T. A. (Theodore Augustus) Barry.

Men and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 online

. (page 7 of 15)
Online LibraryT. A. (Theodore Augustus) BarryMen and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 → online text (page 7 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


street. His saddle and bridle were Mexican,
gorgeously caparisoned with jingling silver, pol-
ished with care and glittering in the sun. He
had learned the luxury of polished understand-
ing; and if anybody would place a two bit
piece in his mouth, straightway he would march
to the bootblack stand on the southwest corner
of Kearny and the Plaza, drop the money into
the hand of the operator, put one hoof upon the



126 MEN AND MEMORIES

boot-rest, quietly note its polishing, and when
finished, raise the other, gravely wait its manip-
ulation, then walk directly back to his master's
office. His ponyship seemed to derive especial
enjoyment from this maneuver; whether from
the polish on his hoofs, or the prevalent custom
of trying to see how much money he could
spend, we do not know, but as two bit pieces
were plenty, and the pony was always ready, he
might often be seen as we have related.

Three years ago, Mr. Blleard, who was revisit-
ing San Francisco, told us that the old pony
was still living in his paddock in St. Louis,
stone blind, and just able to walk across the
ground, whinnying feebly, and rubbing his nose
against his master' s hand whenever he came to
look upon his faithful old servant and companion.

Everybody in San Francisco knew the signal
for a side-wheel steamer; and about the time
one was expected with the mails, men used to
come to their store doors and look up at the
signal-house on Telegraph Hill, right in the line
of Montgomery street. The signal for the side-
wheel steamer, was like two outstretched, up-
lifted arms — two long, black boards, one on
each side of the long, black signal pole.

Everybody knew this signal, and knew that



OP EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 127

the P. M. S. S. Go's steamers were all side-
wheelers, and citizens were so delighted to see
the signal of " tidings from home,' ' that it was an
understood thing for men to suspend all busi-
ness, and take a drink, in the pleasurable ex-
citement of anticipation. A crowd at once
besieged Adams & Go's ofBce, impatiently-
waiting Ben. Moulton, Jo. Broderick, or Billy
White, with the letter-trunk, and never were
particular about the change in paying postage,
so pleased were they with a letter in the well-
known handwriting. Now-a-days, it would be
difficult to make men, never similarly situated,
understand the excitement created by the sig-
nal for a side-wheel steamer. One night "The
Hunchback" was being performed at the Amer-
ican Theatre. 0. Thorne, Senior, was " Master
Walter." The house was crowded in every
portion. The play had progressed to where
"Julia" has quarreled with " Glifford," and
" Master Walter," just hearing of it, comes in,
all excitement, and walks to the centre of the
stage. The actor's figure, dressed entirely in
black, stood in bold relief against the white,
flower-spotted scenery representing the draw-
ing-room walls. Throwing up his arms, long
and black, he exclaimed, " What does this
mean?" " Side-wheel steamer," roared an im-



128 MEN AND MEMORIES

mense voice from the gallery. The effect was
electrical. Shouts of laughter and round upon
round of applause interrupted the play for some
minutes.

A little way below the Cathedral, on Cali-
fornia street, are two old fashioned, wooden
houses, of many rooms and halls, and narrow
stair and passage ways, and unexpected angles,
nooks and corners. Twenty years ago these
houses were the aristocratic boarding-houses of
the city, where dwelt Governors, Chief Justices,
U. S. Land Commissioners, Commanders of the
Army and Navy, and U. S. Coast Survey, law-
yers of eminence, bankers and merchants, and
beautiful, fashionable and accomplished ladies.
The house nest the Cathedral was kept by Mrs.
Leland, and the other by Mrs. Petits. Neither
money nor pains were spared in making com-
fortable the guests in these dwellings. There
was- an atmosphere of enjoyment, a cordial,
friendly intercourse, among those who assem-
bled at the dinner-tables, spread so bountifully
there, from '49 to '56, which made very pleasant
hours for the guests then, and pleasant in the
recollection of to-day, with many middle-aged
ladies and gentlemen.

The gentler sex were rare in those days and



OP EAELT SAN FEANCISCO. 129

accordingly worshiped, petted, feasted, courted,
and constantly the recipients of costly tokens
of regard from admiring acquaintances, eager
for the society and humanizing influences from
which California's isolation debarred them.
The loveliest girl of to-day in San Francisco
would open wide her eyes at the homage which
was laid twenty years ago at the feet of very
commonplace ladies — ladies whose school-girl
days were a long way back in the perspective
of life' s road. The fair ones of those days,
many of them, found in San Francisco fortunes
as rich as the toiling miner unearthed far up in
the mountains. We know, among our aristocracy
of San Francisco, wealthy dames who were pretty
servant girls in years gone by; one in parti-
cular, who was a nurse-maid in one of those
wooden houses of which we have been writing.
Neither did we ever know anything but good
of them; nor do we ever meet them without
feeling glad of the good fortune which is theirs.
There is a man whose face is familiar to us,
and to all who frequent the business haunts,
who excites a different sentiment whenever we
meet him. Several years ago he was a day la-
borer for a man who was engaged in successful
business in this city; who lived in his store, and
slept there ; frugal, temperate and industrious,
9



130 MEN AND MEMORIES

gradually accumulating sufficient to make a
home for his wife and little ones, then far away
in another country. One morning his store was
not opened as usual, and, upon investigation, the
neighbors found him dead in his bed. It was
known that the departed never had done any
banking — keeping his money hidden somewhere
in his premises. It could not be found; but
the man in his employ, who never had any
means of acquisition, save his daily wages, never
sought employment elsewhere, but very soon
after his employer's demise loaned several thou-
sand dollars upon valuable improved property;
and from that day to this he has been among
the capitalists of San Francisco. No one is his
associate. He walks the streets as if seeking
something upon the- pavement. His manners
are morose, or spasmodically gay — plenty of
money, but never a day' s happiness !

Another: a large holder in a certain richly
remunerative stock. He is the trustee for the
property of a deceased friend' s child. For years
he has, by every possible means, kept from its
rightful channel a large part of the constantly
increasing income, diverting to his own coffers
another's property. In the eyes of the busi-
ness community he is one of our most respect-
able citizens; in his own estimation, an unhappy
thief.



OF EAELT SAN FEANCISCO. 131



CHAPTER XIII.

We were at a wedding the other evening in
the Starr King Church, Rev. Dr. Stebbins,
Pastor. The sight of the pretty bride made us
more fully realize the flight of time, than any-
thing that has occurred to us in our California
life; because we remembered, as if it were only
one year ago, the day the bride was born, and
remember our taking a congratulatory glass of
wine with her father. She was born on board
a storeship in this harbor twenty years ago. It
was very comfortable, living on a storeship in
those days, and rather an enviable situation.
The cabins were fitted up in the cosiest and most
convenient way; there was no fear of fire, as
with those ashore ; no dust ; and if callers were
coming, they could be observed at some con-
siderable distance in the approaching boat, and
received without any inconvenience or the em-
barrassments incident to deshabille or the surprises
of city life. There were many storeships then,
and where they were anchored seemed a long



132 MEN AND MEMORIES

way out in the harbor; but to-day rows of ware-
houses stand where the old dismasted hulks
floated with their stored merchandise.

How many men now living in all the glory of
soup, fish and three courses daily, from the
artistic hand of a chef, can well remember the
pie, doughnuts and coffee they took with a royal
relish, at the stand in the old ship Apollo, on
Battery street.

Two bits for a cup of coffee ; two bits for a
piece of pie ; or if hunger and economy were to
be considered, two doughnuts for a quarter of
a dollar. Hardly anybody said "two bits" or
quarter of a dollar in those days. It was "tZo.s
reales!" " cuatro reales ! " "un.peso!" Kearly all
the new comers had either crossed the Isthmus
or came by the "Horn," stopping at old
Spanish cities en route, picking up sufficient
de la lengua to ask for anything tliey wished to
purchase. This coffee stand was made by
cutting into the Apollo's hull, just under the
cabin windows, and many a man who stepped
ashore from his long, weary voyage, took his
first meal in California at this place.

The proprietor afterwards built a commodious
store for general merchandise at the corner of
Battery and Sacramento streets, then the extreme
end of Howison's Pier, where in honorable trade
he accumulated an independence.



OP EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 133

The men are still plentiful who like to tell of
landing on the beach between Long Wharf and
Jackson street ; of seeing the water at very high
tide, reaching to the west line of Montgomery,
near the coruer of Jackson street.



l^From the Alta Calfornia.]

The old Niantic Hotel is a thing of the past — it has
been torn down and carted off piecemeal. Tester-
day the floor were "turned up," much to the gratifi-
cation of the Micawber Convention, wh"ich has been
in daily session at the corner of Clay and Sansome
streecs since the work of demolition commenced.
The principal object of interest is the hull of the old
ship Niantic, which formed the foundation of the
building, and a portion of which is now plainly visi-
ble. The old hulk has lain there for over twenty-two
years, and many old San Franciscans distincty re-
member the time when she was used as a storeship
until the fire of May, 1851, which left nothing but
the charred hull of the old vessel. The Niantic was
an English ship, and sailed from Liverpool to Valpa-
raiso about a quarter of a century ago. In the latter
port she was purchased by Moorhead, Whitehead &
Waddington, a Chilian merchant firm. They refitted
the vessel and sent her to Panama, in command of
Captain Cleveland. She reached that port about
April, 1849, just when the California gold fever was
at its height, and people were flocking from all parts
'of the world. The Niantic was at once billed for San
Francisco, and in a few days after she sailed with a
cargo of tropical produce and 248 passengers, arriv-
ing in this harbor on the fifth of July, 1849, after a
voyage of sixty-eight days. Within a week after her



134 MEN AND MEMORIES

arrival the crew deserted, in accordance with estab-
lished usage, and the old ship was left anchored idly
in the stream — a useless "elephant" on the hands of-
her consignees, Cook, Baker & Co. A few months
later she was sold to parties here, who hauled her
close in shore, near what was then the foot of Clay-
street, and there she has lain snugly ever since. After
the May fire, in 1851, the building since known as
the Niantic Hotel was erected. It was first leased by
L. H. Eoby (who committed suicide some two years
ago), under whose management it secured the reputa-
tion of being the best hotel in the city at the time.
In 1851 Eoby sold out to a man named Johnson, who
kept the hotel a short time, and sold out to Daniel
Parrish in 1852. While Parrish kept the hotel one
of his boarders was arrested on a charge of stealing
a very large sum of money. He was convicted and
sent to the State Prison for a term of years, but the
stolen money was never recovered, although it was
supposed at the time that it was secreted somewhere
about the hotel, and diligent search was made for it.
P. T. Woods, who had been clerking for Parrish,
bought his employer out soon after the event above
referred to. He did a thriving business and made
money — so much, in fact, that when he settled up and
' ' vamoosed " for parts unknown, those who knew said
that he carried with him more money than he took in
while "running" the Niantic Hotel.

N. H. Parkell next leased the hotel, and while he
was in possession the convict one day entered the
hotel office, said that he had bu]"ied a lot of money
beneath the doorstep, and asked to be permitted to
dig for it. Four or five feet of sand had been thrown
over the place where the thief said that he had buried
the money. But although it was all removed, the
money was not found; and_ although the laborers
lately engaged in pulling down the house searched
diligently, it could not be found. Parkell continued
the lease till 1864, when he transferred it to Miss



OF EARLY SAi^ rRANCISCO. 135

Mooney, sister of Assistant Engineer Con. Mooney,
and she continued as landlady of the house down to
the last moment of its career.

Charles L. Low is owner of the lot, and he pro-
poses to erect forthwith a handsome and substantial
four story brick building. The lower floors will be
occupied by fruit and produce markets, the second
story by printing-offices, and the third and fourth
stories for various purposes. Having carefully
stored his mind with the foregoing facts, any person
will be fully qualified to mingle with the Micawbers
and play himself off for an old forty-niner.

The Niantic storeship, at the corner of
Clay and Sansome streets, was burned on the
fourth of May, 1851. Upon its site the Fiantic
Hotel was erected, which stood until 1872, when
it was torn down to make way for stores built
by the owner of the land, Mr. 0. L. Low. The
Niantic Hotel was erected upon the ruins of the
old storeship, without digging any cellar. When
the excavation was made for the cellars of the
new building, many relics of the fire of '51
were unearthed. The old hull at the time of
the fire was imbedded in the mud some eight
feet or more below the water line. At this line,
after the conflagration, the debris was cleared
away and the floor timbers of the hotel laid,
covering and keeping safe from public knowl-
edge, stowed away in the remnant of the old
hull, thirty-five baskets of champagne and many



136 MEN AND MEMORIES

other articles on storage, "^^venty-one years on
storage! We have not learned whether any
bill for this has been sent to Mr. Van Brunt;
but the wine was placed on storage by that
gentleman and his partner at that time — Mr.
Verplanck. Their store was on Sansome street,
adjoining the Niantic. The wine was the
Jacquesson Mis brand — a superior wine, very
popular in California, where dry wines are
always preferred. This long buried wine was
found — or rather the bottles were found — in
most remarkable preservation ; the wires, and
even the twine, being in better condition than
many shipments just off the voyage from France.
Champagne deteriorates after the third year;
but this wine had been so completely covered
as to be almost excluded from the air, and some
of the wine effervesced slightly on uncorking,
and was of very fair flavor.



OP EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 137



CHAPTER XIV.

In 1849, previous to taking the house on
California street, above Kearny, Mrs. Petits oc-
cupied the house standing on the spot where
the Merchants' Exchange now stands, on Cali-
fornia street, below Montgomery. The guests
at this house were the leading men among the
mercantile and professional class, and it was
esteemed a privilege to obtain quarters there.
The house stood at some distance from the
street. After it was destroyed by fire, the Baron
Terloo, a Russian nobleman, built two houses
on this lot.

The house afterwards built on the southwest
corner of Leidesdorff and California was called
"The Cottage." Ellen Moon was the landlady.
The adjoining house was kept by Mrs. Manning.
Mrs. Moon was from Australia, and the wife or
widow of an English shipmaster. The first time
we saw her, she reminded us of the landlady of
the "Green Dragon," in Martin Chnzzlewit ; nor
do we ever think of the landlady of the "Green



138 MEN AND MEMORIES

Dragon" now without seeing the person of Mrs.
Moon. She was the personification of neatness.
"There 'were roses in her cheeks — aye, and
worth gathering, too ! ' ' This quotation — Dick-
ens' remark upon Mrs. Lupin's appearance —
came to mind the moment we saw her. The
place had a cosy, comfortable air — real English
— and the wines, liquors and ale in her bin
needed no bush. The end and aim of her exist-
ence seemed to be somebody else's happiness and
comfort, and self-abnegation. After leaving
this place she opened the "Ivy Green" on Mer-
chant street, which she kept until her death.
Many who wore phylacteries upon their fore-
heads, and from their lofty, social pinnacle
looked a long way down upon Ellen Moon, will
lift their vision high as Dives' to look upon her
in the world where deeds outweigh the words
of Pharisees.

"We have all heard of the party of miners who
found an old bonnet on the road in '49, and
simultaneously, without a word, dropped pic'ks,
shovels and rockers, clasped hands, as if by pre-
concerted signal, and capered in an amorous,
laughing ring, around the cast-off head dress.
We remember the day, when a woman walking
along the streets of San Francisco was more of



OF EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 139

a sight than an elephant or giraffe would be to-
day. Men lingered to see them pass, crowded
to the wharves when they arrived, and followed
them along the streets to the,ir dwellings, and
stared out of countenance the house's front.
We were in Riddle' s auction rooms one day, at
a crowded sale, when, in a momentary pause of
the auctioneer's voice, some one shouted, " Two
ladies going along the sidewalk!" Instantly
the crowd of purchasers rushed out, pell-mell,
swarming the street so suddenly, and in such
numbers, that the unconscious objects of the
commotion were startled with the impression
that fire or earthquake had come again.

Judge S told us that when he arrived in

1849, and walked up from the ship, with his
wife and several little children, men crowded
about the children, asking permission to kiss
them, to shake hands with them, to give them
gold specimens out of their chamois skin sacks,
or a little gold dust to make them rings, or
something for an ornament, following them a
long way, as if fascinated by the sight of their
child faces and voices. Mr. and Mrs. George

W , who kept a very select boarding-house

on Clay street in the early days, told us of a
similar experience with their children. The
boys and girls of San Francisco in that time,



140 MEN AND MEMORIES

who were not spoiled, were remarkable children.
The sight of their faces touched tender places
in the hearts of men, divided by a continent' s
breadth from their own little ones ; and to give
other children toys, money, or something for
their happiness, was a natural impulse, however
questionable as to ultimate results.

When the Custom House, oil the corner of
'California and Montgomery, was destroyed by
the fire of May 4th, 1851, the treasure saved in
the brick vault was removed to the bank of
Palmer, Cook & Co., corner of Washington and
Kearny. A guard, a la viilitairej composed of
the Custom House of&cials, armed and equipped,
under the command of T. Butler King, Collector,
escorted the revenue money from the ruins of
the Custom House to the bank, "in due and
ancient form." This action of the Collector
excited much ridicule and many newspaper
squibs, and brought forth a comic ode, satirical
of T. Butler King. To those well informed
upon the numbers, character and proceedings
of the professional burglars, murderers and
thieves infesting San Francisco, the action of
the Collector in guarding so thoroughly the
G-overnment money entrusted to him, was laud- '
able and praiseworthy in the highest degree.



OF EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 141

We remember that while the Custom House
boys were standing in the street awaiting the
opening of the vault, Captain Macondray, who
happened in the neighborhood, said: "Well,
boys, suppose we go over to the 'Blue Wing,'
and join in a universal drink, before the army
takes up its line of march?"

Tom Harvey replied: "The motion is in
order," and George Bromley said: "So mote it
be!" and the Captain's hospitable offer was car-
ried into effect. This "universal drink" was a
favorite expression of the Captain' s, Avhen
offering hospitality to any numerous gathering.
All the residents of that time knew Captain
Macondray, his kind face and welcome smile,
his sparkling eye and short, curling hair, his
compact figure, and the firm, honest grasp of
his hand.

One of the familiar objects of San Francisco
was Captain Macondray on his black, pacing
horse, a sleek, easy-moving nag, with four white
feet. Erect in his saddle, his gray, felt hat,
with the rim caught up close against the crown
each side, a la chapeau militaire — moving about
in all the business streets, the Captain's face
and form were ever pleasant to the eyes of his
fellow-citizens then, as now is the memory of
his sterling virtues.



142 MEN AND MEMORIES

The old signal station on Telegraph Hill was
a very important feature in the days when those
long, black arms stretched out to tell thousands
of anxious husbands, fathers and lovers that the
steamer, bearing news of hope and happiness, or
of the death of loved ones, was then in sight.
How that signal for a "side-wheel" (the mails
were brought only on the side-wheel steamers) —
how it did wake tip the street! All along the line
of stores were men out upon the walk, their
faces all turned in one direction, looking at the
signal. They couldn't do any business after a
sight at those well-known, outstretched, up-
lifted arms, almost human in their welcome
significance. "Come in, bye and bye!" the
merchant would say to his customer; "the
steamer is telegraphed!" "What!" (with de-
lighted surprise) ; "didn't know that !" and the
would-be buyer left in a hurry. The idea of
news from wife, children or sweetheart to a
man, thirty days' distance away, made him ig-
nore business at once.

The old telegraph-station was a place of much
resort. It was attractive from its associations,
and it was good exercise to walk up there, and
the view repaid the trouble. There were good,
generous, refreshing milk-punches to be had
in the room beneath the look-out on the roof.



OF EARLY SAN FRANCISCO. 143

where privileged visitors could ascend and use
the telescope. Without a telescope, to-day, it
will be very interesting to any man who knew
San Francisco twenty years ago — yes, ten years
ago — to walk up to the hill-to]o and "view the
landscape o'er.' ' There are thousands of men
in San Francisco who have not been to the
summit of Telegraph Hill in eighteen years, nor
will our eloquence coax them to attempt it;
but it is really worth the trouble.

Mr. Bradley (now of Bradley & Rulofson), the
daguerrean — there were no photographers in
those days — practised his art on the west side
of Montgomery, between Washington and Jack-
son. His prices were from eight dollars up-
wards, according to the size and style of the
portrait and frame. The courteous artist was
hardly allowed time to breathe, much less to eat,
or take a moment's rest for a day or two before
the departure of a steamer. Californians were
so anxious that their friends in civilized coun-
tries should see just how they looked in their
mining dress, with their terrible revolver, the
handle protruding menacingly from the holster,
somehow, twisted in front, when sitting for a
daguerreotype to send "to the States." They
were proud of their curling moustaches and



144 MEN AND MEMORIES

flowing beards ; their bandit-looking somlreros;
and our old friend Bradley accumulated much
oro en polvo, and many yellow coins from the
private mints of Wass, Molitor & Co., Moffatt &
Co., Dubosque, and Baldwin & Co. Mr. Bradley
appears just the same to-day (at Bradley &
Rulofson's) as he did twenty-three years ago;
wears the same conventional silk hat, so seldom
seen in those days — so universally worn now;
the same quiet black suit ; and his hair and beard
were almost as silvery then as now. Keither has
he altered in the urbanity and unvar3dng courtesy
which made him so popular and filled his purse


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryT. A. (Theodore Augustus) BarryMen and memories of San Francisco, in the spring of '50 → online text (page 7 of 15)