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Up and Down California in 1860-1864;
The Journal of William H. Brewer:
Book 3, Chapter 4

Benicia—Sickness at Rag Canyon—Steamer to Red Bluff—Cottonwood Creek—Indian Types and Customs—Heat and Fever—Branches of the Sacramento—Darlingtonia—Views of Mount Shasta.

Camp 82, near Benicia.
Sunday, July 20, 1862.

I am glad enough to be here, although our camp is not in a pleasant place, yet it is preferable to the city. The crowds of the city make me feel sad and lonely. I feel restless and long for the quiet of camp life—quiet, yet active—rich in that excitement that arises from the contemplation and study of nature, but quiet in all that relates to strife with the busy, bustling world.

We are camped in a little valley among the treeless hills that lie on this side of the Strait of Carquinez. On crossing from Martinez a great change comes over the landscape. There are open groves, beautiful trees, and cool shade; here, not a tree to break the wind or to invite rest in its shade. Yet the land is fertile, and rich fields of grain lie on every side. Although Sunday, the clatter of a reaping machine is borne on the breeze from a neighboring field. I heard it before I was up in the morning. It sounds strange to hear it, the sound mingled with the tones of the bells of the churches and convent from the neighboring town.

Benicia is a very dull place—scarcely any business, although once the rival of San Francisco and the capital of the state. A large city was “laid out,” and thousands were prospectively rich. But, alas, the abundant “lots” and “water fronts” were held at such high prices—everyone must get rich rapidly by the rise in the value of his “city property”—that no one could buy. All speculated and none built—the same old Californian story—so that capital hesitated about coming, trade kept away and sought cheaper quarters, and industry, the natural foe of speculation, stood aloof. The “city” remained in its “lots,” and now Benicia—the “City of Benicia”—is merely a little, dull, miserable town of not over five hundred inhabitants, and were it not for its United States Arsenal and the shops of the Panama steamers, where they make their repairs, there would be nothing here.

Another curious history is just now developing here, a true Californian episode, and one of those which more than any other retard the progress of the state. The entire point of land, some fifty thousand acres, has been held under an old Spanish grant. Under this title it has all been sold and converted into farms, now valuable. Two villages, the “cities” of Benicia and Vallejo, have grown up upon it. At last—at this late date, when men who bought property in good faith and paid its full value have been living in undisputed possession for periods of from five to fourteen years—the United States court rejects the claim, and immediately the whole is considered “unoccupied public lands.” What a field for the squatter, the sovereign squatter, that highest type of the American citizen!

Instantly the whole is “taken up” by squatters. Within sight of our camp are numbers of these “actual residences.” The squatter goes in some man’s field, even his orchard, and, usually in the night, erects his “residence,” a board shanty worth at most five to ten dollars. He spends one night on it, which is sufficient for him to swear that he has erected a residence and resided there. He thus lays claim to 160 acres of the “government land.” In this way men have actually squatted on lots in the city of Benicia occupied by brick stores. Of course, the population is intensely excited. One man tore down the shanties erected on his farm. The squatters in turn tore down his fences and burnt his fine barn. The rest of the residents now are doing nothing—grain is ripe, the fields dry, but they dare do nothing, for the free and independent squatter who would take possession of a man’s farm is none too good to burn his house, if molested. Courts now will quarrel, lawyers make money, some men get money, and honest industry suffer.

The story of these Spanish grants is a long one, and a black one. Our central government has much to answer for. This case ought to have been settled long ago—there is neither reason nor justice in such delays. If the claims are poor now, they could not have been good fourteen years ago. Political corruption has other sins to answer for as well as the rebellion at home.

This case here is by no means an isolated one—every year tells of numbers of such. The great drawback on the settlement of this state has been, is now, and will be for years to come the insecurity of land titles, and for this southern politicians more than northern are the cause, but the explanation is too long to write now.

Camp 83, Rockville.
July 25.

Tuesday, July 22, we came on here, about seventeen miles. We are camped in the field of a Secessionist, but our Stripes and Stars float from our tent. This is about twenty miles northeast of Benicia and five miles from Suisun. We have been here now three days and will leave tomorrow. It is very hot, myriads of fleas annoy us and pests of ants invaded our beds one night. North of the marsh that skirts the bay for some miles is a very rich agricultural region, teeming with grain.

Camp 84, Rag Canyon.
August 6.

Saturday, July 26, we left Rockville and struck north up the Suisun Creek—a lovely ride—beautiful valley, fine oaks, rugged hills on both sides. We crossed the divide and struck into Rag Canyon,1 a canyon that enters the Puta Creek.2 For the last ten or twelve miles of our ride we passed but one house, that inhabited by a man and two squaws. We camped in a pretty spot under two fine large oaks, in the narrow valley. A little water here came to the surface in the bed of the brook. We proposed to spend Sunday and Monday there.

“Man proposes, but God disposes,” says the old proverb, and thus it has been in our case. Here I have been sick nearly ever since the last date of writing—eleven days—sick, very sick a part of the time, but now am recovering, and we hope to be off in two days more.

San Francisco.
Sunday, August 10.

Thursday, August 7, I raised camp and returned to within five miles of Suisun, and the next day went to Suisun, took steamer and arrived here the same night. I am much better, but, considering it unsafe to ride so soon, I sent the party on up the Sacramento Valley, where I will join them in about a week, at Red Bluff, the head of navigation on the Sacramento.

On my arrival here I found the whole city in excitement and mourning over the loss of the Golden Gate, a terrible calamity. Everyone has lost friends and acquaintances by that accident. I sent some papers telling about it.3

Red Bluff, on the Upper Sacramento.
Sunday, August 17.

Busy, although weak and out of sorts, I got ready and at 4 P.M. of Tuesday, August 12, left San Francisco by steamer for Sacramento. It was a most lovely afternoon—the beautiful bay was crossed, the sun set, gilding in the most golden colors the bare hills, now either brown or a rich straw color. Mount Diablo stood up, a most majestic object, until shut out by the shades of evening. We were in the “sloughs,” as the many mouths of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are called,

Castle Crags, West of the Upper Sacramento
From a sketch by J. D. Whitney
Cone Mountain (Black Butte) near Mount Shasta
From a sketch by Charles F. Hoffmann
when the moon rose from the plain as from the sea. The illusion was heightened by its blood-red color and distorted shape as it rose from the low horizon. The river was low, although still eight feet above the low water of previous years. The bed has been so raised, however, that we stuck on a bar for seven hours, and only arrived at Sacramento at eight o’clock in the morning.

Wednesday, August 13, I took a short stroll through that city before going on board the steamer bound for Red Bluff.4 Everywhere one sees the effects of the flood in that unfortunate city, and, indeed, the water was still over a part of it. The morning was intensely hot, in strong contrast with the San Francisco weather.

Although the channel of the Sacramento is insufficient to carry off all the water of wet winters, yet it is rapidly filling up, each year increasing the difficulty. Previous to 1848 the river was noted for the purity of its waters, flowing from the mountains as clear as crystal; but, since the discovery of gold, the “washings” render it as muddy and turbid as is the Ohio at spring flood—in fact it is perfectly “riley,” discoloring even the waters of the great bay into which it empties. A man pointed out to me a spot at the mouth of the American River at Sacramento where, in 1849, he had sounded the river and found it fifty feet deep. He had seen a schooner sink there, so that only a little of her masts stuck out a short distance. Now there is a luxuriant growth of young willows on the mud bank that occupies the spot. Last winter’s floods alone are supposed to have raised the bed of the river at Sacramento six or seven feet at least—that is, in spots, so as to raise the water that much.

Red Bluff is at the head of navigation on the river—three hundred miles above Sacramento by the river, but only half that distance by land. Stern-wheel steamers, drawing but eighteen or nineteen inches of water run up. Our boat was the Gem, and we towed a barge with two hundred tons of freight, quite an impediment to rapid progress. We got off at 11 A.M. I had plenty of books along, and although it was very hot, 90° to 96° every day, yet I enjoyed that trip much.

Thursday, August 14, we kept on our slow and winding way, often on bars and shoals that took long to get over. A wide plain borders the river on each side. We caught distant views of the mountains, but generally we saw only the river and its banks, which were more or less covered with trees—willows, cottonwoods, oaks, and sycamores—with wild grapevines trailing from them. Some of the views were pretty indeed. When it got dark, we tied up, it being impossible to run in the night, owing to snags, bars, and rapids.

On Friday morning, August 15, as I stood on the deck of the steamer, who should come down to the shore to see us pass but Averill. The party were camped on the river bank, and by chance I saw them. It was a relief, for it showed that they were safe thus far.

Our progress this day was slower than before. Many bars and rapids in the crooked river were but slowly surmounted. During the day Lassen’s Buttes stood out in clear outlines in the east—two majestic sharp peaks, their sides streaked with snow. Before night we saw Mount Shasta rising above the horizon, clear in outline, although its snowy crest was 150 miles distant in air line.

We tied up that night at Tehama, a little village on the bank. A circus was the excitement of the time and I attended. Such an audience! At least two-thirds were Digger Indians, who enjoyed the riding much, but were decidedly undemonstrative as to the rest. After it, there was the usual excitement of “side shows”—the bearded woman, the stone eater, etc.—the agent of each yelling for custom. There were gambling tables in saloons, where monte was in progress—the usual music, women, liquor, piles of gold and silver on the tables, etc. It was decidedly a scene to be remembered.

Saturday we again went on and arrived here in the afternoon. My party had arrived just before me and had encamped near town. This is a stirring little town of a few hundred inhabitants—saloons, taverns (“hotels”), and corrals being the chief features, for here pack trains and teams start for the whole northern country, Oregon, etc. But, oh, how hot it is! I am now writing at eleven o’clock at night, and it is 94° in my room—it has been 100° to 102° most of the day. I went to church this morning—an audience of about twenty-five only—in the schoolhouse.

Here the low hills close in on the river, and here begins a most interesting country to visit. I went out to camp a little while this afternoon, but I shall stay at the hotel until we leave here, then take to camp again.

Camp 94, North Fork of Cottonwood Creek.
Sunday, August 24.

Tuesday, August 19, the camp went on, but I rode with a gentleman to visit the Tuscan Springs, some eight miles east, in a wild region of low, desolate, forbidding hills. These springs have some repute—a house, bathhouses, etc., have been erected—but they are not quite a Saratoga or an Avon in either surroundings or accommodations, for they are hot, dry, dreary, and desolate. The waters are varied in the different springs, but all are sulphury, stinking, with salt, alkali, iron, etc. They have much repute for the cure of certain diseases. Not the least interesting feature was the evolution of gas along with the water. It is so abundant, and burns so well, that it is collected, purified, and burned to heat the baths. The whole region around shows strong marks of volcanic action.

Wednesday, August 20, I got up at 4 A.M. to take the stage, but had to wait three hours before it came along, heavily loaded with mail matter and boot full. Only two men could ride inside, the rest on top. A hot ride of forty miles brought us into Shasta about two o’clock—over hills and through gulches, very dusty. The last four miles was through a mining region.

The boys had arrived ahead of me and had camped near town. We spent two days there, camped in a dusty, dirty, hot corral, but the best place about. On getting in camp I felt vastly better. I am now recruiting rapidly, notwithstanding the heat and dust, but have not near my desired strength yet. I weigh but a hundred and fifty—twenty pounds less than last summer, and fourteen less than I weighed a month ago.

Yesterday, August 23, we came here, where we will stop about three days, then return to Shasta and wait for Professor Whitney. The whole aspect of the scenery is changed on arriving in this region. Across the head of the Sacramento Valley stretches a great table-land, perhaps 1,200 feet above the sea, and north of this a chain of mountains stretches across and unites the Sierra Nevada with the Coast Range. This table-land stretches south from the foot of these mountains. Passing through, it would not be noticed that it is a table, so cut and furrowed is it with canyons and gulches, but from any considerable height it seems like an immense plain, if one is high enough so as not to notice its furrowed ravines.

From all the more elevated points, Mount Shasta is a most sublime object. Distant about sixty to seventy miles in an air line, so clear does it seem in its sharp outline that to an eye unaccustomed to our scenery here it would seem scarcely ten miles off. Its whole top is white with snow, save where cragged rocks peep through. The snow line is a well-defined, perfectly level line all around.


All the way from Shasta here is a placer region—a high table-land, furrowed into innumerable canyons and gulches. The soil is often a hundred feet thick—a very compact, red, cement gravel. In this is the gold, especially in the gulches or ravines. Here in an early day miners “pitched in”—many made their “pile” and left, others died. Little mining towns sprang up, but as the richest placers were worked out they became deserted and now look dilapidated enough.

We came here yesterday from Shasta, passing through Middletown (which is on the wrong road on the map), Briggsville (now nearly deserted), Horsetown, Piety Hill—all mining places.

The scenery here is as unlike as can be anything that we have passed through before. It is a dry, hilly country, with high mountains along the north, the soil very dry and covered with scattered trees and bushes. There are gardens, etc., in the valleys, but generally the land is barren from drought. The whole region is scarred by miners, who have skimmed over the surface and left the region more desolate than before.

Many are mining here still, and many years will elapse before all the placers here will be exhausted. Water is supplied during the summer by ditches, dug for miles in length, by which the mountain streams are carried over the lower hills and the water used for washing the dirt. When these ditches cross gullies, the water is carried in a wooden trough, or, as we in the East would say, a “race,” but here they are universally called “flumes.” We passed one of these flumes yesterday that ran across the valley for a distance of over five thousand feet, most of the way over fifty feet high and in places over ninety feet—it was a magnificent work, known as the Eagle Creek Ditch.

Sunday, August 31.

Our special object in visiting the region of our last camp, seventeen miles distant, was to see the development of Cretaceous rocks, and trace their relations to the gold-bearing slates. We wished also to collect fossils, in which that locality is peculiarly rich.

Monday, August 25, with Mr. Hubbard, the man who lived where we camped, we rode three or four miles to a gulch, where, he said, fossils were abundant. The gulch was a ravine excavated into the soft shales, in places carrying a small stream of water; in other places the water sank and the gulch was dry. We descended into it, rode some distance, but saw no fossils.

A little later we found lots of fossils. We heard that a man named Wheelock, living about a mile from our camp, had a very large and fine fossil, an ammonite, so we called to see it, and get it if possible. I found him a brother-in-law of my old friend, H. A. Ward, of Rochester, my most intimate friend in Paris, whom I also knew in Munich. He was as glad to see me as if I had been an old acquaintance. I called there in the evening and ate peaches and nectarines to my heart’s content.

Both Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Wheelock had small orchards—fruit gardens we would call them—watered or irrigated from a mining ditch. The luxuriance of the fruit trees must be actually seen to be appreciated. These oases in the general dry, desert landscape, are cheering and beautiful. Trees of two years’ growth are as large as ours would be of four or five, and loaded with fruit. Cherry trees of only four years’ growth were as large as the most thrifty one of ten or twelve years’ growth in New York. The peaches were fine, both as to size and quality, and the nectarines positively delicious. Apples were good, but hardly reaching those of central and western New York, I think.

Quite a number of Indians, “Diggers,” were about—they often stopped near camp and stared wonderingly at us. Sometimes there would be a group of five or six in a trail that ran within a rod of our tent—the men, with their bows and arrows and long hair; the women, with their faces horribly tattooed and their heavy, thick, stiff, and coarse black hair cut off square, just even with their eyes in front but hanging down over the sides of the face and back of the head to the neck. Sometimes the women had burdens, a bundle or basket on the back carried by a strap across the forehead; sometimes they came with children, which were often entirely naked. Such groups would stop, just at evening while we were talking and smoking, and stand within a rod of us for some time, looking intently at us, at everything around us, then pass on with very few words among themselves. Sometimes, during the day, two or three squaws would come along, sit down in the hot sun within three or four rods of the tent, say nothing, but listlessly watch us for half an hour together.

These Indians are peaceable and nearly harmless when in no larger numbers than they are here, notwithstanding the unnumbered wrongs they have endured from the mining population of whites. As I hear of these wrongs, of individual cases, related from time to time, I do not know which feeling is the stronger awakened, that of commiseration for the poor Indians, or of indignation against the barbarous whites. There are now “Indian troubles” at various places in the upper part of the state—white men are murdered, etc., troops are out—and as yet I have not heard a single intelligent white man express any opinion but that the whites were vastly more to blame than the Indians.

But they are a low, very low, brutal-looking race. A number lived on the bank of Cottonwood Creek, about a half or three-quarters of a mile from our camp. Still nearer was their burial place, on the table-land at the top of the bluff bank of the creek, which is here sixty to eighty feet high. It is a pen, fenced with rails, perhaps two or three rods in diameter, under some oaks. The dead are buried in a sitting posture, the knees drawn up to the chin, blankets wrapped around. Clean, coarse sand from the stream is afterward carried up from the creek, in a tin pan, and piled over the grave, so that when finished it is a conical pile of sand, perhaps two or three feet high. This little inclosure was filled with such sand piles. There had recently been a fire just outside, where I believe the goods of the deceased were burned—of this I am not sure.

On the night previous to our arrival, a man of note had been buried, and the yells, screams, and noise over the grave were heard over the whole neighborhood for a mile or two. A few days afterward we passed the grave in the morning, and as we rode along, three women were there “mourning.” One was on the grave dancing—a sort of uncouth hopping motion—the other two were sitting on the ground near, and all were howling and uttering words in a peculiar tone, anything but plaintive or mournful. They paid no attention to our presence as we rode along. I could not but think of some of my lady friends at home, great sticklers for fashionable mourning, and wish that they might see these Digger women, who are probably just as rigorous in their fashions—only these take it over the grave, in the solitude, among the trees, instead of flourishing in crêpe and black in crowded parties, where the depth of their grief might be “seen of men” and its precise depth judged of by the intensity of the black or the amount of the crêpe.

These Indians are very dark, black as our darkest mulattoes, and not as intelligent looking as the negro. Often as we were exploring the gulches for fossils we would see them following and watching us from the banks, keeping nearly concealed, with peculiar Indian secretiveness. Once, Rémond and I came across a fine place to swim, in Cottonwood Creek. We stripped and had a bath, delicious in that hot weather. As we came out we discovered two squaws, young women, quietly regarding us from the bushes against the bank, but a few rods off.

We secured a fine lot of fossils, which we packed up the night before leaving, and Thursday, August 28, came back here. The weather had been so hot that we were up at dawn, and off in the cool of the morning, and were here by two o’clock, but the last three hours of our ride were intensely hot, and the dust almost insupportable.

Camp 98, Strawberry Valley.
Base of Mount Shasta.
Sunday, September 14.

After our long siege in the intense heat, three months with the thermometer nearly all the time above 90°, and often for days or even a week together with it above 100°, that hot week was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” with most of my little party. Hoffmann, Schmidt, and Rémond were taken down with fever, and Averill also was at least nearly down. He did not get down entirely, but became unfit for duty. Sunday, August 31, the three were miserable enough. It was very hot. They lay out under a horse shed during the day, at night they went into the tent.

Monday, September 1, was another hot day. Our position in camp, dirty and hot, was uncomfortable enough, I assure you. Near us was the county hospital; and the steward, or rather manager, a graduate of Union College in New York, had visited Averill, who was also graduated there. He saw our plight, and most generously tendered us the use of a room at his house, near the hospital. We accepted it and moved our men that morning. After righting things at camp, I went there also and spent the night with them, as in fact I did for several nights, sleeping on the floor.

Tuesday, September 2, Professor Whitney arrived, much to our relief. We were anxious to get out of that hot place and up into the mountains as soon as possible for the men. Saturday, September 6, Averill and I were up at the first tints of dawn and had our wagon loaded before sunrise. While waiting for breakfast, which we got at a neighboring house, we had a most glorious sunrise, the sun rising directly beyond the high, snow-covered Lassen’s Butte. The peak was gloriously illuminated. We drove into town, where the rest had gone the previous evening, and started. Schmidt and Hoffmann were barely able to ride, Rémond had to be left behind. So we left a barometer with him, that he might keep up a series of observations to aid us in our determinations of the height of Mount Shasta.

We started east, crossed the Sacramento, struck northeast, passed through Buckeye, and camped at Bass’s Ranch, seventeen miles from Shasta. The Sacramento is a clear, swift, cold stream, in a narrow valley, almost a gorge where we crossed it. Then we rode over a table-land, much gullied into gulches, covered with sparse, scattered trees, such as are indicative of an intensely hot and dry soil and climate. Scattering gold diggings occurred the whole way, but all were dry now—they can only be worked in the wet months. We arrived at Bass’s Ranch, in a very pretty but dry valley, at noon (thermometer 100°), where we held up for the day. Heat, watching, anxiety, and perhaps also indiscretion in eating had almost made me sick again.

Sunday, September 7, we were all up at dawn and started before seven. We had hoped to be at Mount Shasta at full moon, but the detentions had so delayed us that we must travel Sunday and were yet three days behind time. Five miles over a hilly road brought us to Pit River. Here let me say that the upper Sacramento, above where it turns from the east to the south, is here known altogether as the Pit River, while the name Sacramento is retained for the branch that runs nearly straight south from the west base of Mount Shasta.

We crossed the ferry, crossed some hills to McCloud’s Fork, a swift stream of pure, cold water, green as the Niagara and cold from the snows of the mountains beyond. We followed up that a few miles, then crossed the ridges to the Sacramento Fork, where we camped for the night. Such a hilly road—all up and down—now winding along a mere shelf hundreds of feet above the river, then descending into ravines. The country between these forks is dry, the hills mostly covered with bushes and scattering trees, but after this day we had very different scenery, for we were in a wilderness of mountains and continually rising. We were glad enough to get into camp, for all were tired. We had had a hard day’s drive, although we had come but twenty-one miles.

We had seen a number of Indians, and at the ferry where we camped that night there were a number more. We heard that many had recently died. There were some graves on a knoll near camp, and a number of squaws kept up an incessant howling, moaning, screeching, and thumping on something until dark. Their noise was positively hideous, but then this is their way of showing respect for the dead. They ceased when it got dark, but commenced again soon after dawn.

Monday, September 8, we were up again at dawn. We crossed the Sacramento Fork by ferry, and all day followed up that stream, making twenty-one miles. It was certainly, together with the next day’s ride, the most picturesque road I have traveled in this state—in fact, I think that I ever traveled. Sometimes down to the level of the river—then crossing ridges, sinking into ravines—sometimes a narrow way where two wagons cannot pass for half a mile at a stretch, the steep mountain on one side and the swift stream hundreds of feet below on the other. None of your magnificent roads, such as one sees in Switzerland, where at such places a parapet guards from all danger; but rough, sidling, the outer wheel uncomfortably near the soft shelving edge—bridges, without rail, made by laying poles or split timber on the beams, spanning deep ravines, where the mules went over trembling with fear. The road is pretty well engineered. The fifty miles that we passed over, rough as it is, cost, we were told, $40,000, and our tolls up and back were $25.50.

The valley ran nearly straight toward Mount Shasta, and at times we got most glorious views of that peak. Its snow-covered head rose magnificently far above everything else—with what wonder and awe we regarded it, the goal of our trip! The many stories we heard of the terrors of ascending it—many declaring that no man ever had succeeded in reaching the highest summit, although many had nearly succeeded—were fiction, as we shall see farther on.

When within a mile of our camping place for the night I came on a patch of a very curious and rare plant, the darlingtonia, a sort of pitcher plant, as yet found in no other locality, the wonder and admiration of botanists.5 It is needless to say that I stopped and filled my box while the rest went on—my mule expressing great indignation thereat, hardly being restrained by the rope with which I tied her to a tree, making the woods hideous with her braying and awakening the echoes of the rocks with her remonstrances. Professor Whitney rode my mule, so I had old Blanco again, my mule of last year.6

We had a beautiful camp that night among the pines and first at Sim Southern’s. He entertained us with some most marvelous stories of his attempted ascent of Mount Shasta—marvelous indeed to hear, but received with some allowance, and more so after we had been on the ground. In fact, popular testimony was that with him “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Tuesday, September 9, we continued on our way. In a few miles we passed the Castle Rocks (Devil’s Castle of the map), most picturesque objects to behold. A granite ridge rises very abruptly from the valley, its crest worn into the most fantastic forms—pinnacles, minarets, battlements, domes, and peaks. Some of these rise perhaps three thousand feet above the valley, and the chain of Castle Mountains is much higher beyond. We were in sight of them a long time and each turn of the road disclosed a new view of them. In crossing a spur from this chain that runs down to the river we had the most magnificent view of Mount Shasta that we have yet had. It appeared up the valley, the foreground of mountains opening to show it, the great cone rising high, its upper six thousand feet streaked with glistening snow, its outlines sharply cut against the intensely blue sky, its sides steep beyond belief.

Next we came to the Soda Springs. These are close by the river, here merely a large mill stream in size, its waters green and cold, and traces everywhere of what a torrent it must be during the winter rains. The waters of the spring are highly charged with carbonic acid—so are called “soda” springs, for they sparkle like soda water—and hold iron in solution. They have a considerable reputation for curative powers.

Here we left the immediate side of the stream and struck up an inclined table-land, rising a thousand feet more in the next nine miles to Strawberry Valley Ranch, where we camped. This is the base of the mountain.

On the last two days’ ride we had met much lava. It seemed to have run over the country after it had its present general features but not the present details. The streams have, in many places, cut through the bed of lava into the softer slates beneath. These slates were for the most part very hard, for they had all been baked and altered by heat. The last nine miles from the Soda Springs was entirely over lava. Much of the last two days had been through fine forests—pine, fir, cedar, and spruce, with various other trees. Many of the cone-bearing trees were large and grand beyond anything the eastern states know of. Trees six or eight feet in diameter and 200 to 250 feet high were not rare.

A sort of wide valley runs through on the west of the mountain, in which both the Sacramento and Shasta rivers may be said to rise, that is, there is no ridge lying between these two rivers at this point. As this valley is but three thousand feet in elevation, it presents from this side a vast portion of the entire height of the peak.


1. The name is probably derived from an early settler in the vicinity, named Wragg.

2. The official spelling is now Putah, suggesting an Indian origin. Brewer and the Whitney Survey publications use the original form, Puta, derived from the Spanish Cañada de las Putas.

3. The SS. Golden Gate was burned at sea near Manzanillo, July 27, 1862, with a loss of 198 passengers and crew, and property valued at $2,000,000.

4. Brewer writes this name Red Bluffs, but the singular is found in the Whitney Survey reports and is now the established form.

5. Darlingtonia californica Torrey, California pitcher plant, was first collected by Brackenridge of the Wilkes expedition in 1841; the flowers were first obtained by Dr. G. W. Hulse, U.S.A., in the fifties (W. L. Jepson).

6. In a letter to Professor Brush written a few weeks later Brewer says of this mule: “Peace to her memory—after having ridden her nearly two thousand miles, first and last, I sold her yesterday to a packer, and this morning I saw her leaving in the train, packed, braying furiously for the rest of ‘our party.’ She evidently regretted leaving the ranks of Science. Botany was her favorite pursuit, she had a keen eye for plants and has made the graminae her special study along various sections of the Pacific Slope for the last thirty years, possibly longer.” This letter was published in the California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 2 (June, 1928).

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