Seventy-five Years in San Francisco
The Hudson’s Bay Company was a commercial corporation existing under charter granted by Charles II in 1670. During the first half of the nineteenth century it had posts and stores for trade with Indians and trappers at Astoria, Fort Vancouver and other points on the Columbia. The head agent, residing at Vancouver, was given the title of “governor.” In 1821 McLoughlin was appointed governor for the company of all the country in the Oregon Territory west of the Rocky Mountains.
In the spring of 1841 Governor McLoughlin (who was a large man) and his suite came from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post on the Columbia River in the bark Cowlitz to Yerba Buena for the purpose of establishing a post of the company at this point. The governor was also called Dr. McLoughlin. He was talkative and companionable. The four or five gentlemen who accompanied him were also large men, of refinement, and appeared to be men of prominence. They purchased a portion of a block of land, with a house, from Jacob P. Leese, bounded by Montgomery Street on the west, Sacramento on the south, Clay on the north, on the east coming near to the water mark of the bay. [This is an error. Leese sold the Hudson's Bay Company the Easterly two thirds of the block bounded by Kearny, Sacramento, Clay and Montgomery Streets. If the word "east" be substituted for "west" Davis' description may stand.] They purchased four fifty varas, being two-thirds of the whole block. The house was a large wooden two-story building occupied by Leese and his family. The price paid for the property was $4,800, half in coin and half in goods. The Cowlitz remained about two weeks at Yerba Buena, and then the governor and his party left in her for Monterey, and proceeded thence to their post on the Columbia River. The building was not given up by Leese until the arrival of William G. Rae, son-in-law of Dr. McLoughlin, from the Columbia River post, with a large stock of goods in the Cowlitz. He opened the new post in September, 1841, and took possession of the property. The goods were sent from England to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s station on the Columbia and then transshipped here, the vessel going to Monterey to make entry at the customhouse. Rae made use of the building for a store; he kept a large miscellaneous assortment of English goods, and the company traded in the same way that other merchants did on the coast, sending out their little launches and schooners to collect hides and tallow about the bay, and to deliver goods, and they did a good business until the death of Rae in January, 1845. They had no large vessels trading up and down the coast.
Rae was a Scotchman, tall and handsome, and much of a gentleman. His weight was at least 230 pounds. I became intimately acquainted with him, and have played whist at his house many times until daylight. He was fond of this game, a skillful player, and always selected me for his partner, as he considered me a good player also. We sometimes bet a real (equivalent to twelve and a half cents) each on the result of the game—never more than this sum—which was bet in order to make the game more interesting.
One evening there were three sets of gentlemen playing whist in Mr. Rae’s rooms, he and I being partners as usual. During one of the games I saw by a significant look from him that he had a poor hand and that he rather conceded the game to our opponents, to which I assented. As the game proceeded, I had only two hearts in my hand, the ace and the king; I deliberately threw away the king, which seemed to astonish him, as I saw by a kind of dry smile on his countenance. This trick was my partner’s already, but as I could not follow suit I played the king of hearts and thus enabled my partner to use his cards to advantage, and when hearts were played afterward my low trumps secured other tricks, and the game was decided in our favor. This greatly delighted Rae, who expressed his unbounded satisfaction, and so emphatically that all the playing in the room stopped and his enthusiasm created general hilarity. He said to the other gentlemen that this movement of mine in the game was one of the best conceived that he ever witnessed, and complimented me highly for my skill. If he had just made $10,000 by some lucky stroke of business he could not have been more delighted.
The games of whist and twenty-one were favorite amusements of the people in those days, and generally indulged in, there being no public amusements of any kind. Rae had with him his wife, the daughter of Governor McLoughlin, and two or three interesting children.
The other third of the block containing the Hudson’s Bay store was owned by John J. Vioget, a Swiss, who lived there and had a kind of public house, with a billiard room and bar, which at that time was the only place of resort for the entertainment of captains, supercargoes, merchants and clerks of the town. He had also occasional visitors from the ranchos whenever they came to town to make their purchases and transact business. Among these visitors was Don José Joaquín Estudillo, of the San Leandro rancho, also a large man, but not so tall as Rae. He weighed at least 220 pounds.
One day Rae, Estudillo and a number of others happened to be at Vioget’s house, which was a sort of exchange or meeting place for comparing notes on business matters, talking over affairs in general. At the same time a little amusement was perhaps indulged in. Some were chatting, some smoking, some playing billiards, and presently Rae challenged Estudillo to a contest at wrestling, to prove who was the best man. The challenge was accepted and they stood up facing each other; on the word being given, they came together and Rae was immediately thrown, to his great amazement. At the second trial he was thrown again, and this was repeated a third, fourth and fifth time, until Rae frankly acknowledged that his opponent was the better wrestler and he himself was fairly beaten. He remarked that he had at length discovered that a Spaniard was as good or better at a wrestling match than a Scotchman, whereupon the crowd burst into loud laughter. He invited us to join him in a glass of wine.
Rae was much respected. He was liberal to those less favored by circumstances than himself, frequently giving little presents to persons who came to his store of things most needed by them. His table was always finely supplied with the best of everything, and he had a generous sideboard and entertained a great deal of company. He and Spear were the chief entertainers. There being no hotels at that time, the hospitalities of the town devolved mostly upon these two gentlemen. The captains, supercargoes and other strangers were always welcome at Rae’s house, and it was a pleasure to him to entertain them. He had the true California nature and feeling in this respect.
Rae had a clerk named Robert Ridley, who was a regular English cockney, a good-looking fellow. He married the daughter of Juana Briones, the first settler at North Beach. He was singular and comical, and was considered the funny man of the town. Everybody knew him, and he was popular and liked by all. He knew everyone’s business, was the news carrier and gossip of the place, and was at home in every house. He imagined he was a ladies’ man and at times stirred up a little excitement among the feminines. He was a great teller of extravagant stories—a regular Munchausen—and withal was considered the life and fun of the place.
I met him one fine spring morning between seven and eight o’clock. “Bill,” said he, “how many London Docks do you suppose I have taken already before breakfast this morning?” “About a dozen,” I answered; “your usual allowance.” “I can discount that,” said he; “I have taken twenty-three!“—and he was apparently sober at the time.
Rae told me the same day that two large decanters filled with dark English brandy on the sideboard in his dining room had been emptied, and he accused Bob of having drunk the contents, which the latter acknowledged having done, astonishing as it may seem. Like most Englishmen, he was not easily affected by this habit, and it was for a long time a question whether King Brandy should rule or Bob; but finally his strong English constitution yielded to the superior authority of the former, and poor Bob died more than twenty years ago at the Mission Dolores.
The business of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post was quite successful up to January, 1845, when it was discovered that Rae was unfaithful to his wife, having succumbed to the fascinations of a California lady. Upon this becoming public, Rae, who was a sensitive man, was so overcome with mortification and disgrace that he shot himself. After his death the British vice-consul, James Alexander Forbes, took possession of the post, and was instructed by the managers of the general post on the Columbia River to close out the business of the company at Yerba Buena as soon as practicable. This was done in the course of a few months, and the land and house sold to Mellus & Howard for $5,000. They afterward opened a commercial establishment there, using the building as a store, and in the winter of 1849-50 this building was converted into the United States Hotel, which became a popular resort.
In 1841 the squadron in command of Commodore Charles Wilkes visited the Columbia River on an exploring expedition, the fleet consisting of the United States sloop-of-war Vincennes, which was the flagship, the sloop-of-war Peacock, commanded by Captain Hudson, and the brig Porpoise, Commander Ringgold. In going into the Columbia, across the bar, the Peacock was lost, and became a total wreck, but the officers and crew were rescued and taken on the two other vessels. Sailing thence, after the completion of their work on the Columbia, the Vincennes and Porpoise arrived in the bay of San Francisco in July and anchored off Sausalito. Soon after, the numerous boats of the vessels were prepared for the survey of the Sacramento River. Commodore Wilkes headed the party, and they were engaged for about two months in exploring that river and some of its branches. During the survey they frequently visited Captain Sutter, and I have often heard the officers speak of his hospitality to them at his establishment on the Sacramento. They also made some surveys of San Francisco Bay, remaining here until October.
Commodore Wilkes was not a man to impress a stranger favorably at first sight, being rather severe and forbidding in aspect, not genial and companionable, and not popular with his officers, though they gave him credit for being very thorough in his discipline and duties, and there is no doubt he was a great explorer and a thoroughly scientific man. He was an indefatigable worker and accomplished a great deal, but, unlike other distinguished commanders who visited the coast, he was not given to sociability and had no entertainments on board his vessel, although several were given by his officers, who were a genial set, fond of enjoyments. I partook of their hospitality on several occasions and had a very pleasant time.
Wilkes was visited by General Vallejo and his brother Captain Salvador Vallejo, on board the Vincennes, and the general was received with a salute and all the naval courtesies due to the commander-in-chief of the forces of the department of California. He was also visited by Governor Alexander Rotcheff, of the Russian American Fur Company at Fort Ross, and I afterward heard Rotcheff say, when speaking of his visit to Wilkes, that he took great interest in this exploring expedition. In his visits to Spear, which he made frequently, he told us with enthusiasm of his listening for hours to Wilkes and his officers in their accounts of their visits to the South Sea Islands and other parts of the globe, and their descriptions of the habits, manners, character and mode of life of the natives. Some of the officers of the squadron visited Rotcheff at Fort Ross and were handsomely entertained by him during their brief stay. It was sixty or seventy miles from Sausalito to Fort Ross, and to enable the officers to get there conveniently Rotcheff sent down a number of his finest horses, with a vaquero, to take them up, having adopted the Spanish fashion of herding horses in caponeras and being well furnished with fine stock. He returned the officers in the same way after their visit. Some of these navy officers also visited General Vallejo at Sonoma and were entertained by him very agreeably.
The supplies for the wardrooms of the two vessels while in port were obtained from Spear, and as I was his active business man I became well acquainted with the officers. I found them fine fellows, full of life and ready for any enjoyment that came along. They would sometimes send over a boat for supplies in the morning and address me a line saying they would be over in the evening, a dozen of them or so. Meanwhile I would dispatch a boy out to my friend Guerrero, the subprefect, at the Mission Dolores, asking him to send me a dozen horses and saddles, which he would kindly do. If there were not saddles enough, I made them up in town. When the party arrived in town about dusk, the horses would be ready, and, mounting them, we rode out to Guerrero’s house. The young men and women in the neighborhood were invited in and we would have a little dance, the party generally lasting till morning. The young fellows from the ship enjoyed it highly after their long life at sea.
Commodore Wilkes seldom came ashore at Yerba Buena, being a very busy man, and when not engaged in surveying outside was industriously occupied on the vessel in working out the results of his explorations and surveys and recording them.
Spear appreciated Wilkes’ labors, and the commodore took quite a liking to him and invited him to dine on board the vessel several times, and they had several interviews. Spear had great respect and admiration for the commodore, which was reciprocated by him; whenever he found a man who could understand and appreciate his work, which was everything to him, he became more affable and companionable than with others.
Wilkes more particularly esteemed Spear from the fact that he was an American, and one of the first American settlers on the coast, having come here in 1823; and also from the fact that he had done a great deal through his correspondence with friends in the East to inform the United States government of the great resources and future importance of California, describing minutely its climate, soil, productions and commercial advantages. His principal correspondent was his brother, Paul Spear, a wealthy druggist of Boston, who communicated through friends in Washington this information to the authorities. Spear also predicted to me and others that at some future time mineral discoveries of importance would be made here.
These efforts of Spear to make the advantages of California known to the government, and his views and opinions in regard thereto, greatly interested Wilkes, and he commended him warmly for what he had done in that direction. Spear was the first merchant who established himself on shore in California, first at Monterey, afterward with a branch at Yerba Buena, to which place he went later himself.
Governor Alvarado, who felt very grateful to Spear for the aid he had given him in his younger days, and with whom he always maintained a cordial friendship, often suggested to Spear that he should become a Mexican citizen, and urged this upon him repeatedly, in order that he might bestow upon him a grant of eleven leagues of land, which was the extent allowed by law, and which grant could only be made to a citizen of Mexico, and he assured him that he would be most happy to do this if Spear would only comply with his suggestion; but Spear persistently refused to renounce his allegiance to his own country, which he honored and loved too much to wish to change his nationality, even for so tempting an offer, although many Americans and other foreigners had done so for the purpose of obtaining grants of land from the Mexican government. During their friendly intercourse the governor would sometimes say to Spear, “Don Natán, it is only a question of time when this country will belong to your government. I regret this, but such is undoubtedly the ruling of Providence”; or something to that effect.
Spear told me that in his conversations with Wilkes in visiting him on the vessel the commodore expressed himself repeatedly as more than delighted with the bay of San Francisco and the Sacramento River and said there was no question as to the future greatness and importance which would ensue when the bay and the other commercial advantages of this territory were availed of. He said that California would surely belong to our government at some time in the future. It was understood, and was in fact stated by Wilkes to Spear, that the chief object of his visit to California was to obtain and report accurate information in regard to the bay of San Francisco to the government at Washington, with a view of future acquisition. Wilkes, on being informed that Mofras had been the guest of Spear while stopping at Yerba Buena, was greatly interested, and inquired carefully and particularly about Mofras’s visit to California, asking Spear for all the details of his movements here and his conversations. He was particularly anxious to know if Mofras ever divulged that the French government had any designs or intentions in regard to the bay of San Francisco.
In my visit to the officers of the vessels the conversation in the wardroom would frequently turn upon the bay of San Francisco, and they often declared their admiration and said that in all their visits to other parts of the world they had seen nothing to equal it. The more they became conversant with it in their surveys the more they were impressed with its importance, and they would sometimes exclaim, “This is ours!” referring to the future, when the United States government should hold possession of this part of the country.
During my early residence here, British men-of-war came to the coast and to the bay of San Francisco about once a year or so, remaining two or three weeks at a time, touching also at Monterey and sometimes going north to visit the British possessions. They generally landed at Sausalito, at which point they replenished their supplies to some extent. Captain Richardson, owner of the Sausalito rancho, an Englishman, was a social man and very obliging, and he made it pleasant for them to go there. He supplied them with wood from his ranch, also beef, and allowed them to procure water from the springs on his place. It was the impression among the foreign residents here, especially the Americans, that these visits of British government vessels had some significance; that they called here under instructions from the British government, to observe, in a quiet way, the bay, the surrounding country, its facilities, the people, the probable resources of California, and to note whatever was going on, with some view to the future possibility of England’s obtaining possession. American men-of-war came here more frequently, in the same way, and stopped several weeks at a time. In fact, there was nearly always a United States government vessel either at Yerba Buena or Monterey, or somewhere in the neighborhood, often more than one, up to the time when the country came into our possession.
It was the impression then, and doubtless the fact, that the American war vessels were sent for the purpose of keeping an eye on the vessels of other nations, particularly the British, as bearing upon the future of California; and in my intercourse with the commanders and officers of the United States government vessels they expressed to me their suspicion or fear that the English had designs upon the country, and the hope that they would not be permitted to anticipate any movements our own government might contemplate, and get ahead of us in securing an advantage in California.
In Spear’s interviews with Wilkes when he visited him on board the Vincennes, the commodore freely conversed with him about the future of the Pacific coast, and stated that the British government was the only power which the United States had cause to feel any concern about in reference to California and said further, that the United States squadron in the Pacific was specially instructed to keep an eye on the movements of the British vessels of war in this ocean, with a view of intercepting any movement that they might make looking toward securing possession of California. The commodore at this time showed that he had no special liking for the English, as was subsequently evinced in his memorable capture of Mason and Slidell from a British vessel during our civil war. In one of his conversations with Spear he said, with that frankness and freedom from reserve which characterized his speech with those in whom he felt confidence, “These Britishers shall never get possession of California. Our government is constantly on the alert to prevent any such design. We are their equal, and a little more, as has been proved in the past.” This greatly delighted Spear, who was a thorough American and longed to have the country come under the American flag. Wilkes also informed Spear that Thomas O. Larkin, afterwards our consul at Monterey, was specially instructed by the government authorities at Washington, through the secretary of state, to constantly advise the government of all the movements of the English on this coast.
During the visit of Wilkes’ squadron to the Fiji Islands, prior to coming to California, a chief of high rank had been taken captive in one of the fights which frequently occurred between the different tribes. The chief was held by his captors for ransom. Wilkes, being desirous of securing a Fijian to take home with him, paid the ransom in presents of such articles as he had on board his vessel to the captors, who thereupon released their prisoner, and Wilkes took him on board his vessel and brought him to California. He was a thorough savage and cannibal. In my visits to the Vincennes I frequently saw him. He was confined in a room of good size, in the forepart of the vessel, constantly guarded by a marine. He was a man of large and powerful frame, with rather a square countenance and a cunning look in his eyes, but not ferocious in his appearance and manner. He was very dark in his complexion, something between a negro and a Malay, and had a heavy head of hair, looking like an immense bunch of oakum—probably two feet in diameter from side to side and a foot high from the top of his head, giving him a very singular appearance. He seemed to regard this hair as sacredly as the Chinese do their pigtails, and when the officers of the vessel suggested that some of it be clipped off for the benefit of his health, he begged most piteously with tears in his eyes that they would not touch it, saying he would rather die, or submit to any torture or disgrace, than be deprived of it. When first taken he was of great size, weighing probably 250 pounds, but while imprisoned on the vessel he had become reduced to about 200. I once went into his place of confinement, and saluted him, and shook hands with him. He returned the salute with a kind of nod, showing some appreciation of the attention paid him. He was carefully and kindly provided for; everything was done that could be for his health and comfort, as the commodore was desirous of getting him to Washington; but his confinement wore upon him; he was impatient and uneasy, and I subsequently learned that he died on the voyage eastward after the vessel left here.
Captain Richardson repeated to Commodore Wilkes the tradition of the old Indian Monico with regard to the Golden Gate at one time having been closed and subsequently rent apart by some great convulsion of nature, making an outlet for the waters of the bay through to the ocean, and Wilkes became greatly interested in the matter. With some of his scientific corps, together with Captain Richardson, he went out to the Golden Gate in one of his boats to carefully observe the two points on either side; having become familiar with the bay in their surveys, which extended as far up as Alviso and the surrounding country, they could form an intelligent opinion in the matter. They said they thought it probable that the story of the old Indian was correct, and that the bay once found an outlet through the San Jose Valley into Monterey Bay. The botanist of the party, with whom I was quite intimate, particularly expressed his belief in the correctness of this theory or tradition. The commodore was so interested in the matter that he had the old Indian Monico brought on board his vessel by Captain Richardson, and questioned him closely all about it himself. Monico was treated with great courtesy on this occasion and was shown all over the vessel. The Fiji captive was also exhibited to him, and he regarded him with much interest and curiosity, especially as Captain Richardson explained to him that in his own country he was a great fighter; that after a battle between the different tribes the bodies of the slain were taken by the victors and devoured as a grand feast.
Commodore Wilkes had with him a full scientific corps, all the various departments covered by the expedition being represented in the ablest manner. Probably there never was sent out by the government a more thoroughly skilled and learned set of men. The regular officers of the vessels also were very well fitted for their work, highly capable, and were of great aid to the commodore in his labors. The first surgeon of the fleet, Dr. Holmes, I discovered in conversation was a distant relative of mine. When I told him of my grandfather and other relatives in Massachusetts I was treated with great attention. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the author, is of the same family, and was named after my grandfather, Oliver.
Captain Richardson, who had come here in 1822, was much liked by Wilkes, though an Englishman, inasmuch as he was a thorough sailor and pilot and well acquainted with the bay of San Francisco, and he was also an agreeable and obliging gentleman. He gave Wilkes a good deal of information about different parts of the bay, indicated points for examination and survey, and his suggestions were of aid to Wilkes and were found by him of much value. When the commodore was about to leave the bay of San Francisco for Monterey he requested Richardson to pilot the vessel out to sea. Richardson advised him not to leave on the day appointed, as there had been a strong southeast wind blowing, the bar was very rough, breaking almost across, and he thought it too hazardous. The commodore being of a very determined nature—headstrong, as Richardson expressed it—was not easily changed from his purpose when he had once made up his mind to anything. He said he would go nevertheless and asked Richardson to be on board at a certain hour. The vessels accordingly started, but on nearing the bar it was decided to come to anchor just inside, which they did. During their stay there, the swell of the sea swept over the Vincennes and broke loose and set in motion some spars on the upper deck, which killed two of the marines on board.
From 1835 to 1839 Captain Eliab Grimes, of Boston, was a wealthy merchant at Honolulu engaged in general trade. He imported his goods from Boston and sent out once a year from the Islands, for the purpose of hunting the sea otters on the coast of California, the American brigs Convoy, Loriot and Llama. They were owned by him, and commanded by Captain John Bancroft, an Englishman by birth but a citizen of the United States by naturalization. Bancroft lived at Honolulu. On these voyages the vessel first proceeded to the coast of Alaska, where she took on board from sixty to seventy of the native Indians as hunters, with their light skin canoes, and then brought them down to the coast of California, the favorite hunting ground being offshore between Santa Barbara and San Diego. They generally arrived there early in the spring and continued the work during the summer and until late in the autumn, when the season expired. They were always very successful in securing a large number of skins, and when the hunting was over the vessel returned to Alaska to leave the hunters and their canoes and proceeded thence to Honolulu. As these skins were very valuable, Captain Grimes and Captain Bancroft, the latter having an interest in the vessel and the voyage, became wealthy. Hunting sea otters on the coast of California without permission of the authorities was contrary to the laws of Mexico. Captain Bancroft had no such permission and was therefore violating the law; but as the government had no revenue cutters to enforce it, the offenders pursued their profitable occupation without interference.
In 1837 the government of the department of California bought of Captain John Paty a schooner of about a hundred tons named the California, but she was not fitted for revenue-cutter service, having only one or two small guns and being a slow sailer, and she was used chiefly to carry dispatches between Monterey and Mazatlán and San Blas, in communication between the department of California and the supreme government at Mexico.
Captain Bancroft married at Honolulu in 1836, and on the last voyage he ever made, in 1839, he was accompanied by his wife. In the summer of that year the brig Llama was lying at anchor at the island of Santa Cruz, off Santa Barbara, when one day the Indians, returning in their canoes from the hunt towards evening, collected around the vessel and Captain Bancroft spoke to them from the deck in their own language and inquired about their success for the day. Their report did not satisfy him, as they had not obtained the usual number of otters, and he began to talk severely to them, reprimanding them for their ill success, thinking he could say what he pleased to them. Upon this, they rushed on board the vessel in large numbers, pointing at him their loaded rifles with which they killed the otter, in the use of which they were expert, and commenced firing. He fell upon the deck. Meanwhile, his wife, who was in the cabin, and who always had more or less dread of these Indians, hearing the tumult above, hastened up; seeing her husband lying bleeding on the quarterdeck, and the Indians around him, she flew to the spot and fell upon him, covering his body completely with her own to protect him from his assailants. The assault continued, and she was severely wounded. Captain Bancroft died on the spot. The natives were quieted after a time, when the mate took command of the vessel and returned them to Alaska. He then sailed for the Islands with Mrs. Bancroft and the body of her husband, which was preserved, for burial at Honolulu. She survived but a few weeks after reaching her home, though attended by the best medical skill. Her life might have been saved had she consented to submit to a surgical operation which was proposed, but she declined to have it performed. After the tragic death of her husband she had no desire to live.
In the spring of 1839 there arrived in the bay of San Francisco from British Columbia a British vessel of war, the Sulphur, Edward Belcher commander, which anchored east of Yerba Buena. She was on an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Soon after the vessel dropped anchor Captain Belcher came ashore accompanied by some of his officers and called at Spear’s store and also at Jacob P. Leese’s residence. Captain Belcher stated to Mr. Spear that he would remain in the bay a few weeks and make some surveys of our miniature inland sea and the Sacramento River. The work of the ship while in the bay was never made known to anyone here, at the time, to my knowledge. She remained at Yerba Buena but twenty-four hours, and then departed for Sausalito, where she was anchored during the work of her boats around the bay and on the Sacramento River. Captain Richardson, owner of the Sausalito rancho, said but little or nothing in regard to Captain Belcher’s visit and his surveys of the bay and rivers.
At this early period, and several years before Wilkes’ exploring expedition, it would seem that England had her attention directed to the value and importance of the bay of San Francisco from its geographical position as the commercial center of the Pacific Ocean trade in the future.
The schooner Julia Ann, Captain William A. Leidesdorff, who is well known in the history of San Francisco, left New York about January, 1847, for the coast of California through the Straits of Magellan. J. C. Jones, former United States consul at Honolulu, who owned the schooner, left New York sometime afterward in a sailing vessel to meet the Julia Ann at Panama. He proceeded to the Isthmus on the Atlantic side, crossed to Panama, and expected to find the vessel there on his arrival, but was compelled to wait sixty days before she appeared.
During her passage through the Straits she encountered many delays and perils, having almost constant head winds and being in great dread of the Indians, who were cannibals and who swarmed about the vessel in their canoes, a little distance off, apparently waiting an opportunity to pounce upon the schooner and capture all on board. A constant watch was therefore kept up to prevent such a calamity. They finally got through the Straits and were greatly relieved to find themselves beyond the reach of the savages. They arrived at Panama just as Jones was about chartering another vessel to take him up the coast, thinking his own must be lost. Robert G. Davis, a brother of mine, was a passenger on board the schooner; also John Weed, of a very wealthy family of New York, who took the voyage for the benefit of his health. My brother had a stock of merchandise aboard for sale on the coast. She arrived at Monterey in June, 1841. This was Leidesdorff’s first visit here.
In January, 1842, I left Nathan Spear and took passage on the ship Alert, Captain Phelps, to Monterey, and there found the bark Don Quixote, Captain John Paty. As soon as we were anchored Paty came on board and was surprised to see me. He wanted to know what I intended doing, or where I was going on the Alert. I told him that Robert and I were going to visit John C. Jones at Santa Barbara and would wait for the Don Quixote for a passage to Honolulu. The captain set his wits to work and prevailed upon me to return in the Don Quixote as supercargo. He made me a liberal offer which I accepted, although with some regret as my mind was made up to see Santa Barbara and to enjoy a much desired vacation after four years’ active service in the employ of Nathan Spear. We came to Yerba Buena, remained here a few weeks trading around the bay, and I made very successful sales and collections for Paty. On leaving here we proceeded to Monterey. About the last of February we sailed from there for Honolulu with a cargo of hides and otter and beaver skins, which we disposed of on reaching there, and purchased a full cargo of goods for the market of California.
These goods had been brought principally from Boston and New York, and some from England, France and Germany. There was only 5 per cent duty on foreign goods imported into the Islands in those days, and Honolulu was a depot where the ships brought their goods from different parts of the world, and from there they were sent out to supply the whole western coast of America; points in California, the Columbia River, the British and Russian possessions north, and also to Mexican ports.