Posts Tagged ‘Panama’

California Gold Fever: Both Epidemic and Contagious

April 13, 2010

Latest California Items.

AT THE WHARVES. — A stroll along the docks, especially on the East river side, says the True Sun, in the vicinity of the vessels bound for California, will give one an opportunity to witness new scenes of excitement. Groups of persons, going to and returning from the vessels in great excitement, and talking of thousands to be realized within a short time in the new El Dorado, may be seen; and when a vessel is about to depart, a novel scene is presented. The adventurers, with their broad brimmed hats, and with a large pair of boots and gold digging instruments strung on their shoulders, and a revolver in pockets, are hastening on board in high spirits, as though on a short pleasure trip.

EXCLUSIVES. — A meeting of gentlemen of color has been held in this city, and an association formed to go to the gold diggings. Nearly fifty are booked for the region. No whites admitted. [N.Y. Morning Star.

INSANITY AND GOLD. — It is said that two persons at Philadelphia have been put into the Insane Asylum, having lost their wits by the California excitement. The probability is, that if they went mad about gold, they had not much wit to lose.

California Gold furnishes the common coin of conversation now a days. Among the current anecdotes of the day, we have heard one of a young gentleman, who, after a long residence among the gold diggers, (who, it seems, equal Falstaff’s regiment for lack of linen,) had only one article left that had any pretensions to the name of shirt, and this he hired out at the rate of five dollars an evening, for wedding and other festivities.

We are told, also, that the fortunate discoverer of a very large lump of gold, finding it too heavy for immediate transportation, carefully painted it of a dull copper color, to deceive other adventurers, until he should have time to carry it off. — [N.Y. Express.

CAUTION. — They are beginning to talk about eating each other in California. We advise very fat people, therefore, to keep away from there.

NEW YORK, Jan. 31. — Capt. Henriar de Langle, of the French brig of war Jeng, now here, says that he learned from Valparaiso, that there had been brought to these places from California, run into bars, gold to the amount of 9,000,000 francs or $1,800,000.

AN INCIDENT IN GOLD DIGGING. — Dr. Jett, relates one circumstance that came under his observation that is rather ludicrous and show the avarice of those in pursuit of the lucre, even in a land where its abundance knows no limits. A party of some twenty or thirty were exploring a dry ravine that led to a mountain supposed to be rich with the precious ore, when near its base, they came suddenly upon a spot which glittered like the firmament in a clear night, with gold dust and ore, caused by the washings from the mountain. In an instant every man threw himself upon the ground where lay scattered the treasure, and sprawling out his arms and legs, claimed a pre-emption to the surface that he could cover this way. The title was regarded by each as good, and the average yield to the whole party in a very short time was upward of three hundred dollars.

Accounts of newly-acquired fortunes, through the accident of being early on California ground, are everywhere in circulation. We have lately been informed of the following, in addition to those we have already chronicled:

A gentleman by the name of Riley, at present in this city, has in his possession a certificate for $64,000 in gold dust, deposited in the mint at New Orleans.

Mr. Lippet, formerly a teacher in the school of the Brothers Peugnet, in this City, and who went out as a captain in the California Regiment, has written a letter which, at his request, was read to the scholars of the Messrs. Peugnet’s school, among whom he was always a favorite. He states that he is in excellent health, and will return in three or six months, with half a million dollars, in gold.

A merchant in Baltimore, who sent to California a year ago, on a venture, $5000 worth of old store goods, has received the bill of lading from San Francisco for $35,000 in gold dust. [N.Y. Tribune.

We have been furnished with the following extracts from a letter written by Gen. P.F. Smith, at Panama, dated PANAMA, Jan. 7, 1849.

“The situation of affairs in California is really most extraordinary. No accounts we had are exaggerated. — The British Consul tells me he has forwarded 15,000 ounces ($240,000) from this place across the Isthmus; and Lieutenant Wood, of the British navy, commanding the Pandora, now here, says that the truth is beyond the accounts we have heard. These gentlemen also say that hundreds of people from the western coast of South America are embarking for the gold region; and most of the clerks in the commercial places have quit their employments for the same object.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Feb 13, 1849

Prison Brig Euphemia & Store Ship Apollo (Image from

Latest California News.
New York, Feb. 12.

A dispatch, dated Washington Feb. 13, says: The Union of this morning has a letter from Q.L. Folsom, dated San Francisco, Dec. 25th, and addressed to Com. Jones, which says that affairs in California are getting worse as regards order and government. Murders and robberies were of daily occurrence. Within a short time over 20 murders had been perpetrated.

People were making preparation to organize a provisional government. Three men were hung by lynch law.

The gold washings continue to be abundantly productive. All previous accounts are fully realized by this intelligence.

New York, Feb, 14.

The late cold weather in California has prevented the operations of the gold diggers. Quantities of gold are daily being discovered and collected.

Persons had discovered and obtained about $30,000 of pure gold in two days. The accounts formerly received respecting the terrible state of society which existed are confirmed.

The state of affairs is becoming worse and worse: — murders and robberies are of daily occurrence. There had been 15 murders committed within 3 weeks.

Persons and property are believed to be wholly insecure. The perpetrators of the murders and robberies are generally emigrants and soldiers who had deserted from the T.S. service.

Com. Jones says, that a force sufficient to afford effective guard for vessels sailing with gold from California, will require the whole American Navy.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 6, 1849

California Items.

The Indians in the vicinity of the Placer have commenced murdering the whites. Two white men were missing, the body of one of whom, named Hollingsworth, was found, and his arms in possession of a party of Indians. Several murders had been committed in grog-shops at San Francisco.

ROUTES TO CALIFORNIA. — The Quartermaster of the U.S. Army, in his report to Gen. Jessup, upon the routes and facilities for getting to California, lays down six avenues; — 1st, that taken by the author of the report through the South West pass; 2d, through Santa Fe by the Gila; 3d, through Santa Fe by Abiquin, or the Spanish trail; 4th, through Santa Fe and Lonora [ sic-Sonora?], the route of the Mormon battalion; 5th, by the Isthmus of Panama, or through Central America; 6th, by the was of Cape Horn. Preference is given to the Central American over the Isthmian route for small parties while the Horn passage is recommended for the transportation of troops.

Folding Boat (not the one that turns into a house)

A FOLDING HOUSE. — We have heard tell of folding doors and windows, but a folding house is something of a novelty.

“Day, the New York India rubber dealer, has got up a portable house and boat for gold finders. Among the peculiar advantages of this invention for travelers in California, is the facility with which a boat nine feet long by six feet wide, can be converted into a house of eight hundred and eleven feet, sufficiently high to allow persons to stand upright. The mere disconnecting of the sheet of rubber cloth from the cylinders, turns the boat into a comfortable house. The whole weight of one of them is only seventy pounds — and can be packed away in an ordinary trunk. Day says, that should the traveler be detained at Panama, with a large boat of this kind, which can be so arranged as to spread sail a party may embark upon the gentle Pacific, and by coasting along the shore can reach the valley of the Sacramento, and even penetrate to the gold region itself.”

Only think of it now — folding your house up and stowing it away in your trunk; and again converting it into a yacht, and coasting along the Pacific with it.

EMIGRATION TO CALIFORNIA — GOVERNMENT ESCORT. — A company of emigrants for California, who contemplate leaving Fort Smith, Arkansas, in April next, have obtained through Senator Borland, a military escort to Santa Fe. The company will proceed by the valley of the Canadian River to Santa Fe, and Albuquerque and thence by El Passo to San Francisco. Persons with or without families, wishing to emigrate to California, are invited to rendezvous at Fort Smith, where wagons, horses, oxen, and all the supplies necessary for an outfit, can be readily obtained at reasonable prices. Freight and passengers can reach Fort Smith by steamboat. All who desire to join the party should be at Fort Smith by the 1st of April.

CALIFORNIA GOLD MOVEMENTS. — A number of the fifty or sixty ships advertised to sail for California went to sea this forenoon, and next week a large fleet will take its departure,

______ “for the land
Where each atom of sand,
Is into a dollar reducible!
And as onward you travel,
The “coarse kind of gravel”
All turns to doubloons in your crucible.”

N.Y. Tribune.

A NEW CALIFORNIA EXPEDITION. — A lady of this State, well known for her labors in many a philanthropic cause, is about forming a benevolent expedition to California, which cannot but prove of great public benefit in the present unsettled condition of the region. Aided by several gentlemen of wealth and liberality; she proposes to purchase a vessel, to be freighted with every article necessary for the aid and assistance of the sick and disabled, including the frame of a building intended for a hospital. She is now engaged in raising a company of intelligent and respectable females, to accompany her in this mission of charity, each of whom shall contribute something toward the purchase of the vessel and cargo and assist in the humane object of the enterprise. None will be taken who have not attained the age of twenty-five years, and also produce sufficient testimonials of character. A part of the freight is to consist of articles to furnish a store, in which a part of the women may be employed, and in material for clothing, to be made up according to orders on the spot. — Tribune.

SCENES IN NEW YORK. — The Express says the gold fever is both epidemic and contagious in New York city. It says:

The fact is, and it may as well be told right out, without any circumlocution, so that every body may know the worst, this last gold news has unsettled the minds of even the most cautious and careful among us. Nothing else is talked of, thought of, or dreamed of. Gold is in everybody’s mouth, on everybody’s tongue, in everybody’s face.

Everything looks yellow. Walk from the Battery up to Grace Church, and one hears nothing but, ‘when are you off?’ — ‘lend a hundred dollars,’ — ‘work passage’ — ‘Jones went off yesterday,’ — ‘Smith starts tonight — wife provided for,’ — ‘twenty pound lumps — pick axes,’ — ‘shovels,’ — ‘sifters,’ — ‘Jack knives,’ — ‘Sacramento,’ — ‘twenty carets fine,’ — ‘got a letter from Jenkins, yesterday — Jenkins has dug up two millions,’ — ‘the real dust,’ — ‘Cape Horn too tedious,’ — ‘overland,’ — ‘or through that monumental canal just discovered, you know, at the Isthmus,’ — ‘Chihuahua,’ — ‘Santa Fe,’ — ‘Big Fork,’ — ‘Feather River,’ — ‘Sutter’s Fork,’ — ‘brandy,’ — ‘whisky,’ — ‘seidletz powers,’ — ‘bowie knives,’ — ‘revolvers.’

CALIFORNIA OUTDONE. — The Brooklyn Advertiser has the following, which is very neatly told: “A gentleman of this city had a piece of virgin gold presented to him yesterday morning which he would not sell for $5,000. This is what we call a very handsome present. So does Mrs. Gold and the nurse.”

ETYMOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA. — We are informed by Professor Noodlekranz, that California came from two old Indian words — Kali, gold, and forn-a-who, don’t you wish you may get it?

INCIDENTS IN CALIFORNIA. — Extract of a letter from an officer in the Navy to his friend in Washington, dated,
San Francisco, Dec. 28.

“You would be surprised that in this region an enthusiasm could be excited by anything. The gold mines in this neighborhood have stirred up the natives to a galvanic activity. This little village is deluged with gold, and common laborers are refusing to work in the mines for a hundred dollars a day. The stories told, will take it for granted must be all fabulous; but were you to see the vast quantities hawked about the streets for sale, you would look upon the tale of the Arabian Nights as quite a probable narrative. There seems to be no exhausting the vein, which is said to extend over a district as large as Virginia.

To give you some idea of the state of things here, I will mention the price of a few of the necessaries of life. Flour has been selling at $300 per barrel, pork 70 cents per lb., brandy $60 per gallon, and washing $6 to $8 per dozen and most other things in proportion.

The officers are becoming nervous and excited, while the men desert by the dozen.

Young B., of Baltimore, is hard at work making his fortune, and will return in a year or two a rich man. I saw Dr. M., also of Baltimore, and he is also coining money; he is highly popular and esteemed, and I think is the first man in the place.

I trust J. will not take it into his head to emigrate. — Gold hunting is a most dangerous amusement. The morality is really frightful among the diggers, and the poor beggarly-looking creatures returning from the mines have no doubt paid dearly for their peck or two of gold.”

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 6, 1849

The Poor Student’s Soliloquy.

(On the subject of a departure for California.)

To go, or not to go — That is the question,
Whether ’tis better in the mind to gather
The ingots of a shirtless, mental fortune,
Or forthwith pack our raiment and depart
For those tremendous Gold Mines’ to talk, to doubt
No more; and by one act ot say we end
Gold fever, and the thousand natural shocks
Of speculation — ’tis a consumation
Devoutly to be wished. To go — to come
With pockets lined and elbows all ‘ow’d up,
To sink, per chance, more poor — Ay, there’s the rub,
For whether ’tis more likely we be doomed
To swap our ‘fever’ for a yellower kind.
Must give us pause — There’s the respect that makes
The otherwise most resolute to remain
Like paltry donkeys ‘twain two loads of hay!
The Student looked for the morning papers.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 13, 1849

“A Pocket Full of Rocks Bring Home”

May 1, 2009
From the Daily Sanduskian

From the Daily Sanduskian

Our readers will perceive that we publish a letter from California, for which we are indebted to James Belden, Esq. It is from his son Robert H., who belongs to the Marsfield company. We are glad to learn that he has reached the “land of promise” in safety, and hope he will

“A pocket-full of rocks bring home.”

SAN FRANCISCO, June 4, 1849.

Dear Parents:

At last, after all my trouble, vexation, hard living and detention I am here at the grand emporium and head quarters of the El Dorado. — But I will commence back a short time. We left Panama in the steamship Panama, at one o’clock on the morning of the 18th of May. —

For the first two or three days the weather was very warm and the sea almost a dead calm — we suffered greatly from heat. After that we had the land and sea breezes which made it much wore pleasant. At night I would swing my hammock on deck in the open air and sleep as sweetly and soundly as if I were in a luxurious bed in the open air. As we worked our way up the coast the winds became heavier and when in the vicinity of Mazatlan, in Mexico, we fell in with a small schooner in distress, out of water, and one half of those on board had the scurvy. It was a distressing scene. We relieved their necessities as much as possible and went on.

The last three days before our arrival here, was very stormy and we began to run short of fuel. The captain ordered every spare spar burnt and soon every thing combustible was in requisition. The last night out, the passengers in the lower forward cabin were turned out of their berths which were all burned at five o’clock. The morning of the 4th, we entered the bay of San Francisco with scarcely fuel sufficient to propel her to her anchorage, and at six o’clock she dropped her anchor at a cable’s length from a U.S. sloop of war.

The ship we came in is a fine vessel and a good sea boat, with good accommodations for one hundred and fifty passengers but she was crammed with over three hundred which crowded us very much, and consequently we were very uncomfortable. Our food was rice, beans, salt pork, beef and once a week we had what sailors call duff, and on shore we call plum pudding — this food would have been good but the beans and rice was usually musty and burnt, and the pork and beef rusty. We had to wash in salt water and the fresh water to drink was horrible. We had no table set and in fact lived like a parcel of brutes, but all this we could and did stand first rate and arrived here in most perfect health.

You have seen and heard so many descriptions of this place that it is useless for me to particularise; I will say however that it is very windy and unpleasant at this time, and they say it is a fair specimen of the weather. I am much disappointed in this, but the moment we get back from the coast it is delightful, as fine as could be asked for. As soon as I could get on shore I found Henry D. Cooke — he was very glad to see me and has been of much benefit by his advice and introductions. We have pitched our tent in the town and are living first rate, still every thing we have to buy is enormously high. Wages are high. A laborer gets ten dollars per day and mechanics as high as twenty dollars per day, of course other thing, are in proportion; for example I saw a small room about 12 by 18 which rents for $1,000, and a moderate two story house which at home would cost perhaps $1,500 or $2,000 to build, rents for $100,000 per anum.

We shall start for the gold mines to-morrow in a small vessel, in which we will go to Sutter’s Fort, and from there by land until we stop to dig. And by the next steamer I will be able to advise you by my own experience as to the gold. There are reports here of different kinds, as to the gold found, trouble with the Indians, and the San Joachim river, &c., &c., but we pay little attention to them. We shall go north of the Indians. They lie so much about the gold it is impossible to tell anything from reports. I think the prospects are favorable and so do my friends, but my sheet is exhausted.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Aug 27, 1849

Chagres (Image from

Chagres (Image from

Extract of a letter from Henry D. Cooke of this city, on his way to California, to one of the editors of this paper, dated
PANAMA, Dec. 1st, 1849.

My Dear Friend;

Here I am again in Panama, the venerable “city of the past;” a city once of opulence, splendor and magnificence, but now, alas! in its decayed grandeur, its own epitaphic record of its former glory. Here I am, in the midst of broken shrines, crumbling cathedrals, all gray and moss-grown, decaying palaces, once brilliant with beauty and taste, and gay with the festive song, now deserted and cheerless. —

Here am I, in a word, (to drop down into prose reality,) here am I in a large, antiquated room of one of these whilome palaces, now converted into a hotel, kept by a Frenchamn, seated at a rickety, greasy table, writing by the feeble, flickering light of a miserably lean and dyspeptic-looking tallow candle; my door thrown open upon the balcony, to admit the cool and fragrant night air, while I can gaze out upon the moonlit and crumbling edifices. But hark! The charm and romance of this once queen of the Pacific is now gone forever, for a large party of Americans in an adjoing square are awaking the echoes and the turkey-buzzards, with

“Oh Susannah don’t you cry for me,
I’m bound to California, with my tin-pan on my knee!”

There are now on the Isthmus eighteen hundred and fifty Americans bound to California — more than the steamers can take away in four months. — Still there are fresh arrivals every month, averaging, say seven hundred per month. I took passage in the “Crescent City” from New York, which steamer arrived at Chagres one night in advance of the Alabama from New Orleans, and four days before the Ohio’s passengers who were transferred on board the Falcon at Havana. The three steamers had on board in all one thousand and fifty passengers. This will give you an idea of the rush of Americans across the Isthmus. Three gentlemen, and I, were first of all these to reach Panama.

Here we found over seven hundred Americans waiting opportunities for getting up to California. Many of them have been here one, two and three months, without being able to get away. It is estimated that there are now on the Isthmus nearly a thousand persons, who have no tickets for the steamers. Sailing vessels, however, are leaving every week or ten days. The passage in these is long and tedious, and they are always very much crowded. Yet no sooner, are they filled, and about to sail, than their tickets at once command two or three times their original cost.

I heard today of a steerage ticket in the ship “Sea Queen,” which cost $175 being re-sold for $380. Steerage tickets on board the steamer “Panama,” which cost in New York $150 are selling at five and six hundred dollars! For a cabin ticket on the same steamer, for which I paid in New York three hundred dollars, I have been offered nine hundred! Of course I would not sell it, but if I had chosen to do so I have no doubt I might have got a thousand dollars for it. Yet notwithstanding these high prices, there are many poor fellows who have been here so long that they couldn’t give fifty dollars for a ticket, for their means are exhausted by their long detention here. —

There is in consequence, much suffering, some sickness, a good deal of desperation, more gambling and occasional deaths. How many hast thou ruined, oh, lucre! We found the river from Chagres to Cruces, uncommonly high, and the roads from Cruces to this city, owing to the severe rains of the past four months, were almost impassable; and notwithstanding we made all possible haste in crossing, four days were consumed. Some are just arriving; having been seven days on the road. We met on the road several passengers from the “Panama,” just arrived from San Francisco.

Among them I met several friends and acquaintances. They gave incouraging accounts of the state of affairs there — which were sufficiently confirmed by the large amount of gold — (over a million and a quarter) of the monthly remittance. Mr. Wilson, ex-consul, told me that according to his advices from California, the amount next month, would be still larger. This of course will keep up the excitement; and how they are to get away from this place as fast as they arrive is difficult to say.

I arrived here on the day of the sailing of the English steamer for Valparaiso, and met Robert Belden, just as he was leaving the hotel with his baggage to go on board. It was mutually an agreeable surprise — for he was just from San Francisco, bound to Valparaiso on business, and had much late news to give me, while I had letters for him from his friends in Sandusky. We had an hour’s chat together, and he was then obliged to hurry off on board the steamer. He was looking very well, and has been “doing wonders” in California, having succeeded beyond all anticipation. —

Messrs. McKnight, Stewart E. Bell, H.U. Jennings, and the other Sanduskians were all well when he left, and all making money as rapidly as could be desired.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Jan 4, 1850


Robert H. Belden left again for California last evening on board the steamer America. He does not speak very favorably of San Francisco, in many points of view, although he has been very successful there. He says he would not live there [ten] years if he could make a million of dollars a year.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Mar 30, 1850

San Francisco Fire (Image from

San Francisco Fire (Image from


The following is an extract of a letter from Mr. Robert H. Belden, formerly of this city, to his father:

SAN FRANCISCO, May 29, 1850.

On the 1st of this month, I left Panama in the fine steamship Oregon, Capt. Patterson. We had a fine passage. Our ship was clean, orderly, and the staterooms pleasant. Our table was fine, as good or better than I expected, with my former experience in Howland & Aspinwall’s steamers in the Pacific. —

We had a fine pleasant cabin full of passengers, among whom were some ten ladies. They of course made every thing more pleasant, and our gentlemanly captain did all in his power to make the time pass as agreeably as possible for his passengers.

On our arrival at San Diego, which is in California, five hundred miles south of this city, we learned that San Francisco had again been visited by a terrible fire. On the morning of the 4th of this month, at about four o’clock, the fire broke out, and burned until seven, consuming over four hundred buildings. The loss is estimated at five millions of dollars. —

Thus, in the short space of three hours, was the best and fairest part of this city destroyed, and hundreds of persons who the night previous retired to off, and doing a fine business, were awakened in the morning to the sad reality that in a moment as it were, they were stripped of every thing, and wholly ruined.

We were among the sufferers. The building which we erected last September (of which I sent you a plan) at a cost of twenty thousand dollars in case, was entirely consumed, with all the contents, excepting our books and papers, which we succeeded in preserving. The buildings of all our tenants on the same property, were also burned, leaving the entire lots one hundred and thirty-eight on Clay and sixty-nine feet on Montgomery streets, (you will recognise this as the Davis property in my plan,) entirely cleared off by fire.

* Link to a larger view of the map: HERE

As you can readily imagine, this was very unpleasant news to reach me as I neared my home. — However, as I am something of a philosopher, and act upon the principle of “not crying for spilt milk,” I did not grieve much, or sleep less, on account of my loss.

We arrived here on the morning of the 20th, and I immediately repaired to the scene of the fire, and found, to my surprise, our property entirely covered with buuildings, and all occupied, expepting the corner, where my partner had nearly completed a large two story building, for ourselves and Messrs. Harris & Panton, which we have now completed, and are occupying. So you will see that in less than two weeks from the morning of the fire, ten respectable two story stores were erected on our lots which were burned over.

Our property on the opposite corner was not injured by the fire. Our old friend, Henry D. Cooke, Esq., is one of our tenants, having an office there. — The most of the burnt district has been re-built, but we are in dread continually of another fire, several attempts having already been made to fire the city in different places; but the vigilance of the police has so far defeated the object.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Jul 12, 1850

The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco has this:

Six months later, on May 4, 1850, the second great fire occurred. It began at 4 o’clock in the morning and by 11 o’clock three blocks of the most valuable buildings in the City had been destroyed, with an attendant loss of property estimated to be $4,000,000.

It was supposed to have been of incendiary origin. Several persons were arrested, but no formal trial took place.

You can read about the other three San Francisco fires at the link as well.



It seems that the California people can yet hardly realize that they are in the United States. The editor of the California Courier, in announcing the dissolution of the firm of VanDyke & Belden, says that Mr. VanDyke “finding that the climate did not agree with his constitution, under medical advice, he has returned permanently to the states,” just as if he was out of them. The paper adds that he carries a snug pile with him, amply sufficient for a life of east “in the states.

R.H. Belden, his late partner, is authorized to close the concern.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Jan 4, 1851

Sailing to California for GOLD

April 1, 2009
image from

image from

The following news articles are all related to traveling by boat to California during the Gold Rush. Be sure to read the last account; the author gives a very good description of the hardships endured on his voyage.

The Journey to California.

We fear that hundreds are starting for California, without carefully counting the cost and danger, and that a consequent failure will be the result. The great danger of the route by the Isthmus of Darien, which is the one mostly followed, consists in the difficulties connected with crossing the Isthmus, and the detention at Panama for the want of shipping facilities. — The voyage from New York to Chagres, or from Panama to San Francisco, after once on ship board, presents nothing very alarming. — The difficulties at the Isthmus are, however, not small. The New York Herald has published a description of the route, written by a gentleman who has resided in Panama for some time, and has made frequent journeys across the Isthmus. We learn from this statement, that Chagres, the Atlantic port, is a small collection of huts, containing about 500 inhabitants, almost all colored people. The exceptions are a few officials at the custom house and the castle. It is situated in the midst of a swamp, and from the constant rains, the streets are impassable except on longs of wood. Its climate is said to be the most pestiferous for whites in the whole world.

The coast of Africa, which enjoys a dreaded reputation in this way, is not so deadly in its climate as is Chagres. The thermometer ranges from 78 to 85 deg. all the year and it rains every day. Many a traveller, who has incautiously remained there for a few days and nights, has had cause to remember Chagres; and many a gallant crew who have entered the harbor in full health, have, ere many days, found their final resting place on the dark and malarious banks of the river. Bilious, remitted and congestive fever, in their most malignant form, seem to hover over Chagres, ever ready to pounce down upon the stranger. Even the acclimated resident of the tropics runs a great risk in staying any time in Chagres; but the stranger, fresh from the North and its invigorating breezes, runs a most fearful one. Its accommodations for travellers are very limited, or about none at all, and no one thinks of staying there twenty-four hours, if he can possibly help it.

The first stage in the journey to Panama is made on the Chagres river, in canoes propelled by poles in the hands of the native boatmen. — The distance to Cruces, the end of the river travel, is 50 to 55 miles. The journey takes from twelve to thirty-six hours, according to the number of hands employed to propel the canoe. The passenger sits in the stern of the light craft, and his baggage is placed in the center, and he is obliged to remain perfectly quiet, to avoid upsetting. He must take his provisions with him, — to land is impossible without running great risks, as the river swarms with alligators, and the shores are marshy and clothed with exuberant vegetation down to the water’s edge. No village, or even a hut lines its banks the whole distance. It is the region of disease and venomous animals and reptiles. The lowest cost for a single passenger is a doubloon, ($16) and from that up to two, three, or four doubloons.

Arrived at Cruces; which is a small village, the traveller is within twenty one miles of the Pacific ocean, which have to performed on land. The usual method is on horse or on mule back, with another mule to carry the baggage, and a muleteer who acts as a guide. The road is a mere bridle path, and as the rains on the Isthmus are very heavy, and there is more or less of them all the year round, the mud holes and swampy places to be crossed are very numerous. He must carry his provisions with him. After about twelve hours toilsome ride, the beautiful Pacific appears in view and the city of Panama is reached. This city contains from 5000 to 7000 inhabitants, and is a quiet, dull place. The climate is warm, say from 80 to 85 degrees the whole year round, and the rains long and severe. It is a healthier place than Chagres. With due care, avoiding all excesses and the night air, a person can preserve his health; still the heavy rains and continued damp atmosphere, render it necessary to take every precaution; for though healthy when compared with Chagres, it is by no means a safe place for unacclimated strangers from the north.

Having arrived at Panama, the chief difficulties of the journey are over, and the traveller on ship board, on the bosom of the glorious Pacific, may revel in his day dreams of gold and riches to his heart’s content. But let us look somewhat more narrowly at the difficulties of the route at the present moment. Death has his seat at Chagres, and no time must be spent there — but, from the great numbers now taking that route, there is imminent danger of being delayed at that place for the want of conveyance. The canoes and boatmen are limited in number, and from the great demand they will be tempted to charge exorbitant rates. — Many will no doubt lay down their lives and their hopes together in a grave at Chagres, for want of conveyance or means to get away.

But say he has arrived at Panama. Has he then any assurance of speedy departure for California? All the steamers are full for months to come — Panama is a costly place to live, and the danger of sickness is imminent. Many will have to wait for weeks, possibly months for a passage to San Francisco, and when the long wished for opportunity occurs, they will find themselves unable to take it, as their expenses in Panama will have exhausted their means. Thus situated in a strange, unhealthy country, moneyless and friendless, their spirits depressed by their situation, it requires no prophet to predict a heart rending termination to their golden schemes.

We present these difficulties to put those who have determined to make this voyage on their guard, and prepare them for its dangers. Such an undertaking should not be entered upon rapidly; if it is, misfortune will be sure to follow. — Pitts. Gazette.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 2, 1849


THE ISTHMUS — Mr. Dominguez, Consul of New Grenada at the port of New York, states, in a letter dated a few days back, that at his last advices from Panama, no persons were in waiting at that port to proceed to San Francisco. This is a flat contradictions to the statement recently current, that there were certainly 2000, and probably 6000 persons waiting their chances for passage to California.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 2, 1849

By Panama:

PRICE: $300 to $420


TIME: 30 to 35 Days

By Cape Horn:

PRICE: $100 to $300

DISTANCE: 17,000

TIME: 130 to 150 Days

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 9, 1849


The excitement in regard to the California gold mines continues unabated. Thirty-six vessels have sailed from New York, Boston, &c., for California via Cape Horn, with 1,164 passengers, 530 have gone via Chagres. — These are in addition to the crews of the vessels.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 20, 1849

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Mr. Nicholas Rector, of this place, recently one of the proprietors of the City Mills, returned a few days since to his home and family, after having proceeded as far as Panama on his way to California and the Gold Placers. He was ill most of the time from the period of leaving New York until his return. He gives a gloomy account of the condition of things, on the Isthmus route. The statements he makes leave no doubt that an infamous game of fraud is being played at New York, to induce emigrants to take the Chagres route, with the expectation of fleecing from them in many instances, charges to that point and back again.

Mr. Rector left Akron on the last day of February. — He left New York, on the Cresent City, on the 15th of March, (ult.) and arrived at Chagres on the 24th ult. — He found there, on his arrival, two thousand persons waiting for a passage to San Francisco, and the harbor of Panama destitute of shipping. The passengers of the Cresent City had been led to suppose that they would find a vessel at Panama bound for San Francisco, with little difficulty. The steamer of Howland & Aspinwall, the owners of the Cresent City, they were told would reach Panama soon after they did; and they could get passage on her without difficulty. They found, however, that tickets calling for a passage on the California Steamer, could only be had at prices varying from $600 to $1200. At this enormous rate were tickets to be purchased, it at all; and then the purchaser must run the risk of the arrival of the steamer. Few of he multitude at Chagres and Panama could pay such prices. Many of them had been waiting for a passage until their money and provisions were gone, and they were begging for aid from camp to camp, like men frantic. The number in this situation was rapidly increasing. What they would do it was impossible to say. Thousands of miles from home and from their destination, among strangers in a strange land, in an inhospitable climate for northern men, and where labor is not in demand, their situation is lamentable in the extreme.

Mr. Rector remained on the Isthmus eight days. During that time the number in waiting was increased by new arrivals to 3,000. The distance across the Isthmus from Chagres to Panama, is about 54 miles. Three days is the time usually occupied in crossing.

[Summit Beacon.
MORE FROM THE ISTHMUS. — The Ohio State Journal publishes a letter from Mr. W.F. Legg of Columbus, dated at Panama, March 22, 1849, which confirms the statements of Mr. Rector. The letter says:

We found at Gorgona some 25 or 30 tents, filled with Americans, who had found it impossible at this time to get away from Panama, and concluded it was best to stay there and eat up their provisions rather than transport them to Panama at an expense of from $7 to $10 a hundred. We found at this point a number of gambling shops, kept by the Americans, and a number of emigrants had lost every cent they had. We met a man returning who had lost it is said $700! One gambler here had won with a roulette, $10,000, and left for Panama.

I would say to every man bound for California, “come any way but this,” for it is impossible for all those who are now here to get there; and many are returning; and some have stayed here until they have no means to go back nor forward; and I am afraid that a great many more of us will be in the same situation, if we do not proceed some way soon. Tickets have sold here on the steamer for $700 and $1,000; and one man offered to pay $200 and work as a deck hand, and was refused.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) May 8, 1849


Voyage To California.
The Akron Free Democrat publishes the following interesting letter from Mr. L.B. Raymond, formerly of that place:

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 12, 1849.

  • * * I have finally arrived in the land of gold and gold mines. I had for the first time the exquisite satisfaction of viewing the tent-clad hills of San Francisco on Thursday last, about 2 o’clock P.M. * *

When we were in Panama, Mr. Dow and five others of our company, bought tickets on the brig Two Friends, for which they paid $250 each, but myself and two others were unable to procure tickets on board of her, although we offered a heavy premium on the prices paid by others. I waited a week or so after they had bought, when I had an opportunity of buying second-hand tickets on the brig Solidad, which lay in the harbor, several miles from shore; and as it was very expensive to get on board, I had to take the word of others in relation to her.

I saw a number who had tickets on the same vessel, and learned from them that she was a good, substantial sea vessel, of 128 tons, with comfortable accommodations; so I and the two others of our company bought tickets on her, for which we had to pay $230. I went on board for the first time, April 28, and in five minutes after, she was under way for California. She was of but 90 tons burthen, with 92 passengers, and the deck so covered with trunks, boxes, and gold-washers, that the sailors could scarcely get about. But this was nothing to the scene presented in the hold, as I for the first time, on hands and knees, with bended neck, made my way to a vacant shelf, where I could nearly straighten myself, and if I could, sleep. —

For the first three nights, I put myself in this hole, but afterwards, when I slept at all, it was on deck, for about two months. We were 28 days going to Acapulco, a distance of 1,500 miles, in a succession of calms and squalls, thunder and rain, such as I wish to never to see again. We had a dead calm at least one-third of the time — and a calm under a tropical sun, is not very agreeable, especially where you are exposed to its direct rays. A thunder-storm at sea in this latitude is the most awfully grand and sublime spectacle it is possible to imagine. There is one continual peal of the most deafening thunder, while the forked and chain lightning fill the whole hevens with a vast sheet of flame. All these storms, during our passage, were in the night, and we had some eight or ten of them. It rains in the tropics as I never saw it rain before — seeming as if the very windows of heaven were opened, and from one to four hours during a shower. —

As there was no decent place to go below, I always stayed on deck, and there, holding on to a mast, rope, or something else. I viewed the war of elements, with feelings as calm as the circumstances would  permit. Such a scene of terror and confusion as a vessel presents during one of those storms, cannot well be imagined. Between Acapulco and Cape St. Lucas, we experienced some of the roughest sea on the whole passage, some of the waves being estimated by good judges over 30 feet from the summit to the hollow. * *

Our drinking-water, brackish as the best, had been put in whale-oil casks, making it a thousand times worse — the only way I could drink or keep it down, (after going without as long as possible,) was to take the strongest kind of peppermint in my mouth before and after drinking. Our provisions were on average better than the water, though a dog, in the States, would suffer some hunger, before he would venture to attack the jerked beef we had to eat. Our bread, up to Acapulco, was all wormy, but the rest, principally rice and beans, were passable, with the exception of a lot of beans which we had finally to come to, which as near as could be estimated, contained three bugs to two beans.

We stayed six days in Acapulco, where we got some good bread, &c. From Acapulco to St. Lucas we were twenty-two days. Here we could get no provisions but jerked beef, &c., and our number of passengers was increased to 97. After stopping at St. Lucas three days, we set sail at night, but the wind dying away we drifted towards the breakers, on which the waves were dashing with great fury — the cape at this point being a mass of solid rock, from 50 to 200 feet high, and nearly perpendicular. We drifted to within 10 or 12 rods of the rocks, when, providentially, a breeze sprung up and saved us from certain destruction. The officers said that had she gone on the rocks there was no probability of a single soul being saved.

From this place to Santa Barbara, we were 26 days. After coasting up to lat. 25 degrees with constant head winds, we struck off to the west, making about the longitude of San Francisco without gaining any latitude. — After being out 10 or 12 days, we were put on allowance of food and water. It was ascertained by a committee appointed to examine the provisions, that there was sufficient to last 10 days, and they of the poorest quality. * * *

I have taken an old sea biscuit, which had been saved from my rations when not so hard up, and after breaking it into small pieces, to get the worms and bugs out, eaten it with a greater relish than anything before in my life. We were allowed half a pint of coffee per day.

Just as our provisions were all gone we were fortunate enough to arrive at Santa Barbara. After what I had suffered from hunger and thirst, and fear of shipwreck, I thought it best to leave the old craft, and go by land. I succeeded in buying a mule, and with six other individuals, we started for this place, a distance of over four hundred miles. It took us sixteen days, including one day spent going on a wrong road. We traveled through a country mostly prairie, with very scanty timber and water; at one time we traveled three days without passing an inhabited house. We had to stand sentinel during the night, as we passed through where there were lots of Indians. On the whole I had a pleasant trip. I walked more than two-thirds of the way, owing to having to make a baggage mule of my animal. There are any quantity of Cattle and Horses in the country we traveled through. There were seventy thousand head on one Mission, which we traveled through — at one view I could see from ten to fifteen thousand; I also saw lots of deer, two panthers, and….**

  • *The last portion, maybe 3 sentences, left off; they were illegible.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Nov 27, 1849