Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: Chapter 5ContentsPrevious: Chapter 3

Up and Down California in 1860-1864;
The Journal of William H. Brewer:
Book 2, Chapter 4
APPROACHING THE BAY

Santa Clara Valley—A Camp-Fire Scene—San Jose—Mount Hamilton—Mountain View—A Democratic Barbecue—Mission San Jose—A Rattlesnake—A Skunk—Financial Disturbances—Amador Valley—San Ramon Valley—Oakland—Sacramento and the State Fair.

Camp 48, San Jose.
Saturday, August 24, 1861.

Monday I made my preparations to leave, packed and sent off specimens, etc. In the evening I called again on our lady acquaintances. The Misses Walkinshaw were even more lovely and agreeable than usual. We had a pleasant time.

We visited a famous soda spring near the mines—a copious spring highly charged with carbonic acid and other mineral matter. A house is built over it. It is as highly charged and as sparkling as the Saratoga Springs. It is delicious, and the gas is so abundant that it fills the spring that is walled in.

Tuesday, August 20, we left camp early, crossed some low hills by a byroad, then down the valley of Llagas Creek, a pretty, picturesque valley, and in about fifteen miles emerged into the Santa Clara Valley and camped at the “21 Mile House,” twenty-one miles below San Jose.

The Santa Clara Valley (San Jose Valley of the map) is the most fertile and lovely of California. At the point where we came into it, it is about six miles wide, its bottom level, a fine belt of scattered oaks four or five miles wide covering the middle. It is here all covered with Spanish grants, so is not cultivated, but near San Jose, where it is divided into farms, it is in high cultivation; farmhouses have sprung up and rich fields of grain and growing orchards everywhere abound. But near our camp it lies in a state of nature, and only supports a few cattle. One ranch there covers twenty-two thousand acres of the best land in the valley—all valuable. This Spanish grant land-title system is one of the great drawbacks of this country. One man will make an immense fortune from that ranch, but the public suffers.

We camped under some beautiful oaks, near a house, where we got hay and water. Two days were spent examining the hills to the east of the valley, from the summits of which (near two thousand feet above the valley) are to be had most magnificent views. One sharp peak rose near camp, on the west, conspicuous from every direction. It was very sharp, and rose very steeply (over thirty degrees on each side), more than eleven hundred feet above the valley. The view from its top was superb. It has been burned over this summer, and its black cone is a grand object, whether seen by day or by the clear moonlight of these lovely nights.

Peter had been sent to San Juan to see about Old Sleepy, the mule that had been left there. He found him still unfit for traveling, so he sold him for twenty dollars, which was five less than he has cost us since he gave out. He cost us a hundred last December.

We camped under the trees and did not pitch our tent. A camp scene may repay writing. Thursday evening Mike resolved on a “treat,” so he bought a keg of lager beer and some cigars and brought them into camp. After supper I went to the house to read the news and when I returned a fine fire was lighted, the beer tapped, the moon was bright, and all were happy.

I only wish you might have beheld the scene. Five large oaks, their branches festooned with lichens, are our canopy. The bright fire lights up their trunks and foliage and the group around. The moonlight lies soft on the plain and lights up the black mass of the peak, Ojo de Agua de la Coche, that rises back of the camp, its black outlines sharp against the blue sky.

But it is the group near the fire that demands our attention. The baggage and equipage are piled against a tree—saddles, axes, instruments, provisions—back stands the wagon in the shadow, the harness hanging on the pole. A Sharp (rifle) is leaning against a tree, while from the trunk of another are suspended barometers, thermometers, etc. Some piles of blankets lie on the sod, ready for their occupants at bed time. The bread chest stands modestly in the distance. The light is reflected from the bright tin canisters of tea, coffee, etc., and the grim kettles and gridiron stand against them. The water pails and washbasins are near too, and a few towels hanging on a limb flutter in the gentle breeze. The table stands under the largest tree, a few notebooks and maps on it.

But these are only the background of the picture. Nearer the fire are the group. Beside that tree, on a box of specimens, a beer keg is poised, a pitcher and four glasses standing on the ground near it until distributed; soon this takes place. That man on a camp stool, his California hat on one side, his legs crossed with ease, his plaid overshirt brilliant in the firelight, but not entirely concealing the luxurious “biled shirt” which he has on today, puffing a cigar with the dignity of a senator, is Peter. Between him and the beer keg sits Michael, the host of the evening. His red shirt is doubly brilliant by the bright firelight, his face beams with more than his usual good humor, it even seems to me that his light hair curls tighter—he evidently enjoys it, and he puffs his cigar with gravity worthy of the occasion.

Beyond the fire, on the manta (saddle-cover), with the grace of a Turk on the divan in his harem, reclines Hoffmann, our topographer. His well used red pipe lies beside him—a cigar has taken its place—and maps, bearings, and topography are forgotten as the smoke curls up lazily, only interrupted by taking another glass from time to time. His black shirt looks somber, in keeping with night. That great mass lying between him and the fire is not an outcropping of metamorphic rock, as it might at first be taken for, but his mountain shoes, from the soles of which those stupendous nails loom up and glitter grandly in the firelight.

That demure, modest looking individual on the ground, leaning against a tree (but close to the beer keg) is the humble botanist. His face is indistinctly seen, as it is modestly hid behind a huge stone pipe, a native “California Meerschaum” from which occasionally curls up a blue column of smoke as from the crater of a half-sleeping volcano. His last pair of pants are a little torn, and a flag of truce is displayed in the rear—emblem of peace, even if not of plenty.

Song follows story, and laughs follow both, until the oaks echo again with their ring. The keg is finished, the cigars are smoked, the embers have ceased blazing, the moon is higher and its shadows shorter, the lights are out at the house near, and the owls are hooting among the trees as we turn in to our blankets and sleep closes and covers the scene.

Friday, August 23, we came here, twenty-one miles down the valley, and camped just on the edge of the town. The day was warm, and the roads very dusty—à la California.

San Jose.
Wednesday, August 29.

We arrived here Friday night. Saturday morning we found we had lost a roll of maps. Here was a loss truly. The maps had cost us months of labor, were partly compiled from the Land Office surveys, ranch surveys, coast surveys, and our own labor—the compilations and results of immense labor—and we had no copies. One was, moreover, of the field we were to work up for the remainder of the year. Five hundred dollars would have been a trifling loss compared with the loss of these few sheets of paper. They were in a roll in a tin case and had dropped out of our wagon. I wrote some notices, offering ten dollars reward for their recovery, and sent Hoffmann back. He rode back to our last camp, twenty-one miles—no tidings. Then, recollecting that he was not sure of seeing them since leaving New Almaden, he took the back trail and, by a streak of good luck, found them about twenty-five miles from our camp in a place where we had lost our trail and they had rolled out on the rough ground five days before.

Sunday I went to hear Mr. Hamilton preach. It seemed like old times to hear him again. He has changed much, and has improved. He stands very high in this state as a preacher. Hearing him carried me back to the old times and other scenes and other hearers. He is pleasantly settled here. Both he and Mrs. Hamilton have grown old fast since they left the East six years ago. I took tea in town on Sunday evening at a Doctor Cobb’s.

Professor Whitney is on his way to Washoe, or is there now. I got a letter from him from Placerville a few days ago. I shall be glad when he gets back, which will be in three weeks now.

Camp 49, Mountain View.
Sunday, September 1.

Nearly east of San Jose, some distance in the mountains, is a high peak1 we wished to reach, being the highest in that part of the Diablo Range. As near as we could judge from our maps, we supposed it nine miles distant in a straight line. It proved over fifteen. Mr. Hamilton went with us. A ride of six miles across the plain brought us to the foot of the ridge. All this is enclosed, in farms, and under good cultivation. Farmhouses, orchards, etc., give it an American look. We then struck the ridge, and on rising, had a capital chance to see this part of the Santa Clara Valley. It is perhaps twelve or fourteen miles wide at San Jose, an almost perfect plain, very fertile, a perfect garden, and much of it in higher cultivation than any other part of California.

This first ridge was about 1,000 or 1,500 feet high. Then we crossed a wide valley, then up another ridge. We had attained an altitude of nearly three thousand feet, when we came upon another deep and steep canyon cutting us off from the peak. Here we left our mules and proceeded on foot about three miles and reached the peak after 4 P.M. The view was very extensive and the day very clear. It was about 4,000 feet high—we made it 4,200 feet—but that is doubtless too high.2 We could see various portions of the Coast Range, from far above San Francisco to below Monterey, probably 140 to 150 miles between the points, and the Diablo Range for about a hundred miles.

It was five o’clock before we left and after sundown before we got on our mules, with at least fifteen miles to ride. Night closed on us among a labyrinth of hills and canyons twelve miles from camp and at least six from any road. We gave our mules the bridle and let them find the way back, which they did with a sagacity beyond belief, over steep hills, along ridges, through canyons, to the road at the foot of the hills at the edge of the plain. It was near midnight when we reached camp. It is at such times that I realize how healthy we are in camp. While others must bundle up and put on extra clothes for fear of catching cold, we never have colds. Not anticipating any such delay we were without either coats or vests. We were wet with the perspiration of a six mile walk and climb, the last three miles very vigorous, then a ride of that distance in the cool night air, much of the way against a chilly wind—yet no cold or symptoms of any. Averill writes me, “Since I have taken to living in a house, full of rats and fleas, haunted by tom cats (or the devil), I have taken an abominable cold.” He never had a cold in camp.

Tuesday, August 27, we went to examine a hill east of the head of the bay and north of San Jose.3 It was both farther (14 or 15 miles) and higher (2,500 to 2,800 feet) than we expected, so it took us all day. The valley looked like a map, and the head of the bay, with its swamps intersected and cut up with winding streams and bayous crossing and winding in every direction, made by far the prettiest arabesque picture of the kind I have ever seen. It was wonderful.

Wednesday afternoon we took dinner with Mr. Hamilton, then rode to some sulphur springs and rocks that produce alum, about eight or nine miles east of town, returned and took tea with him. We had a pleasant time.

Thursday I spent in trying to sell mules, could not, so gave up, and dined out. Friday I had resolved to put up my mules at auction on Saturday, so had the day for leisure. In the morning, with a young lady who was visiting at Mr. Hamilton’s, I went out of town a mile and visited the residence of a wealthy citizen, Mr. Belden.4 He and his wife had come here early (1841), poor, had got rich, visited Europe, bought many works of art, etc. He lives here very comfortably on his money, has a fine house, pretty grounds, etc. We spent two or more hours most pleasantly in looking over pictures, photographs, etc., which he had brought from Europe. He was absent, but his wife appears a very fine and pleasant woman.

Saturday I sold the mules, got as much as I expected—$71 for two mules we gave $130 for—then came on here, seventeen miles northwest of San Jose. This is on a farm of Mr. Putnam,5 a brother-in-law of Professor Whitney. He is in business in San Francisco, but has a farm here, where his family spend the summer. He comes down every Saturday night and returns on Monday morning. It is in the foothills, at the base of the high mountains, a lovely, quiet, secluded, beautiful spot.

One event of the week must not be forgotten—a grand barbecue of the Breckenridge Democrats (Secession), in a grove about a mile from camp. The Breckenridge party is quite large in this state and is much feared. Some of its men are open and avowed Secessionists, but the majority call themselves Union men, Peace men, most bitterly opposed to the Administration and opposed to any war policy—in fact, are for letting all secede who wish to. They are making great exertions just now, and hope to carry the state at the election next Wednesday. If they do I fear this state will be plunged into the same condition that Missouri is in. There are many more Secessionists in this state than you in the East believe, and many of them are desperadoes ready for anything in the shape of a row.

But to my story. From quite early in the morning a stream of carriages and horses poured into the grove—men, women, children. After dinner Hoffmann and I rode out. Such a political meeting I never before saw. It seemed a cross between a camp meeting and a German May picnic. There were as many women and children as men, some listening to fierce political speeches, but more loitering in the shade of the large sycamores. All were well dressed, as if for a festival, and all good natured.

Dinner was announced. A long ditch or trench had been dug, a fire built in it, and spitted over it on iron rods laid across were immense quantities of mutton, beef, and pork, finely roasted. These were served up at long tables, with bread, peaches, etc., and if poor Lincoln’s army is assaulted as vigorously as was that pile of eatables it stands a narrow chance, and if Secessionists fight as valiantly as they eat, then the Union is indeed in danger.

It was a scene for a Hogarth or a Cruikshank. Here a youth with a huge bone in one hand and a chunk of bread to match in the other—there a rustic beauty, her cheeks distended with juicy meat—another maiden with countenance equally indicative of bread—children with faces, from their eyes down, daubed with pie, happy and greasy—men with fingers distended and hands elevated, greasy, and afraid to touch anything because of it—old ladies in agony for fear the gravy would get on their best frocks—matrons attending to the wants of a numerous band of rising and growing, but youthful, Democrats—young men helping their sweethearts—family groups, friendly groups, crowded spots, solitary eaters.

Then, the scene of desolation over the tables half an hour later, as women begin to wipe their fingers, children ask if there are any more peaches, young men and large boys begin to parade, each with a long nine cigar stuck in one cheek, men begin to talk of crops, mules, horses, hard times, or politics, children to play, and women to look up acquaintances and inquire why on earth they had stayed away so long and not been to see them, or talk of family cares and domestic duties.

Then the speeches commenced again. Men and women were seated, and the eloquent speakers told of the horrible designs of the other parties, of their infamous doctrines, of their wonderful inconsistencies, of the scoundrels who were the leaders; and they pathetically told of the cruel persecutions and slanderings their own party had received, of its patriotic leaders and pure principles, of its innocence and the immaculate purity of its office seekers.

I sat and listened for a while, and as I gazed on the scene around I felt sad that so pure a party should not have all the offices, and the scoundrels of the other parties could not all be instantly hung.

Two or three women near me, who were feeding their infants in the natural way, impressed me deeply with the productiveness of the state, and its capacity for feeding the rising population.

There was much good humor, no fighting, some faint cheering for the Union, some equally faint for Jeff Davis and his cause.

We left and went to camp, through a dust the like of which you never saw. The wind was high, and the dust of a thronged road in this dry climate, where not a drop of rain has fallen for three or four months, can never be appreciated until it is seen and felt. The fiercest snowstorm is not more blinding.

That evening I heard Conness, the candidate of the Douglas Democrats for governor. I then learned that it was the other party that were plotting the downfall of the state and general ruin of mankind, which terrible catastrophe could be averted only by voting the ticket of this patriotic and moral party.

Tuesday, September 3.

Yesterday was a most lovely day. We started early on foot to climb a high mountain that rises behind the camp, over three thousand feet.6 It was hard to get at. We were over eleven hours at it, and had no water. We had a canteen along to fill at a spring on the way, but we found it dry. We took it up moderately, however, and did not suffer much from thirst. We found tracks and traces of grizzlies, more abundant than we have seen them before—we were in paths where their fresh tracks covered the ground, but we did not meet any.

Today has been a very fine day, very clear. We took a ride of five or six miles over the hills west of camp, pretty rolling hills, covered with wild oats, and stocked with much better cattle than one sees in the southern country. We see everywhere here the evidence of American enterprise in the farming and stock. There is a thousand dollar Durham bull on this ranch.

This whole valley abounds in the best of fruit: peaches, apples, pears, melons, etc. Peaches are very abundant and cheap. I saw a steam threshing machine at work in a field last week—it worked well, and easily threshes 1,500 bushels of barley in a day. A thousand bushels a day they call light work.

Formerly there was a lack of water here for stock and for irrigating. The large streams that run into the valley either sink or dwindle away to mere pools. So hundreds of artesian wells have been bored. Sometimes water is struck within a hundred feet, but many wells are three or four hundred feet deep. Many of these overflow, often with a large stream, but with the majority the water only rises to near the surface without overflowing. It is then pumped up by windmills, and hundreds of these may be seen in motion every afternoon when there is a strong breeze up the valley. Many of these are very ornamental, costing from three hundred to six hundred dollars, and impart a very peculiar feature to the landscape.

Camp 50, near Mission San Jose.
Sunday, September 8.

It is a lovely, warm, quiet day. I have been to Mass at the Mission, have done my Sunday’s allowance of “plain sewing,” and will now drop a few more lines.

Wednesday, September 4, we left our last camp and crossed the plain via Alviso and Milpitas to the east side of the bay, and camped about a mile from the old Mission of San Jose.7 It was election day, and much excitement existed at the several polls passed. This place is Secession.

There was more excitement in this state than there has been since the days of the Vigilance Committee. But the state has gone overwhelmingly Republican. There was much fear on the subject, from the fact that the Secessionists were united while the Union men were divided into Republicans and Douglas Democrats. But California is still for the Union, one and undivided.

Thursday we examined the hills north of camp and Friday visited some noted hot springs near. These have quite a reputation for the cure of sundry diseases, and the houses, grounds, etc., are better fitted up for comfort and luxury than any of the mineral springs we have before seen here. The water is somewhat sulphury, contains various salts in solution and has a warm temperature. There are five principal springs, with temperatures varying from 87° F. to 95 1/2° F. The baths are really luxurious.

Yesterday we started for a high mountain some twenty miles southeast, in the center of the range. We followed up a canyon several miles, and when we left it we struck up the wrong ridge and came out on another peak twelve miles distant from the one we started for. It answered our purpose, however. We got the topography of a region on which maps were blank. We attained a height of over three thousand feet, but the distant view was obscured by smoky air.

An incident of the day may be noted, as it came very near costing the Survey a valuable mule, if not an assistant also. We stopped on the summit, took our bearings and observations, unsaddled, and fed our mules some barley we had brought, then sat in the cool shade of a fine oak and took our lunch. Then a smoke while waiting for an hour, hoping the air would clear and enable us to obtain distant bearings. It was useless, so we saddled up. Just as I finished, I felt something squirming under my feet vigorously, looked and found I was on a snake, holding him fast under my well nailed boots while he was writhing to get free. I stepped off from him and saw that it was a large rattlesnake! He ran between the forefeet of the mule, over one hoof, then through between the hind feet. I took the tripod of our compass and caught him, held him fast and cut his head off with my bowie. He was between two and a half and three feet long and had nine rattles. Had he shown as much fight as the others we have seen, both I and the mule would have got our share. But my buckskin pants and my boots would have been pretty good armor, for buckskin absorbs the poison from the tooth so much that but little enters the wound, it is said.

He had three fangs, two on one side, side by side. They were as sharp as needles. I took them out as trophies. A cool breeze blowing over the summit probably accounts for his stupidity. He struck the tripod vigorously, however, when I overhauled him. He had come out from under the tree, from a hole less than two feet from where we were sitting. Here was a danger seen, how many unseen we pass only our Protecting Providence knows.8

Later.

All are in bed. I cannot sleep as much as the rest do, so go to bed later, and have a quiet hour when all is still. We all sleep outside now. Here, near the bay, the nights are much cooler, the sky is clear, with sometimes a fog in the morning, and a heavy dew falls every night. Often our blankets are quite wet. We are in a cooler region than we have been in most of the time for the last two months.

This is a little old mission town—a large dilapidated church, old adobe houses with tile roofs, a few dilapidated walls and gardens, and new American buildings springing up around and among them. The very houses show the decay and decline of one race and the coming in of a superior one.

The old church is large, gaudily painted on the inside, but dilapidated; the congregation a mixture of Indian, Spanish, mixed breeds, Irish, with a few German, French, and American. There are a few stores here—it is a little village, one that will never be a large one. As we work north the decay of the native and Spanish element becomes more and more marked.

A camp incident this morning: We had just finished breakfast when we saw walking leisurely along the road the largest kind of a gentleman skunk. Peter started with revolver, but fired at such a respectful distance that he missed four shots, all he had loaded, and his skunkship started up the hill. Pete got the shotgun and Mike and Hoffmann joined pursuit. Hoffmann shot five revolver balls at him—all missed. I got my revolver from under my pillow—four barrels were loaded—but I ran so hard that my shots met with like success. Then an Irishman and dog joined in the pursuit, and something might have been smelt for some distance.

I was mending my stocking at the breaking out of the mêlée. I returned and finished the work while the battle raged over the hill. I had just loaded up my revolver when the party returned, the skunk still ahead, coming into the field near our tent. I again rushed to the battle, drove him from the field into the road to get him away from camp, then finished his career with two balls through him. We covered him with earth. A fragrance pervaded the valley, decidedly rank, but the hot sun and fine breeze entirely dissipated it in a few hours. Thus ended the tragedy. It made ten times the excitement of yesterday’s rattlesnake adventure.

We all sleep with loaded revolvers here, and Mike and Pete sleep with the mules in the corral, with a double-barrel shotgun extra, for horse thieves are thick and bold. A fine horse was stolen from this very spot last week, valued at two hundred dollars. We have been fortunate with our mules thus far, considering their value. But then we have been vigilant, and loiterers who come into camp can easily ascertain that each man has a navy revolver handy and is expert in its use. This may seem to many a superfluous caution, but I am convinced that it is judicious, considering our occupation and mode of life. It insures the “respect” of the class of gentry most likely to covet our property.

Sacramento.
Wednesday, September 18.

More than ten days have elapsed since I have written anything—days of too much anxiety and labor to allow any time for letters or journal. But I will continue my story in order. Monday morning, September 9, we left camp at Mission San Jose and moved up to Haywards, fifteen miles, along the east side of the bay, near San Leandro. The road led through a lovely region. A slope from four to eight miles wide lies between the hills and the bay, of beautiful land and of extraordinary fertility. It is all under cultivation, and enormous crops are raised on it. The fields are fenced, the houses American, and all tells of American enterprise. On arriving at Haywards I found a dispatch calling me to San Francisco immediately. I got in camp, left my party, and at night arrived at the city, twenty-three miles distant. I spent Tuesday, September 10, there with Professor Whitney trying to devise “ways and means” of continuing the work, and then returned to camp. I will give the main features of our trouble.

There was an appropriation of $20,000 before we came. We expected to use but $10,000 or $15,000 this year, so got an additional appropriation of $15,000 to carry on our work this and the first part of next year. We drew immediately in advance $10,000, and afterwards got $5,000. There was, on our arrival, over half a million of specie in the state treasury. We apprehended no difficulty in getting the money as we needed it after the opening of the new year’s accounts. But at last session a transfer of over a quarter of a million was made from one fund to another, which has thrown trouble into all the machinery of state finances, depleted the treasury, and crippled us. We went without our salaries, but were promised $5,000 certainly the first of this month. The time has arrived but the money can’t be got. We have seen the Governor, the Treasurer, and others, but our only answer and consolation is: that there is no money in the treasury; that they can’t pay us until the first of December, and then but $5,000; that we are no worse off than the rest of the state officers; that the Governor and all the officers have received no salaries for months; that we get none of our last $15,000 appropriation until next March; and that we must retrench and cut down our party and wait.

I have held long consultations with Professor Whitney and the present plan is to curtail expenses, dismiss one or two assistants, do without our salaries until next March, except what is absolutely necessary for the direst necessities, keep in the field say six weeks yet, then withdraw from the field and dismiss all but the three assistants in the first departments, and run on borrowed money, if we can borrow. We borrowed $2,500 for present use.

To continue my story. Tuesday, September 10, I returned to camp. Wednesday I visited some of the hills in the neighborhood, and among the rest, a “coal mine” where much money had been expended and not a particle of coal found, and where a very little geological knowledge would have saved the money. Then a “copper mine” just as bad and more expensive. I went down a shaft a hundred feet, hanging on a rope, then into a drift in rock where it is impossible for a mine to occur—money thrown away. I told the man to stop digging, and I think he will—after sinking a few more hundreds.

That night Professor Whitney joined us in camp. He had just returned from Washoe. I wish I could recount his tales of that country—it seems a fable—a desert region, inhospitable, but with mines of fabulous richness—$700,000 taken from one vein in a short time—the largest steam stamping mills in the world erected, where the freight amounted to sixteen cents per pound ($320 per ton)—for a short distance of the road boilers sent by express at thirty cents per pound—tales of money being both lost and won by the hundreds of thousands, of a large town springing up in that desert in two years, etc.

We were camped on a lovely spot by a stream, under a stupendous sycamore, on a rich bottom. The land was recently sold for one hundred dollars per acre, as it had produced over ninety bushels of wheat per acre. But pretty as it was, a heavy fog rolled in from the sea by night and dripped from the trees like rain, wetting our blankets as we slept under them—reminding me of rain once more.

The next day we moved on to Amador Valley, northeast, at the south side of Mount Diablo, then climbed a high hill after we got in camp, where we had a fine view of the region. The San Ramon Valley, west of Mount Diablo, lay at our feet, the richest and most lovely I have yet seen in the state. It is all held in farms, where wheat is grown, and crops of over sixty bushels per acre are expected—they sometimes rise to over ninety—such crops does this state produce! The premium crop of wheat last year was nineteen acres, accurately measured, which averaged ninety-five bushels per acre over the whole, or over 1,800 bushels on nineteen acres! well authenticated—and so very dry that each 100 bushels would be at least 105 to 108 in the eastern states.

I have many things to write about the agriculture of this state, but every letter I don’t do it, for I have so much else that I want to tell. Were I with you it would take me a month to “talk out.”

We camped at the farm of a Major Russell, who had been with the Mormons. He sat in camp during the lovely evening and told us much of Mormon life. The universal testimony about the Mormons is the same; those that know the most of them give them the worst name.

The sky was very clear, the stars and moon bright, as we went to bed under some lovely live oaks by a little brook. The brook had “broken out” after the earthquake in June last—it is good water, and Russell says is worth $5,000 to his farm. The ground had cracked quite extensively near our camp, and a number of good springs had broken out in the valley at that time.9

Game was once very abundant—bear in the hills, and deer, antelope, and elk like cattle, in herds. Russell said he had known a party of thirty or forty to lasso twenty-eight elk on one Sunday. All are now exterminated, but we find their horns by the hundreds.

Friday, September 13, we went up the San Ramon Valley about twelve miles, and left our party to camp, while we pushed up the valley, then climbed the hill, 2,500 or 2,800 feet high, where we had an extensive and comprehensive view. Mount Diablo was the grandest object in the landscape. I will not attempt a description of the view, but cannot pass over some geological facts.

The strata here are all filled with shells and are of enormous thickness. They are turned up at high angles and much broken. The whole country is of mountains 2,000 to 3,500 feet in elevation, made by the broken edges of the strata. We saw sections of these strata over a mile in thickness, yet full of shells through their whole thickness. I think the Tertiary rocks of this region are two or three miles thick! Who shall estimate the countless ages that must have elapsed while they were being deposited in that ancient ocean? While these myriads of animals were called into existence, generations lived and died, and at last the species themselves became extinct. Each day reveals new marvels in our labors, teaches us new truths in the world’s history.

We had camped in a “wind gap” and the air drew through fiercely. We expected it to die down with the night, but it did not. We “retired,” scattered here and there on the ground, some under the trees, but I out in the clear open air, for should fogs come on it is drier, as the sequel proved.

How the wind howled round my head and played with my hair and shrieked through the trees, as I lay and watched the stars before I went to sleep! The wind continued through the night, and with it came a dense fog from the sea, which wet our blankets, searched out every crevice, probed every rheumatic corner of our bones, and dripped like rain from the trees. The morning was dark, but we got out, got breakfast, packed up, and started on our way before the fog cleared and the sun came out. The stream by that camp, like the last, opened and sprang up at the last earthquake.

We traveled all day and reached Oakland that night, opposite San Francisco. We camped and the Professor and I went into town. Sunday I returned to camp to see if all was right and to make preparation for leaving for a week. The ferry-boats were crowded by the thousands who were going over to see a parade at the camps near Oakland that day.

Oakland is a pretty little place, springing up with residences of San Francisco merchants. It is like Brooklyn from New York, only it is farther, the bay being some seven or eight miles wide there. Pretty oaks are scattered over the sandy flat. I returned to the city that night. The next day, Monday, September 16, I transacted various business affairs and then came up here along with Professor Whitney.

Sacramento.

September 20.

We left the city by steamer for Sacramento, 120 miles, at 4 P.M. and did not get into the river until after dark. The sail up the bay is very fine. The islands and the shores of hills are bare and brown now—I mean bare of trees—only dried grass. The effect of the setting sun, illuminating this with its mellow light, was most beautiful indeed. Mount Diablo stood up, a grand object, in the landscape.

The Rev. T. Starr King, the celebrated orator and clergyman, was on board with us. I got an introduction and had a pleasant time with him. He is as agreeable in conversation as he is eloquent in the rostrum. Night closed in on us before we entered the Sacramento River, and when I got up in the morning we were lying quietly at the wharf of that new city, the capital of the state, the “Albany” of California.

The State Fair is being held here. The noise and bustle distracts me. I feel nervous and excited and long for the camp again, with its clear air, calm still nights, simple life, and its loneliness, rather than this bustle and crowd. I took cold when in San Francisco ten days ago, and again now—had I my blankets here I would be tempted to sleep out on the fairground.

The Fair is like other fairs—hundreds of big cattle, horses, etc. (the horses the finest)—many more Durhams than I expected to see, few Devons (in fact, none at all), some few sheep, fewer hogs, some mules and jacks. The grounds are fine, over twenty acres enclosed with a high brick wall with ten entrances, a fine track, etc. The stalls for cattle are finely arranged around the outside, and a promenade is to be built on the flat roofs of the stalls. There is a large stand for two thousand spectators, and a fine track. The races were received with California gusto, where horsemanship is such an accomplishment.

Indoors the Fair was more peculiar—no flowers at all, but fine fruits. These latter were more remarkable for size than any other characteristic. It is too late for the best plums and peaches. I will give you some items of pears and apples. Numbers of apples which I measured were over 15 inches in circumference—one 16 1/2 inches! Three pears on one plate, I measured, both around them lengthwise and around the largest part crosswise, and their measurements in circumference were 17 inches by 14, 16 1/2 by 14 7/8, and 18 7/8 by 14 3/4 inches, respectively, the three weighing 6 1/2 pounds! Numbers of pears were seen measuring over fifteen inches around, and proportionately larger if measured around from stem to blossom end. In two instances of three pears on one stem, each cluster weighed together over five pounds. There were grapes of four-, five-, six-, and even seven-pound clusters! Yet, I must say candidly that I think the quality of all the fruit, except pears, to be inferior to the same kinds in the eastern states. Pears grow peculiarly well here.

The park is about a mile outside of the city, the pavilion for indoor show is in the city and was built earlier. The park was only fitted up this summer. The pavilion is an enormous brick building, has cost already over $30,000, and it will take $10,000 more to complete it according to the plan. It is lit by gas, and the greatest crowds are there in the evening, when the beauty and fashion of the city are on hand.

It is unnecessary for me to speak of two laborious and “borous” days I spent on a committee to make arrangements for sending things from the Pacific Coast to the great World’s Fair at London next year. Governor Nye, of Nevada Territory, was our chairman, but most of the work devolved on a

Hollenbeck's Rock, Pacheco Pass
HOLLENBECK’S ROCK, PACHECO PASS
From a sketch by Charles F. Hoffmann
The Beer Keg
THE BEER KEG
From a sketch by Charles F. Hoffmann
small sub-committee of seven, of which I was one. Governor Nye had as “delegates” to the Fair from his territory (Nevada) three great ingots of silver from the Washoe Mines, each of over sixty pounds avoirdupois weight—nice pocket pieces.

A noticeable feature of the Fair was the gambling. Besides the usual sideshows of live snakes, big cows, fat hogs, fat women, etc., there were hundreds of fan, monte, and other gaming tables, each with their piles of silver and gold, often to the value of hundreds and even thousands of dollars, in full blast, with the crowds around. Music, females singing or dealing cards to draw the custom, liquor, noise, swearing, etc., were the accompaniments. Yet the whole Fair was orderly. I never saw a Fair in the East where the crowds were more orderly or so well dressed as at this.

NOTES

1. This is the earliest account known of an ascent of Mount Hamilton. Professor Whitney vetoed a proposal to name the mountain for him (Brewster, Life and Letters of Josiah Dwight Whitney [1909], p. 238). It was thereupon named for the San Jose clergyman, and is cited as Mount Hamilton in the Whitney Survey, Geology, I, 43, 50, etc.

2. The altitude of Mount Hamilton is given by the U.S. Geological Survey as 4,209 feet.

3. Monument Peak (2,647 feet).

4. Josiah Belden was a member of the first party to cross the plains to California for the purpose of settlement, known as the Bartleson-Bidwell party of 1841. The story of this party is well known through John Bidwell’s articles in the Century Magazine (November and December, 1890), and his Echoes of the Past, first printed at Chico, lately reprinted by the Lakeside Press (Chicago, 1928). Belden settled in San Jose about 1848 and was its first mayor (1850). He married Sarah M. Jones, a pioneer of ‘46.

5. Samuel Osgood Putnam, one time of Milwaukee, married Elizabeth Whitney. He came to California in 1850 and was connected with the California Steam Navigation Company.

6. Black Mountain (2,787 feet).

7. La Misión del Gloriosísimo Patriarcha Señor San José, founded 1797.

8. In later years Professor Brewer frequently told this rattlesnake story to illustrate a peculiarity of human fear. A portion of the story omitted in the Journal is supplied by his son, Arthur Brewer. After cutting off the rattles and head and wrapping them in a piece of paper, he put them in his pocket and proceeded down the mountain. He had traveled but a short distance when he decided to go back and measure the rattler. As he started to straighten out the snake, in order to measure it with his tape, the body coiled and struck him on the wrist with the stump where the head had been. Although he knew there was absolutely no danger, as the head, fangs, and poison sac were in his pocket, he was so unnerved by the incident that it was some time before he could remount his mule and resume his journey. Professor Brewer was accustomed to point out by this incident how one’s fear could not always be controlled by one’s reason.

9. An earthquake, July 4, 1861, “cracked open the earth, started a new spring, threw the water out of an old one, and cast down men standing up in the field” (Daily Alta California, August 8, 1864).


Next: Chapter 5ContentsPrevious: Chapter 3

Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/up_and_down_california/2-4.html