The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s



Seaports

Arrive San Francisco

February 28, 1849
SS California
Lt. Thomas A. Budd
From New York

Passage

Alta California, San Francisco, Thursday, March 1, 1849

ARRIVAL OF THE STEAMSHIP CALIFORNIA AND HER RECEPTION AT THIS PORT.

The long expected and welcome pioneer of the North Pacific Steamship Line arrived in our harbor yesterday morning. She left Mazatlan on the 17 of February, and Monterey on Tuesday last, Gen Persifor F. Smith, new Military commander of the Territory, and his suite are among the passengers. Map of the California Route to the gold fields.

The California is truly a magnificent vessel, and her fine appearance as she came in sight off the Town, called forth cheer upon cheer from our enraptured citizens, who were assembled in masses upon the heights commanding a view of the Bay, and in dense crowds at the principal wharves and landing places. She passed the vessels of war in the harbor under a salute from each, returned by hearty cheering from the crowded decks, and at eleven was safely moored, at the anchorage off the Town.

The California was launched on May 19, 1848 and was the first Pacific Mail steamer to depart for the Pacific. She cleared New York on October 6, 1848 and by the time she reached Panama, gold fever had set in. More than 700 people wanted passage on the California; she ultimately sailed with with many more passengers than she was built to carry. The California was small, built to carry mail and accommodate only sixty passengers.

The captain had to deal with insubordinate crew, a stowaway, and a dangerously low supply of coal. Orders were given to cut up all available wood on board, including spars, bunks, and bulkheads. Then, in a lucky discovery, 100 sacks of coal were found, which got the California as far as Monterey. There she took on 30 cords of wood, and on February 28 entered the Golden Gate, 145 days from New York, and the first steamer to be seen at San Francisco. She arrived in San Francisco with more than 360 gold seekers. So great was the excitement at her arrival, that an introductory cruise was arranged for San Francisco's notables.

Alta California, Tuesday, May 1, 1849

PLEASURE EXCURSION

Since the great event of the arrival on the 28th of February last, of the ocean steamer California in the harbor, there has not been an incident of so much interest and importance to California, to San Francisco in particular, and perhaps to the world, as the FIRST STEAMBOAT EXCURSION ON THE MAGNIFICENT BAY OF SAN FRANCISCO.

Important to the great commerce of the world as is the opening of the line of monthly steamers between this port and Panama, fraught as it is with so much interest to every commercial community, and under the peculiar circumstances, hailed as it has been with joy by millions as opening a speedy and safe communication with the golden lane to which all eyes are intently turned, this excursion when looked upon as demonstrating the capability of navigating this mighty inland sea by steam, in vessels of a large class, is second only in the great chain of causes which is to eventually divert the commerce of the earth from its beaten and age-trodden tracks to the shores of a country which a few months since was unheard of and unknown to civilization.

And a staunch and worthy vessel is the steamer California, commanded by Captain C. Forbes, to have been the pioneer in this work, and most deserving are her officers of the responsible and important positions which they hold. She is a credit to the proud flag she carries, to the talent which planned her, to the skill displayed in her construction, and to the enterprise of the owners.

On Saturday morning the 21st inst. In pursuance of invitation, a large number of our citizens, including many ladies, several strangers, and numerous officers from the American, English and Peruvian vessels of war in port, assembled on the deck of the steamer California, and at half past ten o'clock her anchor was weighed and we found ourselves borne across the waters at the rate of twelve knots an hour, by the mighty power of steam. The morning was delightful, the receding mists revealing the clear blue sky in all the purity and beauty which a California sky alone can boast, and the fresh sea breeze as it came gently in from the ocean, as if tired of toying with the glittering waves, seemed a benignant messengers of health and strength, producing a bracing and elastic effect upon the system.

As the fine ship passed down the harbor in front of the town, every person could not fail to remark the picturesque amphitheater-like situation of San Francisco, and its populous and busy appearance, as well as the astonishing evidences of increase in population, wealth and commercial importance which it presented. On passing the Peruvian brig of war General Gammara, the American ensign was displayed at the fore, and a national salute fired a most befitting and happy compliment. These incidents, the loveliness of the morning, and the exhilarating effect which the onward motion of the strong ship seemed to produce upon all, gave a pleasurable and almost hilarious character to the emotions of the assembled company, and was a sure precursor of the enjoyment which characterized the day.

After a run of about thirty minutes, the ship rounded to in front of the new city of Saucelito, giving to many their first view of this pleasant, and by some esteemed important, site of a commercial town. From this place we proceeded directly on through Raccoon straits, from which we had a fine prospect of the lofty and magnificent scenery at the entrance of . . . which they were clothed to their very summits.

As we proceeded, the densely verdant hills of Corta Madeira gave a new aspect to the country, and soon the dark brown pyramid called Treasure Island was on our right, the long, low, tile-covered buildings of the Mission of San Rafael, with its surrounding hills covered with forests, on our left, and the narrow straits of San Pablo, with the white crests of Two Brothers and Two Sisters in the distance directly ahead.

Passing the straits we were soon out on the broad waters of the Bay of San Pablo which stretch away west for twenty miles towards the sunny valleys, romantic dells and craggy peaks of the coast range, whilst far to the north the dim blue outline of the same mountains could be traced. On our left, the rolling prairie land of the rich ranches that skirt the Bay were covered with wild flowers in the greatest profusion covering the earth in many places for miles with a beautiful enamelled carpet of yellow and green, whilst directly in our front the bluff that marks the entrance to the straits of Carquinez was distinctly visible as was the towering summit of Monte Diablo.

San Francisco and Yerba Buena from the Beginning.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Soon we entered the straits of Carquinez, where the scenery partakes a little of the character of that at the northern commencement of the highlands on the Hudson river, and is at this season of the year esteemed the finest on the Bay, as the high and abrupt hills are now covered to their very top with a carpet of grass. In a few minutes after entering the straits we came in sight of the city of Benicia, which is situated on a gentle slope on the northern shore, and which, it is contended by some, is destined to become the commanding commercial position on the Pacific coast.

arriving at front of the town, the steamer rounded to and came to anchor, amongst the roar of cannon and other demonstrations of joy by both parties.

During the passage up, the day had been enlivened by fine music from the band of U.S.S. Ohio, and the dancing that followed, together with the bracing effect of the fresh air, had given to every person on board a good appetite, and thus enabled them to do justice to an excellent dinner, to which they sat down a few minutes after arriving at Benicia.

The dinner could not, and did not, pass over, with out appropriate and happy acknowledgements of the pleasantness of the trip, and tributes to the respected officers and owners of the noble steamer.

Shortly after dinner the anchor was weighted, and the prow turned towards San Francisco, where we arrived a little after sunset, all well pleased with the day's proceedings, and only regretting that it was impossible to enjoy the morrow in an equally joyous and interesting manner.

As it may be interesting hereafter, or perhaps to those at a distance, we give the following tables on the running time of the steamer in going and returning. The distance from San Francisco to Benicia, by the route travelled, will not, we believe, vary much from thirty-six English miles.

GOING

FROM TO

Saucelito San Pablo Point Benicia
San Francisco 30 min 1 hour 15 min 2 hour 50 min
Saucelito
45 min 2 hour 20 min
San Pablo Point

1 hour 35 min

RETURNING

FROM TO

San Pablo Point Saucelito San Francisco
Benicia 1 hour 20 min 2 hour 5 min 2 hour 30 min
San Pablo Point
45 min 1 hour 10 min
Saucelito

25 min

Cargo

Not listed.

Passengers

List not located.

Arthur Breese Stout (1814-1898), Ship's Surgeon
Augustus Bowie, Navy Surgeon
General William H. Pratt

From California Illustrated:

The steamship California brought four missionaries from New York:
Rev. O. C. Wheeler, a Baptist
Rev. S. Woodbridge, an Old School Presbyterian
Rev. J. W. Douglass, New School Presbyterian
and Rev. S. H. Willey, New School Presbyterians

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