Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was

a

ducts and suspension - bridges. was nothing to tempt the cuThe mortality was frightful, pidity of pirate or privateer, and not a few of the more and the Golden Gates were only hardy survivors only reached guarded by some rickety fortithe Californian El Dorado to fications, a survival of the more sicken and to die. The sea- palmy days of Old Spain. The borne traffic speedily fell off. Americans found themselves in For a few months the high possession of a strip of terripassage - rates had paid well; tory three times the area of but after a time no cautious England, with 1000 miles of shipowner would charter for seaboard.

As for commerce, California. Even the whalers there was next to none, so that dared not touch at San Fran- Eastern statesmen had realised cisco or Monterey. The crews nothing of the magnificent capdeserted bodily, and not unfre- abilities of San Francisco Bay. quently the skipper followed But the American, like the their lead, leaving his vessel at Scotsman, will penetrate everyits moorings to take care of where where he sees a way to itself.

doubling a dollar. The soil was When Sutter settled upon the deep, the climate genial, and in coast, he got from the Spaniards a few months after the annexa grant of sixty miles in length ation San Francisco by twelve in breadth. His en- rising township of wooden strucergy did something to waken up tures, with no fewer than three a lethargic society, living in “hotels”! But nothing porluxurious indolence the tended a boom, and it seemed flocks and fruits, and scratching likely enough to stagnate, for patches of the rich soil here the headquarters of the new and there with their primitive regime had been established at ploughs. Sutter, besides start- Monterey. ing the industrial enterprises

Then there came that memorhave mentioned, set an able afternoon when Marshall, example of intelligent farming, who had been digging the milland cultivated 1500 acres. Much lead on the Sacramento, burst of his property, as of that of in upon Sutter at the fort. He the Spanish mission - stations could scarcely stammer out an and landowners, consisted of explanation of his excitement, great herds of cattle and troops and Sutter thought his friend of wild horses. And yet the the contractor had gone mad. wealth running on four legs He was assured of it when could seldom be realised, for Marshall produced his pocketexcept when ships put in for fuls of yellow siftings, and prosupplies, there was as little of a nounced them gold-dust. Mica, sale for beef as for horseflesh. of course! declared the old When the Treaty of Guadalupe settler; he had seen that Hidalgo handed California over glitter often before, and knew to the Union, San Francisco the fallacious lustre. But was but a rudely fortified mis- what with the weight and sion-house, surrounded by adobé the rude assays, it took no hovels for the peons.

There long

time to convince his

on

we

was

on

re

incredulity: The discovery who were casting about for a livproved ruinous to Sutter, but ing, fancied they had stumbled he dreamed of enriching him- on to the borderland of the fabled self beyond the dreams of El Dorado. Yet their fondest avarice. The idea of the part- fancies fell far short of the ners was to keep the thing dark truth; for their notion -an absurdity on the face of that the wealth was localised it, in that lawless territory, on the Sacramento, and the held

questionable titles, Sacramento had only brought where might was right and down the loose drift of inestimmonopolies were an impossi- able treasures-stores in the Sierra bility. Sutter and Marshall Nevada. On the other hand, in went searching and washing. their sanguine excitement they All they found tended to con- ignored the fact that gold firm their hopes: they passed gambling is a lottery, with inon from sifting out gold - dust numerable blanks to each solid to picking up tiny nuggets. prize, and where, at best, the But they had been watched expenses may

swallow the and tracked by a shrewd work- profits. The signs of the man from Kentucky, and im- times multiplied quickly. The mediately the great news got solitary negro waiter at the wind. The hands at the saw- principal tavern raised his demills and distilleries knocked off mand for wages to ten dollars work and went about prospect- a-day, and the claim was ing on their own account. A luctantly conceded. The saddler few days afterwards there was was the most important local sensation in sleepy San Fran- tradesman in a country where cisco when a man rode in from everybody rides. There was an the Sacramento with sand to immediate rush for saddle rebe assayed. At first nobody pairs, holsters, and saddlebelieved : probably the assayers bags; but his workpeople, were not over-expert, and all helping themselves to his declared, like Sutter, that he stock, had taken French leave had been befooled by mica. and gone: so in a day or But party after party came two the master put up his in upon his heels, some of them shutters, with the inscription, bringing nuggets there was no “Gone to the diggings.”

Almistaking. Nothing but the ready the reaction of the social doubts and fears which must shock was felt at Sutter's Fort. be speedily allayed could have Sutter was looking on helptorn them away from the lessly, while his land was being diggings. The doubts being pegged out and squabbled over satisfied, they were in a fever by strangers. He could get no to get back. Their excitement help from the States' garrison, and example were contagious: for their Indian recruits had the epidemic spread in the set- deserted to a man. His blisstlement, and it is astounding, ful dreams of a gold monopoly and yet perhaps not astound- were dissipated, for every labing, how suddenly it caught ourer was grubbing for himself.

The impecunious loafers, He tried in vain to tempt his

[ocr errors]

on.

were

were

66

con

a

more

mill - hands with treble wages skilled processes.

There was and unlimited allowances of not an ounce of quicksilver in whisky. He might have done camp. The simplest form of a fair stroke of business in the cradle was an infinite saving meantime, for his magazines of gold and labour. But few

well stocked; but the of the adventurers had the master had other preoccupa- tools, the capacity, or the time tions, and there was difficulty to knock the rudest form of in getting anybody to sell. rocker together, and no one of Then was seen the curious the three

carpenters at the spectacle of fortune - seekers diggings would work under 40 toiling among veritable riches dollars a - day. Yet it was and living painfully and anxi- pennywise to refuse to engage ously from hand to mouth. them, even at those exorbitant Provisions

at
famine wages.

The cradles not only prices. Even a novice in an lightened labour but largely inaverage day's work might wash creased the percentage of gold. out 25 dollars' worth of gold. And when one party On an income of £1800 a-year, cluded to quit” from the Sacraone might have

saved con

mento, two cradles were put up siderably in

settled to auction, The bidding was country. But the bare cost of brisk, and they fetched the the coarsest food was porten- almost incredible sum of 400 tous. No one could spare time dollars, although the value of to bring in for sale the cattle the material was nil, and the that were running masterless workmanship of the roughest. the mountains,

to In fact, many of the diggers shoot the elk and deer. Later soon began to move on.

Some on, a few of the shrewder folk were disappointed, all were restbegan to realise that purveying less; the claims on the lower for the necessities and amuse- Sacramento were overcrowded, ments of the miners was far and reports, exaggerated by more profitable than sharing rumour, came in of rich distheir precarious toil. A dram coveries nearer to the Nevada of Californian brandy sold for Range. Yet those reports were a dollar, and the diggers were true in the main, for the farther a thirsty generation. But at streams were traced towards the first only one or two long- mountains, the thicker became headed men kept cool enough the sign on the golden trails to enrich themselves by supply- which led to rock repositories, ing the workers. And never as yet unsuspected. There were since has any body of novices concentrated deposits in depresgone to work with more prim- sions of the torrent beds, and itive or inadequate appliances. nuggets of considerable size beThey shook up the sand in came more frequent. Yet the pots and pans, and even pots biggest was not so very big, nor and pans were at a premium. was there anything to compare Good part of the dust ran to with the prizes of Australia. waste in those rough and un- The best authenticated value

VOL. CLXV.-NO. M.

on

or

T

"

was 4000 dollars, — for such have been a poor one, but now “ finds as that attributed to it received a sudden impulse. the unlucky discoverer of the One or two noted chiefs came great Comstock silver-lode seem down with recruited forces to to be more or less mythical. beset the trails along the SacraIndustrious washers often made mento and the Americans' river. their 40 dollars a - day, but Dr Brooks, who was one of the the dangers to life and property first Englishmen to make his increased in arithmetical pro- way to the mines, has left an portion with each league they interesting account of his exlaid between themselves and the periences both with the white Sacramento headquarters. At brigands and the Indians. They first the unsophisticated Indians were exciting, and compressed had been willing to do a modi- into a very brief space of time. cum of work with pick and With several companions he had shovel for their food and a free pushed on to Weber's Creek, and allowance of whisky. Sutter thence to Bear River, a branch had enlisted several gangs, from of the Americans'. They had tribes with whom he had friend- done very well — had realised ly relations, when his white about 5000 dollars' worth of workpeople went washing on gold. Then the Indians beset his land on their own account. the camp, stole the horses, killed His Indians struck for wages, one or two of the party, and and then began raising their wounded others, after sundry terms, when they realised that sharp skirmishes. The diggers the yellow stuff could be bar- took alarm for their gold, and tered for blankets, guns, and sent it off to Sutter's Fort, under powder. The news spread to what they deemed sufficient their kinsfolk in the interior, escort. But the brigands were who began to swarm down looking out, and the treasure towards the mines like wasps was looted. The miners, hastengathering round honey - pots. ing back to the Sacramento, They had no wish to work, but ran the trail of the robbers till they were ready to rob and mur- they lost it in the Pueblos and der; and in any case the horses Sierras of New Mexico, and picketed outside an encamp- they never had another glimpse ment were an irresistible bait. of the metal which had cost Men worn with the day of toil them months of arduous labour. had to set watches through Nor was that at all an excepthe night. Nor when they had tional experience. accumulated some considerable At first it was all placerstore of gold was it an easy mining. Placer - mining is matter to place it in safety. superficial. It meant washing There were white as well as the stream - beds, scraping the red robbers. Brigandage is a gravelly surface, and removing recognised Spanish industry; shallow coverings of barren and even when California was rock. The essential point in under Mexican rule there were that, as in quartz-mining, is a bands infesting the mountains. sufficiency of water. In those days the business must cases the miners

In many

were

con

demned to a novel variation bour. We may roughly guess on the torments of Tantalus. the quantity of water laid on Following up the Sacramento from the fact that sixty miland the Americans', and trac- lions of gallons may be exing the arroyos or tributary pended on a single hydraulic creeks to their sources, they claim in a single day. In found the richest deposits in twenty-five years, according to old gravel-beds. But the tor- the estimates of a Treasury rents which had scooped the official, gold to the value of chasms had long run dry or a thousand millions of dollars changed their courses. So the had been extracted from Calisand had to be carried to the fornia. Nor was it California water, which might be many alone that was contributing to miles away, or else the water the grand total. Excitement must be brought to the sand. blazed up at intervals on stages The intensity of the labour leading toward the East. The may be conceived, in trackless rushes to Washoe in Western valleys, between glowing rocks, Utah and Pike's Peak in Coland in the blaze of a Cali- orado came in 1858, almost fornian summer. In 1854 the simultaneously with the revplacer - mines had been nearly elation of the riches of Monworked out, but then came the tana. discovery of the metalliferous We know that with indulgquartz in the Sierras. For the ence in big figures we take a most part these quartz lodes long step towards illusive conwere in sterile and waterless ceptions of infinity and eternity. regions, yet water, and water They may be the pride and in profusion, was more indis- pleasure of severe statisticians, pensable than

Com- but the average intelligence is panies with enormous capital as hopelessly lost in them as the were formed to work the new tenderfoot the boundless mines, and by far their greatest prairies. It is easier to estimate expenditure was on the item of tangible results. Had there the water - supply. Generally been no discoveries of the preit had to be brought from cious metals, the Californian great distances, sometimes for seaboard might have been ina distance of twenty or thirty definitely isolated from the rich miles. It may give some idea and thickly populated Eastern of the rapid progress of Cali- States. Settlers could only fornian mining to mention, that have come by sea to that elonin fifteen years the mining gated strip of favoured territory. ditches, as they were called, Farmers and graziers would aggregated a length of nearly have still pushed beyond the 5000 miles. Hewn out of the Missouri, but they would have hard rock, or carried in wooden come to a temporary check when flumes, through beds of shingle they travelled beyond the range and gravel, in cost they far of markets. The cattle of Texas surpassed the superb aqueducts would never have fed in the of the Roman Campagna, for pastures of Montana or filled the Romans paid little for la- the slaughter-yards of Chicago.

ever.

on

« AnteriorContinuar »