San Francisco History

The Valley of Dry Bones

In the latter part of the month of March, 1847, two companies of Col. Stevenson's regiment who were about embarking for Santa Barbara, marched from the Presidio where they had been garrisoned, into the then village of Yerba Buena and the now famous city of San Francisco, and encamped for the night in a little valley on the outskirts of the settlement. The camp was pitched in regular order, and after the beating of the tattoo the command turned into their tents to sleep. It was a lovely, star lit night, and the poor fellows had little knowledge of what was to happen before monring. About two o'clock, however, not only the windows but the very flood gates of heaven were opened, the rain began to fall as it never fell before or since, even in California, and Old Boreas blew a blast which seemed to contain the force of all the winds from the four quarters of the globe. The guards retreated, after getting wet to the skin, the rain began to patter through the canvas, and finally the insecure fastenings of the tents began to draw out from the moistened ground. Soon the tents themselves began to fall, and by five o'clock but one was left standing. The poor soldiers, drenched to the skin, crawled out, the camp was deserted, and they fled in despair for shelter to an old ten pin alley that stood where now is the corner of Kearny and Washington streets. In direct contradiction to the facts, the valley was christened the "Valley of Dry Bones," and by that name was known for a long time. The Valley of Dry Bones is now the foot of Broadway, and is built up with houses. The hills around it, which then were barren and tenantless, are now settled portions of our city, and far beyond the valley are houses, wharves, and all the appearances of a city. The magnificent bay upon which the occupants of the tents looked and saw some half dozen vessels, lying in anchor, is now filled with the representatives of a world's commerce, and the old valley itself, which was then considered as valueless, is the foot of one of our principal streets. Verily has a change come o'er the spirit of California's dream.

Source: Daily Alta California. 21 February 1851. 2.


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