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News & Tall Tales. 1800s.


San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

From the Flag Ship Ohio

March 1, 1849, The Fort Wayne Times, Fort Wayne, Indiana

OFFICIAL.— We are indebted to the Secretary of the Navy for the following very interesting letters just received from Commodore Jones. They were forwarded from Mazatlan by our consul, Mr. Parrot, thence across land to Vera Cruz, and transmitted to Pensacola, thence by mail to Washington.

--Washington Union

NO. 44. FLAG SHIP OHIO

San Francisco, December 22, 1848

Sir: My letters from Nos. 33 to 42 inclusive, despatched from Monterey, by Lieut. Lanman, and from this place by the Lexington, will fully inform you of the operations of the squadron since our departure from the Gulf of California. Nothing material has occurred since my last date. Desertions are less frequent, the Ohio having lost but one man since her arrival here, and I think the disposition to desert is not so general; but may be owing to the inclemency of the season, which, for awhile must suspend the digging and washing for gold, except by such persons as are most amply supplied with good houses, and all the necessaries of life requisite to a campaign in a rigid climate, affording nothing for the use of man but gold. Incredible quantities of gold are even yet daily collected; and scarcely a week elapses without some new discovery of the precious metal more startling than any previous one. It is said that a small party of five or six persons, a few days past, struck upon a pocket as they term certain deposits, from which in two days, they obtained 30,000 of pure gold!

Art of the Gold Rush.

I have been living on shore at San Francisco now two weeks, and have had ample opportunity examining the subject, and I am more than ever satisfied that the disposal of the gold regions m the territory of California is the best, if not the only practicable disposition that can be made of them in the present disorganized state of society out here.

The worst forebodings of evil, consequent upon the want of certain energetic administration of justice in this territory are almost daily realized. Within the three past weeks we have certain accounts of fifteen murders, in one instance an entire household of ten persons a respectable ranchero, his wife, two children, six servants. The man whose name was Reed had been very successful in the diggings during the summer, and had returned to his home, near Santa Barbara, with a large amount of gold. His house was surprised by a band, and the whole family as above stated, were barbarously murdered, and the-house rifled of its golden treasure. The perpetrators of this horrid deed are still at large.

Of the other five cases four are highway robberies, returning with gold from the mines. In a word, I may say with truth that both person and property are insecure in Upper California at this time; and I am sorry to add that, in all cases of outrage and violence, as yet discovered, emigrants from the United States, disbanded volunteers, runaway sailors, and deserters from army, and navy are believed to be the perpetrators.

The mutinies, attended with murder, to which I allude in No. 43, have been fully confirmed and not without good reason has caused much uneasiness to the shippers of gold from this coast.

California. Mapping the Golden State. Rare and Unusual Maps from the Library of Congress. Ray Jones, author.

To guard each and every vessel sailing hence with large sums in gold dust, would require every ship of the navy. The best that I can do is to keep the vessels of this squadron at sea as much as possible, plying between the ports most frequented by our mercantile marine.

Enclosed is a copy of a circular (No. 6) which I have found it necessary to issue and make public, in the hope that it may have some tendency to prevent a repetition of such acts as have recently occurred on board the English schooner Amilia and the Chilean barque Adelina.

A recent arrival from Callao reports that the Adelina had been taken into port and the mutineers, eight in number, promptly executed.

I have received a request from the governor of Valparaiso, through Mr. Morehead, our consul at that place, to arrest and safe keep the Adelina, should I be fortunate enough to fall in with her on the Mexican coast, where it was supposed the mutineers might take her.

I have the honor to your obdt. servant. 
T.A. P.C. Jones
Commander-in-chief U.S. Naval Forces,
Pacific Ocean

P.S. Since the above letter was written, we have accounts of more murders -- one in the town of Sonoma, and the other in the vicinity.

No. 46 San Francisco, Upper California
December 27, 1848

Painters and the American West. The Anschutz Collection. Joan Carpenter Troccoli.

Painters and the American West:
The Anschutz Collection
Painters and the American West.
Yale University Press
Joan Carpenter Troccoli.
From the 1820s to the present, these paintings from a private collection feature famous Western artists, including Remington, Russell, Schreyvogel, O'Keeffe, Bierstadt, Moran, Bingham, Catlin, Miller, Farny, and many others who seldom painted Western scenes: Benton, Henri, Bellows, Hartley, Hassam, and Twachtman, among others. Occasionally a painting is juxtaposed with a stylistically similar European artwork. The collection is particularly rich in early-20th-century Taos and Santa Fe artists. Organized into portraiture, still lifes, genre painting, and landscapes. 200 color reproductions.

Sir: The long-looked for St. Mary's Commander Crownshield, joined me at this place on the 12th inst, two hundred and forth-five days from Norfolk, Virginia.

If I can render any service to my country at this time, and especially to the inhabitants of California, it will be by remaining on this coast for a while at least until we can receive from Washington some intimation of what Congress and the Executive have done, or may speedily do, towards organizing a territorial government over California.

I shall make this place my headquarters until the return of the Ohio, Dale, Preble and Southampton from service the are now on, which will no about the middle of February, when, after a few days detention for holding a general court-martial, and for making some transfers, &c. consequent on the Dale's departure for home, (which I have set for the first of March) the squadron will be again dispersed to cruise where they can he most serviceable in giving protection and security to our countrymen and their property.

As I have already said, if I can do the State any good service out here, it will be by remaining at this point, at least as above intimated; not that I take any part in the civil administration of affairs on land that I have nothing to do with although I am often consulted, as well by military and civil officers in authority, as by our countrymen, resident citizens, as also by commercial gentlemen visiting the port; and although I am but ill qualified to give advice upon many questions of law and usage which daily arise, there are many of the old inhabitants, as well as of the recent immigrants to California, who believe, or at least profess to believe, that my presence on shore will add strength and influence to the law and order abiding portion of the community.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant 
THOMAS A.P.C. JONES
Commander-in-Chief U. S. Naval Forces.
Pacific Ocean.
The Hon. John Y. Mason, Secretary of the Navy.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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