« 上一頁繼續 »
their tents in the wilderness it was unfenced, unclaimed, and almost unexplored. Everywhere the land had a charm for men that no language can describe; all the letters, journals and books of the time strive vainly to express the beauty of the rushing rivers and emerald valleys nestled under Alpine snows. Flowers of new species and wonderful beauty, now naturalized citizens of the world's gardens, bloomed on slope and crag; trees of hitherto unimagined grandeur stood in the forests; the climate of the Sierra foothills was the climate of Italy. From the sea-like valley of the Sacramento eastward through rolling, oak-clad hills, to the broad plateaus and granite heights, and pointed peaks piercing the brilliant azure skies with their everlasting whiteness, the ardent miners reached every gulch, ravine, “ basin,” “cañon,” “flat,” and “ bench," traced every stream to its source, and in four or five years of reckless, eager toil did the exploring and subduing work that has usually taken a generation's labor to accomplish in other communities. They spread out in every direction from Mormon Bar and the Sacramento and Feather River region, hunting for gold southward to the desert sands and borax deposits of Mojave, northward to the lava beds of Modoc, westward into the wildest recesses of the coast range, eastward to where the sage-brush plains of Nevada begin. They established Redding Springs, rifled the Trinity placers of their riches, discovered the deposits of Klamath, Siskiyou and Northern Oregon. They even went waist-deep into the ocean, and brought back tales of beaches goldspangled by
" all the storms
I have visited the mining region, the realm once conquered by the “ Argonauts of Forty-nine." Titans have been at work there, the land for miles is like a battle-field where primal forces and giant passions have wrestled. Rivers have been turned aside; mountains hurled into chasms, or stripped to " bed-rock" in naked disarray. I have seen wild and deep ravines where each square rod once had its miner ; where stores, theaters and banks once stood in the Flat, and gold dust ran in the streets, and every man carried his pistol, and a day of life contained more of healthy out-door existence and passionate energy than any half-year of common existence. In those ravines, once so populous, a few old and trembling men, worn out before their time, and pitiful to look upon, creep down from their cabins to pick and moil among the crevices for the little gold left by the gallant Forty-niners, and creep back to brood over memories, while year after year they watch with doubtful approval the approach of the new empire of gardens, vineyards, orchards, slowly resubduing, in far more durable manner, the lost conquests of the Argonauts.
Even to-day the smallest of these decaying camps is worth patient study. In the hollows, grown over with blossoming vines, are acres upon acres of bowlders and débris, moved, sifted and piled up by the hands of pioneers; on the hill's sunny slope are grass-covered mounds where some of them rest after their toil. Once this was “ Red Dog Camp,” or “ Mad Mule Gulch,” or “ Murderer's Bar ;” now it is only a nameless cañon, the counterpart of hundreds of others scattered over a region five hundred miles long by fifty wide, and each one of them all was once full to the brim and overflowing with noisy, beating, rushing, roaring masculine life. Go down and talk with those ghost-like inhabitants of the ancient camps, and they will set your blood tingling with tales of the past. Twenty years! Thirty years ago! Why, it is centuries !
The saddest of all possible sights in the old mining region is when there are not even half a dozen miners to keep each other company, but where, solitary and in desolation, the last miner clings to his former haunts. He cooks his lonesome meals in the wrecked and rotting hotel, where, a quarter of a century before, then young, gay, prosperous, and, like the camp, in his prime, he had tossed the reins of his livery team to the obsequious servant, and played billiards with “the boys,” and passed the hat for a collection to help build the first church ; he sharpens his battered pick at a little forge under the tree on which he had helped to hang "the Mexican who had stabbed Sailor Bill;" he looks down in the cañon where vines and trees hide all but the crumbling chimney of the house where the “ Rose of the Camp” lived, sweetening their lives with her girlish grace and purity as she tripped over the long bridge to the little school-house, and waved her hand to her friends toiling waist-deep in their claims on the hillside or by the river. But that was long ago, and the bridge has fallen into the torrent, and the snow-storms have shattered the school-house, and he has not seen her for years and years.
Not one of all the thousands of men who hurried into the “Camps of Forty-nine" ever paused to consider how these camps would look if deserted, nor imagined themselves old and lonely pioneers sitting over the ashes of departed fires. The work they did is sufficiently shown by the facts of the gold yield. In 1849, by official record, the miners took out $23,000,000; in 1850 this yield was more than doubled. It is certain that a large percentage, perhaps one-fourth part or even one-half, of the gold taken from these early placers was never reported to express company or custom-house. The typical camp of the “Golden Prime of Forty-Nine” was flush, lively, reckless, flourishing, and vigorous of speech and action. Saloons and gambling-houses abounded. Every man went around, and felt fully able to protect himself. Gold dust was currency at a dollar a pinch. In the camp, gathered as of one household, under no law but that of their own making, were men from North, South, East and West, and from nearly every country in Europe, Asia, North America. They mined, traded, gambled, bought, discussed camp affairs; they paid fifty cents a drink for their whisky, and fifty dollars a barrel for their flour, and thirty dollars apiece, at times, for butcher-knives with which to pick out the gold from the rock crevices. They talked, as one who knew them well has written, “a language half English and half Mexican,” and he might have added, wholly their own. Even Bret Harte has failed to reproduce it ; the dialect of his miners leans too far toward the Missourian. These lawless, brave pioneers, risked their lives for each other, made and lost fortunes, went on lonely prospect tours, died lonely deaths or perished by violence; some, wiser or more fortunate, than these, became farmers when the mining era closed, sowed wheat-fields, planted fruitful orchards.
There were times in almost every camp when the rowdy element came near ruling, and only the powerful and hereditary organizing instincts of the Americans ever brought order out of chaos. In every such crisis there were men of the right stamp at hand to say the brave word and do the brave act; to appeal to Saxon love of fair play; to seize the murderer, or to defy the mob. Side by side in the same gulch, working on claims of eight paces square, were, perhaps, fishermen from Cape Ann, loggers from Penobscot, farmers from the Genesee Valley, physicians from the prairies of Iowa, lawyers from Maryland and Louisiana, college graduates from Yale, Harvard and the University of Virginia. From so variously mingled elements came that terribly exacting mining-camp society which tested with pitiless tests each man's individual manhood, discovering his intrinsic worth or worthlessness with almost superhuman precision, until, in the end, the ablest and best men became leaders in the free and self-governed camps of the Sierra.
Charles Howard Shinn.
OCHRE POINT, AND WILLIAM BEACH LAWRENCE
The disciple of Albert Gallatin intimately knew all the great brainworkers of his time, when in the pale dawn of his own public career he twinkled with those planets in the political sky, gradually rising to the full brilliancy of intellectual light, until he himself shone a beacon to guide
the “Rights of Nations" over the uncertain sea of arbitration, and to claim for America the honor of giving to the world the text-book of diplomacy.
Well does the writer of this article recall a cosy breakfast party given to Mr. Lawrence in the college rooms of a Professor of International Law, at Oxford, when a question came up in reference to a point of law. “Let us see what Lawrence's Wheaton says about it,” said one of the guests, as he spoke taking from the book-case the volume in question. “Let us have an unadulterated opinion from Lawrence himself,” remarked the host : "I