Colonel Jonathan Stevenson,
Colonel John C. Freemont, and
Captain John A. Sutter,
The three pre-eminent pioneers of California.
[Illustration: Daniel Knower.]
The discovery of gold in California, in 1848, with its other mineral resources, including the Alamada quicksilver mine at San Jose, which is an article of first necessity in working gold or silver ore; and the great silver mines of Nevada, in 1860, the Comstock lode, in which, in ten years, from five to eight hundred millions of gold and silver were taken out, a larger amount than was ever taken from one locality before, the Alamada quicksilver mine being the second most productive of any in the world, the one in Spain being the largest, said to be owned by the Rothschilds. Its effect upon the general prosperity and development of our country has been immense, almost incalculable. Before these discoveries the amount of gold in the United States was estimated at about seventy millions, now it is conceded to be seven hundred millions. The Northern Pacific coast was then almost unpopulated. California a territory three times as large as New York and Oregon and the State of Washington, all now being cultivated and containing large and populous cities, and railroads connecting them with the East. Why that country should have remained uninhabited for untold ages, where universal stillness must have prevailed as far as human activity is concerned, is one of the unfathomable mysteries of nature. It is only one hundred and twenty-five years since the Bay of San Francisco was first discovered, one of the grandest harbors in the world, being land-locked, extending thirty miles, where all the vessels of the world could anchor in safety. The early pioneers of those two years immediately after the gold was discovered (of which I am writing) are passing away. As Ossian says, “People are like the waves of the ocean, like the leafs of woody marvin that pass away in the rustling blast, and other leaves lift up their green heads.” There is probably not five per cent of the population of California to-day, of those days, scenes and events of which I have tried to portray. Another generation have taken their places who can know but little of those times except by tradition. I, being one of the pioneers, felt it a duty, or an inspiration seemed to come over me as an obligation I owed to myself and compatriots of those times, to do what I could to perpetuate the memory of them to some extent in the history of our country as far as I had the ability to do it.
The California Pioneer Society was organized in August, 1850. The photograph of their building appears on the cover of this book, W.D.M. Howard was their first president. Among their early presidents, and prominent in the days of Forty-niners, were Samuel Branan, Thomas Larkins, Wm. D. Farewell, and James Lick—who liberally endowed it.