History of Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County During the Mexican Rule--The Adventures of Captain Fremont--Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo--Raising the Bear Flag--War With Mexico Declared--The Capture of San Jose--Reminiscences of the Strenuous Days of 1849--The Discovery of Gold--Killing of Young Pyle--Local Government--Grandma Bascom's Story.
In 1836 a revolution broke out in Mexico but it did not extend to California, though a few of the Spanish settlers in San Jose left the pueblo to take part in it. While the strife was progressing Governor Alvarado was appointed to rule California, an office which he held until 1842, after the differences between the opposing factions in Mexico had been satisfactorily arranged.
The adjustment, however, created misunderstandings between the two highest officials in the Department of California. The civil and the militarv authorities could not agree. Each one complained of the other to the Central Government and General Micheltorena was secretly dispatched north to settle the differences between Governor Alvarado and General Vallejo by taking over the powers of both. On seeing the turn the affair had taken, Alvarado and Vallejo laid aside their bickerings to make common cause against Micheltorena, whom they designated as an usurper. Aided by General Castro they sought to drive Micheltorena out of California. The triumvirate proclaimed California independent and declared war against the representative of Mexico. General Micheltorena, having had the gauge of battle thrown in his teeth, took the field hoping to speedily end the insurrection. He advanced to within twelve miles of San Jose and then finding that this portion of the country was up in arms against him speedily beat a retreat to San Juan Bautista. In spite of his defense, the insurgents captured the town in November, 1844. From this blow Micheltorena never rallied and in February, 1845, he paid $11,000 for a passage on board the bark Don Quixote, Captain Paty, his destination being San Blas. On the termination of the strife Don Pio Pico, brother of Don Antonio Pico, of San Jose, was elected governor of California and Jose Castro was appointed general of the military forces.
Captain Fremont Arrives
In the month of March, 1845, Brevet-Capt. John Charles Fremont departed from Washington for the purpose of organizing a third expedition for the topographical survey of Oregon and California. He left Bent's Fort in April, his force consisting of sixty-two men, among them Kit Carson and six Delaware Indians. Crossing the Sierra Nevadas in December they arrived at Sutter's Fort on the 10th of that month. After two days' stay the company left to search for a missing party of explorers. Not being able to find the men, and having either lost or consumed most of his horses and cattle Fremont determined to retrace his steps to Sutter's Fort which he reached January 15, 1546. On the seventeenth he with his men left the fort on a launch for San Francisco. They arrived there on the twentieth; the twenty-first saw him and Captain Hinckley sailing down the Bay of San Francisco to the embarcadero at Alviso at the lower end of the Santa Clara Valley. On the twenty-second they proceeded to San Jose where Fremont received word that the missing explorers were encamped on the San Joaquin. At once two companies under Kit Carson were dispatched to guide the men into the Santa Clara Valley. Fremont and Hinckley, after visiting the New Almaden mines, returned to San Francisco. On the twenty-fourth Fremont was once more on the move. He started from San Francisco, then known as Yerha Buena, and on the morning of January 27, 1846, reached Monterey. In company with Thomas O. Larkin, United States Consul, Fremont called on General Castro and stated the object of his journey. He was out of provisions and asked that his party be permitted to pass unmolested through the country. The request was granted, verbally, but when asked for the necessary permit in writing, the General excused himself, said he was not well and that no further assurance than his word was needed. A call of the same nature was then made on Don Manuel Castro, the prefect of the district, the same statement made and the same verbal permit was granted. Fremont received funds and provisions from the consul and then made all haste to San Jose where he was joined by his band. Not finding here such stores as were still needed he resolved to return to Monterey. A fortnight later he camped in the Santa Clara Valley on Capt. William Fisher's ranch, the Laguna Seca. While here a Mexican made his appearance and laid claim to certain of Fremont;s horses on the bold statement that they had been stolen. Shortly after this, on February 20, Captain Fremont received a summons to appear before the alcalde at San Jose to answer to a charge of horse-stealing. Fremont send back the following reply:
"Camp Near Road to Santa Cruz.
February 21, 1946.
"Sir: I received your communication of the 20th,
informing me that a complaint has been lodged against me in your office
for refusing to deliver up certain animals of my band which are claimed
as having been stolen from this vicinity about two months since, and that
the plaintiff further complains of having been insulted in my camp. It
can be proven on oath by thirty men here present that the animals pointed
out by the plaintiff have been brought in my band from the United States
of North America. The insult of which he complains, and which was authorized
by myself, consisted in his being driven or ordered to immediately leave
camp. After having been detected in endeavoring to obtain animals under
false pretenses he should have been well satisfied to escape without a
severe horse-whipping. There are four animals in my hand which were bartered
from the Tulare Indians by a division of my party which descended the San
Joaquin Valley. I was not then present, and if any more legal owners present
themselves these shall be immediately given or delivered upon proving property.
It may save you trouble to inform you, that with this exception, all the
animals in my band have been bought and paid for. You will readily understand
that my duties will not permit me to appear before the magistrates in your
towns on the complaint of every straggling vagabond who may chance to visit
my camp. You inform me that unless satisfaction be immediately made by
the delivery of the animals in question, the complaint will be forwarded
to the Governor. I beg you will at the same time indorse to His
Excellency a copy of-this note.
"I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"J. C. Fremont. U. S. Army.
"To Senor Don Dolores Pacheco.
Alcalde of San Jose."
From the Laguna Seca, Fremont moved by easy marches in the direction of the Santa Cruz Mountains which he crossed about ten miles from San Jose at the gap where the Los Gatos Creek enters the Valley. On March 1, he encamped on the rancho of Edward Petty Hartwell. While here he received, late in the afternoon of the fifth a dispatch from Don Manuel Castro, prefect of the district, charging him with having entered the towns and villages under his (the Prefect's) jurisdiction in contempt of the laws of the Mexican Government and ordering him out of the country, else compulsory measures would be taken to compel him to do so. On receiving this communication Fremont did not display much hesitancy in arriving at a conclusion. That evening he struck camp and ascending Hawk's Peak, a rough looking mountain on the Gabilan range, about thirty miles from Monterey and 2,000 feet above the level of the sea, commenced the construction of a rude fort. It was protected by felled trees. Stripping one of the limbs he nailed the Stars and Stripes at the top, forty feet from the ground. The morning of the sixth of March found him waiting for developments.
On the day that saw Fremont established on Hawk's Peak, Castro sent the following letter to the minister of Marine at the City of Mexico:
"In my communication of the fifth ultimo I announced to you the arrival of a captain at the head of fifty men, who came, as he said, by order of the government of the United States to survey the limits of Oregon. This person presented himself at my headquarters some days ago accompanied by two individuals (Thomas O. Larkin, U. S. consul, and William A. Leidesdorff, vice-consul,) with the object of asking permission to procure provisions for his men whom he had left behind in the mountains. The permission was given, but two days ago, March 4, I was much surprised on being informed that this person was only two days' journey from this place (Monterey). In consequence I immediately sent him a communication ordering him, on the instant of its receipt, to put himself on the march and leave the Department, but I have not received an answer. In order to make him obey, I sent out a force to observe his operations and today, the sixth, I march in person to join it and see that the object is attained. The hurry with which I undertake my march does not permit me to be more diffuse and I beg that you will inform His Excellency, the President, assuring him that not only shall the national integrity of this party be defended with the enthusiasm of good Mexicans, but those who intend to violate it will find an impregnable barrier in the valor and patriotism of every one of the Californians. Receive the assurance of my respect, etc. God and Liberty."
In his hastily constructed fort, every avenue to which was commanded by the trusty rifles of his men, Fremont calmly awaited the speedy vengeance promised in the communication of the prefect. To carry it out Don Jose had summoned a force of 200 men which was strengthened by one or two cannon of small caliber, but nothing beyond a demonstration was attained. In the language of the late General Revere (then Lieutenant) "Don Jose was rather in the humor of that King of France, who with 20,000 men, marched up the hill and then marched down again."
Castro's next move was the concocting of an epistle to Fremont, asking for a cessation of hostilities and suggesting that they join forces, declare the country independent and with their allied armies march against Governor Pio Pico, who was then in Los Angeles. To John Gilroy, an old Scotch settler, after whom Gilroy was named, was entrusted the delivery of this piece of treachery. He reached Hawk's Peak on the night of the tenth and found the fort untenanted. Fremont had tired of waiting for Castro to attack and had made a forced march to the San Joaquin Valley. Gilroy, on his return, told of the retreat, which so elated Castro that he at once resolved to attack the fort, which he was the first to enter. Then he sat down on one of Fremont's discarded pack saddles and penned a dispatch to Monterey describing the glorious victory he had gained and promising that his return need not be looked for until his promise, long ago given, had been fulfilled.
And so matters rested for a time. The American settlers began to feel far from safe and it was the consensus of opinion that no time should be lost in preparing for an emergency. Rumors were rife. Governor Pico looked upon them with deep hatred, their arrival and settlement was to him a source of poignant jealousy, while his feeling inclined him toward England, should the country ever change hands. At a convention held in San Juan Bautista to decide which one of the two nations, Great Britain or the United States, should guarantee protection to California against all others, Pico is reported to have said: "To what a deplorable condition is our Country reduced. Alexico, professing to be our mother and our protectress has given us neither arms nor money, nor the material of war for our defense. She is not likely to do anything in our behalf, although she is quite willing to afflict us with her extortionate minions who come here in the guise of soldiers and civil officers to harass and oppress our people. . . . Perhaps what I am about to suggest may seem faint-hearted and dishonorable but to me it does not seem so. It is the last hope of a feeble people, struggling against a tyrannical government which claims their submission at home and who are threatened by a band of avaricious strangers from without, to voluntarily connect themselves with a power able and willing to defend and preserve them. It is the right and duty of the weak to demand support from the strong, provided the demand be made upon terms just to both parties. Is it not better to connect ourselves with one of the powerful European nations than to struggle against hope as we are doing now? Is it not better that one of them should send a fleet and an army to defend and protect California rather than that we should fall an easy prey to the lawless adventurers who are overrunning our beautiful country? I pronounce for annexation to France or England and the people of California will never regret having taken my advice. Then may our people go quietly to their ranches and live there as of yore, leading a thoughtless and merry life, untroubled by politics or the cares of state, sure of what is their own and safe from the incursions of the Yankees who would soon be forced to retreat into their own country."
Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo
But at this moment California found a man whose views were more enlightened than those of the rulers of his country. As a patriot he could not silently witness the land of his birth sold to any monarchy, however old, and he rightly judged that although foreign protection might postpone it could not avert that assumption of power which was beginning to make itself felt. Possessed at the time of no political power and having had but few early advantages, still his position was so high and his character so highly respected by both the foreign and native population that he had been invited to participate in the proceedings of the junta. This man was Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Born in California, he commenced his career in the army as an ensign and in this humble grade he volunteered to establish a colony on the north side of the Bay of San Francisco for the protection of the frontier. He thoroughly subdued the hostile Indians of the region and laid the foundation of a reputation for integrity, judgment and ability unequaled by any of his countrymen. Although quite a young man he had already filled high offices and at this time was living on his estate in the vicinity of the town of Sonoma. He did not hesitate to oppose the views of Pico and Castro. Among other things he said: "I cannot, gentlemen, coincide in opinion with the military and civic functionaries who have advocated the cession of our country to France or England. It is most true, that to rely any longer upon Mexico to govern and defend us would be idle and absurd. It is also true that we possess a noble country in every way calculated from position and resources to become great and powerful. For that reason I would not have her a mere dependency upon a foreign monarchy, naturally alien, or at least indifferent to our interests and welfare. Even could we tolerate the idea of dependence ought we to go to distant Europe for a master? What possible sympathy could exist between us and a nation separated from us by two vast oceans? But waiving this insuperable objection, how could we endure to become under the dominion of a monarchy? We are republicans, badly governed and badly situated as we are, but still, in sentiment, republicans. All will probably agree with me that we ought at once to rid ourselves of what may remain of Mexican domination. Our position is so remote, either by land or sea, that we are in no danger from Mexican invasion. Why, then, should we still hesitate to assert our independence? We have taken the first step by electing our own governor, but another remains to be taken. I will mention it plainly and rationally--it is annexation to the United States. In contemplating this consummation of our destiny I feel nothing but pleasure and I ask you to share it. Discard old prejudices, disregard old customs and prepare for the glorious change which awaits our country. Why should we shrink from incorporating ourselves with the happiest and freest nation in the world, destined soon to be the most wealthy and powerful? Why should we go abroad for protection when this great nation is our adjoining neighbor? When we join our fortunes to hers we shall not become subjects but fellow-citizens, possessing all the rights of the people of the United States and choosing our own federal and local rulers. We shall have a stable government and just laws. California will grow strong and flourish and her people will be prosperous, happy and free. Look not, therefore, with jealousy upon the hardy pioneers who scale our mountains and cultivate our unoccupied plains, but rather welcome them as brothers, who come to share with us a common destiny."
Those who listened to General Vallejo were far behind him in general knowledge and intelligence. His arguments failed to carry conviction to the greater number of his auditors, but the bold position taken by him was the cause of the immediate adjournment of the Junta, no result having been arrived at concerning the weighty question on which the Californians had met to deliberate. On retiring from the Junta General Vallejo embodied the views he had expressed in a letter to Don Pio Pico and reiterated his refusal to participate in any action having for its end the adoption of any protection other than that of the United States. In this letter he also declared that he would never serve under any government which was prepared to surrender California to a European power. He then returned to his estate there to await the issue of events.
Raising the Bear Flag
In the meantime circumstances tended to keep General Castro moving. A large number of Americans, finding themselves numerically too weak to contend against the natives, but relying on accession to their strength in the spring, determined to declare California independent and free and raise a flag of their own, which they did. The famous "Bear Flag" was given to the breeze June 14, 1846, in Sonoma on the pole which before had floated the Mexican standard. The town was captured and with it the commanding officer, General Vallejo, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Prudon, Captain Salvador Vallejo and Jacob P. Liese [sic], an American and the general's brother-in-law. The news of the declaration spread like wild-fire, both parties hurriedly prepared for a conflict and while the Bear Flag party guided their affairs from Sonoma, General Jose Castro, from his headquarters at Santa Clara, issued two proclamations. They are curiosities in their way and as such worthy of reproduction here. The first follows:
"The contemptible policy of the agents of the United States of North America in this Department, have induced a portion of adventurers, who, regardless of the rights of men, have daringly commenced an invasion possessing themselves of the town of Sonoma and the military commander of that border. Fellow countrymen: The defense of our liberty, the true religion which our fathers possessed and our independence call upon us to sacrifice ourselves rather than lose these inestimable blessings; banish from your hearts all petty resentments, turn you and behold yourselves, these families, the innocent little ones, which have unfortunately fallen into the hands of our enemies, dragged from the bosoms of their fathers, who are prisoners among foreigners, and are calling upon us to succor them. There is still time for us to rise en masse as irresistible as retributive. You need not doubt that Divine Providence will direct us in the way to glory. You should not vacillate because of the smallness of the garrison of the general headquarters, for he who will first sacrifice himself will be your friend and fellow citizen
"Headquarters, Santa Clara, June 17, 1846."
The second proclamation promises to protect all Americans who shall refrain from taking part in the revolutionary movements and winds up as follows: "Let the fortune of war take its chance with those ungrateful men, who with arms in their hands have attacked the country, without recollecting they, were treated by the undersigned with all the indulgence of which he is so characteristic. The inhabitants of the Department are witnesses of the truth of this. I have nothing to fear, my duty leads me to death or victory. I am a Mexican soldier and I will be free and independent, or I will gladly die for these inestimable blessings."
As there were rumors afloat that General Castro was on his way with a large party of Mexicans, to attack the garrison at Sonoma, Fremont, with force augmented, hastened to the relief of his compatriots. He arrived at Sonoma on the morning of June 25, having made forced marches. There he found that Castro had not carried out his threat, but had placidly remained near San Jose, carefully guarded by his soldiers.
About this time a small party intended for service under the Bear Flag, had been recruited by Capt. Thomas Fallon, then of Santa Cruz, but afterward a long-time resident of San Jose. This company, consisting of twenty-two men, crossed the Santa Cruz Mountains, entered the Santa Clara Valley at night and halted about three miles from San Jose at the rancho of Grove C. Cook. Here Fallon learned that Castro, with a force of 200 men, was close at hand. Therefore, believing discretion to be the better part of valor, he fell back into the mountains and there encamped.
At sunset on June 27. Castro, placing himself at the head of his army, marched out of Santa Clara to chastise the Sonoma insurgents. Passing around the head of San Francisco Bay he reached the San Leandro Creek front whence he dispatched three men to reconnoiter. They were to cross the bay in boats. On the water they were captured and shot. As they did not return Castro, guessing what had happened and fearing a like fate for himself, marched his company back to Santa Clara.
War With Mexico Declared
In the meantime great events had been occurring without. The United States had declared war against Mexico. General Scott, after a series of brilliant exploits, had captured the City of Mexico and Commodore John Drake Sloat was approaching Monterey. On July 7, 1846, Monterey was taken and the American flag hoisted over the town. Two days later Henry Pitts, courier for Commodore Sloat, rode into San Jose, and after announcing the triumph of American arms, sought out General Castro and delivered to the redoubtable Mexican warrior Commodore Sloat's communication. After reading it Castro, with moody brow, called out his men and forming in line in front of the Juzgado, or Hall of Justice on Market Street, shouted, "Monterey is taken by the Americans," and then proceeded to read the written words of the Commodore.
"To the inhabitants of California--
"The central troops of Mexico having commenced hostilities against the United States of America by invading its territory and attacking the troops of the United States stationed on the north side of the Rio Grande, with a force of 7,000 men under command of General Arista, which army was totally destroyed and all their artillery, baggage, etc., captured on the 8th and 9th of May last by a force of 2,300 men under the command of General Taylor, and the city of Matamoras taken and occupied by the forces of the United States, and the two nations being actually at war by this transaction, I shall hoist the standard of the United States at Monterey immediately and shall carry it through California.
"I declare to the inhabitants of California, that although I come in arms with a powerful force. I do not come as an enemy to California. I come as their best friend, as henceforth California will be a portion of the United States and its peaceable inhabitants will enjoy the same rights and privileges they now enjoy together with the privilege of choosing their own magistrates and other officers for the administration of justice among themselves, and the same protection will be extended to them as to any other state in the Union. They will also enjoy a permanent government under which life and property and the constitutional right and lawful security to worship the Creator in the way most congenial to each one's sense of duty, will be secured to which, unfortunately, the Central Government of Mexico cannot afford them, destroyed, as her resources are, by internal factions and corrupt officers who create constant revolutions to promote their own interests and oppress the people. Under the flag of the United States California will be free from all such troubles and expenses; consequently, the country will rapidly advance and improve, both in agriculture and commerce; as, of course, the revenue laws will be the same in California as in all other parts of the United States, affording them all manufactures and produce of the United States free of any duty, and for all foreign goods at one-quarter the duty they now pay. A great increase in the value of real estate and the products of California may be anticipated.
"With the great interest and kind feelings I know the government and people of the United States possess toward the people of California, the country cannot but improve more rapidly than any other on the continent of America.
"Such of the inhabitants, whether native or foreign, as may not be disposed to accept the high privileges of citizenship and to live peaceably under the government of the United States, will be allowed time to dispose of their property and remove out of the county, if they choose, without any restriction; or remain in it observing strict neutrality.
"With full confidence in the honor and integrity of the inhabitants of tile country, I invite the judges, alcaldes and other civil officers to execute their functions as heretofore, that the public tranquility be not disturbed, at least, until the government of the territory can be definitely arranged.
"All persons holding titles to real estate, or in quiet possession of lands under color of right, shall have these titles guaranteed to them. All churches, and the property they contain, in possession of the clergy of California, shall continue in the same right and possession they now enjoy.
"All provisions and supplies of every kind furnished by the inhabitants for the use of the United States ships and soldiers, will be paid for at fair rates, and no private property will be taken for public use without just compensation at the moment.
"JOHN D. SLOAT,
"Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Naval Force in the Pacific Ocean."
The reading if the foregoing concluded, General Castro is said to have exclaimed, "What can I do with a handful of men against the United States? I am going to Mexico. All who wish to follow me, right-about-face. All who wish to remain can go to their homes." Only a very few chose to follow Castro into Mexico, whither he proceeded on the following day, first taking prisoner, Charles M. Weber, a merchant, and not releasing him until Los Angeles was reached.
Upon hearing of Castro's departure Captain Fallon left his camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains, marched into San Jose, seized the Juzgado and arrested Dolores Pacheco, the alcalde. He caused Pacheco to surrender the keys and pueblo archives as well, and appointed James Stokes justice of the peace. On July 13 he hoisted an American flag on the staff in front of tile court house, the first flag of the Union to wave in Santa Clara county. While in San Jose Fallon received the following communications from Captain Montgomery, stationed at Yerba Buena (San Francisco):
"U. S. Ship Portsmouth.
"Yerba Buena. July 13, 1846
"Sir: I have just received your letter with a copy of Mr. James Stokes' appointment as justice of the peace of the pueblo; also a dispatch from the commander-in-chief of the U. S. Naval Forces at Monterey, for which I thank you. By the bearer of them I return a dispatch for Commodore Sloat, which I hope you will have an opportunity of forwarding to Monterey.
"I received your letter of July 12 and wrote to you, by the bearer of it, on the 13th in answer advising you by all means to hoist the flag of the United States at the Pueblo of St. Joseph (San Jose) as you expressed to do. If you had sufficient force to maintain it there; of course you understand that it is not again to be hauled down. . . . .
"Agreeable to your request I send you a proclamation, in both languages, from the Commander-in-Chief, which I shall be glad to have distributed as far and generally as possible; and be pleased to assure all persons of the most perfect security from injuries to their persons or property, and endeavor by every means in your power to inspire them with confidence in the existing authorities and government of the United States.
"I am, sir, your ob't servant,
"JOHN B. MONTGOMERY,
"Commanding U. S. Ship Portsmouth.
"To Capt. Thomas Fallon, Pueblo of St. Joseph,
"U. S. Ship Portsmouth,
"Yerba Buena, July 18, 1846.
"Sir I have just received your letter with the official dispatch from Commodore Sloat, which has been accidentally delayed one day in its transmission from the pueblo and am much obliged to you for sending it to me.
"I am gratified to hear that you have hoisted the flag of our country and cannot but feel assured, as I certainly hope, that your zealous regard for its honor and glory will lead you nobly to defend it there.
"I am, sir, your ob't servant,
"JOHN B. MONTGOMERY,
"To Capt. Thomas Fallon at the Pueblo San Jose, Upper California."
Before the arrival at Monterey of Commodore Sloat it was believed in many quarters that the English government had a covetous eye on California. John Parrott, a prominent citizen of San Francisco, was in Mexico in the spring of 1846, and in a position to learn something of British intentions. Ascertaining that a movement was about to be made to hoist the English flag over the capitol at Monterey, he sent a courier to Commodore Sloat warning him that England was about to steal a march on the United States. The commodore immediately went to sea. He reached Monterey Bay, and as has been related, hoisted the American flag over the capitol on July 7, 1846. Admiral Seymour, of the British navy, arrived soon afterward, but having no authority to inaugurate hostilities with the United States, was powerless.
The necessity of holding San Jose induced Captain Montgomery to dispatch the purser of the Portsmouth, Watmough, to the pueblo with thirty-five marines, as soon as it was learned that Fallon had gone south. He made his headquarters at the Juzgado and strengthened his command by the enlistment of a few volunteers. The tide of war, however, had flowed southward, and with the exception of a short expedition against the Indians of the San Joaquin Valley, the military operations did not amount to much. Watmough returned to his vessel in October.
At this time Commander Hull of the U. S. sloop of war Warren, was in command of the northern district of California and from him issued commissions to Charles M. Weber as captain and John M. Murphy as lieutenant of a company to be enlisted in the land service to serve during the war. They raised a company of thirty and established headquarters in an adobe building on the east side of what is now known as Lightston Street. This company did good service in scouting the country and preventing depredations by the straggling remnants of Castro's command and in securing supplies for the use of the troops.
About the time Weber and Murphy received their commissions a body of emigrants arrived at Sutter's Fort where they were met by Captain Smith, of Fremont's Battalion, who had been detailed as a recruiting officer. Among the emigrants was Joseph Aram, who afterwards became an honored resident of Santa Clara County. Aram immediately enlisted and was appointed a captain. With his volunteers he proceeded to escort the families of the emigrants to Santa Clara where he made his headquarters in November. The accommodations were very inadequate and the season being a rough one, fourteen died before February and many more became seriously ill. Captain Aram had a force of thirty-one men and hearing that a Colonel Sanchez with a large force of mounted Mexicans was threatening the Santa Clara Mission, he proceeded to put it in as good a condition for defenses as his means would permit. Wagons and even branches cut from the trees on the Alameda were used as barricades across the various approaches.
At the time Captain Aram took possession of the Mission, Captain Mervin of the U. S. Navy sent Lieutenant Pinckney, of the Savannah, and sixty men to reinforce Weber and Murphy at San Jose. On the afternoon of November 2, this force took possession of the Juzgado and transformed it into a barracks, entrenching the position by breastworks and a ditch. Videttes were stationed on all the roads and a sentinel was posted on the Guadalupe bridge. In addition to these precautions Weber and Murphy's company were almost continually in the saddle, scouting the country in all directions. This was absolutely necessary as the Mexican Sanchez, with a large force, was hovering around the valley picking up stragglers and looking for a favorable opportunity for a sudden attack. At the same time the Americans were anxious to meet Sanchez on a fair field, but the Mexican's movements were so erratic that he could not be brought to bay.
In the first days of September, Sanchez, by means of an ambush, surprised and captured Lieutenant W. A. Bartlett of the U. S. sloop Warren. Bartlett was then acting as alcalde at San Francisco. He, with five men, were out looking for supplies of cattle and reached a point near the Seventeen Mile House in what is now San Mateo Countv, when Sanchez and his men dashed out from the brush and made the Americans prisoners. Martin Corcoran, afterwards a prominent resident of San Jose, was with the captured party. The prisoners were taken to Sanchez camp among the redwoods in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Range. Word was brought to San Jose that Sanchez was somewhere in the northern part of the valley and Weber and Murphy, with their company, started out in pursuit. After advancing a few miles they learned that Sanchez had received large accessions to his force and was occupying a strong position in the hills back of San Mateo. Captain Weber's little company being too small to render an attack advisable, the march was continued to San Francisco, where Weber reported to the Commander.
As soon as Weber had passed on, Sanchez came out of the hills and encamped on the Higuera ranch, north of San Jose. Two days later he started for the pueblo thinking he could capture it without a fight as Weber's defenders had gone. He took up a position on the Almaden road, south of town and sent in a flag of truce, demanding surrender and stating that he had with him two hundred men whose eagerness for battle could with difficulty be restrained; but if the American forces would leave San Jose they would be permitted to depart unmolested. Lieutenant Pinckney refused the offer, doubled his guards and prepared for battle. That night was one of great anxiety to the little band behind the intrenchments on Market Street. Every one was on the alert and although each nerve vas strung to the utmost tension there was no flinching. During the night Sanchez circled round the town and carefully inspected the position of the Americans from every point. When he saw the preparations made for his reception, his heart failed him and he rode off with his command and went into camp about five miles north of Santa Clara. He kept with him Lieutenant Bartlett and his men. At that time J. Alexander Forbes, the acting British Consul was at Santa Clara. Taking a small English flag in his hands, Mr. Forbes visited the camp of Sanchez for the purpose of negotiating for the release of the prisoners. Sanchez was willing that Bartlett might go with Forbes, but would not consent that Bartlett chould go to the Americans unless they would deliver up Capt. C. M. Weber in his place. Forbes communicated this proposition to the Commander at San Francisco and pending a reply took Bartlett to Santa Clara. Word came quickly that Sanchez' proposition could not be entertained and Bartlett was returned to the Mexican camp.
During this time Weber's force in San Francisco was joined by other forces, and placed under the command of Capt. Ward Marston, U. S. 'Marine Corps, of the Savannah. The composition of this small army was as follows: Thirty-four marines commanded by Lieut. Robert Tansell; a six pound ship's gun and ten men commanded by Master William F. D. Gough, assisted by Midshipman John Kell; the San Jose Volunteers, a body of thirty-three mounted men under command of Capt. Chas. M. Weber and Lieut. John M. Murphy with James F. Reed, seeking relief for the Donner party, as second lieutenant; Yerba Buena Volunteers under command of Capt. William F. Smith and a detachment of twelve men under command of Capt. J. Martin. The whole force numbered 101 men. They left San Francisco and on January 2, 1847, came in sight of Sanchez' forces about four miles north of Santa Clara. The Mexican force was about 250 men but notwithstanding the odds were two to one against them the Americans advanced to the attack with confidence and enthusiasm. Sanchez, whose scouts had brought him intelligence of the aproach [sic] of the troops from San Francisco, first sent his prisoners toward the Santa Cruz Mountains and then with great show of valor made ready for battle. As soon as the Americans came in sight of the enemy they pressed inward for an attack. Sanchez fell-back and the Americans continued to advance. They brought their one piece of artillery into position but at the third round it was dismounted by the recoil and half buried in the mud. The infantry however, kept up a hot fire, whenever they could get in range, which owing to the extreme caution of the Mexicans, was not often. A good deal of ground was thus traversed until finally Sanchez made a strong demonstration around the right flank of the Americans, hoping by this maneuver to cut off and stampede a large band of horses that were in the charge of the United States troops.
The reports of the artillery and the volleys of the musketry had aroused the people of the Mission of Santa Clara. They ascended the house tops to witness the battle. Capt. Aram, with the men under his command wished to join the conflict, but as all the women and children of the country were under American military protection, Aram did not feel at liberty to abandon them, especially as Sanchez in his retrograde moveement, was approaching the Mission. But when the Mexicans made the demonstration on the American right, he marched his men with speed to attack Sanchez' right wing. At the same time. Weber and Murphy's company charged, the combined forces driving the Mexicans from the field and toward the Santa Cruz Mountains while the Americans marched in triumph to the Mission. The Mexican loss was four men killed and four wounded. The Americans had two men slightly wounded.
Soon after Sanchez had been driven from the field he sent in to the Mission a flag of truce offering a conditional surrender. The reply was that the surrender must be unconditional. Sanchez replied that he would die rather than surrender except on the conditions proposed by him. At last a cessation of hostilities was agreed upon until such time as his proposition could be submitted to the Commander of the district at San Francisco.
During the armistice and the day after the battle, January 3, Capt. Aram went to the Mexican corral to look for some horses that had been stolen from the Americans. While in the Mexican camp word was brought in that another American force was advancing from the direction of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sanchez, who seemed in great fear of an attack, requested Capt. Aram to go out and meet them and inform them of the armistice. As no reinforcements were expected from that direction Aram could not imagine what this force could be,but he rode out to meet them. The acting British Consul, J. Alexander Forbes,accompanied him. It seems that the hope that England would take a hand in the affairs of California was not entirely abandoned, for as Lieutenant Murphy stated. Forbes carried with him, concealed under his saddle, a small British flag, presumably for the purpose of invoking the aid of the strangers should they prove to be English. Several of the men in the escort saw the flag and said afterward that had an attempt been made to induce British interference, the bearer of the flag would not have survived to tell the story of his negotiations. As it happened, however, the new party proved to be a force of fifty nine men under command of Capt. Maddox of the U. S. Navy. They were disappointed to hear of the armistice but respected its conditions. Three days after this event a courier arrived from San Francisco informing Capt. Marston that Sanchez' surrender must be unconditional.
On the next day, the 7th, Lieutenant Grayson arrived at the Mission with another reinforcesnent of fifteen men and on the 8th Sanchez unconditionally surrendered his entire force. His men were allotted to return to their houses, which the majority of them did, to afterward become good citizens of the United States. Sanchez was taken to San Francisco and for a time was held prisoner of war on board the Savannah.
The battle of Santa Clara was the last of the hostilities in this county. The theater of war was transferred to the south and no hostile gun was afterward fired in the beautiful Valley of Santa Clara. But few months elapsed after this engagement before the soldiers on both sides were mingled together in the friendliest kind of business and social relations. This will not seem remarkable when it is remembered that the inhabitants of California had, for years, been dissatisfied with their relations to the Mexican Government. They had contemplated a revolution and had, in a manner, accomplished it when they drove Micheltorena from the country. It is true they had no love for the United States, but that government having taken possession of the country, they accepted the situation as being much better than their former condition, although not what they had hoped to achieve. The equal justice which was administered by the Americans soon reconciled them to their lot and in a few years they congratulated themselves over the fact that things were much better than they had expected.
Hostilities between the United States and Mexico ceased early in 1848 and on February 2nd of that year the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. By its terms California was ceded to the conquerors. This treaty was ratified by the President of the United States on March 16, was exchanged at Queretaro on May 30, and was proclaimed by the President on July 4th.
California was now the property of the United States but had neither territorial nor state organization. In fact it had no territorial existence until 1849. During this time its affairs were administered by the senior military officers stationed in California. These military governors were: Commodore John D. Sloat, July 7, 1846; Commodore Robert F. Stockton, August 17, 1846; Col. John C. Fremont, January 1847; Gen. Stephen W. Kearney, March, 1847; Col. Richard B. Mason, May 31, 1847; Gen. Bennett Riley, April 13, 1849.
Capt. Thomas Fallon, who raised the first American flag in the Santa Clara Valley, accompanied Fremont in the pursuit of Pio Pico. After the war ended he took up his residence in San Jose, erecting what was then considered the finest mansion in the pueblo. It stood on San Pedro Street at its junction with what is now San Augustine street and extended back to Chabolla Alley. The giounds were spacious, and were planted in fruit trees and flowering plants. Here the hospitable captain kept open house for years. He had three daughters by his first wife, a native Mexico. They were looked upon as the three beauties of the pueblo. The oldest, Anita, married John T. Malone, who was a graduate of Santa Clara College and a lawyer of standing and ability. While he was deputy district attorney he was seized with the stage fever. Abandoning the law he studied for the stage and in the early eighties made his professional debut in San Francisco as "Romeo" to the "Juliet" of Miss Eleanor Calhoun, a San Jose girl, who had adopted the stage as a profession and who is now (1922) the wife of Prince Lazarovitch of Serbia. Malone starred several years in the East, and was secretary of the Players' Club, New York City when he died. His wife became an actress beiore his death. Another of Captain Fallon's daughters married Nat J. Brittain, a prominent San Francisco clubman. In 1862 Fallon ran for state senator on the Democratic ticket but was beaten by Joseph G. Wallis, of Mayfield, Republican. In 1867 he was the successful candidate for county treasurer, defeating Moody, Republican, by sixty-one votes. He held no other important public office.
Lieut. John M. Murphy, who was Captain Weber's second in command during hostilities in Santa Clara Valley during the Mexican war, was the son of Martin Murphy, Sr., and after the discovery of gold. went to the mines, taking with him a stock of goods. He employed the Indians to prospect and dig for him and probably had more gold in his possession than other trainers on the coast. He was the first treasurer of Santa Clara County and was afterward elected recorder and then sheriff. His wife was Virginia F. Reed, daughter of James F. Reed and one of the survivors of the ill-fated Donner party. Murphy has been dead for many years. His widow died in Los Angeles February 15, 1921.
Charles M. Weber was a merchant in San Jose where he formed his volunteer company to defend the pueblo. He acquired a large tract of land in the county, raised thousands of cattle and died in San Joaquin County many years ago.
Gold Is Discovered
The discovery of gold in January, 1848, created the greatest excitement in San Jose. The news came after the grain crop had been planted. All business was suspended and everybody rushed to the mines. Many succeeded in obtaining a good supply of the precious metal, but many more did not succeed. The grain in the fields grew and ripened, but waited in vain for the reaper and was finally wasted or devoured by the roving hogs. Each report of a rich find intensified the excitement while the numerous stories of disappointment seemd not to allay the fever. Town and county were deserted. There being no crops for lack of harvesting all food supplies went up to fabulous prices. The flour used was brought chiefly from Chile and sold for twenty dollars a barrel. Everything else in the way of food, except meat was proportionately high. Labor, when it could be procured was from ten to eighteen dollars per day. Lumber cost $100 per thousand feet for hauling alone. For two years the onions raised on about six acres of ground where the Southern Pacific depot stands yielded a net profit of $20,000 a year.
The two most prominent towns in Caliiornia in 1848 were Yerba Buena (San Francisco) and San Jose. When the gold discoyery was made Charles E. White was alcalde of San Jose and Harry Bee, alguazil, or sheriff. All the males, with few exceptions, joined the stampede, leaving behind only the old men and the women and children. On account of the favorable location and quietude of the town men from other settlements came to San Jose, left their wives and families and then hurried off to the mines.
Harry Bee then had under his charge in the calaboose ten prisoners (Indians), two of whom were charged with murder. When Alcalde White announced his intention to leave for the mines, Harry asked him what disposition of the prisoners should be made. "Do what you like with them," was the answer. Harry considered awhile and at last came to the conclusion that it would never do to leave the Indians in the pueblo with none but women and children about, for he, too, had made up his mind to go to the mines. He finally determined to take the Indians along With him and with his father-in-law and brother-in-law started out. Before leaving the lockup the Indians promised faithfully not to escape and to serve Harry well in return for which service they would, after a time, be restored to liberty. The party located at Dry Diggings on the American River and for three months the Indians behaved splendidly. All the dust they took out was given to their employer and they seemed to care for nothing except food and shelter. At the end of two months the miners thereabout began to talk to them about the shabby way in which they were treated, telling them that they were under no restraint, that the gold they took out was their own property and wound up by giving them the curse of the aborigine, "fire water." Harry soon noticed a change in their manner and as he had cleaned up a good pile he resolved to return to San Jose. Accordingly he left the Indians in full posession of his claim with all the tools, etc., and departed homeward. He afterward learned that the Indians only worked one day after his departure and then devoted what dust they had in getting on a glorious drunk, which was not unmixed with bloodshed. Not one of them ever returned to San Jose.
Hon. S. O. Houghton, who died in Los Angeles a few years ago, passed through San Jose, in the fall of '48 to find the place comparatively deserted. All the male population had departed for the mines, business had stagnated and everything appeared to be going to rack and ruin. No provision had been made for the coming season. Mr. Houghton, while at Monterey on his way northward, purchased of Capt. Joseph Aram, a redwood board for the purpose of making a rocker for which he paid one dollar per foot. Sawmills were a paying business those days. After returning from the mines Mr. Houghton employed men in a sawmill, paying them as high as sixteen dollars per day. When the gold excitement broke out the following persons were in and about San Jose. Moses Schallenberger, Frank Lightson, Charles E. White, J. W. Weeks, Ephraim Fravel, George Cross, A. Pfister, Isaac Branham, Dr. Ben Cory, John M. Murphy, Thomas Campbell, Capt. Joseph Aram, William Gulnac, Charles M. Weber, W. C. Wilson, Edward Johnson, Peter Davidson, Josiah Belden, Zachariah Jones, P. Haggerty, Jonathan Parr, the Pyle family, M. D. Kell, Peter Quincy, Hiram Miller, Samuel Young, Joseph Stillwell, Arthur Caldwell, James F. Reed, Clement Bugbee, Wesley Hoover, James Enright, Harry Bee. This does not complete the list, but nearly so. Parties were organized for the mines and explorations were carried on until just before the rainy season when the major part of the gold seekers returned. Before the opening of spring, when new expeditions had been fitted out, the population had largely increased and the city was left in a more secure condition. Numbers had already increased their store of gold to a satisfactory extent, while others wished to try their hand again.
Killing of Young Pyle
No single event created more interest and excitement in San Jose and vicinity than the killing of young Pyle by a Mexican named Valencia in 1847. From a great mass of stories the following facts have been gleaned: In 1847 young Pyle, son of Edward Pyle, visited the ranch of Anastacio Chabolla for the purpose of playing with the young Spanish boys on the ranch. During the play one of the boys named Valencia, a nephew of Chabolla, accidentally injured the horse of young Pyle. The horse was so nearly disabled that another had to be procured to take young Pyle home. After young Pyle had left the ranch Valencia's companions began to plague him about his awkwardness, saying, among other things, that upon hearing young Pyle's story the parents would make Valencia's mother pay for the injury. Valencia appears to have been a very sensitive boy and his companions worked his feelings up to such a pitch that he determined to follow Pyle and extract a promise to keep mum about the accident. Mounted on a fast horse he soon overtook Pyle and with a throw of the lariat dragged the boy from his horse. He then cut the boy's throat with a knife and dragged the body to the foothills and covered it with brush.
When young Pyle did not return home his relatives and friends instituted search for him but without result. No clue to his whereabouts was discovered until 1849 and the manner of the discovery was for years a subject of dispute. Frederic Hall, in his history says that in 1849 a brother of young Pyle met in the San Joaquin Valley a man who said he knew all about the killing. He was brought to San Jose, the remains of the murdered boy were found and the arrest of Valencia soon followed.
Another story was related by the late Julius Martin, of Gilroy. In 1849 Martin had a band of cattle in the vicinity of Mormon Island. One of his Spanish vaqueros named Camillo Ramero was taken ill with a fever and Martin brought him to his (Ramero's) home in the Santa Clara Valley. One night as they were riding near the Bernal ranch, Ramero was taken with a chill, and fearing that he was was about to die, told Martin all about the murder of young Pyle, who did it, how it was done and where the body had been hidden. He said, among other things, that after young Pyle had been dragged from his horse, Valencia rode away, but soon after meeting his uncle was told that if he did not go back and kill Pyle the Americans would hang him for what he had already done. The statement so worked on the boy's fears, that he went back, killed Pyle and concealed the body near Silver Creek, beyond Evergreen. Martin, after hearing Ramero's story came at once to San Jose and meeting Cad. Keyes told him what Ramero had confessed. Keyes chanced to find John Pyle in town and they made up a posse and arrested Valencia.
A party consisting of Peter Davidson, John Pyle, William McCutchen and a few others went out to find the murdered boy's remains. They were found in the place indicated by Ramero. It was afterward learned that Valencia had been living a life of torment ever since the commission of the deed. From the place where he lived to the spot where he had hidden the body of his victim a path had been worn by frequent visits. It was said that hardly a night passed without seeing him trudging the lonely path to the grave of his victim. After his arrest Valencia was arraigned before R. H. Dimmick, Judge of the First Instance. He confessed to the crime before his trial and the trial resulted in a conviction. The execution took place on Market Plaza in the presence of Judge Dimmick and a large number of spectators.
Pending the meeting of the convention and the adoption of a new state constitution in Monterey in October, 1849, the country was ruled provisionally by American officials. Each large settlement had for chief officers an alcalde, who under Mexican laws had the entire control of municipal affairs and administered justice pretty much according to his own ideas on the subject, without being tied down by precedents and formal principles of law. He could make grants of building lots within the town boundaries to intending settlers and really his right of administration, except in cases of grave importance, seems to have been limited only by his power to carry his decrees into effect. When the Americans seized the country they were obliged to make use of the existing machinery of local government and the customary laws that regulated it. They accordingly everywhere appointed alcaldes of towns and districts and instructed them to dispense justice in the best possible manner, paying always due regard for the national laws of Mexico and the provisional customs of California.
Such was the condition of the town government when that memorable year, 1849, opened. The rulers in the Pueblo of San Jose were as follows: H. K. Dimmick, to August, first alcalde; Richard M. May, from August to November, first alcalde; John C. Conroy, from November, first alcalde; Jose Fernandez, second alcalde; John T. Richardson, from November 2 to December 3, judge of the first instance; W. M. Kincaid, from December 3, judge of the first instance. The Juzgado, or court house, was located on Market Street, corner of El Dorado (now Post). It was built of adobe and had a primitive and weather-beaten appearance.
In 1847 a survey of the town had been made and streets laid out and in 1849 the three main thoroughfares were Market, First and Santa Clara streets, the last named taking the lead as far as travel and business were concerned. There were but few business houses early in the year. Lightston & Weber held forth in an adobe building on the southeast corner of Santa Clara and Lightston streets. There was no hotel in town then and emigrants or strangers had the alternative of either sleeping in the open air or paying as high as $50 a month for a place on the floor in the second story of Lightston & Weber's store or other adobe structures. Josiah Belden and W. R. Basham trafficked in a tile-roofed building on Market street at the corner of San Antonio street. J. D. Hoppe had a store in an adobe on the corner of Market and El Dorado streets and William McCutchen and B. H. Gordon (afterward a farmer in the San Felipe Valley) did business in a frame structure on First street, near the corner of Santa Clara street. On the Knox Block corner stood the handsomest and most aristocratic looking adobe residence in the pueblo. It was occupied by Thomas and Frank West and what was a wonder in those days, it was plastered on the inside. From that building down to Market Street, a mustard patch flourished in all its pristine vigor. The bucolic appearance was relieved somewhat by a collection of mustard huts put up by the native California population. The long, hardy stalks were selected and with the aid of a few willow branches and a liberal supply of adobe mud, a comfortable abiding place was constructed. No pains appear to have been spared by these children of the plains and the Sierras in thoroughly ventilating their dwellings, and as ventilation and health go hand in hand, it is not to be wondered at that the occupants were strong-limbed, hardy and long-lived.
Antonio Maria Sunol sold general merchandise at his residence on the west side of Market Plaza and a Chilean firm did business in Peter Davidson's adobe building on San Pedro.
There were a number of private residences, constructed of adobe, in and about the pueblo and many tents and a few wooden buildings put up for temporary use by the Americans. In 1849 the town began to increase rapidly in population, on account of the discovery of gold, the consequent tide of immigration and the advantages offered by San Jose as a place of residence. The women of '49 deserve a larger share of praise and credit than has generally been accorded them. They were not hot-house plants, nor spoiled beauties, narrow-waisted, weak-chested and doll-faced, who manifested more regard for fashion and the latest novel, than housework. They were women of force and worthy coadjutors of the men who laid the basis for the grand civilization of today. The habitations (adobe, tent or shack) were not supplied with the many conveniences of today. Many of the household utensils were of primitive design and in the matter of groceries the stock was not as extensive and varied as may be seen in these later days. In place of the handsome and convenient range, or gas stove, with labor-saving and handy accessories, they were obliged to put up with an adobe fireplace or two sticks driven into the ground, forked at their upper ends with a third stick laid across the top upon which the kettles and pots were suspended above the fire underneath. They did not have any bell-knocker or electric button on or near the front door, nor a parlor with a piano and lots of chromos in it. In the majority of cases the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, sitting room and parlor were one and there was generally an absence of carpets and wallpaper. The women worked hard in those days, adapting themselves cheerfully to the rough conditions. Many of them are now living in costly dwellings, surrounded by appurtenances of wealth, refinement and ease. They deserve the success they and their husbands have achieved and it is all the more enjoyable after the hard experiences of the early days.
Early Buildings of San Jose
In the latter part of '49 the Bella Union Saloon was erected on a portion of the ground now occupied by the Auzerais House on Santa Clara Street. The proprietors were Joseph W. Johnson and a Mr. Whitney. The Mansion House was begun by J. S. Ruckel on the ground where now stands the old Music Hall building on North First street; and the City Hotel on the opposite of the street was completed and opened to the public. Mine host was Peter Quincy, (since deceased) and the prices charged for board and lodging were high enough to allow a boniface to get rich in a month.
Where the Bank of Italy building now stands was a large cattle corral and to the east and south plains of mustard greeted the eye, an adobe house, occupied by a native Californian, now and then dotting the waste and relieving the monotonous expanse. The mustard stalks grew as high as young trees—higher than a man's head and it was the easiest thing in the world to take a walk in the shade of the yellow branches and get lost!
The grand public place was the Plaza, then hard, level and treeless. Here the native Californians were in the habit of congregating and enjoying themselves according to the customs that had been handed down for generations. Horse racing, bull fights, equestrian feats, fandangos and other divertissements made up the program of pleasure.
Vivid Description of Early Days
The condition of affairs in San Jose at this time vas graphically described by the late "Grandma" Bascom in a story transcribed by Mrs. M. H. Field, which appeared in the Overland Monthly in 1887. The following excerpts are made:
"We reached Sacramento the last day of October. Then we took a boat to San Francisco. It rained and rained. I remember that at Benicia we paid $15 for a candle. At San Francisco we hoped to find a house all ready to be put together, which the Doctor had bought in New York and ordered sent around the Horn. He had also sent in the same cargo a great lot of furniture and a year's supply of provisions, but they never came until the next April and then everything was spoiled but the house. We had also bought in San Francisco two lots for $1,700 each. The best we could do was to camp on them. The first night in San Francisco Mr. Bryant came to take supper with us and the Doctor, to celebrate, bought $5 worth of potatoes. We ate them all for supper and didn't eat so very many of them, either.
"We had intended from the first to come to the Santa Clara Valley, for the Doctor said that wherever the Catholic Fathers had picked out a site it must be a good one. The children and I stayed in the city while the Doctor went on horseback to San Jose and bought a house for us. Then he came back and we started for San Jose with Professor Jack, while the Doctor stayed in the city to buy and ship furniture and provisions to us. We came to Alviso in the boat and paid $150 in fare, just for me and the children. From Alviso we came to San Jose by the Pioneer stage through fearful mud and pouring rain, paying an 'ounce' each for fare. On the boat I got acquainted with two nice gentlemen, both ministers, whose names were Brierly and Blakeslee. They, too, were coming to San Jose; also a Mr. Knox.
" 'We haven't any place to lay our heads when we get there,' one of them said.
" 'Well, I've got a house,' said I, just as if I was in Kentucky, 'and if you can put up with what I'll have to you can come with me and welcome.' So we were all driven straight to my house at the corner of Second and San Fernando streets. It was dark and the 10th of December.
"The house had been bought from a Mrs. Matthews and she was still in it. Doctor had paid $7,000 for the house and two fifty vara lots. I expected to see at least a decent shelter, but oh, my! it was just as one of the children said, 'Most as good as our old Kentucky corn crib.' It had two rooms and a loft which was climbed into bv a kind of ladder. The roof was of shakes and let the rain right through, and the floor was of planks, laid down with the smooth side up with great cracks between to let the water run out. I was thankful for that. There was a chimney in the house and a fireplace, but hardly a bit of fire and no wood. It was rather a forlorn place to come to and bring visitors to, now wasn't it? Yet we had been through so much that the poorest shelter looked good to me and besides it was our new home. We must make the best of it. Mrs. Matthews had a good supper for us on the table and the children were overjoyed to see a real table cloth once more.
"Will you tell me where I can get some wood?" I said to Mrs. Matthews, thinking that a fire would be the best possible thing for us all. 'You can buy a burro load in the morning,' she answered. 'I've used the last bit to get supper with?' Well, the end of it was that we took our supper and went to bed not on our nice Kentucky feather beds, but on buffalo skins spread on the floor and without any pillows. Mr. Knox, Mr. Blakeslee and Mr. Brierly climbed up into the loft and turned in as best they could. Mr. Knox was sick but I couldn't even give him a cup of hot tea. I said to Mrs. Matthews that I wished I could heat a stone to put to his feet. 'Stone!' said she. 'There are no stones in this country.'
"We slept as if we were on downy beds, we were so tired. The next morning I bought a burro load of wood for an 'ounce'. Everything cost an 'ounce'. I soon got used to it. Wheat was 75 cents a pound, butter $1 a pound, eggs $3 a dozen. A chicken cost $3, milk $1 a quart. But the prices matched all around. Doctors charged $5 for pulling a tooth and other things were in proportion. I don't know as if it made any difference. I divided my mansion into four rooms, with curtains. Doctor came and brought us furniture and all the comforts money could buy. He paid $500 to get shingles for our roof. Mr. Blakeslee and Mr. Brierly stayed with us. We all seemed to get on well together. It was not till spring that the Doctor found a black man who could cook. He paid $800 for him. Folks said he wouldn't stay—for, of course, he was free in California—but he did. He lived with us for four years.
"People began to ask if they couldn't stay with us till they found some other home, and then, somehow, they stayed on. Everybody had to be hospitable. The Legislature was then in session and the town was more than full. The first thing I knew I had thirteen boarders—senators and representatives, ministers and teachers. Nobody who came would go away. I could always manage to make people feel at home, and they would all say they would put up with anything and help in all sorts of ways, if I would only let them stay. Mr. Leek (he was the enrolling clerk of the Legislature) was a wonderful hand at making batter cakes. We got a reputation on batter cakes and our house was dubbed "Slapjack Hall" by my boy, Al. It stuck to us. Mr. Bradford, of Indiana, could brown coffee to perfection.
"Mr. Orr and Mr. Mullen always brought all the water. They were senators. I used to think they liked the job because there was a pretty girl in the house where they got the water. And that reminds me that several families got water from the same well. It was just a hole in the ground, about eight or ten feet deep and no curb around it. Once a baby was creeping on the ground and fell into it. The mother saw it and ran and jumped in after it. Then she screamed and I ran out. There she was in the well, holding the baby upside down to get the water out of its lungs. 'Throw me a rope,' she screamed and I ran for a rope. Then she tied it around the baby and I drew it up. Meanwhile our cries brought men to the rescue and they drew up the poor woman. We kept the well covered after that.
"Before we got the black man it seemed impossible to get a cook. We even had a woman come down from San Francisco, but she didn't stay when she found we really expected her to cook. She said she was a niece of Amos Kendall and wasn't going to cook for anybody. Professor Jack helped me steadily and, as I said, everybody lent a hand. We had a very gay time over our meals and everybody was willing to wash dishes and tend baby. I used to go to the Legislature and enjoy the fun there as much as the members enjoyed my housekeeping. The March of that winter was something to remember. People used to get swamped on the corner of First and Santa Clara streets. A little boy was drowned there. It was a regular trap for children.
"Oh, did I tell you I built the first church and the first schoolhouse in San Jose? I did. I built it all with my own hands and the only tool I had was a good, stout needle. It was the famous 'Blue Tent' you have heard of. Mr. Blakeslee asked me if I could make it and I told him of course I could. He bought the cloth and cut it out. It was of blue jean and cost seventy-five cents a yard. The Presbyterian Church was organized in it and Mr. Blakeslee had a school in it all winter.
"We had a good deal of party-going and gave entertainments just as if we had elegant houses and all the conveniences. Some of the Spanish people were very stylish. The ladies had dresses rich as silk and embroidery could make them, and in their long, low adobe houses there were rich carpets and silk curtains trimmed with gold lace. I went to the first wedding in one of those houses. Miss Pico married a Mr. Campbell. It was very grand, but the odd dresses and the odd dishes upset my gravity more than once. Governor and Mrs. McDougall lived in an adobe house on Market street and they had a grand party there. I had a party, too, one day and asked all the ladies of my acquaintance. Mrs. Branham had given me six eggs and I made an elegant cake which I was going to pass around in fine style. I began by passing it to one of the Spanish ladies and she took the whole cake at one swoop, wrapped it up in the skirt of her gorgeous silk dress and said, 'Mucha gracias'. I was never so surprised in my life, but there was nothing I could do. The rest of us had to go without cake that time.
"Cattle and horses ran about the streets and there were no sidewalks. We just had to pick our way around as best we could.
"In the spring my piano came. It was sent by way
of the Isthmus. It was the first piano in San Jose. It made a great sensation.
Everybody came to see it and hear my little girl play. Indians and Spanish
used to crowd around the doors and windows to hear the wonderful music,
and many a white man, too, lingered and listened because it reminded him
"We moved into a better house in the spring, very near where the Methodist Church South afterward stood. We paid $125 a month for it. But when I look back it seems that I never had such an intellectual feast as I had in old 'Slapjack Hall'. The gentlemen who figured as cooks in my kitchen were the most intelligent and agreeable men you can imagine. They were all educated and smart and they appeared just as much like gentlemen when they were cooking as when they were making speeches in the Legislature. I don't believe we ever again had such a choice set of folks under our roof here in San Jose. Doctor and I felt honored in entertaining and yet they paid us $20 a week for the privilege.
"Of course you know General Fremont and his wife were here that winter and I knew them both. Mrs. Fremont's sister, Mrs. Jones, and I were great friends. Yes, indeed, there never were finer people than my boarders and neighbors in '49. Let me see: There were the Cooks and Hoppes and Cobbs and Joneses, the Branhams and Beldens and Hensleys and Williams, the Bralys, the Westers and Crosbys, Murphys, Dickensons, Hendersons, Kincaids, Campbells, Reeds, Houghtons, Tafts and Moodys. Then amongst them were the Picos and Sunols. Very likely I have forgotten a great many, just telling them off in this fashion, but I never forgot them, really. Many of the best citizens of San Jose now, with their wives and children, yes, and grandchildren, were slim young fellows in those days who had come to California to seek their fortunes. Fine, enterprising boys they were, too. Some of them boarded with me. C. T. Ryland and P. O. Minor were inmates of 'Slapjack Hall' and Dr. Cory and the Reeds will remember it well.
"In 1852 we moved out on the Stockton ranch and
bought our own farm in Santa Clara on which we built our permanent home,
Somerville Lodge. I remember we paid our head carpenter $16 a day. The
house cost us $10,000. It would not cost $1,000 now. We bought seeds for
our garden and an ounce of onion seed cost an ounce of gold. We paid $6
each for our fruit trees. A mule cost $300; a horse $400. But doctor's
services were just as high-priced and so we kept even."