A number of exceedingly romantic legends are centered around the Pueblo de Taos, which is about twenty miles from Embudo. Taos is considered the most interesting and the most perfect specimen of a Pueblo Indian fortress. It consists of two communistic houses, each five stories high, and a Roman Catholic church (now in a ruined condition) which stands near, although apart from the dwellings. Around the fortress are seven circular mounds, which at first suggest the idea of being the work of mound-builders. On further examination they prove to be the sweating chambers or Turkish baths of this curious people. Of these chambers, the largest appears also to serve the purpose of a council chamber and mystic hall, where rites peculiar to the tribe (about which they are very reticent) are performed.
The Pueblo Indians delight to adorn themselves in gay colors, and form very interesting and picturesque subjects for the artist, especially when associated with their quaint surroundings. They are skilled in the manufacture of pottery, basket-making and bead work. The grand annual festival of these Indians occurs on the 30th of September, and the ceremonies are of a peculiarly interesting character.
Jesuitism has grafted its faith upon the superstitions of the Montezumas, and a curious fruitage is the result. The mystic rites of the Pueblo Indians, performed at Pueblo de Taos in honor of San Geronimo (St. Jerome), upon each succeeding 30th day of September, attract large concourses of people, and are of great interest to either the ethnologist, ecclesiastic or tourist. A brief description can give but a faint idea of these ceremonies, but may serve to arouse an interest in the matter. In the early morning of St. Jerome's day, a black-robed Indian makes a recitation from the top of the pueblo to the assembled multitude below. In the plaza stands a pine tree pole, fifty feet in height, and from a cross-piece at top dangles a live sheep, with legs tied together and back down. Besides the sheep, a garland of such fruits and vegetables as the valley produces, together with a basket of bread and grain, hang from the pole. The bell in the little adobe chapel sounds and a few of the Indians go in to mass.
A curious service follows. A rubicund Mexican priest is the celebrant, while two old Mexicans in modern dress, and a Pueblo Indian in a red blanket, are acolytes. When the host is elevated, an Indian at the door beats a villainous drum and four musket shots are discharged. After the services are concluded, a procession is formed and marches to the race track, which is three hundred yards in length. The runners have prepared themselves in the estufas, or underground council chambers, and soon appear. There are fifty of them, and all are naked except a breech-clout, and are painted no two alike. Fifty other runners to contest with these, arrive from the other pueblo. They form in line on either side of the course, and a slow, graceful dance ensues. All at once three hundred mad young Mexicans rush through the throng on their wild ponies, the leader swinging by the neck the gallo or cock. Then the races begin, two runners from each side darting down the track cheered by their companions. No sooner do they reach the goal than two others start off, and thus for two hours, until the sum of victories gained by individuals entitles one party or the other to claim success. The race decided, the runners range themselves in two facing lines, and, preceded by the drum, begin a slow zig-zag march.
Excitement now runs riot. The dancers chant weird songs, break the ranks and vie with each other in their antics and peculiarities. A rush is made upon the crowd of spectators through whom the participants in the orgies force their way, regardless of consequences. The women, who hitherto have taken but little part in the excitement, now come forward and throw cakes and rolls of bread from the pueblo terraces. Everybody rushes after these prizes in a headlong manner, and the confusion becomes still greater.
An adjournment is then taken for dinner, and in the afternoon, six gorgeously painted and hideously decorated clowns come forward and go through a series of antics calculated to disgust rather than amuse the spectator. The unfortunate sheep, which is still hanging to the pole, is finally thrown to the ground after several attempts have been made to climb the pole. The fruits and products are seized by the clowns, who rush off with them, and every one connected with the tribe seem to be highly satisfied with the outcome of the day's proceedings, and the culmination of the spectacle.
HOW CUSTER LIVED AND DIED.
"Remember Custer"—An Eye Witness of the Massacre—Custer, Cody and Alexis—A Ride over the Scenes of the Unequal Conflict—Major Reno's Marked Failure—How "Sitting Bull" Ran Away and Lived to Fight Another Day—Why a Medicine Man did not Summon Rain.
"Remember Custer" was the watchword and battle-cry of the small army of American soldiers who early in the present decade advanced against hostile Indians in the Northwest, who after indulging for weeks in a series of fantastic dances and superstitious rites, were finally called to time by the Government and punished for their disregard of treaty rights and reasonable orders. Every American child should know who Custer was and why the troopers called upon each other to remember him on the occasion referred to. It is less than twenty years since he died. His name should be remembered by civilians as well as soldiers for almost as many centuries to come.
There are some men who seem to defy and even court death. Custer was one of these. He was so recklessly brave that he often caused anxiety to his superior officers. Time and again he led a handful of men apparently into the jaws of death and brought them out safely, after having practically annihilated the foe. As the pitcher which is carried safely to the well ninety-nine times sometimes gets broken at the hundredth attempt, so was it with General Custer. In June, 1876, his detachment was outnumbered twenty to one at a little ford near Crazy Horse Creek, in Dakota, and his entire command was wiped out. An adopted son of "Sitting Bull," the famous Indian, states that he saw Custer die, adding that he twice witnessed the hero lying on his back fighting his foes. The third time he saw him a blanket was drawn over the hero, who was apparently dead.
On another page is given an admirable illustration of the camp and ford, as well as of the monument erected in Custer's memory, with typical Indian camp scene. This picture is from photographs taken specially for Mr. Charles S. Fee, General Passenger Agent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, whose tracks run close by this scene of such sad history.
A volume could be devoted to the life of Custer, the adventures he encountered, and the risks he ran in the course of his eventful and useful career. His works and his memoirs bristle with information concerning the actual truths of border life and Indian warfare, bereft of romance and exaggeration. Like almost all Indian fighters, Custer entertained a supreme contempt for the red man generally, although his naturally kind disposition led him to give credit to individual red men for bravery, gratitude, and other characteristics generally believed to be inconsistent with their character and nationality.
Besides being a gallant fighter, Custer was also a great lover of recreation and fun, while a genuine hunting expedition drew him out from his almost habitual quiet and made him the natural leader of the party. Among his friends was William Cody, better known to the amusement loving world as Buffalo Bill, on account of his alleged excessive prowess in the shooting and destruction of buffalo. If Mr. Cody were consulted, he would probably prefer to be called Indian Bill, as his hatred of the average red man was very largely in excess of his anxiety to kill the hump-backed oxen, which were, at one time, almost in sole possession of the Western prairies. On one occasion, he and Custer had a very delightful time together, and Cody has given a pleasing description of what took place.
This was on the occasion of the visit to this country of the Grand Duke Alexis. Some twenty-three years ago this European celebrity enjoyed a tour through the United States, and visited most of the grandest features of our native land. Before coming to the country, he had heard of its great hunting facilities, and also of the sport to be obtained from shooting buffalo on the prairie. He mentioned this fact to the officers of the Government, who were detailed to complete arrangements for his benefit, and, accordingly, it was arranged that the Grand Duke should be conducted into buffalo land, and initiated into the mysteries of buffalo hunting, by the officer who has since been annihilated by the Sioux, and the irrepressible hunter who has since developed into a prince among showmen.
These two somewhat rough, but very kind, chaperones, took with them on this trip a party of Indians, including "Spotted Tail," with whose daughter Custer carried on, we are told, a mild flirtation on the march. A great deal of amusement was derived from the trip, as well as very much important information.
It was but four years later that Custer was engaged on a more serious and less entertaining mission. The scene of the tragedy was visited some three years ago by Mr. L. D. Wheeler, to whom we are indebted for the following very graphic and interesting description of the visit and of the thoughts it called forth:
"A rather lengthy ride found us at Reno's crossing of the river, the ford where he crossed to make his attack. Fording the stream, we dismounted among the young timber and bushes lining the stream, and ate lunch. Before lunch was finished, two Indian girls came down the river. The younger, tall, slender and graceful, dressed in bright, clean scarlet, was a picture. With her jet black hair hanging in shining plaits, her piercing eyes and handsome face, she was the most comely, sylph-like Indian maiden I have ever seen.
"Mounting our horses, lunch over, we cantered back on the trail that Custer and Reno followed, for a ride of several miles to Lookout Hill, or Point, which we ascended. This was the point where Custer and his officers obtained their first view of the valley of the Greasy Grass, as the Sioux call the Little Horn.
"After a survey of the region, spurring our horses forward, we in time found ourselves climbing the gentle acclivities which led up to Reno's old rifle-pits, now almost obliterated. The most noticeable feature of the spot is the number of blanched bones of horses which lie scattered about. A short distance from the pits—which are rather rounded, and follow the outline of the hills in shape—and in a slight hollow below them, are more bones of horses. This is where the wounded were taken, and the hospital established, and the horses kept. From the wavy summit line of the bluffs, the ground slopes in an irregular broken way back to the northeast and east, into a coulee that forms the passage to the ford which Custer aimed for and never reached. The ground about the battle-field is now a national cemetery. It is enclosed by a wire fence, and there are several hundred acres of it. It might be cared for in a manner somewhat better than it is. During one of my visits there, a Crow Indian rode up to the gate and deliberately turned his herd of horses into the inclosure to graze.
"As I rode into the grounds, after fording and recrossing the river where Custer failed, the first object to greet my sight was a small inclosure, with large mound and headstone, which marked the spot where Lieutenant Crittenden fell. At one corner, and outside of it, stood the regulation marble slab which marks the place where each body on the field was found. This one stated that there Lieutenant Calhoun was killed. At numbers of places down the western slope, but near the ravines, the surface is dotted with the little gravestones. In some places, far down the descent, and far from where Custer, Van Reilly, Tom Custer and others fell, they are seen singly; in other spots three or four, or half a dozen. At one point there are over thirty, well massed together. Down in this part of the field, in the ravine running towards the monument, is the stone marking where Dr. Lord's body was found, and with it are four others.
"In the shallow coulee east of the ridge, and almost at the bottom of the slope, some distance northwest of where Calhoun and Crittenden were killed, and on the main ridge slope of it, is a large group of stones. Here is where Captain Miles Keogh and thirty-eight men gave up their lives. On this side of the ridge—the eastern side—between where Keogh and his men died and where Custer fell, there are numerous stones. On the opposite side of the Custer ridge—that which faces the river—and close to its crest, there are very few stones, and those are much scattered, and not in groups. At the northern extremity of the ridge is a slight elevation which overtops everything else, and slopes away in all directions, save where the ridge lies. Just below this knoll, or hillock—Custer Hill—facing southwest, is where Custer and the larger part of his men fell."
On the right bank of the Missouri River—the Big Muddy—in North Dakota, almost within rifle shot of the town of Mandan, on the Northern Pacific Railroad, there existed in the '70s a military post named after the nation's great martyr President, Fort Abraham Lincoln. On the morning of the 17th of June, 1876, there went forth from here among others, with the pomp and ceremony for which they were distinguished, a cavalry regiment famed in the army for dash, bravery and endurance—the noted Seventh Cavalry.
At the head of the Seventh Cavalry was a man who was unquestionably the most picturesque character for long years, and perhaps for all previous and present time, in the army. Entering the army in active service during the Civil War, his career was a continual round of successes and advances, and at its close, aside from the peerless Sheridan, no cavalryman had a greater reputation for magnificent dash than he. Transferred to the plains—the war over—his success as an Indian campaigner naturally followed, and at the time he moved out upon his latest and fated expedition, George Custer had a reputation as an Indian fighter second to none.
On June 22d, Custer and the Seventh Cavalry left camp on the Rosebud in compliance with their instructions. On the 23d and 24th, many of the camping places of the Indians, in their migration westward, were passed. By evening of June 24th, the trail and signs had become so hot and fresh that a halt was ordered to await tidings from the scouts. Their information proved that the Indians were across the divide, over in the valley of the Little Horn. Custer, confident of his ability to whip the Indians single-handed, prepared for fight at once. He pushed ahead on the trail, and created the impression that it was his determination to get to the spot, and have one battle royal with the Indians, in which he and the Seventh should be the sole participants on our side, and in consequence the sole heroes. The idea of defeat seems never to have occurred to him.
Early on the morning of June 25th, Custer resumed his march. Up to that time the command was maneuvered as a whole. Now, however, it was divided into four detachments. One under Major Reno, consisting of three troops of cavalry and the Indian scouts, forty in number, held the advance; the second battalion, composed also of three troops, moved off some miles to the left of Reno, scouting the country to the southward; a third detachment, comprising the pack train which carried the reserve ammunition—some 24,000 rounds—was under the command of Captain McDougall, and had one troop as an escort; the fourth battalion was that under Custer himself, and was the largest, having five troops, and it marched parallel to Reno and within easy supporting distance to the north, the pack train following the trail in rear of Reno and Custer.
Reno advanced from the ford across the valley in column of fours for some distance, then formed in line of battle, and afterwards deployed the command as skirmishers. The bulk of the Indians and their camp were hidden by a bend of the river, and Reno, instead of charging round the bend and into the Indian camp, halted and dismounted his command to fight on foot. At this point two or three of the horses could not be controlled, and carried their riders into the Indian camp; one account stating that they plunged over the river bank, injuring the men, who were afterwards killed by the Indians. Here at Ash Point, or Hollow, the command soon got sheltered in the timber, and were on the defensive; the Indians now pouring in from all sides. The Indian scouts with Reno had before now been dispersed, and were making back tracks fast as their ponies could carry them. Accounts differ as to how long they remained in this timber, but it was probably not to exceed half an hour. The "charge" out—as Reno termed it—was virtually a stampede, and many did not know of the departure until too late to start, no well-defined and well-understood order having been given to that effect. There was no systematic attempt to check the pursuit of the Indians, who now, directed by "Gall," swarmed down upon them and prevented them from reaching the ford at which they had crossed. Many were killed on this retreat, and many others wounded, among the former being Lieutenant Donald McIntosh. Reno headed the retreat, and they tore pell mell across the valley, and at the new ford they were lucky to strike, there was great confusion, it being every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost; and, as is usually the case, the (red) devil got his clutches on more than one. Crossing the stream as best they could, Lieutenant Hodgson being killed after having crossed, men and horses climbed the steep, almost inaccessible bluffs and ravines, upon the top of which they had a chance to "take account of stock." Many had attempted to scale the bluffs at other points hard by. The Indians were up there in some force, and by them, when almost up the cliffs, Dr. DeWolf was killed.
After remaining on the bluffs at least an hour, probably longer, a forward movement down stream was made for a mile or mile and a half. Previous to this, heavy firing had been heard down the river in the direction Custer had gone. Two distinct volleys were heard by the entire command, followed by scattering shots, and it was supposed Custer was carrying all before him. When Reno had reached the limit of this advance north toward Custer, they saw large numbers of Indian horsemen scurrying over what afterward proved to be Custer's battle-field. Soon these came tearing up toward Reno, who hastily retreated from what would seem to have been a strong position, back to near the point where he had originally reached the bluffs. Here they sheltered themselves on the small hills by the shallow breastworks, and placed the wounded and horses in a depression. That night, until between 9 and 10 o'clock, they were subjected to a heavy fire from the Indians, who entirely surrounded them. The firing again began at daylight of the 26th, and lasted all day, and as the Indians had command of some high points near by, there were many casualties. Reno's total loss, as given by Godfrey, was fifty killed, including three officers, and fifty-nine wounded. Many of those left in the river bottom when the retreat began, eventually reached the command again, escaping under cover of night.
Of Custer's movements, opinions of what he did or should have done, are many and various. The theory first entertained and held for years, but not now tenable nor, indeed, probably held by many, was that Custer reached the ford and attempted to cross; was met by a fire so scorching that he drew back and retreated to the hill in the best form possible, and there fought like an animal at bay, hoping that Reno's attack in the bottom and Benton's timely arrival would yet relieve him. The Indians, however, strenuously assert that Custer never attempted the ford, and never got anywhere near it. No dead bodies were found any nearer than within half a mile of the ford, and it seems undoubted that the Indians tell the truth.
When Custer rode out on the bluff and looked over into the valley of the Greasy Grass, he must have seen at once that he had before utterly misapprehended the situation. The natural thing to do would have been to retrace his trail, join Reno by the shortest route, and then, united, have pushed the attack in person or, if then too late for successful attack, he could, in all likelihood, have extricated the command and made junction with Terry. Indian signals travel rapidly, and as soon as Reno was checked and beaten, not only was this fact signaled through the camp, but every warrior tore away down stream to oppose Custer, joining those already there, and now, at least, alert.
It is probable, then, that before Custer could reach the creek valley the Indians had made sufficient demonstrations to cause him to swerve from where he would otherwise, and naturally, strike it, and work farther back toward the second line of bluffs, even perhaps as far back as Captain Godfrey gives the trail. The only thing to militate against this would be the element of time, which seems hardly to oppose it. However he got there, Custer is at last upon the eminence which is so soon to be consecreted with his life's blood. What saw he? What did he? The sources of information are necessarily largely Indian. At the southeastern end of the Custer ridge, facing, apparently, the draw, or coulee, of the branch of Custer Creek, Calhoun and Crittenden were placed. Some little distance back of them, in a depression, and down the northern slope of the Custer Ridge, Keogh stood. Stretched along the north slope of the ridge, from Keogh to Custer Hill, was Smith's command, and at the culminating point of the ridge, or Custer Hill, but on the opposite ridge from where the others were placed, were Tom Custer and Yates, and with them Custer himself. Yates' and Custer's men evidently faced northwest. It would appear from the Indians' statements that most of the command were dismounted.
The line was about three-quarters of a mile in length, and the attack was made by two strong bodies of Indians. One of these came up from the ford named after the hero and victim of the day. It was led by a daring Indian, with some knowledge of generalship, and his followers were of a very superior class to the average red man. This body of attackers did great execution and succeeded in almost annihilating the white men against whom they were placed, and whom they outnumbered so conspicuously. From the meagre information concerning what took place that is accessible, it appears as though the execution of these men was almost equal to that of skilled sharp-shooters. A reckless Indian named "Crazy Horse" was at the head of a number of Cheyennes who formed the principal part of the second attacking body. These encountered Custer himself, and the men immediately under his orders. Outnumbering the white men to an overwhelming extent, they circled around, and being reinforced by the first column, which by this time was elated by victory and reckless as to its brutality, it commenced the work of blotting out of existence the gallant cavalrymen before them.
Most of Custer's men knew the nature of their destroyers too well to think of crying for quarter or making any effort to escape. There was a blank space between the ridge on which the battle was fought and the river below. Some few men ran down this spot in hopes of fording the river and finding temporary hiding places; they prolonged their lives but for a few minutes only, for some of the fleetest Indians rushed after them and killed them as they ran. The horse upon which Captain Keogh rode into the battle escaped the general slaughter, and found its way back once more to civilization. Of the way it spent its declining years we have already spoken.
With this exception, it is more than probable that no living creature which entered the fight with Custer came out of it alive. A Crow scout named "Curley," claims that he was in the fight, and that after it was over he disguised himself as a Sioux, held his blanket around his head and escaped. "Curley's" statement was never received with much credence. The evidence generally points to the fact that, prior to the battle, nearly all the Indian scouts who were with Custer on the march ran away when they saw the overpowering nature of the foe. "Sitting Bull," who has since met the fate many believe he deserved, also claimed to be in the fight on the other side. His story of the prowess of Custer, and of his death, was probably concocted with a view to currying favor with white men, as it appears evident that "Sitting Bull" showed his usual cowardice, and ran away before there was a battle within twenty-four hours' distance.
Major James McLaughlin, during his experience as Indian Agent at Standing Rock Agency, North Dakota, had an opportunity of gathering a great deal of important information with reference to the battle-field and incidents connected with it. At the request of Mr. Wheeler, whose researches into the legends and history of interesting spots within easy access by means of the Northern Pacific Railroad were most successful, obtained from the Major the following valuable information concerning many points of detail which have been the subject of debate and dispute:
"It is difficult," says this undoubted authority, "to arrive at even approximately the number of Indians who were encamped in the valley of the Little Big Horn when Custer's command reached there on June 25th, 1876; the indifference of the Indians as to ascertaining their strength by actual count, and their ideas at that time being too crude to know themselves. I have been stationed at this Agency since the surrendered hostiles were brought here in the summer of 1881, and have conversed frequently with many of the Indians who were engaged in that fight, and more particularly with 'Gall,' 'Crow King,' 'Big Road,' 'Hump,' 'Sitting Bull,' 'Gray Eagle,' 'Spotted Horn Bull,' and other prominent men of the Sioux, regarding the Custer affair. When questioned as to the number of Indians engaged, the answer has invariably been, 'None of us knew; nina wicoti,' which means 'very many lodges.' From this source of information, which is the best obtainable, I place the number of male adults then in the camp at 3,000; and that on June 25th, 1876, the fighting strength of the Indians was between 2,500 and 3,000, and more probably approximating the latter number.
"'Sitting Bull' was a recognized medicine man, and of great repute among the Sioux, not so much for his powers of healing and curing the sick—which, after he had regained such renown, was beneath his dignity—as for his prophecies; and no matter how absurd his prophecies might be, he found ready believers and willing followers, and when his prophecies failed to come to pass, he always succeeded in satisfying his over-credulous followers by giving some absurd reason. For instance, I was in his camp on Grande River in the spring of 1888, sometime about the end of June. There had been no rain for some weeks, and crops were suffering from drouth, and I remarked to him, who was in an assemblage of a large number of Indians of that district, that the crops needed rain badly, and that if much longer without rain the crops would amount to nothing. He, 'Sitting Bull,' replied: 'Yes, the crops need rain, and my people have been importuning me to have it rain. I am considering the matter as to whether I will or not. I can make it rain any time I wish, but I fear hail. I cannot control hail, and should I make it rain, heavy hail might follow, which would ruin the prairie grass as well as the crops, and our horses and our cattle would thus be deprived of subsistence.' He made this statement with as much apparent candor as it was possible for a man to give expression to, and there was not an Indian among his hearers but appeared to accept it as within his power.
"'Sitting Bull' was dull in intellect, and not near as able a man as 'Gall,' 'Hump,' 'Crow,' and many others who were regarded as subordinate to him; but he was an adept schemer and very cunning, and could work upon the credulity of the Indians to a wonderful degree, and this, together with great obstinacy and tenacity, gained for him his world-wide reputation. 'Sitting Bull' claimed in his statement to me that he directed and led in the Custer fight; but all the other Indians with whom I have talked contradict it, and said that 'Sitting Bull' fled with his family as soon as the village was attacked by Major Reno's command, and that he was making his way to a place of safety, several miles out in the hills, when overtaken by some of his friends with news of victory over the soldiers, whereupon he returned, and in his usual style, took all the credit of victory to himself as having planned for the outcome, and as having been on a bluff overlooking the battlefield, appeasing the evil spirits and invoking the Great Spirit for the result of the fight.
"And, when considering the ignorance and inherent superstition of the average Sioux Indian at that time, it is not to be wondered at that the majority, if not all, were willing to accept it, especially when united in common cause and what they considered as their only safety from annihilation. As a matter of fact, there was no one man who led or directed that fight; it was a pell mell rush under a number of recognized warriors as leaders, with 'Gall' of the Hunkpapas and 'Crazy Horse' of the Cheyennes the more prominent.
"The Indians with whom I have talked deny having mutilated any of the killed, but admit that many dead bodies were mutilated by women of the camp. They also claim that the fight with Custer was of short duration. They have no knowledge as to hours and minutes, but have explained by the distance that could be walked while the fight lasted. They vary from twenty minutes to three-quarters of an hour, none placing it longer than forty-five minutes. This does not include the fight with Reno before his retreat, but from the time that Custer's command advanced and the fight with his command commenced. The opinion of the Indians regarding Reno's first attack and short stand is, that it was his retreat that gave them the victory over Custer's command. The helter skelter retreat of Reno's men enthused the Indians to such an extent that, flushed with excitement and this early success, they were reckless in their charge upon Custer's command, and with the slight number of Indians thus fully enthused, that small command was but a slight check to their sweeping impetuosity. The Indians also state that the separated detachments made their victory over the troops more certain."
Thus Custer fell. The mystery surrounding his death will probably never be solved in a satisfactory manner, owing to the impossibility of placing any reliance on statements made by the Indians. The way in which the command was annihilated and the soldiers' bodies mutilated, should go a long way towards disproving many of the theories now in existence concerning the alleged ill treatment of Indians, and their natural peacefulness and good disposition. Custer had so frequently befriended the very men who surrounded his command and annihilated it, that the baseness of their ingratitude should be apparent even to those who are inclined to sympathize with the red men, and to denounce the alleged severity with which they have been treated. Travelers through the Dakota region find few spots of more melancholy, though marked, interest than the one illustrated in connection with this chapter.
AMONG THE CREOLES.
Meaning of the Word "Creole"—An Old Aristocratic Relic—The Venice of America—Origin of the Creole Carnivals—Rex and His Annual Disguises—Creole Balls—The St. Louis Veiled Prophets—The French Market and Other Landmarks in New Orleans—A Beautiful Ceremony and an Unfinished Monument.
New Orleans is known throughout the world for the splendor of its carnivals. As one of the great Creole cities of the world, it has for more than half a century made merry once a year, and given quite a business aspect to carnival festivities. The Creole is one of the interesting characters to be met with in a tour through the United States. As a rule, he or she is joyous in the extreme, and believes most heartily in the wisdom of the command to "laugh and grow fat." The genuine Creole scarcely knows what it is to be sad for more than a few hours at a time, a very little pleasure more than offsetting a very great deal of trouble and suffering. A desire to move around and to enjoy changes of scene is a special feature of the Creole, and hence the spectacular effects of the carnival procession appeal most eloquently to him.
Many Eastern and Northern people confound the term "Creole" and "Mulatto," believing that the former name is given to the offspring of mixed marriages, which take place in spite of the vigilance of the laws of most of the Southern States. This is entirely a mistake, for the genuine Creole, instead of being an object of contempt and pity, is rather an aristocrat and of a higher caste than the average white man. Strictly speaking, the term implies birth in this country, but foreign parentage or ancestry. It was originally applied to the children of French and Spanish settlers in Louisiana, and in that application applied only to quite a handful of people. As time has worn on, and French emigration has ceased, and the Spaniard has been gradually pushed south, the number of actual Creoles has of course diminished rapidly. The name, however, by common consent, has been perpetuated and is retained by descendants in the third and fourth generations of original Creoles. Some of the Creoles of to-day are very wealthy, and many of the others are comparatively poor, changes in modes and conditions of life having affected them very much. Although the very name Creole suggests Spanish origin, there is more French blood among the Creoles of to-day than that of any other nation. The vivacious habits and general love of change so common among French people, continue in their descendants. The old plan of sending the children over to France to be educated has been largely abandoned in these later days, but the influences of Parisian life still have their effect on the race.
This is largely the reason why it is that New Orleans has been often spoken of as the American Venice. To that beautiful European city, with its gondolas and picturesque costumes, belongs the honor of having originated high-class comedy. To New Orleans must be given the credit of planting, or at any rate perpetuating, the idea in a tangible shape in this country, and of having, for fully two generations, kept up the annual celebration almost without a break. Masquerading came across the Atlantic from Venice by way of France, where the idea took strong hold. When emigration from France to the old Territory of Louisiana became general, the idea came with it, and the practice of sending children to Paris to be educated resulted in the latest ideas of aristocratic festivities being brought over to the home which has since sheltered them.
History tells us that on New Year's Eve of 1831, a number of pleasure-seeking men spent the entire night in a Creole restaurant at Mobile arranging for the first mystic order in that city, and from this beginning the long line of Creole comedies sprang up. In 1857, the Mystic Krewe of Comus made its first appearance upon the streets of New Orleans. "Paradise Lost" was the subject selected for illustration. Year after year the revelry was repeated on Shrove Tuesday, but the outbreak of the war naturally put a stop to the annual rejoicing. Southern enthusiasm is, however, hard to down, and directly the war was over, Comus reappeared in all his glory. A few years later the Knights of Momus were created, and in 1876 the Krewe of Proteus had its first carnival. Many other orders have followed, but these are the more magnificent and important.
It is difficult to convey an adequate idea of the feeling which prevails in regard to these comedies. The mystery which surrounds the orders is extraordinary, and the secret has been well kept, a fact which cynics attribute to the exclusion of ladies from the secret circle. It is well known that on many occasions men have pretended to leave the city on the eve of the comedy, and to have returned to their homes a day or two later, not even their own families knowing that they took a leading part in the procession. The Carnival Kings issue royal edicts prior to their arrival, commanding all business to cease on the occasion of the rejoicings. The command is obeyed literally. Banks, courts of justice and business houses generally suspend operations, and old and young alike turn out to do homage to the monarch of the day.
Let us imagine for a moment we are privileged to see a Creole carnival. Every inch of available space has been taken up. Every balcony overlooking the royal route is crowded with pleasure parties, including richly dressed ladies, all the flower and beauty of the Sunny South being represented. The course is illuminated in the most attractive manner, and every one is waiting anxiously for the procession. Bands of music, playing sprightly tunes, finally reward the patience of the watchers. Then come heralds, bodyguards and marshals, all gorgeously arrayed for the occasion. Their horses, like themselves, are richly adorned for the occasion, and the banners and flags are conspicuous for the artistic blending of colors.
Then riding in state comes the Lord High Chamberlain, bearing the golden key of the city, delivered over to him in state twenty-four hours previously by the Mayor. Next comes the hero of the parade, the King himself. All eyes are riveted upon him. Thoroughly disguised himself, he is able to recognize on the balconies and among the crowds his personal friends and most devoted admirers. To these he bows with great solemnity. Mystified to a degree, and often disputing among themselves as to the probable identity of the monarch, the richly dressed young ladies and their cavaliers bow in return, and look as though they would fain hold the monarch among them much longer than the necessity of keeping order makes it possible. Following the King are the bodyguards and crowds of holiday makers.
Rex generally makes a display now of some special theme, appearing this year as a crusader, another year as the discoverer of America, and a third year as some other mystic individual. But no matter what the subject of the carnival may be, the underlying principle is the same. Sometimes a great deal of instruction is imparted with the mirth-making, but in every case the procession is but a signal for general rejoicing. Directly the procession is disbanded, which always takes place in military order, the entire city gives way to fun and mirth of every character. Liberty abounds throughout the city without license. By common consent every one is careful to prevent disturbance or trouble. All are happy, and every one seems to appreciate the fact that the very life of the comedy depends upon its respectability. There is nothing vulgar or common about any of the proceedings, or about the countless tableaux which pass along the private streets. Everything is what has been described as orderly disorder. Everything is attractive and easy.
The ball, which is a prominent feature of a Creole carnival, is a wonderful combination of Nineteenth Century aristocratic ideas and of Oriental humor. The guests are in full dress, and represent the highest elements of Southern society. Around the carpeted floor, those who have taken part in the pageant march in their grotesque costumes. An apparently blood-thirsty Indian, brandishing a club over his head, darts for a second from the line to go through the motions of dashing out the brains of perhaps a most intimate friend, who has no idea who has thus honored him by a recognition.
Another man, who in everyday life is, perhaps, a sedate banker or a prominent physician, is masquerading in some extraordinary attire with a mask of extraordinary dimensions and significance. He sees in the throng a young lady of his acquaintance, and proceeds to shake hands with her with great effusion. So well is the secret kept, that she has no idea that the apparently frolicsome youth is a middle-aged man of business, and she spends perhaps half the night wondering which of her beaus this fearfully and wonderfully disguised man was.
Of the balls which succeed carnivals in the cities which delight in these temporary divorces from the cares of business and finance, pages might be written. One ball only need be mentioned in any detail. This is the ball given by the "Knights of Revelry," in connection with and at the expense of the Mobile clubs. The entire theatre was rearranged in illustration of the theme of the club's pageant for the year. All around the halls were hung tapestries and banners, artistically decorated, and arranged so as to convey the idea of forests and gardens. The very doors were converted into mimic entrances to caves and parterres, and the general effect was entrancing as well as sentimental. The band was hidden from the guests in a most delightfully arranged little Swiss chalet, and refreshments were served from miniature garden pavilions. The very floors upon which the dancing was to take place were decorated so as to present the appearance of a newly mown lawn.
The height of realism was attained by means of an imitation moat over the orchestra well. Across this was a drawbridge, which was raised and dropped at fitting intervals, and the drop curtain was made to represent a massive castle door. There was a banquet chamber, with faultless reproductions of mediaeval grandeur and wonder. Stained glass windows represented well-known and attractive ladies, and there were other marvelous and costly innovations which seemed practically impossible within a theatre.
At this ball, as at all others, the revelry proceeded until midnight. Just as Cinderella left the ball when the clock struck 12, so do the holders of the Creole revels stop dancing immediately that Lent has commenced. The next day all is over. Men who the night before were the leaders in the masquerade, resume their commonplace existence, and are seen at the ordinary seats of custom, buying and selling and conducting themselves like Eastern rather than Southern men.
The carnival idea has not been confined to strictly Southern cities. St. Louis has, for many years in succession, enjoyed the pageants and balls of its Veiled Prophets, an organization as secret and mysterious as any to be found in a Creole section. Instead of being a Mardi Gras celebration, the St. Louis pageant is given during the Indian summer days of the first week of October. The parade takes place after night-fall, and consists of very costly pageants and displays. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in illuminating the streets through which the processions have passed, the money for this purpose being freely subscribed by business men and private citizens. But in St. Louis, as in New Orleans, no one knows who finds the money to pay for the preparation of the pageant, the rich and varied costumes, the exquisite invitations and souvenirs, and the gorgeous balls. Readers of the "Pickwick Papers" will remember that when certain members of the club proposed to make a tour of the country, with a view to noting matters of special interest, it was unanimously resolved not to limit the scope of the investigations, and to extend to the investigators the privilege of paying their own expenses. Very much the same rule prevails in regard to the Creole carnivals and balls, and the adaptation of the idea in other cities. The utmost secrecy is preserved, and it is considered bad form in the extreme to even hint at belonging to any of the secret orders. The members subscribe all expenses themselves without a moment's hesitation, and there has never been such a thing seen as a list of the amounts donated.
There are not lacking people who say that these celebrations are childish, and beneath the dignity of a business community. The answer to criticisms of this kind is, that no one being asked to contribute to the expense of the revelries, or being even asked or allowed to purchase a ticket of admission to the balls, any criticisms are very much like looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it be agreed that life is made up of something more than one stern, continuous race for wealth, then it must be conceded that these carnivals occupy a most important part in the routine of life. The absolute unselfishness of the entire work commends it to the approval of the most indifferent. Those who raise the expense have to work so hard during the parades and balls that they get comparatively little pleasure from them, while they are also prevented by the absolute secrecy which prevails from securing so much as a word of thanks or congratulation from the outside public. In this material age, there is a danger of celebrations of this kind wearing themselves out. When they do so, the world will be the poorer in consequence.
New Orleans, to which we have referred as the great home of the Creole carnival, is a city known the world over by reputation. It is situated at the very mouth of the great Mississippi River, and its history dates back to the year 1542, when a gallant band of adventurers floated down the river into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1682, La Salle sailed down the river and took possession of the country on both sides of it in the name of France. In the closing days of the Seventeenth Century a French expedition landed not far from New Orleans, which was founded in 1718, with a population of sixty-eight souls. Three years later, the city, which now contains a population of more than a quarter of a million, was made the capital of the Territory of Louisiana, and it at once became a place of considerable importance.
In 1764, it was ceded to Spain, and this resulted in the people taking possession of New Orleans and resisting the change in government. Five years later, the new Spanish Governor arrived with ample troops, suppressed the rebellion, and executed its leaders from the Place d'Armes. In 1804, the territory of Orleans was established, and in 1814, a British army, 15,000 strong, advanced on the city after which the Territory was named. A great deal of confusion followed, but the city held its own, and the invading army was repulsed.
During the Civil War New Orleans again saw active campaigning. The occupancy of the city by General Butler, and the stern measures he adopted to suppress the loyalty even of the women of the town, has formed the subject of much comment. There are many interesting stories concerning this epoch in the city's history, which are told with many variations to every one who sojourns for a while in the great port at the gate of the greatest river in the world.
To-day, New Orleans is perhaps best known as the second largest cotton mart in the world, some 2,000,000 bales of the product of the Southern plantations being received and shipped out every year. More than 30,000,000 pounds of wool and 12,000,000 pounds of hides also pass through the city every year, to say nothing of immense quantities of bananas and costly transactions in sugar and lumber.
Although New Orleans is really some little distance from the ocean, the river at this point is more than half a mile wide, and the great ships of all nations are seen loading and unloading at its levee.
New Orleans naturally abounds in ancient landmarks and memorials. The old Spanish Fort is one of the most interesting among these. Warfare of the most bitter character was seen again and again at this place. The fortifications were kept up largely to afford protection against raids from Mexican pirates and hostile Indians, though they were often useful against more civilized foes. It was at this port that Andrew Jackson prepared to receive the British invaders. The magnificent use he made of the fortifications should have given to the old place a lasting standing and a permanent preservation. Some forty years ago, however, the fort was purchased and turned into a kind of country resort, and more lately it has become the home of a recreation club.
Better preserved, and a most interesting connecting link between the past and the present, is the world-renowned French Market in New Orleans. A story is told of a great novelist, who traveled several thousand miles in order to find representatives of all nationalities grouped together in one narrow space. For a work he had in contemplation he was anxious to select for his characters men of all nationalities, whom chance or destiny had thrown together. He spent several days in Paris, journeyed throughout sunny Italy, got lost in some of the labyrinths of the unexplored sections of London, and finally crossed the Atlantic without having found the group of which he was in search. Not even in the large cities of America could he find his heart's desire, and it was not until he strayed into the old French Market of New Orleans that he found that for which he searched. He spent several days, and even weeks, wandering through the peculiar market, and making friends with the men of all nationalities who were working in different parts of it. He found the Creole, full of anecdote, superstition and pride, even when he was earning an occasional meal by helping to unload bananas, or to carry away the refuse from the fish stores. The negro, in every phase of development, civilization and ignorance, could, and always can, be found within the confines of the market. The amount of folk-lore stored up in the brains covered by masses of unkempt wool astounded the novelist, who distributed dollars, in return for information received, so lavishly, that he began to be looked upon after a while as a capitalist whose wealth had driven him insane. Then, again, he met disappointed emigrants from nearly all the European countries, men, and even women, who had crossed the Atlantic full of great expectations, but who had found a good many thorns among the looked-for roses.
The Indian is not often seen now around the French Market, although he used to be quite a feature of it. Some of the most exceptionally idle loungers, however, show evidence of Indian blood in their veins, in the shape of exceptionally high cheek-bones, and abnormally straight and ungovernable hair.
Almost every known language is spoken here. There is the purest French and the most atrocious patois. There is polished English, which seems to indicate high education, and there is the most picturesque dialect variation that could be desired by the most ardent devotee of the everlasting dialect story. Spanish is of course spoken by several of the market traders and workers, while Italian is quite common. At times in the day, when trade is very busy, the visitor may hear choice expletives in three or four languages at one time. He may not be able to interpret the peculiar noises and stern rebukes administered to idle help and truant boys, but he can generally guess pretty accurately the scope and object of the little speeches which are scattered around so freely.
If it be asked what special function the market fulfills, the answer is that it is a kind of inquire-within for everything. Many of the poorer people do all their trading here. Fruit is a great staple, and on another page a picture is given of one of the fruit stands of the old market. The picture is reproduced from a photograph taken on the spot by an artist of the National Company of St. Louis, publishers of "Our Own Country," and it shows well the peculiar construction of the market. The fruit sections are probably the most attractive and the least objectionable of the entire market, because here cleanliness is indispensable. In the vegetable section, which is also very large, there is not always quite so much care displayed or so much cleanliness enforced, refuse being sometimes allowed to accumulate liberally. Fish can be obtained in this market for an almost nominal consideration, being sometimes almost given away. Macaroni and other similar articles of diet form the staple feature of the Italian store of trade, which is carried on on the second floor of the market. The legitimate work called for alone provides excuse for the presence of many thousand people, who run hither and thither at certain hours of the day as though time were the essence of the contract, and no delay of any kind could be tolerated. As soon, however, as the pressing needs of the moment are satisfied, a period of luxurious idleness follows, and rest seems to be the chief desideratum of the average habitue or employe. The children, who are sitting around in large numbers, vie with their elders in matters of idleness, though they are occasionally aroused to a condition of pernicious activity by the hope of securing donations or compensation of some kind from newcomers and guests.
Structurally, the French Market is very well preserved. There are evidences of antiquity and of the ravages of time and weather on every side, but for all that the market seems to have as its special mission the reminding of the people that when our ancestors built, they built for ages, and not entirely for the immediate present, as is too often the case nowadays. The market also serves as a link between the present and the past. It is only of late years that the bazaar, which used to be so prominent a feature, has fallen into insignificance. Formerly it retained the importance of the extreme Orient, and afforded infinite fund for reflection for the antiquarian and the lover of history.
The cemeteries of New Orleans are of exceptional interest, and are visited every year by thousands of people. Owing to the proximity of the water mark to the surface of the ground, the dead are not buried as in other cities, and the vaults are above instead of under ground. They are well arranged, and the antiquity of the burial grounds, and the historic memories connected with the tablets, combine to make them of more than ordinary interest. The local custom of suspending business on the first day of November of each year for the purpose of decorating graves in all the cemeteries, is also worthy of more than a passing notice. Not only do people decorate the last resting places of their friends and relatives on this specially selected day, but even the graves of strangers are cared for in a spirit of thankfulness that the angel of death has not entered the family circle, and made inroads into bonds of friendship.
A few years ago a young woman died on the cars just as they were entering the world-renowned Creole city. There was nothing on the body to aid identification, and a stranger's grave had to be provided. In the meantime the friends and relatives of the missing girl had been making every effort to locate her, no idea having occurred to them that she was going South. A loving brother finally got hold of a clew, which he followed up so successfully that he at last solved the mystery. He arrived in New Orleans on November 1st, and when taken out to the grave that had been provided for the stranger who had died just outside the gates, he was astounded to find several handsome bouquets of flowers, with wreaths and crosses, lying upon it. Such a sight could hardly have been met with in any other city in the world, and too much can hardly be said in praise of the sentiment which suggests and encourages such disinterested kindness and thought.
The cemetery which occupies a site close to the great battle-field, is always specially decorated, and crowds go out in thousands to pay tribute to honored memories. Close to this spot there is a monument to celebrate the great battle during which General Pakingham was shot, and at which General Jackson galloped excitedly up and down the lines, and almost forced the men on to victory. The monument has not received the care which it deserves. More than half a century ago work was commenced on it, and a great deal was accomplished. But after a year or two of effort the project was abandoned for the time, and it has never been renewed. In the long interval that has ensued the roof has, in a large measure, disappeared, as well as several of the steps leading up to the front. Hundreds of people have cut their names in the stone work, and the monument, which ought to be preserved in perpetuity, looks so disreputable that little regret would be caused were the entire fragment to be swept away by some unusually heavy gust of wind.
More than 1,500 soldiers were buried in the Chalmette Cemetery after the battle referred to. Since the war it has been well nigh forgotten, but several duels and affaires d'honneur have been settled on the historic spot.
THE HEATHEN CHINEE IN HIS ELEMENT.
A Trip to Chinatown, San Francisco—A House with a History—Narrow Alleys and Secret Doors—Opium Smoking and its Effects—The Highbinders—Celestial Theatricals—Chinese Festivals—The Brighter Side of a Great City—A Mammoth Hotel and Beautiful Park.
Chinatown, San Francisco, is such a remarkable place, and contrasts so strangely with the wealth and civilization of the great city on the Pacific Coast, of which it is a part, that its peculiarities cannot be ignored in a sketch of the most remarkable features of our native land. Writers and artists have for years made this blot on San Francisco's splendor the subject for sarcasm and cartoon, and, indeed, it is difficult to handle the subject without a considerable amount of severity. Californians are often blamed for their harshness towards the Chinese, and the way in which they have clamored from time to time for more stringent exclusion laws. It takes a trip to Chinatown to make it clear to the average mortal why this feeling is so general in San Francisco, and why it extends throughout the entire Pacific Slope.
There are about 25,000 Chinese in and around San Francisco. A small proportion of these have abandoned the worst features of their race, and make themselves comparatively useful as domestic servants. In order to retain their positions they have to assimilate themselves more or less to the manners and customs of the country, and they are only objectionable in certain respects. But the one-time dwellers in the Celestial Empire, who make their homes in Chinatown, have very few redeeming qualities, and most of them seem to have no tangible excuse whatever for living.
They adhere to all the vices and uncivilized habits of their forefathers, and very frequently add to them equally objectionable vices of so-called civilization. At one time all the streets in Chinatown were little more than elongated ash pits and garbage receptacles. The public outcry at length became so vigorous that the strong hand of the law was brought to bear, and now the principal through streets are kept fairly clean. The side streets and alleys are, however, still in a deplorable condition, and no American or European could possibly live many days in such filth without being stricken with a terrible disease. The Mongolians, however, seem to thrive under conditions which are fatal to civilized humanity. They live to quite the average age, and the children seem to be very healthy, if not conspicuously happy.
Chinatown covers an area of about eight large squares, in the very heart of San Francisco. Again and again attempts have been made to get rid of the drawback and nuisance. But the "Melica Man" has allowed himself to be outwitted by the "Heathen Chinee," who has secured property rights which cannot be overcome without a measure of confiscation, which would appear to be scarcely constitutional. The area is probably one of the most densely populated in the world. The Chinese seem to sleep everywhere and anywhere, and the houses are overcrowded to an extent which passes all belief. It is known as an actual fact, that in rooms twelve feet square as many as twelve human beings sleep and eat, and even cook what passes with them for food. The houses themselves are so horrible in their condition, and have been so remodeled from time to time, to meet Celestial ideas and fall in with notions which are but a relic of barbarism, that not even a colored man of the most degraded type can be persuaded to live permanently in a house which has ever been occupied by an unregenerated denizen of Chinatown.
At the entrance to this peculiar, and, indeed, disreputable quarter, there is a house with a peculiar history. It was built more than a quarter of a century ago, by a wealthy banker, who selected the site because of the admirable view that could be obtained from it of the leading features of the city. He spared no expense in its erection, and when it was completed he was able to gaze from the upper windows upon some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. For a while the banker lived in the most magnificent style, and earned for himself a reputation as a prince of entertainers. He spent thousands of dollars on entertainments, and appeared to have everything that a human being could desire. His end was a tragic one, and it has never been ascertained for certain whether he died by his own hand, or by the hand of one of his alleged friends or avowed foes. The house which was once his great pride is now occupied by the Chinese Consul.
It is still, by far, the finest house in the Chinese quarter. The moment it is passed the sight-seeker or slummer finds himself in the midst of a horrible collection of Oriental filth and squalor. There are a number of stores which excite his contempt the moment his eyes light upon them. They are chiefly devoted to the retailing of such food as the occupants of Chinatown delight in, and over many of them the Chinese national emblem can be seen flying. Fish are on sale in large numbers, and as they are kept until sold, regardless of their condition, the effluvia of some of the fish markets can be very easily imagined. Vegetables also form a very large proportion of the daily bills of fare, and these add materially to the malodorous condition of the neighborhood. The streets are all of them very narrow, and there are also a number of exceptionally narrow and complicated passages and alleys, which have been the scenes of crimes innumerable in days gone by.
Some of these alleys are but three or four feet wide, and, owing to their almost countless turns and angles, they afford an easy means for the escape of a fugitive who is being hunted by the police, or by one of those blood-thirsty Chinese societies of which the Highbinders is a type. One writer who has investigated the matter very thoroughly, tells us that most of the houses have secret doors leading from one to the other in such a manner that if a fugitive should determine to make his escape, he can always do so by means of these secret doors, and the underground passages to which they lead.
The stores, workshops and other apartments are generally exceedingly small, and the proverbial economy of the Chinaman is proved by the fact that every square foot of floor space and ground is put to some practical use, and one finds cobblers, barbers, fortune-tellers and a multitude of small tradesmen carrying on a business in a jog, or niche in the wall, not as large as an ordinary bootblack's stand. Along the narrow sidewalks are seen many of these curbstone merchants. Some have their goods displayed in glass show-cases, ranged along the wall, where are exhibited queer-looking fancy articles of Chinese workmanship, of a cheap grade, all sorts of inexpensive ornaments for women and children's wear, curiously fashioned from ivory, bone, beads, glass and brass, water and opium pipes galore.
The opium pipe is something so unlike any European conception of a pipe that it is difficult to describe it. It consists of a large bamboo tube or cylinder, with a bowl about midway between the extremities. The bowl is sometimes a very small brass plate, and sometimes an earthen cup-shaped contrivance, with the top closed or decked over, having only a tiny hole in the center. Into this little aperture the opium, in a semi-liquid state, after being well melted in a lamp flame, is thrust by means of a fine wire or needle. The drug is inserted in infinitesimal quantities. It is said that all the Chinese smoke opium, although all do not indulge to excess. Some seem to be able to use the drug without its gaining the mastery over them.
There are more than a hundred opium dens in the Chinese quarters. These places are used for no other purpose whatever at any time. If it were the Chinese alone who frequented them, but little would be thought of it. Hundreds of white people, men, women and the youth of both sexes, have, however, become victims to this loathsome habit. So completely enslaved are they, that there is no escape from the tyrant. For all the poverty and untold misery this has brought upon these unfortunates, the Chinese are responsible. Vices cluster around Chinese social life, and nearly every house has its opium-smoking apartment, or rooms where the lottery or some kind of gambling is carried on.
The residents of Chinatown have a government of their own, with its social and economic regulations, and its police and penal department, and they even inflict the death penalty, but in such a secret way that the outside world seldom hears of these acts of high authority. This social and commercial policy is controlled by six companies, to one of which every Chinaman in the country owes allegiance and is tributary. These companies severally represent different provinces in the Chinese Empire, and upon every arrival of a steamer from that country, and before the passengers are landed, the Chinese portion of them are visited by an official of the six companies, who ascertains what province each arriving coolie is from. That decides as to which company he will belong.
Every Chinaman who comes is assured of his return to China, or, if he is so unfortunate as to die while in exile, that his bones will be sent home. This very important matter is one of the duties of the six companies. This comforting assurance, however, is not shared in by the women, whom, excepting those who are the wives of men of the better class, are brought over by a vile class of traders, and sold as chattels, or slaves, having no relation to the six companies.
There is in the Chinese quarters a ghastly underground place, where the bones of the departed are conveyed, after they have remained a certain time in the ground. Here they are scraped, cleaned and packed, preparatory to their last journey back to the fatherland, and their final resting place. Among the Chinese residents of San Francisco there are comparatively few of those of the higher class. The difference between them and the masses is very pronounced, and they appreciate the difference to the fullest extent. They are educated, well-bred gentlemen. The coolie and lower class are an ignorant, repulsive and ill-mannered people. They seem to be mere brutes, and not a gleam of intelligence is apparent in their dull, expressionless faces.
The "Highbinders" are bound together by solemn obligations, and are the instruments used by other Chinamen to avenge their real or fancied wrongs. The Highbinders are organized into lodges or tongs, which are engaged in constant feuds with each other. They wage open warfare, and so deadly is their mutual hatred, that the war ceases only when the last individual who has come under the ban of a rival tong has been sacrificed. These feuds resemble the vendettas in some of the Southern States of Europe, and they defy all efforts of the police to suppress them. Murders are, consequently, frequent, but it is next to impossible to identify the murderers, and if a Chinaman is arrested on suspicion, or even almost positive evidence of guilt, the trial uniformly ends in a failure to convict.
The theatres are, to the visitor, probably the most interesting feature of the Chinese quarters. A few years ago there were several of these playhouses, but the number is now reduced to two. The charge of admission is 25 cents or 50 cents.
The white people who, out of curiosity, attend a performance, generally pay more, and are given more comfortable seats upon the stage. The stage is a primitive affair. It boasts of no curtain, footlights or scenery of any kind.
When, during the progress of a play, a man is killed, he lies upon the stage until the scene is ended, and then gets up and walks off. Sometimes an attendant will bring in and place under his head a small wooden pillow, so that the dead man may rest more comfortably. After an actor has been beheaded, he has been known to pickup the false head and apostrophize it while making his exit from the stage. The orchestra is at the back of the stage. It usually consists of one or two ear-splitting flageolets and a system of gongs and tom-toms, which keep up an infernal din during the entire performance.
Chinese plays are usually historical, and vary in length from a few hours to several months. The costumes are gorgeous after the Chinese ideas of splendor. No females are allowed on the stage at all, young men with falsetto voices invariably impersonating the women.
The restaurants of Chinatown are a very unsatisfactory feature of the unsavory quarter. Many of the laborers board at them, and the smaller ones are nothing in the world but miserable little chop-houses, badly ventilated and exceedingly objectionable, and, indeed, injurious to health and good morals. There are larger restaurants, which are more expensively equipped. Shakespeare's advice as to neatness without gaudiness is not followed. There is always a profusion of color in decoration, but there is never anything like symmetry or beauty.
There are an immense number of joss-houses in Chinatown. Each company has one of its own. Others belong to the societies, tongs and to private parties. The appointments of these temples are gorgeous in their way. One has recently been opened on Waverly Place, which far surpasses all the others in the grandeur of its sacred equipments and decoration. The idols, bronzes, carvings, bells, banners and the paraphernalia of the temple are said to have cost about $20,000, and represents the highest degree of Chinese art. In front of the throne in each of these temples, where the principal god is seated, burns a sacred flame that is never extinguished. In a cabinet at the right of the entrance is a small image called "the doorkeeper," who sees that no harm befalls the temple of those who enter.
The temple doors are always open, and those who are religiously inclined can come in at any hour of the day. Prayers are written or printed on red or blue paper. These are lighted and deposited in a sort of furnace with an opening near the top, and as the smoke ascends the bell near by is sounded to attract the attention of the gods. The women have a favorite method of telling their fortunes. They kneel before the altar, holding in either hand a small wooden block, about-five inches long, which resembles a split banana. These they raise to their closed eyes, bow the head and drop. If they fall in a certain position, it is an indication that the wish or prayer will be granted. If they fall in an unfavorable position, they continue the effort until the blocks fall as desired. When business is dull and times hard with the Chinaman, they attribute it to the displeasure of their gods. They try to propitiate the offended deity by burning incense sticks, and offering fruits and other things which have no Christian equivalent, and which are supposed to be grateful to the divine palate.
The Chinese observe a great many holidays. The most important are those of the New Year. This is a movable feast, and occurs between the 21st of January and the 19th of February. The New Year must fall on the first new moon after the sun has entered Aquarius. It is customary at this time to have all business straightened out, and all debts contracted during the year paid. Unless this is done, they will have no credit during the year, and consequently a great effort is made to pay their creditors. There are some, however, who have been unfortunate and have laid by nothing for this day of settlement, and knowing well that there are a number of those troublesome little bills that are liable to be presented at any time, they keep themselves out of sight until the sun has risen upon the New Year.
They then reappear in their accustomed haunts, feeling safe for a few days at least, for while the merry-making is going on there is no danger of being confronted with a dun. All gloomy subjects are tabooed, and everybody devotes himself to getting all the enjoyment he possibly can out of this festal day. To some this is the only holiday in the whole year, and they are obliged to return to their labors the following day. Others will celebrate three or four days, and so on up the scale. The rich and the independent keep it up for fully two weeks, and begin to settle down to everyday life about the sixteenth day.
The night preceding New Year's day is spent in religious ceremonies at the temples or at home. Out of doors the air is filled with the smoke and roar of exploding firecrackers. But when the clock has tolled the death of the old and announced the birth of the New Year, one would think that Pandemonium was let loose. Unless one has heard it, no idea can be formed as to what this unearthly noise really is. We are told it is to frighten away evil spirits, to invoke the favor of the gods, to bid, as they fondly hope, a final farewell to ill-luck; and, again, simply because they are happy, and when in this frame of mind, they love to manifest their joy in noisy demonstrations. A certain time in the early morning is spent in worship at the shrines at home and in the temples. They place before their sacred images, offerings of tea, wine, rice, fruits and flowers. The Chinese lily is in full bloom at this season, and it occupies a conspicuous place in the joss-houses. It is for sale on every street corner.
The day is spent in feasting, pleasure seeking, and in making New Year's calls. The Chinamen are always greatly pleased to receive calls from white men with whom they have business dealings, and they exhibit their cards with much pride. They are very punctilious and even rival the Frenchmen in politeness, and it is considered an offense if any of their proffered hospitalities are declined.
But while Chinatown is the most extraordinary feature of San Francisco, and is visited by tourists who naturally look upon it somewhat in the light of forbidden and hence exceptionally attractive fruit, it is not by any means the most interesting or most important feature of one of the finest cities in the world. San Francisco is the metropolis of the Pacific Slope. It occupies the point of a long peninsula between the bay and the ocean, and so unique is its site that it includes some magnificent hills and peaks. The history of San Francisco bristles with border and gold mine stories and tales of the early troubles of pioneers. Whole pages could be written concerning the adventures of the early days of this remarkable city. The time was when a few frame buildings constituted the entire town. The rush of speculators following discovery after discovery of gold, converted the quiet little port into a scene of turmoil and disturbance.
Every ship brought with it a cargo of more or less desperate men, who had come from various points of the compass determined to obtain a lion's share of the gold which they had been told could be had for the taking. The value of commodities went up like sky-rockets. The man who had a few spare mules and wagons on hand was able to realize ten times the price that was tendered for them before the boom. Many men who were thus situated did not consider it advisable to throw away their chances by accepting grave risks in search of gold, and many who stayed at home and supplied the wants of those who went up country realized handsome competences, and in some cases small fortunes.
That there was a good deal of lawlessness and violence is not to be wondered at. It has been said that for every bona fide miner there was at least one hanger-on or camp follower, who had no intention of doing any digging or washing, but who was smart enough to realize that a veritable thief's paradise would be built up by the hard workers. Sometimes these men went to the trouble of digging tunnels under the ground and into the tents of successful miners, frequently passing through rich deposits of gold on the way. At other times they waylaid wagons and coaches coming into San Francisco from the mining camps. History tells us of the fights which ensued, and we have all heard of the successful miners who were murdered while asleep at half-way houses, and the result of their hard toil turned to base uses and vicious purposes.
In San Francisco itself robbery and violence could not be suppressed. We have all heard of the way in which the decent element finally got together, formed special laws and executed offenders in short order. No one of course approves lynch law in the abstract, but when the circumstances of the case are taken into consideration, it is difficult to condemn very severely the men who made it possible for San Francisco to become a great and honored city.
The population of San Francisco to-day is about a third of a million. A greater portion of its growth has been during the last quarter of a century, and it was the first city in this country to lay cable conduits and adopt a system of cable cars. For several years it had practically a monopoly in this mode of street transportation, and, although electricity has since provided an even more convenient motive power, San Francisco will always be entitled to credit for the admirable missionary work it did in this direction. At the present time, almost every portion of the city and its beautiful parks can be reached easily by a system of transportation as comfortable and rapid as it is inexpensive.
Among the wonders of San Francisco must be mentioned the Palace Hotel, a structure of immense magnitude and probably two or three times as large as the average Eastern man imagines. The site of the hotel covers a space of more than an acre and a half, and several million dollars were spent on this structure. Everything is magnificent, expansive, huge and massive. The building itself is seven stories high, and in its center, forming what may be described as the grandest enclosed court in the world, is a circular space 144 feet across and roofed in with glass at a great height. Carriages are driven into this enclosure, and, in the nearest approach to severe weather known in San Francisco, guests can alight practically indoors.
There are nearly 800 bed-rooms, all of them large and lofty, and the general style of architecture is more than massive. The foundation walls are 12 feet thick, and 31,000,000 brick were used above them. The skeleton of wrought iron bands, upon which the brick and stone work is constructed, weighs more than 3,000 tons. Four artesian wells supply pure water to the house, which is not only one of the largest hotels in the world, but also one of the most complete and independent in its arrangements.
A pleasant ride of nearly four miles in length brings the rider to Golden Gate Park. The Golden Gate, from which the park takes its name, is one of the world's beauty spots, and here some of the most exquisite sunsets ever witnessed can be seen. The Gate is the entrance from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay, which varies in width from ten to fifteen miles. At the Gate the width is suddenly reduced to less than a mile, and hence at ebb and flow the current is very swift. Near the Gate sea lions can be seen gamboling in the surf, and the waves can be observed striking on the rocks and boulders, and sending up spray of foamy whiteness to a height of a hundred feet.
Golden Gate Park is like everything else on the Pacific Coast, immense and wonderful. It is not the largest park in the world, but it ranks amongst the most extensive. Its acreage exceeds a thousand, and it is difficult to appreciate the fact that the richly cultivated ground through which the tourist is driven has been reclaimed from the ocean, and was but once little more than a succession of sand bars and dunes.
When the reader goes to San Francisco, as we hope he will go some day, if he has not already visited it, he will be told within a few minutes of his entering the city, that he has at least reached what may be fairly termed God's country. Of the glorious climate of California he will hear much at every step, and before he has been in the city many days, he will wonder how he is to get out of it alive if he is to see but a fraction of the wonderful sights to which his attention is called.
California is frequently spoken of as the Golden State. The name California was given to the territory comprising the State and Lower California as long ago as 1510, when a Spanish novelist, either in fancy or prophecy, wrote concerning "the great land of California, where an abundance of gold and precious stones are found." In 1848, California proper was ceded to the United States, and in the same year the discovery of gold at Colomo put a stop to the peace and quiet which had prevailed on the fertile plains, the unexplored mountains and the attractive valleys. Shortly after, a hundred thousand men rushed into the State, and for the first few years as many as a hundred thousand miners were kept steadily at work.
It was in 1856 that the famous Vigilance Committee was formed. In the month of May of that year murderers were taken from jail and executed, the result being that the Governor declared San Francisco to be in a state of insurrection. The Vigilance Committee gained almost sovereign power, and before it disbanded in August, it had a parade in which over 5,000 armed, disciplined men took part.
Two years later, the overland mail commenced its journeys and the celebrated pony express followed in 1860. Railroads followed soon after, and instead of being a practically unknown country, several weeks' journey from the old established cities, the lightning express has brought the Pacific so near to the Atlantic that time and space seem to have been almost annihilated.
BEFORE EMANCIPATION AND AFTER.
First Importation of Negro Slaves into America—The Original Abolitionists—A Colored Enthusiast and a Coward—Origin of the word "Secession"—John Brown's Fanaticism—Uncle Tom's Cabin—Faithful unto Death—George Augustus Sala on the Negro who Lingered too long in the Mill Pond.
The American negro is such a distinct character that he cannot be overlooked in a work of this nature. Some people think he is wholly bad, and that although he occasionally assumes a virtue, he is but playing a part, and playing it but indifferently well at that. Others place him on a lofty pedestal, and magnify him into a hero and a martyr.
But the Afro-American, commonly called a "nigger" in the South, is neither the one nor the other. He is often as worthless as the "white trash" he so scornfully despises, and he is often all that the most exacting could expect, when his surroundings and disadvantages are taken into consideration. Physiologists tell us that man is very largely what others make him, many going so far as to say that character and disposition are three parts hereditary and one part environment. If this is so, a good deal of allowance should be made. It is less than 300 years since the first negroes were brought over to this country, and it is but little more than thirty years since slavery was abolished. Hence, from both the standpoints of descent and environment, the negro is at a great disadvantage, and he should hardly be judged by the common standard.
It was in the year 1619 that a Dutch ship landed a cargo of negroes from Guinea, but that was not really the first case of slavery in this country. Prior to that time paupers and criminals from the old world had voluntarily sold themselves into a species of subjection, in preference to starvation and detention in their own land; but this landing in 1619 seems to have really introduced the colored man into the labor world and market of America.
We need not trace the history of the negro as a slave at any length. That he was occasionally abused goes without saying, but that his condition was approximately as bad as a majority of writers have attempted to prove is not so certain. It was the policy of the slave owner to get as much work out of his staff as he possibly could. He knew from experience that the powers of human endurance were necessarily limited, and that a man could not work satisfactorily when he was sick or hungry. Hence, even on the supposition that all slave owners were without feeling, it is obvious that self-interest must have impelled them to keep the negro in good health, and to prevent him from losing strength from hardship and want.
On some plantations the lot of the slave was a hard one, but on others there was very little complaining or cause for complaint. Thousands of slaves were better off by far than they have been subsequent to liberation, and it is a fact that speaks volumes for the much discussed and criticized slaveholders, that numbers of emancipated slaves refused to accept their freedom, while many more, who went away delighted at the removal of withstraint, came back of their own option very soon after, and begged to be allowed to resume the old relations.
The average negro obeys, literally obeys, the divine instruction to take no thought for the morrow. If he has a good dinner in the oven he is apt to forget for the time being that there is such a meal as supper, and he certainly does not give even a passing thought to the fact that if he has no breakfast in the morning he will be "powerfu' hungry." This indifference as to the future robbed slavery of much of its hardship, and although every one condemns the idea in the abstract, there are many humane men and women who do not think the colored man suffered half as much as has so often and so emphatically been stated.
Abolition was advocated with much earnestness for many years prior to Lincoln's famous emancipation proclamation. The agitation first took tangible shape during the administration of General Jackson, a man who received more hero worship than has fallen to the lot of any of his successors. To a zealous, if perhaps bigoted, Quaker belongs the credit of having started the work, by founding a newspaper, which he called the "Genius of Universal Emancipation." William Lloyd Garrison, subsequently with "The Liberator," was connected with this journal, and in the first issue he announced as his programme, war to the death against slavery in every form. "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard," was the announcement with which he opened the campaign, which he subsequently carried on with more conspicuous vigor than success.
Garrison handled the question of the relation between the white and colored people of the country without gloves, and his very outspoken language occasionally got him into trouble. The people who supported him were known as Abolitionists, a name which even at that early date conjured up hard feeling, and divided household against household, and family against family. Among these Garrison was regarded as a hero, and to some extent as a martyr, while the bitterness of his invective earned for him the title of fanatic and crank from the thousands who disagreed with him, and who thought he was advocating legislation in advance of public sentiment.
The debates of the days of which we are speaking were full of interest. Many of the arguments advanced teemed with force. The Abolitionists denounced the Republic for inconsistency, in declaring that all men were equal, and then keeping 3,000,000 colored people in enforced subjection. In reply the Bible was freely quoted in defense of slavery, and the fight was taken up by ministers of religion with much zeal. It was not, by any means, a sectional question at that time. While the slaves were owned by Southern planters and landed proprietors, they were purchased and kept on borrowed capital, and many of the men in the North, who were supposed to sympathize with the Abolitionists, were as much interested in the perpetuation of slavery as those who actually owned the slaves themselves.
In the year 1831, a negro named Turner, supported by six desperate and misguided fellow countrymen, started out on what they regarded as a practical crusade against slavery. Turner professed to have seen visions such as inspired Joan of Arc, and he proceeded to fulfill what he regarded as his divine mission, in a very fanatical manner. First, the white man who owned Turner was murdered, and then the band proceeded to kill off all white men in sight or within convenient reach. Within two days nearly fifty white men were destroyed by those avenging angels, as they were called, and then the insurrection or crusade was terminated by the organizing of a handful of white men who did not propose to be sacrificed as had been their fellows.
Turner's bravery was great when there was no resistance, but he recognized that discretion was the better part of valor the moment organized resistance was offered. Taking to the woods, he left his followers to shift for themselves. For more than a week he lived on what he could find in the wheat fields, and then, coming in contact with an armed white man, he speedily surrendered. A week later he was hanged, and seventeen other colored men suffered a like penalty for connection with the conspiracy. The murderous outbreak had other dire results for the negro, and caused many innocent men to be suspected and punished.
A year later, Garrison started the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which was followed by many similar organizations. So intense did the feeling become that President Jackson thought it advisable to recommend legislation excluding Abolition literature from the mails. The measure was finally defeated, but in the Southern States, particularly, a great deal of mail was searched and even condemned. Rewards were offered in some of the slave-holding States for the apprehension of some of the leading Abolitionists, and feeling ran very high, every outbreak being laid at the doors of the men who were preaching the new gospel of equal rights, regardless of color.
Mobs frequently took a hand in the proceedings, and several men were attacked and arrested on very flimsy pretexts. In 1836, the Pennsylvania Hall, in Philadelphia, was burned, because it had been dedicated by an anti-slavery meeting. So bitter did the feeling become that every attempt to open schools for colored children was followed by disturbance, the teachers being driven away and the books destroyed. Numerous petitions on the subject were sent to Congress, and there was an uproar in the House when it was proposed to refer a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia to a committee. The Southern Congressmen withdrew from the House as a formal protest, and the word "secession," which was subsequently to acquire such a much more significant meaning, was first applied to this action on their part.
A compromise, however, was effected, and the seceding members took their seats on the following day. Feeling, however, ran very high. Some people returned fugitive slaves to their owners, while others established what was then known as the underground railway. This was a combination between Abolitionists in various parts, and involved the feeding and housing of slaves, who were passed on from house to house and helped on their road to Canada. Much excitement was caused in 1841 by the ship "Creole," which sailed from Richmond with a cargo of 135 slaves from the Virginia plantation. Near the Bahama Islands one of the slaves named Washington, as by the way a good many thousand slaves were named from time to time, headed a rebellion. The slaves succeeded in overpowering the crew and in confining the captain and the white passengers. They forced the captain to take the boat to New Providence, where all except the actual members of the rebelling crowd were declared free.
Joshua Giddings, of Ohio, offered a resolution in the House of Representatives claiming that every man who had been a slave in the United States was free the moment he crossed the boundary of some other country. The way in which this resolution was received led to the resignation of Mr. Giddings. He offered himself for re-election, and was sent back to Congress by an enormous majority. As Ohio had been very bitter in its anti-negro demonstrations, the vote was regarded as very significant. The Supreme Court decided differently from the people, and a ruling was handed down to the effect that fugitive slaves were liable to re-capture. The court held that the law as to slavery was paramount in free as well as slave States, and that every law-abiding citizen must recognize these rights and not interfere with them. Feeling became very intense after this, and for a time it threatened to extend far beyond rational limits. In the church the controversy waxed warm, and in more than one instance division as well as dissension arose.