« 上一頁繼續 »
welcome the first “real lady" in a camp. A New England youth of sev. enteen once rode thirty-five miles, after a week's hard work in his father's claim, to see a miner's wife who had arrived in an adjoining district, “because,” he said, “ I wanted to see a home-like lady; and, father, do you know, she sewed a button on for me, and told me not to gamble, and not to drink. It sounded just like mother."
New towns were laid out in the valleys to supply the mountain camps, and those already established grew with astonishing rapidity. Stockton, for instance, increased in three months from a solitary ranch-house to a canvas city of 1,000 inhabitants. For a small frame building in Sacramento $30,000 a year in rent was paid; the Parker House in San Francisco cost $30,000 to build, and rented for $15,000 per month. Speculation in promising town sites soon reached as extravagant heights as it ever did in the Mississippi valley. Each cross-road, river-landing, and ferry had its mushroom metropolis, its paper population, its “corner-lot speculators." In the tule marshes between the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers the “ New York of the Pacific ” was situated ; at the mouth of Bear River was the town of Oro, and along the lowlands were Linda, Kearney, Featherton, and dozens of other “cities” of from one to five houses apiece.
The conditions under which business had to be conducted in San Francisco and the interior towns were extremely trying and difficult. The only supply-markets were so remote that the greatest fluctuations in the stock of goods on hand were constantly occurring, against which no human foresight could guard. New York was 19,000 miles distant by sea-route, and about six months was required to send an order from San Francisco, and have the goods delivered. Oregon's few thousand pioneers had as yet little to sell ; China sent rice and sugar; Australia and Chili furnished some flour. Everything else came from the Atlantic sea-ports. Tobacco, one month worth two dollars a pound, was tossed in the streets as worthless a few weeks later. Saleratus fluctuated in price between twenty-five cents and fifteen dollars per pound. The entire community was dependent for its food and clothing upon other communities thousands of miles distant. The commercial annals of the world afford few more exciting cpisodes than those which occurred in San Francisco under these conditions, when a few days' delay in expected cargoes, or a miscalculation of the amount required for the market, might cause a tenfold rise in the price of any article, and when the ordinary rate of interest was ten per cent. per month. The very boot-blacks have been known to try "corners on some promising item in the drug, or grocery, or dry-goods line. By the time that goods reached the mountain camps, their cost was so enormous that most of the miners' gains went for the necessaries of life. Those who had been very fortunate often indulged in curious and expensive whims and extravagances, feeling sure that their claims would continue to yield handsomely. They bought the costliest broadcloth, drank the finest wines, and smoked the best brands of cigars. A “wasteful, dissipated set of men” is what one of the Forty-niners calls his old comrades. Men who had been brought up to keep sober, and earn $16 per month, and save half of it, went to California, found rich claims, earned several hundred dollars a month, of which they might have saved three-fourths, but spent every cent in riotous living. Men who had been New York hod-carriers, spent ten dollars a day for canned fruits and potted meats. But only a few years later, when the surface placers were all exhausted, these same unkempt Sybarites returned to beans and pork, strapped up their blankets and made prospect tours to better regions, taking their reverses more placidly than one could have thought possible.
To many cheerful, impetuous, and intelligent men the ups and downs of mining life seemed full of wild fascination ; to be there was to be a part of a scene that each thoughtful miner knew in his heart was as evanescent as it was brilliant-an episode whose intensity corresponded accurately to its briefness. Reports filled each camp, almost every week, telling of "new diggings, where from $100 to $1,000 might easily be collected in a day." Down came the tent-ropes, the claims were abandoned; the epidemic gold-rush fever had seized each Argonaut in the camp. They went to Gold Lake, Gold. Bluffs, and a hundred other as loudly trumpeted regions, till the habit of following with swift feet each new excitement became as much a part of the Argonaut's nature as the habit of running after a fire is a part of the nature of a healthy boy. The Argonaut was well enough aware that the blaze is very apt to be only a bonfire, or else to be over long before he arrives, but he could not bear to stand by, and see others run and hurrah, so off he started, at the best of his speed, to come back a few months later “dead broke” financially, but wealthy in experience. Kern River, in 1855, took 5,000 miners to a region where most of them failed to pay expenses. Fraser River, in 1858, took 18,000 men from California, and San Francisco real estate lost from 25 to 75 per cent. of its value. Two years later came the Washoe excitement, then White Pine, then Bodie, and others, almost yearly, till last spring old California prospectors were among the pilgrims to the much praised placers of the savage Ceur D'Alene region.
Fortunately, there were some, even from the first, who had “come to California to remain and make homes," who recognized vast resources other than mineral, and by whose unswerving fidelity to justice the best elements of camp life were evolved. A fine example of this was afforded in what were called the Southern Mines, the camps of Tuolumne. The several hundred dwellers in and about the Mexican, or “Sonoranian" Camp, were reinforced as early as July, 1849, by about 15,000 foreigners, chiefly from Sonora, Chili, and the Isthmus. Some of them were outlaws and desperadoes, and they speedily made the country unsafe. The camp in which they most congregated became notorious for its bull-fights and fandangoes. Opposed to them was a little camp of Americans, who had elected their own “ alcalde," or chief officer of the camp, the previous autumn. By the united action of the Americans the foreign invasion, for
it can hardly be called less, as many of the Mexicans came in armed bands, was held in check, controlled, and finally conquered and partially dispersed before the close of the eventful year of "Forty-nine." In some of the American camps, "good and true men ” were at once chosen alcaldes; in some the direct intervention of “Miners' Courts" was preferred ; in camps of a third class, committee government was resorted to. But government of an efficient and judicious sort, the Americans in the invaded region secured for and of themselves.
The mountain land over which mining became for years the chief industry of men was a region fitted by nature to attract and firmly hold the affections of a hardy and energetic race. Its physical features are most inspiring even now, when the valleys and foothills are subdued to agricultural purposes. But when the miners of Forty-nine began to pitch