Слике страница

tion of its existence; although it is already a large State, which has sprung into existence, as it may be termed, there is every evidence that this is but the "beginning of the end." "The greatest is behind." To what such commercial facilities, mineral and metallic resources, and an active and progressive population will conduct California, it is easy to imagine. They will build up a State, which, although the member of a confederacy, will be powerful enough to maintain itself, independent of the aid to be derived from the Union. Its ports will be the resort of the vessels of all nations, and its valleys and hill-sides will become the homes of an agricultural population, reaping the rich reward of their toil. Canals and railroads, the children of enterprise, will soon intersect the territory, transport the riches of one section to another, and increase the social communication of the inhabitants. Such a State will add greatly to the power of the confederated republic, and form an additional stimulus to the rapid filling up of the vast territory situated between California and her sister States.



THE various routes taken by the emigrants to California have afforded almost as much matter for discussion as the territory itself. The shortest and most travelled route is that by way of the Isthmus of

Panama; and of this we shall first give a description, with recommendations to travellers, and the experience of some who have taken that route to the "land of promise."

Both steam and sailing vessels are constantly engaged in carrying freight and passengers from the principal ports of the Atlantic States to Chagres, the principal port on the eastern coast of the Isthmus. Tickets which will carry passengers to Chagres, and, after crossing the Isthmus, from Panama to San Francisco, can be purchased in New York, from whence to Chagres, the passage generally occupies about eight days, and has been accomplished in seven. The harbor of Chagres is a small but good one, for vessels of less than two hundred tons burden. It is protected by hills on all sides and towards the ocean, by a beetling cliff, jutting out into the sea, on the summit of which is the ancient and somewhat dilapidated castle of San Lorenzo. At the base of this cliff is the channel which forms an entrance to the town. Ignorance of this fact caused the wreck of several of the vessels which went from the United States to Chagres soon after the receipt of the news of the gold discovery. The following is a description of Chagres and its inhabitants in the early part of 1849. It has since improved considerably, on account of the travel across the Isthmus.

"The first thing which struck our wondering gaze on entering Chagres, was its bee-hive appearance. It is a strange, fantastic, and oddish-looking town, situated in a deep, dark hollow or cove. It consists of some forty or fifty huts, with pointed palm-thatched roofs, and reed walls. Nor were the innumerable buzzards which were flying about or resting on the

houses, together with the energetic gesticulation of the natives when in conversation, as we drew near, at all calculated to lessen the picturesque effect of a first view. The surrounding country was any thing but devoid of interest and beauty. All had a strange, equatorial look; while the green hills around, clothed with rich tropical verdure, and the graceful and shadowy palm and cocoanut, with other strange fantastic trees, together with the ruins of the large old Spanish castle, on the heights above the town, gave to the scenery a very beautiful and picturesque aspect.

"Most of us were soon ashore and rambling through the town. We landed at the beach, on some logs, which, during the rainy season, are necessary to preserve the pedestrian from a quagmire, in the midst of dense foliage that was here luxuriant to the water's edge, surrounded by about thirty canoes and some forty or fifty huge black fellows, mostly in the garb in which nature arrayed them. We passed on beneath a burning sun, which in the shade brought the thermometer to 90° of Fahrenheit. A majority of the natives are black, but some are of a deep copper or mulatto color. The thick lips and woolly head of the African; the high cheek-bones, straight hair, and dogged look of the Indian; and the more chisled features and finely expressive eyes of the Spaniard, are all here, though often so blended, that it is difficult to say to which race they chiefly owe their origin. In truth they are a mongrel race, but generally have the most magnificent, large, dark, expressive eyes I have ever seen. These, when in conversation, which is almost continual, they use to some purpose, while the incessant rapid clatter of their tongues, and their violent gesticulations and grimaces, are often quite

ludicrous. The females, some of whom have rather pretty faces, and particularly fine eyes, were dressed out in the most tawdry finery, with divers furbelows, flounces, and ruffles, encircling the shoulders, where the dress begins, and terminating somewhere about or below the knee. Some of the younger ones were entirely model artiste, at least so far as their clothing was concerned, but the forms of most were rather indifferent. Many were sitting or lounging about the doors or in the cabins, eating tamarinds, oranges, and other fruit, surrounded by hairless dogs, pigs, naked children, turkey-buzzards, and some other little live stock, forming altogether quite a congruous and homogeneous mixture.

"In a country like this, where the temperature is so nearly alike throughout the year, there is a natural tendency to indolence and sloth, and it is remarkable what an influence the climate exerts on the character of the people. Here nature with a bounteous hand spontaneously fructifies the earth, and the natives, with few wants to supply, pluck the fruit and are satisfied; and with few necessities for enterprise and industry, such is their love of indolence, that all the charms of existence appear to consist in dreaming away life in quiet and repose. Basking beneath a tropical sun, or listlessly reclining on nature's downy couch, days-years-are passed in drowsy languor and supine sloth.

"But the influx of men from rougher chimes and bleaker regions will probably exercise a salutary influ ence, by showing them the advantages of industry and patient toil. Already they begin to perceive this, to some extent, and though such dear lovers of money, that in closing a bargain they will jabber their

patois, or bad Spanish, with uncouth gesticulations, for half a day, the majority of them are unwilling to make any extra bodily effort to procure it; but when persuaded by liberal offers to undertake a task, it is astonishing with what dogged perseverance they will often pursue it, what weights they can support, and what toil they can endure.'

[ocr errors]

It is recommended that passengers from the States should remain as short a time in Chagres as possible. The exhalations from its malarious atmosphere are extremely prejudicial to the health of the new-comer.

From Chagres, the travellers proceed in canoes up the Chagres river, to Gorgona, a distance of about fifty miles, or eight miles further, to Cruces. The canoes are mostly owned by the natives, and the greatest care is necessary to get them to keep their agreement. The usual plan by which their services are secured, is this: A bargain is made with the owner of the canoe, stipulating for the necessary captain and polesmen, and then some of the party going up the river in the canoe, take possession of it, and maintain it, while one goes before the alcalde, and pays the whole amount agreed upon, taking a receipt in Spanish. This precaution is rendered necessary; the proprietor of the canoe returning the money to those who engaged it, on finding he can obtain a greater price from others. At the present time, vessels, steam and sailing, are being constructed at Chagres, for the passage up the river, the increase of the Isthmus travel rendering it both necessary and profitable.

The beauty of the country through which the Chagres river flows has been the theme of frequent praise. Its banks are filled with all the luxuriant

Diary of a Physician in California, by James L. Tyson, M. D.

« ПретходнаНастави »