13th.—There was snow here near our mountain camp, and the morning was beautiful and cool. Leaving St. Vrain's fork, we took our way directly towards the summit of the dividing ridge. The bottoms of the streams and level places were wooded with aspens; and as we neared the summit, we entered again the piny region. We had a delightful morning's ride, the ground affording us an excellent bridle-path, and reached the summit towards mid-day, at an elevation of 8,000 feet. With joy and exultation we saw ourselves once more on the top of the Rocky mountains, and beheld a little stream taking its course towards the rising sun. It was an affluent of the Platte, called Pullam's fork, and we descended to noon upon it. It is a pretty stream, twenty yards broad, and bears the name of a trapper who, some years since, was killed here by the Gros Ventre Indians.
Issuing from the pines in the afternoon we saw spread out before us the valley of the Platte, with the pass of the Medicine Butte beyond, and some of the Sweet Water mountains; but a smoky haziness in the air entirely obscured the Wind River chain.
We were now about two degrees south of the South Pass, and our course home would have been eastwardly; but that would have taken us over ground already examined, and therefore without the interest that would excite curiosity. Southwardly there were objects worthy to be explored, to wit: the approximation of the head-waters of three different rivers—the Platte, the Arkansas, and the Grand River fork of the Rio Colorado of the Gulf of California; the passages at the heads of these rivers; and the three remarkable mountain coves, called Parks, in which they took their rise. One of these Parks was, of course, on the western side of the dividing ridge; and a visit to it would once more require us to cross the summit of the Rocky mountains to the west, and then to recross to the east, making in all, with the transit we had just accomplished, three crossings of that mountain in this section of its course. But no matter. The coves, the heads of the rivers, the approximation of their waters, the practicability of the mountain passes, and the locality of the three Parks, were all objects of interest, and, although well known to hunters and trappers, were unknown to science and to history. We therefore changed our course, and turned up the valley of the Platte instead of going down it.
We crossed several small affluents, and again made a fortified camp in a grove. The country had now became very beautiful—rich in water, grass, and game; and to these were added the charm of scenery and pleasant weather.
14th.—Our route this morning lay along the foot of the mountain, over the long low spurs which sloped gradually down to the river, forming the broad valley of the Platte. The country is beautifully watered. In almost every hollow ran a clear, cool, mountain stream; and in the course of the morning we crossed seventeen, several of them being large creeks, forty to fifty feet wide, with a swift current, and tolerably deep. These were variously wooded with groves of aspen and cottonwood, with willow, cherry, and other shrubby trees. Buffalo, antelope, and elk, were frequent during the day; and, in their abundance; the latter sometimes reminded us slightly of the Sacramento valley.
We halted at noon on Potter's fork—a clear and swift stream, forty yards wide, and in many places deep enough to swim our animals; and in the evening encamped on a pretty stream, where there were several beaver dams, and many trees recently cut down by the beaver. We gave to this the name of Beaver Dam creek, as now they are becoming sufficiently rare to distinguish by their names the streams on which they are found. In this mountain they occurred more abundantly than elsewhere in all our journey, in which their vestiges had been scarcely seen.
The next day we continued our journey up the valley, the country presenting much the same appearance, except that the grass was more scanty on the ridges, over which was spread a scrubby growth of sage; but still the bottoms of the creeks were broad, and afforded good pasture-grounds. We had an animated chase after a grizzly bear this morning, which we tried to lasso. Fuentes threw the lasso upon his neck, but it slipped off, and he escaped into the dense thickets of the creek, into which we did not like to venture. Our course in the afternoon brought us to the main Platte river, here a handsome stream, with a uniform breadth of seventy yards, except where widened by frequent islands. It was apparently deep, with a moderate current, and wooded with groves of large willow.
The valley narrowed as we ascended, and presently degenerated into a gorge, through which the river passed as through a gate. We entered it, and found ourselves in the New Park—a beautiful circular valley of thirty miles diameter, walled in all round with snowy mountains, rich with water and with grass, fringed with pine on the mountain sides below the snow line, and a paradise to all grazing animals. The Indian name for it signifies "cow lodge," of which our own may be considered a translation; the enclosure, the grass, the water, and the herds of buffalo roaming over it, naturally presenting the idea of a park. We halted for the night just within the gate, and expected, as usual, to see herds of buffalo; but an Arapahoe village had been before us, and not one was to be seen. Latitude of the encampment 40 deg. 52' 44". Elevation by the boiling point 7,720 feet.
It is from this elevated cove, and from the gorges of the surrounding mountains, and some lakes within their bosoms, that the Great Platte river collects its first waters, and assumes its first form; and certainly no river could ask a more beautiful origin.
16th.—In the morning we pursued our way through the Park, following a principal branch of the Platte, and crossing, among many smaller ones, a bold stream, scarcely fordable, called Lodge Pole fork, and which issues from a lake in the mountains on the right, ten miles long. In the evening we encamped on a small stream near the upper end of the Park. Latitude of the camp 40 deg. 33' 22".
17th.—We continued our way among the waters of the Park over the foot- hills of the bordering mountains, where we found good pasturage, and surprised and killed some buffalo. We fell into a broad and excellent trail, made by buffalo, where a wagon would pass with ease; and, in the course of the morning we crossed the summit of the Rocky mountains, through a pass which was one of the most beautiful we had ever seen. The trail led among the aspens, through open grounds, richly covered with grass, and carried us over an elevation of about 9,000 feet above the level of the sea.
The country appeared to great advantage in the delightful summer weather of the mountains, which we still continued to enjoy. Descending from the pass, we found ourselves again on the western waters; and halted to noon on the edge of another mountain valley, called the Old Park, in which is formed Grand river, one of the principal branches of the Colorado of California. We were now moving with some caution, as, from the trail, we found the Arapahoe village had also passed this way; as we were coming out of their enemy's country, and this was a war-ground, we were desirous to avoid them. After a long afternoon's march, we halted at night on a small creek, tributary to a main fork of Grand river, which ran through this portion of the valley. The appearance of the country in the Old Park is interesting, though of a different character from the New; instead of being a comparative plain, it is more or less broken into hills, and surrounded by the high mountains, timbered on the lower parts with quaking asp and pines.
18th.—Our scouts, who were as usual ahead, made from a butte this morning the signal of Indians, and we rode up in time to meet a party of about 30 Arapahoes. They were men and women going into the hills—the men for game, the women for roots—and informed us that the village was encamped a few miles above, on the main fork of Grand river, which passes through the midst of the valley. I made them the usual presents; but they appeared disposed to be unfriendly, and galloped back at speed to the village. Knowing that we had trouble to expect, I descended immediately into the bottoms of Grand river, which were overflowed in places, the river being up, and made the best encampment the ground afforded. We had no time to build a fort, but found an open place among the willows, which was defended by the river on one side and the overflowed bottoms on the other. We had scarcely made our few preparations, when about 200 of them appeared on the verge of the bottom, mounted, painted, and armed for war. We planted the American flag between us; and a short parley ended in a truce, with something more than the usual amount of presents. About 20 Sioux were with them—one of them an old chief, who had always been friendly to the whites. He informed me that, before coming down, a council had been held at the village, in which the greater part had declared for attacking us—we had come from their enemies, to whom we had doubtless been carrying assistance in arms and ammunition; but his own party, with some few of the Arapahoes who had seen us the previous year in the plains, opposed it. It will be remembered that it is customary for this people to attack the trading parties which they meet in this region, considering all whom they meet on the western side of the mountains to be their enemies. They deceived me into the belief that I should find a ford at their village, and I could not avoid accompanying them; but put several sloughs between us and their village, and forted strongly on the banks of the river, which was everywhere rapid and deep, and over a hundred yards in breadth. The camp was generally crowded with Indians; and though the baggage was carefully watched and covered, a number of things were stolen.
The next morning we descended the river for about eight miles, and halted a short distance above a canon, through which Grand river issues from the Park. Here it was smooth and deep, 150 yards in breadth, and its elevation at this point 6,700 feet. A frame for the boat being very soon made, our baggage was ferried across; the horses, in the mean time, swimming over. A southern fork of Grand river here makes its junction, nearly opposite to the branch by which we had entered the valley, and up this we continued for about eight miles in the afternoon and encamped in a bottom on the left bank, which afforded good grass. At our encampment it was 70 to 90 yards in breadth, sometimes widened by islands, and separated into several channels, with a very swift current and bed of rolled rocks.
On the 20th we traveled up the left bank, with the prospect of a bad road, the trail here taking the opposite side; but the stream was up, and nowhere fordable. A piny ridge of mountains, with bare rocky peaks, was on our right all the day, and a snowy mountain appeared ahead. We crossed many foaming torrents with rocky beds, rushing down the river; and in the evening made a strong fort in an aspen grove. The valley had already become very narrow, shut up more closely in densely timbered mountains, the pines sweeping down the verge of the bottoms. The coq de prairie (tetrao europhasianus) was occasionally seen among the sage.
We saw to-day the returning trail of an Arapahoe party which had been sent from the village to look for Utahs in the Bayou Salade, (South Park;) and it being probable that they would visit our camp with the desire to return on horseback, we were more than usually on the alert.
Here the river diminished to 35 yards, and, notwithstanding the number of affluents we had crossed, was still a large stream, dashing swiftly by, with a great continuous fall, and not yet fordable. We had a delightful ride along a good trail among the fragrant pines; and the appearance of buffalo in great numbers indicated that there were Indians in the Bayou Salade, (South Park,) by whom they were driven out. We halted to noon under the shade of the pines, and the weather was most delightful. The country was literally alive with buffalo; and the continued echo of the hunters' rifles on the other side of the river for a moment made me uneasy, thinking perhaps they were engaged with Indians; but in a short time they came into camp with the meat of seven fat cows.
During the earlier part of the day's ride, the river had been merely a narrow ravine between high piny mountains, backed on both sides, but particularly on the west, by a line of snowy ridges; but, after several hours' ride, the stream opened out into a valley with pleasant bottoms. In the afternoon the river forked into three apparently equal streams; broad buffalo trails leading up the left hand, and the middle branch, indicating good passes over the mountains; but up the right-hand branch, (which, in the object of descending from the mountain by the main head of the Arkansas, I was most desirous to follow,) there was no sign of a buffalo trace. Apprehending from this reason, and the character of the mountains, which are known to be extremely rugged, that the right-hand branch led to no pass, I proceeded up the middle branch, which formed a flat valley- bottom between timbered ridges on the left and snowy mountains on the right, terminating in large buttes of naked rock. The trail was good, and the country interesting; and at nightfall we encamped in an open place among the pines, where we built a strong fort. The mountains exhibit their usual varied growth of flowers, and at this place I noticed, among others, thermopsis montana, whose bright yellow color makes it a showy plant. This has been a characteristic in many parts of the country since reaching the Uintah waters. With fields of iris were aquilegia coerulea, violets, esparcette, and strawberries.
At dark we perceived a fire in the edge of the pines, on the opposite side of the valley. We had evidently not been discovered, and, at the report of a gun, and the blaze of fresh fuel which was heaped on our fires, those of the strangers were instantly extinguished. In the morning, they were found to be a party of six trappers, who had ventured out among the mountains after beaver. They informed us that two of the number with which they had started had been already killed by the Indians—one of them but a few days since—by the Arapahoes we had lately seen, who had found him alone at a camp on this river, and carried off his traps and animals. As they were desirous to join us, the hunters returned with them to the encampment, and we continued up the valley, in which the stream rapidly diminished, breaking into small tributaries—every hollow affording water. At our noon halt, the hunters joined us with the trappers. While preparing to start from their encampment, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by a party of Arapahoes, who informed them that their scouts had discovered a large Utah village in the Bayou Salade, (South Park,) and that a large war-party, consisting of almost every man in the village, except those who were too old to go to war, were going over to attack them. The main body had ascended the left fork of the river, which afforded a better pass than the branch we were on, and this party had followed our trail, in order that we might add our force to theirs. Carson informed them that we were too far ahead to turn back, but would join them in the bayou; and the Indians went off apparently satisfied. By the temperature of boiling water, our elevation here was 10,430 feet, and still the pine forest continued, and grass was good.
In the afternoon we continued our road occasionally through open pines, with a very gradual ascent. We surprised a herd of buffalo, enjoying the shade at a small lake among the pines, and they made the dry branches crack, as they broke through the woods. In a ride of about three-quarters of an hour, and having ascended perhaps 800 feet, we reached the summit of the dividing ridge, which would thus have an estimated height of 11,200 feet. Here the river spreads itself into small branches and springs, heading nearly in the summit of the ridge, which is very narrow. Immediately below us was a green valley, through which ran a stream; and a short distance opposite rose snowy mountains, whose summits were formed into peaks of naked rock. We soon afterwards satisfied ourselves that immediately beyond these mountains was the main branch of the Arkansas river—most probably heading directly with the little stream below us, which gathered its waters in the snowy mountains near by. Descriptions of the rugged character of the mountains around the head of the Arkansas, which their appearance amply justified, deterred me from making any attempt to reach it, which would have involved a greater length of time than now remained at my disposal.
In about a quarter of an hour, we descended from the summit of the Pass into the creek below, our road having been very much controlled and interrupted by the pines and springs on the mountain-side. Turning up the stream, we encamped on a bottom of good grass near its head, which gathers its waters in the dividing crest of the Rocky mountains, and, according to the best information we could obtain, separated only by the rocky wall of the ridge from the head of the main Arkansas river. By the observations of the evening, the latitude of our encampment was 39 deg. 20' 24", and south of which; therefore, is the head of the Arkansas river. The stream on which we had encamped is the head of either the Fontaine-qui-bouit, a branch of the Arkansas, or the remotest head of the south fork of the Platte, as which you will find it laid down on the map. But descending it only through a portion of its course, we have not been able to settle this point satisfactorily. In the evening a band of buffalo furnished a little excitement, by charging through the camp.
On the following day we descended the stream by an excellent buffalo- trail, along the open grassy bottom of the river. On our right, the bayou was bordered by a mountainous range, crested with rocky and naked peaks; and below, it had a beautiful park-like character of pretty level prairies, interspersed among low spurs, wooded openly with pine and quaking asp, contrasting well with the denser pines which swept around on the mountain sides. Descending always the valley of the stream, towards noon we descried a mounted party descending the point of a spur, and, judging them to be Arapahoes—who, defeated or victorious, were equally dangerous to us, and with whom a fight would be inevitable—we hurried to post ourselves as strongly as possible on some willow islands in the river. We had scarcely halted when they arrived, proving to be a party of Utah women, who told us that on the other side of the ridge their village was fighting with the Arapahoes. As soon as they had given us this information, they filled the air with cries and lamentations, which made us understand that some of their chiefs had been killed.
Extending along the river, directly ahead of us, was a low piny ridge, leaving between it and the stream a small open bottom, on which the Utahs had very injudiciously placed their village, which, according to the women, numbered about 300 warriors. Advancing in the cover of the pines, the Arapahoes, about daylight, charged into the village, driving off a great number of their horses, and killing four men; among them, the principal chief of the village. They drove the horses perhaps a mile beyond the village, to the end of a hollow, where they had previously forted, at the edge of the pines. Here the Utahs had instantly attacked them in turn, and, according to the report of the women, were getting rather the best of the day. The women pressed us eagerly to join with their people, and would immediately have provided us with the best horses at the village; but it was not for us to interfere in such a conflict. Neither party were our friends, or under our protection; and each was ready to prey upon us that could. But we could not help feeling an unusual excitement at being within a few hundred yards of a fight, in which 500 men were closely engaged, and hearing the sharp cracks of their rifles. We were in a bad position, and subject to be attacked in it. Either party which we might meet, victorious or defeated, was certain to fall upon us; and, gearing up immediately, we kept close along the pines of the ridge, having it between us and the village, and keeping the scouts on the summit, to give us notice of the approach of Indians. As we passed by the village, which was immediately below us, horsemen were galloping to and fro, and groups of people were gathered around those who were wounded and dead, and who were being brought in from the field. We continued to press on, and, crossing another fork, which came in from the right, after having made fifteen miles from the village, fortified ourselves strongly in the pines, a short distance from the river.
During the afternoon, Pike's Peak had been plainly in view before us, and, from our encampment, bore N. 87 deg. E. by compass. This was a familiar object, and it had for us the face of an old friend. At its foot were the springs, where we had spent a pleasant day in coming out. Near it were the habitations of civilized men; and it overlooked the broad smooth plains, which promised us an easy journey to our home.
The next day we left the river, which continued its course towards Pike's Peak; and taking a southeasterly direction, in about ten miles we crossed a gentle ridge, and, issuing from the South Park, found ourselves involved among the broken spurs of the mountains which border the great prairie plains. Although broken and extremely rugged, the country was very interesting, being well watered by numerous affluents to the Arkansas river, and covered with grass and a variety of trees. The streams, which, in the upper part of their course, ran through grassy and open hollows, after a few miles all descended into deep and impracticable canons, through which they found their way to the Arkansas valley. Here the buffalo trails we had followed were dispersed among the hills, or crossed over into the more open valleys of other streams.
During the day our road was fatiguing and difficult, reminding us much, by its steep and rocky character, of our traveling the year before among the Wind River mountains; but always at night we found some grassy bottom, which afforded us a pleasant camp. In the deep seclusion of these little streams, we found always an abundant pasturage, and a wild luxuriance of plants and trees. Aspens and pines were the prevailing timber: on the creeks oak was frequent; but the narrow-leaved cottonwood, (populus angustifolia,) of unusually large size, and seven or eight feet in circumference, was the principal tree. With these were mingled a variety of shrubby trees, which aided to make the ravines almost impenetrable.
After several days' laborious traveling, we succeeded in extricating ourselves from the mountains, and on the morning of the 28th encamped immediately at their foot, on a handsome tributary to the Arkansas river. In the afternoon we descended the stream, winding our way along the bottoms, which were densely wooded with oak, and in the evening encamped near the main river. Continuing the next day our road along the Arkansas, and meeting on the way a war-party of Arapahoe Indians, (who had recently been committing some outrages at Bent's fort, killing stock and driving off horses,) we arrived before sunset at the Pueblo, near the mouth of the Fontaine-qui-bouit river, where we had the pleasure to find a number of our old acquaintances. The little settlement appeared in a thriving condition; and in the interval of our absence another had been established on the river, some thirty miles above.
On the 30th of June our cavalcade moved rapidly down the Arkansas, along the broad road which follows the river.
On the 1st of July we arrived at Bent's fort, about 70 miles below the mouth of the Fontaine-qui-bouit. As we emerged into view from the groves on the river, we were saluted with a display of the national flag, and repeated discharges from the guns of the fort, where we were received by Mr. George Bent with a cordial welcome and a friendly hospitality, in the enjoyment of which we spent several very agreeable days. We were now in the region where our mountaineers were accustomed to live; and all the dangers and difficulties of the road being considered past, four of them, including Carson and Walker, remained at the fort.
On the 5th we resumed our journey down the Arkansas, traveling along a broad wagon-road, and encamped about 20 miles below the fort. On the way we met a very large village of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, who, with the Arapahoes were returning from the crossing of the Arkansas, where they had been to meet the Kioway and Camanche Indians. A few days previous they had massacred a party of fifteen Delawares, whom they had discovered in a fort on the Smoky Hill river, losing in the affair several of their own people. They were desirous that we should bear a pacific message to the Delawares on the frontier, from whom they expected retaliation; and we passed through them without any difficulty or delay. Dispersed over the plain in scattered bodies of horsemen, and family groups of women and children, with dog-trains carrying baggage, and long lines of pack-horses, their appearance was picturesque and imposing.
Agreeably to your instructions, which required me to complete, as far as practicable, our examinations of the Kansas, I left at this encampment the Arkansas river, taking a northeasterly direction across the elevated dividing grounds which separate that river from the waters of the Platte. On the 7th we crossed a large stream, about forty yards wide, and one or two feet deep, flowing with a lively current on a sandy bed. The discolored and muddy appearance of the water indicated that it proceeded from recent rains; and we are inclined to consider this a branch of the Smoky Hill river, although, possibly, it may be the Pawnee fork of the Arkansas. Beyond this stream we traveled over high and level prairies, halting at small ponds and holes of water, and using for our fires the bois de vache, the country being without timber. On the evening of the 8th we encamped in a cottonwood grove on the banks of a sandy stream- bed, where there was water in holes sufficient for the camp. Here several hollows, or dry creeks with sandy beds, met together, forming the head of a stream which afterwards proved to be the Smoky Hill fork of the Kansas river.
The next morning, as we were leaving our encampment, a number of Arapahoe Indians were discovered. They belonged to a war-party which had scattered over the prairie in returning from an expedition against the Pawnees.
As we traveled down the valley, water gathered rapidly in the sandy bed from many little tributaries; and at evening it had become a handsome stream, fifty to eighty feet in width, with a lively current in small channels, the water being principally dispersed among quicksands.
Gradually enlarging, in a few days' march it became a river eighty yards in breadth, wooded with occasional groves of cottonwood. Our road was generally over level uplands bordering the river, which were closely covered with a sward of buffalo-grass.
On the 10th we entered again the buffalo range, where we had found these animals so abundant on our outward journey, and halted for a day among numerous herds, in order to make a provision of meat sufficient to carry us to the frontier.
A few days afterwards, we encamped, in a pleasant evening, on a high river prairie, the stream being less than a hundred yards broad. During the night we had a succession of thunder-storms, with heavy and continuous rain, and towards morning the water suddenly burst over the bank, flooding the bottoms and becoming a large river, five or six hundred yards in breadth. The darkness of the night and incessant rain had concealed from the guard the rise of the water; and the river broke into the camp so suddenly, that the baggage was instantly covered, and all our perishable collections almost entirely ruined, and the hard labor of many months destroyed in a moment.
On the 17th we discovered a large village of Indians encamped at the mouth of a handsomely wooded stream on the right bank of the river. Readily inferring, from the nature of the encampment, that they were Pawnee Indians, and confidently expecting good treatment from a people who receive regularly an annuity from the government, we proceeded directly to the village, where we found assembled nearly all the Pawnee tribe, who were now returning from the crossing of the Arkansas, where they had met the Kioway and Camanche Indians. We were received by them with the unfriendly rudeness and characteristic insolence which they never fail to display whenever they find an occasion for doing so with impunity. The little that remained of our goods was distributed among them, but proved entirely insufficient to satisfy their greedy rapacity; and, after some delay, and considerable difficulty, we succeeded in extricating ourselves from the village, and encamped on the river about 15 miles below.
[Footnote: In a recent report to the department, from Major Wharton, who visited the Pawnee villages with a military force some months afterwards, it is stated that the Indians had intended to attack our party during the night we remained at this encampment, but were prevented by the interposition of the Pawnee Loups.]
The country through which we had been traveling since leaving the Arkansas river, for a distance of 260 miles, presented to the eye only a succession of far-stretching green prairies, covered with the unbroken verdure of the buffalo-grass, and sparingly wooded along the streams with straggling trees and occasional groves of cottonwood; but here the country began perceptibly to change its character, becoming a more fertile, wooded, and beautiful region, covered with a profusion of grasses, and watered with innumerable little streams, which were wooded with oak, large elms, and the usual varieties of timber common to the lower course of the Kansas river.
As we advanced, the country steadily improved, gradually assimilating itself in appearance to the northwestern part of the state of Missouri. The beautiful sward of the buffalo-grass, which is regarded as the best and most nutritious found on the prairies, appeared now only in patches, being replaced by a longer and coarser grass, which covered the face of the country luxuriantly. The difference in the character of the grasses became suddenly evident in the weakened condition of our animals, which began sensibly to fail as soon as we quitted the buffalo-grass.
The river preserved a uniform breadth of eighty or a hundred yards, with broad bottoms continuously timbered with large cottonwood-trees, among which were interspersed a few other varieties.
While engaged in crossing one of the numerous creeks which frequently impeded and checked our way, sometimes obliging us to ascend them for several miles, one of the people (Alexis Ayot) was shot through the leg by the accidental discharge of a rifle—a mortifying and painful mischance, to be crippled for life by an accident, after having nearly accomplished in safety a long and eventful journey. He was a young man of remarkably good and cheerful temper, and had been among the useful and efficient men of the party.
After having traveled directly along its banks for 290 miles, we left the river, where it bore suddenly off in a northwesterly direction, towards its junction with the Republican fork of the Kansas, distant about 60 miles; and, continuing our easterly course, in about 20 miles we entered the wagon-road from Santa Fe to Independence, and on the last day of July encamped again at the little town of Kansas, on the banks of the Missouri river.
During our protracted absence of 14 months, in the course of which we had necessarily been exposed to great varieties of weather and of climate, not one case of sickness had ever occurred among us.
Here ended our land journey; and the day following our arrival, we found ourselves on board a steamboat rapidly gliding down the broad Missouri. Our travel-worn animals had not been sold and dispersed over the country to renewed labor, but were placed at good pasturage on the frontier, and are now ready to do their part in the coming expedition.
On the 6th of August we arrived at St. Louis, where the party was finally disbanded, a great number of the men having their homes in the neighborhood.
Andreas Fuentes also remained here, having readily found employment for the winter, and is one of the men engaged to accompany me the present year.
Pablo Hernandez remains in the family of Senator Benton, where he is well taken care of, and conciliates good-will by his docility, intelligence, and amiability. General Almonte, the Mexican minister at Washington, to whom he was of course made known, kindly offered to take charge of him, and to carry him back to Mexico; but the boy preferred to remain where he was until he got an education, for which he shows equal ardor and aptitude.
Our Chinook Indian had his wish to see the whites fully gratified. He accompanied me to Washington, and, after remaining several months at the Columbia College, was sent by the Indian department to Philadelphia, where, among other things, he learned to read and write well, and speak the English language with some fluency. He will accompany me in a few days to the frontier of Missouri, where he will be sent with some one of the emigrant companies to the village at the Dalles of the Columbia.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. C. FREMONT, Bt. Capt. Topl. Engineers.
* * * * *
GOLD REGIONS OF CALIFORNIA.
The "placers" or Gold Mines of California, are located in the valley of the Sacramento, in the northern part of that new territory. They are all on the public lands, with the exception of the portion belonging to Messrs. Forbes and Sutter. The region which they embrace and which lies, according to authentic reports, on both sides of the Sierra Nevada, must be "larger than the State of New York." The mines, it is estimated, are worth a thousand millions of dollars. The most reliable information in regard to them may be found in the official reports communicated to the authorities at Washington, by some of the American officers who have visited the region. The following document is of this nature. The author of it, Col. Mason, the military commander in California, speaks, as will be seen, from observation, and the fullest confidence may be placed in his account:—
HEADQUARTERS 10TH MILITARY DEPOT, Monterey, California, Aug. 17, 1848.
SIR:—I have the honor to inform you that, accompanied by Lieut. W. T. Sherman, 3d artillery, A. A. A. General, I started on the 12th of June last to make a tour through the northern part of California. My principal purpose, however, was to visit the newly-discovered gold "placer," in the Valley of the Sacramento. I had proceeded about forty miles, when I was overtaken by an express, bringing me intelligence of the arrival at Monterey of the U. S. ship Southampton, with important letters from Com. Shubrick and Lieut. Col. Barton. I returned at once to Monterey, and dispatched what business was most important, and on the 17th resumed my journey. We reached San Francisco on the 20th, and found that all, or nearly all, its male inhabitants had gone to the mines. The town, which a few months before was so busy and thriving, was then almost deserted.
On the evening of the 25th, the horses of the escort were crossed to Sousoleto in a launch, and on the following day we resumed the journey by way of Bodega and Sonoma to Sutter's fort, where we arrived on the morning of the 2d of July. Along the whole route mills were lying idle, fields of wheat were open to cattle and horses, houses vacant, and farms going to waste. At Sutter's there was more life and business. Launches were discharging their cargoes at the river, and carts were hauling goods to the fort, where already were established several stores, a hotel, &c. Captain Sutter had only two mechanics in his employ, (a wagon-maker and a blacksmith,) whom he was then paying ten dollars a day. Merchants pay him a monthly rent of $100 per room; and while I was there, a two-story house in the fort was rented as a hotel for $500 a month.
At the urgent solicitation of many gentlemen, I delayed there to participate in the first public celebration of our national anniversary at that fort, but on the 5th resumed the journey and proceeded twenty-five miles up the American fork to a point on it now known as the Lower Mines, or Mormon Diggings: The hill-sides were thickly strewn with canvas tents and bush arbors; a store was erected, and several boarding shanties in operation. The day was intensely hot, yet about two hundred men were at work in the full glare of the sun, washing for gold—some with tin pans, some with close-woven Indian baskets, but the greater part had a rude machine, known as the cradle. This is on rockers, six or eight feet long, open at the foot, and at its head has a coarse grate, or sieve; the bottom is rounded, with small cleets nailed across. Four men are required to work this machine: one digs the ground in the bank close by the stream; another carries it to the cradle and empties it on the grate; a third gives a violent rocking motion to the machine; while a fourth dashes on water from the stream itself.
The sieve keeps the coarse stones from entering the cradle, the current of water washes off the earthy matter, and the gravel is gradually carried out at the foot of the machine, leaving the gold mixed with a heavy fine black sand above the first cleets. The sand and gold mixed together are then drawn off through auger holes into a pan below, are dried in the sun, and afterwards separated by blowing off the sand. A party of four men thus employed at the lower mines averaged $100 a day. The Indians, and those who have nothing but pans or willow baskets, gradually wash out the earth and separate the gravel by hand, leaving nothing but the gold mixed with sand, which is separated in the manner before described. The gold in the lower mines is in fine bright scales, of which I send several specimens.
As we ascended the north branch of the American fork, the country became more broken and mountainous, and at the saw-mill, 25 miles above the lower washings, or 50 miles from Sutter's, the hills rise to about a thousand feet above the level of the Sacramento plain. Here a species of pine occurs which led to the discovery of the gold. Capt Sutter, feeling the great want of lumber, contracted in September last with a Mr. Marshall to build a saw-mill at that place. It was erected in the course of the past winter and spring—a dam and race constructed; but when the water was let on the wheel, the tail-race was found to be too narrow to permit the water to escape with sufficient rapidity. Mr. Marshall, to save labor, let the water directly into the race with a strong current, so as to wash it wider and deeper. He effected his purpose, and a large bed of mud and gravel was carried to the foot of the race.
One day Mr. Marshall, as he was walking down the race to this deposit of mud, observed some glittering particles at its upper edge; he gathered a few, examined them, and became satisfied of their value. He then went to the fort, told Capt. Sutter of his discovery, and they agreed to keep it secret until a certain grist-mill of Sutter's was finished. It, however, got out, and spread like magic. Remarkable success attended the labors of the first explorers, and in a few weeks hundreds of men were drawn thither. At the time of my visit, but little over three months after the first discovery, it was estimated that upwards of four thousand people were employed. At the mill there is a fine deposit or bank of gravel, which the people respect as the property of Captain Sutter, although he pretends to no right to it, and would be perfectly satisfied with the simple promise of a pre-emption, on account of the mill which he has built there at considerable cost. Mr. Marshall was living near the mill, and informed me that many persons were employed above and below him; that they used the same machines at the lower washings, and that their success was about the same—ranging from one to three ounces of gold per man daily. This gold, too, is in scales a little coarser than those of the lower mines.
From the mill Mr. Marshall guided me up the mountain on the opposite or north bank of the south fork, where, in the bed of small streams or ravines, now dry, a great deal of coarse gold has been found. I there saw several parties at work, all of whom were doing very well; a great many specimens were shown me, some as heavy as four or five ounces in weight, and I send three pieces labelled No. 5, presented by a Mr. Spence. You will perceive that some of the specimens accompanying this, hold mechanically pieces of quartz; that the surface is rough and evidently moulded in the crevice of a rock. This gold cannot have been carried far by water, but must have remained near where it was first deposited from the rock that once bound it. I inquired of many people if they had encountered the metal in its matrix, but in every instance they said they had not, but that the gold was invariably mixed with washed gravel or lodged in the crevices of other rocks. All bore testimony that they had found gold in greater or less quantities in the numerous small gullies or ravines that occur in that mountainous region.
On the 7th of July I left the mill, and crossed to a stream emptying into the American fork, three or four miles below the saw mill. I struck this stream (now known as Weber's creek) at the washings of Sunol & Co. They had about thirty Indians employed, whom they payed in merchandise. They were getting gold of a character similar to that found on the main fork, and doubtless in sufficient quantities to satisfy them. I send you a small specimen, presented by this company, of their gold. From this point we proceeded up the stream about eight miles, where we found a great many people and Indians—some engaged in the bed of the stream, and others in the small side valleys that put into it. These latter are exceedingly rich, and two ounces were considered an ordinary yield for a day's work. A small gutter, not more than a hundred yards long by four feet wide and two or three feet deep, was pointed out to me as the one where two men— William Daly and Parry McCoon—had, a short time before, obtained 17,000 dollars worth of gold. Capt. Weber informed me that he knew that these two men had employed four white men and about a hundred Indians, and that at the end of one week's work, they paid off their party, and had left $10,000 worth of this gold. Another small ravine was shown me, from which had been taken upwards of $12,000 worth of gold. Hundreds of similar ravines to all appearances are as yet untouched. I could not have credited these reports had I not seen, in the abundance of the precious metal, evidence of their truth.
Mr. Neligh, an agent of Commodore Stockton, had been at work about three weeks in the neighborhood, and showed me in bags and bottles over $2,000 worth of gold; and Mr. Lyman, a gentleman of education and worthy of every credit, said he had been engaged with four others, with a machine, on the American fork, just below Sutter's mill; that they worked eight days, and that his share was at the rate of $50 a day; but hearing that others were doing better at Weber's place they had removed there, and were then on the point of resuming operations. I might tell of hundreds of similar instances; but to illustrate how plentiful the gold was in the pockets of common laborers, I will mention a simple occurrence which took place in my presence when I was at Weber's store. This store was nothing but an arbor of bushes, under which he had exposed for sale goods and groceries suited to his customers. A man came in, picked up a box of Seidlitz powders and asked the price. Captain Weber told him it was not for sale. The man offered an ounce of gold, but Capt. Weber told it only cost fifty cents, and he did not wish to sell it. The man then offered an ounce and a half, when Capt. Weber had to take it. The prices of all things are high, and yet Indians, who before hardly knew what a breech cloth was, can now afford to buy the most gaudy dresses.
The country on either side of Weber's creek is much broken up by hills, and is intersected in every direction by small streams or ravines, which contain more or less gold. Those that have been worked are barely scratched; and although thousands of ounces have been carried away, I do not consider that a serious impression has been made upon the whole. Every day was developing new and richer deposits; and the only impression seemed to be, that the metal would be found in such abundance as seriously to depreciate in value.
On the 8th of July I returned to the lower mines, and on the following day to Sutter's, where, on the 19th. I was making preparations for a visit to the Feather, Yubah, and Bear rivers, when I received a letter from Commander A. R. Long, United States Navy, who had just arrived at San Francisco from Mazatlan, with a crew for the sloop-of-war Warren, with orders to take that vessel to the squadron at La Paz. Capt. Long wrote to me that the Mexican Congress had adjourned without ratifying the treaty of peace, that he had letters from Commodore Jones, and that his orders were to sail with the Warren on or before the 20th of July. In consequence of this I determined to return to Monterey, and accordingly arrived here on the 17th of July. Before leaving Sutter's I satisfied myself that gold existed in the bed of the Feather river, in the Yubah and Bear, and in many of the smaller streams that lie between the latter and the American fork; also that it had been found in the Cosummes to the south of the American fork. In each of these streams, the gold is found in small scales, whereas in the intervening mountains it occurs in coarser lumps.
Mr. Sinclair, whose rancho is three miles above Sutter's on the north side of the American, employs about fifty Indians on the north fork, not far from its junction with the main stream. He had been engaged about five weeks when I saw him, and up to that time his Indians had used simply closely woven willow baskets. His nett proceeds (which I saw) were about $16,000 worth of gold. He showed me the proceeds of his last week's work— fourteen pounds avoirdupois of clean-washed gold.
The principal store at Sutter's Fort, that of Brannan & Co., had received in payment for goods $36,000 (worth of this gold) from the 1st of May to the 10th of July. Other merchants had also made extensive sales. Large quantities of goods were daily sent forward to the mines, as the Indians, heretofore so poor and degraded, have suddenly become consumers of the luxuries of life. I before mentioned that the greater part of the farmers and rancheros had abandoned their fields to go to the mines. This is not the case with Capt. Sutter, who was carefully gathering his wheat, estimated at 40,000 bushels. Flour is already worth at Sutter's $36 a barrel, and soon will be fifty. Unless large quantities of breadstuffs reach the country, much suffering will occur; but as each man is now able to pay a large price, it is believed the merchants will bring from Chili and Oregon a plentiful supply for the coming winter.
The most moderate estimate I could obtain from men acquainted with the subject, was, that upwards of four thousand men were working in the gold district, of whom more than one-half were Indians; and that from $30,000 to $50,000 worth of gold, if not more, was daily obtained. The entire gold district, with very few exceptions of grants made some years ago by the Mexican authorities, is on land belonging to the United States. It was a matter of serious reflection with me, how I could secure to the Government certain rents and fees for the privilege of procuring this gold; but upon considering the large extent of country, the character of the people engaged, and the small scattered force at my command, I resolved not to interfere but to permit all to work freely, unless broils and crimes should call for interferance. I was surprised to learn that crime of any kind was very unfrequent, and that no thefts or robberies had been committed in the gold district.
All live in tents, in bush arbors, or in the open air; and men have frequently about their persons thousands of dollars worth of this gold, and it was to me a matter of surprise that so peaceful and quiet state of things should continue to exist. Conflicting claims to particular spots of ground may cause collisions, but they will be rare, as the extent of country is so great, and the gold so abundant, that for the present there is room enough for all. Still the Government is entitled to rents for this land, and immediate steps should be devised to collect them, for the longer it is delayed the more difficult it will become. One plan I would suggest is, to send out from the United States surveyors with high salaries, bound to serve specified periods.
A superintendent to be appointed at Sutter's Fort, with power to grant licenses to work a spot of ground—say 100 yards square—for one year, at a rent of from 100 to 1,000 dollars, at his discretion; the surveyors to measure the ground, and place the rentor in possession.
A better plan, however, will be to have the district surveyed and sold at public auction to the highest bidder, in small parcels—say from 20 to 40 acres. In either case, there will be many intruders, whom for years it will be almost impossible to exclude.
The discovery of these vast deposits of gold has entirely changed the character of Upper California. Its people, before engaged in cultivating their small patches of ground, and guarding their herds of cattle and, horses, have all gone to the mines, or are on their way thither. Laborers of every trade have left their work benches, and tradesmen their shops. Sailors desert their ships as fast as they arrive on the coast, and several vessels have gone to sea with hardly enough hands to spread a sail. Two or three are now at anchor in San Francisco with no crew on board. Many desertions, too, have taken place from the garrisons within the influence of these mines; twenty-six soldiers have deserted from the post of Sonoma, twenty-four from that of San Francisco, and twenty-four from Monterey. For a few days the evil appeared so threatening, that great danger existed that the garrisons would leave in a body; and I refer you to my orders of the 25th of July, to show the steps adopted to met this contingency. I shall spare no exertions to apprehend and punish deserters, but I believe no time in the history of our country has presented such temptations to desert as now exist in California.
The danger of apprehension is small, and the prospect of high wages certain; pay and bounties are trifles, as laboring men at the mines can now earn in one day more than double a soldier's pay and allowances for a month, and even the pay of a lieutenant or captain cannot hire a servant. A carpenter or mechanic would not listen to an offer of less than fifteen or twenty dollars a day. Could any combination of affairs try a man's fidelity more than this? I really think some extraordinary mark of favor should be given to those soldiers who remain faithful to their flag throughout this tempting crisis. No officer can now live in California on his pay, money has so little value; the prices of necessary articles of clothing and subsistence are so exorbitant and labor so high, that to hire a cook or servant has become an impossibility, save to those who are earning from thirty to fifty dollars a day. This state of things cannot last for ever. Yet from the geographical position of California, and the new character it has assumed as a mining country, prices of labor will always be high, and will hold out temptations to desert. I therefore have to report, if the Government wish to prevent desertions here on the part of men, and to secure zeal on the part of officers, their pay must be increased very materially. Soldiers, both of the volunteers and regular service, discharged in this country, should be permitted at once to locate their land warrants in the gold district.
Many private letters have gone to the United States giving accounts of the vast quantity of gold recently discovered, and it may be a matter of surprise why I have made no report on this subject at an earlier date. The reason is, that I could not bring myself to believe the reports that I heard of the wealth of the gold district until I visited it myself. I have no hesitation now in saying that there is more gold in the country drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers than will pay the cost of the present war with Mexico a hundred times over. No capital is required to obtain this gold, as the laboring man wants nothing but his pick and shovel and tin pan, with which to dig and wash the gravel; and many frequently pick gold out of the crevices of rocks with their butcher knives in pieces from one to six ounces.
Mr. Dye, a gentleman residing in Monterey, and worthy of every credit, has just returned from Feather river. He tells me that the company to which he belonged worked seven weeks and two days, with an average of fifty Indians (washers) and that their gross product was 273 pounds of gold. His share (one seventh,) after paying all expenses, is about thirty-seven pounds, which he brought with him and exhibited in Monterey. I see no laboring man from the mines who does not show his two, three, or four pounds of gold. A soldier of the artillery company returned here a few days ago from the mines, having been absent on furlough twenty days. He made by trading and working during that time $1500. During these twenty days he was traveling ten or eleven days, leaving but a week, in which he made a sum of money greater than he receives in pay, clothes, and rations during a whole enlistment of five years. These statements appear incredible, but they are true.
Gold is also believed to exist on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada; and when at the mines, I was informed by an intelligent Mormon, that it had been found near the Great Salt lake by some of his fraternity. Nearly all the Mormons are leaving California to go to the Salt lake, and this they surely would not do unless they were sure of finding gold there in the same abundance as they now do on the Sacramento.
The gold "placer" near the mission of San Fernando has long been known, but has been little wrought for want of water. This is a spur which puts off from the Sierra Nevada, (see Fremont's map,) the same in which the present mines occur. There is, therefore, every reason to believe, that in the intervening spaces of 500 miles, (entirely unexplored,) there must be many hidden and rich deposits. The "placer" gold is now substituted as the currency of this country; in trade it passes freely at $16 per ounce; as an article of commerce its value is not yet fixed. The only purchase I made was of the specimen No. 7, which I got of Mr. Neligh at $12 the ounce. That is about the present cash value in the country, although it has been sold for less. The great demand for goods and provisions made by sudden development of wealth, has increased the amount of commerce at San Francisco very much, and it will continue to increase.
I would recommend that a mint be established at some eligible point of the Bay of San Francisco; and that machinery, and all the necessary apparatus and workmen, be sent out by sea. These workmen must be bound by high wages, and even bonds, to secure their faithful services, else the whole plan may be frustrated by their going to the mines as soon as they arrive in California. If this course be not adopted, gold to the amount of many millions of dollars will pass yearly to other countries, to enrich their merchants and capitalists. Before leaving the subject of mines, I will mention that on my return from the Sacramento, I touched at New Almoder, the quicksilver mine of Mr. Alexander Forbes, Consul of Her Britannic Majesty at Tepic. This mine is in a spur of the mountains, 1000 feet above the level of the Bay of San Francisco, and is distant in a southern direction from the Puebla de San Jose about twelve miles. The ore (cinnabar) occurs in a large vein dipping at a strong angle to the horizon. Mexican miners are employed in working it, by driving shafts and galleries about six feet by seven, following the vein.
The fragments of rock and ore are removed on the backs of Indians, in raw- hide sacks. The ore is then hauled in an ox wagon, from the mouth of the mine down to a valley well supplied with wood and water, in which the furnaces are situated. The furnaces are of the simplest construction— exactly like a common bake-oven, in the crown of which is inserted a whaler's frying-kettle; another inverted kettle forms the lid. From a hole in the lid a small brick channel leads to an apartment or chamber, in the bottom of which is inserted a small iron kettle. The chamber has a chimney.
In the morning of each day the kettles are filled with the mineral (broken in small pieces) mixed with lime; fire is then applied and kept up all day. The mercury is volatilized, passes into the chamber, is condensed on the sides and bottom of the chamber, and flows into the pot prepared for it. No water is used to condense the mercury.
During a visit I made last spring, four such ovens were in operation, and yielded in the two days I was there 656 pounds of quicksilver, worth at Mazatlan $180 per pound. Mr. Walkinshaw, the gentleman now in charge of this mine, tells me that the vein is improving, and that he can afford to keep his people employed even in these extraordinary times. The mine is very valuable of itself, and will become the more so as mercury is extensively used in obtaining gold. It is not at present used in California for that purpose, but will be at some future time. When I was at this mine last spring, other parties were engaged in searching for veins, but none have been discovered worth following up, although the earth in that whole range of hills is highly discolored, indicating the presence of this ore. I send several beautiful specimens, properly labelled. The amount of quicksilver in Mr. Forbes' vats on the 15th of July was about 2,500 pounds.
I inclose you herewith sketches of the country through which I passed, indicating the position of the mines and the topography of the country in the vicinity of those I visited.
Some of the specimens of gold accompanying this were presented for transmission to the Department by the gentlemen named below. The numbers on the topographical sketch corresponding to the labels of the respective specimens, show from what part of the gold region they are obtained.
1. Captain J. A. Sutter. 2. John Sinclair. 3. Wm. Glover, R. C. Kirby, Ira Blanchard, Levi Fifield, Franklin H. Arynes, Mormon diggings. 4. Charles Weber. 5. Robert Spence. 6. Sunol & Co. 7. Robert D. Neligh. 8. C. E. Picket, American Fort Columa. 9. E. C. Kemble. 10. T. H. Green, from San Fernando, near Los Angelos. A. 2 oz. purchased from Mr. Neligh. B. Sand found in washing gold, which contains small particles. 11. Captain Frisbie, Dry Diggings, Weber's Creek. 12. Consumnes. 13. Consumnes, Hartwell's Ranch.
I have the honor to be your most ob't ser't, R. B. MASON, Col. 1st Dragoons, Commanding. Brig. Gen. R. JONES, Adj. Gen. U. S. A., Washington, D. C.
[NOTE.—The original letter, of which this is a copy, was sent to its address, in charge of Lieut. L. Loeser, 3d Artillery, bearer of dispatches, who sailed in the schooner Lambayecana, from Monterey, Aug. 30, 1848, bound for Payta, Peru. Lieut. Loeser bears, in addition to the specimens mentioned in the foregoing letter, a tea-caddy containing two hundred and thirty ounces fifteen pennyweights and nine grains of gold. This was purchased at San Francisco by my order, and is sent to you as a fair sample of the gold obtained from the mines of the Sacramento. It is a mixture, coming from the various parts of the gold district.
R. B. MASON, Col. 1st Drag. Comd'g. HEADQUARTERS 10TH MIL. DEPARTMENT, Monterey, (Cal.,) Sept. 10th, 1848.]
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PURITY OF CALIFORNIA GOLD DUST.
The numerous analyses which have been made show that the gold dust of California is remarkably pure. The editor of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, under date of December 20th, 1848, says:—
"A small quantity of California gold was shown us this morning. It was in grains, about the size and shape of flax seed. Altogether there was half an ounce. It was received by a gentleman of this city, who, last year, left a quantity of goods in California for sale on commission. A few days ago he received advices that his goods had been sold, and the proceeds remitted in gold dust to New York. The receipts from the mint show its great purity. The weight before melting was 428 ounces; after melting 417. Nett value, $7,685.49."
Gold is seldom found, in any parts of the earth, more than 22 carats fine: and it will be seen by the following report lately made by an experienced smelter and refiner, Mr. John Warwick, of New York city, that the gold dust of California is as pure as that found in any part of this country. Probably there is none in Europe purer:
"I have assayed the portion of gold dust, or metal, from California, sent me, and the result shows that it is fully equal to any found in our Southern gold mines.
I return you 103/4 grains out of the 12 which I have tested—the value of which is 45 cents. It is 211/2 carats fine—within half a carat of the quality of English sovereigns or American Eagles, and is almost ready to go to the mint.
The finest gold metal we get is from Africa, which is 221/2 to 23 carats fine. In Virginia we have mines where the quality of the gold is much inferior—some of it as low as 19 carats, and in Georgia the mines produce it nearly 22 carats fine.
The gold of California which I have now assayed, is fully equal to that of any, and much superior to some produced from the mines in our Southern States."
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PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF CALIFORNIA.
Whatever appertains to California, the new El Dorado of the southwest, is interesting to Americans and indeed to the whole civilized world. The following brief account, therefore, of its physical geography, compiled from authentic sources and carefully condensed, will readily receive the attention of the inquiring mind:
"Upper California extends, upon the Pacific, from the 32d parallel of latitude, about seven hundred miles north-westward to Oregon, from which it is divided, nearly in the course of the 42d parallel—that is in the latitude of Boston—by a chain of highlands called the Snowy Mountains; the Sierra Nevada of the Spaniards. Its boundaries on the west are not, as yet, politically determined by the Mexican government; nor do geographers agree with regard to natural limits in that direction. By some, it is considered as embracing only the territory between the Pacific and the summit of the mountains which border the western side of the continent: others extend its limits to the Colorado; while others include in it, and others again exclude from it, the entire regions drained by that river. The only portion occupied by Mexicans, or of which any distinct accounts have been obtained, is that between the great chain of mountains and the ocean; the country east of that ridge to the Colorado appears to be an uninhabitable desert.
"Northward from the Peninsula, or Lower California, the great western-most chain of mountains continues nearly parallel with the Pacific coast, to the 34th degree of latitude, under which rises Mount San Bernardin, one of the highest peaks in California, about forty miles from the ocean. Further north the coast turns more to the west, and the space between it and the summit line of the mountains becomes wider, so as to exceed eighty miles in some places; the intermediate region being traversed by lines of hills, or smaller mountains, connected with the main range. The principal of these inferior ridges extends from Mount San Bernardin north-westward to its termination on the south side of the entrance of the Bay of San Franciso, near the 38th degree of latitude, where it is called the San Bruno Mountains. Between this range and the coast run the San Barbara Mountains, terminating on the north at the Cape of Pines, on the south- west side of the Bay of Monterey, near the latitude 361/2 degrees. North of the San Bruno mountains is the Bolbones ridge, bordering the Bay of San Francisco on the east; and still further in the same direction are other and much higher lines of highlands, stretching from the great chain and terminating in capes on the Pacific.
"The southern part of Upper California, between the Pacific and the great westernmost chain of mountains, is very hot and dry, except during a short time in winter. Further north the wet season increases in length, and about the Bay of San Francisco the rains are almost constant from November to April, the earth being moistened during the remainder of the year by heavy dews and fogs. Snow and ice are sometimes seen in the winter on the shores of the bay, but never further south, except on the mountain tops. The whole of California is, however, subject to long droughts." Heavy rains are of rare occurrence, and two years without any is not unusual; notwithstanding which, vegetation does not suffer to the extent that might be inferred, because, in the first place, many small streams descend from the mountain ranges, supplying the means of both natural and artificial irrigation; and, next, that the country near the coast is favored with a diurnal land and sea breeze; and, from the comparatively low temperature of the sea, the latter is always in summer accompanied with fogs, in the latter part of the night, and which are dissipated by the morning's sun, but serve to moisten the pastures and nourish a somewhat peculiar vegetation abounding in beautiful flowers.
"Among the valleys of Upper California are many streams, some of which discharge large quantities of water in the rainy season; but no river is known to flow through the maritime ridge of mountains from the interior to the Pacific, except perhaps the Sacramento, falling into the Bay of San Francisco, though several are thus represented on the maps. The valleys thus watered afford abundant pasturage for cattle, with which they are covered; California, however, contains but two tracts of country capable of supporting large numbers of inhabitants, which are that west of Mt. San Bernardin, about the 34th degree of latitude, and that surrounding the Bay of San Francisco, and the lower part of the Sacramento; and even in these, irrigation would be indispensable to insure success in agriculture."
"The provincial terms of New Mexico, and of Upper and Lower California, have been, and are yet, rather designations of indefinite tracts than of real defined political sections. The Pacific ocean limits on the west, and by treaty, N. lat. 42 deg. on the north; but inland and southward, it is in vain to seek any definite boundary. In order, however, to give as distinct a view as the nature of the case will admit, let us adopt the mouth of the Colorado and Gila, or the head of the Gulf of California, as a point on the southern boundary of Upper California. The point assumed coincides very nearly with N. lat. 32 deg. and, if adopted, would give to that country a breadth of ten degrees of latitude or in round numbers 800 statute miles from south to north. As already, stated, the Pacific Ocean bounds this country on the west, and lat. 42 deg. on the north. To separate it on the east from New Mexico, we must assume the mountain chain of Sierra Madre, or Anahuac, which, in this region, inclines but little from north to south: whilst the Pacific coast extends in general course north-west and south- east. These opposite outlines contract the southern side to about 500 miles, and open the northern side to rather above 800 miles; giving a mean breadth of 650 miles. The area, for all general purposes, may be safely taken at 500,000 square miles. The general slope or declination of this great region is westward, towards the Pacific and Gulf of California."
"The climate of the western slope of North America has a warmth ten degrees at least higher than the eastern, upon similar latitude. The cause of this difference is the course of prevailing winds in the temperate zones of the earth, from the western points. Thus the winds on the western side of the continent are from the ocean, and on the eastern from the land.
"The soil is as variable as the face of the country. On the coast range of hills there is little to invite the agriculturist, except in some vales of no great extent. The hills are, however, admirably adapted for raising herds and flocks, and are at present the feeding-grounds of numerous deer, elk, &c., to which the short, sweet grass and wild oats that are spread over them afford a plentiful supply of food. The valley of the Sacramento, and that of San Juan, are the most fruitful parts of California, particularly the latter, which is capable of producing wheat, Indian corn, rye, oats, &c., with all the fruits of the temperate, and many of the tropical climates. It likewise offers pasture grounds for cattle. This region comprises a level plain, from fifteen to twenty miles in width, extending from the Bay of San Francisco, beyond the mission of that name, north and south. This may be termed the garden of California; but although several small streams and lakes serve to water it, yet in dry seasons or droughts, not only the crops but the herbage also suffers extremely, and the cattle are deprived of food." The most extensive portion of Upper California—the inland plain between the California and the Colorado range of mountains—is an arid waste, destitute of the requisites for supplying the wants of man. This plain is a waste of sand, with a few detached mountains (some of which rise to the region of perpetual snow,) whose positions are unknown; from these flow small streams that are soon lost in the sand. A few Indians are scattered over the plain, the most miserable objects in creation."
The climate is very peculiar, the thermometer on the coast ranging as high, on the average, in winter as in summer. Indeed, summer is really the coldest and most disagreeable part of the year, owing to the north-west winds which frequently prevail during that season. As you recede from the coast, however, the climate undergoes a great change for the better. At San Juan, thirty miles from the coast, is one of the most delightful climates in the world. The two principal rivers in Upper California are the Sacramento and the San Joaquim. There are, however, many smaller streams flowing through the different valleys, which serve, during the dry season, to irrigate the land. The only navigable stream is the Sacramento.
Beside the bays and harbors of Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Pedro, Upper California possesses the harbor of San Francisco, within a few miles of the Gold Mines, and one of the largest and most magnificent harbors in the world.
The yield of wheat, small grain, and vegetables, is said to be great, and very remarkable, but, as agriculture cannot succeed in Upper California, but by irrigation, it has hitherto happened that it has been principally occupied as a pastoral country—as costing less labor to rear cattle, for which it is only necessary to provide keepers, and have them marked. The numerous animals which are there slaughtered for little more than their hides and tallow, do not putrify and become offensive as they would in other climates, but, as wood is not everywhere as abundant as their bones, the last are sometimes used to supply the place of the former, in the construction of garden fences &c.
"The area of Upper California is about 500,000 square miles, and the population, exclusive of Indians scattered over this extent, as follows:
Californians descended from Spain,————————- 4000 Americans from United States,——————————— 360 English, Scotch, and Irish,———————————— 300 European Spaniards,———————————————— 80 French and Canadians,——————————————— 80 Germans, Italians, Portugese, and Sandwich Islanders, 90 Mexicans,————————————————————— 90 _ Total——————————————————————— 5000
"Upper California is, on the whole, admirably fitted for colonization. This province presents the greatest facilities for raising cattle, for cultivating corn, plants, and for the grape; it might contain twenty millions of inhabitants; and its ports are a point of necessary communication for vessels going from China and Asia to the western coasts of North America.
"It is beyond doubt, that so soon as an intelligent and laborious population is established there, this country will occupy an elevated rank in the commercial scale; it would form the entrepot where the coasts of the great ocean would send their products, and would furnish the greatest part of their subsistence in grains to the north-west, to Mexico, to Central America, to Ecuador, to Peru, to the north coast of Asia, and to many groups of Polynesia—such as the Sandwich isles, the Marquesas, and Tahiti."
"The peninsula of Lower California, extending from Cape San Lucas to the Bay of Todos Santos, in lat. 32 deg. N., on the Pacific, and to the mouth of the Colorado on the Gulf side, is a pile of volcanic debris and scoriae. Much of the surface is still heated by subterranean fires. No craters are in action; but hot springs of water and bitumen, and frequent earthquakes, and the scorched face of the whole region, demonstrate it to be a mere mass upheaved from the sea, and burned to cinders. The range of mountains that comes up through Lower California, runs on northwardly into Upper California, at an average distance of sixty or seventy miles from the sea, till it falls away into low hills south of the bay of San Francisco. This, also, is a volcanic range; though not so strongly marked to that effect in the Upper as in the Lower Province.
"Some portions of this range are lofty. That part lying east and southeast of El Pueblo de los Angelos, is tipped with perpetual snows. But the greater part of it presents a base covered up to more than half of the whole elevation with pine and cedar forests; the remaining height being composed of bare, dark, glistening rocks, lying in confused masses, or turreted in the manner observed on the Black Hills in the Great Prairie Wilderness—-spires, towers, and battlements, lifted up to heaven, among which the white feathery clouds of beautiful days rest shining in the mellow sun.
"The Snowy Mountain range is perhaps the boldest and most peculiar of the California highlands. Its western terminus is Cape Mendocino, a bold snow- capped headland, bending over the Pacific in 40 deg. north latitude. Its western terminus is in the Wind River Mountains, latitude 42 deg. N., about seven hundred miles from the sea. Its peculiarity consists in what may be termed its confused geological character. Near the sea its rocks are primitive, its strata regular. A hundred miles from the sea where the President's range crosses it, everything is fused—burned; and at the distance of seventy miles northeastwardly from the Bay of San Francisco, a spur comes off with a lofty peak, which pours out immense quantities of lava, and shoots up a flame so broad and bright as to be seen at sea, and to produce distinct shadows at eighty miles' distance. Here is an extensive tract of this range which has been burned, and whose strata have been torn from their natural positions; displaying an amalgamated mass of primitive rock ex loco, mingled with various descriptions of volcanic remains. From this point eastward, it is a broken irregular chain of peaks and rifted collateral ranges, and spurs running off northwardly and southwardly, some of which are primitive and others volcanic.
"Another range of mountains which deserves notice in this place, is that which bounds the valley of the San Joaquim on the east. This is a wide and towering range. It is in fact a continuation of the President's range, and partakes very strongly of its volcanic character. That part of it which lies eastwardly from the Bay of San Francisco, is very broad and lofty. One of its peaks, Mount Jackson, as it is called, is the highest in all the President's range. Mountains of great size are piled around it, but they appear like molehills beside that veteran mount. Its vast peak towers over them all several thousand feet, a glittering cone of ice.
"All over the Californias, the traveler finds evidences of volcanic action. Far in the interior, among the deserts; in the streams; in the heights; in the plains; everywhere, are manifestations of the fact, that the current of subterranean fire which crossed the Pacific, throwing up that line of islands lying on the south of the Sea of Kamschatka, and passed down the continent, upheaving the Oregon territory, did also bring up from the bed of the ocean the Californias.
"The peninsula, or lower California, which extends from Cape San Lucas in N. lat. 22 deg. 48', to the Bay of Todos Santos in lat. 32 deg. N., is a pile of barren, volcanic mountains, with very few streams, and still fewer spots of ground capable of sustaining vegetation. The territory lying north and south of the Colorado of the west, and within the boundaries of the Californias, is a howling desolation.
"From the highlands near the mouth of the Rio Colorado, a wild and somewhat interesting scene opens. In the east appears a line of mountains of a dark hue, stretching down the coast of the Gulf as far as the eye can reach. These heights are generally destitute of trees; but timber grows in some of the ravines. The general aspect, however, is far from pleasing. There is such a vastness of monotonous desolation; so dry, so blistered with volcanic fires; so forbidding to the wants of thirsting and hungering men, that one gladly turns his eye upon the water, the Mar de Cortez, the Gulf of California. The Colorado, two and a half miles in width, rushes into this Gulf with great force, lashing as it goes the small islands lying at its mouth, and for many leagues around the waters of the Gulf are discolored by its turbulent flood. On the west, sweep away the mountains of Lower California. These also are a thirsty mass of burned rocks, so dry that vegetation finds no resting-place among them.
"That province of Lower California varies from thirty to one hundred and fifty miles in width, a superficial extent almost equal to that of Great Britain; and yet on account of its barrenness, never will, from the products of the soil, maintain five hundred thousand people in a state of comfort, ordinarily found in the civilized condition. Every few years tornadoes sweep over the country with such violence, and bearing with them such floods of rain, that whatever of soil has been in any manner previously formed, is swept into the sea. So that even those little nooks among the mountains, where the inhabitants from time to time make their fields, and task the vexed earth for a scanty subsistence, are liable to be laid bare by the torrents. In case the soil chance to be lodged in some other dell, before it reach the Ocean or the Gulf, and the people follow it to its new location, they find perhaps no water there and cannot cultivate it. Consequently they are often driven by dreadful want to some other point in quest of sustenance, where they may not find it, and perish among the parched highlands. The mean range of temperature in the whole country in the summer season is from 60 deg. to 74 deg. Fahrenheit. The rains fall in the winter months; are very severe, and of short duration. During the remainder of the year the air is dry and clear; and the sky more beautiful than the imagination can conceive.
"The range of mountains occupying the whole interior of this country, vary in height from one to five thousand feet above the level of the sea. They are almost bare of all verdure, mere brown piles of barrenness, sprinkled here and there with a cluster of briars, small shrubs, or dwarf trees. Among the ridges are a few spots to which the sweeping rains have spared a little soil. These, if watered by springs or streams, are beautiful and productive. There are also a few places near the coast which are well adapted to tillage and pasturage.
"But the principal difficulty with this region, is one common to all countries of volcanic, origin,—a scarcity of water. The porousness of the rocks allows it to pass under ground to the sea. Consequently one finds few streams and springs in Lower California. From the Cape San Lucas to the mouth of the Colorado, six hundred miles, there are only two streams emptying into the Gulf. One of these is called San Josef del Cabo. It passes through the plantations of the Mission bearing the same name, and discharges itself into the bay of San Barnabas. The other is the Mulege, which waters the Mission of Santa Rosalia, and enters the Gulf in latitude 27 deg. N. These are not navigable. The streams on the ocean coast, also, are few and small. Some of them are large enough to propel light machinery, or irrigate considerable tracts of land, but none of them are navigable. In the interior are several large springs, which send out abundant currents along the rocky beds of their upper courses; but when they reach the loose sands and porous rocks of the lower country, they sink and enter the sea through subterranean channels. A great misfortune it is too, that the lands which border those portions of these streams which run above the ground, consist of barren rocks. Where springs, however, and arable land occur together, immense fertility is the consequence. There is some variety of climate on the coasts, which it may be well to mention. On the Pacific shore the temperature is rendered delightfully balmy by the sea breezes, and the humidity which they bring along with them. Fahrenheit's thermometer ranges on this coast, during the summer, between fifty-eight and seventy-one degrees. In the winter months, while the rains are falling, it sinks as low as fifty degrees above zero. On the Gulf coast there is a still greater variation. While at the Cape, the mercury stands between sixty and seventy degrees, near the head of the Gulf it is down to the freezing point.
"These isolated facts, in regard to the great territory under consideration, will give the reader as perfect an idea of the surface and agricultural capacities of Lower California as will be here needed.
* * * * *
DIFFERENT ROUTES TO CALIFORNIA.
There are four different routes to California from the United States. One is from New York to Vera Cruz, thence across Mexico by the Diligencia, to Acapulco on the Pacific, where all the northern bound vessels touch. This route would be preferable to all others, were it not for the fact that the road from Vera Cruz to Acapulco is infested with robbers.
Another route is by steam around Cape Horn—a long voyage, though perhaps the cheapest route. It should be performed in our winter, when it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and consequently warmer at Cape Horn than at any other season of the year. The fare on this route by steam is about $350. The time of performing the voyage is about 130 days.
Another route is by the Isthmus of Darien. The fare on this route is as follows:
From New York to Chagres (by steam)————— $150 From Chagres to Panama, across the Isthmus—- 20 From Panama to San Francisco————————- 250 From New York to Chagres (by sailing vessel)- 80
The time of the voyage is as follows:—
From New York to Chagres——- 12 to 15 days. From Chagres to Panama———- 2 " From Panama to San Francisco- 20 "
The following description of Chagres and Panama, will be found both interesting and valuable to the traveler on this route.
THE TOWN OF CHAGRES,
as it is usually called, but in reality village, or collection of huts, is, as is well known, situated at the mouth of the river Chagres, where it empties itself into the Atlantic ocean.
It is but a small village, and the harbor is likewise small, though secure. It is formed by the jutting out of a narrow neck of land, and is defended by the castle, which is built on a high bluff on the other side. The village itself, as I have before said, is merely a collection of huts, and is situated in the midst of a swamp—at least the ground is low, and the continual rains which prevail at Chagres, keep it in a swampy condition. Chagres is inhabited by colored people, entirely, with the exception of some few officials at the castle and in the custom-house. Its population, (I speak, of course, of it previous to the influx,) was probably not more than 500 in all, if so much.
is, without doubt, the most pestiferous for whites in the whole world. The coast of Africa, which enjoys a dreadful reputation in this way, is not so deadly in its climate as is Chagres. The thermometer ranges from 78 deg. to 85 deg. all the year, and it rains every day. Many a traveler who has incautiously remained there for a few days and nights, has had cause to remember Chagres; and many a gallant crew, who have entered the harbor in full health, have, ere many days, found their final resting place on the dank and malarious banks of the river. Bilious, remittent, and congestive fever, in their most malignant forms, seem to hover over Chagres, ever ready to pounce down on the stranger. Even the acclimated resident of the tropics runs a great risk in staying any time in Chagres; but the stranger fresh from the North and its invigorating breezes, runs a most fearful one.
THE RIVER JOURNEY
is performed in canoes, propelled up the stream by means of poles. There are two points at which one may land, viz: the villages of Gorgona and Cruces. The distance from Chagres to the first named, is about 45 or 50 miles—to the latter, some 50 or 55 miles. The traveler, who for the first time in his life embarks on a South American river like the Chagres, cannot fail to experience a singular depression of spirits at the dark and sombre aspect of the scene. In the first place, he finds himself in a canoe, so small that he is forced to lay quietly in the very centre of the stern portion, in order to prevent it upsetting. The palm leaf thatch (or toldo, as it is termed on the river) over his portion of the boat, shuts out much of the view, while his baggage, piled carefully amidships, and covered with oil cloths, encerrados as they are termed, is under the charge of his active boatman, who, stripped to the buff, with long pole in hand, expertly propels the boat up stream, with many a cry and strange exclamation. The river itself is a dark, muddy, and rapid stream; in some parts quite narrow, and again at other points it is from 300 to 500 yards wide. Let no one fancy that it resembles the bright and cheerful rivers which are met with here at the North. No pleasant villages adorn its banks—no signs of civilization are seen on them, nothing but the sombre primeval forest, which grows with all the luxury of the tropics down to the very margin of its swampy banks.
A light canoe with two active boatmen and but one passenger in it, will reach Cruces in ten or twelve hours, whilst a heavier one might require thirty-six hours to accomplish the passage. The passenger must take his provisions with him, as none are to be had on the river.
A doubloon ($16) was the lowest charge for a single passenger, and from that up to two, three, and even four doubloons. As for taking our boats from here, and rowing them up the river, I should think it would be a hopeless attempt. Hardy boatmen from our southwestern States, who are accustomed to a much similar mode of travel on their rivers, would probably be able to accomplish it; but in that burning and unhealthy climate, for young men fresh from the North, unacquainted with the dangers of such navigation, and all unacclimated, to attempt such a feat would be madness indeed.
Let us, however, suppose the journey completed, and our adventurer safely arrived at
He may now congratulate himself on having achieved the most toilsome part of his journey, and but twenty-one miles of land route intervene between him and the glorious Pacific Ocean. Cruces is a small village, situated on a plain, immediately on the banks of the river, which here are high and sandy. Gorgona, the other landing place, is a few miles below Cruces, and is likewise a small village, very similar to Cruces—in fact, all South American villages resemble one another very much. From these two points, both about the same distance from Panama, there are roads to that city, which roads unite about nine miles from it. Starting from either point he commences his
JOURNEY ACROSS THE ISTHMUS.
The usual method of performing it, is on horse or on mule-back, with another mule to carry the baggage and a muleteer who acts as guide. The road is a mere bridle path, and as the rains on the Isthmus are very heavy, and there is more or less of them all the year round, the mud-holes and swampy places to be crossed are very numerous. Those who, at the North, talk gaily of a walk across the Isthmus, as if the road were as plain and easy as some of our macadamized turnpikes, would alter their tone a little, could they see the road as it is. As for walking from Cruces to Panama, in case mules are scarce, the feat is by no means impossible, provided the traveler arrives in Cruces in good health, and has but little baggage. It might easily be done with the assistance of a guide; but let no stranger, unacquainted with the language and new to such countries, attempt it without a guide. Having, then, fairly started from Cruces, either on horse or on foot, after a toilsome journey of some eight or ten hours, the Savanna of Panama is at last reached, and the sight of the broad and glittering Pacific Ocean, and the white towers of the Cathedral of Panama, which are seen at the distance of about four miles from the city, give the now weary traveler assurance that his journey will shortly end; and another hour's toil brings him to the suburbs of the famed