Charles Nordhoff.

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East, as far as New York; and it is one of the curiosities of production
and commerce that, while California can send butter to the Atlantic, it
buys eggs of Illinois. One would have thought the reverse more probable.

Marin County offers some important advantages to the dairy-farmer. The
sea-fogs which it receives cause abundant springs of excellent soft water,
and also keep the grass green through the summer and fall in the gulches
and ravines. Vicinity to the ocean also gives this region a very equal
climate. It is never cold in winter nor hot in summer. In the milk-houses
I saw usually a stove, but it was used mainly to dry the milk-room after
very heavy fogs or continued rains; and in the height of summer the
mercury marks at most sixty-seven degrees, and the milk keeps sweet
without artificial aids for thirty-six hours.

The cows require no sheds nor any store of food, though the best dairymen,
I noticed, raised beets; but more, they told me, to feed to their pigs
than for the cows. These creatures provide for themselves the year round
in the open fields; but care is taken, by opening springs and leading
water in iron pipes, to provide an abundance of this for them.

The county is full of dairy-farms; and, as this business requires rather
more and better buildings than wheat, cattle, or sheep farming, as well as
more fences, this gives the country a neater and thriftier appearance than
is usual among farming communities in California. The butter-maker must
have good buildings, and he must keep them in the best order.

But, besides these smaller dairy-farms, Marin County contains some large
"butter ranches," as they are called, which are a great curiosity in their
way. The Californians, who have a singular genius for doing things on
a large scale which in other States are done by retail, have managed to
conduct even dairying in this way, and have known how to "organize" the
making of butter in a way which would surprise an Orange County farmer.
Here, for instance - and to take the most successful and complete of these
experiments - is the rancho of Mr. Charles Webb Howard, on which I had the
curiosity to spend a couple of days. It contains eighteen thousand acres
of land well fitted for dairy purposes. On this he has at this time nine
separate farms, occupied by nine tenants engaged in making butter. To let
the farms outright would not do, because the tenants would put up poor
improvements, and would need, even then, more capital than tenant-farmers
usually have. Mr. Howard, therefore, contrived a scheme which seems to
work satisfactorily to all concerned, and which appears to me extremely

[Illustration: POINT REYES.]

He fences each farm, making proper subdivisions of large fields; he opens
springs, and leads water through iron pipes to the proper places, and
also to the dwelling, milk-house, and corral. He builds the houses, which
consist of a substantial dwelling, twenty-eight by thirty-two feet,
a story and a half high, and containing nine rooms, all lathed and
plastered; a thoroughly well-arranged milk-house, twenty-five by fifty
feet, having a milk-room in the centre twenty-five feet square, with a
churning-room, store-room, wash-room, etc.; a barn, forty by fifty
feet, to contain hay for the farm-horses; also a calf-shed, a corral, or
inclosure for the cows, a well-arranged pig-pen; and all these buildings
are put up in the best manner, well painted, and neat.

The tenant receives from the proprietor all this, the land, and, cows to
stock it. He furnishes, on his part, all the dairy utensils, the needed
horses and wagons, the furniture for the house, the farm implements, and
the necessary labor. The tenant pays to the owner twenty-seven dollars
and a half per annum for each cow, and agrees to take the best care of the
stock and of all parts of the farm; to make the necessary repairs, and to
raise for the owner annually one-fifth as many calves as he keeps cows,
the remainder of the calves being killed and fed to the pigs. He agrees
also to sell nothing but butter and hogs from the farm, the hogs being
entirely the tenant's property.

Under this system fifteen hundred and twenty cows are now kept on nine
separate farms on this estate, the largest number kept by one man being
two hundred and twenty-five, and the smallest one hundred and fifteen. Mr.
Howard has been for years improving his herd; he prefers short-horns,
and he saves every year the calves from the best milkers in all his herd,
using also bulls from good milking strains. I was told that the average
product of butter on the whole estate is now one hundred and seventy-five
pounds to each cow; many cows give as high as two hundred, and even two
hundred and fifty pounds per annum.

Men do the milking, and also the butter-making, though on one farm I found
a pretty Swedish girl superintending all the indoor work, with such skill
and order in all the departments, that she possessed, so far as I saw, the
model dairy on the estate.

Here, said I to myself, is now an instance of the ability of women to
compete with men which would delight Mrs. Stanton and all the Woman's
Rights people; here is the neatest, the sweetest, the most complete dairy
in the whole region; the best order, the most shining utensils, the nicest
butter-room - and not only butter, but cheese also, made, which is
not usual; and here is a rosy-faced, white-armed, smooth-haired,
sensibly-dressed, altogether admirable, and, to my eyes, beautiful Swedish
lass presiding over it all; commanding her men-servants, and keeping every
part of the business in order.

Alas! Mrs. Stanton, she has discovered a better business than
butter-making. She is going to marry - sensible girl that she is - and she
is not going to marry a dairy-farmer either.

I doubt if any body in California will ever make as nice butter as this
pretty Swede; certainly, every other dairy I saw seemed to me commonplace
and uninteresting, after I had seen hers. I don't doubt that the young
man who has had the art to persuade her to love him ought to be hanged,
because butter-making is far more important than marrying. Nevertheless,
I wish him joy in advance, and, in humble defiance of Mrs. Stanton and her
brilliant companions in arms, hereby give it as my belief that the pretty
Swede is a sensible girl - that, to use a California vulgarism, "her head
is level."

The hogs are fed chiefly on skim-milk, and belong entirely to the tenant.
The calves, except those which are raised for the proprietor, are, by
agreement, killed and fed to the pigs. The leases are usually for three

The cows are milked twice a day, being driven for that purpose into a
corral, near the milk-house. I noticed that they were all very gentle;
they lay down in the corral with that placid air which a good cow has; and
whenever a milkman came to the beast he wished to milk, she rose at once,
without waiting to be spoken to. One man is expected to milk twenty cows
in the season of full milk. On some places I noticed that Chinese were
employed in the milk-house, to attend to the cream and make the butter.

The tenants are of different nationalities, American, Swedes, Germans,
Irish, and Portuguese. A tenant needs about two thousand dollars in money
to undertake one of these dairy-farms; the system seems to satisfy those
who are now engaged in it. The milkers and farm hands receive thirty
dollars per month and "found;" and good milkers are in constant demand.
Every thing is conducted with great care and cleanliness, the buildings
being uncommonly good for this State, water abundant, and many
labor-saving contrivances used.

At one end of the corral or yard in which the cows are milked is a
platform, roofed over, on which stands a large tin, with a double
strainer, into which the milk is poured from the buckets. It runs through
a pipe into the milk-house, where it is again strained, and then emptied
from a bucket into the pans ranged on shelves around. The cream is taken
off in from thirty-six to forty hours; and the milk keeps sweet thirty-six
hours, even in summer. The square box-churn is used entirely, and is
revolved by horse-power. They usually get butter, I was told, in half an

The butter is worked on an ingenious turn-table, which holds one hundred
pounds at a time, and can, when loaded, be turned by a finger; and a
lever, working upon a universal joint, is used upon the butter. When
ready, it is put up in two-pound rolls, which are shaped in a hand-press,
and the rolls are not weighed until they reach the city. It is packed in
strong, oblong boxes, each of which holds fifty-five rolls.

The cows are not driven more than a mile to be milked; the fields being
so arranged that the corral is near the centre. When they are milked, they
stray back of themselves to their grazing places.




General Bidwell, of Butte County, raised last year on his own estate,
besides a large quantity of fruit, seventy-five thousand bushels of
wheat. Dr. Glenn, of Colusa County, raised and sent to market from his
own estate, two hundred thousand bushels. Mr. Warner, of Solano County,
produced nine thousand gallons of cider from his own orchards. A
sheep-grazer in Placer County loaded ten railroad cars with wool, the clip
of his own sheep. For many weeks after harvest you may see sacks of wheat
stacked along the railroad and the river for miles, awaiting shipment; for
the farmers have no rain to fear, and the grain crop is thrashed in the
field, bagged, and stacked along the road, without even a tarpaulin to
cover it.

In 1855, California exported about four hundred and twenty tons of wheat;
in 1873, the export was but little less than six hundred thousand tons. In
1857, six casks and six hundred cases of California wine were sent out of
the State; in 1872, about six hundred thousand gallons were exported. In
1850, California produced five thousand five hundred and thirty pounds of
wool; in 1872, this product amounted to twenty-four million pounds. Thirty
million pounds of apples, ten million pounds of peaches, four and a half
million pounds of apricots, nearly two million pounds of cherries, are
part of the product of the State, in which the man is still living who
brought across the Plains the first fruit-trees to set out a nursery;
while four and a half million of oranges, and a million and a half of
lemons, shipped from the southern part of the State, show the rapid growth
of that culture.

In the northern counties, of which Tehama and Butte are a sample, they are
usually fortunate in the matter of late as well as early rains; but
close under the coast range the country is dryer, as is natural, the high
mountain range absorbing the moisture from the north-westerly winds. They
begin to plow as soon as it rains, usually in November, and sow the
grain at once. Formerly the higher plains were thought to be fit only for
grazing; but even the red lands, which are somewhat harder to break up,
and were thought to be infertile, are found to bear good crops of grain;
and this year these lands bear the drought better than some that were and
are preferred. Lambing takes place here in February, and they shear in
April. The grazing lands abound in wild oats, very nutritious, but apt to
run out where the pastures are overstocked. Alfilleria is not found so far
north as this; alfalfa has been sown all over the valley in proper places,
and does well. They cut it three times in the year, and turn stock in on
it after the last cutting; and all who grow it speak well of it.

Red Bluff is one of the oldest towns in the valley; it stands at the head
of navigation on the Sacramento, and was, therefore, a place of importance
before the railroad was built. The river here is narrow and shoal, and it
is crossed by one of those ferries common where the rapid current,
pushing against the ferry-boat, drives it across the stream, a wire cable
preventing it from floating down stream. The main street of the town
consists mainly of bar-rooms, livery-stables, barber-shops, and hotels,
with an occasional store of merchandise sandwiched between; and, if you
saw only this main street, you would conceive but a poor opinion of the
people. But other streets contain a number of pleasant, shady cottages;
and, as I drove out into the country, the driver pointed with pride to the
school-house, a large and fine building, which had just been completed at
a cost of thirty thousand dollars, and seemed to me worth the money. The
town has also water-works; and the people propose to bridge the Sacramento
at a cost of forty thousand dollars, and to build a new jail, to cost
fifteen thousand dollars. Such enterprises show the wealth of the people
in this State, and astonish the traveler, who imagines, in driving
over the great plain, that it is almost uninhabited, but sees, in a
thirty-thousand dollar school-house in a little town like Red Bluff, that
not only are there people, but that they have the courage to bear taxation
for good objects, and the means to pay.

From Red Bluff two of the great mountain peaks of Northern California
are magnificently seen - Lassen's Peaks and Shasta. The latter, still
one hundred and twenty miles off to the north, rears his great, craggy,
snow-covered summit high in the air, and seems not more than twenty miles
away. Lassen's Peaks are twins, and very lonely indeed. They are sixty
miles to the east, and are also, at this season, glistening with snow.
Between Lassen's and the Sacramento, some thirty miles up among the
mountains, there is a rich timber country, whose saw-mills supply the
northern part of the valley with lumber, sugar-pine being the principal
tree sawed up. The valley begins to narrow above Red Bluff, and the
foot-hills and mountains still abound in wild game. Hunters bring their
peltries hither for sale; and this has occasioned the establishment
at this point of a thriving glove factory, which turned out - from an
insignificant looking little shop - not less than forty thousand dollars'
worth of gloves last year. Two enterprising young men manage it, and they
employ, I was told, from fifty to eighty women in the work, and turn out
very excellent buckskin gloves, as well as some finer kinds. Such petty
industries are too often neglected in California, where every body still
wants to conduct his calling on a grand scale, and where dozens of ways to
prosperity, and even wealth, are constantly neglected, because they appear
too slow.

This whole country is only about four years in advance of the lower or San
Joaquin Valley, and the influence of climate and soil in bringing trees to
bear early was shown to me in several thrifty orchards, already beginning
to bear, on ground which four years ago was bought for two dollars and
fifty cents per acre. The habit of raising wheat is so strong here, that
almost every thing else is neglected; and I remember a farm where the
wheat field extended, unbroken, except by a narrow path leading to the
road, right up to the veranda of the farmer's house. His family lived on
canned fruits and vegetables; and except here and there a brilliant poppy,
which stubborn Dame Nature had inserted among his wheat, wife and children
had not a flower to grace mantle or table. I confess that it pleased me
to hear this farmer complain of hard times, because, as he said, the
speculators in San Francisco made more money from his wheat than he did.
If the speculators in San Francisco teach the farmers in California to
grow something besides wheat, they will deserve well of the State.

The upper waters of the Sacramento run through mountain passes, and
between banks so steep that for miles at a time the river is inaccessible,
except by difficult and often dangerous descents; and an old miner told me
that when this part of the river, between where Redding now lies and its
source, near Mount Shasta, was first "prospected" for gold, the miners or
explorers had to build boats and descend by water, trying for gold by the
way, because they could not get down by land. In those days, he said, if a
company of miners could not make twenty dollars a day each, the "prospect"
was too poor to detain them; and they made but a short stay at most points
on the Upper Sacramento.

The country was then full of Indians; and it was very strange, indeed, to
hear this miner - a thoroughly kind-hearted man he was, and now the father
of a family of children - tell with the utmost unconcern, and as a matter
of course, how they used to shoot down these Indians, who waylaid them at
favoring spots on the river, and tried to pick them off with arrows.

I remember hearing a little boy ask a famous general once how many men he
had killed in the course of his wars, and being disappointed when he heard
that the general, so far as he know, had never killed any body. I suppose
a soldier in battle but rarely knows that he has actually shot a man. But
one of these old Indian fighters sits down after dinner, over a pipe, and
relates to you, with quite horrifying coolness, every detail of the death
which his rifle and his sure eye dealt to an Indian; and when this one,
stroking meantime the head of a little boy who was standing at his knees,
described to me how he lay on the grass and took aim at a tall chief
who was, in the moonlight, trying to steal a boat from a party of
gold-seekers, and how, at the crack of his rifle, the Indian fell his
whole length in the boat and never stirred again, I confess I was dumb
with amazement. The tragedy had not even the dignity of an event in this
man's life. He shot Indians as he ate his dinner, plainly as a mere matter
of course. Nor was he a brute, but a kindly, honest, good fellow, not in
the least blood-thirsty.


The poor Indians have rapidly melted away under the fervent heat of
forty-rod whisky, rifles, and disease. This whole Northern country must
have been populous a quarter of a century ago; General Bidwell and other
old Californians have told me of the surprisingly rapid disappearance of
the Indians, after the white gold-seekers came in. It was, I do not doubt,
a pleasant land for the red men. They lived on salmon, clover, deer,
acorns, and a few roots which are abundant on mountain and plain, and of
all this food there is the greatest plenty even yet. If you travel toward
Oregon, by stage, in June, July, or August, you will see at convenient
points along the Sacramento parties of Indians spearing and trapping
salmon. They build a few rude huts of brush, gather sticks for the fire,
which is needed to cook and dry the salmon meat; and then, while the men,
armed with long two-pronged spears, stand at the end of logs projecting
over the salmon pools, and spear the abundant fish, the squaws clean the
fish, roast them to dryness among the hot stones of their rude fire-place,
and finally rub the dried meat to a powder between their hands, or by the
help of stones, when it is packed away in bags for winter use.

What you thus see on the Sacramento is going on at the same time on half
a dozen other rivers; and I am told that these Indians come from
considerable distances to this annual fishing, which was practiced by them
doubtless a long time before the white men came in. Not unfrequently
in these mountains you will find a castaway white man with a half-breed
family about him; "squaw-men" they are called, as a term of contempt, by
the more decent class.

As you drive by the farm-houses on the road, you may commonly see venison
hanging on the porch; and every farmer has a supply of fishing-rods and
lines, so that you can not go amiss for trout and venison. Few of them
know, however, that a trout ought to be cooked as quickly as possible
after he is caught; and if you do not take care, your afternoon fish will
appear on the table next day as corned trout, in which shape I have no
liking for it.

The Shasta Valley contains a good deal of excellent farming land, but
it is used now chiefly for cattle and sheep, and in many parts of it
the grazing is very fine. There are a number of lesser valleys scattered
through the mountains hereabouts. Indeed, the two ranges seem to open out
for a while, and Scott's Valley on the west, and the Klamath Lake country
to the east and north-east from Yreka, are favorite grazing regions. Here
there is occasional snow in the winter, and some cold weather; the spring
opens later and the rains last longer. The streams in all this region bear
gold, and miners are busy in them. Yreka, in the Shasta Valley, is the
centre of a considerable mining district, and therefore a busy place, even
without the Modoc war, which gave it a temporary renown during the winter
and spring. Now that the Modoc war is closed, no doubt the famous lava
beds will attract curious visitors from afar. They can be reached in
thirty-six hours from Yreka; and that place is distant thirty-six hours
from San Francisco.

Aside from the public lands still open in small tracts of eighty and
one hundred and sixty acres to pre-emption by actual settlers, under
the homestead law, and the railroad lands, to be had in sections of
six hundred and forty acres, the Sacramento Valley contains a number of
considerable Spanish grants; and the following account of these, which I
take from the San Francisco _Bulletin_ will give an Eastern reader some
idea of the extent of such grants, their value, and how they are used:

"The first large tract of land north and west of Marysville is the Neal
grant, containing about seventeen thousand acres. This grant is owned by
the Durham estate and Judge C.F. Lott, though Gruelly owns a large slice
of it also. The Neal grant is mostly composed of rich bottom-lands; nearly
all of it is farmed under lease; the lessees pay one-quarter to one-third
of the crops as rent. They do very well under this arrangement.

"The next grant on the north is that of Judge O.C. Pratt. It contains
twenty-eight thousand acres of bottom-land. Butte Creek skirts it on one
side for a distance of seventeen miles, and a branch of that creek runs
through the centre. Nearly six thousand acres are covered with large
oak-trees. There are about one hundred miles of fences on this rancho;
there are about ten thousand sheep, twelve hundred head of cattle, and two
hundred horses on it; the land has been cultivated or used as pasturage
for about fourteen years. About ten thousand acres of it, I am informed,
would readily sell in subdivisions for fifty dollars per acre; ten
thousand acres would sell for about thirty dollars, and eight thousand
acres at twenty dollars per acre. There are many tenants on this tract,
having leases covering periods of three to five years; rent, one-fourth of
the crop raised; the owner builds fences and houses for the lessees. The
average quantity of wool annually grown on this rancho is sixty thousand
pounds; beef cattle, two hundred and fifty head; value of produce received
as rent from tenants, twelve thousand dollars per year. Judge Pratt is
willing to sell farms of one hundred and sixty to three hundred and twenty
acres at about the rates named, and on easy terms.

"The Hensley grant, lying north of Judge Pratt's rancho, contains five
leagues. It was rejected by the United States Courts, and was taken up
by, and is covered with, settlers, who own one hundred and sixty to three
hundred and twenty acres each, worth forty to sixty dollars per acre.
Little or none of that land is for sale, the owners being too well
satisfied with their farms to sell them, even at the highest ruling rates.

"General Bidwell's rancho adjoins Judge Pratt's. It contains about twenty
thousand acres, of which about one-quarter is of the best quality, and
would readily sell at fifty to sixty dollars per acre. About five thousand
acres more, lying along the Sacramento River, are subject to overflow.
That portion is very rich grazing land, and is worth fifteen to twenty
dollars per acre. The other ten thousand acres lie near the foot-hills;
they are extremely well adapted to grape culture, and are worth five to
twelve dollars per acre. General Bidwell is not willing to sell.

"The next rancho on the west is owned by John Parrot. It contains about
seventeen thousand acres, and lies on the east bank of the Sacramento
River. It contains about four thousand acres of first-class wheat or corn
land; the remainder is composed of excellent pasturage; there are only a
few thousand sheep, and a few cattle and horses on this rancho. It has for

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Online LibraryCharles NordhoffNorthern California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands → online text (page 16 of 24)