by Thompson & West, 1879, with illustrations

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(From the Argonaut)  On Saturday, the 15th of December, 1849, the first Legislature of the State of California met at San Jose.  The Assembly occupied the second story of the State House - a cut of which we herewith present - but the lower portion which was designed for the Senate Chamber, not being ready, the latter body held their sittings for a short period, in the house of Isaac Branham, on the south-west corner of Market plaza.  The State House proper was a building 60 feet long, 40 feet wide, two stories high, and adorned with a plaza in front.  The upper story was simply a large room with a stairway leading thereto.  This was the Assembly Chamber.  The lower story was divided into four rooms, the largest 20x40 feet, was designed for the Senate Chamber, and the others were used by the Secretary of State, and the various committees.  The building was destroyed by fire on the 29th of April, 1853, at four o'clock in the morning.  On the first day of the first Legislative session only six Senators were present, and perhaps twice as many Assemblymen.  On Sunday, Governor Riley and Secretary Halleck arrived, and by Monday nearly all the members were present.  Number of members:  Senate, 16;  Assembly, 36.  Total 52.  No sooner was the Legislature fairly organized than the members began to growl about their accommodations.  They didn't like the Legislative building, and swore terribly between drinks at the accommodations of the town generally.  Many of the Solons expressed a desire to remove the Capital from San Jose immediately.  On the 19th instant Geo. B. Tingley, a member of the House from Sacramento, offered a bill to the effect that the Legislator remove the Capital at once to Monterey.  The bill passed its first reading and laid over for further action.  On the 20th Gov. Riley resigned his gubernatorial office, and by his order, dated Headquarters Tenth Military Department, San Jose, Cal., Dec. 20, 1849, (Order No. 41.) Captain H.W. Halleck was relieved as Secretary of State.  On the same day Governor Peter Burnett was sworn by K.H. Dimick, Judge of the Court of First Instance.  The same day, also, Col. J.C. Fremont received a majority of six votes, and Dr. Wm. M. Gwin a majority of two for Senators of the United States.  On the following day Gov. Burnett delivered his message.  On the evening of the 27th, the citizens of San Jose having become somewhat alarmed at the continued grumbling of the strangers within their gates, determined that it was necessary to do something to content the assembled wisdom of the State, and accordingly arranged for a grand ball, which was given in the Assembly Chamber.  As ladies were very scarce, the country about was literally "raked," to use the expression of the historian of that period, "for senoritas," and their red and yellow flannel petticoats so variegated the whirl of the dance that the American-dressed ladies and, in fact, the Solons themselves, were actually bewildered, and finally captivated, for, as the record further states, "now and then was given a sly wink of the eye between some American ladies, and between them and a friend of the other sex as the senoritas, bewitching and graceful in motion, glided with a captured member."  But, notwithstanding this rivalry, the first California inaugural ball was a success.  "The dance went on as merry as a marriage bell.  All were in high glee.  Spirits were plenty.  Some hovered where you saw them not, but the sound thereof was not lost."  Speaking of the appellation applied to the first boy of California law-makers, i. e., "The Legislature of a thousand drinks," the same quaint writer says, "with no disrespect for the members of the body, I never heard one of them deny that the baptismal name was improperly bestowed upon them.  They were good drinkers - they drank like men.  If they could not stand the ceremony on any particular occasion they would lie down to it with becoming grace.  I knew one to be laid out with a white sheet spread over him, and six lighted candles around him.  He appeared to be in the spirit land.  He was really on land with the spirits in him - too full for utterance.  But to do justice to this body of men, there were but a very few among them who were given to drinking habitually, and as for official labor, they  performed probably more than any subsequent legislative body of the State in the same given time.  In the Senate House there was many a trick played, many a joke passed, the recollection of which produces a smile upon the faces of those who witnessed them.  It was not unfrequently that as a person was walking up stairs with a lighted candle, a shot from a revolver would extinguish it.  Then what shouts of laughter rang through the building at the scared individual.  Those who fired were marksmen;  their aim was true and they knew it.  The respective candidates for the United States Senate kept ranches, as they were termed;  that is they kept open house.  All who entered drank free and freely.  Under the circumstances they could afford to.  Every man who drank of course wished that the owner of the establishment might be the successful candidate for the Senate.  That wish would be expressed half a dozen times a day in as many different houses.  A great deal of solicitude would be indicated just about the time for drinks.  Speaking of the way in which these gay and festive legislators passed their evenings, the writer says:  "The almost nightly amusement was the fandango.  There were some respectable ones and some which at this day would not be called very respectable.  The term might be considered relative in its signification.  It depended a good deal on the spirit of the times (not Boruck's newspaper) and the notion of the attendant of such places.  Those fandangos, where the members kept their hats on and treated their partners after each dance, were not considered of a high-toned character (modern members will please bear this in mind).  There were frequent parties where a little more gentility was exhibited.  In truth, considering the times and the country, they were very agreeable.  The difference in language, in some degree, prohibited a free exchange of ideas between the two sexes when the Americans were in excess.  But then, what one could not say in so many words he imagined, guessed, or made signs, and on the whole, the parties were novel and interesting.  The grand out-door amusements were the bull and bear fights.  They took place sometimes on St. James and sometimes on Market square.  Sunday was the usual day for bull fights.  On the third of February the legislators were entertained by a great exhibition of a fellow-man putting himself on a level with a beast.  In the month of March there was a good deal of amusement mixed with a good deal of excitement.  It was reported all over the Capital that gold had been discovered in the bed of Coyote Creek.  There was a general rush.  Picks, shovels, crowbars, and pans made a large sale.  Members of Legislature, officials, clerks and lobbyists, concluded suddenly to change their vocation.  Even the sixteen dollars per day which they had voted themselves was no inducement to keep them away from Coyote Creek.  But they soon came back again, and half of those who went away would never own it after the excitement was over."  Beyond the above interesting, and presumable prominent facts, history gives us very little concerning the meeting of our first Legislature, except that the session lasted one hundred and twenty nine days, an adjournment being effected on the 22d of April, 1850.

The second legislature assembled on the 6th of January, 1851.  On the 8th the Governor tendered his resignation to the legislature, and John McDougal was sworn in as his successor.  The question of the removal of the Capitol from San Jose was one of the important ones of the session, so much so that the citizens of San Jose were remarkably active in catering to the wishes of the members of the legislative body.  They offered extravagant bids of land for the Capitol grounds, promised all manner of buildings and accommodations, and even took the State script in payment for the legislators' board.  But it was of no use.  Vallejo was determined to have the Capitol, and began bribing members right and left with all the city lots they wanted.  The Act of removal was passed February 14th, and after that date the legislators had to suffer.  They people refused to take State script for San Jose board, charged double prices for everything, and when, on the 16th of May, the Solons finally pulled up stakes and left, there was not thrown after them the traditional old shoe, but an assorted lot of mongrel oaths and Mexican maledictions.

THIRD SESSION- Convened at Vallejo, the new Capitol, January 5th, 1852.  Number of members:  Senate, 27; Assembly, 62; total, 89.

FOURTH SESSION - Convened at Vallejo January 3d, 1853, removed to Benicia, February 4th, 1853.

FIFTH SESSION - Convened at Benicia, January 2d, 1854, removed to Sacramento, February 25th, 1854, where it has since remained.

In the beginning of 1860 the citizens of Sacramento deeded to the State lots of land in the city on which a new State Capitol could be built.  Work commenced the 15th day of May, 1861, and the corner stone was laid with Masonic ceremonies, conducted by N. Green Curtis, then Grand Master of the Order.  In after years other blocks were added, so that now the grounds extend from Tenth to Fifteenth and from L to N.  For this addition the citizens subscribed $30,000, the State appropriation not being sufficient to fully pay for the land.  The original architect was Reuben Clark, to whom the greatest meed of praise should be given for the beautiful building that now adorns the city and is an honor to the State.  After the dedication ceremonies, work was discontinued on it for some time, and it was not till about 1865 that labor was recommenced in earnest.  Up to November 1st, 1875, the cost, added to the usual items for repairs and improvements, amounted to $2,449,429.31.  The building is 240 feet in hight <sic>, the hight <sic> of the main building being ninety-four feet.  Its depth is 149 feet and its length 282.  The Assembly Chamber is 73x75, with a hight <sic> of forty-eight feet, and the Senate 73x56, with the same hight <sic>.  The first, or ground story of the building, is sixteen feet above the level of the surrounding streets.

This State Capitol, one of the prettiest in America, stands in a park of eight blocks, terraced and ornamented with walks, drives, trees, shrubs and plants, forming one of the prettiest spots in the country.   This fine structure cost about $2,500,000, and its towering dome, surmounted by the temple and Goddess of Liberty rises 240 feet, and is the first object presented to view in the distance as the traveler approaches the city in almost every direction.


In 1776 the presidio and mission of San Francisco were founded, on the extreme border of California civilization; the presidio being a kind of frontier command, with jurisdiction extending to the northern limit of Spanish discovery.  San Francisco was founded on September 17, 1776.

In October, 1775, Bodega Bay had been discovered by a Spanish voyager, and named in honor of its discoverer.  The very month that San Francisco was founded, Capt. Quiros made the first boat voyage up the intricate windings of what is now Petaluma Creek, and proved that there was no communication in this direction between the bays of Bodega and San Francisco, as had hitherto been supposed.    In 1793 much alarm was caused by a report of the Indians that English vessels were anchored in Bodega Bay.  The Viceroy of Mexico ordered Gov. Arrillaga to take immediate steps for the protection of Spanish rights.  One of the measures adopted was the opening of a road for the transportation of supplies by land.  A battery was constructed and four cannon planted at Bodega, as I have heard my father and his contemporaries related, but the small garrison was withdrawn after a little, and the guns were taken to Monterey.

Bodega and Ross, now within the limits of Sonoma county, were occupied by the Russians in May, 1812.  As the new-comers came without permission from the Spanish Government, they may be termed the pioneer "squatters" of California.  Alexander Coskoff, who had a wooden leg, and was by us called "Pie de Palo," was in command of the foreigners, whose arrival was first known to the California authorities in 1813.  Gov. Arguello sent dispatches of the Viceroy Revilla Gigedo, ordering the Russians away; the only reply was a verbal message, to the effect that the Viceroy's orders had been forwarded to St. Petersburg for the action of the Emperor.

In 1816 there arrived at San Francisco the Russian brig Rurick, under the command of Otto von Kotzebue, in charge of a scientific expedition.  Gov. Sola, in accordance with orders from the Spanish Government, went to San Francisco to offer Kotzebue all possible aid;  but at the same time complained that Coskoff had been for five years in occupation of Spanish territory.  Kotzebue sent for Coskoff to come to San Francisco for a conference on the subject.  Don Gervasio Arguello was the bearer of the message, and brought back the first definite report of the new settlement, which consisted of twenty-five Russians and eighty Kodiac Indians.  The conference between Arguello, Kotzebue and Coskoff took place on board the Rurick, on October 28th, the Russian chief having made the voyage from Ross in a baidarka, or skin boat.  Jose Maria Estudillo, grandfather of our present State Treasurer, and Luis Antonio Arguello, aftewards <sic> Governor of California, were present, while the naturalist, Chamisso, served as interpreter.  Nothing resulted from the interview, since Coskoff claimed to be acting under orders of the government of Sitka.  Subsequent communications on the subject were not satisfactory in their results, since the Russians long remained in possession of the lands they had so arbitrarily appropriated to themselves.

As soon as the presence of the Russians at Bodega was reported by the Indians, Sergeant Jose Sanchez and Corporal Herrera, disguised as Indians, reconnoitered the Russian establishments.  On their return a band of horses were taken across the Bay, being forced to swim behind canoes, to what is now Lime Point; called "playita de los Caballos" by the Californians, from this circumstance.  Padre Altimira and his party left Lime Point on June 25th;  passed, during the following day, the Punta de los Esteres, called by the Indians Checuali, where Petaluma now stands, and encamped at night on the Arroyo Lema, where my old adobe afterwards stood.  June 27th he reached the Laguna de Tolay, on the hills just back of Donahue.  The expedition went on toward the northeast, and arrived at the present valley of Sonoma, so called, according to Padre Altimira, by former Indian residents.  The party encamped on the little Arroyo of Pulpula.  Here a guard of soldiers was detailed, and the supply train made ready, and Padre Altimira, after writing to ask license and a  blessing from Padre Sarria, President of the Missions, started on August 23d for Sonoma, where he arrived on the 25th.  The Padre narrates his movements as follows:  "We chose a site and began to work. In four days we have cut 100 redwood beams with which to build a granery.  A ditch has been dug, and running water brought to the place where we are living (now  Mr. Pickett's vineyard);  we are making a corral to which, by the grace of God, our cattle will be brought tomorrow.  We are all highly pleased with the site, and all agree that it offers more advantages than any other between here and San Diego."  These words are taken from a letter to Gov. Arguello, dated near San Francisco, August 31, 1823.

Three years after the events I have just related, the Indians fell upon the new Mission and destroyed it.  Fortunately, Padre Altimira escaped with his life;  but as he could not agree with his superiors, he went down to Santa Barbara, and in company with Padre Antonio Ripoll, embarked on an American vessel, commanded by Capt. Joseph Steele, and bade a final adieu to the country.  In 1827 San Francisco Solano sprang up anew from its ashes, in charge of the virtuous and active Padre Fortuni, and under the protection of the Presidio at the Golden Gate.  Padre Fortuni remained in charge of the Mission until 1830, when the work of rebuilding in more permanent form was undertaken.

In June, 1834, Gov. Figueroa, learning that many colonists with their families were coming from Mexico to settle in California, and deeming it wise to make some preparations in advance for the establishment of                                                      northern frontier, extending his survey as far as the Russian Presidio of Ross.  After exploring the country, he chose a site for the colony, marked off the plaza and dwelling-lots which were to constitute the new pueblo, and named that "City of the Future," in honor of the Mexican President and Vice President, Santa Ana y Farias.  The site selected was in Santa Rosa valley, on the banks of the arroyo of Potiquiyomi, now known as Mark West Creek. 

In 1835 I had been directed by my Government to advance our colony northwestward.  After the advance of the Russians, continual disputes arose between our colonists and theirs, and as my settlers were ready for a quarrel, and were not sparing of those "energetic words" well known in the English idiom, our neighbors gradually retired toward Ross, and left the country in possession of their rivals, who, like good Anglo-Saxons, knew how to maintain their rights.  Matters constantly became more and more complicated until 1840, when Col. Kupreanoff, Governor of Sitka, came to San Francisco and many official communications passed between him and myself, as military commander of California.  The result was that the Russians prepared to abandon their California territory, and proposed to sell me their property.  I was obliged to decline, because they insisted on selling the land which was already the property of my Government.  Finding that I would not yield the point, they applied to Gov. Alvarado, at Monterey, and received from him a similar reply; then they applied to John A. Sutter, who made the purchase.  I will not stop to consider the conduct of Sutter in this matter;  suffice it to say that California was at last, in 1841, freed from guests who had always been regarded by us as intruders.  Yet, it is but just to say, that in all mercantile transactions the Russians were notable for strict honesty, as in social intercourse for hospitality and affability of manner towards our people.  They took immense numbers of otter, beaver and seal skins during their stay, and left the country almost without fur-bearing animals.

Sutter at once began to transfer all movable property to New Helvetia.  While he was thus engaged, in 1843, Capt. Stephen Smith arrived at Bodega, in the "George Henry," bringing with him the first steam engine ever seen in California.  Capt. Smith had a grant of land at Bodega from Gov. Micheltorrena, and with his partner and brother-in-law, D. Manuel Torres, bought some of the Russian buildings from Sutter, establishing a steam saw mill near the port.  Thus Sonoma County had the honor of introducing this element of wealth and progress.

On the day when the engine began to work, Capt. Smith sent invitations to all the Sonoma settlers, and                                  arrive.  I distinctly remember having predicted on that occasion, that before many years there would be more steam engines than soldiers in California.  My readers can bear witness that I was no false prophet.  The successors of  Smith have not only proved the truth of my words, but have almost verified the remark of my compatriot, Gen. Jose Castro, at Monterey, that "the North Americans were so enterprising a people, that if it were proposed, they were quite capable of changing the color of the stars."

Without entering into details respecting the various minor expeditions sent out from San Francisco to the region north of the Bay, both for the purpose of watching Russian movements at Bodega and the hardly less dreaded operations of the English who had settled on the Columbia River, I will confine myself to the choice of the site where Sonoma was founded, and quote from Padre Altimira's narrative, as follows: -

"About 3 P.M., leaving our camp and our boat in the slough near by, we started to explore, directing our course northwestward across the plain of Sonoma, until we reached a stream (Sonoma River) of about 500 plumas of water, crystallline and most pleasing to the taste, flowing through a grove of beautiful and useful trees.  The stream flows from hills which enclose the plain and terminate it on the north.  We went on, penetrating a broad grove of oaks;  the trees were lofty and robust, offering an eternal source of utility, both for fire-wood and carriage material.  This forest was about three leagues long from east to west, and a league and a half wide from north to south.  The plain is watered by another arroyo still more copious and pleasant from the former, flowing from west to east, but tending northward from the center of the plain.

"We explored this evening as far as the daylight permitted.  The permanent springs, according to the statements of those who have seen them in the extreme dry season, are almost innumerable.  No one can doubt the benignity of the Sonoma climate after noting the plants, the soft and shady trees, ash, poplars, laurel and others, and especially the abundance and luxuriance of the wild grapes.  We observed also that the launch may come up the creek to where a settlement can be founded, truly a most convenient circumstance.  We saw from these and other facts that Sonoma is a most desirable site for a mission."

Such was the beginning of Sonoma;  unfortunately the indefatigable and energetic missionary encountered much opposition from his ecclesiastic superior, and notwithstanding the peremptory orders of the government, he had to yield to the demands of President Sarria, and the project of moving the Mission of San Francisco was abandoned.  In September of the same year, however, Padre Altimira was appointed Minister by Padre Sarria, and was empowered to establish a new mission.  To facilitate the enterprise, settlers were taken from San Francisco, San Rafael, and San Jose, but all the Sonoma emigrants came voluntarily to their new home.  San Francisco Solano was chosen as the patron saint of the new establishment;  but later, when I came here, after the pueblo had been laid out, and the military commandancia established, I caused to be revived teh ancient name of Sonoma, the name by which the town and county are still known.

A little before dawn on June 14, 1846, a party of hunters and trappers with some foreign settlers, under command of Capt. Merritt, Dr. Semple and William B. Ide, surrounding my residence at Sonoma, and without firing a shot, made prisoners of myself, then commander of the Northern frontier, of Lieut. Col. Victor Pradon, Captain Salvador Vallejo, and Jacob P. Leese.  I should here state that down to October, 1845, I  had maintained at my own expense a respectable garrison at Sonoma, which often in union with the settlers did good service in campaigns against the Indians;  but at last, tired of spending money, which the Mexican Government never refunded me, I disbanded the force, and most of the soldiers who had constituted it left Sonoma.

Years before I had urgently represented to the Government of Mexico the necessity of stationing a sufficient force on the frontier, else Sonoma would be lost, which could be equivalent to leaving the rest of the country an easy prey to the invader.  What think you, my friends, were the instructions sent me in reply to my repeated demands for means to fortify the country?  These instructions were, that I should at once force the immigrants to recross the Sierra Nevada and depart from the territory of the Republic.  To say nothing of the inhumanity of these orders, their execution was physically impossible.  First, because I had no military force; and second, because the immigrants came in autumn, when snow covered the Sierra so quickly as to render return impracticable.  I can assure you that the American immigrants never had cause to complain.

The "Bear Flag" party carried us as prisoners to Sacramento, and kept us in a calaboose for sixty days or more, until the authority of the United States made itself respected, and the honorable and humane Commodore Stockton returned us to our hearths.  I have alluded to this episode of my life rather as an event connected with history than from a desire to speak of myself, since at times like the present individuality disappears before the magnitude of the subject which claims our attention.  I will simply remark, that I retain no sentiment of hostility either against those who attacked my honor and my liberty, or against those who endangered my life, disturbed the peace of my family, and took possession of my property.

DESCRIPTION OF CALIFORNIA IN 1835:  Dr. John Marsh to Lewis Cass

(This interesting letter, descriptive of California, did much to call public attention to this then unknown region.  The letter was written from the Marsh Grant at the foot of Mount Diablo, in Contra Costa County, and was first published in the Contra Costa Gazette in 1866.)


HON. LEWIS CASS - Dear Sir:  You will probably be somewhat surprised to receive a letter from an individual from whom you probably have not heard, or even thought of, for nearly twenty years; yet although the lapse of time has wrought many changes both in men and things, the personal identity of us both has probably been left.  You will, I think, remember a youth whom you met at Green Bay in 1825, who, having left his Alma Mater, had spent a year or two in the "far, far West," and was then returning to his New England home, and whom you induced to turn his face again toward the setting sun;  that youth who, but for your influence, would probably now have been administering pills in some quiet Yankee village, is now a gray-haired man, breeding cattle and cultivating grape vines on the shores of the Pacific.  Your benevolence prompted you to take  an interest in the fortunes of that youth, and it is therefore presumed you may not be unwilling to hear from him again.

I left the United States in 1835, and came to New Mexico, and thence traversing the States of Chihuahua and Sonora, crossed the Rio Colorado at its junction with the Gila, near the tide water of Gulph, and entered this territory at its southern part.  Any more direct route was at that time unknown and considered impracticable.  I have now been more than ten years in this country, and have traveled over all the inhabited and most of the uninhabited parts of it.  I have resided eight years where I now live, near the Bay of San Francisco, and at the point where the rivers Sacramento and San Joaquin unite together to meet the tide water of the Bay, about forty miles from the ocean.  I possess at this place a farm about 10 miles by 12 in extent, one side of which borders on the river, which is navigable to this point for sea-going vessels.  I have at last found the far West, and intend to end my ramblings here. 

I perceive by the public papers that this region of country, including that immediately north of it, which until lately was the most completely a terra incognita of any portion of the globe, is at length attracting the attention of the United States and Europe.  The world at length seems to have become awake to the natural advantages of California and Oregon, and it seems probable that at the same moment I am writing, their political destinies are about being settled, at least for a long time to come.  I mention the two countries together because I conceive the future destiny of this whole region to be one and irreparable.  The natural conformation of the country strongly indicates it, and a sympathy and fellow feeling in the inhabitants is taking place, which must soon bring about the consummation.  California, as well as Oregon, is rapidly peopling with emigrants from the United States.  Even the inhabitants of Spanish origin, tired of anarchy and misrule, would be glad to come under the American Government.  The Government of the United States in encouraging and facilitating emigration to Oregon is in fact helping to people California.  It is like the British Government sending settlers to Canada.  The emigrants are well aware of the vast superiority of California, both in soil and climate, and I may add, facility of access.  Every year shorter and better routes are being discovered, and this year the great desideratum of a good and practical road for wheel carriages has been found.  Fifty-three wagons, with that number of families, have arrived safely, and more than a month earlier than any  previous company.  The American Government encourages emigration to Oregon by giving gratuitiously <sic> some five or six hundred acres of land to each family of actual settlers.  California, too, give lands, not by acres, but by leagues, and has some thousands of leagues more to give anybody who will occupy them.  Never in any instance has less than one league been given to any individual, and the wide world from which to select from all the unoccupied lands in the territory.  While Col. Almonte, the Mexican Minister to Washington, is publishing his proclamations in the American newspapers forbidding people to emigrate to California, and telling them that no lands will be given to them, the actual Government here is doing just the contrary.  In fact they care about as much for the Government of Mexico as for that of Japan.

It has been usual to state the population of Upper California at 5,000 persons of Spanish descent, and 20,000 Indians.  This estimate may have been near the truth twenty years ago.  At present the population  may be stated in round numbers at 7,000 Spaniards, 10,000 civilized, or rather domesticated Indians.  To this may be added about 700 Americans, 100 English, Irish and Scotch, and about 100 French, Germans and Italians.  Within the territorial limits of Upper California, taking the parallel of 42 deg. for the northern, and the Colorado river for the southeastern boundary, are an immense number of wild, naked, brute Indians.  The number, of course, can only be conjectured.  They probably exceed a million, and may perhaps amount to double that number.  The far-famed Missions of California no longer exist.  They have nearly all been broken up, and the lands apportioned out into farms.  They were certainly munificent ecclesiastical baronies, and although their existence was quite incompatible with the general prosperity of the country, it seems almost a pity to see their downfall.  The immense piles of buildings and beautiful vineyards and orchards are all that remain, with the exception of two in the southern part of the territory, which still retain a small remnant of their former prosperity.

The climate of California is remarkably different from that of the United States.  The great distinguishing difference is its regularity and uniformity.  From May to October the wind is invariably from the northwest, and during this time it never rains, and the sky is brilliantly clear and serene.  The weather during this time is temperate, and rarely oppressively warm.  The nights are always agreeably cool, and many of the inhabitants sleep in the open air the whole year round.  From October to May the southeast wind frequently blows, and is always accompanied by rain.  Snow never falls excepting in the mountains.  Frost is rare except in December or January.  A proof of the mildness of the winter this moment presents itself in the shape of a humming bird, which I just saw from the open window, and this is in latitude 38 deg. on the first day of February.  Wheat is sown from October until March, and maize from March till July.  As respects human health and comfort, the climate is incomparably better than that of any part of the United States.  It is much the most healthy country I have ever seen, or have any knowledge of.  There is no disease whatever that can be attributed to the influence of the climate.

The face of the country differs as much from the United States as  the climate.  The whole territory is traversed by ranges of mountains, which run parallel to each other and to the coast.  The highest points may be about 6,000 feet above the sea, in most places much lower, and in many parts they dwindle to low hills.  They are everywhere covered with grass and vegetation, and many of the valleys and northern declivities abound with the finest timber trees.  Between these ranges of mountains are level valleys, or rather plains, of every width, from five miles to fifty.  The magnificent valley through which flows the rivers St. Joaquin and Sacramento is five hundred miles long, with an average width of forty or fifty.  It is intersected laterally by many smaller rivers, abounding with salmon.  The only inhabitants of this valley who are capable of supporting a nation are about a hundred and fifty Americans and a few Indians.  No published maps that I have seen give any correct idea of the country, excepting the outline of the coast.  The Bay of San Francisco is considered by nautical men as one of the finest harbors in the world.  It consists of two principal arms, diverging from the entrance in nearly opposite directions, and each about fifty miles long, with an average width of eight or ten.  It is perfectly sheltered from every wind, and has great depth of water, is easily accessible at all times, and space enough for half of the ships in the world.  The entrance is less than a mile wide, and could be easily fortified so as to make it entirely impregnable.  The vicinity abounds in the finest timber for ship-building, and in fact everything necessary to make it a great naval and commercial depot.  If it was in the hands of a nation who knew how to make use of it, its influence would soon be felt on all the western coast of America, and probably through the whole Pacific.  I think it cannot long remain in the hands of its present owners.  If it does not come into possession of Americans, the English will have it.  This port in their hands, what will Oregon be worth to the United States?   They loudly threaten to get possession of Cuba as an offset against Texas.  Will they not be quite as likely to obtain California, as an offset against Oregon?  A British ship of war was here last summer whose captain was a brother of Lord Aberdeen, and one of her lieutenants a son of Sir R. Peel.  The gentlemen declared openly that this port would shortly belong to them.  This I take to be only a slight ebullition of John Bullism, but that they want this port, and will have it if possible, there can be no doubt, a consummation most earnestly and ardently to be deprecated by every American.  I hope it may direct your views to take an interest in this matter.

The agricultural capabilities of California are but very imperfectly developed.  The whole of it is remarkably adapted to the culture of the vine.  Wine and brandy of excellent quality are made in considerable quantities.  Olives, figs and almonds grow well.  Apples, pears and peaches are abundant, and in the southern part, oranges.  Cotton is beginning to be cultivated, and succeeds well.  It is the finest country for wheat I have ever seen.  Fifty for one is an average crop, with very imperfect cultivation.  One hundred fold is not uncommon, and even one hundred and fifty has been produced.   Maize produces tolerably well, but not equal to some parts of the United States.  Hemp, flax and tobacco have been cultivated on a small scale, and succeed well.  The raising of cattle is the principal pursuit of the inhabitants, and the most profitable.

The foreign commerce of Upper California employs from ten to fifteen sail of vessels, mostly large ships.  Somewhat more than half of these are American, and belong exclusively to the port of Boston.  The others are English, French, Russian, Mexican, Peruvian and Hawaiian.  The French from their islands in the Pacific, and the Russians from Kamtschatka, and their establishments on the northwest coast, resort here for provisions and live stock.  The exports consist of hides and tallow, cows, lard, wheat, soap, timber and furs.  There are slaughtered annually about 100,000 head of cattle, worth $800,000.  The whole value of the exports annually amounts to about $1,000,000.  The largest item of imports is American cotton goods.  The duties on imports are enormously high, amounting on the most important articles to 150 per cent, on the original cost, and in many instances to four or five hundred.  Thus, as in most Spanish countries, a high bounty is paid to encourage smuggling.  Whale ships visit St. Francisco annually in considerable numbers for refreshments, and fail not to profit by the facilities for illicit commerce.

California, although nominally belonging to Mexico, is about as independent of it as Texas, and must ere long share the same fate.  Since my residence here, no less than four Mexican Governors have been driven from the country by force of arms.  The last of these, Micheltorrena, with about 400 of his soldiers and 100 employees, were driven away about a year ago.  This occurred at the time that the rest of the nation were expelling his master, Santa Ana, although nothing of all this was known here at the time.  The new administration, therefore, with a good grace highly approved of our conduct.  In fact, the successive administrations in Mexico have always shown a disposition to sanction and approve of whatever we may do here, from a conscious inability to retain even a nominal dominion over the country by any other means.  Upper California has been governed for the last year entirely by its own citizens.  Lower California is in general an uninhabited and uninhabitable desert.  The scanty population it contains live near the extremity of the Cape, and have no connection and little intercourse with this part of the country.

Upper California has a productive gold mine, and silver ore has been found in many places.  A mine of quicksilver has been very lately found in this vicinity, which promises to be very valuable.

I know not, since you have been so long engaged in more weighty concerns, if you take the same interest as formerly in Indian affairs, but since I have supposed your personal identity to remain, I shall venture a few remarks on the Aborigines of California.  In stature the California Indian rather exceeds the average of the tribes east of the mountains.  He is heavier limbed and stouter built.  They are a hairy race, and some of them have beards that would do honor to a Turk.  The color, similar to that of the Algonquin race, or perhaps rather lighter.  The visage short and broad, with wide mouth, thick lips, short, broad nose, and extremely low forehead.  In some individuals the hair grows quite down to the eyebrows, and they may be said to have no forehead at all.  Some few have that peculiar conformation of the eye so remarkable in the Chinese and Tartar races, and entirely different from the common American Indian or Polynesian;  and with this unpromising set of features, some have an animated and agreeable expression of countenance.  The general expression of the wild Indian has nothing of the proud and lofty bearing, or the haughtiness and ferocity so often seen east of the mountains.  It is more commonly indicative of timidity and stupidity.  The men and children are absolutely and entirely naked, and the dress of the women is the least possible or conceivable removed from nudity.  Their food varies with the season.  In February and March they live on grass and herbage;  clover and wild pea-vine are among the best kind of their pasturage.  I have often seen hundreds of them grazing together in a meadow, like so many cattle.  [If Doctor Boudinot only knew this fact, he would undoubtedly start a new theory that they are the descendants of Nebuchadnezzar.]  They are very poor hunters of the larger animals, but very skillful in making and managing nets for fish and food.  They also collect in their season great quantities of the seeds of various grasses, which are particularly abundant.  Acorns are another principal article of food, which are larger, more abundant, and of better quality than I have seen elsewhere.  The Californian is not more different from the tribes east of the mountains in his physical than in his moral and intellectual qualities.  They are easily domesticated, not averse to labor, have a natural aptitude to learn mechanical trades, and, I believe, universally a fondness for music, and a facility in acquiring it.

The Mission of St. Joseph, when in its prosperity, had 100 ploughmen, and I have seen them all at work in one field with each his plough.  It had also fifty weavers, twenty tanners, thirty shoemakers, forty masons, twenty carpenters, ten blacksmiths, and various other mechanics.  They are not nearly so much addicted to intoxication as is common to other Indians.  I was for some years of the opinion that they were of an entirely different race from those east of the mountains, and they certainly have but little similarity.  The only thing that caused me to think differently is that they have the same Moccasin game so common on the Mississippi, and what is more remarkable, they accompany it by singing precisely the same tune!  The diversity of language among them is very great.  It is seldom an Indian can understand another who lives fifty miles distant;  within the limits of California are at least a hundred dialects, apparently entirely dissimilar.  Few or no white persons have taken any pains to learn them, as there are individuals in all the tribes which have any communication with the settlements who speak Spanish.  The children, when caught young, are most easily domesticated, and manifest a great aptitude to learn whatever is taught them;  when taken into Spanish families, and treated with kindness, in a few months they learn the language and habits of their masters.  When they come to maturity they show no disposition to return to their savage state.  The mind of the wild Indian, of whatever age, appears to be                                      , on which no impressions, except those of mere animal nature, have been made, and ready to receive any impress whatever.  I remember a remark of yours some years ago, that "Indians were only grown up children."  Here we have a real race of infants.  In many recent instances when a family of white people have taken a farm in the vicinity of an Indian village, in a short time they would have the whole tribe for willing serfs.  They submit to flagellation with more humility than the negroes.  Nothing more is necessary for their complete subjugation but kindness in the beginning, and a little well timed severity when manifestly deserved.  It is common for the white man to ask the Indian, when the latter has committed any fault, how many lashes he thinks he deserves.  The Indian, with a simplicity and humility almost inconceivable, replies ten or twenty, according to his opinion of the magnitude of the offense.  The white man then orders another Indian to inflict the punishment, which is received without the least sign of resentment or discontent.  This I have myself witnessed or I could hardly have believed it.  Throughout all California the Indians are the principal laborers;  without them the business of the country could hardly be carried on.

I fear the unexpected length of this desultory epistle will be tedious to you, but I hope it will serve at least to diversify your correspondence.  If I can afford you any information, or be serviceable to you in any way, I beg you to command me.  Any communication to me can be sent through the American Minister at Mexico, or the Commanding Officer of the Squadron in the Pacific, directed to the care of T.O. Larkin, Esq., American Consul in Monterey.  I am, sir, very respectfully,

                Your obedient servant,  JOHN MARSH



Gaspar de Portala 1767 1771
Felipe Barri 1771 1774
Felipe de Neve 1774 1782
Pedro Fages 1782 1790
Jose Antonio Romen 1790 1792
Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga 1792 1794
Diego de Borica 1794 1800
Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga 1800 1814
Jose Arguello 1814 1815
Pablo Vincente de Sola 1815 1822
Pablo Vincente de Sola 1822 1823
Luis Arguello 1823 1825
Jose Maria Echeandia 1825 1831
Manuel Victoria 1831 1832
Pio Pico 1832 1833
Jose Figueroa 1833 1835
Jose Castro 1835 1836
Nicholas Guiterrez 1836 ....
Mariano Chico 1836 ....
Nicholas Guiterrez 1836 ....
Juan B. Alvarado 1836 1842
Manuel Micheltorena 1842 1845
Pio Pico 1845 1846
Commodore John D. Sloat 1846  
Commodore Robert F. Stockton 1846  
Colonel John C. Fremont 1847  
General Stephen W. Kearney 1847  
Colonel Richard B. Mason 1847  
General Bennett Riley 1849  
*Peter H. Burnett 1849  
John McDougall 1851  
John Bigler 1852  
J. Neeley Johnson 1856  
John B. Weller 1858  
*Milton S. Latham 1860  
John G. Downey 1860  
Leland Stanford 1862  
+Frederick F. Low 1863  
Henry H. Haight 1867  
*Newton Booth 1871  
Romauldo Pacheco 1875  
William Irwin 1875  
* = Resigned, + = Term of office increased from two to four years    


Sea Horizon .... 83
Clay Street Hill 387 32
South Farralone Island 200 66
Mount St. Helena 4,343 68
Mount Tamalpias 2,604 39
Snow Mount 7,000 114
Mount Monticello 3,030 57
Mount Vaia 2,340 35
State Capital .... 53
Marysville Buttes 2,030 92
Lassen's Peak 10,650 183
Downieville Buttes 8,720 157
Tola Mountains 9,280 138
Pine Hill, Folsom 2,150 77
Pyramid Mountain 10,290 114
Round Top 10,650 120
Stanislaus Peak 11,500 125
Mount Lyell 10,000 144
Mount Hamilton 4,300 52
Mount Bache 3,790 54
Mount Diablo 3,856 ....
Santa Luna Range 6,200 132


El Capitan Tu-tock-a-mul-la 3,300
Cathedral Rocks Poo-see-na chuck-ka 2,660
Cathedral Spires ...... 1,800
Three Brothers Pom-pom-pa-sus 3,830
Union Rocks Hep-se-tuck-a-nah 3,500
Sentinel Rock Loya 3,043
Sentinel Dome ..... 4,500
Glacier Rock Pa-til-i-mah 3,200
Royal Arches To-coy-ae 1,600
Washington Column Hun-to 1,875
North Dome ..... 3,568
South Dome Tis-sa-ack 4,737
Mount Watkins Way-an 2,900
Cloud's Rest ..... 6,034
Cap of Liberty ..... 4,000
Mount Starr King ..... 5,600
Cataract ..... 900
Bridal Veil Po-ho-no 630
Yosemite Yosemite 2,634
First Fall ..... 1,600
Second Fall ..... 600
Third Fall   434
Vernal Py-wy-ack 350
Nevada Yo-wy-ye 700
South Fork Il-lil-ouette 600
Royal Arch Falls Yo-coy-ae 1,000
Sentinel Falls Loya 3,000


First District:  San Francisco County:  President, Hayes, 21,165; Tilden, 20,395; Congress, Davis, 22,134; Piper, 19,363.

Second District:

COUNTIES Hayes Tilden Page Carpenter
Alameda 4938 3348 5005 3258
Alpine 110 65 110 65
Amador 1172 1315 1191 1292
Calaveras 885 936 916 903
Contra Costa 1184 837 1188 834
El Dorado 1331 1441 1357 1362
Nevada 2300 1905 2318 1886
Placer 1610 1278 1668 1220
Sacramento 3837 2484 3873 2449
San Joaquin 2272 1850 2310 1806
Tuolumne 808 917 879 841
Totals .... .... 20,815 15,916

Third District:

COUNTIES Hayes Tilden McKenna Luttrell
Butte 1665 1635 1641 1658
Colusa 766 1468 764 1469
Del Norte 186 229 185 229
Humboldt 1637 1127 1614 1141
Lake 379 703 374 707
Lassen 256 227 255 229
Marin 651 619 650 611
Mendocino 929 1282 919 1279
Modoc 208 322 215 311
Napa 1153 963 1149 962
Plumas 583 501 580 507
Shasta 625 641 624 635
Sierra 917 509 888 536
Siskiyou 718 861 719 845
Solano 1952 1752 1972 1708
Sonoma 2432 2907 2420 2913
Sutter 550 553 543 563
Tehama 646 675 626 694
Trinity 388 408 391 400
Yolo 1233 1360 1239 1349
Yuba 1250 1077 1222 1100
Totals .... .... 19,010 19,846

Fourth District:

COUNTIES Hayes Tilden Pacheco Wigginton
Fresno 338 968 349 937
Inyo 343 375 340 373
Kern 556 844 555 831
Los Angeles 3040 3614 3187 3453
Mariposa 365 554 410 490
Merced 558 804 572 776
Mono 153 125 151 126
Monterey 1183 1011 1208 986
San Benito 485 663 424 668
San Bernadino 673 607 720 557
San Diego 794 668 815 623
San Luis Obispo 771 944 879 834
San Mateo 871 696 885 679
Santa Barbara 1174 743 1263 650
Santa Clara 3336 3065 3332 3059
Santa Cruz 1537 1132 1531 1125
Stanislaus 801 1097 805 1085
Tulare 986 1370 1014 1319
Ventura 608 591 664 532
Totals .... .... 19,104 19,103


  1876 1877
Wheat, receipts, ctls $10,516,913 $5,159,494
Wheat, exports, ctls 9,920,117 4,901,756
Value of Wheat exported 16,971,959 10,927,668
Flour exported, bbls 506,974 435,736
Value of Flour exported 2,592,566 2,681,636
Quicksilver, receipts, flasks 63,197 69,621
Quicksilver, exports, by sea 40,902 46,239
Value of Quicksilver exported 1,638,889 1,647,554
Wool, receipts of Cal., bbls 167,603 146,659
Wool, exports by sea, lbs 4,234,229 7,859,207
Wool, exports by rail, lbs 49,646,913 44,961,919
Total value of Wool exported 8,168,423 9,499,381
Treasure exports 49,737,260 57,613,870
Treasure receipts 67,279,568 71,729,454
San Francisco Mint coined 42,704,500 49,772,000
Duties collected 7,817,736 6,722,913
Merchandise, exports by sea 30,684,711 29,357,550
Exchanges, S.F. Clearing Ho'e 476,125,456 519,948,805
Freight by rail to East, lbs. 105,775,407 85,765,820
Precious Metals Produced - California 18,615,807 18,174,716
                                              - Nevada 49,280,764 51,580,290
Wine, exports by sea, galls. 529,380 914,201
Value of the same 334,238 487,362

AREA OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA  According to information obtained from the United States Surveyor-General

Agricultural and mineral lands surveyed to June, 1877 45,644,974
Agricultural and mineral lands unsurveyed 42,655,918
Private grants surveyed to June 30th, 1877 8,327,000
Mission Church property 40,707
Pueblo lands 201,835
Private grants unsurveyed 59,400
Indian and military reservations 212,715
Lakes, islands, bays, and navigable rivers 1,531,700
Swamp and overflowed lands surveyed 1,584,692
Swamp and overflowed lands unsurveyed 136,059
Salt marsh and tide lands around San Francisco Bay 100,000
Salt marsh and tide lands around Humboldt Bay 5,000
Aggregate area 100,500,000


  Square Miles Population
New York 47,000 3,880,735
Pennsylvania 46,000 2,906,115
Maine 35,000 628,279
Maryland 11,124 687,049
Vermont 10,212 315,198
New Hampshire 9,280 326,073
Massachusetts 7,800 1,267,031
New Jersey 7,576 672,035
Connecticut 4,674 460,147
Delaware 2,120 112,216
Rhode Island 1,306 184,965
  182,092 11,439,743
California 188,892 900,000

Native and Foreign Population of California: By Last Census

Lists nativities as of 1877

COUNTIES Total Native Born Born in the State New York Missouri Massachusetts Ohio Maine Total Foreign Born Total Native and Foreign Born Estimated Total Pop. Registered Voters
Alameda 14,382 7,332 1,722 236 968 442 774 9,855 21,237 42,000 7,856
Alpine 485 150 57 18 15 38 32 200 685 1,000 300
Amador 5,449 2,561 399 378 130 312 143 4,133 9,582 10,350 3,440
Butte 7,428 2,720 697 506 181 582 280 3,975 11,403 21,000 4,472
Calaveras 4,677 2,699 286 139 177 122 176 4,218 8,895 7,400 2,564
Colusa 5,088 1,938 261 650 54 229 70 1,077 6,165 15,000 3,800
Contra Costa 5,791 3,146 430 310 209 204 142 2,670 8,461 10,300 3,195
Del Norte 1,580 1,058 60 41 24 51 25 442 2,022 3,000 492
El Dorado 6,287 2,909 493 231 177 365 173 4,022 10,297 10,000 3,000
Fresno 4,974 3,787 71 152 37 58 14 1,362 6,336 9,000 1,671
Humboldt 4,646 1,974 323 182 120 217 354 1,494 6,140 18,000 3,200
Inyo 1,164 251 122 64 27 64 36 792 1,956 3,800 960
Kern 2,157 683 91 106 20 64 25 768 2,925 8,000 1,600
Klamath .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ....
Lake 2,483 1,060 102 355 18 94 21 486 2,969 6,500 1,425
Lassen 1,178 365 81 108 28 97 46 149 1,327 2,500 800
Los Angeles 10,984 6,921 456 412 162 222 141 4,325 15,309 31,600 8,570
Marin 3,761 1,931 383 90 214 104 159 3,142 6,903 10,500 1,671
Mariposa 2,192 1,155 128 77 71 68 63 2,380 4,572 5,000 1,071
Mendocino 6,147 2,946 305 594 97 202 306 1,398 7,545 11,500 3,150
Merced 2,196 894 132 204 41 62 54 611 2,807 7,000 1,722
Modoc 305 64 26 .... 16 26 12 125 430 2,870 963
Mono .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ....
Monterey 7,670 4,519 441 443 154 210 134 2,206 9,876 15,400 2,900
Napa 5,394 2,438 401 446 155 229 103 1,769 7,163 14,500 3,629
Nevada 10,479 5,070 886 323 338 541 577 8,655 19,134 22,000 6,997
Placer 6,167 2,579 651 223 246 339 341 5,190 11,357 8,600 2,906
Plumas 2,414 887 213 91 50 160 141 2,075 4,489 6,000 1,350
Sacramento 16,228 7,106 1,845 549 698 853 487 10,602 26,828 38,000 10,050
San Bernadino 3,328 1,661 194 157 16 93 23 660 3,988 12,500 2,500
San Benito .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ....
San Diego 3,743 1,629 296 111 108 127 99 1,208 4,951 13,278 2,480
San Francisco 75,754 38,491 12,612 664 7,147 1,116 2,650 73,719 149,470 300,000 50,000
San Joaquin 14,824 6,578 1,149 941 596 586 445 6,226 21,040 27,000 5,400
San Luis Obispo 3,833 2,320 132 222 42 129 24 939 4,772 10,000 2,735
San Mateo 3,497 1,935 381 68 185 92 186 3,138 6,635 12,000 2,650
Santa Barbara 6,538 4,362 319 225 90 187 112 1,246 7,784 12,000 2,800
Santa Clara 17,241 9,267 1,423 875 514 651 380 9,005 26,246 45,000 9,225
Santa Cruz 6,758 3,619 525 222 221 223 328 1,985 8,643 16,100 2,725
Shasta 2,937 1,147 197 206 55 186 45 1,236 4,273 6,800 1,787
Sierra 2,816 1,305 314 66 84 128 172 2,803 5,619 5,000 1,800
Siskiyou 4,321 1,763 312 245 69 289 112 2,527 6,848 8,000 2,000
Solano 11,263 4,532 1,202 797 660 561 390 5,608 16,871 20,750 4,150
Sonoma 15,656 6,923 1,056 1,363 342 623 424 4,163 19,819 40,000 8,313
Stanislaus 5,147 1,884 321 565 107 242 154 1,352 6,499 10,500 2,699
Sutter 3,949 1,492 254 399 44 292 76 1,081 5,010 6,335 1,427
Tehama 2,834 1,009 209 278 43 130 25 753 3,587 7,000 2,314
Trinity 1,397 712 130 37 32 61 60 1,816 3,213 3,000 890
Tulare 3,977 1,727 183 455 18 106 28 556 4,523 15,000 3,620
Tuolumne 4,182 2,468 265 66 214 82 249 3,968 8,140 7,500 1,850
Yolo 7,778 2,809 602 896 137 477 128 2,121 9,899 11,500 3,687
Yuba 6,144 2,760 550 236 159 366 279 4,707 10,851 10,000 3,000
                  560,247 909,583 196,200


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