J. Tyrwhitt Brooks

Part 3 out of 3

Armjo and his companions. Several parties of Indians we met a few
hours before sundown stated that they had not seen any white men
along the trail. I felt disposed, as far as I was myself concerned,
to give over the pursuit, as my horse was already worn out by the
journey; but my companions would not listen to it, and determined,
at any rate, to see what would result from following it up briskly
during the next day. We had all noticed that there were no new signs
of horses that had been shod passing along the trail, but Bradley
was of opinion that the party would be mounted on unshod beasts, as
very few of the native Californians had their horses shod, unless
they were going a journey across a rough broken country.

Next day we fell in with several more parties of Indians, from whom
we learnt that the men we were in pursuit of were full two days
journey before us. One party, who had seen them encamped the
preceding evening more than forty miles ahead, told us that they had
inquired of them where the trail turned off to Los Angelos. As this
town was at least five or six days' journey distant, and as the
Sierra had to be crossed to reach it, we concluded among ourselves
that it would be best for us to return to Monterey forthwith. This
decision was readily come to, as there was now no hope of overtaking
the party, and every step we proceeded we were getting into a more
hostile country. In all probability, if we had pursued them to Los
Angelos, we should have discovered that they had struck off on to
the great Spanish Trail, as was their original intention, or else
have found that they had been to Los Angelos and had taken their
departure for some other place.

We therefore turned our horses' heads, and retraced our steps
towards the coast in no merry mood. We rode along, in fact, in
sullen silence, only broken to mutter out our expressions of
disappointment at the escape of those who had robbed us of the
fruits of so many months of toil, exposure, and hardship. We
encountered nothing very remarkable during our three days' journey
to Monterey. There were the same prairies to cross, the same
thickets to penetrate, and the same streams to ford. Herds of elk
and mustangs were continually seen upon the heights, and every now
and then we met with some small parties of Indians, many of the
chiefs dressed in the Spanish fashion. We were too well armed, and
too many in number, for any of them to venture to attack us, had
they been so inclined; but generally their intentions seemed to be
perfectly pacific.


The Author and his friends part company
Their regrets at the separation
Friendship in the wilderness
Friendship at a supper
The Author finds himself alone
Monterey deserted
High wages
Officers' servants not to be obtained
A few arrivals from the mines
Stores shut, houses blocked up, and ships left defenceless.

We had previously determined, on arriving at the sea-coast, to part
company. There was now no object for keeping together in a party, and
our future plans were, of course, very undecided. It was, therefore,
clearly advisable that we should, at least for the present, separate.
This resolution was not come to without something like a pang--a pang
which I sincerely felt, and which I believe was more or less
experienced by us all. We had lived for four months in constant
companionship--we had undergone hardships and dangers together, and a
friendship, more vivid than can well be imagined in civilized lands to
have been the growth of so short a period, had sprung up betwixt us.
There had been a few petty bickerings between us, and some unjust
suspicions on my part in respect to Bradley; but these were all
forgotten. Common sense, however, dictated the dissolution of our
party. When we reached Monterey, we went to an inferior sort of hotel,
but the best open; and the following day we arranged the division of
the proceeds arising from the sale of the gold that Bradley had left
with Captain Sutter for consignment here. The same night we had a
supper, at which a melancholy species of joviality was in the
ascendant, and the next day shook hands and parted. Don Luis went back
to his own pleasant home, and Bradley started for San Francisco. As
for the others, I hardly know what were their destinations. All I know
is, that on waking the next morning, I found that I was alone.

After breakfast I walked about the town. Like San Francisco, Monterey
has been nearly deserted. Everybody has gone to the diggings, leaving
business, ships, and stores, to take care of themselves. The persons
who remain are either persons carrying on profitable branches of
commerce, the very existence of which requires the presence of
principals upon the spot, and their clerks and servants, who have been
tempted by high wages to stay. To give an idea of the rate of
remuneration paid, I may mention that salesmen and shopmen have been
receiving at the rate of from two thousand three hundred to two
thousand seven hundred dollars, with their board, per annum. Mere boys
get extravagant salaries in the absence of their seniors; and the
lowest and most menial offices are paid for at a rate which only such a
wonderful influx of gold would render credible.

But, even with the inducement of this high pay, it was found
exceedingly difficult to retain the services of persons engaged in
commercial and domestic capacities. I learned from Colonel Mason that
the officers in garrison at Monterey had not been able for two months
to command the assistance of a servant. Indeed, they had been actually
obliged either to cook their own dinners, or to go without. Every one
had taken his turn in the culinary department, and even Colonel Mason
had not been exempted.

The prevalence of sickness at the mines has sent a few people back
here; but, with the commencement of the rainy season, I anticipate that
there will be plenty of labour in the market, and that its value will
become correspondingly depreciated. In the meantime, the general aspect
of the town is forlorn and deserted; stores are shut, houses blocked
up, and in the harbour ships ride solitary and defenceless.


Letter from the Author to his Brother in England.

MONTEREY, _October 11th_, 1848.

DEAR GEORGE,--I take advantage of the departure of a courier sent by
Colonel Mason, the United States Governor of California, to
Washington, with dispatches, to let you know what I have been about
during the five months which have elapsed since I last wrote you. Long
before you receive this you will have heard in England of the
extraordinary occurrences which have taken plate out here. My last
letter, which I hope you received, told you of the failure of the
emigration scheme to Oregon, and of my intention of leaving that
barren desert-like place, the first possible opportunity. A friend of
mine, of whom I have before spoken to you, namely, Mr. Malcolm, a
Scotchman, and a thorough practical agriculturist, was anxious to
shift his quarters to California, the soil of which country was
represented by every one who had visited it as of extraordinary
fertility. We had heard of the war that was going on between the
United States and Mexico having extended itself to that country, and
Mr. Malcolm prevailed on me to accompany him to San Francisco, where
he thought I might manage to obtain an appointment in the United
States army. We made the voyage together, and the accompanying
diary--of which more by-and-by--commences with an account of our first
setting out.

But to return to California. I assure you it is hardly possible for any
accounts of the gold mines, and of what I may call gold gravel and
sand, to be exaggerated. The El Dorado of the early voyagers to America
has really been discovered; and what its consequences may be, not only
upon this continent, but upon the world, wiser heads--heads more versed
than mine is in monetary science--must tell. There is much speculation
here as to the effects which the late wonderful discovery will produce
in the States and the old country. Of course we expect to be inundated
with emigrants, coming, I suppose, from every part of the world, and
truly, for all I can tell, there will be gold enough for all.

And now, the first question you will ask me is, whether I have made my
fortune? I reply, my old bad luck has not forsaken me. I always seem to
come in for monkey's allowance--more kicks than halfpence. Three months
ago I thought my fortune was made, and that I might come home a South
American nabob. Nothing of the kind. Here I was, almost on the spot,
when the first news of the gold was received. I have worked hard, and
undergone some hardships, and, thanks to the now almost lawless state
of this country, I have been deprived of the great mass of my savings,
and must, when the dry season comes round again, set to work almost
anew. I have but fourteen hundred dollars' worth of the precious metal
remaining, and, with the rate of prices which now universally prevails
here, that will not keep me much over a couple of months. My own case,
though, is that of many others. As the number of diggers and miners
augmented, robberies and violence became frequent. At first, when we
arrived at the Mormon diggings, for example, everything was tranquil.
Every man worked for himself, without disturbing his neighbour. Now the
scene is widely changed indeed. When I was last there, as you will see
by my diary, things were bad enough; but now, according to the reports
we hear, no man, known to be in possession of much gold, dare say, as
he lays down his head at night, that he will ever rise from his pillow.
The fact is, that there is no executive government of any strength here
to put an end to this state of things. The country is almost a
wilderness, whereof Indians are the principal inhabitants. The small
force Colonel Mason has here has been thinned very materially by
desertions, and the fidelity of those that remain is, according to the
opinion of their commanding officer, not to be over much depended on.

Of course, as you may expect, I am naturally much cast down at the turn
which matters have taken--I mean as regards my own misfortune. It is
heart-breaking to be robbed by a set of villains of what you have
worked so hard for, and have undergone so much to obtain. I am in
hopes, however, that my next gold campaign may be a more, successful
one. I dare say there have been plenty of accounts of the doings in
California in the newspapers. As, however, not only you, but Anna and
Charley, and my kind friends Mr. and Mrs. ---- and Miss ----, and many
others, will, I am sure, be glad to know something about my own
personal adventures, I send you a rough diary of what I have seen and
done. I hardly know whether you will be able to make the whole of it
out, for I have interlined it in many parts, and my writing never was
of the most legible character. You know I have always been in the
habit, ever since I first went abroad, of jotting down some record of
my movements, scanty enough, but still forming a memorial which it is
pleasant to look back upon. As, however, the gold affair is not only a
great feature in a man's life, but in the history of our times, I made
pretty full jottings of my adventures every few days; and since I
returned here, I have spent several days in expanding them, and adding
to them a few extra particulars which I thought would be of interest. I
don't know whether you will care to wade through such a bundle of
information. The MS. when I got it all together quite frightened me,
and I hardly liked to ask Colonel Mason to transmit such a bulky parcel
for me; but you know our couriers over here travel with quite a
cavalcade of horses, and a few pounds more would not be thought much
of. However, as it may prove interesting to yourself--S---- I know will
read it through with pleasure and delight in it--I dispatch it for you
to do as you like with. It will be forwarded to a young friend of mine
in New York, Mr. Thorne, to whom I have written, requesting him to
transmit the package to England by one of the monthly steamers. This
will save you a heavy charge for postage, which, I dare say, you would
not thank me for.

You can't conceive, my dear brother, how often I have wished you were
out here with me. Your engineering talents would have been invaluable
in inventing some method of procuring the gold dust, or rather of
separating it from the soil, which would have been much more effectual
than the rude way in which we went to work. At the same time, I am now
thankful you are at home. It is easy to get gold here, but it is very
difficult to keep it. In fact, after all, the affair is a hazardous
lottery; and those who may succeed in getting off with their pounds of
gold dust and flakes to Europe, or to the States, will be the few who
will win the great prizes.

In my diary, you will find a very detailed account of our various
operations and successes. The first place we made for was on the south
bank of the Americans' River, and when the Lower or Mormon diggings, as
they are called, got over-crowded, we marched off further up the river,
which soon divides itself into two branches, forming the North and
South Forks. We reached the saw-mill, where the discovery was first
made, and worked there some time; but finding inconveniences in the
way, and hearing of another station, we started again. This new place
is called Weber's Creek, and sometimes Rock Creek, and is a small
stream running into the North Fork of the river. We being upon the
southern bank of the South Fork, and Weber's Creek running into the
North Fork at the north bank, we had to ford both branches of the
stream to get to our new station, which we found very productive; the
gold being more plentiful than in the lower diggings, and discovered in
short veins, and in lumps amongst the rocks of the neighbouring
ravines. We should probably not have gone any further than Weber's
Creek--I sincerely wish we had not--but a good deal of fever and ague
got about. The sun was terribly hot in those deep valleys all day, and
the nights chill and damp. After some weeks here, then, we got
restless, and set off once more, directing our course three days'
journey to the north, to a place upon the Bear River, where we were led
to expect not only plenty of gold, but a better temperature and a
healthier climate. It was after we reached Bear Valley that our
reverses began. It is utterly a savage country, where a strong arm and
the rifle form the only code of laws. Up to our appearance on Bear
River, we had got on with very few adventures, and considerable profit;
but now came misfortunes. I shall not trouble you with them here: they
are written at full length in the batch of MS. I send.

I hardly know what to do with myself here until the dry season comes
round. The rains have not begun yet, but they may be expected from day
to day, and then I suppose we shall have a vast influx from the
interior, as it is quite impossible to camp out in the rainy season. Of
course the price of any article of food and clothing will be excessive,
and I almost think that the best thing for me to do, when the seamen
come down, and the ships are manned again, will be to try and get a
passage to the Sandwich Islands, which are not very far off, and in
which it is probable that living is reasonable. I could easily get back
to the mainland in time for the next dry season. What changes may take
place by that time, however, I know not. The States may claim the land,
and the gold within it, and send an army to enforce their rights. If
so, a terrible scene of tumult and disorder may be expected. All the
lawless adventurers who are scattered about this part of the continent
are flocking down to the gold regions, so are the Indians; and I feel
pretty sure that Jonathan will have a tough battle to fight if he wants
to keep all the bullion to himself.

I suppose that in England the people will be pricking up their ears
when they learn what we are doing here, and that we shall have plenty
of emigrants from home. I hardly like to advise upon the subject here;
there certainly is a wonderful amount of gold. What the chances of
obtaining it and getting it taken home may be next season, I know not.
At all events, the pursuit will be difficult in the extreme, and
tolerably dangerous also.

Yours affectionately,



Back to Full Books