News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

General News of the City of San Francisco

The corner stone of a new Catholic church has been laid.

The shipwrights and caulkers have struck for an increase of wages from $8 to $10 per days, and have succeeded, $10 being the wages now.

The long-shore men struck for $6 per day and 9 hours for a day's work, and have likewise succeeded.

On July the 20th a squatter named McCarthy shot the deputy sheriff, who went with a writ from the District Court to dispossess him, and the sheriff in return shot McCarthy. The wound of the sheriff is in the hip, and is not dangerous; but McCarthy is dangerously wounded with two balls in his lungs.

A Chinese Mission is to be established in the city. Fifteen thousand dollars have been subscribed to erect a building, to be used as a church and school house.

There was a fire among the shipping in the harbor on the 25th July. The ship Manco, with cargo, was burned to the water's edge; loss about $40,000.

On the night of July 21st the clippers Surprise and Herbert, when leaving the harbor, came in collision in the fog. The Surprise was not seriously injured, but the Herbert lost the mainmast and mizen-topmast beside other injuries. No person was harmed. The Herbert is in port repairing.

A sample of oats nine-and-a-half feet high has been exhibited in this city.

The renowned robber chief Joaquin, who has been made a great hero of romance by newspaper writers and legislators, has at length been captured by the State troops raised for the purpose -- at least a man supposed to be him has been taken. The Joaquin war has cost the State a good round sum of money, and has resulted in nothing more than is accomplished by the taking of a thief or robber by a constable or any other private citizen. The Joaquin that there has been so much talk about is purely a fabulous character, whose exploits of villainy have been announced as occurring on the same day in half a dozen different places and at the extremes of the State. Still, we are glad that the supposed romantic chieftain has been captured.

January 20, 1887, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Murietta's Treasure
More About the Hidden Gold in Ventura County.

The Bandit Joaquin Murietta.

Oar readers will remember that about two weeks ago we published an account concerning a sum of money supposed to have been buried iv this county by Joaquin Murietta, a good many years ago.

Since writing the account we have met a person who was passing through Ventura in search of the wealth, and who claims to be the son of the man Murietta murdered and stole the money from. At his request we omit his name and give the substance of his story, which is as follows:

"I was horn in Australia, in 1819, my parents being English. While I was quite young my mother died and my father came to California. He had in his possession about $60,000 worth of diamonds which he carried in a buckskin bag. One day after our arrival he unwittingly made known the fact that he had the diamonds on his person, and Joaquin Murietta hearing of it murdered him in Santa Clara county. This was in 1853 when I was but 4 years of age. Murietta gave me in charge of a Spanish woman —a relative of his—and converting a part of the diamonds into gold, buried nearly all of it in one spot. One day before going on some raid I saw him give this woman a map of the place where the treasure was buried. I afterwards stole the map and ran away, After staying several years in this place, I wandered down into Mexico finally. There I met Mendoza, one of Murietta's gang, face to face on two different occasions, but as I was a growing youth he did not recognize me, although I knew him. I was satisfied he was looking for me and left that section of the country each time I saw him. I supposed he was after the map describing where the treasure was hidden, and I feared he would murder me to obtain it. He shot a man in that country and was sentenced to a long term in the penitentiary, and I then felt myself safe. A few months ago an old Mexican informed me that Mendoza was killed in 1884, and that before his death he had written him a letter and told him if he ever saw me again to inform me he was searching for me to tell me where I would find the money, and that he was not looking for me for any evil purpose.

Joaquin Murieta. Charles Christian Nahl.

Joaquin Murieta. Charles Christian Nahl.

As soon as possible I started for this part of the country, but in New Mexico was robbed by five tramps of nearly everything I had, including $240 in cash, a $50 ring, a gold watch and other valuables. Since then I have met with bad luck, and am now in almost destitute circumstances, but am working myself along doing odd jobs to get enough money to take me to where a Spanish woman lives—north of here—the only person who really knows where the money is now buried. She is a daughter of the woman Murietta placed in charge of me. The Spaniard now in the penitentiary I do not think told me the truth when he said Mendoza told him where the money was buried. The directions he gave are very different from the map of directions in my possession, though I think the money is buried near here..."

after questioning and cross-questioning the narrator at different times during several days, our reporter is convinced that he told the truth. His whole demeanor and conversation bore the air of sincerity, and we doubt not that he is the rightful owner of the buried treasure.

Felipe Castro, the Spaniard in the penitentiary, told Sheriff Branham, of San Jose, the following story: "I was in Santa Barbara in 18S3 and there I fell in with Abelardo Mendoza. We became intimate, and one day when he had been drinking a little too much he said he knew where there was a mint of money. I pressed him for particulars, but for a time he would not tell me any more. Whisky finally opened his heart, and he said that when Joaquin Murietta left for the Tulare plains—a trip which resulted in his death—he (Mendoza) was left behind, being ill with fever. Murietta exacted a terrible oath from Mendoza that lie would not divulge the whereabouts of the treasure. He was superstitious, and I tried to convince him that Murietta dead was powerless to harm him, and at last he consented to take a trip to the place. Two days afterward we set out. We traveled along the stage road for some twenty miles in a southerly direction until we came to the point of a mountain. Here we took a dim trail that led up the coast side through the brush for about half a mile until we came in sight of three white rocks near the summit of the ridge. From these rocks we crossed the eastern side until we came to a spring. Looking then to the south we saw three oak trees standing in a line about twenty-five yards apart. We went to the trees, and near the first we found three feet under ground a box with rusty hinges, containing a collection of knives, spurs and pistols. Under the second tree we unearthed another box filled with jewelry, gold nuggets and $50 slugs. We took away $1,000, intending to come back when the money was spent. I went back after Mendoza was dead and took $1,500 more. That was in 1885. There must be $15,000 left, but it is not for me, for I shall never leave San Quentin alive."

The man we questioned says that Mendoza wrote to a Mexican (before Mendoza's death in 1884) that the money had been removed. This must have been in 1883. In the fall of 1883 a well known professional man of this place while out hunting shut a quail iv the brush, about four miles from town, and as his dogs refused to get it, crawled in after it himself. The quail had fallen in a slight depression, and in the center of the hollow he found a freshly dug hole about three feet deep. The bottom was nearly square, and he saw that a box 18x24 inches had been taken from the excavation. This may have been the treasure box.

Parties from this and Los Angeles counties have been looking for the treasure, but unsuccessfully so far, though it may yet he found— Ventura Free Press.

A paper is in circulation in this city for signatures to a petition to Congress for the establishment of a mail line over the Nicaragua route. We certainly require additional mail facilities, and hope they will be extended to us, but we doubt if the movement alluded to is the best calculated to secure the desired end. The practicability of two distinct mail lines is very doubtful, and it is more than probably that the experiment would fail entirely.

James M. Hutchings
The Placerville Herald, June 4, 1853

James M. Hutchings came to California's gold fields from England in 1849. He was not successful at prospecting, but his Reprint of The Miners Pioneer Ten Commandments of 1849, first printed in "The Placerville Herald," was later reprinted as a letter sheet and sold nearly 100,000 copies. Miners and prospectors used it as stationary. His success with the commandments convinced him to continue writing and he soon founded Hutchings' California Magazine, which included fiction, poetry, etchings and descriptions of California life in the mid-nineteenth century.

Early California: Rulers and Rebels, Chronicles (1535-1846), Destiny's Children, Killing for Land, The Forty-niners. . .San Francisco 1849.

Gold Rush San Francisco Murders.Gold Rush San Francisco.
Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San FranciscoSan Francisco 1849.
Robert Graysmith
The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer (a friend of Mark Twain during his brief tenure as a California newspaper reporter), told through a harrowing account of Sawyer's involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco. hen 28-year-old San Francisco Daily Morning Call reporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer at a local bathhouse in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel. As Twain steamed, played cards, and drank beer with Sawyer (a volunteer firefighter, customs inspector, and local hero responsible for having saved ninety lives at sea), he had second thoughts about Shirley Tempest, his proposed book about a local girl firefighter, and began to envision a novel of wider scope. Author Robert Graysmith worked as an artist at The San Francisco Chronicle during the years of the Zodiac Killer; he wrote "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked" about those murders.

Isthmus of Panama Then and Now: Ship Canal, Cruising Panama, Panama Fever, A Year in Panama, History of the Railroad, Trees of Panama and Costa RicaIsthmus of Panama.
David McCullough

History of Gold Discovers, 1848-1875, Lewis Swindle.Gold Discoveries of Northern California Mines by Lewis J. Swindle.
The History of the Gold Discoveries of the Northern Mines of California's Mother Lode Gold Belt As Told By The Newspapers and Miners 1848-1875San Franciscio 1849.
Lewis J. Swindle
While in the U.S. Military stationed in Turkey in the eary 1970s, Swindle became interested in minerals and geology. In returning to the U.S. and during the 26 years he lived in Colorado, he spent countless hours in the mountainous terrain looking for, digging and collecting the minerals known to exist in the Pikes Peak Region. In moving to the California and the Gold Belt Region, he searched out the history of the gold in the region.

Rooted in Barbarous Soil. Gold Rush California by Kevin Starr.
Rooted in Barbarous Soil:
People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California

(California History Series)
Rooted in Barbarous Soil.
Kevin Starr
A mercurial economy swung from boom to bust, and back again, rendering everyone's fortunes ephemeral. Competition, jealousy, and racism fueled individual and mass violence. Yet, in the very midst of this turbulence, social and cultural forms emerged, gained strength, spread, and took hold. Rooted in Barbarous Soil examines gold rush society and culture.

The Age of Gold:
The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream
Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
H. W. Brands
California Gold Rush.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.“I have found it.” These words, uttered by the man who first discovered gold on the American River in 1848, triggered the most astonishing mass movement of peoples since the Crusades. California’s gold drew fortune-seekers from around the world. That discovery accelerated America’s imperial expansion and exacerbated the tensions that exploded in the Civil War. The Gold Rush inspired a new American dream — the “dream of instant wealth, won by audacity and good luck.” Brands tells his epic story from multiple perspectives: of adventurers John and Jessie Fremont, entrepreneur Leland Stanford, and Samuel Clemens — alongside prospectors, soldiers, and scoundrels. He imparts a sense of the distances they traveled, the suffering they endured, and the fortunes they made and lost.

San Francisco Memoirs: 1835-1851: Eyewitness Accounts of the Birth of a CityShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Malcolm E. Barker
In July 1846 San Francisco was a tranquil settlement of about 150 inhabitants. Three years later it was an international metropolis with more than 30,000 people thronging its streets. Recalled in this intriguing collection of personal anecdotes from those tumultuous times are the days when San Francisco Bay extended inland to Montgomery Street. Bears, wolves, and coyotes roamed the shore. The arrival of 238 Mormons more than doubled the town's population.

Skull in the Ashes.
Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in AmericaSkull in the Ashes.
Peter Kaufman

More San Francisco Memoirs 1852-1899: The Ripening YearsSan Francisco Memoirs.
Malcolm E. Barker

Gold Dust and Gunsmoke
Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes
Gold rush Outlaws.
John Boessenecker
A collection of true tales of villainy and violence during the California Gold Rush. How gold fever ignited a rush of families, but also prostitutes, feuds, lynchings, duels, bare-knuckle prizefights, and vigilantes.

The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West
Carole Haber
Trials of Laura Fair.On November 3, 1870, on a San Francisco ferry, Laura Fair shot a bullet into the heart of her married lover, A. P. Crittenden. Throughout her two murder trials, Fair's lawyers, supported by expert testimony from physicians, claimed that the shooting was the result of temporary insanity caused by a severely painful menstrual cycle. The first jury disregarded such testimony, choosing instead to focus on Fair's disreputable character. In the second trial, however, an effective defense built on contemporary medical beliefs and gendered stereotypes led to a verdict that shocked Americans across the country. Carole Haber probes changing ideas about morality and immorality, masculinity and femininity, love and marriage, health and disease, and mental illness to show that all these concepts were reinvented in the Victorian West.

Embarcadero: Sea Adventures from 1849 to 1906Embarcadero. Sea Adventure from 1849 to 1906.
Richard Dillon
Tales of the colorful characters who went down to the sea in ships to and from the port of San Francisco.

Mud, Blood, and GoldMud, Blood, Gold.
Rand Richards
A year in the life of San Francisco: 1849. Based on eyewitness accounts and previously overlooked official records, Richards chronicles the explosive growth of a wide-open town rife with violence, gambling, and prostitution, all of it fueled by unbridled greed.


The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

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.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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