I HAD several times Lad urgent requests from the few Americans at Los Angeles, to pay them a visit; and also letters from Captain Gardiner, our Lay Reader at Fort Tejon in the south-eastern part of the State, expressing the same desire. He reads service on Sunday, but they wished to have the Holy Communion administered and some children baptized. He offered, as travelling is unsafe in that part of the country, to send an escort of Dragoons down to Los Angeles to accompany us on our return. I had therefore made arrangements to take the journey. At Los Angeles we were to be joined by the Hon. Edward Stanly (late of North Carolina), who went down by the previous steamer.
I had been prevented during the whole of the past year from visiting the southern part of the State, as it is infested by the worst class of whites and Mexicans, who often, rob in large parties, and render it unsafe to travel, except with a party thoroughly armed. Major E. D. Townsend, U. S. A. (whom I have already mentioned as our lay reader at Benicia), having been ordered to inspect Forts Tejon and Miller, had to pass through the country, and I availed myself of the opportunity to go with him. Some other friends had offered to join us, for the purpose of seeing the country, so that we expected to be (strong enough in numbers to dispense with Captain Gardiner's Dragoons. Besides Mr. Stanly and Major Townsend, the party consisted of my youngest son, Willie, and myself, James E. Calhoun, (son of the late Vice-President, John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina) and Jas. T. Smith of San Francisco. [Afterwards Rev. J. Tuttle Smith of New York.]
My objects were, to spend a Sunday at Los Angeles, where the services of the Church had never been held, for I was the first clergyman of our Church in Southern California, except Mr. Reynolds at San Diego--another Sunday at Fort Tejon,--another at Fort Miller, where there had never been a service,--and generally, to see what is the character of the southern half of the State, with reference to the future prospects of the Church.
October 1st, 1855. At four p. M. we were on board of the steamer Republic for San Diego. The last time Captain Baby and I voyaged together, he was mate of the Golden Gate when we were wrecked at San Diego, and I found therefore that he looked rather suspiciously at me. The clergy, in such cases, are regarded by sailors as Jonahs. We had about fifty passengers. The fog was rolling in when we sailed, and no sooner had we passed the Heads and. struck the swell of the ocean, than we plunged into a dense bank, in which it was impossible to see for twenty feet. The Captain says, he never went out in so thick a fog.
At intervals, all night, the bell was kept ringing, and at about three in the morning, we were, as the Captain supposed, off Monterey. We therefore came to, and as the sea was heavy, we were left rolling in its trough for the rest of the night. At daybreak the fog still continued, but we kept slowly drawing in to land until about ten o'clock, when it lifted and we saw the coast, so that we could find the mouth of the harbor.
We anchored at the usual place in the bay, when the boats came off and took us to shore. Monterey is unchanged since I had service here in August of last year. Everything is as quiet and. beautiful as formerly--a perfect Spanish town. Major Townsend and I went to see Mrs. Boston's family, (with whom I stayed on my last visit), and then took a walk through town, and visited Colton Hall and the old Church.
Mr. Calhoun and Willie in their walk saw a characteristic California scene. Two men who had been quarrelling, proposed settling the dispute on the spot by the duello. So they drew pistols and prepared to take their ground. It was just in front of a house, the owner of which came out and objected to their selecting that spot for the fight. This brought on a kind of triangular contest, when the last comer seeing a magistrate leaning against the fence a short distance off, appealed to him to stop them. Instead, however, of doing so, he threatened to arrest the pacificator for interfering. The quarrel had now diffused itself and got into other hands; and perhaps the hot blood had time to cool, so the difficulty was made up.
The last half hour on shore was passed with, the Hon. Mr. Wall, collector of the port.
Three weeks afterward, his dead body pierced by seven balls, was found on the road a few miles from Monterey, and at a short distance from it the body of a gentleman, his companion. They had been attacked by a party of five mounted Senorians. Later, in attempting to capture these men, Mr. Layton, another of our Churchmen here, was killed with two others. I mention this to show the necessity for my armed escort in travelling in this southern country.
At three p. M. we sailed, but the sea proved to be rough, and most of us were soon in our state-rooms. The rest of the day, and through the night, we were pitching about in a dreamy, uncomfortable state of being, afraid to move for fear of consequences.
Wednesday, Oct. 3rd. The sea smoother, but the fog still dense. In the morning the Captain found he had run too close in shore, and was near the spot where, last year, the unfortunate Yankee Blade was lost with many passengers. During the morning the fog cleared off, and we got on our true course. At one P.M. we anchored opposite to Santa Barbara, and went ashore in the steamer's boat, generally a difficult feat on account of the heavy surf. As there is no wharf, the boat has to be run up on shore, while the passengers watch their chances, and jump before the wave returns.
Santa Barbara has its old California population, and there seem to be few Americans settled there. Everything, therefore, is primitive and quiet. The houses are all open, as if they people lived out of doors; and the agricultural implements, scattered about, are of the same clumsy patterns their fathers used in Mexico a hundred years ago. The town is about half a mile from the bay, and is said to contain twelve hundred inhabitants.
A mile and a half back, on the rising ground at the base of the hills, stands the old Mission of Santa Barbara. We walked out to it; and found the same evidences of decay and dilapidation which characterize all the California Missions. There is, as usual, an extensive range of buildings, once occupied by the priests, and terminated at one end by a large church. Around were the remains of their vineyards and gardens, with a few slight houses, about which some Indians were lounging in the sun, the relics of their once numerous bands of converts.
As we found there was a solitary priest still residing here and keeping up the services of the Church, we knocked at his door and brought him out,--an old man in the coarse gray Franciscan dress. Calling an Indian boy, he sent him to unlock the church for us. It was like all the other Mission churches, with little to recommend it but its size, and having, at the entrance, the usual horrible pictures of Purgatory and Paradise. In front of the building was a circular reservoir with a carved stone fountain. It is now dry and dusty. We found there was a series of these reservoirs on the mountain side, on successively rising planes, and connected by canals. In this way water was brought fourteen miles from its source in the mountains. Now, however, most of them are dry, their stone ornaments are broken in pieces, and the surrounding country, which the old Padres thus irrigated and made like a garden, is fast relapsing into its former wildness. It is a lovely spot, however, commanding a wide view of the country and bay, and was selected with the usual good taste of the friars.
We walked back again to the shore. The iving, U. S. surveying vessel, had just come in. Her Lieutenant took us off to our steamer, in his boat, and at seven p. M. we were again under way.
Thursday, Oct. 4th. At about seven A. M. we anchored opposite to San Pedro, four hundred and twenty miles from San Francisco, and the end of our voyage. Here we leave the steamer, which goes on to San Diego. At the edge of the water is a high bank, and from this the plain extends far as we can see. There are three adobe houses on the bank, and everything looks just as it did when Dana described it in his "Two Years before the Mast," more than twenty years ago. We landed in the steamer's boats, and after an unsavory breakfast at one of the houses, a wagon was produced, to which four half-broken California horses were harnessed. The men hung on to their heads, swayed about, and at times raised themselves off their feet as the animals struggled, till the signal for starting was given, when they sprang off, simultaneously, and the released animals dashed away at full speed. The driver occasionally looked in to ask us, on which side we wished to fall when we upset. This seemed to be his standing joke, and one which I thought it not improbable might become a serious question with us.
The plains were covered with thousands of cattle and horses, quite reminding us of the descriptions of old California times. In the twenty-five miles of our journey, there were but two or three shanties, erected by squatters who were raising cattle, and not a fence or enclosure, except the corrals about them. We reached Los Angeles in about two hours and a half, having changed horses once on the way.
As we approached the town there was a marked change from the treeless sterility of the plains. We found ourselves winding through the midst of vineyards and gardens, and on all sides saw workmen engaged in the manufacture of wine.
Friday, Oct. 5th. Los Angeles has all the characteristics of an old Spanish town. It contains about five thousand inhabitants, two thousand of whom may be Americans or English. The houses are almost invariably one story high,--a style of building which an occasional earthquake has rendered advisable. All around it is a perfect garden, luxuriant with every kind of fruit. We visited one vineyard, which, besides a profusion of other fruits, contained fifty thousand vines of a large blue grape. Part of these grapes are each week sent to San Francisco by the return steamer from San Diego, and part are manufactured into wine.
Saturday, Oct. 6. Availing ourselves of this day to see something of the surrounding country, we drove out about eleven miles to the San Gabriel Mission. It stands in a most lovely country, but like all the others I have visited, is now in a state of decay. The single priest remaining here,--a Frenchman speaking no English,--took us into the sacristy and showed us the rich fabrics, heavy with gold embroidery,--remains of their former glory,--and probably brought originally from Spain. We entered the large church, once filled with their Indian converts, but now of a size entirely useless. Several children were on their knees before the chancel, who went on with their devotions without seeming to notice our party. The eldest was reading aloud from some devotional book, while the others responded at intervals. The heavy stone walls of the church were hung with the usual pictures.
Around the Mission is a country unsurpassed for fertility. It is well irrigated by little streams from the mountains, that have been led through the fields by the labor of the old Padres. The only settlers, however, are the lowest class of Spanish Californians or Indians, whose little huts are scattered about, among which the children were running around in a state of entire nudity. In the hands of our Eastern farmers, this country, with its perpetual summer, would become a perfect Eden.
About a mile from the Mission is a rich tract of wooded country, called the Monte, and celebrated for the luxuriance of its crops. Corn grows here to a height which seems fabulous to strangers. It is peopled by a wild class of settlers from our Western States, whose only religious instruction is derived from an occasional Methodist camp-meeting.
On our way home we stopped at the vineyard of a gentleman, (Hon. Mr. Wilson, who is one of those most interested, in Los Angeles, in the establishment of the Church,) and I describe it to show what Providence has done for this country. It is about seven miles from town. The house stands on rising ground, and from the front of it there is a view of many miles of rich landscape, much of it dotted with oak trees. His men were all busy in the manufacture of wine; and while some of them were bringing in the grapes in baskets, others, standing in the vats with their naked feet, were literally "treading the wine press." The proprietor receives eight thousand dollars a year from the sale of his wine alone.
In the vineyard, besides the grapes, we found a collection of fruit which I had never seen equalled in any part of the world. There were melons of all kinds, figs just bursting, delicious peaches, pomegranates, tunas, (the cactus fruit,) pears and Madeira nuts. Strawberries are raised throughout the year.
Sunday, Oct. 7th. Until within the last sis months, there had been no religious service of any kind in Los Angeles, except that of the Roman Church. As the preaching there was in Spanish, the Americans never went to it, and were without anything to mark the coming of Sunday. At that time the Presbyterians sent a minister here who officiated in one of the public court rooms, while the Methodists erected a small building and commenced their services. The latter place had been offered to us for our services on this day.
We had service morning and evening,--the first time our solemn liturgy was ever heard in this section of the country. At the morning service there were about eighty present, and a much larger number in the evening. The next day, just before leaving the place, I baptized the four children of a gentleman, whose family, at the East, had been attached to the Church.
I found several such families in this place, whom I sought out and visited. They are literally "Christ's sheep dispersed abroad in this naughty world." Before leaving, I had an opportunity of conferring with a number of the inhabitants. They told me, the persons present had been much impressed with the dignity and solemnity of our service,--that neither Presbyterianism nor Methodism could exert any influence on this population,--but they had no doubt the Church could be established under very favorable circumstances. They wanted something which did not preach Nebraska or Kansas, slavery or anti-slavery, and that was not identified with any of the isms of the day.
I have no doubt they are right, and that they would be able to support a clergyman, as they professed to be ready to do so as soon as the right man could be sent. This work, however, calls for a man of zeal and energy, with considerable ability as a preacher and knowledge of the world as well.
Our Church people at the East, residing all their lives in a settled state of society, have no idea of the difficulty of forming a congregation from a population who have not heard the gospel preached for years, who are living under no religious restraints, and among whom the religious element is yet to be created. It is a work of faith, and time, and patience.
Yet to how many of our energetic young men this should present a noble field! Here they would be the first heralds of the Church; and instead of wearing out their lives in a severe and changing climate, they might make a home in one of the healthiest places in the world. A perpetual summer reigns; and for this reason, perhaps, the early Spaniards named it the City of Los Angeles, (the City of the Angels). I certainly have never seen a country which more fully realizes Bishop Heber's description--
Monday, Oct. 8. Captain Gardiner had sent down from Fort Tejon (about a hundred miles distant,) a large, heavy ambulance wagon, for no other is adapted to the mountain passes through which our road leads. It was drawn by four mules, and had Bell, a dragoon, as driver, who was well acquainted with the country.
Bell was well armed, and all the gentlemen with me had their rifles and revolvers. I was the only one of the party without any weapon. As the party was so strong, Captain Gardiner had not thought it necessary to send any escort, as he had intended, believing that we were able to take care of ourselves.
It may seem strange to an Eastern reader to hear of a Bishop's visitation made with such accompaniments, but here there is no help for it. The country through which we are to pass is infested with California and Mexican outlaws, whose trade is robbery, and who will often shoot down a traveller for the sake of the horse on which he is mounted. Our friends in Los Angeles warned us, when we left the vehicle to walk, as we were often obliged to do for miles at a time, not to straggle off, but to keep together. Sometimes these banditti attack in troops, as in the murder of Mr. Wall at Monterey, which I have mentioned. At other times a single Mexican on horseback dashes by the unsuspecting traveller. As he passes within twenty feet, suddenly the lariat, which he carries coiled up at his saddle bow, is whirled round his head, and ere the traveller can put himself on his defence, its circle descends with unerring precision, and he is hurled senseless from his horse. Then, too, in camping out at night, our rest may be invaded by a grizzly bear, as they abound in these mountains. They often exceed sixteen hundred pounds in weight, and are so tenacious of life that an encounter with them is more dangerous than with an African lion.
We left at eleven o'clock and had hardly got out on the plains, about two miles from Los Angeles, when, in descending a gulch, part of the harness broke, the mules whirled around, and we were saved from an overturn only by the snapping off of the pole. Nothing could be done where we were, so Bell had to take a couple of mules, return to town and have a new pole made. We were therefore left for some hours with the wagon and the other mules. I read, or looked out over the apparently interminable plains, while my companions practiced rifle shooting. About three in the afternoon our driver returned, and we made a new start. We shortly passed through a chain of hills, and then again over the plains for seventeen miles. Not a living object was seen for hours, till, toward evening, the coyotes came out, and we saw them loping along, as they followed us, with their long gallop. They were often in troops, in one of which we counted seven.
In consequence of our delay by the accident, night closed long before we reached our destination. We drove on some time in darkness, till the appearance of a single light, a long distance ahead, showed that we were approaching some habitation. After a time we reached enclosures,--the first we had seen since leaving Los Angeles,--and found ourselves at the old Mission of San Fernando. The buildings are the most massive I have seen in this country. Along the whole front runs a corridor, which must be three hundred feet in length, supported by heavy square stone pillars. Some of the apartments are forty feet long, with thick stone walls and stone floors, reminding me of old castellated mansions in the south of Europe.
Several other travellers arrived late at night from different directions. One of them--an example of the varied characters to be met with here--was a Scotchman, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, who had been for some years in South America, and was now seeking his fortune in this new land. He arrived almost exhausted, having had no food or water for twenty-four hours. His horse had given out in the mountains, and while pursuing his way on foot, he suddenly saw a huge grizzly in the path before him. Afraid to fire at him, he unslung his tin prospecting pan, and drawing his ramrod, commenced a clatter on the pan, which soon drove the grizzly off.
We had letters to Don Andreas Pico, the present owner of the Mission, and as he was absent, presented them to his major-domo, who treated us with all the hospitality in his power. "We had a regular Spanish supper, olla podrida, frijolas and tortillas with native wine. At night our party were all put in a room forty feet long, with one bed in the corner for the six. This, they insisted that I should occupy with my son, while the rest lay on the stone floor wrapped in their blankets.
Tuesday, Oct. 9. We were up at dawn, expecting to be off early, but were detained an hour for breakfast. Oar morning ablutions were performed at a little stream in front of the door, which the old Padres had led there to irrigate their gardens. We availed ourselves of this delay to inspect the buildings. The church is like all other Mission churches, except in one particular. It forms one side of a quadrangle, the other three sides of which are buildings about ten feet high. This space was formerly used for bullfights, and the spectators were accommodated on the roofs of these buildings. There are two very extensive vineyards, abounding also with other kinds of fruit. The grapes here are said to be of a finer flavor than those at Los Angeles. The workmen at the mills were making wine at the time.
We had a Spanish breakfast exactly similar to our supper the night before. Upon offering to pay the major-domo, he refused to receive anything. We then urged him to take a present for himself, but he said, "No; when strangers come along, if they make me a present, I receive it; but not from the friends of Don Andreas." And all this was announced with the highest Castilian manner.
It was seven o'clock before we left the Mission, and after proceeding a few miles, we reached the San Fernando Pass, where the road has been cut through a deep defile in the mountains. Here we had to get out and walk for some miles, and the scenery was the wildest I have seen since I crossed the Alps. How our heavy wagon was to get over, was a marvel to us. At one place was a ledge of rocks almost perpendicular, about four feet high, down which it plunged as if it would turn over and crush the mules, while we involuntarily held our breath as we looked on. In the pass, two Indians on horseback met us as we were walking, and were loud in their demands for money, till some of the gentlemen allowed their arms to be seen, when their tone was moderated considerably. Had my companions been unarmed, it was evident they would have had no scruples about enforcing their wishes.
After passing the hills, our course for twenty-two miles was over a level plain, at the termination of which we entered, what was stated to be the most dangerous part of our journey,--a cañon, or winding defile through the mountains, about seventeen miles long. It is a narrow pass, hemmed in on both sides by the high mountains, often allowing scarcely room for the wagon to pass. A small stream flows through it, which is crossed by the road more than eighty times in the space of the seventeen miles. In addition to its being the resort of grizzlies, its fastnesses are the hiding places of the American or Mexican desperadoes who are such a scourge to this part of the country.
We stopped just at the entrance of it, near the only house there is for twenty miles in any direction, to take lunch and rest our mules. We had to choose this spot on account of a spring there. A short time before, this house had become so notorious a resort of robbers, that a party came out from Los Angeles, captured its inmates,--two Americans and four Mexicans,--and hanged them on the spot. As the spring by which we halted was only a few hundred yards distant, we noticed that the house had a new set of occupants, but did not learn whether its character had improved.
It was about noon when we entered the defile, the branches of trees on both sides often sweeping against our wagon, and long before sunset involving us in twilight. Many parts of it reminded me of our ride through the mountains on the Isthmus, from Cruces to Panama. So, on our mules dragged the heavy wagon over the rocks and through the streams, while most of the way we walked. Through the whole day we met no human beings and did not wish to, as they probably would not be of the class we would like to encounter.
It is strange to travel thus through a country with the feeling that every one you meet is supposed to be an enemy, and is to be treated accordingly. Mr. Calhoun has had occasion sometimes to ride about in this region by himself, and I asked him how he managed when he met anyone. He said--"When I see a Mexican approaching, I cock my rifle and cover him with it, at the same time calling to him to raise his hand away from his lasso which hangs at his saddle-bow. In this way I keep my rifle on him until he has passed and got beyond lasso distance, ready to pull the trigger the instant I see him touch it."
We had intended to extricate ourselves from the canon before daylight ended, so as to encamp on the open plain beyond. But when night closed about us, we were still five miles from the end, our mules were tired out, and it was rapidly becoming too dark to thread our way through the ravines. We therefore turned aside on reaching a level spot, with the little stream on one side and high rocks behind us. A fallen tree furnished an abundance of wood for our fire, which was supplied with large logs to last through the night. Here our basket of provisions was opened, tea boiled, and reclining about the fire we had our evening meal. Willie and I slept in the wagon, the boards of which we found hard enough, while the rest lay round the fire wrapped in their blankets. Rifles were fresh capped, revolvers examined, and each slept with his arms within reach. No regular watch was kept, as some one was up every hour to replenish the fire, and the mules picketed around would prove the best sentinels. On the first approach of men or wild beasts, in such cases, they exhibit an uneasiness which cannot but rouse up at once the whole party.
Wednesday, Oct. 10th. We were up before daybreak, and on our way as soon as it was light enough to see the path. We were obliged to walk the greater part of the five miles through the ravine. At last, we emerged into an open valley, covered here and there with oaks. In this we found a company of Californians camping with several hundred cattle, which were scattered over some miles, and which they were driving to the upper country to sell.
Where the valley expands into the wide plains, Elizabeth Lake was pointed out to us at a distance. It is about half a mile long, and lay glittering in the sunlight, exactly like snow of the most dazzling whiteness. On coming near, we found it was without a drop of water but filled with a deposit of saleratus. Not far off was the canvas hut of a settler, the only house we were to pass in our day's journey, near which lay the remains of three bears he had lassoed and killed.
The plains here are about fifteen miles in width. As the day advanced it became intensely hot; yet we were obliged to push on until we could reach some water to prepare our breakfast and refresh our mules. About half past ten o'clock, after traveling five hours, we reached a little spring, at which we stopped, as there is no water for the next fourteen miles. By damming it up we obtained enough for our wants. There was, however, no shade, and no tree within miles of us. We all scattered, therefore, about the plain to collect sticks, and the wagon was arranged so as to get as much shade as possible on one side of it. Into this we crowded, and our fire was built to prepare for breakfast. Some of our party were almost exhausted, but we found that hot tea equally with sleep merited the praise of being
"Tired nature's sweet restorer."
We had a long, hot drive all day over the plains. There was no timber, except in one place, where the plain was covered with a kind of palm for a space of two miles. We saw numerous bands of antelopes, but, frightened by the ambulance, they kept at a distance. There was a dreary uniformity in our prospect,--the same flat, scorched prairie. Descending a few feet, we passed for half a mile over the dry sandy bed of what was once a wide river. We saw no one, except a train of four or five wagons, containing a party of Mormons going from Salt Lake to their settlement of San Bernardino in the southern part of the State.
In the middle of the afternoon we reached the only water to be found for many miles, and, of course, had to remain till next morning. It is a small spring, of which an Irishman has taken possession. He has a canvas house of one room, and supports himself by his gun, and by furnishing provisions to parties passing over the plains. A pile of antelope skins lying near the house, gave an intimation of what our fare was to be, and we soon had a dinner of the meat, cooked for us out in the open air. Towards evening, some of our party went to the neighboring hills to try to shoot an antelope for themselves, but came back unsuccessful. At night, we camped out near the house.
In the evening a man arrived on horseback, leading another horse. He proved to be a Mormon belonging to a party, camped twelve miles distant in the hills, by whom he had been sent down for provisions. He was a perfect specimen of the wild, reckless, swearing class of men who infest this country, utterly careless of his own life and regardless of that of every one else. Late at night, to our relief, he took his departure, and we heard him shouting and singing, as he went up through the hills, "making night hideous" with his ribaldry.
Thursday, Oct. 11th. The stars were shining when we arose, and as there is no dressing to be done, it does not take us long to prepare for our journey. Before we set out, "Irish John" cooked breakfast for us. In a few miles the plains ended and we reached the hills, and then wound through valleys dotted with old oak trees. Occasionally we saw a little Like, and, as on the day before, frequent bands of antelopes. About noon we reached Tejon Pass, a valley hemmed in by mountains. At its entrance a large dry lake of saleratus glittered in the sun. The loose powder wafted up by the wind hung over it like a white cloud. The valley here is several miles wide, and as we drove through it we saw on the soft earth, the whole length of our way, the tracks of two large grizzlies which had shortly preceded us. As we approached the military post, Bell cracked his whip vigorously, and the tired mules, urged to a spasmodic effort, dashed up to the officers' quarters where we found Captain Gardiner ready to receive us.
The post at the Tejon is on a little plain, entirely surrounded by high mountains, which give it a confined appearance. It is, however, beautifully situated in a grove of old oaks. Under one of these, which stands on the parade ground, in 1837, Peter Le Bee, an old hunter, was killed by a bear, and his companions buried him at its foot. They then stripped the bark, for some three feet, from the trunk of the tree; and carved on it an inscription, surmounted by a cross, which remains to this day, though the bark is beginning to grow over it on all sides.
The barracks,--handsome adobe buildings,--were being erected around the sides of the parade ground. None of them were yet finished, and the soldiers were living in tents. The officers, too, were living under canvas, except Captain Gardiner, who had a small temporary adobe building, which is soon to be demolished. Willie and I stayed with him, while the rest of the party were distributed among the other officers. There are ordinarily about sis officers and one hundred and twenty dragoons stationed here, besides the numerous civilians who are storekeepers and employees of the post. A squad of dragoons is kept seventeen miles off, on the reservation, to watch the Indians.
Friday, Oct. 12th. To-day Major Townsend attended to his official duties. The soldiers were all paraded for him to inspect. As their horses are pasturing four miles off, they were inspected as infantry. Most of the horses have lately come over the plains with Colonel Steptoe's command, by the way of Salt Lake, and will need some time to recruit from the fatigues of the march, where both water and forage were often exceedingly scarce. The Major afterwards inspected every department of the post. The officers were all invited to meet us at dinner at Captain Gardiner's.
Saturday, Oct. 13th. We all dined to-day at Captain Kirkham's. He had one canvas tent in front for his family, and another, a few feet back of it, for his kitchen. Between them was a large oak tree, and under it was stretched an awning connecting the two tents. This was the dining-room. Beside the table rose the rough trunk of the old tree, so that we had (as one of the party remarked), "oak carvings about us."
In the afternoon we rode out about four miles, through the passes of the mountains, to where the dragoons' horses were pasturing, and in the evening, in company with Captain Gardiner, I visited the widow of Lieut. Castor, who had died about a month before.
Sunday, Oct. 14th. There is no service of the Church within two hundred and fifty miles of this place, nor a religious service of any kind nearer than Los Angeles. It happens, however, (not an unusual circumstance in the army,) that all the officers at this post are Churchmen--several are communicants--and Captains Gardiner and Kirk-ham have their families residing here. The former was, therefore, some months ago, licensed to act as lay reader, and one service has been regularly performed. My object in spending the Sunday here, was, by myself holding service, to give in the minds of the men a sanction to that of the lay reader--to administer the Holy Communion, which some of them have had no opportunity of receiving since they left the Atlantic States--and also to baptize several children, whose families may remain for years at this secluded post, without the opportunity of seeing a clergyman.
We had service in a large loom of the unfinished barracks. All the officers and quite a number o the men attended. At the Holy Communion there were seven recipients besides the members of our own party. At noon, at Captain Kirkham's quarters, I baptized his infant, only one week old, and after the Second Lesson in the afternoon, baptized the child of Captain Gardiner. In the evening I visited the family of a soldier who had died that day. He was buried early the next morning, his comrades firing their volleys over his grave, after I had read the burial service.
Thus ended my visit at this dragoon station, made so pleasant by the warm hospitality of the officers. I was fully compensated for all the fatigue of the journey by the opportunity afforded me to administer the solemn Sacraments of the Church where they had never before been witnessed, and to those who otherwise might not receive them for many years.
Monday, Oct. 15. About eleven o'clock we took leave of our hosts, several of the officers accompanying us on horseback for our first day's ride. We had the same driver and heavy ambulance as before, with six mules, a dragoon on horseback to act as guide, and two saddle horses, so that we could in turn have the relief of a ride and also lighten the wagon of our weight.
In the first few miles through the pass of the mountains the scenery was exceedingly wild, and the descent so great that we had to walk most of the way. The road descends twenty-four hundred feet in five miles. From the mountain side we had a view of the plain stretching as far as the eye could reach, and in the distance, glancing in the sunlight, the waters of Kern Lake. Just as we entered on the plain, we passed a small Italian village of about forty persons,
After skirting the mountain for some twelve miles, we arrived at the Indian Reservation. Here we were obliged to stop for the rest of the day, as Major Townsend was ordered to investigate its condition. There is here a tract of thirty thousand acres set apart by Government for the Indians, but at present there are not three hundred residing on it. At this season, however the wild Indians from the mountains have come down to unite with them in holding their annual Dog Feast, so that there are about one thousand present. We passed several groups of them, almost in a state of nudity, washing their clothes by the little stream which flows through the Reserve; and on reaching their grand encampment, stopped and walked through it. Their lodges were arranged in a circle, all opening inwardly. The Indians were lounging in the shade, roasting dogs and eating them, while the greater part of those not thus employed, were gambling. The women seemed even more engrossed in this than the men, most of them so intensely interested that they would scarcely look up at us. They sat in circles on the ground, and the favorite game was one in which sticks a foot long were thrown about like jack-straws.
We drove on about four miles to the residence of the Indian agent. He has a plain house, with one room on each side of the hall, where he lives with eight or ten employees. A short distance from the house, on a little knoll, is the grave of one of his men who was killed a month before by a grizzly.
The agent entertained us to the best of his ability, giving one room in which there was a bed, to myself and son, and the only other room to the rest of our party, who slept on the floor wrapped in their blankets. We had for dinner, some tough meat, and hot bread as heavy as lead, coffee sweetened with a kind of maple sugar made on the premises, but no milk.
After attempting this dinner it was thought advisable to have a gallop on horseback before we endeavored to sleep. In the latter part of the afternoon, therefore, Mr. Stanly and Willie rode down to the Indian camp, while the rest of our party waited till dark to go with the Indian agent, who was to provide us with horses and act as guide. There was just moon enough to show the trail as we galloped over the prairie, and long before we reached the camp we heard the sound of the Indian drums. We found them all very busy, and fires lighted in every direction. Some of the party tried dog's meat, but I was contented to take their report on the matter. This feast was in honor of the dead of the past year, and on one day during its continuance they bury all the effects of the departed.
There was to be a war dance late in the evening by some of the wild Indians, which was to take place outside of the camp. A large fire was made, and we waited for an hour, during which some of the Indians, who had been at one time at the old Missions, were singing songs in a nasal tone very much like the intoning of the service by the old Padres, from whom they had undoubtedly acquired it. Tired out with waiting, I went into an unoccupied Indian lodge near by, and threw myself down to rest. As I lay there, looking up to the roof above me made of tule reeds, through which the occasional glimmering of the stars was seen, the only light being the glare of the fires before the opening of the lodge, and listening to the discordant singing of the Indiana without, I thought how strange it was to find myself in such a situation in this wild country on the Pacific coast.
Hearing at last that the war party had finished painting and were nearly ready, we walked out in search of them. We found them grouped around the dim embers of a fire, singing in a low, droning tone, as if preparing their spirits for the task. After a time they rose, and repairing to where the large fire had been built, ranged themselves before it. The musicians, seated on the ground on the other side, began playing a rude chant,--in which the dancers joined,--accompanied by the noise of sticks struck together. The dancers were entirely naked, except that each had a slight girdle round the loins, a necklace of bears' claws, and a tiara of feathers. Their bodies were painted all over, while their leader had a horizontal line drawn across his face just below the nose, the upper half of the face being daubed with a white pigment, and the lower half with black, through which his teeth gleamed like those of a wolf.
Then commenced the dance, which was so violent in its character that the perspiration rolled off them in streams. It was a commemoration of the dead, and as those who died in battle were mentioned in succession, the leader went through the representation of their deaths, throwing himself down on the ground and acting the last scene with its struggles and exhaustion. Sometimes he assumed the precise attitude of the antique statue, "the Dying Gladiator." As the dance went on, they seemed to work themselves up into an intense excitement, and would continue it, we were told, till morning. It was a wild scene as the glare of the fire fell upon the dancers and a thousand Indians gathered in a circle round them, and when I looked around on our little party in this dense throng of excited savages, I felt some apprehension as to what the rising war spirit might lead to. I confess, I was somewhat relieved when late at night the signal was made to disengage ourselves from the crowd of Indians and get without the camp, preparatory to our return. It was clear star-light and there was something exhilarating in our ride, as for about an hour we followed the guidance of the agent over what seemed to us the pathless prairie
Can anything be done for the spiritual benefit of these Indians? It is difficult to tell, as they are so migratory in their habits, seldom remaining together in large bodies for any length of lime. The old Padres succeeded with them because there was no outside influence to oppose their plans. There is every variety of Indian tribe in this region, from the warlike Indians at the north and on the borders of Mexico, down to the Digger Indians, who seem to live a mere animal life. Still, the experiment might be tried on one of the Northern Reservations, where a better class of Indians is collected. Intellectually these Indians seem to be exceedingly bright, and children taken into families as servants learn the English language with great facility.
I copy the above paragraph from my journal kept at that time. Several years have since passed, and no steps have yet been taken to improve the condition of the Indians. In fact, they are subjected to outrages from our wild frontier settlers which must soon end in their extermination. When, years hence, this narrative is first submitted to the eye of a reader, I believe there will not be an Indian living within the bounds of this State; but then, looking back upon the time that has passed, and [the tribes which have melted like the snow-drift, leaving no trace behind, we fear the record in regard to them will be,--" no man cared for their souls."
Tuesday, Oct. 16th. We were up by daylight, and after washing at a little stream near the house, had breakfast at the agent's. After driving about six miles, we came to some springs called "the sinks," where we found two men who had camped during the night. This was the last water we were to see for more than thirty miles, and here, too, we took leave of all evidences of human life for the rest of the day. Before us stretched a plain, scorched, dry, and apparently boundless, without a tree for miles. At a distance, during the earlier part of the day, we saw a lake, the borders of which seemed lined with bands of antelopes. The gentlemen estimated there must be at least a thousand. Major Townsend and Mr. Calhoun rode off in pursuit of some which came within a few miles of us, but the nature of the ground allowing no concealment, they could not get near enough for a shot at them.
By mid-day the sun was burning hot, and we had dragged over wastes of sand till our animals drooped and we ourselves were almost exhausted. At noon, we halted for a few minutes to rest, though in the glare of the sun; and without leaving the ambulance, took such lunch as our stores afforded. Then on--on we toiled for the rest of the day. We met but one person--a Mexican on horseback. During the afternoon the ground became rolling, and as we dragged up each knoll, we hoped to see some traces of the promised river, but before us was only a new succession of the same barren mounds. Our driver and the guide began an animated discussion about the direction of the different trails, and we feared that they had mistaken their way. At length Major Townsend, riding forward to the crown of one of the mounts, announced that he saw the river below. We found that it was in a deep valley with a line of trees through it, showing the presence of water. We left the ambulance to let it drive down the precipitate bank, and walked half a mile to the Kern River, having travelled thirty-three miles without water.
Kern River is about one hundred feet broad, and at this season of the year from two to six feet deep, flowing with a beautifully clear stream. On the bank we found a canvas shanty belonging to a man who had settled himself here and constructed a scow, with which, in the rainy season, when the river is high, he ferries over any chance passengers. He warned us to be on our guard, as the Mexicans, having been driven out by the inhabitants some fifty miles above, were dispersed over the country and had committed a number of murders.
We crossed the river and encamped in a grove of cotton-woods and willows, perfectly tired out. Never was the sight of water so grateful to us, and we now could realize the meaning of the Oriental description,--"a barren and dry land, where no water is." A good bath in the river, however, refreshed us, and after building our fire and having supper, we spent a pleasant evening reclining on our blankets about the burning logs.
Wednesday, Oct. 17th. We were awakened before dawn by the howling of the coyotes about us, and, after a few hurried mouthfuls, were off before six o'clock. Late at night we had seen on the opposite side of the river a fire, showing that some travellers had camped there. At daylight they crossed, and we found they were two men from the "Upper Mines who were going on horseback to the Kern River mines. On the plains they had taken the wrong trail and wandered about all day, almost dying of exhaustion. As one of them expressed it--"starved to death for want of water." Providentially, late at night, they struck the Kern River.
After leaving the grove by the river, we entered at once among the most desolate hills. Not a sign of herbage was seen on them--not enough to attract a bee. We met with no animal life through the whole morning, except a large gray wolf which was stealing away between the hills. As one of our party said, it was "Sahara in mountains." The road (if such it could be called) was an old Indian trail winding through the defiles between these barren hills, and so little worn that most of the time we were obliged to walk, to avoid the steep pitches. As the day advanced the heat became almost suffocating, for the hills excluded all air, while the reflection of the sun from their sandy sides made an intolerable glare.
Our guide informed us that at noon we should reach a camping ground where there was water. At that time we saw indeed a line of green trees in one of the valleys, showing a water course, but on reaching it, we found it almost entirely dry. There were two springs near it, but they were strongly impregnated with sulphur, so that we "could not drink of the waters for they were bitter." We had to content ourselves, therefore, with the hope of reaching White River in the evening. We saw, however, numerous places around where stakes had been driven into the ground for picketing animals, showing that it had been frequently used as a camping ground.
The journey of the afternoon was as oppressive as that of the morning. We were constantly passing through deep gulches and over hills where we had to get out and walk. Often, when we had taken refuge behind some rock, against the heat of the sun, did we realize the force of that Scripture imagery--"Like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land!" Towards evening a large grizzly was seen about a mile from us among the hills. Mr. Stanly and Major Townsend, who were on horseback, together with Mr. Calhoun (who mounted the guide's horse), went off with their rifles to attack him, advancing from three points so as to distract his attention, as he would probably make a rush at the first who fired. But the bear, perhaps alarmed by seeing so many approaching, galloped over the hill and took refuge in a ravine where he was lost to them.
At sunset, we saw at a distance in the valley, the line of green trees which marked the course of White River. At the sight, our exhausted animals seemed to toil on with new vigor; but our disappointment cannot easily be described when we found that it was entirely dry, nothing but a bed of shining sand. We had travelled thirty-three miles, equal to fifty-three miles of ordinary travel. We crossed on the dry bed, and after ranging up and down the bank for some miles, came to the canvas house of a squatter, near which we camped, in a grove of oaks. He had dug a shallow well, which was not a spring, but the water oozed up through the earth, and was as muddy, therefore, as the usual water of our gutters. We procured enough, however, to make some tea, though there was none for our poor animals after their hot day's work, and after a hasty meal we were soon asleep around our fire.
Thursday, Oct. 18th. We were stirring long before dawn, and off as soon as it was light enough to harness, it being necessary to push on as fast as possible to find water. The country was of the same character as yesterday, sandy and desolate. When going up a hill, we discovered that one of the hind wheels was just coming off. The lynch-pin was gone, and we were detained while our guide rode back some miles to look for it. His search, however, was vain, and as a last resource he cut off the end of his hickory whip and made one of wood, a poor substitute for the iron pin, and needing constant watching. At about ten o'clock we found a spring among the hills, surrounded by a clump of willows, where, by building a dam across the little trickling stream, we procured enough for our breakfast and to refresh our wearied animals. After leaving this spot we had a striking view of the Great Tulare Valley. It stretched as far as the horizon, one unbroken, scorched and yellow waste, with what seemed a single thread of green running through it, showing the course of Deep Creek. Yet as soon as the dry season is over and the rains come, so that vegetation revives, this view must present a perfect sea of green.
A few miles further on we met a wretched looking man traveling on foot on his way to the mines. He seemed almost exhausted. We relieved his wants as far as we could, by giving him something to eat and drink, and directed him where he could find the spring we had left. He is one of the many who, in traversing these wastes alone, sink down and die. Their remains are not seen by any traveller for months; and their friends at home never know the manner of their end.
Two hours after this we met the sheriff with his posse, who informed us he had been breaking up a band of robbers, some of whom had been taken, while others were still lurking in the thickets on Tulare River, where we expected to encamp.
At noon we reached Three Creeks, but found it dry. A squatter by the river had, however, dug some pits, from which we procured a small supply of water. We passed through the same kind of country till the middle of the afternoon, when we saw at a distance the trees on the banks of Tulare River. We crossed and camped in a grove of oaks. Just afterwards, the Fort Miller ambulance which had been despatched to meet us, drove up; but as it was small, (they only expected Major Townsend and myself,) the Major determined to keep the Fort Tejon wagon to Fort Miller, and to use the last arrival to carry our baggage.
After a refreshing bath in the beautiful clear water of the river, we had a visit from a settler who Lad stationed himself near our camping ground. As the officers were accustomed to go back and forth by this trail, he had formed an acquaintance with many of them, and now came to ask us to tea at his cabin. We were most happy to accept his invitation and shall long remember the hospitality of these good people. Their cabin was but a single room, with beds in the corners, but they gave us a capital tea, at which they presided with a dignity not often seen in "the States." We spent an hour after tea with our host, during which time he entertained us with accounts of his manner of life in this secluded spot, with adventures in the wilderness, and stories of grizzlies attacking parties in the thickets by the river where we had camped. That night we were a little more careful than usual in keeping our fire replenished.
Friday, Oct. 19th. On our way by daybreak. I awoke with a feeling of illness which increased during our drive of nineteen miles over a scorched plain. We at length entered an oak forest of the most splendid trees, having in it, here and there, small settlements of Indians who were busily engaged in collecting their winter store of acorns. After going through this for nine miles we came to a stream called "Four Creeks," which we crossed, and camped beyond among the oaks. It was but little past noon, but the next water being eighteen miles away, it was too far for our mules to go that day. The woods here seemed to be swarming with Indians, so that we were obliged to keep a strict watch on our wagon.
My illness having increased, I lay down on the hard boards of the wagon, where I remained till sundown, wondering, in case I was to be really ill, what I should do--two days' journey from any physician or settlement. Towards evening, feeling better, probably from rest and abstinence, I crossed the river to a shell of a house which a squatter had erected on the opposite side, where we got some tea. The woman who prepared it for us was suffering from fever and ague, which is common on all these river bottoms. Her wretched appearance did not make the prospect of our night's rest in the open air very agreeable.
Saturday, Oct. 19. We were up before light, and drove about nine miles through the oaks to a solitary house where we breakfasted. The house consisted of but one room, three of its corners occupied by beds. The next eighteen miles were over the hot plains,--then about seven miles through the forests again, crossing several dry river beds filled with cobble-stones, till late in the afternoon we reached King's River, a bright stream about two hundred feet wide. We forded it and found on the opposite side a beautiful plateau covered with oaks. Two teamsters who had camped there with their mules, told us they were obliged to cross the plains we had been over, in the night, to avoid the excessive heat. There were large bodies of Indians on the banks, whom we visited after our camping was arranged. They were living in the open air, without even any lodges, and employed themselves in fishing and hunting, being exceedingly skillful with the bow and arrow.
Being out of provisions, we purchased some fish of the Indians, while Major Townsend and our guide forded the river on their horses, and riding up some distance came to a settler's shanty, where they bought some chickens and eggs. Fallen trees furnished us an abundant supply of fuel for our cooking and for fires through the night.
We had expected to have reached Fort Miller this evening, but found ourselves thirty miles distant. We had lost time, owing to the necessity of arranging our journey each day with regard to the supply of water. Stay where we were, however, over Sunday, we could not. We had no provisions, and the air was so malarious, that we found the Indians about us, though born on the spot, rapidly decreasing in numbers through the effects of the fever and ague. Nothing remained for us, therefore, but to push on next morning and reach Fort Miller as early as possible, that at least a portion of the day might be devoted to its proper object.
Sunday, Oct. 21st. We were up this morning by four o'clock, long before the faintest streak of dawn appeared in the east. After a hasty breakfast of sea biscuit and hard boiled eggs, we set off while it was so dark that we could not see the trail through the open woods, but were obliged for some miles to trust to the sagacity of the mules, leaving them to walk and find the path for themselves. After a few miles we emerged from the oak openings, when the rest of our way was, as usual, over the dusty, scorched plains. Between ten and eleven o'clock, we reached the hills overlooking Fort Miller; but missing the road, we had to dismount, while the heavy ambulance went plunging down the side of the hill. We passed through the little town of Millerton on the San Joaquin River, about half a mile from the Fort. It was composed of some twenty houses, most of them of canvas, two or three being shops, and the majority of the rest drinking saloons and billiard rooms. The population was Mexican or the lowest class of whites, and on this day they seemed to be given up entirely to dissipation.
As the formidable cavalcade of two ambulances, three horsemen, and a party on foot, wound round the hills towards the post, the officers, (as we afterwards learned,) turned out with their glasses to see who could be coming, as they had only expected Major Townsend and myself. The post is situated on a plateau overlooking the town and river. There are only about seventy men of the Third Artillery stationed here. The officers met us as we arrived, and we had a warm welcome. Major Townsend went with Lieut. Castor and the rest of us to Dr. Murray's quarters.
The service of our Church had never been held here, nor, when Sunday came, had there been anything to mark the day. Arrangements were soon made, after our arrival, for service in the evening, and a broad hall in one of the buildings devoted to the officers was cleared for that purpose. The officers with their families, and many of the soldiers attended, and after the Second Lesson I baptized the child of one of the privates. A beginning having thus been made, before I left the post, I licensed Dr. Murray, the surgeon, a communicant of the Church, to act as lay reader, and arrangements were made for having the service every Sunday.
We remained at the post for two days, resting from the fatigue of our journey and enjoying the open hospitality of the officers. Of these two days there is little to tell. On Monday, Major Townsend had his inspection of the troops and visited all the buildings of the post. We dined and took tea with the officers, rode, and passed our time quite pleasantly. Tuesday, the Major had a grand pow-wow with the tribe of Digger Indians near the post, and presented their head man with a gay flannel shirt, with which he was hugely delighted,--thus, as the Major expressed it,--l; transforming the Indian Chief into a red shirt miner." As he was obliged to wait till the end of the week and then to stop at the Indian Reservation on his way down, we determined to leave him, and to return in the little stage which runs from this place to Snelling's. It had made but two trips, and before it commenced to run, travellers were obliged to pass those seventy miles on horseback. When we reach Snelling's, we are in the region of the regular stage routes.
Wednesday, Oct. 24th. Long before daylight, we were up and our little stage with two horses was ready. After taking leave of our kind entertainers, we commenced our journey on the banks of the San Joaquin. At about nine o'clock we stopped at a solitary house intended for teamsters, where, for one dollar each, we had a breakfast; but everything was so filthy that we could hardly eat even after our long morning ride. The drive, for the whole day--was over the same kind of country as during the preceding week--desolate plains varied with an occasional hill and river, and then a cattle ranch. At noon we reached a place similar to the one at which we had breakfasted, where they wished us to dine, but we declined, and preferred waiting till we reached Snelling's at evening.
As we stopped at a solitary ranch to change horses, the owner got in and went on with us. I had noticed two very fine looking young Indians, about eighteen years of age, standing before the door, and remarked to him that they were the best specimens of Indians I had seen.
"Yes," said he, "I was offered twelve hundred dollars for one of those boys."
"But how," I asked, "could you sell him?"
"Why, just as I could anything else--my horse or my cow. I got him some years ago and trained him up. He's mine."
"But suppose," I continued, "he should leave you and refuse to work any more."
"Then, I should do just as I have done before,--catch him and put him right down to his work."
"If you were nearer San Francisco," remarked Mr. Stanly, "there might be such a thing as a habeas corpus, to find out what you were doing with these Indians."
"That might do, sir, in San Francisco, but let me tell you that here in the mountains, might makes right."
The nest topic was the story of a gambler who came and "squatted" on his ranch to levy blackmail on him and his brother. After narrating his grievances and annoyances, Mr. Stanly asked--
"What became of him?"
"Oh, my brother shot him with a derringer. The ball went in here," (touching one temple,) "and came out here," (touching the other temple). And all this was said just as coolly as if he were describing the shooting of a coyote.
Then came a description of the killing of Joaquin, a noted bandit, for whose head the government had offered a reward of five hundred dollars. Our travelling companion was one of the party which hunted him down, and he described the whole affair with great gusto, as if it had been a most agreeable sporting expedition; which, in fact, it was to him.
I have given these conversations to illustrate the character of the men, wild and lawless, generally from the frontier of the West, who have formed so much of the emigration to this country.
Just before dark we reached Snelling's, a small settlement with fine trees about it. The hotel here is large and seemed full, this being a central point from which stages go up through Mariposa County. There is probably no place in California which collects so many outlaws as this tavern, or which is so marked for deeds of bloodshed. After supper we retired early to prepare for our last day's travel.
Thursday, Oct. 25th. Off in the stage by bright moonlight, which fortunately lasted till daylight. We had six passengers, including a Chinaman. After fording the Stanislaus River, we ate breakfast at a tavern on the bank. The country we passed through is much richer and more thickly settled. Oak trees are scattered park-like through it, and we passed cultivated farms, increasing in frequency as we approached Stockton. We reached there at four in the afternoon, just in time for the boat. Here, for the first time in several days, we had an opportunity to dress, and the next morning awoke at the wharf in San Francisco, after having been absent about a month.
Thanks to kind Providence, we reached home without a single accident. I believe but one of our party suffered any ill effects from the journey. More than a year afterwards, Mr. Calhoun told me that he had not recovered from the effects of the cold and chills which resulted from his camping out. I was able to accomplish all that I designed. I learned the state of things at Los Angeles, and the nature of the country in the eastern half of the State. It is a section which evidently cannot be settled for many years, and I shall probably, therefore, never again be obliged to travel the route we did on this occasion.