John Bidwell | Early Pioneering | Across the Plains | California in the Forties | The Discovery of Gold |

John Bidwell
California in the Forties

The party whose fortunes I have followed across the plains was not only the first that went direct to California from the east; we were probably the first white people, except Bonneville's party of 1833, that ever crossed the Sierra Nevadas.20 Dr. Marsh's ranch, the first settlement reached by us in California, was located in the eastern foothills of the Coast Range Mountains, near the northwestern extremity of the great San Joaquin Valley and about six miles east of Monte Diablo, which may be called about the geographical center of Contra Costa County. There were no other settlements in the valley; it was, apparently, still just as new as when Columbus discovered America, and roaming over it were countless thousands of wild horses, of elk, and of antelopes. It had been one of the driest years ever known in California. The country was brown and parched, and wheat, beans, and everything had failed. Cattle were almost starving for grass, and the people, except perhaps a few of the best families, were without bread, and were eating chiefly meat, and that often of very poor quality.

Dr. Marsh had come into California four or five years before by way of New Mexico. He was in some respects a remarkable man. In command of the English language I have scarcely ever seen his equal. He had never studied medicine, I believe, but was a great reader; sometimes he would lie in bed all day reading, and he had a memory that stereotyped all he read, and in those days in California such a man could easily assume the role of doctor and practice medicine. In fact, with the exception of Dr. Marsh there was then no physician of any kind anywhere in California. We were overjoyed to find an American, and yet when we became acquainted with him we found him one of the most selfish of mortals. The night of our arrival he killed two pigs for us. Men reduced to living on poor meat and almost starving have an intense longing for anything fat. We felt very grateful, for we had by no means recovered from starving on poor mule meat, and when he set his Indian cook to making tortillas (little cakes) for us, giving one to each--there were thirty-two in our party--we felt even more grateful, and especially when we learned that he had had to use some of his seed wheat, for he had no other. Hearing that there was no such thing as money in the country, and that butcher-knives, guns, ammunition, and everything of that kind were better than money, we expressed our gratitude the first night to the doctor by presents, one giving a can of powder, another a bar of lead or a butcher-knife, and another a cheap but serviceable set of surgical instruments.

The next morning I rose early, among the first, in order to learn from our host something about California--what we could do, and where we could go--and, strange as it may seem he would scarcely answer a question. He seemed to be in an ill humor, and among other things he said: "The company has already been over a hundred dollars' expense to me, and God knows whether I will ever get a reál21 of it or not." I was at a loss to account for this, and went out and told some of the party, and found that others had been snubbed in a similar manner. We held a consultation and resolved to leave as soon as convenient. Half our party concluded to go back to the San Joaquin River, where there was much game, and spend the winter hunting, chiefly for otter, the skins being worth three dollars apiece. The rest--about fourteen--succeeded in gaining information from Dr. Marsh by which they started to find the town of San Jose, about forty miles to the south, then known by the name of Pueblo de San Jose; now the city of San Jose. More or less of our effects had to be left at Marsh's, and I decided to remain and look out for them, and meantime to make short excursions about the country on my own account.

After the others had left I started off, traveling south, and came to what is now called Livermore Valley, then known as Livermore's ranch, belonging to Robert Livermore, a native of England. He had left a vessel when a mere boy, and had married and lived like the native Californians, and, like them, was very expert with the lasso. Livermore's was the frontier ranch, and more exposed than any other to the ravages of the Horse-thief Indians of the Sierra Nevadas, before mentioned. That valley was full of wild cattle, thousands of them, and they were more dangerous to one on foot, as I was, than grizzly bears. By dodging into the gulches and behind trees I made my way to a Mexican ranch at the extreme west end of the valley, where I stayed all night. This was one of the noted ranches, and belonged to a Californian called Don Jose Maria Amador, more recently to a man named Dougherty. 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!

Next day, seeing nothing to encourage me, I started to return to Marsh's ranch. On the way, as I came to where two roads, or rather paths, converged, I fell in with one of the fourteen men, M. C. Nye, who had started for San Jose. He seemed very much agitated, and reported that at the mission of San Jose, some fifteen miles this side of the town of San Jose, all the men had been arrested and put in prison by General Vallejo, Mexican commander-in-chief of the military under Governor Alvarado, he alone having been sent back to tell Marsh and to have him come forth-with to explain why this armed force had invaded the country. We reached Marsh's after dark. The next day the Doctor started down to the mission of San Jose, nearly thirty miles distant, with a list of the company, which I gave him. He was gone about three days. Meanwhile we sent word to the men on the San Joaquin River to let them known what had taken place, and they at once returned to the ranch to await results.

When Marsh came back, he said ominously: "Now, men, I want you all to come into the house and I will tell you your fate." We all went in, and he announced, "You men that have five dollars can have passports and remain in the country and go where you please." The fact was, he had simply obtained passports for the asking; they had cost him nothing. The men who had been arrested at the mission had been liberated as soon as their passports were issued to them, and they had at once proceeded on their way to San Jose. But five dollars! I don't suppose anyone had five dollars; nine-tenths of them probably had not a cent of money. The names were called and each man settled, giving the amount in something, and if unable to make it up in money or effects he would give his note for the rest. All the names were called except my own. There was no passport for me. Marsh had certainly not forgotten me, for I had furnished him with the list of our names myself. Possibly his idea was--as others surmised and afterwards told me--that lacking a passport, I would stay at his ranch and make a useful hand to work.

The next morning before day found me starting for the mission of San Jose to get a passport for myself. Mike Nye, the man who had brought the news of the arrest, went with me. A friend had lent me a poor old horse, fit only to carry my blankets. I arrived in a heavy rain-storm, and was marched into the calaboose and kept there three days with nothing to eat, and the fleas were so numerous as to cover and darken anything of a light color. There were four or five Indians in the prison. They were ironed, and they kept tolling a bell, as a punishment, I suppose, for they were said to have stolen horses; possibly they belonged to the Horse-thief tribes east of the San Joaquin Valley. Sentries were stationed at the door. Through a grated window I made a motion to an Indian boy outside and he brought me a handful of beans and a handful of manteca, which is used by Mexicans instead of lard. It seemed as if they were going to starve me to death. After having been there three days, I saw through the door a man whom, from his light hair, I took to be an American although he was clad in the wild picturesque garb of a native Californian, including serape and the hugh spurs used by the vaquero. I had the sentry at the door hail him. He proved to be an American, a resident of the pueblo of San Jose, named Thomas Bowen, and he kindly went to Vallejo, who was right across the way in the big mission building, and procured for me the passport. I think I have that passport now, signed by Vallejo and written in Spanish by Victor Pruden. Everyone at the mission pronounced Marsh's action an outrage; such a thing was never known before.

Sutter's Fort
Sutter's Fort.
We had already heard that a man by the name of Sutter was starting a colony a hundred miles away to the north in the Sacramento Valley. No other civilized settlement had been attempted anywhere east of the Coast Range; before Sutter came the Indians had reigned supreme. As the best thing to be done I now determined to go to Sutter's, afterwards called Sutter's Fort, or New Helvetia.

Dr. Marsh said that we could make the journey in two days, but it took us eight. Winter had come in earnest, and winter in California then, as now, meant rain. I had three companions. It was wet when we started, and much of the time we traveled through a pouring rain. Streams were out of their banks; gulches were swimming; plains were inundated; indeed, most of the country was overflowed. There were no roads, merely paths, trodden only by Indians and wild game. We were compelled to follow the paths, even when they were under water, for the moment our animals stepped to one side, down they went into the mire. Most of the way was through the region now lying between Lathrop and Sacramento. We got out of provisions and were about three days without food. Game was plentiful, but hard to shoot in the rain. Besides, it was impossible to keep our old flintlock guns dry, and especially the powder dry in the pans.

On the eighth day we came to Sutter's settlement. This was November 28, 1841; the fort had not then been begun. Sutter received us with open arms and in a princely fashion, for he was a man of the most polite address and the most courteous manners, a man who could shine in any society.22 Moreover, our coming was not unexpected to him. It will be remembered that in the Sierra Nevadas one of our men named Jimmy Johns became separated from the main party. It seems that he came on into California, and, diverging into the north, found his way down to Sutter's settlement, perhaps a little before we reached Dr. Marsh's. Through this man Sutter heard that our company of thirty men were already somewhere in California. He immediately loaded two mules with provisions taken out of his private stores, and sent two men with them in search of us. But they did not find us, and returned with the provisions to Sutter's. Later, after a long search, the same two men, having been sent out again by Sutter, struck our trail and followed it to Marsh's.

John A. Sutter was born in Baden in 1803 of Swiss parents, and was proud of his connection with the only republic of any consequence in Europe. He was a warm admirer of the United States, and some of his friends had persuaded him to cross the Atlantic. He first went to a friend in Indiana with whom he stayed awhile, helping to clear land, but it was a business that he was not accustomed to. So he made his way to St. Louis and invested what means he had in merchandise, and went out as a New Mexican trader to Santa Fe. Having been unsuccessful at Santa Fe, he returned to St. Louis, joined a party of trappers, went to the Rocky Mountains, and found his way down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver. There he formed plans for trying to get down to the coast of California to establish a colony. He took a vessel that went to the Sandwich Islands, and there communicated his plans to people who assisted him. But as there was no vessel going direct from the Sandwich Islands to California, he had to take a Russian vessel by way of Sitka. He got such credit and help as he could in the Sandwich Islands and induced five or six natives to accompany him to start the contemplated colony. He expected to send to Europe and to the United States for his colonists. When he came to the coast of California in 1840, he had an interview with the governor, Alvarado, and obtained permission to explore the country and find a place for his colony. He came to the bay of San Francisco, procured a boat, explored the largest river he could find, and selected the present site of Sacramento.

A short time before we arrived, Sutter had bought out the Russian-American Fur Company at Fort Ross and Bodega on the Pacific. That company had a charter from Spain to take furs, but had no right to the land. The charter had almost expired. Against the protest of the California authorities they had extended their settlement southward some twenty miles farther than they had any right to, and had occupied the country to, and even beyond the bay of Bodega. The time came when the taking of furs was no longer profitable; the Russians were ordered to vacate and return to Sitka. They wished to sell out all their personal property and whatever remaining right they had to the land. So Sutter bought them out: cattle and horses, a little vessel of about twenty-five tons burden, called a launch, and other property, including forty-odd pieces of old rusty cannon and one or two small brass pieces, with a quantity of old French flintlock muskets, pronounced by Sutter to be of those lost by Bonaparte in 1812 in his disastrous retreat from Moscow.

This ordnance Sutter conveyed up the Sacramento River on the launch to his colony. As soon as the native Californians heard that he had bought out the Russians and was beginning to fortify himself by taking up the cannon, they began to fear him. They were doubtless jealous because Americans and other foreigners had already commenced to make the place their headquarters, and they foresaw that Sutter's Fort would be for them, especially for Americans, what it naturally did become in fact, a place of protection and general rendezvous, and so they threatened to break it up. Sutter had not yet actually received his grant; he had simply taken preliminary steps and had obtained permission to settle and proceed to colonize. These threats were made before he had begun the fort, much less built it, and Sutter felt insecure. He had a good many Indians whom he had collected about him, and a few white men (perhaps fifteen or twenty), and some Sandwich Islanders. When he heard of the coming of our thirty men he inferred at once that we would soon reach him and be an additional protection. With this feeling of security, even before the arrival of our party, Sutter was so indiscreet as to write a letter to the Governor or to some one in authority, saying that he wanted to hear no more threats of dispossession, for he was now able not only to defend himself, but to go and chastise them.

That letter having been dispatched to the city of Mexico, the authorities there sent a new governor in 1842 with about six hundred troops to subdue Sutter. But the new governor, Manuel Micheltorena, was an intelligent man. He knew the history of California and was aware that nearly all of his predecessors had been expelled by insurrections of the native Californians. Sutter sent a courier to meet the Governor before his arrival at Los Angeles, with a letter in French, conveying his greetings to the Governor, expressing a most cordial welcome, and submitting cheerfully and entirely to his authority. In this way, the Governor and Sutter became fast friends, and through Sutter the Americans had a friend in Governor Micheltorena.

The first employment I had in California was in Sutter's service, about two months after our arrival at Marsh's. He engaged me in January, 1842, to go to Bodega and Fort Ross and to stay there until he could finish removing the property which he had bought from the Russians.23 At that time the Russians had an orchard of two or three acres of peaches and apples at Fort Ross. I dried the peaches and some of the apples and made cider of the remainder. A small vineyard of white grapes had also been planted. In February, 1842, I made a trip from Bodega northward as far as Clear Lake in the present Lake County. I remained at Bodega and Fort Ross fourteen months, until everything was removed; then I came into the Sacramento Valley and took charge for Sutter of his Hock farm (so named from a large Indian village on the place), remaining there a little more than a year--in 1843 and part of 1844.

Nearly everybody who came to California made it a point to reach Sutter's Fort. Sutter was one of the most liberal and hospitable of men. Everybody was welcome--one man or a hundred, it was all the same. He had peculiar traits; his necessities compelled him to take all he could buy, and he paid all he could pay; but he failed to keep up with his payments. And so he soon found himself immensely, almost hopelessly involved in debt. His debt to the Russians amounted at first to something like $100,000. Interest increased apace. He had agreed to pay in wheat, but his crops failed. He struggled in every way, sowing large areas to wheat, increasing his cattle and horses, and trying to build a flouring mill. He kept his launch running to and from the bay, carrying down hides, tallow, furs, wheat, etc., returning with lumber sawed by hand in the redwood groves nearest the bay, and other supplies. On an average it took a month to make a trip. The fare for each person was $5, including board. Sutter started many other new enterprises in order to find relief from his embarrassments; but in spite of all he could do, these increased. Every year found him worse and worse off; but it was partly his own fault. He employed men, not because he always needed and could profitably employ them, but because in the kindness of his heart it simply became a habit to employ everybody who wanted employment. As long as he had anything he trusted anyone with everything he wanted, responsible or otherwise, acquaintances and strangers alike. Most of the labor was done by Indians, chiefly wild ones, except a few from the mission who spoke Spanish. The wild ones learned Spanish so far as they learned anything, that being the language of the country, and everybody had to learn something of it. The number of men employed by Sutter may be stated at from 100 to 500--the latter number at harvest time. Among them were blacksmiths, carpenters, tanners, gunsmiths, vaqueros, farmers, gardeners, weavers (to weave coarse woolen blankets), hunters, sawyers (to saw lumber by hand, a custom known in England), sheep-herders, trappers, and later, millwrights and a distiller. In a word, Sutter started every business and enterprise possible. He tried to maintain a sort of military discipline. Cannon were mounted, and pointed in every direction through embrasures in the walls and bastions. The soldiers were Indians, and every evening after coming from work they were drilled under a white officer, generally a German, marching to the music of a fife and drum. A sentry was always at the gate, and regular bells called men to and from work.

Harvesting, with rude implements, was a scene. Imagine three or four hundred wild Indians in a grain field, armed, some with sickles, some with butcher-knives, some with pieces of hoop iron roughly fashioned into shapes like sickles, but many having only their hands with which to gather up by small handfuls the dry and brittle grain; and as their hands would soon become sore, they resorted to dry willow sticks, which were split to afford a sharper edge with which to sever the straw. But the wildest part was the threshing. The harvest of weeks, sometimes of a month, was piled up in the straw in the form of a huge mound in the middle of a high, strong, round corral; then three or four hundred wild horses were turned in to thresh it, the Indians whooping to make them run faster. Suddenly they would dash in before the band at full speed, when the motion became reversed, with the effect of plowing up the trampled straw to the very bottom. In an hour the grain would be thoroughly threshed and the dry straw broken almost into chaff. In this manner I have seen 2,000 bushels of wheat threshed in a single hour. Next came the winnowing, which would often take another month. It could only be done when the wind was blowing, by throwing high into the air shovelfuls of grain, straw, and chaff, the lighter materials being wafted to one side, while the grain, comparatively clean, would descend and form a heap by itself. In this manner all the grain in California was cleaned. At that day no such thing as a fanning mill had ever been brought to this coast.

The kindness and hospitality of the native Californians have not been overstated. Up to the time the Mexican regime ceased in California they had a custom of never charging for anything; that is to say, for entertainment, food, use of horses, etc. You were supposed, even if invited to visit a friend, to bring your blankets with you, and one would be very thoughtless if he traveled and did not take a knife along with which to cut his meat. When you had eaten, the invariable custom was to rise, deliver to the woman or hostess the plate on which you had eaten the meat and beans--for that was about all they had--and say, Muchas gracias, Senora ("Many thanks, Madam"); and the hostess as invariably replied, Buen provecho ("May it do you much good"). The missions in California invariably had gardens with grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, pears, and apples, but the ranches scarcely ever had any fruit, with the exception of the tuna or prickly pear. These were the only cultivated fruits I can call to mind in California, except oranges, lemons, and limes in a few places. When you wanted a horse to ride, you would take it to the next ranch--it might be twenty, thirty, or fifty miles--and turn it out there, and sometime or other in reclaiming his stock the owner would get it back. In this way you might travel from one end of California to the other.

The ranch life was not confined to the country; it prevailed in the towns, too. There was not a hotel in San Francisco or Monterey or anywhere in California until 1846, when the Americans took the country. The priests at the missions were glad to entertain strangers without charge. They would give you a room in which to sleep, and perhaps a bedstead with a hide stretched across it, and over that you would spread your blankets. At this time there was not in California any vehicle except a rude California cart. The wheels were without tires, and were made by felling an oak tree and hewing it down until it made a solid wheel nearly a foot thick on the rim and a little larger where the axle went through. The hole for the axle would be eight or nine inches in diameter, but a few years' use would increase it to a foot. To make the hole, an auger, gouge, or chisel was sometimes used, but the principal tool was an ax. A small tree required but little hewing and shaping to answer for an axle.

These carts were always drawn by oxen, the yoke being lashed with rawhide to the horns. To lubricate the axles they used soap (that is one thing the Mexicans could make), carrying along for the purpose a big pail of thick soapsuds which was constantly put into the box or hole; but you could generally tell when a California cart was coming half a mile away by the squeaking. I have seen the families of the wealthiest people go long distances at the rate of thirty miles or more a day, visiting in one of these clumsy two-wheeled vehicles. They had a little framework around it made of round sticks, and a bullock hide was put in for a floor or bottom. Sometimes the better class would have a little calico for curtains and cover. There was no such thing as a spoked wheel in use then. Somebody sent from Boston a wagon as a present to the priest in charge of the mission of San Jose, but as soon as summer came the woodwork shrunk, the tires came off, and it all fell to pieces. There was no one in California to set tires. When Governor Micheltorena was sent from Mexico to California he brought with him an ambulance, not much better than a common spring wagon, such as a market man would now use with one horse. It had shafts, but in California at that time there was no horse broken to work in them, nor was there such a thing known as a harness; so the Governor had two mounted vaqueros to pull it, their riatas being fastened to the shafts and to the pommels of their saddles.

The first wagons brought into California came across the plains in 1844 with the Townsend or Stevens party. They were left in the mountains and lay buried under the snow till the following spring, when Moses Schallenberger, Elisha Stevens, who was captain of the party, and others went up and brought some of the wagons down into the Sacramento Valley. No other wagons had ever before reached California across the plains. 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 afterwards called, where he remained, threatened with starvation, till one of the party returned from the Sacramento Valley and rescued him.

Elisha Stevens was from Georgia and had there worked in the gold mines. He started across the plains with the express purpose of finding gold. When he got into the Rocky Mountains, as I was told by his friend, Dr. Townsend, Stevens said, "We are in a gold country." One evening, when they had camped for the night he went into a gulch, took some gravel and washed it and got the color of gold, thus unmistakably showing, as he afterwards did in Lower California, that he had considerable knowledge of gold mining. But the strange thing is that afterwards, when Mr. Stevens passed up and down several times over the country between Bear and Yuba rivers, as he did with the party in the spring of 1845 to bring down their wagons, he should have seen no signs of gold where subsequently the whole country was found to contain it.

The early foreign residents of California were largely runaway sailors. Many, if not most, would change their names. For instance, Gilroy's ranch, where the town of Gilroy is now located, was owned by an old resident under the assumed appellation of Gilroy. Of course, vessels touching upon this coast were liable, as they were everywhere, to lose men by desertion, especially if the men were maltreated. Such things have been so common that it is not difficult to believe that those who left their vessels in early days on this then distant coast had cause for so doing. To be known as a runaway sailor was no stain upon a man's character. It was no uncommon thing after my arrival here for sailors to be skulking and hiding about from ranch to ranch until the vessel they had left should leave the coast. At Amador's ranch, before mentioned, on my first arrival here, I met a sailor boy named Harrison Pierce, aged eighteen or twenty, who was concealing himself until his vessel should go to sea. He was one of the men who went with me from Marsh's ranch to Sutter's. Californians would catch and return sailors to get the reward which, I believe, captains of vessels invariably offered. After the vessel had sailed and there was no chance of a reward, the native Californians gave the fugitives no further trouble.

At that time the only trade, foreign or domestic, was in hides, tallow, and furs, but mostly hides. With few exceptions the vessels that visited the coast were from Boston, fitted out by Hooper to go there and trade for hides. Occasionally vessels would put in for water or in distress. San Francisco was the principal harbor; the next was Monterey. There was an anchorage off San Luis Obispo; the next was Santa Barbara, the next was San Buenaventura, then San Pedro, and lastly San Diego. The hides were generally collected and brought to San Diego and there salted, staked out to dry, and folded so that they would lie compactly in the ship, and thence shipped to Boston. Goods were principally sold on the vessels; there were very few stores on land; that of Thomas O. Larkin24 at Monterey was the principal one. The entrance of a vessel into harbor or roadstead was a signal to all the ranchers to come in their little boats and launches laden with hides to trade for goods. Thus vessels went from port to port, remaining a few or many days according to the amount of trade.

I have said that there was no regular physician in California. Later, in 1843, in a company that came from Oregon, was one Joe Meeks, a noted character in the Rocky Mountains. On the way he said, "Boys, when I get down to California among the Greasers I am going to palm myself off as a doctor"; and from that time they dubbed him Dr. Meeks. He could neither read nor write. As soon as the Californians heard of his arrival at Monterey they began to come to him with their different ailments. His first professional service was to a boy who had his toe cut off. Meeks, happening to be near, stuck the toe on, binding it in a poultice of mud, and it grew on again. The Governor, Micheltorena, employed him as surgeon. Meeks had a way of looking and acting very wise, and of being reticent when people talked about things he did not understand. One day he went into a little shop kept by a man known as Dr. Stokes, who had been a kind of hospital steward on board ship, and who had brought ashore one of those little medicine chests that were usually taken to sea, with apothecary scales and a pamphlet giving a short synopsis of diseases and a table of weights and medicines, so that almost anybody could administer relief to sick sailors. Meeks went to him and said, "Doctor, I want you to put me up some powders." So Stokes went behind his table and got out his scales and medicines and asked, "What kind of powders?" "Just common powders--patient not very sick." "If you will tell me what kind of powders, Dr. Meeks--" "Oh, just common powders." That is all he would say. Dr. Stokes told about town that Meeks knew nothing about medicine, but people thought that perhaps Meeks had given the prescription in Latin and that Dr. Stokes could not read it.

But Meeks' reign was to have an end. An American man-of-war came into the harbor. Thomas O. Larkin was then the United States consul at Monterey, and the commander and all his officers went up to Larkin's store, among them the surgeon, who was introduced to Dr. Meeks. The conversation turning upon the diseases incident to the country, Meeks became reticent, saying merely that he was going out of practice and intended to leave the country, because he could get no medicines. The surgeon expressed much sympathy and said, "Dr. Meeks, if you will make me out a list I will very cheerfully divide with you such medicines as I can spare." Meeks did not know the names of three kinds of medicines, and tried evasion, but the surgeon cornered him and put the question so direct that he had to answer. He asked him what medicine he needed most. Finally Meeks said he wanted some "draps," and that was all that could be got out of him. When the story came out his career as a doctor was at an end, and he soon after left the country.

In 1841 there was likewise no lawyer in California. In 1843 a lawyer named Hastings arrived via Oregon. He was an ambitious man, and desired to wrest the country from Mexico and make it a republic. He disclosed his plan to a man who revealed it to me. His scheme was to go down to Mexico and make friends of the Mexican authorities, if possible get a grant of land, and then go to Texas, consult President Houston, and then go east and write a book, praising the country to the skies, which he did with little regard to accuracy. His object was to start a large immigration, and in this he succeeded. Hastings' book was published in 1845, and undoubtedly largely induced what was called the "great immigration" of 1846 across the plains, consisting of about six hundred. Hastings returned to California in the autumn of 1845, preparatory to taking steps to declare the country independent and to establish a republic and make himself president. In 1846 he went back to meet the immigration and to perfect his plans so that the emigrants would know exactly where to go and what to do. But in 1846 the Mexican War intervened, and while Hastings was gone to meet the immigration California was taken possession of by the United States.

These doubtless were the first plans ever conceived for the independence of California. Hastings knew there were not enough Americans and foreigners yet in California to do anything. He labored hard to get money to publish his book, and went about lecturing on temperance in Ohio, where he became intimate with a fellow by the name of McDonald, who was acting the Methodist preacher and pretending, with considerable success, to raise funds for missionary purposes. At last they separated, McDonald preceding Hastings to San Francisco, where he became bartender for a man named Vioget, who owned a saloon and billiard table, the first, I think, on the Pacific Coast. Hastings returned later, and, reaching San Francisco in a cold rain, went up to Vioget's and called for brandy. He poured out a glassful and was about to drink it when McDonald, recognizing him, leaned over the bar, extended his hand, and said, "My good temperance friend, how are you?" Hastings, in great surprise, looked him in the eyes, recognized him, and said, "My dear Methodist brother, how do you do?"


20. Benjamin E. L. Bonneville was a native of France, born about the year 1795, who came to America and graduating from West Point in 1815 spent his life as an officer in the U.S. army. He became a captain of infantry in 1825 and from 1831 to 1836 was engaged in various explorations in the Rocky Mountains and California. His journal, amplified and edited by Washington Irving, was published by the latter in 1837 with the title,Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. On Sept. 9, 1861, Bonneville (now a colonel) was retired from active service for disability, and from 1862 to 1865 he commanded Benton Barracks, at St. Louis. He died June 12, 1878, being at the time the oldest officer on the retired list of the U.S. army.

21. The reál was a small Spanish silver coin.

22. He had been educated in a military school and had served as an officer in the French army before coming to America.

23. The Russians came to California as fur traders in 1812, and withdrew in 1842. Fort Ross and Bodega were on the coast of Sonoma County some distance north of San Francisco.

24. Thomas O. Larkin came to California from Boston in 1832 with the intention of engaging in the milling business. He located at Monterey, became U.S. consul, and did much towards bringing the country under the American flag.

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