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Annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and of the Pioneers of Los Angeles County (Volume yr.1902-1904) online

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them extensively in former years when it was widely known as
the "Picnic Grounds" of the Santiago. J. E. Pleasants was one
of the first settlers of the valley, and he still resides there. He
and others had bee ranches ten or twelve miles above the Pic-
nic Grounds in the '70s and '80s. He named his place "Refu-
gio" (Refuge, or place of rest) after his deceased wife. Later,
this place became the home of Mme. Modjeska and her husband.
Count Charles Bozenta Clapowski, who have enlarged, im-
proved and beautified it, creating a lake for irrigation, thus es-
tablishing for themselves a romantic and luxurious mountain re-
treat, which they have felicitously named "Arden," and which,
in fact, is no unworthy nor unlike counterpart of that "Arden"
of Shakespeare's idyUic masterpiece.

Away back in the early '60s a very exciting episode occurred
at a point about three miles above the picnic grounds, in which
Mr. Pleasants, who had charge of a stock ranch at the time, was

AN Exciting episode; of the early 6o's. 79

an active though involuntary participant. One Sunday morn-
ing he was out looking after stock, when he found three Mex-
icans in the corral at the point referred to, catching his tame
horses. Supposing them to be vaqueros of his neighbors,
lassoing their own horses, he rode up to the corral, when one
of the men rode toward him in a friendly manner, and when
he came alongside held out his hand as if to shake hands, say-
ing, "Como le va, amigo?" — when, suddenly drawing his pistol,
he pointed it at Pleasants' head and fired. Pleasants threw up
his right hand and turned the pistol aside at the moment of
discharge, and the ball passed through that hand, disabling it
entirely, the scar of which remains to this day. Grasping his
own pistol with his left hand, Pleasants commenced firing at
his assailant. He had, however, only five charges in his pistol
(having previously discharged one shot at a rabbit), whereupon,
at his first shot, the other two men fled.

The battle was now on in earnest. The leader fired six
shots at Pleasant, but, firing somewhat wildly, two shots en-
tered Pleasants' saddle, one passing through it, when he (the
leader) also fled. He evidently kept the run of Pleasants' shots,
each firing, one after the other, and when his six shots were ex-
hausted he must have thought that Pleasants still had
another shot, for he incontinently fled, after Pleasants had
fired his last shot, thus leaving Pleasants master of the field —
with an empty pistol! And thus ended a fierce battle, with
Pleasants as the victor, although he had been at a big disad-
vantage; he had been taken at the start entirely by surprise;
he was one man against three; he had only five shots to his
enemv's six; his right hand was disabled at the outset, whereby
he was compelled to make the fight only with his left hand. A
man who could come off victor in a desperate encounter like
that must have some "sand." Mr. Pleasants has resided in
beautiful Santiago canyon ever since that memorable adventure,
which occurred over forty years ago. Some five years before
that time, or in 1857, Juan Flores, the leader of the formidable
robber band which murdered Sherifif Barton and several mem-
bers of his posse, near Capistrano, was captured on the top of
one of the highest mountains of the Santiago range and brought
to Los Angeles and hung by the people on the side of the hill
not far from our new county jail. It is needless to say that
there is no place in either Los Angeles or any county where
more peace and quiet prevails, nor where life and property are
more secure, in recent years, than in romantic Santiago canyon.



(Sept. 20, 1883.)

Editor of Los Angeles Herald :

Believing it might interest some of your readers, I furnish
for publication a list of the foreign colony in Los Angeles city
and district, of date of May 23d, 1836. I find it in the Los An-
geles archives in the Supervisors' room — Vol. I — ^and it is in the
handwriting of the late Don Manuel Requena, first Alcalde of the
city, for that year, and is to be found in a blotter of his official
correspondence, which is full and complete from January to
December, 1836. There should be added Abel Stearns, but his
name is not there, as he was a naturalized Mexican citizen, and
held the office of Syndico that year. Thomas Fisher, known as
"Negro Fisher," one of six who were captured from Bouchard's
crew of the ship's pirates or privateers, who burnt the town of
Monterey and the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, A. D., 1818,
and had been a servant of the Lugos from that date, and probably
was considered to have become a Californian. He was a native
of New Jersey, then about fifty years old. Also Michael White,
recently deceased, a native of England, probably absent at that
date. Of those 49 persons there is but one living — Col. J. J.
Warner — who will complete a residence of 54 years in California
if he lives until December 5, 1885. In that list are the names of
N. M. Pryor, Richard Laughlin and Jesse Ferguson, who with
the two Patys, father and son, were the first white men who came
to California by land. They started from New Mexico with a
company commanded by Captain Yontz, on a trapping expedition
down the Gila river, in the winter of 1827-28, and parted from
Yontz's company on the Gila, built two canoes and trapped down
the Gila and Colorado rivers until they reached the Pacific ocean,
up the Ensenada, and from there they came to San Diego on
foot. The elder Paty died in San Diego soon after his arrival,
and the son returned to Kentucky, of which State they were all
natives. Pryor and Laughlin died in this city and their sons still
live on their fathers' places. Ferguson died in Lower California,
leaving no children. Juan Domingo, the solitary German whose



name appears in the list, died in 1858, leaving sons and a daugh-
ter in this city. His German name was such a jaw-breaker to
the natives that they turned it into Juan Domingo, in English,
John Sunday.


Age Native of


Luis Vignes 60

Morris Carver 31

John J. Warner 28

John Temple 39

Carlos Baric 29

Jean D. Mayen 29

Nathaniel Pryor 30

James McPherson 50

Charles Hall 27

Manuel D. Olivera 29

Luis Bauchett 49

Juan Domingo 38

Isaac Williams 38

John Marsh 32

Richard Laughlin 34

Samuel Prentice yj

Alexander Sales 29

William Wolfskill 39

Daniel Ferguson 30

Victor Prudon 27

Daniel Rice 25

John Davis 40

Jesus Ferguson 32

Juan L. Braun 31

Pierre Romero S3

Albert Fernando 27

Jose Feviru 30

James Dobe 22

Luis A. Tolmayes 22

Pedro Cornelero 30

Frank Hiyarez 29

William Gwinn 35

James Johnson 36

William Chard IS

Jonas Bailey 29

Lemuel Carpenter 22

Alexander Dunn 29

Thomas Luse 25

William Bailey 26

John Ray 25

Joseph Gibson 44

Thomas Tole 24

Bernabel Costo 36

Jordan Pacheco 50

Juan B. Laudry 31


United States
United States
United States



United States


TTnited States




United States
United States
United States
United States
United States
United States



United States


United States



Great Britain .






St. Domingo .


United States
United States
United States
Uniteu States
United States


United States
United States




Italy . . . . .

183 1
183 1



(Read before the Pioneers.)

The history of the early California "gold rushes" has never
been written. In the flush days of California gold mining, life
was too strenuous to waste time in writing the current history
of events that seemed unimportant then. If the rumor that
started the rush proved a fake, the disgusted miners pocketed
their disappointment and kept silent. If it resulted in the dis-
covery of rich diggings, it was their policy to conceal the fact
lest too many came to share their good fortune.

The gold rush — that is, a rush to unknown and unexplored
regions on a rumor that rich deposits of the precious metals
abounded there — did not originate with the early California
miners. It is as old as civilization. Ulysses and his Argo-
nauts were o& on a gold rush when they set out to find the
golden fleece of Phryxus' ram. The myth of Quivira and its
king, Tartarax, who adored a golden cross, sent Coronado
and his four hundred gold hunters on a weary tramp across
deserts, mountains and plains.

The fabled island of California, peopled with Amazons
whose arms and the trappings of the wild beasts they rode were
of pure gold, lured Cortes and his followers into a gold rush
that ended like many a one since has — in death and disaster.
Myth and mystery have always been potent factors in incit-
ing a gold rush. Credulity is one of the strongest motive pow-
ers in moving humanity, whether it be exerted in promoting
a gold rush or successfully launching a get-rich-quick scheme.

One of the first of the famous California gold rushes was
the quest for Gold Lake. The myth of a Lake of Gold is al-
most as old as our knowledge of America. Away back in the
days of Cortes and Pizarro there was a wide-spread legend of
El Dorado and a Lake of Gold. On the table lands of New
Granada, in South America, lived a people known as Chibchas.
They were more advanced in civilization than the Incas of
Peru. They possessed populous cities, paved roads and pur-
sued varied industries. They made golden ornaments and im-
ages, and used gold for a circulating mediumi in trade. Among


these people existed a strange custom. Once a year the ruler
or cacique was annointed with an adhesive ointment and gold
dust thickly scattered over his nude body until he literally be-
came a gilded man. Then he was rowed on a raft to the mid-
dle of Lake Gautivita, into the waters of which he plunged un-
til freed from his glittering robe. In the center of the lake
was supposed to dwell an enormous serpent. The glittering
dust was a propitiary offering to appease the avarice of the
demon who dwelt far down in the depths of the lake.

The legend of El Dorado, which is a Spanish phrase, lit-
erally meaning "The Gilded," and contracted from "el hom-
bre dorado," spread far and wide throughout Spanish America,
and even reached Europe. It inflamed the avarice of the
Spaniards and expedition after expedition was fitted out to
search for the land of El Dorado and its Lake of Gold. Im-
mense sums were spent in the search, and countless lives sac-
rificed. Even the English became imbued with enthusiasm
and joined in the quest. Sir Walter Raleigh made four unsuc-
cessful attempts to enter the valley of the Orinoco, where he
supposed the kingdom of the Gilded Man was located. At
length Gonzalo Ximinez de Quesada, with a force of seven
hundred men, marching up the valley of Rio Magdalena, pene
trated the land of El Dorado and conquered its inhabitants.
Of the seven hundred men with whom he began his march,
only 180 were alive when the conquest was completed, and the
brave Chibchas were almost annihilated. To foil the Spaniards
they sank their golden images and ornaments in the waters
of the sacred lake.

During the reign of Philip II an attempt was made to drain
the Golden Lake Gautivita, but the undertaking was not suc-
cessful. A few golden images and ornaments were his reward
for an immense outlay. The glittering dust washed from the
gilded bodies of numberless caciques in long ages past lay
deep down in the lair of the demon of the lake. Such is the
legend of El Dorado. How many who use the phrase know
its origin?

The Indians dwelling around Coloma at the time of Mar-
shall's discovery had a similar legend of a Lake of Gold inhab-
ited by an aquatic monster. Far up among the fastness of
the Sierra Nevadas, according to this myth, was a lake whose
sides were lined with gold, and the cliffs that lifted above it
glittered in the sunlight, but in its waters dwelt a horrible mon-
ster who devoured all that came near his abode. No Indian


ever bathed in the waters of Gold Lake. Some romancing miner,
catching fragments of the Indian myth and conveniently leav-
ing out the demon of the lake, told as a fact the story of the
discovery by the Indians of a Lake of Gold, The story passea
from one to another and grew in size and more elaborate in
details as it traveled. Then the story of the discovery got into
the papers, and with that reverence for whatever appears in
print that possesses us, people said the story must be true; the
papers say so; and then the rush was on. The center of the
excitement was at Marysville, but it spread all over the north-
ern mines. I quote from an editorial in the Placer Times of
June 17, 1850. Under the heading, "Gold Lake," the editor
said: "We were inclined to give only an average degree of
credit to stories that have reached us during the past few days
of the unprecedented richness which that locality (Gold Lake)
has developed. A few moments passed in Marysville last Sat-
urday convinced us that there is much more reality in this last
Eureka report than usually attaches to such. In a year's ex-
perience of local excitement from the same cause we have seen
none equal to that which prevails in that town.

"The specimens brought into Marysville are of a value from
$1500 down. Ten ounces is reported as no unusual yield to
the panfull, and the first party of 60, which started out under
the guidance of one who had returned successful, were assured
that they would not get less than $500 each per day. We were
told that 200 had left town with a full supply of provisions
and 400 mules. Mules and horses have doubled in value and
400 were considered no more than enough for a start.

"The distance to Gold Lake was first reported 200 miles.
It hes at a very considerable elevation among the m.ountains
that divide the waters of the south fork of Feather river from
the north branch of the Yuba. The direction from Marysville
is a little north of east."

In the Placer Times of the i8th the editor, under the head
line of "Further From the Infected District," says: "On the
arrival of the Lawrence (steamboat) yesterday from Marysville,
we received more news of the Gold Lake excitement. It prom-
ises tO' spare no one. It is reported that up to last Thursday
2000 persons had taken up their journey. Many who were
working good claims deserted them for the new discovery.
Mules and horses were almost impossible to obtain. Although
the truth of the report rests on the authority of but two or three
who have returned from Gold Lake, yet few are found who


doubt the marvelous revelations. The first man v^ho came
into Marysville took out a party of forty, as guide, on condi-
tion they paid him $ioo each if his story was verified, even of-
fering his life as a forfeit for any deception. 'A second guide
has left with a much larger party, who are to give him $200
each, and the same forfeit — his life — if there is any deception.

"The spot is described as very difficult of access, and it is
feared many will lose their way. A party of Kanakas are re-
ported to have wintered at Gold Lake, subsisting chiefly on the
flesh of their animals. They are said to have taken out $75,000
the first week.

"When a conviction takes such complete possession of a
whole community, who are fully conversant of all the exaggera-
tions that have had their day, it is scarcely prudent to utter a
qualified dissent from that which is universally unquestioned
and believed."

The Sacramento Daily Transcript of June 19th says:
"Places of business in Marysville are closed. The diggings
at Gold Lake are probably the richest ever discovered. A story
is current that a man at Gold Lake saw a large piece floating
on the lake which he succeeded in getting ashore. So clear
are the waters that another man saw a rock of gold on the bot-
tom. After many efforts he succeeded in lassoing it. Three
days afterward he was seen standing holding on to his rope
and vainly trying to land his prize."

The Placer Times of July ist gives the denouement of the
rush : "The Gold Lake excitement, so much talked of and
acted upon of late, has almost subsided. A crazy man comes
in for a share of the responsibility. Another report is that
they have found one of the pretended discoverers and are about
lynching him at Marysville. Indeed, we are told that a demon-
stration against that town is feared by many. People who have
returned after traveling some 150 to 200 miles say that they
left vast numbers of parties roaming between the sources of
the Yuba and Feather rivers."

After all the definiteness of its location and the minuteness
of details in regard to it; the Kanakas living on the flesh of
their steeds and piling up $75,000 a week on its shores; the
man who rescued float gold from its bosom, and the other man
who lassoed the massive nugget far down in its crystaline wat-
ers; the guides who had been there and who placed their lives
as a forfeit against falsehood — after all these and more, Gold
Lake was a phantom, a fake, a figment of an Indian myth.


It is a good illustration of the marvelous capacity that peo-
ple have for believing what they wish and hope may be true.

We laugh at the phantom chasing of early days, the wild
rush for Gold Lake, the mad scramble to Gold Bluffs, the search
for the Lost Cabin, the weary quest for the Padre's mine and the
pursuit of other igne^ fatui that have deluded honest miners
and sent them chasing over mountains and across deserts af-
ter illusions; and yet it is not strange that such things occurred.
The interior of California m the days of '49 was a terra incog-
nita — an unknown land.

There was a common belief among the early miners that
the gold in the streams came from mother lodes far up in the
mountains. For ages the attrition of the elements had disin-
tegrated these quartz lodes and the floods had floated down
the streams gold dust and nuggets. Could the mother lode
or lead be found, the fortunate finder would chip off a few tons
of gold-bearing quartz, pulverize it, extract the gold, and re-
turn to the States to the girl he had left behind him — a multi-



George Huntington Peck, A. B., A. M., class of '37, Uni-
versity of Vermont, and son of Almira Keyes and John Peck,
was born in Burlington, Vermont, March 4, 18 19.

He entered the University of Vermont in August, 1833,
being a little over 14, not any too well prepared, and at an age
much too early for his own good, or to cope with one of the
severest curricula of any college in the United States. The
aggravation of the position was increased from the fact that
college life in those days was all study and comparatively no
play; i. e., there were no athletic amusements so necessary for
the development mentally as well as physically, for young stu-
dents. As a consequence of these deficiencies, organic pains
and weaknesses, now readily understood, but which seemed
beyond the ken and control of the physicians of nearly seventy
years ago, found the subject of this notice at his graduation not
strong, as he should have been, but instead a chronic invalid
and a martyr to pains. To obtain relief through change of air
and scenes, he, in the summer of 1838, made a cod-fishing voy-
age north through the Straits of Belle Isle, and as far as the
Esquimaux Moravian missionary settlements of Okak and Naim
on the Labrador coast. The winter of 1839-40 was spent in
the Island of Santa Cruz, Danish West Indies, and in touring
through the West Indian Islands of St. Thomas, Porto Rico,
Hayti, Jamaica and Cuba. In 1841 Mr. Peck was admitted
to the bar and began practicing in Burlington. But the re-
sult of the unfortunate college experience forced him from a
growing and profitable law business to active sea life. From
December, 1842, to 1846, he followed the sea as a sailor before
the mast, visiting in this capacity southern ports of the United
States, several of the West Indian Islands, Rio Janeiro and
England. Returning to Vermont, he spent the three follow-
ing years in the mercantile business and in water cures. On
the first of December, 1849, he landed in San Francisco, Cal.
In the same month, with partners, he began farming near Al-
viso, about fifty miles south of San Francisco. They were the
first California farmers of the pioneers of '49- In May, 1850,
he was the first person established in San Francisco as a pro-
duce merchant, hay being $200 a ton, cabbages $1.50 for a

Online LibraryHistorical Society of Southern CaliforniaAnnual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and of the Pioneers of Los Angeles County (Volume yr.1902-1904) → online text (page 18 of 29)