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ROMANCE OF THE MINES :
CALIFORNIAN GOLD DISCOVERIES.
ised in the distant future. founded on furs and built up Clarke and Lewis made their with gold and silver. The fur wonderful expedition in 1804, companies and the
the reckless starting from St Louis, which trappers in their
was then the outlying tradingscattered trading - posts over post on the Missouri. It was the Canadas, and roughly ex- undertaken chiefly from politplored the inhospitable regions ical curiosity, and in the inİying between the Missouri and terests of geographical science, the Pacific. Yet, to all ap- After eighteen months of inpearance, the population and credible endurance, the civilisation of the western plorers reached the shores of territories appertaining to the the Pacific. It was nearly Union might have been indefin- forty years before that expeitely deferred. The agricul- dition was followed up,
and tural pioneers had been slowly the second and more importpushing westward across the ant exploration originated in prairies; but it was a perilous haphazard and a love romance. venture, and by no means By something like a providence, remunerative. The fertility of Fremont was predestined to the deep black loam had been prepare a way for the imrecognised; but the rude cul- pending rush of gold-seekers. tivation was carried on under The man who won, and well difficulties, and there were no deserved, the sobriquet of the local markets. The costs of Great Pathfinder was a young transport knocked off the officer of Engineers when he profits. The Santa Fé trade engaged himself to the pretty received a considerable impulse daughter of Benton, the senon the annexation of New ator from Missouri. The Mexico; but it was never likely lieutenant was poor, and had to attain very lucrative pro- no prospects, so
the stern portions, so long as it lay parent would not hear of the across an unpeopled wilderness, match. He used his influence raided by the Indians whom at Washington to send the the caravans attracted. The youth on the perilous adventure States had been annexing to of examining the Des Moines the south and on the western river.
a new version seaboard; but they could not of the old story of labours digest the territories they had imposed on lovers, when the swallowed, and the western gods or fairies come to their movement was virtually at a help. To the senator's surprise deadlock. Yet their statesmen and disgust, the successful cherished vague
of surveyor was back within the expansion, possibly to be real- year. As his bride was still
withheld, he married her sec- plored Alaska, was wrecked on retly, and, by way of mak- the return voyage in the Bay ing provision for the future, of San Francisco, and as he planned a geographical survey liked the look of the country of the western territory of the on which he had been cast, States. His record was good, there he resolved to settle and the Government gave him down. Getting a grant
grant of employment. He was charged land from the Mexican Govto investigate the Rockies, with ernment, he established his setspecial regard to discovering tlement of New Helvetia on the a pass which should give toler- site of Sacramento. The Mexiably easy communication with cans appreciated him so highly the Pacific. He struck out that they made him Governor the South Pass, and it re- of Northern California, and mained the chief route of when that country was ceded travel until the treasure-seekers by treaty to America, he was found capital to lay down the confirmed in the post under railways. On a subsequent a different title. Everything expedition in 1843, and in the prospered under his hand. He beginning of a severe winter, initiated enterprise after enterhe was lost among the tribu- prise, and was a generous emtaries of the Columbia, in the ployer of labour. His munifichaos of barren
barren mountains. cence was proverbial: for hospiFamine was staring the party tality he was famed far and in the face: suggestions of wide : he seemed to be reaping cannibalism had been freely the rich reward of his good broached, when Kit Carson, works. He took to spinning the redoubtable scout and woollens and distilling spirits; guide, stepped forward to ac- he was enlarging the sawmills, cept the responsibility of ex- which were doing a smart stroke tricating it from what seemed of business in the lumber trade; a hopeless cul de sac. And, and these were but a few of his sure enough, Kit's instincts thriving industrial undertakguided them to Sutter's Fortings. Beneath the foundations on the Sacramento, where the of his buildings were buried ragged company of skeletons treasures of which neither he received a warm welcome. nor any one else had a suspicion.
Sutter, whose name will al- The year 1848 was fateful for ways be associated with that Sutter, as for kings and potenof Fremont, had an even more tates in Continental Europe. romantic career, and its end is In an evil hour he signed a infinitely touching. It points a contract to run up a new mill. moral on the vicissitudes of life Digging for the mill - race, and the vanity of human as- strange sparkles were seen in pirations. Born in Baden, he the sands. On close examinahad served with some distinc- tion they proved to be gold-dust. tion in Switzerland. In 1834 The discovery was an incentive he emigrated to America, and to further researches. The embarked in the Santa Fé trail of the dust was traced trade. He made money, ex
up to pockets, and then to
nuggets: the Sacramento and pers, who had passed their lives an indefinite surrounding area
in trackless plains and among were demonstrated to be richly rugged mountains, were auriferous. And when the inured to hardship of every news came to the ears of the kind, and indifferent to peril. scientific geologists, it seemed The new-comers were men of clear that the scattered gold all sorts—the majority of them, was but the debris of the over- perhaps, absurdly unfitted for hanging Sierras. In the rush the adventures which they that followed the first an- rashly undertook. They were nouncement poor Sutter was drawn by the gold, as by an swept off his legs. In the first irresistible magnet. Visions of place, all his workpeople deserted wealth to be easily won overhim : his cattle strayed un
constitutional timidity, herded; he could not afford to animated exhausted or despairtempt his hands with fancy ing energy, and gave new life wages; and in the paralysis of in- and strength to frames debilidustry he failed to meet his obli- tated by dissipation. Mingled gations. The loose mining laws with these weaklings of the Union came into play, sturdy miners, and desperate and claims were pre-empted ruffians who scrupled at nothand pegged out on the lands ing. The mixed multitude that passed from him. He had swarmed in on California from lavished his economies on benef- all directions and by every icence and hospitality. Now means of conveyance. They the wealthy settler was beg- chartered schooners from Ausgared, and he became a man tralia and the Pacific Isles ; with a grievance. After strug- they faced the winter terrors gling on, in 1873 he emigrated of the Horn in unseaworthy eastwards to press his claims ships, indifferently found and on Congress. Penniless and dangerously overloaded. Some friendless, the old man had few, who had the means of proalmost broken his heart, when viding a costly outfit, resigned he received the pitiful compen- themselves to the sluggish oxsation of a trifling pension, and teams; but the most of the he only survived for a year to gold - seekers who came from draw it.
the Eastern States, when they The Sutter Discoveries, as passed the Missouri, tramped they were called, precipitated it on foot. They crossed sterile the evolution of America. They deserts of salt and alkali; they unlocked treasure-stores which ferried themselves somehow for a long time were to give it
flooded rivers; they an unparalleled financial posi- struggled through quicksands tion. The Government had which sometimes engulfed them; actually to devise extravagant they threaded their way among ways and means to relieve the icy crags and dizzy precipices, Treasury of the glut of hoarded and stumbled along through metal. Meantime, the immed- the boulders and débris in the iate consequence was a general depths of gloomy chasms, soon exodus to the West. The trap- to be spanned by girdered via
ducts and suspension - bridges. was nothing to tempt the cuThe mortality was frightful, pidity of pirate or privateer, and not 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 was 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 regimé had been established at ploughs. Sutter, besides start- Monterey. ing the industrial enterprises Then there came that memorwe have 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
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
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
There long time to convince his
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