Posts Tagged ‘Robert H. Belden’

San Francisco Fire: June 14, 1850

May 4, 2009
San Francisco Fire (Image from /bancroft.library.ca.gov)

San Francisco Fire (Image from /bancroft.library.ca.gov)

*Fire image is actually from the 1851 fire, not this 1850 fire.

THE SAN FRANCISCO FIRE.

Some friend has sent us the San Francisco Daily Herald of June 17, which contains the particulars of the loss by the last great fire on the 14th of June. — It originated in a back building attached to the Sacramento House, between Sacramento and Clay streets, a little before 8 o’clock in the morning, and as the wind was high, it quickly communicated with the ajoining buildings, and in a little more than three hours two-thirds of the wealthiest portion of the city was destroyed. The following shows the locations and extent of the disaster:

STREETS BURNED.

Clay street, south side, corner of Kearney, occupied by Osborne & O’Donnel, grocers, Building owned by Finley, Johnston & Co.      Total loss.

Clay street, on both sides from the above to Montgomery street, and on the south side to the bay; burning all the new houses recently erected on the former burnt district from the Plaza to Montgomery street, except one.

Montgomery street, on both sides from the south side of Clay street to California street, except the large brick building owned by W.H. Davis, and occupied as the custom-house.

Sacramento street, on both sides, from Kearney street to the bay, including the large iron ware-house owned by Cooke, Baker & Co., and occupied by the Empire City Steamship office.

California street, on the north side, from Kearney street to the bay, except the custom-house building, as before mentioned.

Kearney street, on the east side, all buildings from Clay to California street.

Central Wharf — All the buildings on this wharf and the street leading to it, including the large warehouses of Mellus, Howard & Co., Finley, Johnson & Co., and D. Gibb.

Sherman‘s building, corner of Montgomery and Clay streets, was for several hours in imminent danger. This building was occupied by Green & Morgan, Melhado, Klancke & Co., J. Mattoon & Co., on Clay street, and by Fay, Pierce & Willis, Bacon & Mahoney, R.J. Stevens & Co., and R.M. Sherman, on Montgomery street. The occupants, with a host of good men and true, concentrated all their force to save that building, on which hung the fate of the entire block bounded by Clay, Montgomery and Jackson streets.

The Herald says over three hundred houses were burned, and estimates the loss at more than three million dollars. It gives a list of the sufferers, and among them we observe the names of Vandyke & Belden, to the amount of $30,000, who were also sufferers by the previous fire to the amount of $20,000.

Great credit is awarded to Col. Jack Hays, to whose exertions is attributed the salvation of the whole block bounded by the north side of Clay street, and from Montgomery street to the water.

This is pretty amazing. I noticed in the article I posted (scroll down to the fire picture) mentioning the previous fire they also immediately started rebuilding. I suppose there was good and bad in that, probably could have used a bit more planning, but I don’t think that was how they did it back then.

The editor remarks that “the enterprise of the citizens, although it has received a severe shock, has nevertheless not succombed beneath the misfortune;” and that in passing through the blazing streets, an hour and a half after the fire had been subdued, he saw carpenters already at work relaying the foundation of a building that had been torn down but two hours before; and various contracts to have buildings immediately erected had been even then concluded by some of those who had suffered heavily by the fire.

Artesian wells are to be sunk, reservoirs constructed, and hook and ladder and engine companies are to be organized for the purpose of preventing a recurrence of such a dreadful calamity.

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

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, CA 1851 (Image from Wikimedia)

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco, CA 1851 (Image from Wikimedia)

From the San Francisco Herald of July 28.
CITY IMPROVEMENTS.

San Francisco is rising like a phoenix from its ashes. This day fortnight, the fairest and most important part of the city was a heap of smouldering ruins, and sadness and gloom were depicted on the countenances of all our citizens. To-day there is to be seen springing up, on the very sites of those ruins, buildings that in substantiality, size, and even magnificence, might favorably compare with those of any other city in the world. The smoke was still curling from the charred rafters, when the momentary depression caused by so sweeping a desolation was cast off, and the indomitable energies of our people set to work to clear away the rubbish for the new foundations.

Nothing short of an earthquake, we believe, can cope with the energy and enterprise of our citizens.

This third, and we hope, last, conflagration, however, has taught us a good lesson: and we are not without hope but it will be productive of great and lasting good to the community. — The most efficient measures have been adopted, not only to guard against recurrence of fires in the future, but to promptly extinguish them before they have become unmanageable. A fire department has been organised, permanent reservoirs of water have been prepared at convenient distances throughout the city, and every means taken that the prudence and intelligence of our citizens could devise for the prevention of similar disasters in future. Besides, the most of the buildings now in process of erection are of brick and fire-proof, and several of them have wells dug in them, and are supplied with a fire apparatus. Indeed, it seems hardly possible, with the means now at our disposal for extinguishing fires, that this destructive element will ever again, to any considerable extent, destroy the property of our citizens.

In the course of a walk yesterday afternoon over the scene of the late calamity, we made a few notes of the progress that has been made with the various buildings in process of erection, which we shall briefly detail.

[The paper gives a long list of buildings in the course of erection in the burnt district, of a substantial character, among which we note the following:

On the north-west corner of Montgomery and Clay streets, Messrs. Vandyke and Belden, general merchants, are building a large three story fire-proof brick building, with a frontage of sixty-nine feet on Montgomery street and fifty-five feet on Clay. The lower rooms are to be occupied as stores and the upper rooms as offices. The building will probably cost about thirty thousand dollars, and is to be completed on the twenty-fifth of next month.

All the buildings to be erected between Clay and Sacramento streets, as well as those in the rear of Clay and Commercial streets, much be of brick, as Messrs. Howard & Green, who own the lots, have made that a condition in the deed of sale.

During the course of our inquiries we were struck with astonishment at the immense increase in the value of property in San Francisco in the short space of three years. In 1846 and ’47, a fifty vara lot could be purchased in any part of the city for fifteen dollars. In the late sales the land brought from seven hundred to nine hundred dollars per foot! and this is much less than could be obtained for it a short time ago.

We cannot close this article without referring to the progress of the public improvements which have been referred to. There are three artesian wells and four reservoirs in process of construction.

The artesian wells are being constructed in the following localities. One in Portsmouth square; one in California street near the custom-house, and the third at the intersection of Dupont and Pacific streets. Mr. Eddy has the contract for their construction at 12 per perpendicular foot, the bore to be six inches in diameter. The one in the center of the square has been bored to the depth of sixty feet, and it is expected, we have been informed that the boring must proceed to the depth of 200 feet, before a sufficient supply of water will be obtained. Each of these artesian wells is to have a fountain. The fountain in the square is to be twenty-five feet in diameter, and to have a dozen jets of water in continual play. The basin is to be finished with fine cut stone coping on the top of the brick walls, and to be surrounded with a handsome ornamental iron railing. The other two fountains are to be twelve feet in diameter. These artesian wells are intended to supply the four reservoirs which are being constructed a short distance from them, with an abundant supply of water, so as to meet any emergency. The one in the square is intended to supply the reservoir of the square, and the one at the intersection of Washington and Montgomery streets.

The reservoir near the Custom house in California street, is in the form of an ellipsis, thirty-six feet by twenty-four, and is calculated to contain 3,000 gallons of water. It is to be arched with substantial brick walls laid in Roman cement. The entire depth reached last night, was fourteen feet. At this depth three feet of water was obtained. There are to be two apetures, through which to introduce the suction hose of the engines.

The reservoir at the intersection of Dupont and Pacific streets, is to be in the form of a circle, and is to be 24 feet in diameter, and to contain 25,000 gallons of water. A depth of 18 feet has been reached, but no water has yet been obtained, nor is any expected.

The one on the square is of the same size and is to be covered iwth timber. That at the foot of Washington and Montgomery, is to be a square cistern and to contain from 10 to 15 thousand gallons. It is to be covered with timber.

These works are to be completed in three weeks from this time. Mr. John Cochran has the contract for the reservoirs in the square, and the corner of Washington and Montgomery streets. We understand he is to receive $14,500 for the two reservoirs. Messrs. Timmons and Stewart have the contract for the other two reservoirs and the ornamental fountain on the square, and are to receive $9000 for each reservoir, and $3375 for the fountain.

It is calculated that these works when completed will cost $50,000, and that the reservoirs will contain a supply of $100,000 gallons of water. Other improvements both of a public and private nature are contemplated, which we shall refer to on a future occasion.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Aug 13, 1850

“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.”

LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA.
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 www.maritimeheritage.org)

Chagres (Image from http://www.maritimeheritage.org)

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

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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 www.sfmuseum.org/hist1/fire.html)

San Francisco Fire (Image from http://www.sfmuseum.org)

SAN FRANCISCO ENTERPRISE.

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.

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“RETURNED TO THE STATES.”

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