Seventy-five Years in San Francisco
William D. M. Howard belonged to a respectable family of the city of Boston. In his youth, getting himself and his companions into mischief of one kind or another, his mother hoped to subdue and cure him of his wayward tendency by sending him to sea before the mast, in the ship California, Captain Arther, bound for this coast.
The good captain had compassion on the lad and after they had got to sea took him as cabin boy, in which capacity he arrived at Monterey in the early part of 1839. The vessel proceeded thence to San Pedro; and Howard became clerk for Abel Stearns, who was then a merchant at Los Angeles, the first of the foreign merchants and doing a large business. Alfred Robinson or Henry Mellus, and perhaps Captain Arther, used influence in getting Howard into this position. The young man had become docile by his sea experience and applied himself diligently to his new labors, having a bright and active mind and showing indications that he would make a successful merchant. In 1840 he went home, via Mexico, to see his relatives, and returned here in 1842 with Captain Arther, of the vessel he first came in. The ship touched at Honolulu on her way to California. Aboard, as a passenger, was a young lady, Miss Mary Warren, the daughter of Major William Warren, of Boston. During the voyage young Howard became enamored of the young lady, who was pretty and fascinating. They were married at the house of Captain Grimes while the vessel remained at Honolulu, and the bride and groom came to Monterey in the ship, after a stay of a few weeks at the Islands.
Reaching Monterey about this time in the Don Quixote, I met my friend Howard and was introduced to his wife. During the visit, Howard surprised me by announcing a discovery he had made that we were second cousins; that his mother was a niece of my father; and that the name of my family was his second given name. He made me a present of a work called Day and Night, in two volumes. The California proceeded down the coast, trading, and the Don Quixote came to Yerba Buena.
Before this second trip of the California, she had been sold by Bryant & Sturgis to William G. Read, a capitalist of Boston, by whom she was loaded and sent out, with three supercargoes: Captain Arther, Captain Clap, who commanded the Alciope when she was here in 1840, and William D. M. Howard. They did not get along very harmoniously. Captain Arther, though an excellent navigator and ship master, was not much of a business man, neither was Captain Clap; but Howard, with a natural aptitude for business, had profited by his experience with Stearns in 1839 and ‘40, in developing business capacity, and was the chief supercargo. The others were jealous of his superior ability. The cargo having been disposed of, the vessel returned to Boston with hides, but Howard and his wife remained at Los Angeles. Read had written to Howard meantime that he would dispatch to him the Vandalia, of four or five hundred tons. The ship arrived here in the latter part of 1843. Howard, being sole supercargo, traded up and down the coast (sometimes taking his wife with him), and sold the cargo at a good profit for the owners. In 1846 he sent the vessel back to Boston with hides, otter and beaver skins, and other furs.
The vessel, while in the harbor of San Francisco, entertained many of the ladies at impromptu receptions. Howard often joined them in philopena—sharing with them double almonds, the one calling out “Philopena” first, on their next meeting, being entitled to a present. It cost him a good many pairs of gloves, and other articles, to discharge these obligations.
In 1845 he formed a co-partnership, under the style of Mellus & Howard, with Henry Mellus, who for several years had been employed by Boston merchants as agent and supercargo. The business of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Yerba Buena having been terminated by the death of Rae, the premises occupied by that company were purchased by the new firm. Late in 1848 they built a new store on the southwest corner of Clay and Montgomery streets, abandoned the Hudson’s Bay building and took Talbot H. Green, a new partner, into the business. Then the style of the firm was changed to Mellus, Howard & Co.
Howard was a bold operator, liking to do things on a grand scale—sometimes rather reckless in his purchases, but generally successful. Henry Mellus was the best merchant in town, he having been thoroughly educated in business. My store in 1846 and 1847 was on the northwest corner of Clay and Montgomery streets. Howard was accustomed to late suppers, and often after I had retired for the night at Kent Hall he would rap at my door and call out that I must come over and have supper with him, persisting until I complied. Going across to the store, we feasted on turkey, chicken and champagne, or whatever his larder afforded; talking, laughing and enjoying ourselves for two or three hours, sometimes with other company.
The American flag was hoisted in 1846, and the town was placed under martial law. Watson, captain of the marines of the American man-of-war Portsmouth (Commander Montgomery), was in charge, with a corps from the vessel. The flag was raised on what is now Portsmouth Square. A guard was stationed at the Mexican customhouse, an adobe building on the square. The Californians made no resistance to the raising of the flag at various points in the department; but some weeks afterward they decided to oppose the complete surrender of the country. At Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Jose, attacks were made upon the little guards of soldiers there stationed, and they were driven away. News reaching Yerba Buena, the remainder of the marine corps on board the Portsmouth was sent on shore, making a force of twenty-five. The opposition of the Californians led to the preparations by Commodore Stockton and the battle of San Gabriel, which will be spoken of hereafter.
Howard, myself and a few other merchants were furnished by Watson with the countersign, which was changed every night. We were out on a visit one evening, and were crossing Portsmouth Square, on the way home, about eleven o clock, when we were hailed by the guard on duty: “Halt! who goes there?” “Friends,” we answered. “Advance and give the countersign!” commanded the sentry. We advanced, but both Howard and myself had forgotten it. We explained our position. The guard said he was obliged to take us to the guardhouse, which he accordingly did, armed with his musket, one of us on each side of him. Fortunately, Captain Watson was still up, and, on seeing us approach under arrest, burst out laughing. He dismissed the guard and entertained us very hospitably for two or three hours. Howard was a capital mimic. He often personated the peculiarities of others in a good-natured way; was a fine actor, and very successful in playing practical jokes on his friends. If Grimes flew into a rage over the practice of some of these artifices, the former used his mirth and persuasive abilities with success in calming down the old captain.
Robert Ridley, in 1845, built a one-story cottage, with a piazza round it, on the southwest corner of California and Montgomery streets, back about twenty varas (fifty-five feet) from each of the streets. He sold this place to William A. Leidesdorff, who lived there from 1846 to the time of his death in May, ‘48. In the summer of 1847 Commodore Biddle arrived from China in the line-of-battle-ship Columbus, and was the guest of Leidesdorff. While he was there, Don José Joaquín Estudillo with his wife and two daughters, and myself, called to pay our respects. As we approached the house from the Montgomery Street side and passed the pretty flower garden which Leidesdorff had at the time, we were met by him and the commodore. The latter, seeming to be in a playful mood, presented each of the ladies with a miniature bouquet of two or three flowers plucked from the garden; to me he presented a single dry straw picked from the ground.
Upon the death of Leidesdorff, Howard was appointed administrator of the estate, with two bondsmen, each in $50,000, of whom I was one. Howard then took possession of the cottage as a residence, and occupied it up to the beginning of ‘49. While there, he received a good deal of company—merchants, captains, supercargoes, army and navy officers and other strangers. Mrs. Howard came up from Los Angeles, where she had been spending considerable time, a daughter being born to her there, and joined her husband at the Leidesdorff cottage in 1848. She left San Francisco in January, 1849, by the American ship Rhone for Honolulu, hoping to secure in the Islands the restoration of her failing health, but she died in three or four months after her arrival, while staying with the family of William Hooper, the United States consul.
In the autumn of 1849 Howard was married again, the bride being Miss Poett, daughter of Dr. Poett, who, with his wife, had resided many years in Santiago, Chile, where the young lady was born. They came to California in ‘49. Before the marriage he had purchased a house and lot on the northeast corner of Stockton and Washington streets. It was there he was married and afterward lived, until 1851, when he moved to Mission Street between Third and Fourth and built one of four cottages—of similar design and appearance, the others having been constructed, one by George Mellus, one by Talbot H. Green and one by Sam Brannan. Howard had by his second wife one child still living (1899). His first child died at Los Angeles.
Mellus, Howard & Co., in 1848 and ‘49, after the discovery of gold, did an extensive and profitable business. They had a branch store at Sutter’s Fort, with Sam Brannan as partner and manager (he having no interest in the San Francisco house), and sold goods and supplies of all kinds to the miners. The business at Brannan’s branch store required continuous supplies from the San Francisco house, and he would sometimes come to the city and nearly empty my store and the stores of others, buying everything we had.
E. Mickle & Company were a mercantile house established in San Francisco since 1848. They came here from Valparaíso. A master of a ship consigned to this firm, during his stay in port, obtained several grants of fifty-vara lots from the alcalde. Two of these lots were located on what is the easterly line of Montgomery Street between Sacramento and California streets. Previous to his departure, the ship captain gave to the head clerk for E. Mickle & Company a letter of instructions regarding the lots. Shortly afterward, the agent put up a large notice on a board placed on a knoll near the center of the property, stating that it was for lease.
Samuel Brannan leased the land and after occupying it for about a year the firm of Osborn & Brannan built a store on a portion of the property. The store was situated on the first fifty-vara lot from Sacramento Street and about twenty feet back from the east line of Montgomery Street. Brannan’s firm was then doing a large business as merchants. Brannan subsequently purchased from the owner’s agent both lots for $9,000 in gold dust, and a deed of conveyance was duly executed to him by the agent. The purchaser then improved a portion of the property with fine buildings.
Ten years later Brannan sold twenty-five feet on Montgomery Street, where the old bank of Donohoe, Kelly & Co. afterward did business. The purchasers did a large dry-goods business there for several yards. When they finally closed up, they wished to divide their property but could not agree upon the valuation of land they had bought from Brannan. In view of this, they concluded to offer it for sale at public auction so that each of the partners could bid for it what he thought proper. It was so offered, and purchased by one of the partners. Investigation of the title was made by O. C. Pratt and Alexander Campbell, senior, forming the legal firm of Pratt & Campbell, who discovered that Brannan’s title was merely one of possession, as the clerk of E. Mickle & Company from whom he had purchased had had no legal authority or power of attorney to sell. This great difficulty was gotten over by Brannan’s attorney obtaining a deed from the original owner, then residing in Wisconsin, by payment of a further sum of money. Brannan paid his attorney a large fee, said to be $50,000, for his services in this transaction in addition to the expenses of himself and his assistant. But it was worth fully that amount, for it saved Brannan a much larger sum.
The incident above related shows the loose manner in which real-estate transactions were handled in the early days in this city. Litigation arising from land titles was common.
Brannan’s confiding disposition and carelessness in business is shown in the following: A person named Charles E. Norton, who had resided many years in Mexico, was on a visit to San Francisco. Through Norton, Dr. Hitchcock, Ferdinand Vassault and others purchased the Baratén mines in Cosalá. Norton made his headquarters in Vassault’s office, where he had a number of beautiful specimens of gold ore. Some of his acquaintances from Mexico would come to see him there, and they told Vassault that they had several valuable mines in their country which they desired to sell. On one occasion Brannan came in, made the acquaintance of the Mexicans, and had a long talk with them about the mines they claimed to represent. Brannan invited them to visit him at his office several days later, when he would talk further with them. After several interviews with the Mexicans, Brannan told Vassault that he had made up his mind to buy two, and possibly three, of the mines they claimed to own, adding that if he did make the purchase he would like Vassault to take an interest in them with him. It was agreed that they should meet the Mexicans at Brannan’s office, but when Vassault arrived, Brannan informed him that he had already agreed upon the price to be paid for the mines, namely $200,000, of which $10,000 was to be paid down to bind the bargain. Brannan was to make an investigation within a given time, and if everything was as represented the balance of the purchase money would then be paid.
On the table of his private office there were several samples of beautiful ore represented as having come from the mines bargained for. Vassault examined them carefully, and, calling Brannan aside, told him that the Mexicans were dishonest and warned him not to pay them any money. He informed Brannan that while examining the specimens of ore lying on the table his suspicions had been aroused.
Vassault then picked up one of the specimens and, showing it to the spokesman for the Mexicans, asked if the rock in his hand had actually come out of one of their mines. The man answered in the affirmative. Vassault did the same with all specimens, and received the same reply. Calling Brannan out of the room, Vassault requested him to let the matter rest until the next day, but Brannan declined, saying he had the documents for the purchase prepared and the check drawn, and that he wished to close the business that afternoon. Vassault then asked Brannan to excuse himself from the Mexicans for a half hour, which was done, and the strangers retired. Vassault then told Brannan that the specimens were his, that they had been given to him by his friend Charles E. Norton, and that they had been stolen from his office three days before. When the Mexicans returned to Brannan’s office at the end of the half hour, they were ordered to leave it, and thus ended the attempted swindle. Vassault saved Brannan from a loss of at least $10,000.
During the French intervention in Mexico, at the time Maximilian was being supported by them, Brannan assisted President Juárez and his supporters, furnishing them with arms, ammunition and supplies. For this he was afterwards paid $40,000 in money by the Mexican government, and also given a large tract of land in Sonora. This land was of no benefit to Brannan, however, for it was situated in the Yaqui region where the Indians were hostile to the government, so that Brannan was unable to take possession of his grant.
Samuel Brannan, when himself, was liked by everyone who knew him. He was kindhearted, confiding and generous to a fault, and always ready to open his purse for the relief of the needy. He had a sort of bluntness toward poor people who called upon him for assistance, and would ask questions regarding their necessity, but invariably ended the interview with a generous gift and the remark: “Come again if there is further need of my assistance.”
There is hardly a man who has done more for the city of San Francisco or the state of California than Samuel Brannan. He laid out the city of Sacramento, and was the first to project a railroad from that city to a distance of about twenty-eight miles. He had the rails and ties at Sacramento and was about to commence work when Messrs. Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins and Crocker prevailed upon him to sell them the materials for their own project, the Central Pacific Railway.
Brannan likewise laid out the town of Calistoga, and developed the springs there, making known their medicinal qualities. He was the publisher of the first newspaper in San Francisco, the California Star, which he started in 1847. This paper was later united with the Californian, first published in Monterey and brought to San Francisco in May, 1847. The two were afterward issued united, becoming the Alta California.
Without fear of contradiction I may say that Samuel Brannan was one of the most public-spirited men in San Francisco and that his hand and heart in the early days were in every enterprise for the promotion of education and the general prosperity of the state of his adoption.
Don Victor Castro, in addition to raising cattle and vegetables, was a boatman. He owned a schooner launch and a whaleboat. The latter he had obtained from one of the whaleships in exchange for vegetables. This whaleboat of Castro’s was the only ferry that connected Yerba Buena and Sausalito, socially and commercially, with the opposite or eastern shore of the bay, known in early days as Contra Costa.
Of course, the hide shippers ran boats on the bay, but only for the delivery of merchandise or in search of cargoes of hides and tallow. The merchants of Yerba Buena also had their boats for the same purpose.
Cerritos, a part of the San Pablo rancho, was a sort of terminus for travelers coming to or going from the eastern shore until as late as 1850-51, when the steam ferry began making trips from San Francisco up the San Antonio Creek or estuary.
Don Victor was kind and obliging to his callers. He entertained them as guests at his home while his boatmen were making ready for the row across the bay. Obadiah Livermore, who died here a few years ago, was one of his boatmen in the winter of 1849-50. When Castro was unable to go himself Livermore took his place and landed the passengers on the San Francisco side. This very whaleboat of Victor Castro’s has carried matrons and their daughters to and from the early festivals held in San Francisco commemorative of the natal day of Mexico and that of her sister republic. I have partaken of the hospitality of Don Victor and his lovely wife, Doña Luisa Martínez, often. Like all early Californians of Spanish extraction they were generous to a fault. I have tried to reciprocate the kindness of Señor and Señora Castro, and whenever they came to San Francisco they were entertained at our home by Mrs. Davis. who was a niece of Doña Luisa.
I was the guest of Abel Stearns at Los Angeles when, one very warm morning before six o’clock. I was awakened by a knocking on my bedroom door, which opened on a wide piazza and courtyard, by a young, good-looking vaquero of Spanish extraction. As I opened the door he said, “El caballo está ensillado; es un animal muy bueno para el camino.” (“The horse is saddled, and he is a very fine animal for the road.”) I made my toilet quickly and was mounted shortly on a beautiful bay horse, sixteen hands high, lengthy in appearance, with head, ears, nostrils and neck worthy of being carved by a sculptor. I was soon out of the pueblo and on the highway to El Chino rancho As the sun rose over the mountains to the east its rays were hot and the horse sweated freely. Moving along at a steady gallop, I was greeted by the hacendados, then in the midst of the matanza and all customers of mine, with shouts of, “Cuánto tiempo va a demorar el buque en San Pedro?” (“How long will the vessel remain at San Pedro?’’) I would reply, “Dos semanas.” (‘‘Two weeks.”)’’ We will dispatch the wagons with hides and tallow for you the coming week,” they told me good-naturedly.
On this trip I collected or set in motion the wagons all along the route to San Pedro. Some of the rancheros would recognize me at a distance and, riding up to meet me, would say, “Your pay is ready and the hides and tallow will be sent in a few days more.” There were fat steers in the corrals, visible from my position in the road. These were marked for slaughter, and vaqueros were separating out others. Everybody was busy: trying out fat, curing hides, cutting up meat for drying. As I rode along I could see no evidence of change. It was too soon to look for the new order of things, for the government under American officials was less than a year in existence. After a canter of an hour or so I would walk my horse to give him a breathing spell, but the spirited animal was eager to reach the end of the journey and was restless to go from a walk to a lope.
I was riding through the rich valley of Los Angeles, in the month of August, 1847. The plains were covered with its moving wealth, some of which was being converted into currency, hides and tallow, to pay for the necessities imported. As I passed along I would ask a ranchero about the condition of the cattle. His answer would be, “The steers are fat and they will yield one with another six arrobas of fat at least. The year has been very grassy and good for slaughtering cattle.”
I arrived at the great hacienda—El Chino—an hour before midday, after a ride of forty miles, with the thermometer at one hundred in the shade. The noble animal was as strong and as gay as at the commencement of the journey. A sumptuous dinner was relished after my ride. At table were more than twenty persons, among whom was the family of the proprietor.
I took a great interest in the big establishment, receiving from the American hacendado every attention possible. His treatment of me was a reminder of the cordial receptions of the old Spanish hacendados. Don Julián—Isaac Williams was known among Californians by that name—offered me a fresh horse for my return, but my animal was fresh enough to take me back in lively style.
I found the enterprising man in the midst of his matanza, with more than a thousand steers slaughtered, the work to be continued until two thousand or more were killed. I observed with great interest the try-pots bubbling with the melted tallow and manteca, the latter the delicate fat that lies between the hide and meat of the animal. He was preparing this to add to the exports of the hacienda.
Isaac Williams informed me that he would start the wagons within two days with several thousand dollars of hides and tallow for my vessel at San Pedro. I reached Los Angeles before sunset after a very hot ride with the grand horse perfectly unfatigued. This shows that the California horses were originally from fine stock, and their endurance was really astonishing.
Isaac Williams was one of the first Americans to come to the department of California, and was known by the name of Don Julián from the similarity in sound of Williams to Julián in the ears of the Californians of that time. He gave as one reason of his coming here that he wanted to see the setting sun in the furthest West. He became the owner of several leagues of land and thousands of animals.
In June, 1846, Don Julián came on board my vessel at San Pedro, and I sold him a large quantity of goods, the payment for which was to be made in the following 1847 matanza. The Hacienda Santa Ana del Chino, containing eight leagues of land, was situated about thirty miles from where Pomona is now located. Don Julián’s home was built in the heart of a fertile valley in which were 30,000 horned cattle, sheep and horses. It seemed to me like a young mission with American ideas added to the ancient notions of improvements.
His income, say from twenty-five hundred steers killed, would be, from the tallow and manteca, at six arrobas to each animal, fifteen thousand arrobas or $25,000; add to this $5,000 for the hides, the amount would be $30,000. This is an illustration of the incomes of the hacendados, proportionate to the number of cattle they slaughtered at the matanza season, exclusive of the sales of cattle, horses, wool and sheep.
Isaac Williams was one of the best types of the early settlers who came from east of the Rocky Mountains to settle here. He was a man who stood at least six feet in height, of large frame, muscular and without much flesh. He was of commanding appearance, with a pleasant countenance. I do not think he had an enemy in Los Angeles County or in southern California.
The homes of the hacendados were generally large dwellings, one story in height, built of adobes, with very thick walls as a protection against the attacks of the Indians. The floors in the dwellings of the more wealthy class were planked, and the rooms were partitioned off in sizes to suit the requirements of the families and furnished with plain, neat furniture, generally imported from Boston. The homes of the poor usually had no flooring except the adobe soil, which had been stamped and pounded until it was as smooth and hard as slate and resembled it in color. These rooms were warm in winter and cool in summer. The buildings were erected on the general plan of the missions, with broad piazzas; a courtyard was entered through a wide passageway, protected by massive wooden doors.
Many of the hacendados lived in the towns in the winter months; but in the spring of the year their households moved to their country homes, where they generally remained until the autumn or close of the matanza season. During these times of dwelling at the haciendas, visits were received from the merchants, supercargoes and the residents of the towns. They were entertained in the most hospitable manner, with picnics in the daytime to some picturesque spot on the rancho, and in the evening a family baile was invariably heralded by the melody of the violin and harp. I have often been a guest at such gatherings, which were the sweetest part of my life, and thought these native Californians of Spanish extraction were, as a rule, as sincere people as ever lived under the canopy of heaven. I look back almost two generations ago to those merry days with pride and joy, at the kindness which I received and the manliness and simplicity of the welcome of the fathers of families, and the womanly deportment of their wives and daughters, and their innocent amusements.
When I arrived at the Stearns’s I went at once to my room and, without undressing, threw myself on the bed. It was not long before I was sound asleep. The servant came to my door and knocked and knocked to tell me supper was ready. He reported to Doña Arcadia that it was impossible to waken me. She herself came to the door and repeated the knocks, but the journey of eighty miles with the intense heat had overpowered my whole system. It would have taken a cannon blast near my bed to have gotten me up. At the breakfast table the next morning I made an apology to Señora Stearns, the good lady of the home, saying that it was not in my power to have complied with her rule for supper, assuring her also that I knew I had lost a fine meal.
One spring forenoon in the early ‘fifties I made a visit to San Francisco. I was living at San Leandro in Alameda County at the time. On the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento streets I accidentally met Captain John A. Sutter. Our greeting was most cordial and spontaneous, for we had not seen each other since January, 1845, in Los Angeles just after the Capitulation of San Fernando between Castro and Micheltorena which resulted from Micheltorena’s voluntary offer and determination to leave the department of California for San Blas, Mexico, with his army, as mentioned elsewhere.
The old captain said, “Let us go to some quiet place. There is a room in the rear of Barry & Patten’s resort where we will be away from the noise of the street.” Sutter was faultlessly attired and looked young and fresh. He ordered a nice luncheon with a bottle of Heidsieck, and as we ate and sipped the sparkling beverage we indulged in many reminiscences of our trip to the American River away back in 1839.
The subject of his conversation was his treatment by the early merchants of Yerba Buena and Nathan Spear, who had stood by him, especially the latter in the beginning of the settlement in the Sacramento Valley when the existence of New Helvetia, his colony, was in the balance. After the severe winter of 1839-40, the success of Sutter’s undertaking was assured. He had familiarized himself with the unknown wealth of the rivers in beaver and the valleys in elk, deer, bear and other fur-bearing animals. The tallow derived from the elk was an article of commerce and in good demand at two dollars the arroba. Beaver and land otter were plentiful in the streams and tule flats. There was a large Indian village of about one thousand on the present site of Sacramento. These Indians were converted mission aborigines, and they were expert hunters. Sutter soon learned of the richness of his possessions and at once set to work to utilize the skill of these hunters. The Indians proved a source of great revenue to the captain. They were paid by him so much a skin for their catch. In this and other ways Sutter emerged into prosperity and influence which was recognized by the merchants afloat and ashore, and the wealthy hacendados of the department. Sutter appreciated Spear’s faith in his integrity, and his ability as a leader, and sent him a large shipment of furs in payment for supplies which Spear had booked against the captain in his critical days, financially.
We talked and sipped, and sipped and smoked, and the subject turned to the discovery of gold. The Indians from a very early period had learned something of its value. This knowledge they had obtained from padres at the missions. It was from the rich finds by Indians and deposited by them at the missions that gold to the value of six or seven thousand dollars was obtained, which, placed in a fine silk purse made especially for the purpose, was sent to Rome as a present to the Pope, many years before the finding of the placer diggings in San Fernando Valley. Bishop García Diego, the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in California, was the donor.
The captain continued the story of his experiences of a score of years in the great Sacramento Valley and said that they were the happiest years of his life, because he had been in a position to do good to the immigrants and others in need, with plenty to give and no compensation to ask.
The Buri-buri rancho derived its name from an Indian tribe that inhabited the land between San Mateo and the puertezuelo of San Francisco. They also claimed the western shore of the Pacific Ocean as their fishing grounds. In 1838 the Buri-buri hacienda contained more than eight thousand cattle and numerous horses and sheep. It was the property of Don José Sánchez. His name appears elsewhere as a leader of military expeditions against the Indians.
Redwood City inherited its name from the forests of redwood trees growing among the hills to its rear. In former years under both Mexican and American rule there was a large trade from the embarcadero of Las Pulgas in redwood lumber. At first the timber was gotten out with primitive hand saws, but later saws driven by water and steam power denuded the sierra of its wealth and grandeur. These forests were first penetrated by the mission padres, Lieutenant Moraga, and a few soldiers. They saw a forest of timber suitable for the erection of the Mission San Francisco de Asís. Timbers, planking and boards were cut and prepared with primitive rip and crosscut saws by the bands of the priests themselves, aided by Indians. As fast as this lumber was ready it was hauled to the embarcadero of Las Pulgas (Redwood City) and San Francisquito (Mayfield) and transported to the embarcadero of Mission Creek in schooners and launches built by the padres.
Palo Alto, the home of the late Senator Stanford and the location of the great university bearing his name, takes its appellation from an ancient monarch of the forest standing near the bank of San Francisquito Creek. The base of this mammoth tree was a favorite luncheon spot with early-day wayfarers, and merchants engaged in trade for hides and tallow. I have partaken of my noon repast a great many times under the shade of its branches. The lunch generally consisted of well-prepared chickens, tamales, lambs’ tongues and hard-boiled eggs, with tortillas and fine white bread, and invariably a bottle of old mission wine.
In the mountain forests and on the prairie country in back of and on either side of San Francisquito Creek there were hundreds and hundreds of black, cinnamon and grizzly bears which roamed the country, living on acorns from the live oaks studding the flat lands. In the season of matanza, they feasted on the rejected meats of the slaughter of the steers belonging to the Santa Clara mission, the owner of the ground. At this season vaqueros and their masters amused themselves in the exciting night pastime of lassoing and strangling the brutes to death. Bears have been known to angle with their paws for live and dead fish in the waters of the Pacific Ocean on the western shore of San Mateo County.
Don José Joaquín Estudillo, father of Mrs. Davis, once told me that during one night he and ten soldiers from the San Francisco presidio, where he was stationed as an officer anterior to 1835, lassoed and killed forty bears in the woods at San Francisquito, one of the numerous ranchos of Mission Santa Clara. They had a relay of horses trained to this work, and the soldiers, having been originally vaqueros, were quite at home in the sport.
It was matanza time and the bears were attracted by the smell of meat. Señor Estudillo said it was very exciting, and they were so interested in dispatching bears that they forgot the lateness of the hour. The animals were lassoed by the throat and the hind legs with a horseman on each end, the two pulling in opposite directions until the poor brute succumbed. The fun was kept up till daylight. When they were through they were completely exhausted, and then it was they discovered how much work they had done.
Prior to Henry Mellus’ downward voyage in the ship Barnstable in 1846 from San Francisco to San Pedro, the Californians had revolted. In order to save him from being arrested by the Californians, Don Manuel Requena, then alcalde of the pueblo of Los Angeles, contrived a very novel way of preventing Mellus from being taken prisoner. He sent a confidential Indian to San Pedro ostensibly to fish, but with a letter bound round his foot with a cloth. The Indian, pretending to be lame, walked and limped with the aid of a stick, and passed through the lines of the unsuspecting Californians. The letter was delivered safely. It cautioned Mellus not to land at San Pedro by any means, for he would be caught by the Californians guarding the springs of water then used by men-of-war when in port and by American vessels. This was the only fresh water at San Pedro. a few miles from the Palos Verdes rancho, belonging to Don Juan Sepúlveda.