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young lady, who sang a song accompanied by a gong,
bones, and a sort of fiddle. The Queen pulled the
Emperor's beard, whereupon he beat her. Then
came, gorgeously dressed, the Council of State, who
drank tea from tiny cups with his Majesty. But
something went amiss, for the Queen enlisted their
services in her favour, and they pulled the Emperor
about the stage by his hind legs. Then he sang a
comic song, and the mandarins played at leapfrog.



SAN FRANCISCO. 79

The play was followed by a tumbling performance,
in which the chief feat of the tumblers was to jump
off two tables, set one upon another, and fall flat upon
their backs with a thud which ought to have broken
their ribs. But they got up and did it again.

The whole business was a caricature of a pantomime,
in which all in turn were clowns and pantaloons. The
audience appeared to be gratified, for they laughed
much. The price for the whole theatre, exclusive of
two boxes tenanted by Chinese aristocrats, was the
same half a dollar, and barbarous music was kept up
throughout the performance.

The Chinese are making progress here. They have
built the Central Pacific Railway, but they do more
than supply hands for hard work. There are wealthy
mercantile houses owned and carried on by Chinese
merchants. You not only see the humble laundry of
Ho Ki, where the proprietor himself, in spectacles
and pigtail, is patiently ironing a shirt by the window,
but large wholesale establishments and offices with
" Ho Sing, Wo Chung & Co." announced over the
doors. They are fighting Californians with their own
weapons and on their own ground ; and they are mak-
ing such way that a popular comic placard in the town,
representing the Irishman and the Chinaman with the
head and boots of the American in their respective
mouths, ends by picturing the Chinaman as having
swallowed both Paddy and Uncle Sam. " Ah, sir,"



80 TO SAN FKANCISCO AND BACK.

several persons said to me here, " the Chinese will
soon reach New York, and presently you will see them
in London." Their numbers do not increase very
much, however, at present; hut when once the China-
man comes, not only with his gods and his theatre,
hut with his family, and gives up the sentiment which
now makes him stipulate that his hones shall be re-
stored to his own land, it is impossible to speculate on
the Chinese flood which may pour into America.

No wonder an industrious, money-loving people like
the Chinese admire California. This country, twice
the size of Great Britain, possesses everything which
makes a nation rich. Mountains and plains the
former covered with magnificent timber and filled with
all mineral wealth, the latter deep with fertile soil,
sea board rivers, a most genial climate, and a position
commanding the American and Eastern continents
make California the pregnant terminus of the first
Atlantic and Pacific Railway. Great as has been its
growth, it is still in its infancy. The consciousness
of having unbounded opportunities gives the Califor-
nian an appetite for progressive change so great, and a
craving for a fiercer speed so keen, that a native said
to me one day, " We enjoy earthquakes." This, of
course, is not true, but the sentiment is suggestive.
Earthquakes are the flies in the ointment here. People
were then looking out for one, as the weather had been
peculiarly oppressive; and I saw many handsome



SAN FRANCISCO. 81

houses being built of wood, at least likely to be thrown
down. A gentleman resident there came into my room
while I was writing, and told me the street talk was
then of earthquakes. You heard the word from groups
at the corners. He said, "Last October travellers
would not come into this hotel for a month.'* As I
inhabited an apartment in the top storey, I expected
to have the sensation at its height if it had come.

Besides earthquakes, San Francisco is very appre-
hensive of fire, and the arrangements for the assem-
blage of engines (steamers) and notice to the inha-
bitants are excellent. As elsewhere in America, the
city is divided into wards, and its parts are numbered,
the San Franciscan pocket-books having the numbers
in them. Frequent telegraph signals communicate
with a central building, which has a large bell. I
have already referred to the procedure in case of fire.
Suppose I live near telegraph station No. 56, and my
house catches fire, I give a signal at once. The big
bell tolls five times quickly, and then after a pause six
times. The firemen all know where to go, and people
in the street turn to their pocket-books to see where
the fire has broken out. This tocsin is repeated to make
the warning sure. It rang sometimes twice a night.

An industrial exhibition was open while I was there,
and set forth well the resources of the country. I was
struck by the abundance and apparent excellence of
the machinery. The products, however, which first

6



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take the eye on a hot summer day are fruit and wine;
the former is excellent and abundant. Strawberries are
grown the whole year round ; and the grapes, figs,
pears, melons, limes, and peaches might make the
mouth of a statue water. Melons are mostly eaten be-
fore breakfast. The waiter brings you one, say a foot
and a half round, to begin with, as soon as you take
your seat at the table. One morning I saw a gentle-
man break his fast with half a sphere which would
have served for a dinner party of a dozen in London.
I laid down my knife and fork to look at him, and he
ate it up with a spoon. The other fare was good.
Venison, and occasionally turtle, salmon, smelts, perch,
cod, oysters, frogs, squirrels, quails, turkeys, beef,
mutton, pork, &c.; with pastry and ice creams, Indian
corn (of which the green ear is boiled whole, but-
tered and eaten as a dog gnaws a bone), sweet pota-
toes, huge tomatoes, and other vegetables, formed our
ordinary dinner. Breakfast is similarly abundant, and
lasts from 6 to 12. Luncheon comes on from 12.30
to 2.30, dinner from 4 to 7, tea from 7.30 to 9, supper
from 9 to 12.

Though labour is dear here, food is not ; the charge
for daily board at this, which is one of the best hotels,
being three dollars. Salaries are not bad, as the head
waiter, who had been servant in a gentleman's family
in England, told me he received eighty dollars a
month, or about 240Z. a year. But trifles are dear.



SAN FRANCISCO. 83

" A bit," or 6cl., seemed the smallest current coin.
You have a bottle, or rather glass, of soda water.
41 How much ? " " A bit," and so on.

Education is made much of here. Some of the
schools are very fine. I went over the Lincoln
"grammar," or, as we should call it, "national"
school, though the scholars remain longer than they
do with us. It has more than 1,000 boys in attend-
ance, and is divided into ten grades or standards, the
lowest being the tenth. All but two are taught by
mistresses. It is curious to see strapping young
fellows of sixteen, with an incipient moustache,
quietly obedient to a woman. The discipline is ex-
cellent. I never saw a school in better order. The
writing of the tenth grade, where the children were
six or seven years of age, was very good. The attain-
ments of the scholars, so far as I could examine into
them in two visits, were about equal to those of a very
good national school in England. I asked one of the
mistresses what work most of the children in her
" grade " were intended for. " Work ! " she replied,
"we don't work here, we use our brains." The
spelling was rather weak, the geography very fair, the
arithmetic good and quickly done. More subjects, or
at least subjects with more names, were taught than
with us. The first grade was having a lesson in
"philosophy" while I was present. One boy was
-called upon to explain the construction of the kaleido-



84 TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK.

scope. Many common things were taught ; hut when
I asked one of the elder scholars, a polite young man
with a ring on his finger, whether they learnt
"Euclid/' he did not know what I meant. On my
explaining the question, he said that geometry was
taught in the High School. The hoys were all bright,
neat, and remarkably quiet. The frames of their
slates were mostly covered with baize, lest they should
rattle against the desks. I was kindly welcomed in
the room of every grade, and the superintendent, who
explained the processes of the school to me, was most
courteous. He said that in several respects he pre-
ferred the English system.

San Franciscans, in common with all Americans,
are great readers, especially of newspapers. There
are many of these, but the advertisements in some
suggest great credulity on the part of the Californian
public. The Daily Call is now open before me, and
I see in one page seven advertisements of astrologers,
one of which, as a specimen, announces that " Pro-
fessor is the only practical planetary and elec-
trical astrologer in the State. He can be consulted
upon all sorts of business, law, robbery, sickness,
love, or journeys by sea or land ; fee, two dollars ; by
letter, three. Send the month of birth and year.'*
Others profess " pure Arabian talismans for dis-
covering rich mines." This does not indicate great
progress in sound popular education.



SAN FRANCISCO. 85

San Francisco has many churches and chapels. I
attended the service in six of them one Sunday.
None were full. Nowhere, except in the Episcopal
churches, was there any provision for kneeling,
but the seats were all softly cushioned and very
comfortable. A full-blooded negro conducted the
evening service in the Baptist chapel. The con-
gregation was very small, there being only about 42
people in the building, which would hold 500. But
the preacher's language was superbly polysyllabic.
An excellent sermon was being preached in one of the
Presbyterian churches, which had the best congre-
gation of all. Everywhere the proportion of men in
the congregation was great. The Jews' synagogue is
the most imposing religious edifice in the city, and
the Roman Catholics have the largest number of
adherents. I did not, however, visit any of their
churches. In two of the churches, Baptist and Pres-
byterian, the congregation seemed to take no part
whatever in the singing, but sat, the ladies all fan-
ning themselves, and listened to a small choir,
though hymns, not anthems, were sung, and the
people held books in their hands. In both cases
there was an organ. One Episcopal church had a
surpliced choir, and full choral service.

Other public buildings are large, and have an air
of long-established success. Nothing, however, is
more striking than the frequency with which you are



86 TO SAN FKANCISCO AND BACK.

reminded of the youth of the city. You may meet
men in the prime of life who came here before the
first house in San Francisco was built. And now
it is a thriving city, and spreads like fire. One
curious feature in its shifting growth is seen in the
moving of whole houses down the streets from one
part of the city to another. No wonder that the
opening of the Atlantic and Pacific Railway has
turned the eyes of America to this place, with its bay
50 or 60 miles long, and its varied incalculable possi-
bilities of climate, position, and natural wealth. I
met with very few travelling Englishmen while I was
there. I searched the books of the Lick House and
Occidental, leading hotels, to find in page after page
no entry of an English arrival. The rush of visitors
is American, and, as I conversed with many, I per-
ceived that they came with a feeling that they were
visiting almost another country. A gentleman said
to me, " I can hardly believe that I am in America.'*
The fame of California, however, is fast receiving a
fresh impulse throughout the continent. There was
during part of my visit a large party or deputation of
" Odd Fellows " from all the States in the Union.
They came in a special train, and the city newspapers
were filled with accounts of the various sights and
civilities which were shown to them by the authorities
of the place. Wherever you went you met a man
with a ribbon in his button-hole, stating that he was



88 TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK.

member of such and such a Lodge in such and such a
State. These gentlemen all seemed portly, prosperous,
and full of the impressions which they were soon to
take back to their own homes.

I have no space to tell you of the various excursions
to be made in the beautiful bay of San Francisco.
Its suburbs are stretching out miles away. I steamed
and drove east and west, and the number of villas,
&c., with wide gardens ; already occupied by men of
business there, was surprising.

The drive which pleased .me most was that to the
beach by the Cliffe House, about six miles off. I
shall not soon forget my first sight of the shore of the
Pacific. An American gentleman drove me in a
" spider waggon," or " buggy," as it is called here,
for miles along the beach. Our sharp wheels hardly
made a track.

I never saw waves more translucent. The light
shone through them till they broke with a pale
emerald crest upon the clean hard sand. The sun set
in the Pacific with a curious refraction which made
it appear double, and then floods of purple, copper,
and orange light were poured upon the sea and shore,
which made the scene marvellously beautiful for a few
minutes. Its strangeness was heightened to me by
scores of seals, which were barking like Newfoundland
dogs on the rocks, and strings of pelicans, which flew
heavily over the waves.



SAN FRANCISCO. 89

From San Francisco I took one of the "excursions "
of the place to the Yo Semite Valley and the big
trees. This impressed me again with the size of the
country I was visiting. Everything is on a large
scale. The route we followed was 250 miles in length,
and it took twice as long to get into the beauties of
the Valley as it does to reach Switzerland from
London.



90
CHAPTER VII.

THE YO SEMITE VALLEY.

WE left San Francisco on a Tuesday afternoon, and
reached the bottom of the Yo Semite Valley at 3.40
P.M. on a Friday, getting to the first house (there are
only two) at 5.20. We took the Mariposa route,
which is a little the longest, but passes through the
finest scenery. It also enables the tourist to visit the
largest group of big trees, which lie about five miles
off the road. We had not seen them then, for we
made the journey as fast as it could be conveniently
accomplished. Indeed, a party which started from
San Francisco a day before us, and which turned
aside to visit the big trees, did not arrive till many
hours after us.

Now for the route. W r e left San Francisco on
Tuesday, at 4 P.M. in the Stockton boat, my com-
panion being a very agreeable American gentleman,
whom I will call G. There was a most glorious sun-
set on the bay, the mountains around which seemed
to take every shade of violet, purple, and orange :
passing divers steamboats propelled by one huge hind
wheel, and watching the heavy flight of pelicans which
abound here, we soon reached night. In the absence
of the moon, the stars showed the river sides, and the
lights of Benicia indicated the whereabouts of that



THE YO SEMITE VALLEY. 91

pugilistic city. We met two or three monstrous
hotel steamers, each of which looked like the side of
a street afloat as they went by us with lamps shining
from their tiers of windows. At last we turned in, and
woke the next morning at five to find our boat along-
side the pier at Stockton, and one of the American
" stages," with six horses, waiting to carry us on
towards Mariposa. These vehicles are something
like overgrown stage coaches, carrying nine inside
and as many outside as can be piled upon the roof.
Including the driver, our load was twenty-five. We
started at six in the morning, and reached Hornitos,
where the stage sleeps, at 8.30 P.M., the distance
being 72 miles. The road no, there was no road
the track lay across the dustiest flat ground I ever saw
in my life. We made as much dust as half a dozen
harrows on a dry ploughed field in August, and, as
we went with the wind, we carried the dust with us
all the way. Sometimes, while sitting outside, I
could not see the leading horses I mean that I could
not have told whether we had leaders or not. The
driver's face was as dirty as a clod of earth nay,
dirtier, for the dust had grown upon it like a fungus ;
and when I washed mine in a tin basin before dinner
at noon the water instantly became the colour of pea-
soup. I never saw or heard of such dust.

In our case, however, the dust was mixed with a
great store of oaths. The driver and his companion,



92 TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK.

who sat immediately before me, while I was outside,
swore with an ingenious fertility of expletive discourse,
which became at last as artistic as it was unpleasant.
The way in which, when the main stream of decorated
conversation flagged, they popped in little fragments
of a curse just big enough to fill up a gap, showed
the proficiency in swearing which must have been the
result of long and skilful practice. I am bound to say
that this performance was confined to a duet, the rest
of the passengers being decent enough. One of them,
however, was an example of the curious mixture
which may be found in some of these Western parts.
He sat opposite to me at dinner and ate like a hog.
While his mouth was full he helped himself with his
own knife and fork from all the dishes within his
reach, placing food upon his plate in total disregard
to the usual sequence or connection of courses. His
hands were as dirty as yes as a scavenger's. Irish
stew and apple pie, plum cake and pickles, mutton
chops and cheese, all came and went together. When
we were summoned to the stage, he sighed, and said,
" That, sir, is a good square meal." And this
trencherman turned out to be remarkably well in-
formed and well behaved in conversation. I sat next
to him after dinner, and listened to an argument he
had with a fellow-passenger on the comparative
advantages of a paper and specie circulation. He
astonished me by his choice of words, their abundance,



THE YO SEMITE VALLEY. 93

and the precision with which they were used. H
spoke, too, with that slow, deliherate articulation and
careful completion of every sentence which often
marks the roughest-looking of some of these Western
men. He talked as a prosperous man with plenty of
money in his purse.

The scenery on this part of our route was dull
enough. Eight and left lay boundless breadths of
corn-land, in which the large waggons, called here
" prairie schooners," drawn by twelve horses, showed
like ships. One farm we passed through consisted of
10,000 acres : the owner of this, a Mr. John Jones,
letting in addition to tenants, who pay in kind, some
12,000 acres more. Some few years ago he had only
fifty-three dollars and two yoke of cattle.

We passed large flocks of sheep, which are watched
not only by shepherds but by turkey-buzzards, who,
when a sheep drops, appear out of space and eat him.
There were, besides, countless ground-squirrels, who
live in harmony with little owls, many of which we
saw sitting on their common mounds. There were
no villages or towns in sight all day. We changed
horses and dined at solitary ranches, one of which,
" Bean Kanche," took its name from a habit which
its owner once had of charging two dollars a head for
dinner and giving his guests nothing but beans. We
did not stop there, but dined excellently in the middle
of the day at a place close to the Tuolumne river,.



94 TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK.

which has the colour of carrot soup. This we crossed
by a ferry, as we did two or three other streams.
When we reached Hornitos at 8.30 we were so w^eary
of the stage and unwilling to face the dust for five
hours the next morning that we engaged a carriage,
and, after a hasty supper, drove on to Mariposa, a
place of much the same size as Hornitos, with a
population of about 300 souls. We were very glad to
get out of the stage, which, beside the dust it raised,
showed a constant disposition to turn over, the road
itself being exceeded in badness by its holes. In
some places and for some distance this was mended
with straw, as if the country side had been ill ; but,
mostly, the holes were left to grow as they liked, and
when they were hopelessly impassable the stage took
a turn into the field to avoid them.

We reach Mariposa at 2.15 A.M. on Thursday
morning. There was one building with lights in the
windows. " Is that the inn ? " asked I of our driver.
"No, sir," he replied, "it is a saloon. They are
playing cards." However, w r e found the inn, with the
door open. Entering, we shouted till somebody came
and showed us our rooms, when we were asleep in
five minutes.

Eising at about seven, we first visited the gold mine
of Mariposa, and a civil Cornish miner gave me some
quartz which contained gold at the rate of 200 dollars
.a ton. But some is very much richer. There is



THE YO SEMITE VALLEY. 95

little " placer," or surface-digging, now. Most of the
mines are worked by companies, and the quartz
crushed at considerable expense. Here we saw the
quartz reduced to white powder, then silted over
copper plates smeared with quicksilver. The gold-
dust unites itself with this. The amalgam is then
scraped off and squeezed in a cloth till the quicksilver
is pressed out, and a lump, from which the gold is
finally extracted, left in the hands of the operator.
Outside Mariposa we rode up to a party of Chinese
surface diggers, and rashly proposed to buy what gold
they had got. Fo, Fi, Fum & Co. rested on their
spades and looked sadly at us till an interpreter came
forward and conveyed to them the meaning of our
pantomimic offers. They then shook their heads and
went on patiently digging. They had found nothing
but exercise in their labours, but had cast up a
pyramid of dirt some twenty feet high .

After visiting the quartz mines we hired horses and
a guide for an excursion to the Yo Semite, which
takes a week at the least. Our guide was a very well-
mannered young fellow, who took his meals with us
on the route, and proved himself an excellent shot
with a revolver. Our horses were hardy, sagacious
greys, fitted with Mexican saddles. These are very
uncomfortable at first, as you are obliged to ride with
a long stirrup, and sit without varying your position
in what might be the fork of a tree, the pommel rising



96 TO SAN FRANCISCO AND BACK.

in a way that would be more than disagreeable if tli e
horse were to rear.

We had a ride of two long days through a forest
which we entered shortly after leaving Mariposa. "\Ve
reached a house called White and Hatch's about noon
the first day. From that to the Yo Semite Valley
we saw but one ranche " Clark's " where we slept.
During the whole of the second day we met only one
man, and he was on horseback, with a heavy rifle,
hunting grizzly bears. We saw another man some
little way off, building another ranche, which would
probably be ready for tourists next year. Near Clark's,
too, there were some wigwams of digger Indians, who
had wonderful mops of coal-black hair on their
shoulders, and earn a trifle by selling fish and other
game. But they are a miserable race, eating, they say,
not only acorns, but worms. Small parties, remnants
of tribes, are scattered about these ridges of the Sierra
Nevada, and exhibit the worst phases of a degraded
disappearance. Squaws wandered about in front cf
me as I sat writing at the door of the ranche in the
valley, and we tried to coax some round-headed, black -
haired, staring brats, but they would have none of us,
and ran away.

To return to our ride. It was unlike anything I
had ever experienced. The trail was "blazed" i.e.,
marked by cuttings in the bark of trees. We wound
round mountain sides, and crawled up and down slopes



THE YO SEMITE VALLEY. 97

which tried the sureness of our horses* feet, as at last
they had to pass in the dark among stones and pieces
of rock lying in a trail which sometimes seemed as
if inclined at an angle of forty-five degrees, though,
of course, the descent was nowhere so steep. The
character of the scenery was unlike anything in Switzer-
land or the Tyrol, the mountains in one or other of
which countries I have visited for several summers.
It was, I think, chiefly marked by the absence of
underwood and the great size of the trees, chiefly pines,
cedars, and firs, which frequently rose as straight as
a stick, without any indication of roots, out of a white
sandy soil. A very large number of the trees were


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Online LibraryHarry JonesTo San Francisco and back → online text (page 5 of 12)