Mormons in California
Mormons in California
October 1, 1847, Galena Gazette, Monterey, Upper California
Printed March 16, 1848 in the Burlington Hawk-Eye
From the Galena Gazette
LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA
Friend: I received your letter dated January 18th, this morning, and as the U. S. sloop of war Prebleleaves to-morrow for Panama, with despatches, I hasten to write. You give me so little, and expect so much information, that I hardly know where to commence.
I am in good health, and would be contented, if near home, where newspapers could be had; but here I am, starved out, and not as much as a Dutch almanack in the whole country to be got hold of. There are two newspapers in the Territory, both published at San Francisco Bay. In nationality, religion and politics they are of the 'omnivorous" species, although one, the "Star" is published by a Mr. Brannan, the leader of the New York Mormons, and advocates the Mormon doctrines.
The country is flooded with Mormons. Their regiment, under Col. Cook, has been disbanded, allowing each non commissioned officer, musician and private to retain his arms and equipment so that they are a band of men, loafing about, some farming, some stealing, &c., ready to act for or against the United States the first opportunity. As they are regularly "drilled," and possess a large quantity of arms and equipment, it is generally supposed, they will join the Californians to help re-take the country. I think it was a great oversight in General Kearney to allow them those privileges. Besides this, Mormon emigrants are arriving daily, by sea and land, from Europe and America all bringing arms and ammunition, to fight, as they say, "the battles of the Lord, and relieve their afflicted brethren from the persecutions and bondage of the Moabite, and to build up an inheritance to the Lord in the wilderness."
They have pitched upon the beautiful valley of the San Joaquin and Sacramento as their future homes, and will shortly commence a city and a new temple, far superior in size, style and magnificence, to the one in Nauvoo. They pretend to have had a new prophesy through their leader, Samuel Brannan, which is that San Francisco valley was the Garden of Eden; the "three great rivers" as mentioned in the Bible, are the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Rio Delos Americanos; that they inherit this land from Adam, the ancient gardener himself, and that they and their forefathers have, up to this time, compelled to wander through the world, suffering all manner of persecutions, to expiate the crime of mother Eve; all of which sin is to be pardoned, or has been pardoned, as they have got possession of the "inheritance prepared for them from the foundation of the world."
They say this war with Mexico was sent to punish the U. States for the death of J. Smith (Joseph Smith), and as a means to give them possession of the "promised land," which has been held in mortgage for sin over four thousands years; reserved especially, whereon the chosen are to build the New Jerusalem. -- They speak of many other visions and prophesies that Brannan has put forth; among them is one that he is to be Treasurer and Banker of all the Mormons in the promised land. But they are not unanimous on that, as my informant says, "he might apostatize," -- a common word among them.
There are now more than seven thousand Mormons in, or on their way to this Territory, and if report be true, there will be twice the number by next year. Their principal settlement is Bear valley, above Sutter's Fort, where they have laid out a city and have commenced to build it; but their principal city, which is to be called the "City of the Prophets," will be built near the Sacramento, on the San Joakin. -- There they intend building their "New Jerusalem" and burying the bones of their prophet, Jo Smith. Thus, step after step, this Brannan deludes the ignorant at every turn, until he gets his ends accomplished, after which he will be 'among the missing.'
"The Californian," a copy of which I send you, is published by a Louisvillian, who learned his trade with Prentice. The paper speaks for itself. The editor is a Whig, and would if necessary, be the first to advocate that cause. Printers are plenty, and the dregs of the cast-off craft are to be seen in every state and condition. Not a man-of-war in the harbor, or a party of trappers or soldiers, or any collection whatever, but two or more of them are to be found.
In Monterey, the Alcalde, J. Walton Gallon, is a printer. Mr Fozee, the High Constable, is a printer. He learned his trade in the Republican office, and belongs to St Louis. The office of Alcalde is the same as President Judge in the States, but he also acts as Sheriff, Esquire and Mayor, so that his power is almost unlimited. He can sentence a criminal and execute him, and no one question his authority because it is Mexican. Except trial by jury, the Mexican law is still kept in force: One Alcalde to each judicial district.
The northern part is divided into three districts: San Francisco, Monterey and Sonoma. Ex-Gov. Boggs is the Alcalde of Sonoma. T. J. Farnham is in town, attending to a lawsuit that attracts general interest, involving the characters and fortunes of four or five of the most respectable and influential citizens of Monterey. In the last book that he published, he asserted, that these were the means of murdering some of the American citizens, and of sending others in irons to the city of Mexico, where they remained over eighteen months in irons, without trial. This was done in order that those gentlemen of the "Star Chamber" might confiscate their properly.
The Star Chamber evolved from the medieval king's council. There had long been a tradition of the king presiding over a court composed of his privy councillors; however, in 1487, under the supervision of Henry VII, the Court of Star Chamber was established as a judicial body separate from the king's council. The purpose of the Star Chamber was to oversee the operations of lower courts and to hear cases by direct appeal. The court as structured under Henry VII had a mandate to hear petitions of redress. Although initially the court only heard cases on appeal, Henry VIII's chancellor Thomas Wolsey and, later, Thomas Cranmer encouraged suitors to appeal to it straight away, and not wait until the case had been heard in the common-law courts. Cases dealt with in the Star Chamber involved property rights, trade, government administration and public corruption. The Tudors were also concerned with matters of public disorder. Wolsey used the court to prosecute forgery, fraud, perjury, riot, slander, and pretty much any action that could be considered a breach of the peace.
Mr Farnham proved all this, and more, yet the Jury, from private causes, could not agree. There will be another trial in January nest. One of the parties is named Gardner. He is Clerk and translator to the Alcalde. It was proven that he is an escaped convict from Australia, where he was sent by the British Government for forgery. He has been in the country over fifteen years, and has a large family; yet, for his indiscretion, if demanded by that Government, fie will be sent back to Botany Bay to serve his time out, which is for life.
How to commence to write about California, I don't know. There are but two seasons, the wet and the dry. The rainy season commences about the middle of November, when it rains without intermission until some time in April, when the dry season commences, and not a drop more of rain is to be seen until the middle of October, at which time every vestige of vegetation is gone, and the ground, to the depth of sixteen inches, is as hard as a sun dried brick. Consequently, the land, except where it is irrigated, is of but little value; and as water is scarce, agriculture and grazing, except along the streams, will be of little value and as the streams are few and far between, the country will never be thickly settled*.
Wheat and barley are the most profitable crops; corn and potatoes give but poor returns; turnips in abundance; oats and clover grow spontaneously; beans, peas, and all kinds of garden vegetables are raised in every part of the country. Melons, pumpkins and melons are the crops most looked after by the Spaniards, as they delight in their coteche, (pumpkins and corn, boiled together.)
The crops of the country are about the same as those of Illinois, where the land is irrigated; but the prices are far different. Stock is the only thing that is of any importance, and the numbers of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, hogs, &c., would astonish anybody but a Californian. Many of the farmers own fifteen or twenty thousand head of beef cattle; eight hundred or a thousand head of horses, besides sheep, goats, hogs, Sic. They also raise the finest mules I have ever seen. Thousands of cattle are slaughtered every year for their hides, tallow, &c. The cattle roam over the country in large droves, perfectly wild, with nothing but a brand to protect them for the owner. They remain on the plains, or Llanos, until wanted for butchering, when they arc driven into a large enclosure and caught with the lasso.
The lasso is more efficient, as a means of defense, in the hands of a Californian, than the rifle is to a backwoodsman. The rapidity and precision with which they use it is astonishing. Horses, cattle, grizzly bear, deer, in fact, every thing that is not swifter than the fleetest horse, falls a certain victim to this instrument, in the hands of the Californian.
The Spanish language is almost universally spoken. Foreigners, in a few years, use it in preference to their mother tongue, as it is much easier spoken than any other, and the natives have a prejudice against all who do not use it, and belong to the Catholic Church. This war, however, has put a new face on all these old prejudices, and "Americano soldado esto bueno," is common remark among the senhoras (ladies) of the town . . .
We arrived in Monterey on the 27th of last January, after a long and tedious passage of six months and a half, and sailing, as per ship-log, aver twenty thousand miles. During that distance and time we crossed the line twice, and the tropics four times, which makes me a true son of "Old Neptune," and having doubled Cape Horn, I shall ever be protected by the spirits of Lord Anson's crew.
On arriving in California, (Monterey) we found disorder the order of the day the country under martial law, and Monterey under a military despotism; all citizens forbidden to walk out between Tattoo and Reveille; no shop or store could sell Aguediente, [the only liquor used by the natives. It is made of the refuse of the wine-press.] The country was scoured by military volunteer parties committing depredations of all kinds, and leaving desolation in their track; backed by Col. Fremont. They spared neither man nor beast. Thus they continued their march from San Francisco to "The city of the Angels," and what would have been the consequence of his rashness, it is hard to tell, if Gen. Kearney had not arrived in the country with his Dragoons and superseded him in command. On the plains of the Mesa, "all hands" paid dearly in blood for Col. Fremont's rashness. Yet, the Report of the War office overlooks Gen Kearney's merits to laud Fremont to the skies. Fremont has now gone home to get the appointment of Governor of California. The citizens, both native and foreign, to a man, go against him. R. B. Mason, Col. of the 2d Dragoons, acts as Governor at the present. Gen. Kearney is the only man that would give satisfaction to all parties, as Governor . . .
The Buenaventura, that enters into this Bay, is a stream of much importance to the country, as it is of sufficient strength and all to turn machinery of any kind, and also, to irrigate the plains. The water is clear and pure, well supplied with Rock, Salmon, Pike, Suckers, and other fish. The Mackerel, Bass, Cod, and other fish of the Bay, are more than sufficient to supply Monterey, therefore, few fish are brought from the Buenaventura, which is twelve miles from Monterey.
The price of produce is very high. Wheat is worth $5 a fanago (1 bushel and 3 pecks;) Barley, $4 a fanago; Hay, $25 per 1000 pounds; Flour, $15 per barrel; Potatoes, $1 an arabo (25 lbs.;) Turnips "5 cents an arabo; Onions, $2 per arabo; Butter, 50 cents per pound; Apples, one shilling per dozen; Pears, ditto; Watermelons, Pumpkins, &c., the same as in Galena; Oats, Corn, Buckwheat and Rye, none in market, and but very little in the country; Horses, from $1 to $10 per head; Mules, on an average, $15 per head; Cattle (the best bullocks, and they are all good) $8 per head; Sheep, $2 per head; Hogs, I know nothing about; but as sausages are plenty, there must be some, or the dogs suffer severely; and this is the greatest dog country I ever was in; some ranches have fifty or sixty dogs.
The above is a true statement of the prices of the California market at Monterey; and as we have been here nearly a year, and it has not varied any, I think it is the average prices of the country.
Grapes are raised in abundance down about San Diego, and a great quantity of wine is exported to the Sandwich Islands. Out of the hull of the grape they distil "Aquediente," which none but a Californian will drink.
Game is plenty; Grizzly Bear in abundance. Deer, Elk, Antelope, Wolves, Ciotas, Hares, Partridges, &c. are numerous. There are no wild Turkeys or Honey Bees in the country! This company will not leave for home till the war is over.
Until then, farewell. B. P. K.
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The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.