Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s

SS Oregon

Arrive San Francisco

April 1, 1849
(Conflicting news: Weekly Alta California publication of March 29, 1849 indicated arrival at the Port of San Francisco as April 2, 1849)
SS Oregon
Left New York December 8, 1848 for San Francisco
(via Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, Callao, Paita and Panama)
Captain R. H. Pearson


The Oregon left New York for San Francisco on December 2, 1848. She put into Panama on February 23, 1849, where more than 1200 passengers, all bound for California gold mines, had been waiting for more than two weeks in deprivation. Only 250 passengers made it aboard the Oregon for San Francisco.

She arrived April 1, 1849, where she anchored near a U.S. warship in order to prevent the crew from deserting to the gold fields, as had happened earlier with the California.

Alta California, April 9, 1849

From the United States

By the Ocean Steamer Oregon, Captain Pearson, which arrived in this Bay on the 1st inst., we have dates to the 12th of February from New York City, and to the 18th of the same month from New Orleans. The news is important to this Territory inasmuch as it is now quite certain that Congress will not give us a territorial organization this year.

The papers are literally filled with articles relating to California, some of them, of course, base fabrications. Column after column is taken up with the names of persons who have sailed for this modern El Dorado, and probably at no time since the Crusades has an event transpired which has so set the world agog, and almost turned over the foundations of society.

We make a few quotations from papers placed in our hands by friends, but the crowded state of our columns renders it necessary to defer important extracts until our next.

From Beach Brothers' News Letter.

PROCEEDINGS OF CONGRESS: -- It was proposed on the opening of Congress, to admit California and New Mexico into the Union immediately as one State. But it was soon discovered that Congress only had power to receive States applying for admission into the Union -- they have no power to create a State. Senator Douglass, of Illinois, has therefore withdrew his bill admitting California and New Mexico as a State, and has presented one to establish governments therein, and to provide for their organization into States whenever they shall have the requisite population. No action has yet been taken on the bill in either House.

Interminable debate on the slavery question, or other obstractions, continue the order of the day in Congress. There is some prospect of passing a bill to extend the Revenue Laws to California at an early day. The Postage Reduction Bill has not passed in either House. A branch mint at New York is being advocated again, and there is some prospect of its being authorized. A branch mint for California is also being advocated without any apparent opposition . . .

STEAMSHIPS FOR THE PACIFIC.--Several steamers are now up for the Pacific. A new line of steamers is to be established between San Francisco and Panama, which with Howland & Aspinwall's line, will greatly facilitate travel and trade between our Atlantic and Pacific coasts. There is some talk of a line to run from San Francisco to China, but nothing has been decided upon.

The whole amount of gold received in this country from California, to the present date, is only about sixty thousand dollars. We have rumors of half a million being on the way, and it is said the British steamers on the Pacific have taken off $300,000 from California . . .

GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!!!--Since the glowing accounts from California, we have had wonderful stories of deposits of gold in Western Texas, in the valley of the River Gila, in Virginia, in Georgia, in the Rocky Mountains, and even in Ireland!! but none of them can compare with the reports of California, of twenty-five pound lumps!


Editor's Note: No passenger list located to date, however, we have located references to various arrivals from other sources, i.e.

MARCH 31st. The Pacific mail steamship Oregon arrived with about three hundred and fifty passengers, among whom were Col. John W. Geary and family. Col. Geary had been appointed postmaster for San Francisco, with powers to create post-offices and appoint postmasters throughout the territory; also to establish mail routes and make contracts for carrying the mails. He was the bearer of despatches from the United States Government to the commanders of the military and naval forces on the Pacific, and brought with him the first regular mail from the Atlantic States that was opened in San Francisco.

John W. Geary, who went on to become San Francisco's last Alcade and first Mayor. The Annals of San Francisco, provided a detailed account of the family's departure from New York on the Falcon and their travel across the Isthmus and trials in Panama while awaiting the Oregon to reach Panama after rounding the Horn.

Rev. Albert Williams: (1809-1893), founder of San Francisco’s First Presbyterian Church. He resigned his pastorship October 8, 1854. This account of the sixth Great Fire comes from his book "A Pioneer Pastorate and Times..." published in 1879. "And it so happened that along with them came several Christian people who made each other's acquaintance during the long voyage and very naturally laid plans together for the constituting of a church, if the way should be open for it, when they should arrive in San Francisco. It was in accordance with these plans that the First Presbyterian Church was organized six weeks after their landing, on the 20th of May. No more churches were ready for organization till July, about the time of the formation of this Congregational Church. As soon as the termination of Mr. Hunt's chaplaincy could be brought about satisfactorily to all concerned, the members of the congregation who wished to form a Congregational Church, retaining Mr. Hunt as minister, at once associated themselves together for that purpose."

Theodore T. Johnson: Went to the mining camps for one month, then left for Panama.

George H. Beach: His writings: " On leaving New York on the 1st of February, 1849, in the steamer Falcon, there being on board two ladies, Mrs. John W. Geary and Mrs. Bezar Simmons, sister of Mr. Frederick Billings, I organized a choir composed of those ladies and two or three gentlemen. Judge Geary officiated on the Sabbath, reading the Episcopal Service on the steamer. Rev. Albert Williams, who arrived by the steamer Crescent City at Chagres about the same time, officiated while we were at Panama, about three weeks. Our choir held together all the time. We came up from Panama on the steamer Oregon, and came to an anchorage off Saucelito on Sunday, April 1st, 1849. The same evening we steamed over to San Francisco, a number of the passengers landing that evening, and the rest next day."

Brig. General Montgomery D. Course (born March 14, 1816, Alexandria, D.C.). He left for San Francisco after serving in the War with Mexico. Upon arrival in San Francisco, he was a miner, merchant, steamboat agent, custom house officer, deputy marshall of Sacramento, and captain of the Sutter Rifles of Sacramento.

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Early View of San Francisco Bay, California

March 1, 1849, Weekly Alta California

HO! FOR CALIFORNIA. Gold Items We feel bound to keep our readers advised of the interesting movements for the gold diggins. The N. Y. Commercial says:

The distance from New York, via Cape Horn is about 17,000 miles, and the passage to Francisco will occupy about five months; the price varies from $300 to $400, according to the accommodations on board the several vessels.

The distance from New York, via Chagres and the Isthmus, to San Francisco, is about 5500 miles. Passengers are conveyed up the Chagres river in canoes about 40 miles, when they are transferred to the backs of mules and carried twenty miles to Panama, where they take passage to San Francisco in whatever vessel they can find going. It is expected that the steamship California, which left this port about the beginning of October, will be at Panama by the 1st of January, to take her place in that line, which is advertised to sail the first of every month when fairly organized. The Panama and Oregon are both on their way out, and by the 1st of March the line will be complete. The distance From Panama to San Francisco is about 3440 miles.

The following is the charge made by steam vessels via Chagres, the most expeditious route:

  • From New York to Chagres, in saloon $150
  • From New York to Chagres, in cabin $ 120
  • Panama to San Francisco, saloon 250 .
  • Panama to San Francisco, cabin 200

For places at a less distance to the south of San Francisco, on the Californian coast, a proportionate reduction is made.

Some of the sailing vessels bound to Chagres charge from $75 to $50, according to accommodations and fare on board. Persons going this way can take very little besides their luggage; the heaviest bulk will have to be sent around by the Cape.

The following was formerly the charge made by Ihe United Slates ships for passage to the several ports on the Pacific from Panama.

  • Panama to Realejo, 700 miles, in state-rooms, $65
  • Do. Acapulco, 1500 miles, $125
  • Do. San Blas, Mazatlan, 2000 miles, $175
  • Do. San Diego, 3000 miles, $225
  • Do. San Francisco, 3500 miles, $250

Passage in the lower cabin at a deduction of one fifth from the above rates. Passage in the forward cabin from Panama to either ofl the above named ports, $100 In the different ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, at least fifty vessels are up for freight or charter to the gold regions, and to record all the expeditions would be impracticable.

A company is about being formed in Wall street to send out poor men on condition that each person so sent shall remit to the company the gold found; it shall then be by them divided into two equal portions, one of which shall belong to the family of the emigrant, or be placed to his credit, and the other half shall belong to the company of capitalists advancing the means to send out the emigrant; and support his family until remittances can be made.

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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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