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The following statement of the present condition, productions, climate, population, &c., of California, was recently communicated by T. O. Larkin, Esq., navy agent at Monterey, to a gentleman of Boston.
Mr. L. has resided in the region which he describes for eighteen years; and "his statement," says the Boston Journal, "may be regarded as the result of matured observation and a thorough knowledge of every thing bearing upon the interests of the country."
1st. The population of California in July, 1846, was about 15,000, exclusive of Indians; in July, 1849, it is about 35,000 to 40,000. The Americans are the lesser half of the people. From July to January, 1850, probably 40,000 Americans, by land and water, will reach this country; and after September the Europeans will commence arriving here. By January, 1850, we shall number 80,000 to 100,000 people, and in 1851 from 175,000 to 200,000.
2d. The character of the natives prior to July, 1846, was proverbial for inactivity, indolence, and an unwillingness to learn or improve. They had no wish or desire to indulge or enjoy themselves in any new or foreign customs, and they were happy, and kind and hospitable to all strangers. Foreign resi dents, happily situated among the natives, improving their advantages, gradually became men of property, and many of them have married into some of the principal families in California. The American emigrants arriving here in future will be composed of our most restless, active, and ambitious countrymen. No faint heart will leave his home to essay a journey of ten thousand miles, when at the journey's end only the most active and bold will be able to hold their way. Very many of our emigrants are Mexicans and South Americans-labourers (peons,) of the most abject class-mild and inoffensive in their general manners, who are guided with ease. They are, however, slothful, ignorant, and from early life addicted to gambling. They will sleep under the canopy of a tree, and enjoy themselves to the full if they have a blanket or a sheet with which to enwrap themselves; and they are content if they have only paper cigars to last them a week, and a monte bank to resort to at will. This class of men are brought by their employers from Chili, Peru, and Mexico. The employers are men of ease and urbanity, who will in time take their departure from this country, most of their labourers or peons remaining behind to live and die here.
3d. The climate of the sea-coast of California is healthy. At San Francisco, in the afternoons, during six months of the year, there is so much wind as to make the town a disagreeable one to reside in. At this great and rapidlysettling sea-port, four-fifths of the imports of California arrive, which are mostly sent up the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. One of the novel features of San Francisco now is, that gold is actually being picked up in the streets! Natives of the Sandwich Islands and Chili are seen daily engaged in this occupation. Whether it is dropped from people's pockets and rough leather purses, or is produced by the recent constant employ of carts, with iron tires, which have superseded those tireless, broad-wheeled affairs, previously in use, I am unable unadvisedly to say. The town of Santa Cruz is warm,
and extremely healthy; and, for timber and grain, it possesses advantages over any other town in California. Benicia is a newly-formed town on the straits of Carquines, thirty miles from San Francisco, and about the same from the sea. This place is more subject to cold and wind than Monterey, but not so much so as San Francisco. It is the chief point of passing from one end of California to the other. Its ferry will at some future day be of immense value, and the income constitutes an education fund for the school of Benicia. Before the resources of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were known, the town of San Francisco was considered to be one of the greatest importance, the more so as it was said no large vessel could go any higher up. Many merchant ships and men-of-war have gone to and returned in safety from Benicia. The location and advantages of the place now promise that it will soon be of the first importance. It may be the meeting-place of ships from the sea and of steamers from the river, which matter time and scientific men will soon determine.
The town of Sonoma, twenty miles from Benicia, with the valleys of the Napa and Suisun nearly adjacent, offers inducements of the highest order to the most lazy of our roaming emigrant families. In the Sonoma, Napa, and Suisun valleys the land is good, the country healthy, and the temperature is never very cold in winter, snow being seen only on the highest mountains. This part of the country contains the best of grazing land, many places being covered with clover and with wild oats. Cattle and horses lose flesh but a trifle in the winter; hogs, perhaps, not at all. In California, prior to 1846, not one horse or hog out of one hundred ever eat grain, and not one bullock out of one hundred thousand has yet done so; yet the horses and cattle are always serviceable. The proper time for killing cattle is from May to September; June and July are the best months. Wheat produces well. It is sowed from October to January, and cut from June to August. The yield is large, say thirty to sixty fold. Beans, corn, and wheat keep four years or more; fruits and vegetables less time than they do in the Atlantic States.
Twenty miles above Benicia some enterprising American gentlemen are laying out three towns, called Montezuma, Suisun, and New York. The banks of the river, as far up as these points, are without a doubt healthy. As California becomes populated, these new towns will contain their fair proportion of inhabitants, and there will be heard the busy hum of Yankee enterprise. On the San Joaquin there is a town laid off under the name of Stockton, which has now some hundreds of traders and wagoners living in tents. Lumber being landed in San Francisco and Benicia from Oregon and foreign ports, and held at two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars per one thousand feet, and the price being much enhanced when it reaches the highest points of boating, there must for a time be a drawback to building within the limits of the placer locations. Higher up the San Joaquin, proposals are out to build two small towns, in which people are purchasing house lots at low prices. At Captain Sutter's Fort, and extending to his embarcadera, there is a town called Sacramento City, with a thriving and numerous population of little less than a thousand people already. Several brigs and barques of light draught have reached this town, and also Stockton. On Feather river there are projections of a township. The people on the upper Sacramento river, Bute creek, Feather, Yerba, Americanos, Cosumnes, and Moquelemes (the last two members of the San Joaquin,) rivers, and their vicinity, must depend at present on Sacramento City for supplies; the remainder of the rivers, lower branches of the San Joaquin, on Stockton; the upper branches on Monterey; Sacramento City and Stockton, by steamboats, will receive their supplies from Benicia and the town of San Francisco.
Monterey may be considered at the present time the most pleasant place for a residence in California. The growth and prosperity of the town is slow, and there is but little business doing in it. The new emigration have not
taken the prospects of the place in hand. By land it is nearer the placer than San Francisco. In Monterey the same wearing apparel and bed-clothes are worn throughout the year. The Americans and English only use chimneys within their houses for comfort; the natives have no desire for them.
The Pueblo of San Jose, between Monterey and Benicia, and fifty miles from San Francisco, is situated in one of the most pleasant and healthy valleys in California. It is well watered, and for twenty miles north and south there is a perfect carriage road, with barely a mound of earth to lift a wheel. Its advantages for gardens, fruits, and grains are of the highest order. It only waits those who are soon to be its owners, and it will flourish in all its destined beauty and luxuriance. From Monterey to San Diego, every twenty to thirty miles there are large broken down missions, each so pleasantly located that they will entice people to settle near them.
The port of San Luis Obispo is half way from Monterey to Santa Barbara. It is an unsafe port in winter, and has an extensive farming country around it, but is not very well watered.
Santa Barbara is a small town, pleasantly located, surrounded by mountains, but affords little inducements to the present settler.
San Pedro is the port of the Pueblo of the Angels, twenty-seven miles distant. This Pueblo is one of the better cities of California, equal to the upper Pueblo, and far preferable to it for grapes and wines. It is perhaps equal for vintage to any part of the world. The present stirring times and people have not yet reached this valley; land has, therefore, risen but little in value here. The rich placers urge every new comer to the north; but time will soon send thousands to this Pueblo, to Santa Barbara, and to Monterey. The heat and unhealthy climate of the San Joaquin valley and of part of the Sacramento, with the cold there prevalent in winter, must check the future settlement of those valleys.
The following are the prices of grain, vegetables, animals, &c., in California, July, 1846, and July, 1849:
$20 to 50
15 to 40
6 to 8
July, 1849. $70 to 300 50 to 200
Steers, 4 years old,
10 to 20
Yoke of oxen,
Cow and calf,
2 to 4
1 to 2
Fanned wheat, 2 bushels,
3 to 4
Flour, per 100 lbs.
Tallow, per 100 lbs.
Labourers, per month,
15 to 30
25 to 60
6 to 8
8 to 10c
8 to 10c
Prices are at a much higher rate at the placers.
Country lands, including those for planting and grazing, are selling at from 50 cents to $3 per acre. Many a square mile (of 640 acres,) in the Sonoma and Napa valleys have been sold at 500 to $2,000. They are steadily on the rise in value. The old padres had each an orchard, which are now destroyed, and I know of but few instances of individuals who possess them.
The placer of the Sacramento embraces almost the whole of the branches of the river on the east side. The most remarkable now worked is the upper part of the river known as Reading rancho, and on Feather river, above Larkin rancho, and Yerba, Bear, and Dry creek. Feather and Yerba are the richest. There are three branches of the American river which join the Sacramento near Sutter's Fort, which have produced much gold. In the vicinity of the American there are many rich placers; in the ravines and valleys on each branch of the San Joaquin, gold has been found. These rivers irrigate slightly a large country of some three hundred to four hundred miles in length and breadth. Almost every spot that has been dug into has produced the precious metal in a greater or less quantity, and all over twenty carats fine. The only well known quicksilver mine is ten miles from the Pueblo of San Jose, on the rancho of the Berezera family and Grove Cook's. The land which is now worked was, in January, 1846, taken from the owners by the Mexican law of denouncement, namely: A person gives information to the nearest alcalde that on such a place there is a valuable mine, and the informer files a memorial and deposites a piece of the ore. He has then some thirty days to excavate and to dig at least thirty feet deep in the mine. By the expiration of ninety days he must have performed certain conditions, and by survey, and the personal attendance at the land of the alcalde, obtain judicial possession. If this is all done within a certain limited time, he then as owner holds the right to work the mine. Should the denouncer quit the work a certain number of months, he is liable to lose his right. In the winter of 1845-6, two California labourers offered to show Don Andres Castanoras, of Mexico, a silver mine; and on his examining it, he pronounced it at once cinnabar. He proceeded immediately to denounce the spot, laid his plan off in twenty-four parts or shares-gave away twelve, and retained twelve. He then returned to Mexico. There he rented the mine for sixteen years to Alexander Forbes, Esq., of Tepic, who has purchased many of the shares, some at $1,000 each, and is now working the mine, but not extensively. Mr. Forbes was a wealthy man, of no family, and seventy years of age. His cares, great wealth, and the responsibility of his quicksilver mine, give him much trouble. On Mr. Cook's land there are other locations containing rich deposites of cinnabar, that will produce a heavy per cent. of quicksilver. A pinch of pounded quicksilver ore dropped on a red hot iron will produce a vapour; by covering it with a tea-cup, the inside of the cup will be coated with a smoky substance, similar to that produced by the burning of a lamp. By rubbing this carefully over the inside of the cup with the finger, several globules of quicksilver will be brought into existence. There is, without a doubt, silver and lead in California in some quantities. I have seen a little of each. Coal is known to exist, but I am inclined to think is not of much account in quantity or quality.
I am of the opinion that the production of gold in the California placers will this year exceed that of 1848. ~ The individual gains will not be so large, nor will so much be obtained in proportion to the number of people employed. Americans who had been some time on the Sacramento had every influence over the wild Indians, and each man to this day has from ten to thirty Indians at work on the upper streams. They protect, feed, clothe, and attend to the wants of these Indians.
On the lower rivers the whites and Indians are destroying each other. It is said that the emigrants from Oregon commenced this bad business, and the
loss will be severe. Less gold will be produced, and, through the disturbance, the sale of much clothing, &c., to the Indians on the rivers will be prevented.
The whites, who are now or may be industriously employed this year in digging and washing the golden sands, will obtain from one to three ounces of gold per day; next year less, from the large number of labourers, and from the Some who arrive here will never go far ground being so much worked over. from the first port they land at, and many will return to the settlements after only two or three weeks passed in digging. The majority of these, if they seek for it, can obtain lucrative employment all over California as merchants, mechanics, clerks, storekeepers, farmers, hotel and innkeepers, &c., in towns and on the public roads, keeping coaches and stages, stables and boarding-houses, running launches and wagons, cutting firewood for housekeepers, ships and steamboats, and not be liable to summer sickness in the placer.
Timber is plenty, and much of it is softer than the white pine of Maine. Tools are very cheap. Live cattle for meat and for working are not high. One-inch boards bring $150 per M feet at the pit. This must, even this year, offer inducements for many labourers. Merchandise is very rapidly falling in value. Prior to the exchange of flags (July 7, 1846,) in Monterey, the maritime duties had averaged $85,000 a year, paid into the Mexican customs of Monterey. In April, 1849, the amount received by the American collectors for one month was over one hundred thousand dollars. The foreign goods received into the territory were chiefly from Boston; a proportion from Mazatlan, Valparaiso, and Oahu. The prices were almost stationary year after year. In 1846 and 1847, goods fell in value. In June, 1848, commerce began to feel the effects of the discovery of the placer, while from June to October, 1848, lands fell in price, foreign merchandise sold at unheard-of prices, and continued high until May, 1849. Country lands have now risen in value, and town lots advanced thousands per cent., and this day are yet advancing, while merchandise is now suffering a rapid decline in prices. Bricks, ready-made frame houses, and lumber yet command the highest prices. The shippers of merchandise in our Atlantic States since January, 1819, while they saw onetenth of their vessels chartered or purchased for California, and twenty millions of dollars invested in those vessels and their cargoes, were convinced that this department was to receive from 100,000 to 200,000 emigrants this year. These estimates were the minimum and maximum. At the same time they became participators in the supplies for two or three millions of people. They were far better judges of the number of emigrants, and the supplies sufficient, than residents of California could be. The excitement has gone throughout Great Britain, and is now agitating other parts of Europe. What is the result of all this? Large fleets of merchant vessels are laid up in the bays and rivers of San Francisco for want of seamen, and there is an immense sacrifice of mercantile property. There will not this year be sufficient warehouses to store the goods on the way for this country, nor can owners afford to pay the storage. Many of the owners will be present with their goods, depending on a prompt sale to satisfy their own wants, or to pay their debts. This itself will force the sale of much property, and without this the prospect for 1850 will not warrant owners or consignees to keep on hand goods for sale. A quantity will go to Oahu, San Blas, Mazatlan, Callao, and Valparaiso; some may even return to the Atlantic States. I do not believe that the goods landed here in September up to January (ensuing) from Europe will, in every instance, bring much more than sufficient to pay duties and other charges, leaving out any reference to first cost.
In this extraordinary position of affairs, the state of the emigrants is of primary importance, especially of that portion composed of women and children.