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Footnotes for Life in California Before the Gold Discovery

See "The First Emigrant Train to California," in THE CENTURY for November, 1890.

Men reduced to living on poor meat, and almost starving, have an intense longing for anything fat.

The rancheros marked and branded their stock differently so as to distinguish them. But it was not possible to keep them separate. One would often steal cattle from the other. Livermore in this way lost cattle by his neighbor Amador. In fact it was almost a daily occurrence – a race to see which could get and kill the most of the other's cattle. Cattle in those days were often killed for the hides alone. One day a man saw Amador kill a fine steer belonging to Livermore. When he reached Livermore's – ten or fifteen miles away – and told him what Amador had done, he found Livermore skinning a steer of Amador's!

Every year after the arrival of our party, in 1841, immigrant parties came across the plains to California; except in 1842, when they went to Oregon, most of them coming thence to California in 1843. Ours of 1841 being the first, let me add that a later party arrived in California in 1841. It was composed of about twenty-five persons who arrived at Westport, Mo., too late to come with us, and so went with the annual caravan of St. Louis traders to Santa Fe, and thence via the Gila River into Southern California.

Among the more noted arrivals on this coast I may mention:
1841. – Commodore Wilkes's Exploring Expedition, a party of which came overland from Oregon to California, under Captain Ringgold, I think.
1842. – Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, who raised the American flag at Monterey.
1843. – First. L.W. Hastings, via Oregon. He was ambitious to make California republic and to be its first president, and wrote an iridescent book to induce immigration, – which came in 1846, – but found the American flag flying when he returned with the immigration he had gone to meet. Also among the the noted arrivals in 1843 was Pierson B. Reading, an accomplished gentlemen, the proprietor of Reading's ranch in Shasta County, and from whom Fort Reading took its name. Samuel J. Hensley was also one of the same party. Second. Dr. Sandels, a very intelligent man.
1844. – First. Fremont's first arrival (in March); Mr. Charles Preuss, a scientific man, and Kit Carson with him. Second. The Stevens-Townsend-Murphy party, who brought the first wagons into California across the plains.
1845. – First. James W. Marshall, who, in 1848, discovered the gold. Second. Fremont's second arrival, also Hasting's second arrival.
1846. – Largest immigration party, the one Hastings went to meet.
The Donner party was among the last of these immigrants.

With the exception of the tuna, or prickly pear, these were the only cultivated fruits I can recall to mind in California, except oranges, lemons, limes, in a few places.

Mr. Schallenberger still lives at San Jose. He remained a considerable part of the winter alone with the wagons, which were buried under the snow. When the last two men made a desperate effort to escape over the mountains into California, Schallenberger tried to go with them, but was unable to bear the fatigue,and so returned about fifteen miles to the cabin they had left near Donner Lake (as it was afterward called), where he remained, theatened with starvation, till one of the party returned from the Sacramento Valley and rescued him.

See Dana's "Two Years before the Mast" for a description of the California coast at this period.

My first visit to the bay of San Francisco was in the first week of January, 1842. I had never before seen salt water. The town was called Yerba Buena, for the peppermint which was plentiful around some springs, located probably a little south of the junction of Pine and Sansome streets. Afterward – in 1847 – when through the immigration of 1846 across the plains, and through arrivals around Cape Horn, the place had become a village of some importance, the citizens changed the name to San Francisco, the name of the bay on which it is situated. With the exception of the Presidio and the Aduana (custom-house), all the buildings could be counted on the fingers and thumbs of one's hands. The most pretentious was a frame building erected by Jacob P. Leese, but then owned and occupied by the Hudson Bay Company, of which a Mr. Ray was agent. The others belonged to Captain Hinckley, Nathan Spear, Captain John J. Vioget, a Mr. Fuller, "Davis the carpenter," and a few others.

Monterey, when I first saw it (in 1844), had possbly 200 people, besides the troops, who numbered about 500. The principal foreigners living there were: Thomas O. Larkin, David Spence, W.E.P. Hartnell, James Watson, Charles Walter, A.G. Toomes, R.H. Thomes, Talbot H. Green (Paul Geddes), W. Dickey, James McKinley, Milton Little, and Dr. James Stokes. The principal natives or Mexicans were Governor Micheltorena, Manuel Jimeno, Jose Castro, Juan Malarine, Francisco Arce, Don Jose Abrego. Larkin received his comission as American consul for California, at Mazatlan, in 1844. On his return to Monterey the woman who washed his clothes took the small-pox. Larkin's whole family had it; it spread, and the number of deaths was fearful, amounting to over eighty.

When I first saw Santa Barbara, February 5, 1845, the old Mission buildings were the principal ones. The town – probably half a mile to the east – contained possibly one hundred persons, among whom I recall Captain Wilson, Dr. Nicholas Den, Captain Scott, Mr. Sparks, Nibever; and of natives Pablo De la Guerra, Carlos Antonio, Carillo, and others.

Los Angeles I first saw in March, 1845. It then had probably two hundred and fifty people, of whom I recall Don Abel Sterns, John Temple, Captain Alexander Bell, William Wolfskill, Lemuel Carpenter, David W. Alexander; also of Mexicans, Pio Pico (governor), Don Juan Bandini, and others. On ranches in the vicinity lived William Workman, B.D. Wilson and John Roland. At San Pedro, Captain Johnson. At Rancho Chino, Isaac Williams. At San Juan Capistrano, Don Juan Foster.

I went to San Diego, July, 1846, with Fremont's battalion, on the sloop of war "Cyane," Captain Dupont (afterwards Admiral). The population was about one hundred, among whom I recall Captain Henry D. Fitch, Don Miguel de Pedrorena, Don Santiago Arguello, the Bandini family, J.M. Estudillo, and others. Subsequently after the revolt of September, 1846, San Diego was the point from which, in January, 1847, the final conquest of California was made.

New Mexican miners invariably carried their gold (which was generally small, and small in quantity as well) in a large quill – that of a vulture or turkey buzzard. Sometimes these quills would hold three or four ounces, and, being translucent, they were graduated so as to see at any time the quantity in them. The gold was kept in by a stopper. Ruelle had such a quill, which appeared to have been carried for years.

The insurrection ended in capitulation – I might call it expulsion – of Micheltorena. The causes which led to this result were various, some of them infamous. Pio Pico, being the oldest member of the Departmental Assembly, became governor, and Castro commander-in-chief of the military. He reigned but one year, and then came the Mexican war. Castro was made governor of Lower California, and died there. Pio Pico was not a vindictive man; he was a mild governor, and still lives in Los Angeles.

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