Through to the Pacific.
A series of letters published
in the New York Tribune
ALBERT D. RICHARDSON
Within weeks after the rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were joined at Promontory Summit, U.T., on May 10, 1869, well known New York Tribune correspondent Albert D. Richardson became one of the first to make the entire transcontinental journey from coast to coast by train. Though just 35, the Massachusetts born Richardson was already one of America’s best known and most accomplished journalists. In 1851, while still not yet eighteen, Richardson got his first newspaper job with the Pittsburg Journal before moving on to Cincinnati where he wrote for a number of papers between the 1852 and 1857 including the Daily Sun, Cincinnati Unionist, Daily Columbian, and finally the Cincinnati Gazette.
Always looking for a challenge and with an abiding fascination for the frontier, however, Richardson moved on to the Sumner County, Kansas Territory, in 1857, but spent most of his time over the next two years in Leavenworth, Lawrence, Topeka, or “wherever the smoke of conflict showed the fires to rage hottest.” Over those two years he was a delegate to many conventions always speaking out for bringing Kansas into the Union as a free state. (A free state constitution was finally ratified in 1859 and Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861.) While in Kansas the politically active Richardson not only served in a number of Territorial government offices, he also wrote frequent articles about the many political conflicts there as a correspondent for the Boston Journal. (His later book “Beyond the Mississippi” also related many of these experiences in detail.)
In 1859 and 1860 Richardson made a number of journeys throughout the far West writing for the New York Tribune, and in the winter of 1860-61 he served that paper as a “secret” correspondent touring the South to report on the Secession movement. For the first two years of the Civil War Richardson wrote prolifically from the field for the Tribune covering such campaigns as Antietam, Shiloh, and Fredericksburg, and traveling extensively with Sherman, Grant, Lyon, and Fremont, among many others. (He also wrote an extensive biography of Grant in 1868.)
On May 3, 1863, Richardson’s luck ran out as he was captured while covering an action near Vicksburg, Mississippi, and spent the next twenty months in seven Confederate prisons including Atlanta, Libby Prison, Castle Thunder, and Salisbury from which he finally escaped on December 18th, 1864. (He reached the Union lines in Knoxville four weeks later.) Richardson vividly related his war experiences in his popular first book, “The Secret Service, The Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape.”
In the spring of 1865 Richardson made his first overland trip to California with Schuyler Colfax, Gov. Bross of Illinois, and Samuel Bowles of the Springfield Republican and related his experiences on that trip in his second book, “Beyond the Mississippi,” in which he said he strove to give a faithful picture of a “fleeting phase of our national life.” When he made his second journey to California on the newly opened Pacific Railroad four years later he found things already remarkably different.
In October, 1869, Richardson made another extensive trip back to Kansas and the Indian lands before returning to New York to begin work on his most important project, a history of the United States. Unfortunately, however, the popular young author never got the chance to write that book.
Two-and-a-half years earlier, on the evening of March 14th, 1867, Richardson had been seriously wounded when Daniel McFarland, a New York lawyer and notorious drunkard, had ambushed the noted journalist on a street near his home, shooting him in the hip. At the time of the attack Richardson was walking with McFarland’s beleaguered wife whom had befriended, the noted actress and writer Abby Sage, as she returned home from a nearby theater where she was performing.
With the encouragement of Richardson and others, Mrs. McFarland finally left her abusive husband, divorcing him and taking with her their young son. This infuriated the extremely possessive McFarland and resulted in a smoldering feud between the two men with charges and counter charges often being exchanged publicly in the New York papers. The “jilted” McFarland eventually filed a lawsuit against Richardson claiming alienation of affection.
At 5:30 in the afternoon of November 25, 1869, the feud came to a head when Richardson arrived at the Printing House Square offices of the New York Tribune where McFarland had been laying in wait for him for over an hour. Without a word, McFarland coolly approached the unsuspecting Richardson (who was reading a newspaper) and shot him once in the abdomen. The assailant then fled the scene but was soon captured at the nearby Westmoreland Hotel.
The gravely wounded Richardson was removed to his rooms at the Astor House where he was attended around the clock by a team of doctors. The assassination attempt was huge news in New York – the story occupied half the front page of the next day’s New York Times. (It was also the subject of a book, published in 1994, entitled “Lost Love” by George Cooper.)
As Richardson lingered between life and death he
married Abby Sage McFarland in a deathbed ceremony was performed by the
celebrated but sometimes controversial preacher Henry Ward Beecher and
the Rev. O. B. Frothingham. Among those in attendance were Tribune editor
and soon-to-be Presidential candidate Horace Greeley*, and the ardent temperance
reformer and anti-slavery advocate Joshua Leavitt of the New York Independent.
On December 2, 1869, however, Richardson took a sudden turn and died in his new
wife’s arms. He was just 36 years of age.
*Wendell Huffman, commenting on early Kansas Railroad History notes that "Horace Greeley's [earlier] trip west began on the 9th of May, 1859. He departed New York via the Erie Railroad to Hornellsville and Buffalo. Lase Shore to Toledo, where he changed cars for Chicago. Train from Chicago to Quincy. The Northern Cross Railroad opened for business between Galesburg and Quincy in January 1856–not clear when it became CB&Q. Steamboat Pike the twenty miles to Hannibal. Hannibal and St. Joseph to St. Joseph. Then he bumped around for several weeks in stage coaches and buggies until boarding the Sacramento Valley Railroad train at Folsom for the rest of the trip to Sacramento on or about 5 August 1859. (He wasn't real clear on his dates, dating his dispatches rather than the events.)" [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]
Though McFarland did not deny that he killed Richardson, he was acquitted in a sensational trial on the plea of insanity. Incredibly, however, he was also made the legal guardian of his son, then twelve years of age, and walked out of the court with him hand in hand. In what seemed a clear travesty of justice and common sense, this man who was declared too insane to be held responsible for taking the life of another was nonetheless deemed to be more capable of directing the life and education of a child than his mother.
Abby Sage Richardson, who never married again, continued her career in the theater and as a celebrated and prolific writer on many subjects. She remained a major figure in New York society until her death in 1900, 31 years after that of her martyred husband.
In 1871 Abby Richardson published a memorial collection of her late
husband’s writings under the title “Garnered Sheaves.” Included
in that volume were eight “letters” that Richardson wrote for the New York
Tribune under the title “Through to the Pacific” during his
1869 trip to California. Five of these letters were devoted to his travel
over the newly completed Pacific Railroad from New York to California and
back to Chicago. Among other things they included accounts of riding on
the train with the UPRR’s controversial Dr. Thomas Durant, detailed descriptions
of the sleeping cars, stations, snowsheds, tunnels, bridges, etc., and
of being on the train during a fatal derailment. The other three letters contain
Richardson's observations about San Francisco and the Bay Area. All eight letters
appear below in their entirety.
Title page and portrait of Albert D. Richardson from "Garnered Sheaves,"
a postumously published collection of his writings which includes "Through to the Pacific."
FROM NEW YORK TO CHICAGO.
“HALLOA!" exclaimed a friend as he ran against me the other evening at the Chambers Street Ferry: "Where are you going so fast!"
"To San Francisco."
"Well, good-bye. Give my love to Fred and Evans; and when you get back come around and dine with me and we'll talk over the trip." All in the same tone as if "the trip" had been to Philadelphia or Boston; for he accepts the new situation with genuine American readiness, and already regards San Francisco as a suburb of New York. Meanwhile, I will wager that Evans and “C,” true blue Californians, already look upon New York as a lesser San Francisco.
Through Bergen Tunnel, and past Jersey villas and villages I study The Evening Gossip and The Evening Bed-Blanket till they excite sufficient drowsiness, and then go to bed in the Erie sleeping-car. It is broad, roomy, and well-ventilated, as sleeping-cars ought to be; but its beds are old, uneven, and half exposed, as beds ought not to be. It was up to the times five years ago; but we must do better than this, Messrs. Gould & Fisk, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It runs evenly, however, upon a delightfully smooth track. I wake at sunrise, three hundred miles from New York, among the summits of one of our three great mountain ranges–summits which now only skirt our eastern border, but which were so central a hundred years ago that it was proposed to name the whole Continent Alleghania.
Our coach has the regular complement of characters. The man who blundered into the wrong car and has to leave it; the man who left his shawl in the ticket office, and has to telegraph back for it; the man who wants an extra blanket for his bed and can't get it; the baby that cries; the wife who declares that she has not slept a wink, and will never enter a sleeping-car again as long as she lives; the "lone woman," who, with her back turned, keeps the conductor waiting for five minutes while she fishes out her ticket from Somewhere (where do women keep their porte-monnaies, and why don't they carry them in their pockets like other people?); the old stager, with his own blanket, slippers, soap, towels, brushes, note-paper, pencils, paid envelopes ready addressed to his wife at home, and vial of laudanum and flask of whisky for emergencies; and the satirist who solemnly assures the conductor that the Company will break in six months if it runs such costly sleeping-cars, and who implores the eating-house keeper to explain how he can afford such a breakfast for a dollar.
The breakfast bolted at Hornellsville, and our train divided, the head glides off one way and the tail another, as bad boys say snakes will do when they are cut in two. The head disappears Dunkirk-ward; the tail whisks us toward Buffalo. All around us are cold hills, whose bold sweeps remind one a little of the Rocky Mountains; miles of mountain side and crest, with great expanses of dark pine and spruce, broken here by a few hundred acres blackened and charred by fire–mottled there with the cheerier hues of poplar and maple; streaked downward with narrow pavements of peeled logs lying lengthwise–ways upon which little streams of water are turned, and huge tree trunks, stripped of bark, come shooting down like lightning to gray saw-mills and shining ponds in the valleys; sloping cleared fields with stumps waist high, and white: trunks, some erect and ghostly, others prone and shattered, memorial stones and bleaching bones of old battles between man and nature; other fields with the stumps extracted, and lying roots upward, like Titanic teeth, or gathered into fences, where they seem assembled in mass meetings, or drawn up in line of battle for a last charge; herds of sheep, dingy and shaggy, and scattering horses and cattle, all browsing on the cold hill-sides; farm-houses of unpainted clapboards, or of bold, staring white, with here and there an old log cabin; villages, too, of staring white, looking as cold and bare as the tombstones on the hill-side graves that overlook them; farmers just beginning to plow; apple; and cherry blossoms in the orchards, violets and hepaticas in the woods, yellow cowslips in the meadows and dandelions in the pastures, all peeping out timidly to inquire into the rumor whispered to them by the winds that Spring is climbing toward their mountain retreat.
At Portage we cross the highest wooden bridge on the Continent, and look down from the car-window three hundred feet, to see the Genesee take a leap of seventy feet–one glittering sheet of snow, and diamond, and topaz. A mile further down it leaps again, a hundred and ten feet, and yet a mile further, ninety feet. The two lower cascades are not seen from the train, but only hinted at by the yawning chasm and rock walls of the winding river. If the Portage Falls were in Yosemite Valley, or among the Alps, instead of twelve hours from the metropolis, they would be visited, and painted, and photographed, and written of, a great deal more.
At Buffalo–the only change between New York and Chicago–we take a sleeping-car of the Lake Shore and Southern Michigan, convenient, smooth-running, and tastefully finished in black walnut. Leaving the station by the same end at which I entered it, turns me around hopelessly; thenceforth, reason as I may, I can not throw off the feeling that we are going wrong, that New York is before and not behind us. Even the suggestion of Euclid street, Cleveland, of which we get a glimpse from the window, is not mathematical enough to correct my bewildered senses, until the spires of Chicago suddenly twist them around right again.
After a second night among the smooth fields, noble forests, broad apple orchards and generous farm-houses of the lake shore, morning finds us on the level, grassy, limitless prairies. Suddenly another parallel train appears on the horizon, and comes nearer and nearer to us. How like a bird it skims the prairie! How graceful the ribbon of light smoke that unwinds and streams above it! How perfectly in the morning sunlight, a sheet of clear water between us mirrors every face at the windows, every rolling wheel under the coaches, every shining rod of the locomotive! The shadow train underneath, all wrong side up, looks more real than the actual one above.
Thirty-nine hours out, we reach Chicago. Not, however, until our train has grown very long, and every car is crowded: for we are on the high tide of the Spring travel. Into our omnibus from the station to the hotel, twenty-three hopeless mortals are packed. There are several emigrant families–the worn parents all with their flocks of serious, earnest-eyed little girls and plump, careless, brown-faced boys, for the wife of the period who comes West, even from Massachusetts, has increased, and multiplied, and replenished the earth.
"I don't like this country so much myself," said an old Eastern friend to me to-day, “but I love to live in it because it is full of such splendid opportunities for my boys and girls."
Let them come; the prairies are broad and there is room enough.
The great halls and parlors of this crowded hotel are a Continental exchange. Here are trunks and valises piled up like cord-wood, and variously labeled "San Francisco," "Salt Lake," "New York," and "Bangor."
Here, in the evening, every chair and sofa is filled, and arm in arm through the long passages, throngs of men go and come in our eager national way, smoking and talking. Talking of all things under the heavens, but every man of them, sooner or later, touching upon the theme of the hour.
"Going through, eh? I wish I was going with you."
"Only five days and a half, they say, to San Francisco."
"Big thing, isn't it?"
"What sort of a road is it, anyhow?"
"Do you think it's going to pay?"
"Why, General Dodge tells me that the Omaha office alone took $8,000 from passengers yesterday."
"How do you suppose it'll affect Chicago?" Such are the fragments one hears, hour after hour.
Meanwhile, one of the most marked, original characters of all this throng is one of the quietest and least noticeable. There he sits, chatting carelessly in low tones, a rather tall man, in middle life, his hair and whiskers beginning to show streaks of gray, and his worn, mild, thoughtful face shaded by the limp brim of a low-crowned brown hat. It is Thomas C. Durant, manager and builder of the Union Pacific Railroad. In the Central Pacific Company–covering the California end of the line–three officers, Stanford, Crocker and Huntington, have shared the responsibility and work; in the Union Pacific, Durant had energetic, persevering associates, but he has been the motive power–has borne the brunt of everything.
He was born among the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts. He studied medicine and graduated at Albany, and tried to content himself as a practicing physician; but with no other vent than feeling pulses and writing prescriptions, his inborn, restless energy would have left him no peace. He became the head of a heavy firm for transporting freight from New York to the West. It often carried supplies for new railway companies, taking their securities in payment. Negotiating these bonds familiarized him with the stock market.
Then he got to building roads himself, taking enormous contracts, pushing forward the work and selling the bonds–making fast friends and bitter enemies–and becoming widely known as a contractor and operator.
In the early doubtful years of the war, he went into the Union Pacific Company. His fist step was to spend several months in inducing Congress to change the law, and make the Government lien only a second mortgage upon the road, that the Company might issue its own bonds as a fist mortgage. Even after this was done, his Eastern associates lacked faith in the enterprise. But his whole soul was thrown into it; and he furnished from his private means, a large portion of the first resources. He believed in the Nation, in the West, in a Pacific Railway.
"The fact was," he explains when asked about it, "I had built roads before over the prairies in advance of settlements, and I knew how they bring population and make business from the very outset."
It was hard study. Even after the money was raised, labor could hardly be found. "The boys" were all in the war. But men were gathered up, in Canada, in New England, in Pennsylvania, and sent forward fifteen hundred miles at the Company's expense. And the number kept increasing till at one time 18,000 laborers were employed.
After two or three hundred miles were finished, Durant's associates began to see that there were great profits, both in the construction and in the traffic. Fierce struggles arose in the Company–regular Wilderness battles, all of which he saw and part of which he was. There were men who declared his recklessness and extravagance would ruin everything–that he was unfit to manage a ward corporation–but I never heard of one, who, after a conflict with him, disparaged his ability.
Things were upon a grand scale. Enormous excursions were sent out on a grand scale from the East, over the line in palace cars, with a sumptuous regardlessness of expense. The offices of the Company were among the most elegant in New York. Brussels carpets, and black walnut and marble counters in the rooms of the managers, rare statuary and choice paintings surprised the eyes of visitors. Dr. Durant's horses were the envy of Central Park, and his yacht was the admiration of the New York Yacht Club. I have seen him entertain a party of ladies and gentlemen upon it, down the bay, through an entire forenoon, as if he had not a care in the world beyond the comfort of his guests; and at one o'clock say nonchalantly, "Well, good-bye, I must go ashore; I have a million of dollars to pay before three o'clock. Have your sail out, and don't return till you get ready."
Meanwhile, he was working like a galley slave. Sometimes he was hardly in bed for a week; again he would spend nights and Sundays upon the yacht for the quiet and the cool air. Narcotics and stimulants were avoided that he might keep his brain clear. He plunged into the controversies in the company with characteristic energy; and I fancy there were times when he could not have told whether the next turn of the wheel would leave him worth a few millions, or a few millions worse than nothing. But the great work never flagged. The expenses were enormous. Laborers were paid as high as three dollars per day and board. As the road pushed on, everything, workmen, food, iron, timber, fuel, had to go forward upon the single track. It was like building a road from Chicago to New Orleans, and carrying all the supplies, even coal and bridge timber, from Boston. The telegraph bills alone amounted to a small fortune. Sometimes, in an emergency, ties, which had been transported eight hundred miles, were burned for fuel.
"I never saw such a man as Durant," exclaims an old Western steamboat captain, as three of us stroll the hall together. "Year before last he made a contract with me for transporting supplies to Omaha, amounting to a million and a half dollars; and he actually signed that contract without ever reading it. He just glanced at it and said: 'Well, captain, I suppose this is all right,' and wrote his name at the bottom."
"And he fulfilled it?"
"Oh, yes; he paid me to the last dollar."
"I never saw him excited but once," observes our companion, Dr. Ray of The Chicago Post, "and that was at Bull Run. He had started out with a good many of us, to go to Richmond. When the stampede began, he was the angriest man I ever saw. He picked up a stake and sprang right in front of the running soldiers, and in spite of their muskets and fixed bayonets, hit right and left, shouting: 'Go back you damn cowards–go back! ' And a good many of them actually did turn back."
At last, after his every nerve has been strained for four years, he is foot-loose once more. "The rails are laid," he says, with a quiet smile, "and now I don't care whether school keeps or not." As he gets up for a stroll, we see the chief mark that his terrible labor has left on him; his frame is bowed, and he looks like a modern Atlas, a little surprised to find that his heavy burden has rolled off. He has done the work; let him have the credit of it. He is said to own one-fourth of the entire road. Now he will devote himself to his private affairs, which have taken care of themselves during three busy years. Perhaps, for this summer's recreation, he will build the plaything of a railway to the Adirondacks, in which he has a controlling interest, and where he owns half a million acres of land more or less.
Where will his indomitable energy next find vent? His mainspring seems to be, not love of money for itself, or of notoriety in any sense, but a love for large operations–a restless desire to be "swinging" great enterprises, and doing everything on a magnificent scale. And yet, this man, who has chosen such a stormy career, and who while yet under fifty has carried forward such a stupendous and historic work to completion, half considers his life a failure, because it has not been devoted to Natural Science, the subject of all others which fascinates him, and in which he always finds rest and recreation. It is the old, old story, forever repeated, from the vanitas vanitatum of the wise king to the “philosopede" soliloquy of Hans Breitman:
“Oh, vot ish all dis earthly pliss?
Oh, vot ish nan's soocksess?
“Oh, vot ish various kinds of dings?
Und vot ish habbiness?"
FROM CHICAGO TO OMAHA.
AMONG our passengers from Chicago westward, was Gen. George H. Thomas, en route for his new field–the entire Pacific Coast, with headquarters at San Francisco. We of the East are hardly aware of the admiration, the enthusiasm, the personal affection felt for Thomas throughout the West. Everywhere one hears him spoken of as "Old Reliable," "Pop Thomas," "The Rock of Chickamauga," "That splendid Old Man." In point of fact, his age is only fifty-two; but his grave, kindly demeanor does carry a paternal suggestion. He is certainly one of the finest characters brought out by the war. President Lincoln, when first desired to make him a Major General, replied with a distrust born of many disappointments:
"No; he is from the South; I will wait till he earns it."
Thomas heard of this–and how gloriously he did earn the Major-Generalship and every other honor he has received! He was always at his post, and for three years he did not once see his wife. He never got whipped; he never complained of anything; he never accepted any promotion until it was fairly thrust upon him; "he never committed an act that had to be explained or apologized for."
Since the war, his rare qualities have grown steadily upon the people. When he declined the house offered to him by the Cincinnatians, he did it with perfect modesty and unostentatiousness.
"The Government," he said, "has always paid me amply, and all my wants are provided for. To accept such a present would not be consistent with my sense of duty."
A few weeks ago some of his old officers in Nashville –in token of their affection, as he was about leaving for the West–proffered him a table-service of silver. He replied:
"I am greatly touched by this evidence of your regard, but I can not accept it. In my judgment it would be injurious to the discipline of the army for officers to receive gifts from those who are or have been their subordinates."
General Thomas would attract notice in any crowd. He is large, broad-shouldered, massive, with hair and beard brown, but now turning to gray, mild, kindly eyes, and prominent nose–a strong, marked face. He inherited no property, but by careful, frugal habits, he has saved a competence from his salary. He has no children. This is his second visit to California; fifteen years ago, when he was a captain in the Third Artillery, he was stationed at Fort Yuma for twelve months. He and his staff are as delighted as school-boys turned loose, to escape from Kentucky and West Tennessee into a thoroughly loyal atmosphere.
A. A. Sargeant, the Representative from California who, in 1862, drafted the bill under which the Pacific Railroad has been built, was also upon our train. A New-Yorker by birth, he went to California in 1849, in a passage of two hundred and twenty days, around the Horn, and has been identified with the Pacific Coast ever since. It is difficult to realize that a man, still so young that his face retains the freshness of boyhood, has seen the richest State in the Union grow up from nothing, to the greatest material enterprise since the world was originated and completed. Sargeant, James H. Campbell of Pennsylvania, and Schuyler Colfax, were the most efficient and judicious friends of the measure in the House, as were Wilson of Massachusetts, Morrill of Maine, and McDougall of California in the Senate. Day after day, for a month, in Committee of the Whole, Sargeant and Campbell alternately answered objections to the bill in five-minute speeches; and night after night–with Theodore D. Judah, the engineer, constantly supplying them with exact information–they "sat up" with Eastern Senators and Representatives.
There was hostility to overcome, there was incredulity to satisfy. In the House, one day, Owen Lovejoy asked, with his peculiar satire of tone and shrug of the shoulders:
"Do I understand the gentleman from California to say that he actually expects this road to be built?"
"The gentleman from Illinois," replied Sargeant promptly, "may understand me to predict that if this bill is passed the road will be finished within ten years."
In his heart of hearts, though, Sargeant feared that this was a wild prophesy. Only seven years have passed–three of them years of exhausting civil war– but over the prairie, over the desert, over the mountains to the waters of the Pacific, long trains are rolling daily, controlled by brakemen who can't pronounce the names of the stations, and bearing hundreds of passengers who don't know what State they are passing through! And it is difficult to tell which regard the spectacle with the more amazement, the people of our Atlantic Coast, or the Indians and buffaloes and grizzly bears of the Far-West.
Within the car there is no speck of dust–recent rains have settled that–and the cool prairie breeze is delightful. The ladies are sewing or crocheting, or reading "Oldtown Folks" and "The Gates Ajar," while the little black-walnut tables in front of each seat are littered with that confusion of spools, worsted, workboxes, and books in which the feminine heart delights. Some are writing letters to the fiends at home–in Boston, in Philadelphia, in Maine, in Ohio. Some are leaning back drowsily, with their heads on pillows, reveling in the prairie scenery. The gentlemen are playing whist, or reading, or talking politics, or going forward to smoke. One lady, returning to her far home in Puget Sound, has laid her tired baby upon the seat, and is trying to soothe it. Just here the track is smooth, and the wheels run quietly. A gentleman begins to hum "Home, Sweet Home," his wife joins him; then the lady on the next seat, and so on, until, from every part of the coach, many voices swell the strain, and give the song with a heartiness of feeling that moistens some eyelids, and at first startles the tired baby into open-eyed wonder, but soon lulls it to quiet slumber.
The prairies, perfectly flat in the vicinity of Chicago, have grown more and more rolling, until here they are broken by deep ravines and sweeping hills. At last, a dark belt of forest marks the western horizon; it is the strip of woods that follows the Missouri. Then, on the distant shore appears Omaha, a city set upon a hill, a fair picture, crowned by the white capitol that overlooks the broad, unpaved, busy streets.
At the foot of the bold hills of Council Bluffs we leave the passengers and mails for that growing city; then glide along the low prairie for four miles, and we have reached the great Muddy River. The Bostonians draw a long breath to remember how far they are from home–and then a yet longer one upon being reminded that they are not half across the continent; that the steamer just puffing away from the Omaha landing is to go two thousand miles further up the river; that the locomotive just shrieking its summons from the western bank, can yet roll eighteen hundred miles almost as fast as the bird flies, toward the setting sun.
The train discharges its load into twelve mammoth omnibuses, and express and baggage wagons. The two mail wagons are so piled up with sacks of letters and papers that they look like loads of hay. All these huge vehicles are crowded upon one ferry boat; we drop down half a mile, rounding the great, fiat, naked sandbank; then land, and drive along a plank road, with water on each side, into the just-now muddy streets of Omaha. The through passengers are transferred to the Union Pacific train, and in half an hour are again whirling westward. The rest of us are beset with clamor- our runners for the several Omaha hotels. One African, with a droll grin, is so loud in praising the establishment he represents, and so fierce in denouncing its rivals, that a pompous passenger from the East finally roars out: "Stop that noise, there! We've heard enough of it."
"All right, Sah," replies Sambo, with a scrape of this foot, and a grotesquely-polite gesture toward the battered rim of his hat: "All right, Sah. Which road does you own, Sah, de Union Pacific or de Westun."
Omaha is metropolitan, at least in its pretensions. As I strolled out on the evening of my arrival my eyes were greeted by the huge posters of the "Academy of Music," and my ears by the clinkin, lager beer glasses, in the gas-light, under the locust trees of "Tivoli Garden."
"Where does the Col. live?" I asked of a policeman.
"On Twenty-second street, near the capitol," he replied. "Take the horse-car to Eighteenth street, and then it is only four blocks." Distance by the car, one mile; motive-power, mules; fare, ten cents; or eight rides for half a dollar.
Omaha claims to have nearly twenty-five thousand people; Council Bluffs, Iowa, its twin sister, ten thousand. I have not yet met any inhabitant of either who seems to underrate either its importance or its destiny! Omaha's advantages are: the west bank of the river–a most important point, as all experience in the Mississippi Valley teaches–and the terminus and machine shop of the longest railway in the world. Those of Council Bluffs are: a well-settled back country, and the conveyance of a railway from St. Louis; one from Sioux City, and two from Chicago, with a third to open next January.
The unpaved soil of the Omaha streets is jet-black and would yield splendid com or wheat. When the weather–which may change a dozen times a day–is wet, the mud is incredible in depth and stickiness; but a few hours of sunshine dry it up completely. All classes throng the thoroughfares, from Indians fresh from the prairies to Bostonians fresh from the bandbox. Land a mile from the center of trade, sells for $1,000 per acre; resident lots, 66x132, for from $1,000 upward, and business property at prices not much above those of New York and Chicago. An Eastern man may form a fair idea of the trade, by guessing at it after a walk through the leading streets, and then multiplying his estimate by ten. There are wooden shanties along these plank sidewalks, in which the annual sales reach half a million of dollars, and three-story brick blocks, covering whole squares, divided into hardware, grocery, dry goods, and drug stores, all elegantly finished, and filled with goods from cellar to roof. Many of the residences have ample grounds, beautiful in lawns, in flowers, in shrubbery, and in shading cotton-woods, locusts, poplars, and maples, though the original prairie was naked enough.
The railroad bridge over the Missouri is building below the Cozzens House, and opposite the port of Omaha, which is known as Train-town. There was speculation in the eyes of George Francis four years ago, when he bought several hundred acres here for a nominal price. The bridge structure will be of iron, Post's patent, half a mile long, with eleven spans of two hundred and fifty feet each. It will be seventy feet above the low-water mark, and fifty feet above the high. The piers, not of masonry, but hollow iron cylinders, filled in with boulders and concrete–are similar to those which support the railroad bridges over the Pedee and Santee in South Carolina, and the new wagon and foot bridge across the Harlem River at Third-avenue, New York. They are cast in Chicago, and brought here in the form of enormous rings of one-and-three-quarter inch iron, ten feet high and nine-and-a-half in diameter. One of these is placed upon the sand and covered with a cap. The air is pumped out, and the pressure of the atmosphere drives it down–until the top is level with the surface of the ground–in about twenty-four hours. Then a current of condensed air, let in by a pipe near the bottom, drives out the sand through a valve in the cap. But if the earth is gravel, the air is condensed instead of being exhausted, and men stand inside the great cylinder and throw the dirt out with spades and buckets by the light of candles.
When one ring is sunk another is bolted upon the top of it and the operation is repeated. Only one cylinder is completed–on the eastern bank–and that went down seventy-five feet before it rested on the solid sandstone. The work, built by the Union Pacific Company, will cost two millions of dollars, and if the money is forthcoming, it will be completed in twelve months. Then we can go through from New York to San Francisco without change, the passenger chartering a saloon state-room for himself or his family for the entire trip. Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the California travel again be divided into first-cabin, second-cabin, and steerage.
The coach which conveyed the remains of President Lincoln from Washington to Springfield, now owned by the Union Pacific Company, is kept here. It is known as "the Lincoln Car," and is never run except for officers of the road, or special parties of their inviting.
The Union Pacific car, machine, and repair-shops, supply-houses, locomotive-houses, iron-sheds, and lumber piles, near the river bank, give one more vivid ideas of the magnitude of this great work than a month;s reading. They appear to cover fully thirty acres, perhaps fifty. Here is a single string of empty freight-cars more than a mile long. Here are millions upon millions of feet of lumber; acres upon acres of low sheds, filled up with iron castings for cars and locomotives; warehouse after warehouse with its stores of lanterns, shovels, picks, axes, hammers, plows, bars of steel, rods of copper, pigs of lead and of antimony, groceries and provisions, building hardware, telegraph material, and so on, ad infinitum.
Left to right: Illinois Lt. Gov. William Bross, Samuel Bowles, Schuyler Colfax, & Albert D. Richardson.
Photograph by Bradley & Rulofson, detail. Courtesy Larry Gottheim, Be-Hold, Inc.
("Colfax [was] the wildly popular Indiana politician who was the son of a Revolutionary War general and an influential newspaper publisher ... rising to be speaker of the house [in 1863]. ... in 1869 [-1873], ... Vice President of the United States (under Ulysses S. Grant) ... [the] Crédit Mobilier scandal [ended his] ... political career." —David Haward Bain, The Old Iron Road)
The purchaser for the Company, G. W. Frost, expended almost six millions of dollars in 1868 for miscellaneous supplies, though he had nothing to do with buying heavy articles like track-iron and locomotives. Everything was done upon the jump; no foresight could cover all contingencies. Down from the end of the line would flash a telegram:
"Send us a thousand striking-hammers–a thousand men are lying idle;" or, "We want mile of iron pipe;" and off Frost would post to Chicago to gather up the articles and hurry them out for twelve or fifteen hundred miles. Once, he telegraphed to a New York plow-maker:
"Ship me instantly a hundred iron plows, and three thousand steel plow-points.”
The manufacturer telegraphed back to a friend here, asking if the purchaser for the Union Pacific had gone mad. Becoming satisfied, he sent the articles, with a message to Frost:
"I never was so proud of an order in my life, but in Heaven's name what do you want of three thousand plow-points ?"
CDV, Left to right: Samuel Bowles, Illinois Lt. Gov. William Bross,
Schuyler Colfax, & Albert D. Richardson.
Courtesy Bill S. Lee.
They were required for loosening a quality of mountain gravel so hard that it would wear out a dozen points a day upon a plow, and one driven through it would leave a mark of steel grains in the furrow like a charcoal tracing upon a table-cloth. In estimating the liberality of the Government endowment, it is but fair to consider the enormously increased expenditures wild remoteness, rapidity of construction, and carrying forward everything from one end of the road involved.
In the early rush to California, a poor boy named Charles Crocker crossed the Missouri with an ox team, at this point, on his toilsome overland journey to the new gold regions. Nineteen years afterward–to a day –he arrived here on his first return visit to his old Eastern home. He came accompanied by his family, in his own special car, for he is now Superintendent of the Central Pacific Railroad, and every mile of it has been built under his supervision. He may well feel an honorable pride in the great work with which he has been so closely identified. His party were four days from Sacramento to Omaha; and on arriving here delighted us with blooming flowers, and feasted us upon strawberries, oranges, and luscious cherries from California, brought upon Alaska ice 1,800 miles through the green valleys of the Pacific slope, and through the lingering snow-drifts of the Rocky Mountains.
It seemed like a story from the Arabian Nights.
FROM OMAHA TO PROMONTORY.
Council Bluffs, the other evening, three passengers just arrived from the West, covered with dust and loaded down with baggage, made an irruption into an extra Pullman coach upon the train starting for Chicago.
"Take the next car, please," said the conductor; "this has been chartered by a private party."
"No, Sir. We are all right; we travel in the sleeping-car."
"Well, that is a sleeping-car, and exactly like this, too. This is an extra, put on for some guests of the Company."
But the trio declared themselves Californians, willing to pay, and not to be put off with any second-class accommodations. And they finally left in high dudgeon, actually refusing even to look into the sleeping-car, but taking a day coach, to sit up for twenty-four hours, all the way to Chicago. I wonder if they crossed the Plains with ox teams when they came out here! Of course they are as far from being representative Californians as the Yankee who blusters through Europe about our capacity to whip all creation is far from being the typical American.
We left Omaha at four o'clock in the afternoon, and traveled until dark among rich prairies of vivid green, broken by black, plowed fields, little dwellings, and rows of planted locusts and cotton-woods. An hour out we struck the broad, blue, shining Platte, to follow up its smooth valley for four hundred miles. It is a wonderful inclined plane, with a regular ascent of six feet to the mile, as if Nature had taken a grading contract from Durant & Duff. No other road was ever built upon a route so easy. Practically, there are neither cuts nor embankments in the Platte Valley; and for one forty miles the track lies as straight as an arrow, making the longest tangent in the world. It was a hundred miles, but has been broken up to secure more frequent water stations.
A night in the Pullman car, and morning finds us crossing the half-mile bridge over the North Platte, two hundred miles out, and two thousand eight hundred feet above the sea. "Thirty minutes for breakfast ! "Antelope meat for those who like it; beef for the barbarians who don't. Then on we roll, leaving the Platte far to our left; on, over the great desert; never a tree or a patch of green grass in sight; no birds but woodpeckers, which bore into all the telegraph-poles, and seem to relish that dry fare; miles upon miles of prairie-dog towns, the cunning little inhabitants erect upon their hind legs, and winking slyly at us while we pass within five yards of them; antelopes, by twos, by threes and by tens, grazing half a mile away, or galloping over the hills so airily that their feet hardly touch the ground. One, affrighted and bewildered, bounds along only a few yards from us, in a mad race with the train. "Bang!" "bang!" go half-a-dozen revolvers from our windows; but the antelope is never struck; and finally, in despair, he falls panting back, and abandons the unequal chase.
On, on, past lonely frame section-houses, where the "track-men" live, past lonelier log ranches, where the coaches used to stop, past slow-moving emigrants, with white-covered wagons and herds of cattle, all half-hidden in clouds of dust. The fine, flying sand, too, sifts in through our double windows, and penetrates clothing to the skin. Pullman must add a bath-house to his hotel-car; then it will leave nothing to be desired. He will do it, too–he, or some one else–before a dozen years roll round.
As the sun lowers and we weary of these wastes of sand, some one shouts, "The mountains! The mountains!" There they are again–on the south, Long's Peak, dim and white with snow; on the west, the Black Hills, dim and dark with pines. And so, in twenty-four hours we reach Cheyenne, five hundred and sixteen miles out, and six thousand feet above the sea, but gained by an ascent so gentle as to be nowhere perceptible. Here I leave the train, and stop to study the new city. It has sprung up on the bare desert, and has not a solitary tree, except half-a-dozen newly-planted, fainthearted pines. At mid-day, the sun scorches and the dust chokes; but on the western horizon lie the mountains, forever cool and calm.
Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming, the desert city of a desert State.
It is watered by Crow Creek, a little stream which feeds the Lodge Pole,
and then the Platte. It boasts a great locomotive-house of sand-stone;
stone machine-shops just rising for the Railway Company; a long, porticoed
frame hotel, also belonging to the Union Pacific, which will dine four
hundred people and lodge fifty; a few large warehouses; three or four blocks
of low, flat-roofed wooden shops, full of goods; mainly scattering tents
and shanties; two daily newspapers; two churches; a score or two of drinking,
gambling, and dance-houses, which are crowded after dark; and a population
of five thousand.
For a wonder, it has neither an Opera House, nor an Academy of Music! But I find instead the enormous tent of a traveling circus from the "States." In the evening, it is crowded with twelve hundred people, all eager for the "great moral spectacle," which some have come forty miles on the railway to enjoy. There sat the tanned youth, eating molasses candy, with their "girls," the boys yelling with delight at the little mule, and everybody applauding the clowns’ time-honored jokes, in the good, old-fashioned country way.
Cheyenne is woefully destitute of a "back country." It borrows leave to be from the Denver trade, the railway machine-shops, and the new Sweetwater gold mines, which, though two or three hundred miles to the north-west, buy most of their supplies here. Lumber costs from $60 to $100 per 1,000; wood, $8.75 per cord, and milk, twenty cents a quart. A few ranches are opening; but Wyoming boasts of very little soil which promises to reward the farmer–less than any other State or Territory. By way of compensation, though, it has gold mints which are opening well, and some of the richest coal fields in the world. The whole of it, too, is excellent grazing range; the beef at the Cheyenne Hotel, wintered upon those mountain deserts, is as rich and tender as I ever tasted at Delmonico's.
On the train I encountered an old Libby Prison comrade, Captain Spalding, now upon the Plains with his regiment. At Cheyenne I find Church Howe and Robert Steele, whilom aids to Sedgwick and Howard, and my tent-mates in the Army of the Potomac in the days of Antietam and Fredericksburg. The one is now United States Marshal of Wyoming, the other a practicing attorney, and both are in love with the West. But so is not a journalist from Boston whom I meet turning homeward after a year in Colorado. Times are excessively dull, he says; there are no chances for a young man; and his wife and mother are even more disgusted than he with the unpleasantness, and hardships of frontier life. Well, some brushes will paint the sky in rose color and others in black; some eyes see the shield in silver and others in brass, to the end of the chapter.
As for me, old memories crowd these new pictures away, while I sit by my window at Cheyenne, far into the silent night, looking out upon the quiet mountains; memories of seven journeys in by-gone years, and from the Missouri to three mountains–on horseback and in vehicles–usually occupying a week, and always full of adventure. The wagon-train, the coach, the pony-expresses, the buffalo-hunt, the Indian panic, the campfire, the reading aloud in the tent by flaming candle of a chilly evening, the sleeping upon the ground under the blue sky through many a pleasant night–all these belong to a faded past. Instead, we have the palace car in its purple and fine linen; the conductor with his pouch demanding our tickets; the black porter with his clothes-brush, waiting for our "quarter," the railway eating-house with its clattering dishes, and the smooth running train for one night and one day. The gain is wonderful in time and comfort; the loss irreparable in romance and picturesqueness.
From Cheyenne I came to Sherman, thirty-three miles west, up the first heavy grade upon the road–ninety feet to the mile. All around are bare mountain tops. The ashen herbage is brightened by blue lungwort and yellow Arkansas wall-fiowers, in clusters as large as the palm of a hand, or the crown of a hat. Granite boulders of gray and brown, spotted with yellow moss, are scattered here and there. One near the summit is fifty feet high, and shelters the cattle of a ranchman, who has fenced in a little space beside it.
Double snow fences of stones, or one of stones and the other of boards, six or eight feet high and a few yards apart, follow the north side of the track. Here and over the Laramie Plains for two hundred miles westward, the winter is most troublesome. The Chief Engineer and Superintendent are sanguine that after a year or two of experience they can overcome this enemy, so that no train need ever be delayed more than twenty-four hours. They will have to build more fences and roof the cuts, and even then they may find their task hard. Last winter was unusually mild, but the drifts proved very difficult to deal with.
Sherman is the highest railway point in the world– eight thousand two hundred and forty feet above the sea. Still, it is not the backbone of the Rocky Mountains, but only of the Black Hills, an outlying eastern range. The continental divide is two hundred miles further west and one thousand feet lower. Sherman is in Evans's Pass, which bears the name of its discoverer. He was one of many martyrs to this great work–a Union Pacific surveyor, killed by the Indians. The pass is in no sense a gorge or canyon–but looks, topographically, like a vast rolling prairie disfigured by rocks and reached by a gentle ascent. Nor are the distant mountains on the north and south such slender peaks and pyramids as fanciful artists depict, but only low, irregular, broken ridges.
Sherman has half-a-dozen dwellings. The landlord of the little tavern told me that water thrown upon his porch at midnight, any night in the year, would freeze before morning. A sign in his bar-room bears the pleasing legend: "Fresh trout every day;" but no trout came when we did call for them. Running snowwater–abhorrent to their good taste–was pleaded in excuse. They weigh less than half a pound apiece, but are very savory. The neighborhood also enjoys the company of beavers, ground-hogs, hares or "jackassrabbits," antelopes, a few elk, brown and cinnamon bears, and a silver-gray bear which is often taken for the grizzly. The cinnamon bear is the most formidable; sometimes he is eight feet long from his nose to his little stump tail.
"The other day," quoth mine host, "down toward the Dale, a man was walking into the valley, jumping from rock to rock, careless like, when he jumped square upon a cinnamon bear, lying there to sun himself. The bear caught him by the thigh, so that he still limps a little, but then ran away as badly frightened as he."
Virginia Dale, fourteen miles to the south, is an old stage-station, where our party of 1865, stopped by Indian troubles, spent some pleasant days. It is the loveliest of villages–a very gem of the mountains. Within it a disappointed lover once flung himself from a precipice and was killed; and later, a party of desperadoes who had made it their base for robbing and murdering expeditions, were captured and hanged.
Sherman, like other desert stations, has a windmill some twenty feet in diameter, which pumps water up from a spring into a high tank beside the track. The tank holds fifty thousand gallons; the pump will fill it in ten hours. When it is full, the water lifts a little float: that pulls a wire, the wire shuts up the sails of the windmill, a dozen yards away, and it instantly stops. When the tank gets nearly empty, the action of another float opens the sails, and the windmill starts again. The cost of the ingenious apparatus all set up is about six thousand dollars. It might be used to great advantage for irrigating. It is one of a thousand instances in which modern machinery, not content with merely utilizing the forces of Nature, disciplines them into doing their appointed work, without any eye to overlook them or any hand to regulate.
Just below, lives a German "section-man," who has fenced off a little patch, set out a few stalks of cactus and wild flowers, and planted garden seeds. As yet none have come up.
"The chief trouble," he explains, with a perplexed look, "is that it never rains here except in June.''
"But can't you water your garden?"
"Well, yes," (hesitatingly.)
"How far do you have to bring water?"
"Half a mile."
What with desert soil, and rainless climate, and frosts every month, and no water, even for drinking, within half a mile, it is a very desperate essay at agriculture!
The road runs ten miles north of Fort Bridger. At Carter, the station for that beautiful post, we found the retiring Judge Carter, of the long, snowy hair and beard, supplying a band of Shoshones with their annual presents. Fifty of the Indians–unusually picturesque and tidy–were gathered around his warehouse. The squaws were gay in yellow and scarlet. A lad of a dozen years, with hair as coarse as a horse's mane, and hanging down to his shoulders, amused us with his bow and arrows by knocking a five-cent piece out of the top of a split stake, at eighty feet. The chief of the band, Whashake, is that rare spectacle, a fine-looking Indian, large, compact, and symmetric of frame, and with a broad, noble, forehead.
At Wahsatch, on the crest, we sup sumptuously upon trout; then we drop down into the basin by a ninety feet grade, whooping through tunnels, and screeching through cuts. For thirty miles this descent continues. At Echo, the other evening, three freight trains stood upon the main track, when word came flashing over the telegraph from the Superintendent:
"A locomotive and tender, without steam up, and with nobody on board, have broken from a freight train and started down the grade."
Ah ! then and there was hurrying to and fro! In a few minutes came a second message:
"She has just passed Castle Rock Station."
"Never were three trains got off upon a siding with less delay. Then the workmen piled sleepers high upon the track; lest even that should not stop "her," and she should do murder further down the road, they tore up the rails below. Just as this was accomplished she came in sight. She shot through the sleepers like a bullet through a pine board, sending them flying in all directions, and darkening the air with the splinters. But at the broken track she jumped up and down with vexation, and finally plunged angrily head-foremost into a hill-side. She had run twenty-six miles in twenty-nine minutes–the best time yet made upon the road!
Through Echo and Weber cañons by dim starlight, we note the inspiring scenery–the grandest between the Alleghenies and the Sierras. Every train should pass here by day, that passengers may enjoy it. Slowly ours crawls on–a huge reptile with eye of fire, now hesitating till the swinging of a red lantern ahead indicates that no boulder has rolled down upon the track; now feeling its way over a trestle, or through a Howe truss, while Weber River foams and roars underneath; now plunging into a tunnel; now creeping along a narrow shelf, with a mountain two thousand feet high upon one side, and a yawning chasm on the other; and finally emerging into the open plain through the towering rock portals of The Devil's Gate.
FROM PROMONTORY TO SACRAMENTO.
PROMONTORY is neither city nor solitude, neither camp nor settlement. It is bivouac without comfort, it is delay without rest. It is sun that scorches, and alkali dust that blinds. It is vile whiskey, vile cigars, petty gambling, and stale newspapers at twenty-five cents apiece. It would drive a morbid mind to suicide. It is thirty tents upon the Great Sahara, sans trees, sans water, sans comfort, sans everything.
As the Central has been completed months earlier than its owners expected, its full complement of passenger coaches is not yet received. But we had the good fortune to find a sleeping-car at Promontory, the second that ever passed over the line. It was built at Wilmington, Del., and is owned and run, not by a separate corporation, but by the Railroad Company. At nearly every station through to Sacramento the people, attracted by its novelty, crowded up to its doors and windows, eager to inspect it, and prompt to exclaim, "Isn't it gay!" "That beats the world!" We found it smooth-running and comfortable, a vast improvement upon day coaches, but far inferior to Pullman's.
We passed hosts of Chinamen, shortening curves and ballasting the track. Nearly four thousand are still employed in perfecting the road. They are all young, and their faces look singularly quick and intelligent. A few wear basket hats; but all have substituted boots for their wooden shoes, and adopted pantaloons and blouses. They receive $35 per month (gold) and board themselves. Of this they save from $20 to $23. The Union Pacific Company, which is paying its laborers two dollars per day (currency), is about to employ the Chinese along its entire line. They are tractable, patient, and thorough; they do not get drunk, nor stir up fights and riots.
For hours we were in view of Great Salt Lake, now crossing arms of it upon trestle-work; now skirting its northern bank, where thousands of acres are white with fine salt deposited by floods; and now miles away, but catching, through breaks in the hills, glimpses of its deep blue waters, and its mountain islands tipped with snow. Passengers who would really see it, and enjoy a delicious bath, should stop for a day in the vicinity of Ogden.
Another day upon the desert. It seems to stretch out to the crack of doom. Nobody can realize how great a work this has been until he takes the long ride of four or five days and nights through dreary wastes and unbroken solitudes. On this immediate portion of the road the alkali water would corrode boilers and soon destroy them. For a hundred miles, therefore, water is carried in tanks, upon platform cars, for the locomotives. A supply will ultimately be brought from the Truckee River, thirty-three miles, through bored tamarack logs. Several stations are already furnished in that way, from springs six or eight miles distant. On the Union Pacific, also, through the Bitter Creek country, water is carried thirty or forty miles upon trains, to overcome the same difficulty.
For the last night (the fifth since leaving Omaha) we go to bed in the sleeping-car. At dark the air is sultry; but we begin to ascend; before midnight we call for blankets. At daylight we wake among noble forests, and grand snow-drifts, with Donner Lake, cool, blue, and sparkling, on our left. Adieu to the desert! Hail to the Sierras! Were ever these pines, and spruces, and furs, so darkly green before, or the mosses upon their trunks so brightly yellow, or the tumbling waters of such foamy whiteness? Were ever the rocks overhead so vast and threatening, or the chasms below so deep to our straining eyes?
View Book Image Courtesy History's Imprints.
Over the summit we go, and down the western slope–through sixteen tunnels, through twenty miles of snow-sheds. At the most exposed points the roofs are of four-inch planks, firmly bolted into granite. They have worked so well that nearly twenty miles more are to be added. In nothing have the Central Pacific people shown greater energy than in dealing with the snow, which falls here during an average winter, to the depth of nearly fifty feet. A year ago to-day, there were eighteen feet of snow upon this track; hundreds of Chinamen with shovels were helping a snow-plow (three times as high as a tall man, and driven by ten heavy locomotives) to fight its slow way through it.
Avalanches here never sweep the ground clean as among the Alps. The first snow falls, and a few sunny days and freezing nights incrust it with ice. Later snows, melting, begin to slide and roll down upon it. A ball will gather as large as a load of hay, then break into fifty other balls, each one of which grows and breaks in turn. They carry an incredible depth of bank into the deep, narrow valleys. Economically, the sheds are a great success. Esthetically they are a great nuisance. Again and again, as one is enjoying the grandest scenery upon the continent, the train plunges into a long, dark chamber, and the view is broken. By direction of Governor Stanford, President of the Company, some of the boards are being removed for the summer. They should all be knocked off every spring.
Down, down, down–mountains on one side, nothing on the other! From one window we look up a thousand feet, to a snowy summit; from the opposite one down a thousand or two thousand feet, into a green valley, with its swift-running stream thickened and muddied by the miners. The foliage grows warmer. The evergreens are interspersed with white dogwood flowers as large as the palm of one's hand; white strawberry blossoms, blue arkspurs, blue and white lupines, and the curling, blood-red leaves of the low, conical snow-cactus.
The woods open into the broader fields of the foothills. Tall pines and firs give way to spreading liveoaks with glossy leaves. We pass mining towns, scattered farm-houses, and grazing horses, sheep, and spotted cattle. Thicker and taller grows the grass, but always dull and faded; for the vivid green of the East is never seen in this dry climate. Late in the season the landscape is straw-colored.
Now we are fairly in the valley, among gardens blooming with rose and oleander, clusters of ripe currants, cherries, and nectarines; luxuriant fig-trees; vineyards of thirty and forty acres; flapping windmills for pumping water from the wells; low dwellings with deep porticoes, half hidden by vines and shading trees; fields nearly a mile long, in which the silvery barley is up to a man's waist, and other fields in which the oats have been cut and raked into winrows. We glide across the broad American River, and over half a mile of trestlework; through the spreading suburbs of Sacramento; along the levee, the river on one side and a slough, with half-submerged roofs and timbers, wrecks from the flood of 'Sixty-two, on the other; past the Central Pacific machine and repair-shops, round-houses, and car sheds; through the Chinese quarter–and here we are at tide-water from the Pacific, with a steamer on the river, and a train of (Vallejo) cars on the opposite bank, waiting to take us to San Francisco. Five hours ago we were among snow-banks: here the mercury stands at 90° in the shade. It is but a forenoon's journey from Winter to Summer, and only a twenty hours' ride from the heart of the desert to the heart of our Western Metropolis.
WHEN Omaha celebrated the opening of the Pacific Railroad, she displayed a banner with this strange device: " Omaha and San Francisco ; what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." In strict exactness, it might have run: "What man hath joined together, let not God put asunder," but who requires mathematical precision in patriotic eloquence? For "Omaha," read "New York," and the motto will do as it stands.
San Francisco contains 160,000 people—nearly one-third of all the inhabitants of California, and one-fourth of the entire population of the Pacific Coast. In numbers it hardly exceeds Newark, New Jersey; but in importance it ranks second only to New York. It has the social and business atmosphere of a great capital. The stranger is constantly impressed with its breadth, largeness, cosmopolitanism. He hears conversations in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and heaven knows what other tongues. Theodore Parker, they say, read thirty different languages. If he had spoken them all as well, I think he could have found men to talk with in every one of them within five minutes' walk of Montgomery street.
We have our "Western" and "Southern" hotels; the San Franciscans their "Occidental," "Oriental," and " New Zealand." We are content with a "Metropolitan;" for them, nothing will serve but a "Cosmopolitan." Strolling forth this morning I stumbled upon a resident friend, who italicized his welcome by an invitation to a glass of California wine. We crossed the street into the "Alhambra," the "Acropolis," the "You Bet," or whatever the restaurant is called, and there encountered four acquaintances of his, who had likewise met by chance. One was from San Francisco, one from New York, one from New Zealand, and one from Melbourne!
If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? This infant queen, looking out upon the sunset through her golden gate, and just betrothed to the Atlantic, not with the ring and formula and stately pageant, as old Venice wedded the Adriatic, but with the simple joining of hands and exchange of gifts, what will she be in her ripe estate? Already the metropolis of the richest State in our Union, throned on the chief harbor of a coast-line which stretches almost from the North Pole to the South Pole, looking backward upon half of North America and forward upon all Asia, she holds the most commanding position on the globe. And one of the most thoughtful of recent English writers surmises that she may one day become "a second, if not a greater, London."
New York is no longer an antipode, but a neighbor. Wherever men most do congregate, one hears conversations:
"Do you go East this summer? "
"Yes, I start day after to-morrow."
"How long shall you be gone?"
"Three weeks; possibly four."
In interior California, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho, the name "San Francisco" is seldom heard. The usual phrases are: "When did you leave Friscoe?" or, "Are you going down to "The Bay?" The latter is a relic of the old days when ships from "home" came in and went out. In that primeval era the crude city was a sluggish creature which breathed just once a month—on Steamer Day. Who will ever forget the general bustle, the hurrying caravans of freight, the universal writing of letters, the great crowds on the wharf, and the sobs and the broken-voiced "God-bless-yous" at the boom of the last gun? Now every afternoon the eastward pilgrim, with carpet-sack and cherished box of fruit, which he is taking "to brag on," steps into the carriage for the Vallejo or Sacramento steamer, with only a careless hand-shaking and a cheerful" good-bye."
The three leading hotels vie with the New York houses in size, appointments and fare. The charges are $3 per day, gold. The "Cosmopolitan" and "Occidental" are four or five stories high, but the "Lick House " is only three, so the great earthquake added to its popularity. The paneled walls of its elaborate dining-hall are covered with paintings of California, Oregon and Isthmus scenery. "C. C." might find in them something to criticize mildly, but their general effect is novel and pleasing. At breakfast, on the morning after my arrival, as I was scanning them and studying the bill of fare, the waiter behind my chair asked:
"When did you leave New York, Mr. ——?"
I turned around, to find there an old, well-known Astor House servant; at other well-filled tables I saw more familiar faces than I ever met at any hotel before.
The city shows great improvement since 1866, especially along California and Kearney streets. But every one has stories to tell of last year's earthquake, its frightfulness and havoc. The Associated Press, at the instance of leading merchants, stated the damages at $1,000,000, but I hear them estimated as high as $5,000,000. Even after the lapse of eight months there are wrecks of buildings not yet cleared away. The devastation was much greater on the "made" lands than on natural soil. So grave was the general apprehension of injury to the credit of the city and the State, that men of both parties subscribed several thousand dollars to enable a grand torchlight procession of the Democracy, appointed for several weeks later, to come off immediately. Perhaps they expected the world to infer that even Californians would not be daring enough to vote for Horatio Seymour while the swift judgments of Heaven impended, or they may have thought that any great political demonstration would indicate that public confidence had received no fatal shock. An auction sale of real estate the day after the earthquake did show that property had not depreciated a penny. San Francisco and Oakland are building more low wooden residences now than before, but business blocks of brick and stone, four or five stories high, appear to be rising as fast as ever.
The stranger who has but one day for San Francisco, should devote an hour of that to the Landscape Photograph Gallery of C. E. Watkins, on Montgomery street. Each of his wonderful Yosemite views is a study in itself—a complete picture, embracing greensward, flowers, trees, rocks, mountains, and snowy, tumbling waterfall, or bit of clear lake, or flashing river. Watkins has spent several seasons in the matchless Valley, often studying and experimenting for weeks upon a single scene to find the most effective lights and shadows, positions and distances. It was a rare conjunction— a born artist, the most favorable climate in the world for photographing, and the grandest scenery man ever looked upon. I once saw Mozier, the American sculptor, who has lived for twenty years in Rome, look over these views, one after another, with exclamations of surprise and delight. While lingering over the last he said: "They think they can take photographs in Rome; hitherto they have taken the best in the world, but they never achieved such triumphs as these. I must carry a set back with me to show them what we can do in America."
The large series embraces fifty or sixty Yosemite views, each about sixteen inches by twenty, without the margins; and some equally superb photographs of the Columbia River country have recently been added. They are sold at five dollars apiece. The fruits of twenty years of zealous, untiring work, which was inspired by love of art, not lucre, they have thus far yielded to the artist nothing but a frugal livelihood. Now that his hair is growing gray, he ought to reap more substantial rewards. Builders of Pacific Railroads receive a golden shower; shall they go athirst who open new thoroughfares to enjoyment and culture, and' bring back treasures of beauty for all of us?
California regarded the new Continental line with great expectations. She discounted the future. Investments in real estate have diverted so much capital from its usual channels, that one hears complaints of hard times and scarcity of money. A San Francisco building site, which sold last March for $50,000, now commands $80,000. The best business lots—alone Montgomery and California streets—are 137 feet deep and range in value from $1,000 to $5,000 (gold) per front foot.
Wild lands in remote counties can still be bought for $1 and $2 per acre; nearer markets, they command from $5 to $10. Ranches (there are no farms in California—everything is a ranch) half a mile outside the City of Sacramento and three miles from the river, sell for $100 an acre. In one of the best districts, ten or fifteen miles south of San Francisco, D. 0. Mills has an estate of four thousand acres. Though it is not distinctively a dairy farm, he keeps four hundred milch cows. A railway track, for taking his products to market, runs into his barn. The large, highly improved ranches in that region are held at from $250 to $300 per acre. Farming in California has been wonderfully lucrative. Hundreds of thousands of acres are rated at figures which would frighten an Eastern man, but upon which wool-growing alone has returned a clear profit of three per cent. a month for several years. The same is measurably true of other agricultural interests.
Small farms grow in favor; but the old Spanish system has left many large land-holders. To belittle immense tracts is a general affectation, an odd outcropping of local humor. The Californian invites an Eastern visitor: " Come down to San Mataeo and spend a week with me."
"Have you a ranch there?"
"Yes, a little place."
"What do you call a little place?"
"Well, twenty thousand acres"—or thirty thousand, or forty thousand, as the case may be. Everybody seems to have a little place. The other evening I met General Beale, known as an old army officer, who led one of the Government explorations for a Pacific railroad. He resides in the south, below Los Angelos, though his summer home is in Philadelphia.
"Have you a little place, too?" I asked. "Yes, two hundred and twenty-five thousand acres on my home ranch, and twenty-five thousand more in Northern California!"
That "home ranch" if it were a square tract, would be nineteen miles across. It is one-third as large as the State of Rhode Island. There are other men who own three hundred thousand acres apiece. Beale dispenses something of old baronial hospitality. Every wayfarer is welcomed to table and bed without money and without price. Some nights, thirty travelers are there entertained.
There was a prevalent impression, that the moment the last rail was laid immigrants and speculators with pockets full of money would pour into California to buy land. As yet, no such movement has begun, and disappointment is felt. Still, though city lots, improved farms, and wild lands have advanced from one hundred to five hundred per cent within the last two years, the new values hold their own firmly. And a people can not be very " hard up" whose smallest coin is ten cents, and who count that as twelve and a half to save inconvenience in making change. The silver dime here takes the old Southern and Western name of "the bit," and the value of the ancient "ninepence" of New England and shilling of New York. Eight bits pass for a dollar. The morning newspaper cost a bit; nothing sells for less ; no smaller coin is ever seen; change is very loosely computed. Competition has reduced the cost of telegraphing between Sacramento and San Francisco from "two bits" to fifteen cents. In sending dispatches from the Sacramento office, when I gave the clerk two dimes he kept them both without comment; when I gave him only one he made no complaint.
The hostess, at a house where I dined the other day, came to California when a mere child. She remembers absolutely nothing of her old home.
"Do you really use pennies in the States," she asked.
"They are made of copper, are they not?"
"Have you any greenbacks with you. I never saw but one, and I have forgotten how that looked."
I succeeded in fishing up from the bottom of a pocket one crumpled twenty-five cent note of our postal currency. She turned it over and over with keen curiosity.
"It seems very strange to me that this should be money," she said. "It don't look like money."
"What does it look like?"
"Well," (hesitatingly, and with the utmost sincerity,) "It—looks—like—a label/or an oyster can!"
Is the climate of San Francisco healthy? This is a conundrum, and I give it up. The mean temperature of December differs little from that of July. Fires are practically unknown, but thin clothing is never worn. At Christmas, roses bloom in open air; in mid-summer, the man who deliberates about his overcoat is lost.
The Sacramento Valley is a supply pipe for the hot basins of the interior. At its mouth is the Golden Gate, a gap in the Coast Range, and through it from noon until night streams the cool breath of the Pacific. Sea winds sweeping over the land are always cutting, but this is a two-edged sword piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. It is a sure detective which will find one's weak spot in two minutes by the watch. A still morning is one in which a man, galloping over the hills, can hold his hat on with one hand. And when the winds do not blow, dense fogs clothe the city as with a garment.
A bit of personal experience: In 1865-6 this climate, acting upon a sensitiveness of the lungs and throat, cut me down upon the instant. The bleakest winds of the Atlantic Coast I bore without inconvenience, but here my invariable experience was: first day, growing weak; second day, compelled to live on stimulants ; third day, chest covered with blisters to allay irritation; fourth day, beginning to cough, and confined to my room till the steamer left for Sacramento. A short stay in the interior would restore me; and friends would say:
"This is the worst season; come back in a few weeks and you will find the winds milder."
I did return four times between July and January, but always with the same result, until I concluded that thirty days among these gentle zephyrs would leave me in Lone Mountain Cemetery. Announce any theory, no matter what, and somebody will furnish the facts; mine was confirmed by divers persons who had a similar experience to relate.
This time I approached with fear and trembling. I—was not conscious, of any change in health, and I took only the old precaution of doubling my under-clothing—one which no stranger should neglect. The fogs seem just as heavy and the winds just as cutting as before; but to my surprise and delight they prove only a pleasant though very powerful tonic, imparting new vigor and endurance, and something of that buoyancy which rarely outlives the exulting vitality of youth. And I find one acquaintance with infirm lungs who left New York after two attacks of hemorrhage, and another who, on account of a bronchial difficulty, was unable to stay in Chicago, both living here in excellent health.
Even in hot interior towns like Sacramento, the air is exceedingly bracing. The mid-day sun scalds and broils, but in the shade one never finds the atmosphere close and stifling; and at night, in the phraseology of the country, "He always needs to sleep under a blanket." Notwithstanding the intense heats no case of sunstroke has ever been known in California, and mad dogs are unheard of. The climate of this city—and in less degree that of the interior;—braces up the nerves and excites the brain like champagne. It is a potent stimulant, quickening all human machinery, mental and physical; kindling unwonted activity, restlessness, and keenness of perception, and causing, more than any other influence, the high-pressure life of California. I doubt if there is any one so sluggish of blood that he could stay for a week in San Francisco without finding his old self strangely vitalized and intensified. Observing writers, too, begin to notice the change in physique—the universal tendency to ruddiness, corpulence, and a certain English cast of countenance. What have the Yankees, who have lived here ten or fifteen years, done with their thin faces and narrow chests? Do they mean tamely to yield up their birthright, and suffer a sea change into something new and strange—beef-eating Englishmen, for example? Already the pioneer is a modified man; the Californian of the second generation will be a new man.
Yesterday I spent two hours in the largest - champagne-making house on the coast. Last year its product was forty thousand bottles; this year it is expected to reach one hundred and twenty thousand. The new wine is put into old bottles—which cost here five cents apiece. The superintendent, an educated Spaniard, has been familiar from boyhood with the champagne regions of France, and he describes the naked workmen there in the wine vats up to their waists, with vehement gesticulation and unpleasant vividness and minuteness.
California champagne is made chiefly from the Mission grape, though the Muscat is coming more and more into use. Each has its own peculiar flavor, but neither is as pleasant to my palate as the Catawba of Ohio and Missouri. Here, the Catawba is not used for wine, as other varieties yield much more abundantly. Almost any grape from any part of the world will thrive, but the California soil and climate modify it essentially. A wine maker, thoroughly skilled in the processes of Germany, France, or the Mississippi Valley, has to learn a new treatment for the same grape when it is transplanted here. In Ohio a given variety may produce wine which contains eight per cent of alcohol; here the wine from it will contain twelve or thirteen per cent.
In making California champagne no alcohol is added. The crude wine is run into a tank which holds three thousand bottles, and then sweetened with eighty-two pounds of sugar. The succeeding processes are nice and complicated, and some of them I believe are kept secret from the public. The solution of the great problem of childhood—how champagne corks get in when they are so much larger at the bottom than at the top—appears in an ingenious machine which compresses them one-half and then drives them in in a twinkling. The newly-filled bottles are laid in frames, with the necks sloping downward. Here they remain for some weeks, but are shaken by hand every day. The pressure on a bottle is ninety pounds to the square inch, or equal to that of six atmospheres. About one in ten bursts. The men who shake them wear masks of wire to protect their faces. The superintendent has a long scar on his right hand where he was once cut by the glass of an exploding bottle. After the wine has worked itself clear, the cork is removed for an instant to let the sediment fly out; then it is replaced, the bottle is labeled, wrapped, and cased by Chinamen, and it is ready for the market.
The production of still wine is much simpler than that of sparkling, and the consumption of it much greater. White wine, made from the Mission or native grape, continues to be the general favorite.In taste it is almost identical with certain Rhine wines. Considerable claret is produced; the best quality is sold by the manufacturers at four dollars per box, and honestly labeled; but a great deal of the "French claret" consumed in our Atlantic States comes from California grapes.
The only vineyard I have visited is that of Wm. C. Hopping, near Sacramento. It covers thirty acres, and the labor of three men and two horses suffices for carrying it on. If all its grapes were turned into wine they would yield twenty thousand gallons a year; but some are sold for the table, and many are converted into brandy. The brandy sells at the still for two dollars and a half per gallon; the white wine for about one dollar. Both wines and brandy are a little sharp and fiery from the unusual amount of alcohol they contain. The wines in general have a new, raw taste, but age gives them smoothness.
Of all the California wines, probably fifty per cent. are consumed on this coast, twenty-five per cent. in the Atlantic States, and the rest in China, Russia, and Western Europe. The Russians like to have their wines sweet and strong; the Germans, sour and light; the English, sour and strong; and California manufacturers begin to vary their product accordingly.
Wine-making, which for a while seemed to be declining, is now largely on the increase. The capital invested in it and in vineyards probably amounts to twenty million dollars. There is yet a great deal to learn, but the manufacturers are sanguine that all difficulties will be overcome, and that this will develop into' one of the leading interests of the state. It is an old jest that the Californians never drink their own wines; but now champagne is growing in favor, and the use of the white wine is very general. The coming Californian is to drink wine. Whether it will pay or not remains to be seen. About the only value thus far of our practical observations on this point has been to show what delightfully unprejudiced creatures we are. One eminent American, who' is a teetotaler, visits the wine districts of Europe, and finds drunkenness there a great deal more common and disastrous than among peoples who consume whiskey and brandy. Another, an anti-teetotaler, following right in his footsteps, reports the inhabitants in a state of unequaled temperance, innocence, and happiness!
In our own Ohio Valley, a generation has grown up since the Catawba and German wines have largely displaced distilled liquors. And if some careful, exact observer, who has no theory to vindicate, would look thoroughly into the matter, he might throw much-needed light upon the two great questions: Does the use of the mild wines alone ever degenerate into drunkenness? and, Does it cause a taste or distaste for whiskey and brandy?
With the opening of the Pacific Railroad a new era opens in California. Her first industries were very crude. Mining began by hand, with pick, shovel, and rocker. That has developed into the quarrying and reduction "of quartz with nice, intricate machinery. Next to agriculture, mining still continues the leading interest; but other industries, which yield surer if not larger returns, gain steadily upon it. Fruit-raising develops into wine-making. Wool-growing has brought manufactures: already there are eight or ten woolen factories on the coast, and the largest employs three hundred and fifty men (Chinese). Stock ranches are turned into grain-fields. Wheat must always be a leading staple; but finer branches of agriculture, new in America, are growing up, and some promise to have an enormous future. One is the production of the olive, which thrives throughout the State, particularly in the south. Many olives are eaten as fruit, and olive oil is a leading article of commerce. With some nations it is a substitute for butter; and much is consumed in the arts, in medicine, and for machinery. Tropical peoples, I believe, yet use it for anointing, and hold it as precious as wine—
"Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine."
Our national consumption is relatively small, our importations reach about one-fifth of the value of our imported wines. The olive tree is of slow growth, and does not hear until it is ten years old; but its productiveness is very great. There is a saying in Italy, that if a father plants an olive on the birth of his son the son's future is provided for. The tree outlives many generations of men. There are some in Europe which still bear fruit, though reputed to be over one thousand years old, and others yet standing at the foot of the Mount of Olives which are believed to have overhung the Garden of Gethsemane in the Night of Agony.
Another most interesting branch of California industries, is the silk culture. A few evenings ago I rode out with a friend to see something of it.
Three miles from Sacramento we reached the residence of Capt. W. M. Haynie—a low dark frame house, hidden in luxuriant foliage which is fragrant with June roses and oleander blossoms. Hitherto, silk-worm eggs have come from the East. Italy alone is said to buy five million dollars' worth annually from Japan. Last year California began to export eggs to Italy and France. They were sold at four dollars per ounce for the sake of introducing them into foreign markets; but so many people are going into the business that before the season was over they commanded ten dollars at home. It is claimed that the eggs of California are the healthiest and best in the world, and that no other climate is so favorable to their production, except that of some of the interior districts of India, where the worms hatch and make silk without man's supervision.
Haynie's young mulberry trees cover thirteen acres. Every winter he crops the stems until they are only three or four feet high, that the spreading branches may be reached in the feeding season without a ladder. The leaves are ready for the worms by the middle of April, and continue good until late in November. Capital in California has demanded such quick and large returns, and the memory of the disastrous morus multicaulis fever which swept the Union thirty years ago has been so fresh, that few have undertaken silk culture until within the last two years. Now, Haynie estimates that a hundred farmers in the State are engaged in it, and four millions of mulberry trees growing. An acre of trees he thinks, with three careful men to attend to them and to the worms, should produce five hundred dozen of eggs in a season. Chinamen require instruction, as those who come here are chiefly of the lowest classes, from the coast, many of whom have spent their lives in boats, and know little of the skilled industries of their own country. The Japanese immigrants (few, thus far) have been familiar with silk culture at homer. Haynie's cocoonery, a wooden building seventy feet by fifty, is full of frames supporting broad shelves, which are only a few inches apart and are completely covered with silk-worms in various stages. There are now four hundred thousand; in August it is expected that the building will contain one million. They have become so far Americanized that they live upon newspapers— which overspread all the shelves. A uniform temperature of about 80 degrees proves best for them. Some varieties breed three tunes a year, some twice, and some only once; and Haynie, in his experimenting, has produced several hybrid varieties which make beautiful cocoons.
According to the authorities it takes nearly seven hundred thousand newly-hatched worms to weigh a pound avoirdupois. Those here only one or two days old are brown, and about one-twentieth of an inch long. For them, the tenderest leaves are cut up to present as many edges as possible, and they do not eat the stems or fibers. The largest worms—thirty days old and nearly white—are more than three inches long. They devour fiber and all with rapacity. On a shelf completely covered with them, Haynie laid large bunch of fresh leaves, In a minute they were swarming over the leaves, and in five minutes they had consumed everything except the tough main stems. Under the microscope they look like antediluvian reptiles, with formidable horns and frightful claws. The workmen handle them freely and lay them upon the open palm to exhibit them. They will not leave the shelves unless they grow hungry; and all, young and old, are fed about eight times in twenty-four hours.
At the venerable age of one month they are mature. Then, after a day or two of voluntary fasting, they suspend themselves among branches of willow rods, and from their snouts, just below the mouth, two little threads of silk as fine as gossamer begin to protrude. At first these are liquid, but on striking the air they turn to fiber. The worm spins the two. threads into one, and doubling his body into a coil begins to weave around him the silken prison which is to inclose him during his strange transfiguration. In three days the cocoon is complete, as large as a thimble, and rounded at both ends. It may be white, straw-colored, buff, orange, amber, canary, or of almost any other cheerful hue. It contains about four hundred yards of silk fiber, so fine that the eye can hardly detect it and a baby's hair is coarse beside it.
If the object be to produce spool-silk, the cocoon is now kept in the sun for one day, and that kills the worm within. But if only eggs are coveted, the cocoon is left untouched, and in eight days the worm is a chrysalis, incased in a little shell inside his prison. In three or four weeks he is ready to "tunnel" out of his cell—a favorite method of escape for captives. With the only old feature he retains—his sharp snout—he digs out, cutting the fiber so that it will no longer make thread, but only floss silk. He emerges in full glory, a snow-white moth or miller. Two cocoons, which Haynie gave me as curiosities, I happened to place on the table in my room at the Sacramento Hotel. The next day the ghostly moths had come out, and were laying eggs upon my letters and newspapers.
A male and a female miller are left together for two or three days. Next the female fastens herself upon a piece of paper and deposits some two hundred and fifty eggs, white, as large as pin-heads, and lying upon the paper as close together as paving-stones. Then the moths both die. Their little life seems like a satire upon ours. What is it Owen Meredith says of the midge disappointed in love? "
"His friends would console him; life yet is before him;
Many hundred long seconds he still has to live,
In the State yet a mighty career spreads before him;
Let him seek in the great world of action to strive!"
In two or three days the eggs turn to a bluish color, and then they are ripe for hatching when the proper season comes. Rain and lightning are the great enemies of silk-worms. Rain, soaking the mulberry leaf makes it poisonous for them, and a single thunder-shower may paralyze and kill every worm in a large cocoonery in ten minutes. But in California, Summer is rainless, and thunder and lightning are unknown except among the mountains.
This new industry is so nice and delicate that it may take several years to master its details, but it bids fair to expand into vast proportions. Besides supplying the European market with eggs, I see no reason why California should not ultimately manufacture silk for the entire country. The duty on imported silks is sixty per cent., affording room for a fascinating profit. Here the machinery can easily be made, the worm and the mulberry thrive, and skilled oriental labor is obtainable in limitless quantities. Even if we import the raw silk (upon which there is no duty), cheap labor and nearness to China and Japan will give the factories of California great advantages over those of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
A BREAKFAST WITH THE SEA-LIONS.
Of all the lions of San Francisco the most unique are the sea-lions. This morning a party of i friends and myself rode out to breakfast with them, and if they did not join in the banquet, they at least countenanced it.
From Montgomery street we drove up Bush, an exceedingly sharp hill, passing residences which are chiefly of wood, and have large, pleasant gardens. After the cobble-stones of the old business thoroughfares and the Nicolson pavement of the resident streets were left behind, the blowing sands grew trying to the eyes. In the beginning these bare sand-hills must have been very dreary; but the grass and shrubbery of the yards is covering their nakedness more and more, and in time San Francisco will be the most picturesque of all our large cities. The view of the water and the shipping, from hundreds of dwellings, is superb. Past raw outskirts, past Lone Mountain Cemetery, where sleep Broderick and Baker and Starr King, we reached a splendid macadamized turnpike, and our horses flew like the wind. The pace into which the noble animal is persuaded, in this cool, bracing climate, would soon kill him in an Eastern city, and would set Henry Bergh to wringing his hands and tearing his hair.
Rising to the crest of the last hill we looked out upon the great Pacific, its green expanse flecked with snowy foam. I wonder how often one must see it to destroy the associations of infinite far-off-ness, which always give it a charm for stranger eyes!
At the water's edge we stop at the Cliff House—a long, low, pleasant, frame building, with a wing of horse-sheds stretching afar,and deep, hospitable porches in front and rear. The Cliff is a favorite resort. Omnibuses run constantly from the city—eight miles—and private parties go out daily, sometimes choosing moonlight nights, but generally breakfasting here, that they may return by noon, before the winds grow furious. The gentlemen of our party all wear overcoats, but arrive so chilled that the coal fires prove a strong magnet for the first few minutes. Then from the rear porch we gaze out eagerly upon the Pacific.
To the north is the entrance to San Francisco Bay, with its romantic name and its yet more romantic history. Further, and just beyond the reach of vision, lies Drake's Bay, where, three hundred years ago, the great navigator and captain lay for months and never found the Golden Gate. To the north-west rise the Farallones, which supply San Francisco with the eggs of the murre or foolish guillemot, a nutritive but unpalatable substitute for hen's eggs. Straight before us, to. the west, stretches the great Ocean, with its new currents of commerce. How the thoughts crowd upon one as his straining eyes try to pierce the horizon! The Sandwich Islands—Japan—China—India! The beginning of a new era, which link's us to " dusky nations living in strange countries, worshiping strange gods, and writing strange characters from left to right! "
But we leave speculations about the distant and the infinite, to study the wonder which lies at our feet. A few yards from the porch are the famous Seal Rocks, two or three huge granite piles streaked with white from pelican deposits, and washed and worn by waves into picturesque shapes, with a curious arch piercing the top of one. Here, during the summer months, these sea-lions or seals congregate as they do nowhere else in the world. On other coasts, especially on the North Pacific, some of them climb ledges, but these isolated rocks, washed on every side by the sea, are their pet resort. A wholesome State law forbids the killing of them; so their numbers do not diminish, and they are likely to remain permanently the great curiosity of the city. Some very young ones are not more than two feet long; the largest are twenty feet, and weigh four thousand pounds. They bark like dogs, and on very dark nights, it is said, their voices enable pilots of incoming ships to find the entrance to the harbor.
Fully a hundred lie upon the rocks. Through an opera glass we can study them
with the greatest minuteness. Some are sleeping in the sun, some crawling slowly
up from the water, some nursing their young, and some fighting. One leviathan
is scratching his head with his huge flipper, while his moony face contracts
into a puffy oleaginous scowl. When still fresh from the water the lions are
black, but their coats dry to a dirty brown, like that of an ordinary buffalo
robe. A few, however, are almost white. One theory is that some are white at
particular seasons; another that all grow white with age. They are said to
have the slowest circulation of any warm-blooded animals, and to stay under
water from half to three-quarters of an hour at a time. Their eyes are matchless,
large, liquid, and tender. As they sit with heads erect, their necks and shoulders
do have a leonine look. While crawling up the rocks they suggest primeval monsters
or enormous blood-suckers. Their heads are wolf-shaped, hence, I suppose the
Spanish name for these rocks— Lobos Point. Still, a white one swimming in the
water looks quite enough like a human being to have originated the fable of
the mermaid among old mariners. The tail, too, ends in a fin, in orthodox mermaid
fashion, and the cry of a young one is strangely like the wail of an infant.
As a general rule sea-lions don't walk about seeking whom they may devour, but one of our group tells me that down the coast a lady saw one lying upon the sand, and, supposing it to be dead, touched it with her parasol. It proved to be only asleep; the stroke awoke it, she turned to fly, and it went lumbering after-her. While she ran, shrieking with terror, a gentleman of her party came up and dispatched the animal with his revolver. Whether this be history, or a "California yarn," I have not the least idea.
Breakfast interrupts our observations, and we sit down to it with keen appetites. Profusion and excellence are the characteristics of all California meals, At this, white wine .serves instead of coffee, and conversation flows like a river. Colonel Foster, our host, recalls the days when he used to go down to the sea in ships, Harry Linden lives his adventures in Mexico over again; Swinton invokes the ghosts of the Army of the Potomac; and, at short intervals Evans blossoms in some fresh story, always droller and more extravagant than the last. The meal ends with a California fruit-offering—strawberries, raspberries, apricots, enormous, peaches, fresh figs, and mangoes, all produced near San Francisco, and thus early in the season. The mango, a little larger than a hen's egg, tastes somewhat like the banana, but has a richer tropical flavor.
Breakfast over, we make our adieus to the lions and turn homeward. Under the irresistible temptation of a horseback ride, I give up my seat in one of the carriages, and gallop back with a lady of the party and her little boy of ten years, who sits his pony like an old cavalry soldier. Pleasant to see are his glowing cheeks and the healthful flush on the face of the mother, who was a confirmed invalid until her physician prescribed this remedy. To it she believes that she owes her life; and now she finds a gallop of twenty miles, before breakfast, a pleasant recreation. Were we all to throw physic to the dogs, and take large doses of the saddle instead, I wonder if anybody would lose by it except the undertakers. They might "strike," and so find themselves in the fashion.
At midday we are in town again, after a very delightful morning; and so ends my sight-seeing for this journey.
BACK TO CHICAGO.
FROM San Francisco, I started with a party resolved on making the entire journey to New York, in one unbroken chain of time and railway connection.
We left Sacramento one afternoon at six o'clock, by special train, and kept fourteen minutes ahead of the regular express. An hour or two later we were climbing the mountains. Two heavy locomotives are required to draw up the regular passenger train of seven cars. In 105 miles, the track rises 7,000 feet. For three miles and a half the ascent is 116 feet to the mile. At sharp curves upon these heavy grades the rails are already worn smooth, and sand is scattered upon them to keep the wheels from slipping.
Near the summit I rode for two hours with the engineer, to view again the grand scenery. Our locomotive, quite out of breath, throbbed and hesitated, and once or twice stopped altogether; but the engineer caressed and coaxed it, and averred that it was doing "her level best"–whatever that may be upon a 116 feet grade.
"She never busted me yet," he said, "and I don't believe she will now." Always "she," never "he" nor "it;" and always spoken with a sort of affection, as if the Iron Horse were a living pet.
Soon after noon, the American River 2,000 feet beneath us and yellow from mining, the dizzy trestles, the endless snow sheds, the dark tunnels, the granite cliffs and deep snow banks of the crest, and Donner Lake, calm and blue in its perennial beauty, were all left behind; and we came spinning down the eastern slope into hot, thick alkali dust, which is irritation to the eyes, relaxation to the nerves, and weariness to the flesh in general.
Through Weber and Echo cañons, and other attractive regions, we nearly all rode upon platforms or in the baggage-cars, to obtain better views. One lady, comfortably settled in an arm-chair on the platform, with her parasol shading her face, and a bouquet in her lap, studied alternately a new novel and the exquisite scenery of Weber River. The picture she presented was in striking contrast to the woe-begone looks of her sisters who crossed the plains years ago in the old way.
Luncheon was served at one, and dinner at seven; and at both there were claret and champagne in moderation, and California fruit in profusion, and, for the first two or three days, vases of fresh flowers. After dinner, if the company was in the vein, there were a few toasts and a little speaking. The fare was as good as at the best New York hotels–the variety not so great, but the articles as well cooked and as tastefully served. The attendance at meals and through the day was perfect. If one wanted a glass of water or of lemonade, or would have the dust brushed from his clothing, a waiter was always ready with salver or wisp. In the evening there was singing in some of the groups, and on Sunday morning the whole party joined in the service of the Episcopal Church.
At Utah stations appeared barefooted boys, girls, and old men, with pails of buttermilk, offering cup-fulls for "two bits." Of course the ladies were curious to see the Saints.
"Do you suppose they are Mormons?" asked one, alluding to two women who stood in front of a tent. "I should so like to see some Mormon wives! "
"Yes, madam,'' replied a man, in shirt-sleeves and straw hat, who was just passing through the car, and who thought the question related to his party–"Yes, madam, we are Mormons, and these " (nodding toward two apple-faced women who followed, each with a baby in her arms)–" are my wives."
One or two commonplaces were exchanged, but the inexorable whistle cut short the interview.
The trip to Omaha occupied nearly five days. We were all congratulating ourselves upon the success of our excursion, when, twenty-four hours west of Omaha, we came to grief. We were running twenty-five miles an hour on a straight track, over level prairie, when there came a sharp whistle for "down brakes "–a trembling–a bumping up and down–a bewildering, terrifying crash–and then a dead stop. After my soul, like Hans Breitmann's, came back to me, I found our car off the track, and poised on the side of a low embankment, at an angle of forty-five degrees. I clambered out and started forward. The next coach was also half overturned and badly smashed at the forward end. Flat upon its floor lay a gentleman groaning fearfully, and wearing the face of one who had just held an interview with Death. That he was mortally hurt I could not doubt, until he abruptly sprang up, brushed me aside like a brown paper parcel, and ran wildly to the rear.
These two cars had been "telescoped," or driven into each other. Pinned in between the two as in a vise, and unable to move an inch, hung a young invalid Californian, whose mother was in one of the rear coaches. "I am killed," he said faintly; "don't tell my mother." But a saw was brought, and in ten minutes he was freed by cutting off a sill. Happily no bones were broken, but one leg was severely bruised, and his nervous system had received a severe shock.
Still further forward under the wrecks I saw what had been a man, but now was a shapeless trunk, with fragments scattered far apart, and so mutilated, that at first we could not determine whether it was a negro or a white man. It proved to be the forward brakeman, killed at his post in the twinkling of an eye. One moment "he," the next "it!" The remains were covered with a blanket; and all the living drew a sigh of relief in learning that he left no family. No other lives were lost, but Pullman's cook, who had jumped out of the window, struck upon his head on a sandbank, where he spun like a top for a few seconds, and lay for two or three hours before he could fully make up his mind whether he was dead or alive. Five other negroes, in a Union Pacific cooking-car, which was now in the ditch, shattered and wrong side up, came out through what had lately been the floor, but was now the roof, almost white with terror, but without a scratch.
A herd of cattle just from Texas had been grazing several yards from the road, but at the last moment they suddenly stampeded and tried to cross in front of the locomotive. The result was: eleven killed and wounded cattle; six out of seven coaches thrown from the track, and three of them–baggage and express cars–upside down in the ditch, utterly wrecked. Until then I never comprehended the force of the injunction “Keep off the platform." The platforms of all but the Pullman cars–which are unusually strong– had shattered into fine splinters. Had the accident overtaken us while we sat upon them studying the scenery, it is doubtful whether one of the party would have escaped death or mutilation.
In ten minutes a locomotive and caboose arrived from Laramie, four miles distant, and we rode thither, and took quarters in the large, well-appointed hotel of the Railway Company.
By midnight the wrecks had been cleared away, and our one car which had not left the track, came forward. Our demijohns reappeared with their contents at low tide. The smashed boxes of California fruit, too, had been a godsend to the Laramites. I wonder when they had seen fresh apricots, peaches, and cherries before!
This was the end of our ornamental traveling. We attached our solitary sleeping-car to the rear of a regular train, and came on to Omaha with lowered plumes. Friends who went up the road to meet us, afterward reported that they found the most quiet excursion party which had ever returned from the Plains. The next morning I woke with an aching wrist, which I was unable to use for three days; and several other gentlemen felt similar indications of premature old age.
The accident ended our ambitious traveling designs, and broke up our party. One lingered in Omaha. Some pushed on as fast as they could to New York City. And I, with some others, came on to Chicago, to loiter a few days in its busy streets, till affairs drew me East again.
Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper Collection.