Sunday, January 4, 2009

During The Gold Rush



This scene from an old daguerreotype, circa 1850, shows sailing ships crowded into San Francisco Bay. They're waiting their turns to unload merchandise and passengers, bound for the gold fields and boom towns that sprang up almost overnight to service the 49ers and others who followed in their footsteps, seeking their fortunes in the Golden State.

The following passage is from a family diary. The excerpt describes Cousin Heinrich's 1850 return to San Francisco. He had originally arrived in California overland from St. Louis in 1846, but had returned to his native Switzerland to accompany the family of Johann Sutter by sailing ship to California.

"Having steered for the middle of the bay between Yerba Buena Island and the city, the Panama dropped anchor. Innumerable boats ready to charge passengers a high price for being taken ashore soon surrounded her. I was so eager to reach the city on one of them to secure rooms for my party at what was considered in those days the leading hotel in the city, that I lowered myself by a rope into the first one that reached the ship's side, and almost fell on the heads of several passengers who quickly moved aside to give me room. Without further delay, the boat in which I landed pulled away; in a short time it touched at a long wooden pier known as the wharf, that extended out over the water. After landing us, the boatmen, who were anxious to make as much money as they could in a short time, rowed back for more passengers. Their attitude was quite typical of the entire city toward acquiring gold.

"On shore an unusual amount of bustle and activity was evident. Building was going on everywhere; many new houses and shacks were being erected; and the city, that had been devastated by fire a short time ago, was being rebuilt again. At that time the Graham House, a large, wooden structure, which had been beyond the path of the flames, ranked as the leading hotel in the city; it stood a short distance southwest of Telegraph Hill. I started off in that direction, but soon found that it would be extremely difficult to reach the hotel on foot; mud in the street was knee-deep, and considerable effort and care were necessary to avoid sinking into the mire".

1 comment:

High Desert Diva said...

Your family's diary?

A vivid account...what a wonderful item to possess.