Harvey Rice.

Letters from the Pacific slope; or First impressions online

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90, 92 & 94 Grand Street.


Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for
the Northern District of Ohio.



From Lake Erie to the Rocky Mountains ft

From the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake Valley 12

Suit Lake— The City— Polygamy 20


The Tabernacle— Worship— Proselytes 27


Reno— Washoe— Carson City 'M\


Society in Carson— Visit to Lake Tahoe 43

Stage Ride— Lake Donner— Sacramento 50


From Sacramento to San Francisco— The City 59

Sand-Hills— Windmills— Chinese— Climate 67



Churches— Nationalities— Fruits— Cliff House 77

A Drive— Oakland— Alameda— Earthquake 85


Sea Voyage to Los Angeles— Ranch Life 93

Anaheim— Its Vineyards— San Diego 102


Suspicious Passenger— Los Angeles— San Bernardino 110

Return Voyage— Earthquake Theory— Asiatics 119


Yosemite— Big Trees- Geysers— Nature 127


SnE!iMAN, St'ptember 23(1, WJ9.

The time has hecii when a journey overland
to California partook of the marvelous. But
now the trip has lost its former import, and
amounts to little more than a pleasure excursion.
And yet it is really a marvel, that we can now
traverse a vast continent in seven or eight days,
instead of consuming seven or eight months, as
was done by the early emigrants. In fact, the
only difficulty to be overcome, now, is simply — to
start. We started — myself and wife — in Septem-
ber, hSdi) ; the year made meniorai)le l»y the com-
pletion of the great trans-continental railway.

In Avhat I may have to say, you will probably
recognize but little that is neAv ; for I am well
aware that this is a reading age, and that almost
everybody is more or less familiar with the lead-
ing cliaracteristics of the Pacific Slope. Yet it is
])ossible my impressions of the golden land may


serve to umuse you, if they sliould not instruct.

From the Southern Shore of Lake Erie to
Council Bhiffs, tlie general aspect of the country
is somewhat monotonous, being for the most part
a rich alluvial plain of vast extent, enliven-
ed by cultivated fields and small farm-houses,
and begemmed liere and there with infant vil-
lages and pretentious young cities. The railroad
bridge Avhich spans the Mississippi and connects
Eock Island Avith Davenport, is a splendid struc-
ture, about two miles long.

On arriving at Council Bluft's, formerly the
limit of western civilization, we found ourselves
ushered into a new region, seeming not only
strange, but peculiar in its geological formation.
The bluffs consist of a collection of conical sand-
hills, barren in appearance, yet graceful in out-
line. They look like a platoon of grenadiers
drawn up in military attitude to i^rotect from in-
yasion the rich valleys of the Missouri. ^Ye pass-
ed them unchallenged. The town derives its
name from the fact that the explorers, Lewis and
Clarke, in 1804, held a council here with the lu-
dians. Tlie plucc has now become a city, con-
taining about twelve thousand inhabitants. Her
citizens, it is said, regard Omaha, Avhich is situat-
ed on the western l)ank of tlie river, as an in-
trusive rival, aiul ol'tcn speak of her. 'ironically,


US "ii twill sister" born too late in life to take
precedence in the commercial circle of that

Yet Omaha is equally plucky, and enter-
tains no fears of being eclipsed, though born as
late as 1854. She has a population of nearly
twenty thousand. When the railroad bridge
across the Missouri is completed, she will keep
her foot in the stirrup, and continue to advance
with a still higher degree of self-assurance. The
distance between the two cities is four miles.
The river is about a mile wide, turbid and treach-
erous. We were transferred on a steam ferry boat,
keeping our seats in the omnibus the meantime ;
and were deposited like so much freight, uncere-
moniously, at the grand depot of the Pacific road
in Omaha. Here we found the train, consisting of
eight passenger cars, ready and waiting with
steam up to recei\'e us. In " the twinkling of an
eye "' our party was thrust on l)oard, bag and bag-
gage, when the whistle gave the signal, and the
impatient steam-horse snuffed the air with a
spasmodic puff, and then took to his lieels. head-
ed for the Eocky Mountains. In leaving Oinalia,
Ave left the old " Far West " "behind us, which, by
the people on the Pacific coast, is now called the
" Far East." In tlie progress of the age the Far
West has been obliterated, and is now no where


to be found. The great Platte River Valley upon
which we now entered, running with almost
lightning speed, presents one of the most beau-
tiful and lovely landscapes, at this season of the
year, that I ever beheld, — a vast sweep of level
plains, waving Avith tall grass and wild flowers,
and dotted, for the first fifty miles, with corn
fields, stubble fields, shorn meadows, and humble
cabins. In point of soil it is a rich country, but
deficient in its supplies of living water, as well as
entirely destitute of timber.

While in the Platte Valley, we were suddenly
overtaken by a terrific thunder storm, attended
with a violent wind and rain. The storm occur-
red in the early part of the evening, and continued
for an hour or more. It seemed as if the artillery
of Heaven had been brought into conflict, firing
by regiments in every direction. We could see
the electric fluid roll like cannon balls down the
sky and over the vast plains. The scene was as
sublime as it was terrific, and awed every })assen-
ger into silence. But in the morning, after the
storm had passed, all nature seemed regenerated,
and looked as beautiful as a young bride at her
marriage festival.

Though you may imagine that these plains
must appear monotonous and unattractive, yet in
proceeding westward you see many filings that


coiistcintly interest you, novel sights of a singular
character, accompanied with more or less amus-
ing incidents. As we Hew steaming and puffing
over this silent and uninhabited region, we fre-
(|uent]y startled herds of antelope feeding near
the wayside, who ran, hounding gracefully over
the plain, until lost in the distance. In one in-
stance Ave saw two bears walking leisurely amid
the sage-brush, Avithin two hundred rods of the
train, and seeming to care for nothing but them-
selves. We also passed tlirough many villages
whose only denizens are prairie dogs, a very pret-
ty little animal, resembling the fox squirrel, and
about the same size. They play, frolic, and bark
within a stone's throAV of the passing cars. Their
houses are built of sand cemented with clay, and
located near each other Avith narrow interA^ening
streets, and are entered through a circular door-
way. They are conical in structure aiul resemble
potato-hills. The flesh of these animals is deli-
cate. At one of the stations our breakfast table
Avas furnished Avith a dish of prairie dog in the
form of a stcAv. "We Avere often regaled Avith an-
telope steaks at other stations — a kind of meat
Avliicli Ave A'ery much preferred, and Avhich most
of the passengers regarded as perfectly delicious.
As Ave approached what is called the Rocky
^fountain range. Ave kept a sliarp lookout for tlie


mountains, with the expectation of catching a
sublime A'iew of their lofty grandeur. But in
Yain. We arrived at Sherman, the highest point
in the route, an elevation of more than eight
thousand feet above the level of the sea, before
we became conscious of having reached even
their base. The truth is, the Eocky Mountains,
in the direction of the railway, are but a myth —
nothing but an elevated plain on a vast scale,
with here and there a low range of cobble-stones
embedded in bluffs, which look like the bank of a
dried up river Avhose opposite bank has been re-
moved, or lost in the even surface of the adjoining
plain. The grade over this elevated plain, both
the ascent and descent, for the whole distance, is
so easy that in passing you would scarcely perceive
it. The country produces little else than sage-
brush and a few dwarf pines.

The town of Sherman, at present, but a sta-
tion, is located on the very apex of the Eocky
Mountains, the backbone of a continent, five
hundred and fifty miles west of Omaha. The at-
mosphere is so clear that you can see Pike's Peak
looming up in the south, at a distance of one
hundred and sixty-five miles. The town is in-
debted to General Sherman for its name, who is
the tallest, and I might say, the bravest and most
srallant general that held a commission in the

THE I'Al ll'lc si.opi:. 11

Union army, durmg the l\ebellion. His famous
'• march to the sea " has immortalized his name,
and addrd a lirilHant paire to the history of his


Uintah, September 25tli, IHO'.t.

It was at Sherman that we commenced our
descent down the Pacific Slope. From tliat point
which is the continental watershed, the waters
divide and flow in opposite directions, west to the
Pacific, and east to the Atlantic ocean. The de-
scent is like the ascent, so gradual that you would
scarcely perceive it. The Black Hills are to be
seen in the distance, which take their name from
the fact that they are clad with pines, giving
them a dark and gloomy appearance. It is a
wild region, the favorite domain of still wilder
Indians, who, in addition to their pastimes of
hunting and fishing, frequently attack and plun-
der emigrant trains and other parties of white
men passing through the country. Not long
since a skirmish occurred near here between the
Indians and a detachment of soldiers, who had
J)een sent out from the Fort for the ])u'r])ose of



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Online LibraryHarvey RiceLetters from the Pacific slope; or First impressions → online text (page 1 of 7)