« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
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 débris 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- came 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 were 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 passed the Missouri, tramped it on foot. They crossed sterile deserts of salt and alkali; they ferried themselves somehow across flooded rivers; rivers; they struggled through quicksands which sometimes engulfed them; they threaded their way among icy crags and dizzy precipices, and stumbled along through the boulders and débris in the depths of gloomy chasms, soon to be spanned by girdered via
The Sutter Discoveries, as they were called, precipitated the evolution of America. They unlocked treasure-stores which for a long time were to give it an unparalleled financial position. The Government had actually to devise extravagant ways and means to relieve the Treasury of the glut of hoarded metal. Meantime, the immediate consequence was a general exodus to the West. The trap
ducts and suspension - bridges. The mortality was frightful, and not a few of the more hardy survivors only reached the Californian El Dorado to sicken and to die. The seaborne traffic speedily fell off. For a few months the high passage-rates had paid well; but after a time no cautious shipowner would charter for California. Even the whalers dared not touch at San Francisco or Monterey. The crews deserted bodily, and not unfrequently the skipper followed their lead, leaving his vessel at its moorings to take care of itself.
was nothing to tempt the cupidity of pirate or privateer, and the Golden Gates were only guarded by some rickety fortifications, a survival of the more palmy days of Old Spain. The Americans found themselves in possession of a strip of territory three times the area of England, with 1000 miles of seaboard. As for commerce, there was next to none, so that Eastern statesmen had realised nothing of the magnificent capabilities of San Francisco Bay. But the American, like the Scotsman, will penetrate everywhere where he sees a way to doubling a dollar. The soil was deep, the climate genial, and in a few months after the annexation San Francisco was a rising township of wooden structures, with no fewer than three "hotels"! But nothing portended a boom, and it seemed likely enough to stagnate, for the headquarters of the new regimé had been established at Monterey.
Then there came that memorable afternoon when Marshall, who had been digging the milllead on the Sacramento, burst in upon Sutter at the fort. He could scarcely stammer out an explanation of his excitement, and Sutter thought his friend the contractor had gone mad. He was assured of it when Marshall produced his pocketfuls of yellow siftings, and pronounced them gold-dust. Mica, of course! declared the old settler; he had seen that glitter often before, and knew the fallacious lustre. But what with the weight and the rude assays, it took no long time to convince his
When Sutter settled upon the coast, he got from the Spaniards a grant of sixty miles in length by twelve in breadth. His energy did something to waken up a lethargic society, living in luxurious indolence on the flocks and fruits, and scratching patches of the rich soil here and there with their primitive ploughs. Sutter, besides starting the industrial enterprises we have mentioned, set an example of intelligent farming, and cultivated 1500 acres. Much of his property, as of that of the Spanish mission - stations and landowners, consisted of great herds of cattle and troops of wild horses. And yet the wealth running on four legs could seldom be realised, for except when ships put in for supplies, there was as little of a sale for beef as for horseflesh. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo handed California over to the Union, San Francisco was but a rudely fortified mission-house, surrounded by adobé hovels for the peons. There
incredulity. The discovery proved ruinous to Sutter, but he dreamed of enriching himself beyond the dreams of avarice. The idea of the partners was to keep the thing dark -an absurdity on the face of it, in that lawless territory, held on questionable titles, where might was right and monopolies were an impossibility. Sutter and Marshall went searching and washing. All they found tended to confirm their hopes: they passed on from sifting out gold-dust to picking up tiny nuggets. But they had been watched and tracked by a shrewd workman from Kentucky, and immediately the great news got wind. The hands at the sawmills and distilleries knocked off work and went about prospecting on their own account. A few days afterwards there was sensation in sleepy San Francisco when a man rode in from the Sacramento with sand to be assayed. At first nobody believed: probably the assayers were not over-expert, and all declared, like Sutter, that he had been befooled by mica. But party after party came in upon his heels, some of them bringing nuggets there was no mistaking. Nothing but the doubts and fears which must be speedily allayed could have torn them away from diggings. The doubts being satisfied, they were in a fever to get back. Their excitement and example were contagious: the epidemic spread in the settlement, and it is astounding, and yet perhaps not astounding, how suddenly it caught on. The impecunious loafers,
who were casting about for a living, fancied they had stumbled on to the borderland of the fabled El Dorado. Yet their fondest fancies fell far short of the truth; for their notion was that the wealth was localised on the Sacramento, and the Sacramento had only brought down the loose drift of inestimable treasures-stores in the Sierra Nevada. On the other hand, in their sanguine excitement they ignored the fact that gold gambling is a lottery, with innumerable blanks to each solid prize, and where, at best, the expenses may swallow the profits.
The signs of the times multiplied quickly. The solitary negro waiter at the principal tavern raised his demand for wages to ten dollars a-day, and the claim was reluctantly conceded. The saddler was the most important local tradesman in a country where everybody rides. There was an immediate rush for saddle repairs, holsters, and saddlebags; but his workpeople, helping themselves to his stock, had taken French leave and gone: so in a day or two the master put up his shutters, with the inscription, "Gone to the diggings." Already the reaction of the social shock was felt at Sutter's Fort. Sutter was looking on helplessly, while his land was being pegged out and squabbled over by strangers. He could get no help from the States' garrison, for their Indian recruits had deserted to a man. His blissful dreams of a gold monopoly were dissipated, for every labourer was grubbing for himself. He tried in vain to tempt his
mill-hands with treble wages skilled processes.
Then was seen the curious spectacle of fortune-seekers toiling among veritable riches and living painfully and anxiously from hand to mouth. Provisions were at famine prices. Even a novice in an average day's work might wash out 25 dollars' worth of gold. On an income of £1800 a-year, one might have saved considerably in a more settled country. But the bare cost of the coarsest food was portentous. No one could spare time to bring in for sale the cattle that were running masterless on the mountains, or to shoot the elk and deer. Later on, a few of the shrewder folk began to realise that purveying for the necessities and amusements of the miners was far more profitable than sharing their precarious toil. A dram of Californian brandy sold for a dollar, and the diggers were a thirsty generation. But at first only one or two longheaded men kept cool enough to enrich themselves by supplying the workers. And never since has any body of novices gone to work with more primitive or inadequate appliances. They shook up the sand in pots and pans, and even pots and pans were at a premium. Good part of the dust ran to waste in those rough and un
VOL. CLXV.-NO. M.
not an ounce of quicksilver in camp. The simplest form of cradle was an infinite saving of gold and labour. But few of the adventurers had the tools, the capacity, or the time to knock the rudest form of rocker together, and no one of the three carpenters at the diggings would work under 40 dollars a-day. Yet it was pennywise to refuse to engage them, even at those exorbitant wages. The cradles not only lightened labour but largely increased the percentage of gold. And when one party concluded to quit" from the Sacramento, two cradles were put up to auction. The bidding was brisk, and they fetched the almost incredible sum of 400 dollars, although the value of the material was nil, and the workmanship of the roughest.
In fact, many of the diggers soon began to move on. Some were disappointed, all were restless; the claims on the lower Sacramento were overcrowded, and reports, exaggerated by rumour, came in of rich discoveries nearer to the Nevada Range. Yet those reports were true in the main, for the farther streams were traced towards the mountains, the thicker became the sign on the golden trails which led to rock repositories, as yet unsuspected. There were concentrated deposits in depressions of the torrent beds, and nuggets of considerable size became more frequent. Yet the biggest was not so very big, nor was there anything to compare with the prizes of Australia. The best authenticated value
was 4000 dollars, for such have been a poor one, but now it received a sudden impulse. One or two noted chiefs came down with recruited forces to beset the trails along the Sacramento and the Americans' river. Dr Brooks, who was one of the first Englishmen to make his way to the mines, has left an interesting account of his experiences both with the white brigands and the Indians. They were exciting, and compressed into a very brief space of time. With several companions he had pushed on to Weber's Creek, and thence to Bear River, a branch of the Americans'. They had done very well- had realised about 5000 dollars' worth of gold. Then the Indians beset the camp, stole the horses, killed one or two of the party, and wounded others, after sundry sharp skirmishes. The diggers took alarm for their gold, and sent it off to Sutter's Fort, under what they deemed sufficient escort. But the brigands were looking out, and the treasure was looted. The miners, hastening back to the Sacramento, ran the trail of the robbers till they lost it in the Pueblos and Sierras of New Mexico, and they never had another glimpse of the metal which had cost them months of arduous labour. Nor was that at all an exceptional experience.
At first it was all placermining. Placer mining is superficial. It meant washing the stream beds, scraping the gravelly surface, and removing shallow coverings of barren rock. The essential point in that, as in quartz-mining, is a sufficiency of water. In many cases the miners were con
"finds" as that attributed to the unlucky discoverer of the great Comstock silver-lode seem to be more or less mythical. Industrious washers often made their 40 dollars a day, but the dangers to life and property increased in arithmetical proportion with each league they laid between themselves and the Sacramento headquarters. At first the unsophisticated Indians had been willing to do a modicum of work with pick and shovel for their food and a free allowance of whisky. Sutter had enlisted several gangs, from tribes with whom he had friendly relations, when his white workpeople went washing on his land on their own account. His Indians struck for wages, and then began raising their terms, when they realised that the yellow stuff could be bartered for blankets, guns, and powder. The news spread to their kinsfolk in the interior, who began to swarm down towards the mines like wasps gathering round honey - pots. They had no wish to work, but they were ready to rob and murder; and in any case the horses picketed outside an encampment were an irresistible bait. Men worn with the day of toil had to set watches through the night. Nor when they had accumulated some considerable store of gold was it an easy matter to place it in safety. There were white as well as red robbers. Brigandage is a recognised Spanish industry; and even when California was under Mexican rule there were bands infesting the mountains. In those days the business must