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james lawson
James S. Lawson


Library Introduction
The Pioneer Years
Heading to California
The First Year
The Columbia River Country and Points South
Cape Flattery
Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, and the Los Angeles Base Line
Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia

Library Introduction

The Autobiography of James Lawson recounts the experiences of James S. Lawson, an Assistant in the Coast Survey, who proceeded to the West Coast with the famous George Davidson in 1850. This work is unique, describing Lawson's experiences on the Pacific coast of the United States when it was still a rough and wild pioneer coast. It also is an invaluable record of his life and work in the United States Coast Survey for a thirty-year period beginning in 1848. This version of Lawson's autobiography, presented by the NOAA Central Library, has received minor editing to make it more understandable for the modern reader but remains true to the original. As the Autobiography of James Lawson was written as one continuous document, headings and sub-headings have been added in order to separate the work into manageable segments for presentation on the Internet.



Born in Philadelphia, Penna, on Feb. 13th 1828. Attended the Master Grammar School. In June, 1841 was admitted to Central High School in same class with (now) Prof. Geo. Davidson, Asst. U.S. Coast Survey, & in June 1845, graduated. At the time of my admission to the C.H.S., Prof. Alex. Dallas Bache, afterward Supt. U.S. Coast Survey, was the Principal. He had been President of Girard College, and still had charge of the Magnetic Observatory in the College grounds. The night observers were selected from the pupils of the High School; of these I was one, and served during the greater part of my last three years at school, and until the closing of the Observatory, June 30, 1845.

In Oct. 1845, I was appointed Second Assistant Teacher in the Catherine Grammar School, where I remained one year. I was then offered a position as Assistant in the Friends' School at Wilmington, Delaware, under charge of Samuel Allsoff.

On January 1st 1848, I commenced duty as Clerk to Prof. A.D. Bache, Supt. U.S.C.S., and remained in that capacity until May 1st 1850, when I was detailed from the office, and ordered to report to Mr. Davidson who was under instructions to proceed to the Western Coast for field duty, Mr. D. having selected me as one of his Aids.

Previous to the sending out of the party of Mr. Davidson, there had been two others on the Pacific Coast: viz:--

1 -- For shore duty in all its branches -- Astronomy, Triangulation, Magnetics and Topography -- in charge of Capt. Jas. S. Williams, Assistant, --- Jos. S. Ruth, Sub-Assist.

2 -- For Hydrography having the Schr. Ewing (formerly a Revenue Cutter), in command of Lt. Wm. P. McArthur, U.S. Navy.

These parties arrived in California early in 1849, but owing to the peculiar condition of things at that time existing, the large prices demanded for everything, labor included, the insufficiency of appropriations, the difficulty of retaining hands &c., very little work was obtained. Some few detached surveys were made, also a reconnaissance from San Francisco to the Columbia River, with an examination of the Bar and Entrance of the latter. In the execution of this work, it was necessary to have the boat's crew in irons to prevent their desertion. So great was the inducement to desert, that the men would submit to any loss, resort to violence, and even attempt murder, to get away. This was shown in the case of the boat's crew of the Ewing in San Francisco Harbor, attempting to murder Lt. Gibson, U.S.N., and then deserting taking the boat. They were pursued, arrested on the Sacramento River, brought back and tried by Court Martial. I think two of them were hung, one from the Ewing and one from a naval vessel then in the Bay....

To the credit of human nature, be it said, all were not of this class, and one case stands out in bold relief, showing the sternest integrity to obligations assumed. In the party of Capt. Williams were a few men who had been brought from the East on account of their experience in the work, and who were under contract to serve for one year at a certain pay. This, at the then ruling rates in San F. was a mere bagatelle. Some took advantage of the intervals when no duty was required of them, to "turn an honest" ounce, and when their services were wanted, were hardly willing to obey. But one, Charley Moore, from Philadelphia, firmly refused to place himself in a position where he might not always be ready for service, if called upon, he remained in his room, a little 7 by 9 affair, reading all day, until Capt. Williams finding there was no prospect of work, gave him his discharge. I afterwards (1853) met Moore at Trinidad; he had a pack train running between that place and the Klamath Mines, and I think had been quite successful.

The ill success attending the parties previously sent, and the Supt. being very anxious for some show of results from the Western Coast, he determined to send another party, to be composed entirely of young men, who had a record to make, and who would not shrink from any necessary labor, or be daunted at any inconveniences or even privations to which they might be subjected. The command of this party was offered to George Davidson, then Sub-Assistant, and he accepted on the condition that he have the right to name his own Aids. This was granted, somewhat reluctantly however; and Mr. D. selected Mr. A. M. Harrison, a graduate of the Central High School of Phila., who had entered the C.S. in 1847, and myself. Afterwards Mr. John Rockwell was added to the party. The pay of the Aids was fixed at $30.00 per month, so that all should be on an equal footing. To do this, my pay as Clerk was reduced $5.00, Mr. Harrison's increased the same amount, and Mr. Rockwell's was doubled.

I was seized with the California fever early in 1849, when some of my friends, among them O.P. Sutton, were preparing to start from Washington; but my father strongly opposed the project, and I therefore gave it up. But now that the opportunity offered to go under the auspices of the Coast Survey, no objections, save the natural ones of personal regrets at going so far from home, were offered.

Heading to California

I left Washington about the last day of April 1850 for my home in Philadelphia, where I spent a few days in making necessary preparations. Then I went to New York to procure certain articles of outfit, instruments &c., for the party, and on the 5th of May Mr. Davidson, Rockwell and myself sailed on the Steamer Philadelphia, Capt. Bob Pearson (I think). I had previously been round Pt. Judith and paid the customary tribute to Neptune; but this was my true experience of a "Life on the Ocean Wave," and I was compelled to submit to all the ceremonies of a thorough initiation. The trip was not marked by any circumstances of unusual moment. We had the usual rough sea while crossing the Gulf Stream, and the long swell in the Caribbean Sea. With the exception that the steamer was small and crowded with passengers, it was as pleasant as sea trips usually are, or at least were in those days. All were so anxious to reach the famous El Dorado that they were willing to endure discomforts with composure.

In due time we came to anchor off the mouth of the Chagres River, and got ashore as best we could, in boats or canoes, each one or a party making their own arrangements. We stopped one night at Chagres, just inside the mouth, and the next morning started up the river. Having all our camp outfit, tents, instruments &c., Mr. Davidson found it necessary to engage a large canoe for ourselves, at a cost of $120.00 to Cruces, half paid in advance and half at the end of the trip. Our crew consisted of three natives, the Padron (Chief man) and two oarsmen. In the still parts of the river oars were used; in the strong currents the canoe was poled. We reached Cruces on the third day, but the trip did not seem at all tedious. All was novelty to us, the scenery, the verdure, the means of locomotion, the inhabitants, the passing of boats, the stopping at various places, all interested us, and tended to make the time pass pleasantly. This result was also in a great measure owing to the treatment of our boatmen. In many of the canoes the passengers were urging their crew to their utmost strength, some even threatening to use force, firearms, & c. Mr. Davidson pursued a different policy. Though the crew furnished their own food, they were supplied every morning, noon and night with coffee, and in the middle of fore and afternoon a drink of native liquor (aquardiente). I had brought with me an accordion (christened by Davidson a "leather jews-harp"), and on this would grind out some of the Negro melodies of the day. "Mary Blane" seemed particularly to strike their fancy, and they wanted it played all the time. Finding it facilitated our progress, I did play it until the tune and the instrument became positively distasteful. The effect was good for us. When in company with other boats or canoes, the crews would compare notes, and while others would be cursing their passengers, we would invariably be complimented as buenos pasajeros. The consequence was that no upward bound boat, unless a small and light one, passed us. At Cruces all our baggage was carefully taken from the canoe and placed on shore, the remainder of the money paid, and with best wishes for our trip the crew bade us Adios. "Like begets like." Treat men as men, and it is very rarely indeed that a similar return is not made. We never urged this crew; these natives are fond of a bath at intervals of work, and we never evinced any regret at the time apparently lost. They appreciated it and when they resumed their oars or poles they made up for lost time.

The costume of these natives is at times extremely primitive. One of our boatmen, an Apollo in manly physique, was a large portion of the trip in full dress when he had a small piece of red tape around his left wrist.

We remained at Cruces from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning, waiting for mule transportation to Panama. On Sunday we had a good opportunity of witnessing some of the peculiar manners and customs of the people as regards their observance of the day. All devoutly(!) attended Mass in the morning, the remainder of the day was devoted to gambling of various kinds, cock fighting and kindred pleasures, the priest (Padre) with the others. I afterwards saw the same in Panama, where it was no uncommon thing, I was informed, for the priests, despite their vows, to have their mistresses and families of children.

Near the church at Cruces was a large anchor, said to have been carried there by the Buccaneers, intending to take it to Panama for one of their vessels. In this they failed and left it.

On Monday morning we succeeded in procuring mules and started for Panama, leaving all our equipage in the charge of a transportation company. This was generally carried by the natives in cradles fastened by straps around their shoulders & across the breast. It was wonderful the weights some of them would carry. One of our boxes weighed 180 lbs., and a man carried it the whole distance, about 21 miles.

Two of the ladies who crossed at the same time with us had very sensibly provided themselves with Bloomer Costumes, and in riding sat astride the animals. It was certainly a much more safe and convenient way to get through the narrow gorges and over the rough roads than the usual style of ladies' riding.

We arrived in Panama a couple of days after a riot between the Americans and natives, caused, I believe, by the attempted arrest of a native boy for stealing. In the disturbance, several persons were killed. All was quite when we arrived, and continued so during our stay of 10 days.

We first took up quarters at the American Hotel, but changed in a day or two, & with quite a number of our fellow passengers took lodgings in a large room in a building formerly used for Government purposes. Only cot beds were furnished, each one supplying his own bedding, of which a small quantity sufficed. Our meals we took at a boarding house kept by an American woman, whose husband had died at Panama.

During the time spent there waiting for a steamer, our daily routine was about as follows:-- up at sunrise, go to the beach outside the walls and enjoy the luxury of a surf bath; then invest a dime (or a real) in oranges just brought in the brugos (canoes) fresh from the trees, the juice of the orange only being sucked. After that a small cup of coffee; at 8 o'clock breakfast, from which until 11 we roamed around, looking at the city, visited the Cathedral and churches, and explored the old ruins. During middle of the day we remained indoors, reading, talking or enjoying a siesta as each chose. About 3 P.M. we were out again, as in the morning, until dinner time, (5 or 6 o'cl'k) after which we strolled to the ramparts stopping to take a small cup of most excellent chocolate made by a native woman. While at Panama we had some magnificent moonlight evenings and the ramparts were a great place of resort for Americans and others (said to number at that time 2500 to 3000) then awaiting transportation to California. The brass guns and bombs, said to contain a large percentage of silver, attracted much attention. On each was the date and place of making (in Spain), the Spanish Crown, and a motto. I understand these have since been sold and removed.

At last the happy day came when it was announced that we could get on board the Steamer (Tennessee, Capt. Cole). As the passengers of two steamers on the Atlantic side had to be crowded on this one, some trouble was experienced in getting all of our equipage on board, Capt. Stout, the agent of the P.M.S.S. Co., refusing to allow it, Mr. Davidson explained the necessity to Capt. Cole, and he kindly granted permission.

So great was the desire to reach California, that fabulous prices of $800.00 to $1000.00, were paid for tickets from Panama to San Francisco. It was said that some entered into this as a regular business. Before passing through the gate, each ticket and its holder were subjected to a strict scrutiny, and of course some very unpleasant, as well as amusing, things occurred. Among the latter was the presentation by a woman of a ticket bearing a man's name. This, the old martinet Stout rejected. Shortly afterwards the same ticket was presented by one wearing a man's clothes, and was passed. It was the same person who previously had shown it, and who on reaching the steamer immediately assumed her proper garments.

The steamer was so crowded that the word "comfort" could not be said to form part of our vocabulary. Staterooms were more than full, every berth was taken, and numbers had to take up quarters on deck, in boats, anywhere. Our berths were "down, down below," in a sort of "black hole of Calcutta," a place which I never explored except when necessary for the toilet or change of clothing, until within a few days of San Francisco, and had the benefit of the cool N.W. wind. For sleeping accommodations we generally stood ready about 10 P.M., when the tables were cleared of gamblers and others, and took up squatters' titles to as much as we could get and keep.

Considering the delay on the Isthmus, the inconsiderate manner of living of many while there, the free use of fruits and alcoholic liquors at the same time, and the unwise exposure of themselves during the middle of the day, and the crowded, uncomfortable state of the steamer, I think the health of the passengers was very good. Several were sick of Panama fever, but only two died. We stopped but once on the trip, at Acapulco, where we remained three days while the ship was being coaled. There were none of the facilities then, that were to be found in after years. Of course we did the town, explored all around the old fort (San Carlos?) with its cracked walls and barefooted garrison of almost a dozen natives, and obtained all the amusements we could by seeing,---the hearing was not of so much consequence to some of us inasmuch as we could not include the knowledge of the Spanish language as one of our accomplishments.

During the whole trip gambling was carried on to a very great extent. From the clearing of the tables after breakfast until extinguishing lights (10 P.M.), with the exception of the time occupied at lunch and dinner, the cabin was transformed into a gambling hall. For the participants in the games Sunday was a terrible day, for then they could not continue their little game. Perhaps it was to dissipate the ennui that induced a little lawyer (M.) from Washington, to treat the passengers to a dissertation on this habit. I think it was on the Sunday before reaching San Francisco, we were far enough North to be within the influence of the strong chilly Nor'Westers, so disagreeable to those having passed several weeks in the tropics. A clergyman on board held service on the upper deck, which was well attended. At the conclusion, many rushed to the cabin for shelter, among them Lawyer M. Seated there, reading the Book of all Books, was an elderly gentleman, of staid, sober regular habits, a veritable specimen of the orthodox Puritan, and this is said with all deference, who hailed from the "State of Maine." I never knew his name, but throughout the ship he was known as "The State of Maine". Lawyer M. approached him, and requested the loan of his Bible. The old gentlemen, knowing M's habits, declined at first to grant the favor, but M., apparently divining the causes that prompted the refusal, gave assurances that he asked the favor from a good motive, not to make light of the Book's holy teachings, or to infringe upon the religious sentiments of any. On this assurance, "State of Maine," closed his Bible and handed it to Lawyer M., who opened it haphazard, and glancing hurriedly over the pages, selected two verses, read them, closed the Book, and with these verses as his text proceeded to discourse on gambling. A more terrific tirade on gamblers and gambling, it has never been my lot to hear. There was no term too strong to apply to gamblers, no tie too sacred for them to keep. Father, Mother, Wife, Child, all would be sacrificed to sustain the insatiable appetite. No crime was too great for a gambler to commit; and could he obtain no greater stakes, he would "steal the pennies off a dead man's eyes." Knowing that gambling had been the occupation to which M. had devoted himself during the trip, we hoped he had seen the error of his ways, and "turned over a new leaf." Our disappointment and disgust can be well imagined, when the next morning, as soon as a portion of the table could be secured, he was deeply as ever engaged in the mysteries (and miseries) of vingt et un, a fitting illustration of the saying, "Don't do as I do, but do as I say." What became of him I do not know, but I am afraid his mania blasted what might otherwise have been a useful life.

We came to anchor in San F. Harbor in the forenoon of June 19th 1850; then began, each for himself, or for his associates, the scramble for success. Of the passengers on this trip there were many who became well known, among them I may mention John Chetwoo, Jonathan Edwards, W.A. Darling, A.C. Whitcomb, Emanuel Berri, Henry Haight, Chas. D.Judah, A.Mey, A.J. Moulder, David Chambers, E.P. Flint, S.R. Throckmorton,----Dwinelle, J.H. Goodman, A.J. Easton, etc.,etc.

Some of these have returned East to enjoy their otium cum dignitate, some remain on the coast and are well known and honored, and some have "crossed the dark river."  

The First Year

At the time of our arrival, there were no wharves to which a large vessel could come. Our landing was made in boats at the end of "Howison's" pier, a small wharf, the only one San F. could then boast of, at the foot of Sacramento St. On this wharf was a wooden tramway on which was pushed a small car for carrying trunks etc. to terra firma. Our luggage, however, did not get taken quite so far. The fire of June 14th had laid waste all that vicinity, burning the connection of the wharf with the land, hence all our "traps" had to be carried from the pier across a plank to the shore. My first astonishment (after that they were innumerable) was seeing a man digging a trench among hot ashes and burning embers to lay the sills of a new structure. By noon of the next day the house, a skeleton frame with cotton-cloth and sides, was finished, stocked with goods, and stood conspicuously as a first class store.

Our first care after getting on shore was to have our instruments, camp equipage, and superfluous personal baggage, stored in some safe place. Room for this purpose was granted by the Collector of Customs (Col.Jas. Collier) in the building then used as a Custom House, a large four story brick building on the corner of California & Montgomery Sts. (on the same lot where for many years Wells Fargo & Co's Express Co. had their office and above them was the Union club; present building erected by John Parrott.) This building was built of brick, had iron doors and shutters, and was supposed to be fire-proof. But alas! for the frailty of human opinions, the fire of May 6th 1851 completely destroyed it with all our worldly goods stored therein.

My descriptive powers are inadequate to give even a fair idea of what San F. was in those days. This has been often done by abler & better pens, and to them reference must be had.

We first held forth at the "St. Francis" Hotel, where Mr. Davidson has secured rooms; this was then the "nobby" hotel of the town. Just before turning the corner from Dupont St. into Clay St. I suddenly came face to face with my old friend O.P. Sutton, and never shall I forget the look of astonishment with which he greeted me. Such surprises became so common in those days, however, that the effect was but momentary.

A couple of days' experience at the St. Francis amply demonstrated the fact that such grand prices of living ($7.00 per diem) were not in keeping with our own pay, or with the purse and projects of Venerable Master (U.S.). We took a room in a small wooden building on the opposite corner from the St. Francis, and got our meals where we chose.

We remained in San. F. about 17 days, during which time, Mr. Davidson made a general review of the work, made a selection of Pt. Conception as his first station, and laid his plans accordingly. Previous to this date the charts of the Western Coast were very defective. Latitudes of prominent points were much in error, and longitudes varied from 5' to 20'.

It was a most fortunate circumstance for Navigators that all errors in Longitude were in favor of safety. The land was shown too far to the Westward, so that the Mariner did not find it as soon as anticipated. An error in the opposite direction might have been productive of terrible losses of life & property. This error was general, all along the coast Southward. I have seen the track of a steamer plotted by Capt. Ned Miller from actual observations, where she ran over the top of the Coast Range of Mountains.

Pt. Conception is one of the most notable points on the California coast, and its accurate position was particularly desirable, as it marked, in fact is the key to, the Northern entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel.

Getting everything in readiness we started on the Bark Burnham, Capt. James Hall, an old habitue of this coast, who was mentioned in Dana's "Three [two] years before the mast." The party consisted of Mr. Davidson, Chief, Rockwell and myself as Aids, not even a man to assist. On the vessel Mr. D. hired as cook, a Mexican who lived at Santa Barbara, as he was en route for home, at $125.00 per month, more than the whole three of us together were getting. The sum total of his accomplishments in the culinary line, was to be able to fry a piece of pork or bacon, and to make a pot of very muddy coffee.

We reached Pt. Conception in a couple of days. The vessel anchored off the mouth of the Valley "El Coxo," and as rapidly as possible we and all our impedimenta were dumped ashore on the beach. Here, in a strange land, with only a couple of Indian spectators, from whose meaningless faces nothing could be gained, and seeing the vessel gradually leaving us, very surely the prospect was anything but a cheering one. But with the elasticity of youth we set to work, selected our site for camp, packed everything up there, and before night were as comfortably fixed as possible under the circumstances.

In a few days we became somewhat domesticated, had built the observatory on the plateau above the valley, and the instruments (transit and zenith telescope) were in position. All this meant work; everything, lumber, instruments, &c. had to be carried up the steep face of the plateau. The hardest part of all was the carrying of the stand of the transit. This was one piece of cast iron, weighing at least 300 lbs. Davidson & I got it on our shoulders, it was so short that we had to walk in a "lock step"; the utmost care was necessary that no false or mis-step should be made; and we did not dare to stop or rest until we reached the Observatory.

Whether or not it was our rough style of living on coarse food, and horribly cooked, or the unusual strain to which we had been subjected, or perhaps both combined, it was not long before camp presented the appearance of a hospital. Davidson was very sick; Rockwell was by no means in good condition, and I did not feel very well myself. I kept up, and tried to interest myself in making some wooden stools; I was not equal to the task, and deferred it until a more convenient season. After that we could only complain of good appetites, and vulgarly good health.

After leaving us the Burnham went to Santa Barbara, where she reported our landing. Don Anastasio Carillo, the owner of the Pt. Conception rancho, became alarmed lest it might be a step on the part of Los Americanos to deprive him of his property; and therefore despatched his son Don Luis, to investigate. Rockwell was the only one of us who had any knowledge of Spanish, and Don Luis' English education was confined to one particular branch, in which, however, he was very proficient. The explanations offered in regard to our duties and the objects of the work were satisfactory. Don Luis remained with us several days, during which time he asked many questions, and was evidently desirous of obtaining all the information he could concerning the United States and its people. Many things told him taxed his credulity to the utmost, some he would not believe. Being accustomed to see the one-storied adobe house of the orthodox native California style, and never having seen any structure larger than the Mission Church, he was unwilling to believe that there ever was such a building as that of a mill, several stories high, a representation of which was on the wrapper of a package of letter paper. His conception of the greatest speed attainable in land travel, was that of a horse; when the rate of railroad traveling and means employed were described, he gently intimated that we were in danger of transgressing the truth; but when the telegraph was explained, he was morally certain that we lied.

A few weeks after our arrival at Pt. C., Mr. Harrison joined us. Until then our mess table furniture was of rather a primitive, but substantial nature -- tin cups, tin plates &c. Our better dish was an abalone shell, which we had taken from the rocks. Mr. H. brought from Santa Barbara some white earthenware dishes, and the first time I saw our table set with these, the contract was so great that we seemed to be reveling in luxury.

The work of the party consisted of the determination of the Latitude, Longitude, and Magnetic Variation, and also the topographical survey of the vicinity, including the selection of a site for a Light House. For the prosecution of this work the weather was remarkably favorable, out of 60 nights, observations were obtained on 50. The dense fogs were all carried seaward, they rarely reached us, and so continuous were they that for six weeks after our arrival we did not see the islands San Miguel, Santa Rosa &c forming the Western boundary of the Santa Barbara Channel. We had almost begun to think they did not exist. After that we had some splendid exhibitions of mirage, inverted and direct images of these islands, three and four in number were frequently seen.

I have heard and read of "Italian skies" and the salubrity of the climate, but I much doubt if these can excel what we enjoyed at "El Coxo." During our stay there, 2 ½ months, I never wore a cravat or collar; our clothing was almost reduced to a minimum, not quite, however, to the full costume of our Apollo of the Chagres River. Occasionally when feeling a little chilly in the observatory at nights, I put on a thin knitted jacket, but very soon found it oppressive, and laid it aside. Many a time have I laid down on the bare ground, or selected the soft side of a board, and gone to sleep without any covering save the clothes I had on. This I think was mainly owing to the kind of life we led; -- plenty of work and exercise in the open air, a surf bath at sunrise, no high living (we could not have had it, even if wanted) a clear conscience, and with naturally a good constitution; -- if these do not produce health and contentment, I do not know what will.

Early in October, the work being completed, we went to Santa Barbara, a pack train being hired for the transportation of instruments, camp equipage, baggage &c. Then saddle horses were provided for the four of us, as one, each in his turn, had to walk to carry the chronometers.

At Santa Barbara we remained about three weeks, and by invitation of Don Anastasio Carillo, were quartered at his house, taking our meals at the house of a widow lady. During our stay, we did the town, visited the old Mission, the sulphur (hot and cold) springs in the Coast Range, talked with the old otter hunters John (or as he was generally known Don Juan) Sparks [possibly Lawson's memory failed him on this point as Isaac Sparks was a famous otter hunter on the California coast and had been a partner of George Nidever] and George Nidever -- in fact anything we could to pass the time, except one by which we could each have made $750.00.

When we left the East it was with expressed understanding with the Superintendent, and by his direction, that we should accept no offers of work that would interfere with that of private surveyors. Others had done this to the neglect of official duties. While at Santa Barbara, an offer was made to Mr. Davidson of three thousand dollars to make a survey and plat of the town. In the work and pay we would all have shared, but in keeping with our agreement the offer was declined. Just after our arrival in the East on our first leave of absence, D. and I were dining with the Supt. and among others of our Western Coast experiences this was told. The Supt. laughed heartily, and did not hesitate to intimate plainly that we were fools, and we began to think so too.

We had watched anxiously for the return of the Steamer Goldhunter from a trip to some Mexican ports, hoping to obtain passage on her to San Francisco. Days lengthened into weeks, and still no appearance of the steamer. In addition to our own party, there were a number of others who wanted to go, so we chartered a fishing smack, the Empire. There were about a dozen passengers, among whom was Matthew Killer ("Don Mateo," as we called him), who has for so many years been among the most prominent of the viniculturists of Los Angeles. He was a genuine son of the Green Isle, full of mother wit, overflowing in fun and humor, possessing a rich fund of anecdote, which he could tell splendidly, and thus assisted greatly in relieving the tedium of an eight days' trip.

We arrived at San F. about the end of October, and remained until after the middle of December, during which time all the party were engaged in making the necessary computations, duplicates of records, platting, &c. of the work done at Pt. Conception. In December Mr. Davidson received orders to proceed to Pt. Pinos, near Monterey, and about the 20th we started on the Schooner Ewing, then in command of Acting Master J.H. Moore, U.S.N., Lieut. Wm. P. McArthur had started East a short time previous to this; he died on the steamer just before reaching Panama.

Our trip or rather attempted one, was rather unpleasant. We started with a S.E. wind, which increased to a gale, and drove us back in a somewhat dilapidated condition, having lost boats, anchor and chain, and broken the fore-gaff. We returned to port, crossing the bar through breakers, fortunately without any mishap there. We remained in San F. until Jan 1st 1851, and then left on the Propeller Carolina, Capt. Dick Whiting. On our arrival at Monterey, there being no wharf, the steamer was run alongside of an old hulk, at anchor, the Nueva (or Buena?) Fortuna, to which all our instruments, camp equipage and stores were transferred, and left in charge of our crew. This being done we were set ashore by a boatman, and took up quarters for the night at the hotel.

Knowing no one in Monterey, we preferred to remain around the bright fire in the old fashioned fire-place in the dining room, rather than wander about at night. In this we were joined by a man who had been a fellow passenger on the Carolina, and with that free and easy manner, then and for years after so marked a characteristic of this coast we fell into conversation. He was from Philadelphia, so were three of us, but from different portions. Though we had no acquaintances in common, there were localities, incidents &c. of a general nature of which all could speak. I am even yet, undecided as to what made him so communicative, whether it was a clannish feeling from being "townies," or, finding that we belonged to the Coast Survey, it was "confirmation strong as Holy Writ" that there was no possibility of "making a raise" from us. At all events, he spoke of himself as a professional gambler, and that he had started on the trip for Panama with the intention of drawing those on board into a little game, and fleecing them. Unfortunately, however, Capt. Whiting discovered this, and gave him notice to quit at Monterey. He spoke freely of the tricks of his trade; how he had won $20,000 from his brethren of the pasteboard before they discovered his dodge, and how they brought him to bed-rock on another.

The next morning while we were dressing (all our party occupied one large room), Mr. Davidson was laying out the plans of work for the day, in midst of which one of our men came in with the startling news that the old hulk had sunk in the night! Of course visions of lost instruments, tents, stores, everything, flashed instantaneously through our minds, and the fellow seemed to enjoy our distress for a while; then leisurely he told us that all the instruments, and most valuable part of equipage was saved, and also of the circumstances attending the disaster. In transferring our impedimenta from the steamer to the hulk hurriedly, it was all placed on one side, and this caused her to list over a little. Her topsides had shrunk considerably, opening the seams and through these water poured in. It might have been that the steamer in coming alongside struck with sufficient force to cause a strain of the planking. At all events, nothing was feared until nearly midnight, one of the men, all of whom were on the hulk, thought he heard water rushing in. A search was instituted and such was found to be the case. An old boat was found on deck; this was launched but there were no oars, but improvising spades (they were trumps to good purpose this time) for paddles, the alarm was given to some vessels in the Bay, & by the boats sent from them, a large proportion of our material was saved. Some of our personal baggage was lost. I had a valise stolen; it contained many things which I prized greatly on account of their associations. Unfortunate as the case was, we were thankful that it was not worse, and that no lives were lost.

The next day a site for camp was selected at edge of the woods about half a mile East of Pt. Pinos. The observatory was erected, and instruments mounted. These were the same as used at Pt. Conception, viz: -- transit instrument for determination of Time and Longitude, and the Zenith Telescope for Latitude. These operations were conducted by Mr. Davidson with Mr. Rockwell as Aid. The topographical work was executed by Mr. Harrison, with myself as Aid, using the planetable. On this survey, and from personal examinations of the localities, Mr. D. presented a report in regard to the location of a Light House.

Work at Pt. Pinos was completed early in March, and on the 9th we left Monterey for San Diego on the Steamer Constitution (now and for years past the Barkentine of that name engaged in the lumber trade between San F. and Puget Sound). At the Playa (beach) just inside the Bay, and the usual anchorage for vessels, was a government building, erected as Military Quarters. These being vacant, Mr. D. obtained permission from the Quartermaster, then stationed at the "New Town", to occupy them. Our work here was of the same character as at Pt. Pinos.

The Playa was a small collection of houses, among which was the Custom House, a common board shanty. Lining the beach, and near high water mark, were several large buildings formerly used for storing the hides collected by the old "hide-droghers" in their trading with the Rancheros, and there stored until a sufficient quantity was obtained to load a vessel when they were shipped East. Over the doors of some of these store-houses were the quarter-boards with names of vessels engaged in this trade; these I now forget, but an interesting account of them, of all this section of the country, and of the hide trade will be found in Dana's "Three [Two] Years before the Mast."

We had frequent visits from the Officers garrisoned at the Old Mission, some miles up the valley, as also those connected with the Quartermasters Department at New Town. Among these were Cap. Nathaniel Lyon (afterwards Gen. L. who was killed in Missouri in the early part of the Rebellion), Capt. Cave J. Couts, Major McKinstry and Capt. T.D. Johns.

Our chef de cuisine was a Scotchman and an artist. When applying for the position, Mr. D. asked him if he was a cook. He replied, "I hae cook-ed for twa Breet-ish noblemen, an' I think I can cook for ye." "You are my man", said D. He was not only a cook, but a confectioner, and brewer. He exercised considerable genius and taste in devising various dishes and in the ornamentation, some of the latter causing considerable mirth at their originality. His confectionery became proverbial, and rarely ever did our visitors leave without a supply of dulces for their senorita friends.

The Columbia River Country and Points South

We remained at San Diego until about June 12th, and then to San Francisco, and got quarters in the house then kept by Dr. O.M. Wozencraft, N.E. corner Washington and Stockton Sts. We there remained until Saturday June 21st when we started for Columbia River on the Steamer Columbia, Capt. Wm. H. Dall. The day after we left the fire occurred which swept nearly all that part of the city between Powell and Sansome, and Clay to Broadway Sts. When at Santa Barbara, on our way from San Diego, we heard of the formation of the Vigilance Committee at San Francisco, and the hanging of Jenkins on the plaza.

Among the passengers on the Columbia on this trip was Capt. Wm. Tichenor, so well known on this coast. He was strongly impressed with the advantages of Port Orford, Oregon, as a summer seaport, and for the location of a town, the trade, and consequently the prosperity of which was to depend upon a road to be made from there into the interior of Southern Oregon. By this route all the traffic of Southern Oregon was to be carried on, thus saving to merchants, and of course to consumers, the extra outlay, in expense and time, necessarily required by shipping via Columbia River and Portland, of which place Port Orford was to be the rival.

A couple of weeks previously, Capt. T. had left a party of men there to commence the settlement, and make the explorations for the proposed road. To ascertain the condition and prospects of this party the steamer stopped there. "Not a sound was heard" save the roll of the sea, the sighing of the wind thro' the trees, and the discordant greeting of a few gulls. When Capt. T. went ashore, he found none of his party, only the evidences of a battle with the Indians, and a hurried flight. There being no necessity for delay, we resumed our course towards the Columbia River.

For some time the fate of Tichenor's party was in doubt, but all anxiety was removed by the news of their safety.

(Mem. I thought I had in my scrap book a detailed account of this fight and the wanderings of the party back to the settlements in Oregon as given by Col. T'Vault, but I cannot find it. -- J.S.L.)

Cape Disappointment, the North Head of the Entrance to Columbia River, being Mr. Davidson's objective point, Capt. Dall kindly took his vessel into Baker's Bay, thus saving the party considerable time and expensive transportation from Astoria. The site for camp was selected in the bight under the Eastern extremity of Cape D. and inside a small island, now occupied, I believe, by quarters and offices belonging to Fort Canby. Here all our equipage, instruments and stores were landed, and camp was made.

The work of the party was the same as at previous stations. The Astronomical station was selected on the highest part of the Cape. The Magnetic station was at first near camp, but large discrepancies and irregularities in the observations being noticed, Mr. Davidson sought for the cause, and found it in the black sand on the beach, in which were also found faint traces of gold. The Magnetic station was then removed to the Astronomical. The topographical work comprised the survey of Cape D., on the outside including MacKenzie's Head, and on the inside to or near the site of Pacific City; of Sand Id., in the Entrance of the River; and of a portion of Pt. Adams, the South Pt. of the mouth.

The Pacific City, just referred to, was located on the North side of Baker's Bay, somewhat more than a mile from our camp. The scheme for building a city here, and which was intended to be the seaport town at the mouth of the Columbia in opposition to Astoria, emanated from the busy and disordered brain of a Dr. White. I think it was gotten up as a speculation, from which he hoped to reap a harvest, so there might have been "a method in his madness." I do not know whether or not he made any money out of the scheme, but he did succeed in making a number of dupes, among whom was Jas. D. Holman, who put up a large building for hotel, store &c, which with other improvements cost him about $28,000.00. Of course, as a city, the place was a failure. It had no advantages of location, no attractions, save those existing in the perverted imagination of its founder. The park filled with deer, which he described as one of the attractions of the place, or the schoolhouses, hotel, residences, &c., indicating its progress towards civilization, instead of which was only the original forest, and a few temporary shanties, might be looked upon as somewhat ironical, or an overweening confidence in the future, had the result not been so disastrous to those he succeeded in misleading. Mr. Holman afterwards vacated the hotel, and he took himself to a claim in the vicinity. All this was afterwards included in the Military Reservation for Fort Canby. Mr. H. has been endeavoring to obtain compensation from the Government. I hope he has succeeded.

While at Baker's Bay I was a frequent visitor at Mr. Holman's, and had many a romp with his little children. There I met several persons from up the river, who had come for the benefit of sea air and bathing, (among them Judge Kelly, Ex-Senator of Oregon, Mrs. Gen. Lovejoy, of Oregon City) and this seemed about the only attraction the locality possessed.

After the completion of the topographical surveys of Cape Disappointment, Pt. Adams and Sand Id., a party consisting of Judge Kelly, Mr. Hopkins (who had been brought to Pacific City by Dr. White to be a teacher in the public school (!), Mr. Harrison and myself, started in a small sloop belonging to Mr. Holman, for a trip up the Columbia River. Not being pressed for time, we stopped at any place deemed interesting, or wherever fancy dictated. After spending a delightful evening with the family of Gen. Adair, Collector of Customs, at Astoria, we ran up to Tongue Pt. There we anchored, and spent a day in improving the sanitary condition of the vessel by removing all her old ballast, giving her a thorough cleaning, and putting fresh stone ballast.

The Woody Id Channel thro' Cathlamet Bay, was not then known, so we followed the one then used. From Tongue Pt. we stood over to the North bank of the river, towards Gray's Bay, then up along that shore, past Pillar Rock & Under "Jim Crow" Hill (one of the marks used by the Bar pilots). Off one of the low islands near Birnie's, now the town of Cathlamet, we anchored, and Hopkins, Harrison and myself went ashore to an Indian village. While returning to the sloop we discovered that we were carrying back passengers, some millions more or less, for which we had not bargained. We were covered with fleas to such an extent that from foot to knee the color of our pantaloons could not be distinguished. The scene was entirely too animated for our taste. Knowing the torments that would ensue if we went on board the sloop in that condition, we went under her stern & made fast the boat's painter; then stripping, leaving all our clothes in the boat, we jumped over board, and after swimming around for a while climbed on board over the bow, and donned fresh clothing. The next day we dipped every article into boiling water, and without the slightest compunction of conscience, enjoyed a grand "Massacre of the Innocents." Continuing on our way we stopped at and ascended Mt. Coffin, formerly a famous burial place for the Indians, but unfortunately burnt over by the negligence of some of the men belonging to the U.S. Exploring Expedition (Capt. Wilkes in 1841). Passing Coffin rock, another Indian burial place, we continued on, by the mouth of the Willamette River to Vancouver, then the Chief station of the Hudson's Bay Co. All their stores, storehouses, offices, &c, were within a large wooden stockade, with two bastions at the diagonal corners, in which were some small iron guns for defense in case of an Indian attack.

At, or near Vancouver, is the head of tide water, beyond which the current of the river is always down, but having fair winds we ran as far as Lady's Id. Here the wind changed to the Eastward, and we were compelled to anchor, it being impossible to beat against the current.

After lying there a day, and having no prospect of a fair wind, we determined to proceed in the dinghy; so the next morning, leaving Judge Kelly in charge of the sloop, Hopkins, Harrison and myself started, taking turns in pulling. It was uphill work against the current, but by taking advantage of eddies, we managed to make some headway. The boat was a very small one, there was no room to move about. The day turned out very rainy, though not stormy; we were soon drenched, but the novelties of the scenery made us forget all the disagreeable part of the trip. Cape Horn, with its basaltic cliffs rising from 500 to 700 ft. perpendicularly from the water, flanked by hills of some 2000 ft., with its numerous streams trickling down the mountainsides like threads of silver until they tumble from the edge of the precipice, and from that dizzy height become a mass of spray, is grand in the extreme. At several places along the fall of this point are cones rising hundreds of feet, each, on its sides and top, bearing some of the native pines, presenting the idea of sentinels on the battlements of a huge castle. Farther up, and on the other side of the river (now Oregon proper--it was all Oregon Territory in 1851) are numerous beautiful falls, varying from a few hundreds to a thousand or fifteen hundred ft. in perpendicular descent. I would that I possessed the power to picture in words these great natural beauties, but they have been so often, and so much better described than I can do, that I will not make the attempt. Besides, the series of splendid photographs by Watkins and others have placed before the world so many of these beauties as to make them almost familiar.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, seeing a log house on the bank, we concluded to stop there for the night. The place seemed deserted, but we soon had a roaring fire in a cooking stove, and began a consultation among ourselves as to the possibilities of getting a supper, I must confess we were somewhat startled by a deep sepulchral sort of voice, demanding "What in H--l are you doing there?" Looking around in a dark corner we found in a bunk, the owner of the mansion in the full enjoyment of an ague chill. We explained to him our position, and he freely offered all the hospitalities his place afforded. Pointing to a large chest he said we would find a ham-bone, and some biscuit which a woman had made for him a few days before. When he said bone, he was preeminently correct; but when he said biscuit -- "Heaven save the mark!" they would have made good shot for a six pounder. But "necessity knows no law," so we did the best we could off the biscuit and bone, and after getting partially dried, felt better. We slept in our wet clothes, and early next morning, after partaking of the delicacies left from our supper, and gathering a lot of wood (we split up his fence rails) for our host, we bade him Good Bye with many thanks for his kindness and made an early start for the Cascades, reaching the foot of the lower rapids about noon. Making our boat fast, we walked to the Upper Cascades, a distance of five or six miles, examining every point of interest, and from which we could get the best view of this mass of tumultuous waters. From the Middle Cascades on the North bank, there was then a wooden tramway for facilitating the transfer of goods up and down. This years ago had to give way, in the march of improvement, and increase of business, to the modern style of railway. There were then no steamboats plying on this part of the river, or above; today there are "floating palaces," the largest stern wheel steamers in the world.

Not being in possession of full and reliable data, I will not attempt a description of the Cascades. Doubtless some of your contributors will do this and in a manner to do the subject full justice. My impressions of its picturesque beauties are almost indescribable; every turn, every step reveals a new feature that entrances, and each seems more beautiful than the last. I could not, however, but notice the difference in the geological formation of this wonderful passage. On the one hand (now Wash.Ter), is for some distance back a comparative plain; on the Oregon side steep, rugged high mountains -- "Ossa supra Pelion."

While walking towards the Upper Cascades I saw some Indian graves. These were rudely built houses, 8 or 10 ft. square and about 6 ft. high, the sides and roof being made of boards split from the trunks of trees. Some of these graves were very old, and so decayed that they had partially fallen. Looking into one I saw a fine specimen of a flattened skull which I determined to secure on my return. Knowing the strong feeling entertained by the Indians in regard to any tampering with, or desecration of their burial places, it was very necessary to be sure that I was not observed. In this I was successful, but not a moment too soon. I had just secured the skull, wrapped it in my handerchief and regained the trail, when a party of Indians suddenly appeared from around a point of woods. I must confess that for a few minutes my feelings were not of the most pleasant character; I was alone and unarmed, and had in my hand the evidence of being a resurrectionist. I advanced toward the Indians with as unconcerned an air as possible, bade them a pleasant Kla-how-ya, which was as pleasantly returned, and continued on in an easy walk until I was out of their sight; then I stood not on the order of my going, but ran full speed for the boat.

We had neither mast nor sail, but a couple of sticks rigged as "shears" served as the former, and a blanket for the latter. With a fair wind and favorable current we reached the sloop at midnight, making the distance in about one-third the time it took us to pull up. During this evening we witnessed a most beautiful display of Aurora Borealis, accompanied with the rosy tint so rarely seen.

The next morning we started down the river. Leaving the Columbia we entered the Willamette and went to Portland. At this place and Oregon City we spent two or three days.

Both of these towns were then in their infancy, and their appearance indicated but a little of the immense strides in population and wealth they now present.

Work at Cape Disappointment was closed in October, and Mr. Davidson selected Port Orford as the next scene of operations, taking passage on the Sea Gull, Capt. Wm. Tichenor. Our camp was pitched on the rising ground West of, and about half way between the town, and the point. The usual routine of work as at other places, was carried on.

While we were at Port Orford, the war with the Coquille River Indians was carried on, and brought to a successful issue. Port O. was the base of operations and supplies. The commanding officer of the expedition was Col. (afterwards Gen.) Casey. Among the other officers were Lts. (afterwards Gen.) Geo. H. Stoneman, R.S. Williamson (now Col., and for many years Engineer Officer attached to Light house districts on this Coast), and Wyman, who at the close of the Indian troubles was left with his company at Port O. The names of others I cannot now recall. Since that time, I have met Williamson repeatedly, officially and socially; Stoneman but once, and Wyman not at all. It may not be out of place here to recall an incident in Stoneman's career, as evidencing his character and the effect produced upon men by their leaders. Stoneman belonged to the Dragoon Corps; it was impossible, without great expense for transportation, to have his company mounted when in active operations at Coquille River, and he would not use a horse himself. When he started on his march from Port O. to the seat of war, he walked at the head of his company. Reaching Elk River, five miles above Port O., where I was that day at work, there were no boats or canoes to ferry the troops across. Without a moment's hesitation Stoneman waded in, waist deep, and against a strong current, crossed the steam; all followed him. With such an example, there were no laggards. The moral effect was to bring into requisition the best qualities, and the confidence of his men, who would exert every energy to sustain such a leader.

On Nov. 28th I left Port Orford, being ordered to accompany Mr. Harrison, who was detached from Mr. Davidson's party and placed in charge of a separate one, and proceeded to San Francisco where all the outfit for a new camp was obtained. On Christmas Eve we left on the Steamer Sea Bird, Capt. Bob Haley, for San Diego. Very stormy (S.E.) weather had prevented sailing for some days, but on that afternoon the storm seemed to be abating, and the Capt. determined to start. It was dark when we reached the Golden Gate. The bar was breaking heavily, but this was not seen until we were too far out to attempt to turn back. Quite a number of the passengers were native Californians, among whom the consternation was great. One poor fellow, I never knew who he was, while engaged in paying tribute to Neptune over the bow of the steamer was struck by a heavy sea, and thrown on a pile of chain lying on the deck; one side of his face fearfully torn.

We succeeded in crossing the bar safely. This was my second experience of that kind at that place. I certainly do not desire another. The storm raged heavily throughout that night and the next day. I cannot say it was a "Merry Christmas," and on the morning of the 26th we reached an anchorage at Monterey, where we remained until the abatement of the gale. We then proceeded on our way, and in due time arrived at San Diego, disembarking at the New Town.

The site for our camp was selected on the bank of a small stream running through Sweetwater Valley, about 7 miles from the New Town towards the head of the Bay. From this camp all the topographical detail, from where the work of the previous year closed, up to the Boundary line between U.S. and Mexico fixed under the terms of the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty, was completed.

While at this camp, the party of Col. Gray, then in charge of the Survey of this Boundary, reached San Diego. Coming in detached squads, their appearance furnished the best representations of our modern idea of "tramps" of which I can conceive. They had seen hard service, & had been subjected to many privations. Among them was a friend of ours, Malcolm Seaton, formerly of the Coast Survey; he often visited us, as did the others, and many a merry laugh and joke was passed at their outlandish appearance on their arrival.

On the completion of this part of the work, our camp was removed to the back of the San Diego River opposite the town, from which was carried on North & West from that of the previous year so as to include False Bay.

I remained with Mr. Harrison until March 7th 1852, when I received orders to report to Mr. Davidson, as topographical Aid, and left on the steamer the same day.

Cape Flattery

On my arrival at San Francisco, I found Mr. Davidson's party encamped in the small valley east of the Presidio, where an Astronomical Station was being determined, but he was absent on the steamer Active, (the old Gold Hunter) Lieut. James Alden, U.S.N., Commanding for the purpose of determining Latitudes and Longitudes required in the Reconnaissance of the Coast South of San Francisco to the Mexican Boundary. This work was delayed by reason of the Active's returning to San F. before completion to bring the mails of one of the P.M.S.S. Co's vessels (the California, I think), which was found at San Pedro, disabled. The Active afterwards returned and the work was completed.

On July 12th we started on the Active, and in about 5 or 6 days arrived at Nee-ah Bay, 6 miles East of Cape Flattery, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The cape was really Mr. Davidson's objective point, but the Bay presented the best location for camping, and from there all operations could be conducted.

The tribe of Indians--Mah-Kah (See how Mr. J.G. Swan spells this name, and adopt his orthography) was not then particularly friendly towards the whites, and before going into camp it was deemed best to have an understanding with them. For this purpose a hy-as wah-wah (big talk) was appointed to take place with the Chief Clis-seet and his tribe at the Warm House (summer village) between Nee-ah Bay and Cape F., the next day. At the time appointed as many of the Indians as could be accommodated in the house of the chief were there congregated. All who could be spared from the Active were sent, the Officers in uniform, the men being in the boats, and all armed. The talk was conducted through Mr. Samuel Hancock (now of Whidbey Id.) as interpreter. It was explained to them that we did not come to take away their lands, or interfere with their rights in any way; that our mission was for the benefit of shipping, and that in this they would share by having a trade with the whites in selling their fish, oil, &c, in return getting such articles, blankets, clothes, beads &c. as they desired; that ours was a peaceable mission, and that if any attack was made upon us, or injury inflicted, a retribution was sure to follow. The Indians, while not exactly impudent, were quite independent, and said that while they were willing to be at peace, they were equally willing to come to blows. This was especially the case with Flattery Jack, a most incorrigible scoundrel, who by force of mental power and rascality had made himself of some importance in the tribe. It was finally understood that we should remain there, and that the tribe would not interfere with us. Accordingly a site was selected, a few hundred yards east of the stream running by the winter village in the bay; the bushes were cleared away, and as soon as possible, tents were erected, and camp established. The "Active" then went up the Straits, making a reconnaissance of the South shore to Port Townsend, and preliminary surveys of New Dungeness Bay and Port Angeles, Mr. Davidson occupying astronomical stations at the latter place and Port Townsend. Returning, after leaving Mr. D. at Neeah Bay, the Active went to Shoalwater Bay to make a survey, and at the close of the season was to return for us.

All told in camp there were but nine of us, and when it is considered that in 24 hours about 500 Indians could be mustered against us, this might be considered a small force. But while we feared no danger we deemed it well to be prepared. We had in camp sufficient arms, rifles, revolvers, cavalry pistols and shotguns, to fire over sixty shots without stopping to reload. For a number of days after our settling at camp and the departure of the Active everything went on in the usual quiet routine. One day quite a large fleet of canoes, containing at least from 150 to 200 Indians, came from Vancouver Id., and in the evening, instead of camping on the beach, they remained in their canoes, anchoring them to the kelp. This we simply regarded as a precautionary measure, lest some of the individuals of the two tribes might engage in a quarrel, and thus embroil all; but we were soon awakened from our fancied safety by Mr. Hancock, who knowing considerable of the native dialect, had heard some Indians talking, and was told by some of the Mah-Kah women, of a plot to attack camp that night, kill us all, and divide the plunder. The Mah-Kahs, on account of threats of punishment, were afraid to commit the deed, but the Vancouver Id. Indians were to do so, and after sharing the spoils the latter would return home. We were quickly on the alert, saw that our arms were in order, and each man supplied, and then "mounted Guard." Frequently during the night an Indian would walk along the beach in front of camp as if to reconnoiter, but he always found an armed man on watch. No attack was made, and the next day the Vancouver Indians returned to their homes. To prepare for any future emergency we built a breast-work of logs, with loop-holes, and guard was kept every night afterward.

Having in camp a good supply of ammunition, Mr. Davidson thought a reasonable expenditure of this, besides enabling us to know that our arms were always ready for use, might exercise a very restraining influence upon our neighbors. About once in a week or ten days, all our arms were discharged, cleaned and reloaded. They were fired at a target about 100 yds. distant, all the guns and pistols being placed on a temporary table. In using the revolvers we always fired more than one shot but not all, and while one of us would examine the target and mark the score, the pistol was laid down. Then another person would shoot taking great care not to pick up the pistol used last, if the shots had been expended. Seeing these pistols fired so often without being reloaded, the Indians thought they could always be so fired, that they were possessed of the Masacha Timanoas (Bad Spirit), and hence had a wholesome dread of them. Still they wanted to purchase them, and the Chief offered what in his estimation was a fabulous price; but knowing the security they gave us we dared not let our secret be known. We never went from camp without each having his pistol; many a time I have not had a single charge in mine, yet the fact of having a revolver was all the protection I needed.

The times of our target practice were generally selected when there were a number of Indians about that they might witness the results; we took care, however, never to discharge all our arms at once, nor permit them to see our cleaning and reloading of the revolvers. Particularly was it desirable that the Chief Clisseet, known also as the White Chief, from his fair complexion, should be present. On one occasion, after the firing had stopped, he walked to the target, and placing his thumb and forefinger at an average distance of the shots from the bull's eye, he measured off how many times it required to pass across his breast; then dropping his hand, and shaking his head as though to say, "Poor chance for an Indian there" he walked slowly and sedately back, and without a word, seated himself. It was one of the most expressive movements I ever saw.

At the beginning of my work I was much annoyed by the Indians stealing the pieces of cotton cloth used as flags on my station marks. This occurred one day when I was chaining my base line in front of camp. Without thinking of the possible results, I dropped my note book and pencil, and drawing my pistol I ran after them. They were fleeter on foot than I, and got into the woods. On my return I had to pass the village, which by this time was in a grand uproar. With pistol in hand I passed them all, not an Indian daring to touch me, but I could not resist presenting a leaden messenger to one of their dogs who came too inconveniently close. I sent for "Flattery Jack" and through Mr. Hancock as interpreter, I presented my ultimatum; that any Indian man I caught destroying my signals, I would kill on the spot; women or boys I would bring into camp and have publicly whipped. I had no further cause for complaint on that score.

These Indians subsist almost entirely by fishing; they hunt but little except duck shooting. Their traveling is almost always in canoe; hence we remarked the comparatively small development of the legs as compared with the arms and chest. Their fishing gear was very primitive, their lines being the smaller parts of kelp, which wet are quite strong and easily handled, but when dry are very brittle. In the article contributed by James G. Swan, to the Smithsonian Institution, on the Mah-Kah Indians, all the details are more fully given than I can now do. Of their manner of catching the whale & black-fish, I had an opportunity to be a witness. Their method is to attach to the whale a number of large floats made from the intestines of large fish and inflated like bladders, until the fish cannot sink below the surface of the water. It is then at their mercy. The Harpoon heads were made of the abalone shell, sharpened on the edge, the concavity being filled with the pitch of the pine tree, holding in place pieces of elk or deer horn forming an inverted V, which was pressed on to the end of a wooden shaft, some 12 or 15 ft. long. These harpoons, with the floats attached, were driven into the fish wherever a surface was exposed. When it could no longer sink, and had to raise its head to blow, the harpooner would seize the opportunity to strike it under the pectoral fin, and by pushing would drive the harpoon head to a vital part. When forced in as far as possible the shaft is turned, and withdrawn, leaving the head, and then another is driven and so until the fish is murdered. On the occasion referred to, Clis-seet was the harpooner. Perfectly naked he stood in the bow of the canoe, one foot on each gunwale, a perfect specimen of an athlete, and never failed to strike his mark. We did not reach the scene until so many floats were made fast that the fish could not sink; we caught one of the lines from the floats, and the poor thing in its dying struggles towed us along quite a distance. I had a great desire to jump upon its back and take a ride. As soon as the fish was dead or nearly so, a signal was made; immediately all the canoes from the village were started; they made fast, and the prey was towed ashore. Such an event is always the occasion of a grand feast, which means a great gormandizing on blubber and nastiness.

The astronomical station was at camp. This has now been lost. The year after we were there the small-pox raged fearfully at Neeah Bay, being introduced by some clothing brought there by Indians who had been to San Francisco. In their superstitious ideas, it was said by some of them that we had left it buried in the bottles left to mark the Astron. Station; hence they proceeded to dig them up and destroy them. Had they been sufficiently enlightened to have known the story of Pandora's box they would probably have left them intact. The topographical work embraced from Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Id. to two miles East of Neeah Bay. From this survey a site for the Light house on Tatoosh Id. was selected; this was reported on by Mr. Davidson, and adopted by the L. H. Board.

As a souvenir of my trip to the Cascades last year, I had an attack of chills and fever. They first attacked me before leaving San F. for Neeah Bay, and there they came regularly every alternate day. While at work I was continually wet, from the moment I started in the morning until I returned at night. On the day I first visited Tatoosh Id. I tried a dose of 40 grains of quinine; it was a case of "kill or cure"--the kill part for a while seemed the more sure. I remember the men laying me down in the bottom of the canoe and wanting to take me back to camp, but I would not permit them; I had started for T. Id., putting up signals on the way & I was going there. By the time I returned in the evening I was much better, but evidently under the effects of the quinine. While describing the shores, and T. Id., I noticed a peculiar manner in my campmates that, in my irritable condition, vexed me, and in a moment I was ready for a fight; but Mr. D. immediately explained that I was yelling loud enough to be heard at the other end of the bay. I was sensible of a most terrible ringing in the ears, but I had no idea that I was making such a spectacle of myself. I subsided, and left my explanations and reports for the next day.

While at Neeah Bay we witnessed an Indian marriage, a brief account of which may be interesting. The groom was a son of a chief of a tribe South of Cape Flattery--the Quillehyutes, I think--and was accompanied by a large number of his people, in several canoes, bringing with them the presents (blankets, guns, pistols, &c.) for the purchase of the bride, who was the daughter of a Medicine Man of the Mah-Kahs. For sometime after the arrival of the visitors, they kept to themselves, apparently arranging the proceedings, and plans for opening negotiations. These being decided on, a procession was formed, and marched to a short distance from the house of the bride's father, where a halt was made and the orator of the party made a grand speech. Not being versed in these Indian dialects, we could only guess at its import, the greatness of the chief, his wealth in blankets, slaves, stores of fish, canoes, guns, &c., & the virtues of the young man; and he ended by demanding the girl in marriage, proffering a large number of blankets, guns and pistols. To all this there was no response. The old Medicine Man kept himself and family within his house, permitting none to enter. The visitors returned to their canoes, and held another council. After a while a second trial was made with an increased offer of presents, but with a similar result. This scene was repeated several times, and at last the old man yielded, he had doubtless held out as long as possible to get as much as he could for his daughter. In all these negotiations the prospective groom never appeared in person.

As soon as it was understood that the offer was accepted, all waited in silence until the coming of the bride. She had been taken in charge by some of the women of her own tribe & dressed in her best blanket, her long black hair combed down her back and shoulders, and plentifully sprinkled over with very fine white feathers resembling swans down. Presently she was led forth, supported by a woman on each side, and followed by her friends, the visitors joining the procession, and was thus conducted to her husband who was gravely seated on a log some distance from her home. A few steps in advance of the groom's position two of his slaves, perfectly naked, were lying on the beach face down. As the bride was led forward she had to pass over these slaves, which she did by stepping upon their backs, apparently as indicating their subjection to her as the wife of their Chief's son, and she was seated on the log at the left of her husband, who did not look at, or even speak to, her. Quite a return of presents was made by the girl's father, and soon after preparations were made for departure of the bridal party. As soon as all was in readiness the new husband rose and leaving his wife walked to his canoe, and made himself as comfortable as possible in his blankets and mats. Then some women escorted the bride to the same canoe, placing her by her husband. In the whole proceeding, the only evidences of feeling or courtesy were manifested by the women; they attended on the bride & saw to her comfort, even to placing a box on the beach as a step to assist her in getting into the canoe. In a few minutes all had left, and the excitement of the day ended.

Notwithstanding the persistence of the Indians in the employment of their own Medicine men in times of serious illness, it was quite amusing to see with what avidity they would apply for, and take, any of our Boston (American) drugs, for any minor ailment. The most noted in this way was Clis-seet, and so often did he appear for this purpose, that it became somewhat of a bore. It was concluded that, the next time he presented himself, a joke should be perpetrated. Before many days had passed, he came to camp complaining of a violent pain in the ear. On this occasion, Mr. Rockwell was the one taking charge of the case, the others, standing around with solemn faces, assisting in the consultation. An examination showed that an application of some warm water and soap would be the most effectual remedy, but something more was necessary to prevent any suspicions on the part of the patient. Accordingly some red ink was added to the preparation, and with a syringe, a supply, so liberal that it ran down over the chief's shoulder and blanket (his only and usual garment) was injected. The next day he returned, and reported a perfect cure.

Once Mr. Davidson was sent for to attend an infant, a nephew of the grandson of the Chief. It was in convulsions, and their doctors were only making its condition worse by their rough manipulations, done, as they said, to cast out the evil spirit. Indians often have a very unpleasant habit of holding doctors responsible for the lives of their patients; and in case of death it is no uncommon thing for the doctor to be killed by some near relative of the dear departed. Being well aware of this, Mr. D. demanded that he should not be held responsible if death ensued; they refused, hence he could do nothing. The child died in a few hours.

When the Active left us at Neeah Bay she went to Shoalwater Bay, of which a reconnaissance of the shores, and a hydrographic survey were made. It was agreed that she should return for us on October 1st, and this fact we made known to the Indians, always insisting the exact date. They rather doubted such punctuality; we wanted to impress them with our knowledge, but as the day approached and we had not heard a word from her, we did begin to have some misgivings. On the morning of Oct. 1st there was a dense fog, giving but little hopes of the steamer's arrival. The Indians were as keenly on the watch as we, each evidently praying for the other's disappointment. I know we prayed for theirs. Between one and two o'clock P.M. the fog began to lift, and in a few minutes we saw the Active coming in. Her promptness seemed to give the Indians a great respect for "Boston" intelligence. By her we received letters and papers, the first since leaving San F. Immediate preparations were made for packing up, the next day camp was struck, and every thing put on board, and early the following morning left Neeah Bay without a single regret......

The Active was bound for San F., calling en route at Columbia River, but Mr. Davidson intended stopping at Cape Mendocino to determine its true Astronomical position, and make a topographical survey of the locality. Arriving off the Cape it was found that the heavy surf utterly precluded a safe landing, and we were compelled to keep on for San F.

Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, and the Los Angeles Base Line

During the winter of 1852-3 Mr. Davidson occupied an Astronomical Station on Telegraph Hill; I, under his instructions, made a plane table survey of Pt. Reyes and part of the shores of Drake's Bay, going there on a little schooner (the Commerce) employed by Dr. Randall (afterwards killed by Hetherington, who was hung by the Vigilance Committee), and others in transporting beef for the San F. market.

This winter was a very wet one. In December I had but two clear days, and one of these was a Sunday I made use of for work. Becoming much disgusted with my enforced inactivity, I concluded to make a trip to San F. in my boat. I made two ineffectual attempts, being driven back both times by stormy weather. It was not until after Jan 1st/53, that I succeeded, nearly paying for my temerity with my life. I had three of my own party, and two young men belonging at San Rafael. These had been drifted out of San F. Bay in a sloop, over the bar, and at last had been driven ashore in Drake's Bay, where the sloop was wrecked.

The morning I left camp was bright and clear, and I hoped to have a fair wind; it was calm all day and we had to use the oars. Just before dusk we reached the bar, and found it breaking heavily. Just then came a light land breeze which carried us away from danger. All night we drifted around, and in the morning found ourselves almost back to Pt. Reyes. I concluded to give up my trip and return to camp; but even here the fates were against me. A strong North wind came, we could not pull against it, and I had no recourse but to run before it. Before reaching the bar, the wind died out, and a fog settled down for an hour or two. All this time--some 36 hours-- we had been without food or water, the men having neglected to provide any as I had directed. Finding we could not pull in against the strong current I landed on the sand beach outside of Pt. Bonita to get some water. There was but little surf at the time, but soon seeing it increase I called a start. One of my passengers concluded to leave here and walk to Saucalito, and thence get home. In getting through the surf, the other passenger dropped his oar. I had no spare one, and could not afford to lose it. In the attempt to regain it, the boat got into the trough of the sea, and the next breaker upset her, and so quickly that we were all underneath. One of the men had tried to jump, but only got partially out, the gunwale falling across his loins. He managed to crawl out, and found he was the only one. After a few moments, they seemed hours to us underneath, he watched the chance when the next breaker would lift the boat off the sand, and then suddenly lifting by the gunwale, she turned over. I saw quite a light over my head, and almost immediately some one seized me by the collar, and was dragging me up the beach. While under the boat I made an attempt, by getting on all fours, and putting my back under a thwart, to lift her, but could not; then deeming all hope gone, I thought of my Mother. Only a little time before I had heard of the death by drowning of a younger brother. My thoughts took form in these words: "Mother, you have just lost one boy, here goes another," and I immediately commenced breathing salt water to be out of misery as soon as possible.

We made several ineffectual attempts to get off, but the surface had become too heavy. At last a hole was stove in the bottom, and she was useless to us. Taking all the oars, sails, &c, and placing them upon the bluff, we started for Saucalito. I had lost my shoes, so had to travel in my stocking feet. Part of our tramp was through a pond (Rodeo Lagoon), and then over the high hills. We reached Saucalito after dark. I hired a boat to take us across, landing at one of the wharves near Clarke's Pt. after 10 o'clock. I was then so numbed that I could not use my fingers; a cup of coffee procured at a stand, I had to take up between my wrists. I made my way to Mr. Davidson's quarters on Telegraph Hill. Here I was stripped, plunged into a bath, then got a most unmerciful rubbing (before they got through I thought they must be using currycombs), a good supper, then was packed off to bed. The next morning I was as fresh as a lark. I remained in San. F. a few days, then returned to camp, thoroughly cured of ocean trips in open boats.

I remained at Pt. Reyes until March 23rd, 1853, when I returned to San Francisco. Just before this Mr. Davidson had made a reconnaissance for site of a primary base line on the plains between San Pedro and Los Angeles, and for the locating of some of the connecting triangulation stations. The party went there, camp being located West of the long ridge, about 9 miles from Los Angeles. The base line was laid out, the ends marked, a measurement made. A portion of this line passed through a pond, about three-quarters of a mile long, and from 12 to 16 inches deep. In making the contacts of the bars, Mr. Davidson had to stoop, getting wet to his waist. This, with the effect of the Westerly winds drawing across the plains, brought on a severe attack of rheumatism, from which he has severely suffered.

One evening, coming in from work, we were almost blinded by a flight of small, black beetles--to protect our eyes we had to use our hankerchiefs as veils. Our tents were covered with them. They remained, tho' not flying in swarms, all the time we were there, and we never pretended to go to bed, without first turning down the clothes and sweeping out the beetles, and scorpions.

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