
guns, just turning a far corner. He dismounted 
and called on his men, who followed. The little 
posse dogged the judge's party for some distance* 
For a little time no attention was paid to them^ 


but as th^ pressed doser, Terrv, Ashe, and Ma- 
loney turned and presented their shot-guns. This 
was probably intended only as a threat, but Hop- 
kins, who was always overbcdd, lunged at Maloney. 
Terry thrust his gun at a Mgilante who smed 
it by the barrd. At the same instant Ashe 
pressed the muzzle of his weapcm against the 
breast of a man named Bovee, but hesitated to 
pull the trigger. It was not at that time as 
safe to shoot men in the open street as it had 
been f cnmerly . Barry covered Bowe with a pistoL 
Rowe dropped his gun and ran towards the arm- 
ory. The accidental discharge of a pistol seemed 
to unnerve Terry. He whipped out a long knife 
and plunged it into Hopkins's neck. Hopkins 
relaxed his hold on Terry's shot-gun and staggered 

"I am stabbed! Take them. Vigilantes!" he 

He dropped to the sidewalk. Terry and his 
friends ran towards the armory. Of the Vigilante 
posse only Bovee and Barry remained, but these 
two pursued the fleeing Law and Order men to 
the very doors of the armory itself. When the 
portals were slammed in their faces they took up 
their stand outside; and alone these two men held 


imprisoned several hundred men! During the 
next few minutes several men attempted entrance 
to the armory, among them our old friend Volney 
Howard. All were turned back and were given the 
impression that the armory was already in charge 
of the Vigilantes. After a little, however, doubt- 
less to the great relief of the "outside garrison" 
of the armory, the great Vigilante bell began to 
boom out its signals: one^ two, three — rest; one, 
two, three — rest; and so on. 

Instantly the streets were alive with men. 
Merchants left their customers, clerks their books, 
mechanics their tools. Draymen stripped their 
liorses of harness, abandoned their wagons, and 
Tode away to join their cavalry. Within an 
incredibly brief space of time everybody was off 
for the armory, the military companies marching 
Jike veterans, the artillery rumbling over the pave- 
ment. The cavalry, jogging along at a slow trot, 
•covered the rear. A huge and roaring mob 
accompanied them, followed them, raced up the 
^ide-streets to arrive at the armory at the same 
time as the first files of the military force. They 
found the square before the building entirely 
deserted except for the dauntless Barry and Bovee, 
who still marched up and down otv^^^sA^^V^^' 


ing the garrison within. They were able to report 
that no one had either entered or left the armory. 

Inside the building the spirit had become one of 
stubborn sullenness. Terry was very sorry — as, 
indeed, he well might be — a Judge of the Supreme 
Court, who had no business being in San Fran- 
cisco at all. Sworn to uphold the law, and osten- 
sibly on the side of the Law and Order party, he 
had stepped out from his jurisdiction to commit 
as lawless and as idiotic a deed of passion and 
prejudice as could well have been imagined. 
Whatever chances the Law and Order party might 
have had heretofore were thereby dissipated. 
Their troops were scattered in small units; their 
rank and file had disappeared no one knew where; 
their enemies were fully organized and had been 
mustered by the alarm bell to their usual alertness 
and capability; and Terry's was the hand that had 
struck the bell ! 

He was reported as much chagrined. 

"This is very unfortimate, very unfortunate,** 
he said; "but you shall not imperil your lives for 
me. It is I they want. I will surrender to them. '* 

Instead of the prompt expostulations which he 
probably expected, a dead silence greeted these 


"There is nothing else to do," agreed Ashe at 

An exchange of notes in military fashion fol- 
lowed. Ashe, as commander of the armory and 
leader of the besieged party, offered to surrender 
to the Executive Committee of the Vigilantes if 
protected from violence. The Executive Com- 
mittee demanded the surrender of Terry, Maloney, 
and Philips, as well as of all arms and ammunition, 
promising that Terry and Maloney should be 
protected against persons outside the organi- 
zation. On receiving this assurance, Ashe threw 
open the doors of the armory and the Vigilantes 
marched in. 

"All present were disarmed,** writes Bancroft. 
"Terry and Maloney were taken charge of and 
the armory was quickly swept of its contents. 
Three hundred muskets and other munitions of 
war were carried out and placed on drays. Two 
carriages then drove up, in one of which was 
placed Maloney and in the other Terry. Both 
were attended by a strong escort, Olney forming 
round them with his Citizens' Guard, increased 
to a battalion. Then in triumph the Committee 
men, with their prisoners and plunder enclosed 
in a solid body of infantry and these again 


surrounded by cavalry, marched back to their 

rooms. ** 

Nor was this all. Coleman, like a wise gen- 
eral, realizing that compromise was no longer 
possible, sent out his men to take possession of 
all the encampments of the Law and Order forces. 
The four big armories were cleaned out while 
smaller squads of men combed the city house by 
house for concealed arms. By midnight the job 
was done. The Vigilantes were in control of the 




Judge Terry was still a thorny problem to handle. 
After all, he was a Judge of the Supreme Court. 
At first his attitude was one of apparent humility, 
but as time went on he regained his arrogant 
attitude and from his cell issued defiances to his 
captors. He was aided and abetted by his high- 
spirited wife, and in many ways caused the 
members of the Committee a great deal of trouble. 
If Hopkins were to die, they could do no less 
than hang Terry in common consistency and 
justice. But they realized fully that in executing 
a Justice of the Supreme Court they would be 
wading into pretty deep water. The state and 
federal authorities were inclined to leave them 
alone and let them work out the manifestly desir- 
able reform, but it might be that such an act 
would force official interference. As one member 
of the Conmiittee expressed it, "They had gone 


gunning for ferrets and had coralled a grizzly/' 
Nevertheless Terry was indicted before the Com- 
mittee on the following counts, a statement of 
which gives probably as good a bird's eye view of 
Terry as numerous pages of personal description: 

Resisting with violence the officers of the Vigilance 
Committee while in the discharge of their duties. 

Committing an assault with a deadly weapon with 
intent to kill Sterling A. Hopkins on June 21, 1856. 

Various breaches of the peace and attacks upon 
citizens while in the discharge of their duties, specified 
as follows: 

1. Resistance in 1853 to a writ of habeas corpus 
pn account of which one Roach escaped from the 
custody of the law, and the infant heirs of the 
Sanchez family were defrauded of their rights. 

2. An attack in 1853 on a citizen of Stockton 
named Evans. 

3. An attack in 1853 on a citizen in San Fran- 
cisco named Purdy. 

4. An attack at a charter election on a citizen of 
Stockton named King. 

5. An attack in the court house of Stockton on a 
citizen named Broadhouse. 

Before Terry's case came to trial it was known 
that Hopkins was not fatally wounded. Terry's 
confidence inunediately rose. Heretofore he had 
been somewhat, but not much, humbled. Now his 


haughty spirit blazed forth as strongly as ever. 
He was tried in due course, and was found guilty 
on the first charge and on one of the minor charges. 
On the accusation of assault with intent to kill, the 
Committee deliberated a few days, and ended 
by declaring him guilty of simple assault. He 
was discharged and told to leave the State. But, 
for some reason or other, the order was not 

Undoubtedly he owed his discharge in this form 
to the evident fact that the Committee did not 
know what to do with him. Terry at once took 
the boat for Sacramento, where for some time 
he remained in comparative retirement. Later he 
emerged in his old r61e, and ended his life by being 
killed at the hands of an armed guard of Justice 
Stephen Field whom Terry assaulted without 
giving Field a chance to defend himself. 

While these events were going forward, the 
Committee had convicted and hanged two other 
men, Hetherington and Brace. In both instances 
the charge was murder of the most dastardly 
kind. The trials were conducted with due 
regard to the forms of law and justice, and the 
men were executed in an orderly fashion. These 
executions would not be remarkable in any way, 


were it not for the fax^t that they rounded out the 
complete tale of executions by the Vigilance 
Committee. Four men only were hanged in all 
the time the Committee held its sway. Never- 
theless the manner of the executions and the spirit 
that actuated all the oflBcers of the organization 
sufficed to bring about a complete reformation in 
the administration of justice. 

About this time also the danger began to mani- 
fest itself that some of the less conscientious and, 
indeed, less important members of the Committee 
might attempt through political means to make 
capital of their connections. A rule was passed 
that no member of the Committee of Vigilance 
should be allowed to hold political office. Shortly 
after this decision, William Rabe was suspended 
for "having attempted to introduce politics into 
this body and for attempting to overawe the 
Executive Committee.'* 

After the execution of the two men mentioned, 
the interesting trial of Durkee for piracy, the settle- 
ment by purchase of certain private claims against 
city land, and the deportation of a number of imde- 
sirable citizens, the active work of the Committee 
was practically over. It held complete power 
and had also gained the confidence of probably 


nine-tenths of the population. Even some of the 
erstwhile members of the Law and Order party, 
who had adhered to the forms of legality through 
principle, had now either ceased opposition, or 
had come over openly to the side of the Committee. 
Another date of adjournment was decided upon. 
The gunnybag barricades were taken down on the 
fourteenth of August. On the sixteenth, the 
rooms of the building were ordered thrown open to 
all members of the Committee, their friends, their 
families, for a grand reception on the following 
week. It was determined then not to disorganize 
but to adjourn sine die. The organization was 
still to be held, and the members were to keep 
themselves ready whenever the need should arise. 
But preparatory to adjournment it was decided 
to hold a grand military review on the eighteenth 
of August. This was to leave a final impression 
upon the public mind of the numbers and power 
of the Committee. 

The parade fulfilled its fimction admirably. 
The Grand Marshal and his staff led, followed by 
the President and the Military Commanding 
General with his staff. Then marched four 
companies of artillery with fifteen moimted can- 
non. In their rear was a float representing Fort 


Giinnybags with imitation cannon. Next came 
the Executive Committee moimted, riding three 
abreast; then cavalry companies and the medical 
staff, which consisted of some fifty physicians of 
the town. Representatives of the Vigilance Com-, 
mittee of 1851 followed in wagons with a banner; 
then four regiments of infantry, more cavalry, 
citizen guards, pistol men, Vigilante police. Over 
six thousand men were that day in line, all disci- 
plined, all devoted, all actuated by the highest 
motives, and conscious of a job well done. 

The public reception at Fort Gunnybags was 
also well attended. Every one was curious to see 
the interior arrangement. The principal entrance 
was from Sacramento Street and there was also a 
private passage from another street. The door- 
keeper's box was prominently to the front where 
each one entering had to give the pass-word. He 
then proceeded up the stairs to the floor above. 
The first floor was the armory and drill-room. 
Around the sides were displayed the artillery 
harness, the flags, bulletin-boards, and all the 
smaller arms. On one side was a lunch stand 
where coffee and other refreshments were dis- 
pensed to those on guard. On the opposite side 
were oflices for every conceivable activity. An 


immense emblematic eye painted on the south- 
east comer of the room glared down on each as he 
entered. The front of the second floor was also a 
guard-room, armory, and drilling floor. Here also 
was painted the eye of Vigilance, and here was 
exhibited the famous ballot-box whose sides could 
separate the good ballots from the bad ballots. 
Here also were the meeting-rooms for the Ex- 
ecutive Committee and a number of cells for the 
prisoners. The police-oflice displayed many hand- 
cuffs, tools of captured criminals, relics, clothing 
with bullet holes, ropes used for hanging, bowie- 
knives, burglar's tools, brass knuckles, and all the 
other curiosities peculiar to criminal activities. The 
third story of the building had become the armor- 
er's shop, and the hospital. Eight or ten workmen 
were employed in the former and six to twenty 
cots were maintained in the latter. Above all, on 
the roof, supported by a strong scaffolding, hung 
the Monumental bell whose tolling summoned the 
Vigilantes when need arose. 

Altogether the visitors must have been greatly 
impressed, not only • with the strength of the 
organization, but also with the care used in prepar- 
ing it for every emergency, the perfection of its 
discipline, and the completeness of its equipment. 


When the Committee of Vigilance of 1856 ad- 
journed subject to further call, there must have 
been in most men's minds the feeling that such a 
call could not again arise for years to come. 

Yet it was not so much the punishment meted 
out to evil-doers that measures the success of the 
Vigilante movement. Only four villains were 
hanged; not more than thirty were banished. 
But the effect was the same as though four hun- 
dred had been executed. It is significant that not 
less than eight hundred went into voluntary exile. 

"What has become of your Vigilance Com- 
mittee?" asked a stranger naively, some years 

"Toll the bell, sir, and you'll see,'* was the 
reply. ' 

' Bancroft, Popular TriburuUt, ii» (W6. 


Caufobnia has been fortunate in her historians. 
Every student of the history of the Pacific coast is 
indebted to the monumental work of Hubert H. Ban- 
croft. Three titles concern the period of the Forty- 
niners: The History of California, 7 vols. (1884-1890); 
California Inter Pocula, 181^8-56 (1888); Popular Tri- 
bunals, 2 vols. (1887). Second only to these volumes 
in general scope and superior in some respects is T. H. 
Hittell's History of California, 4 vols. (1885-1897). 
Two other general histories of smaller compass and 
covering limited periods are I. B. Richman's California 
under Spain and Mexico, 1535-1847 (1911), and Josiah 
Royce's California, 1846-1856 (1886). The former 
is a scholarly but rather arid book; the latter is an 
essay in interpretation rather than a narrative of events. 
One of the chief sources of information about San 
Francisco in the days of the gold fever is The Annals of 
San Francisco (1855) by Soul6 and others. 

Contemporary accounts of California just before the 
American occupation are of varying value. One of 
the most widely read books is R. H. Dana's Two Years 
before the Mast (1840). The author spent parts of 
1835 and 1836 in California. The Personal Narrative 
of James 0, Pattie (1831) is an account of six years* 



travel amid almost incredible hardships from St. 
Louis to the Pacific and back through Mexico. W. H. 
Thomes's On Land and Sea, or California in the Years 
18i3, 'U, and '^5 (1892) gives vivid pictures of old 
Mexican days. Two other books may be mentioned 
which furnish information of some value: Alfred 
Robinson, Life in California (1846) and Walter Colton, 
Three Years in California (1850). 

Personal journals and narratives of the Forty-niners 
are numerous, but they must be used with caution. 
Their accuracy is frequently open to question. Among 
the more valuable may be mentioned Delano's Life on 
the Plains and among the Diggings (1854) ; W. G. John- 
ston's Experience of a Forty-niner (1849) ; T. T, John- 
son's Sights in the Gold Region and Scenes by the Way 
(1849) ; J. T. Brooks's Four Months among the Gold-Find- 
ers (1849); E. G. Buffum's Six Months in the Gold 
Mines (1850) — the author was a member of the "Steven- 
son Regiment"; James Delevan's Notes on Calif omia 
and the Placers: How to get there and what to do after' 
wards (1850); and W. R. Ryan's Personal Adventures 
in Upper and Lower California, in 1848-9 (1850). 

Others who were not gold-seekers have left their 
impression of California in transition, such as Bayard 
Taylor in his Eldorado^ 2 vols. (1850), and J. W. Harlan 
in his California *46 to '88 (1888). The latter was a 
member of Fremont's battalion. The horrors of the 
overland journey are told by Delano in the book already 
mentioned and by W. L. Manly, Death Valley in ^9 

The evolution of law and government in primitive 
mining communities is described in C. H. Shiim*s 



Mining Camps. A Study in American Frontier Govern' 
ment (1885). The duties of the border police are set / 
forth with thrilling details by Horace Bell, Reminis- 
cences of a Ranger or Early Times in Southern Calif omia 
(1881). An authoritative work on the Mormons is / 
W. A. Linn's Story of the Mormons (1902). 

For further bibliographical references the reader is 
referred to the articles on California^ San Francisco^ 
The Mormons, and Fremont, in The Encyclopcsdia 
Britannicaf 11th Edition. 


Alvarado, Governor of Califor- 
nia, 15-16, 18, 23 
"Arcadian Age," 58-62 
Ashe, Richard, 251, 252 

Baker, Edward, G>lonel, 236, 

V'Bear Flag Revolution,** 32- 

Benton, T. H., father-in-law to 

Fremont, 29; exerts influence 

in Fremont's behalf, 40 
Bluxome, Isaac, 202, 204 
Bovee, 253 
Bowie, 251, 252 
Brannan, Sam, 56-57* 155* 189 

Cahuenga, Treaty of (1847), 

California, inhabitants, 1; occu- 
pation by Spain, 2 et seqr, 
classes, 5-6; life of early 
settlers, 6 et aeq.i advent of 
foreign residents, 13 et seq,; 
population in 1840, 16-17; 
arrival of two parties of set- 
tlers (1841), 17; Fi^mont's 
expedition, 29; military con- 
quest by U. S., SO et seq.; 
Mexican laws in, 46-50; con- 
stitutional convention (1849), 
50-52; influence of discovery 
of gold, 52-54; overland mi- 
gration to, 67 et seq,; journey 
by way of Panama to, 96 et 
seq.; life in the gold fields, 107 
et seq.; dty life in 1849, 119 
et seq.; law, 174-76; politics* 

176-80; financial stringency 

(1855), 181-83 
California Star, the, 123 
Carson, Kit, 38 
Casey, J. P., 191, 192 et seq., 220 

et seq. 
Chagres in 1849, 99-100 
Cole, Beverly, 202 
Coleman, W. T., 201, 202, 204, 

205, 211 et seq., 251 
Cora, Charles, trial of, 189-91; 

re-trial by Vigilantes* 225- 


Daily Evening Bulletin^ 184-88* 

Delano, 75 
Dempster, Clancey, 201, 202, 

Den, Nicholas, 14 
Doane, Charles, 219 
Donner party, 26 
Dows, James, 202 
Duane, Charles, 235 
Durkee, John, 249-51 

Farragut, David, 242 

Farwell, 201 

Fremont, J. C, expedition, 29 
et seq.; personal characteristics* 
40-41,44-45; negotiates treaty 
with Califomians, 42; appoint- 
ed Governor of California, 42; 
asks permission to form expe- 
dition against Mexico, 43- 
44; court-martialed and dis- 
missed from service, 44