FOUR MONTHS AMONG THE GOLD-FINDERS IN CALIFORNIA, Part 2
The following is part 2 of some excerpts of the diary of a man who was there is the early days of 1848. The name of his book is: The California Gold Fields in 1848, Being: FOUR MONTHS AMONG THE GOLD-FINDERS IN CALIFORNIA; THE DIARY OF AN EXPEDITION FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO THE GOLD DISTRICTS, By J. TYEWHITT BROOKS, MD.
This morning, the party bound for the coast with our gold started off as agreed on. We rose before daybreak, breakfasted, and got the horses in readiness just as the sun showed over the mountain. At my suggestion, Malcolm had the strongest horse we possessed allotted to him, as it had been arranged that he should carry the bulk of the gold, and that Don Luis and Bradley, who were to take as much as they could carry in their saddle bags, were to form the guard. This plan was adopted in preference to having a led horse, which it was thought would greatly impede their progress, and prevent the party from reaching the settlements on the Sacramento that night. Bradley and Don Luis each took with them eighteen pounds weight of gold : Malcolm, who was unencumbered by any thing, and merely carried a brace of pistols in his belt, took very nearly seventy pounds. To relieve Malcolm's horse as much as possible, three of us, who were to act as an escort within a few miles of the Sacramento Valley, were each to carry fifteen pounds weight of the gold so far as we went. This escort was composed of Mr. Story, Jose, and myself.
Two weeks later, our groups was sitting around the campfire when we were
interrupted on a sudden by a loud whistle, the note of which I thought I
could not be mistaken in. Sure that's Bradley," exclaimed I ; the others
thought not, and catching up their rifles, examined the flints. The whistle,
when again repeated, convinced every one, however, that my first surmise had
been correct. In another minute Bradley galloped up to us, and Don Luis soon
followed after ; but, to our astonishment, Malcolm was not of the party. "
My friends," exclaimed Bradley, "a sad disaster; the best part of the gold
is gone lost beyond a doubt." "Lost!" said I, expecting some treachery on
the part of Bradley and Don Luis;" How ? I don't believe it; I never will
believe it." Bradley gave me an angry look, but said nothing. "Where 's
Malcolm ?" exclaimed I. "Dead by this time, I am afraid," replied Bradley.
"Good God !" I exclaimed aloud, and involuntarily muttered to myself, " Then
you have murdered him." I noticed Bradley examined the countenances of the
whole party by turns, and as my eye followed his, I saw that every one
looked sullen and angry. He, too, evidently saw this, and said nothing more
the whole evening. Don Luis, however, volunteer ed the following explanation
of the mystery. He informed us that, after we had parted from them, they put
their horses into a quick trot, to escape as soon as possible into a more
agreeable-looking sort of country. They suspected some vagabond Indians were
hovering about, and as the ground they were traveling over afforded too many
opportunities of concealment to gentry of their character, they were anxious
to reach a more open district. Their road lay, for several miles, over a
succession of small hills, intersected by valleys covered with stunted oak
trees, and with here and there a solitary pine. Just at a point, when they
were winding round a ridge of hills, which they imagined separated them from
the Sacramento Valley, having a small skirting of timber on their left hand,
he, Don Luis, being slightly in advance of Bradley and Malcolm, happened to
turn his head round, when he saw a horseman stealthily emerging from the
thicket, at a point a short distance in their rear. In a very few moments
another horseman joined the first, and before Don Luis could give an alarm,
the second rider, who, it seems, was an Indian, had risen in his saddle and
had flung out his lasso, which whizzing through the air true to its aim,
descended over Malcolm's head and shoulders. Don Luis, who saw all this,
immediately jumped from his horse, and, placing his finger on the trigger of
his rifle, fired just as the Indian was galloping away. The ball entered his
horse's head, when the beast was brought to a stand, and, in a second of
time, rolled over with its rider beneath it, just as the noose had
tightened, and Malcolm was being drawn off his horse to the ground. Bradley,
who only knew of the danger they were in by hearing the lasso whirl through
the air, immediately dismounted, and, like Don Luis, sheltered himself
behind his horse, while he took aim and fired. His never-failing rifle
brought down one of their enemies, a swarthy-looking man in the usual
Mexican sombrero, off his horse to the ground. In the twinkling of an eye
they led their horses behind some boulders of granite which afforded them
cover, and from behind which they saw four men come charging upon them. But
Bradley and Don Luis, skilled in this kind of warfare, had already stooped
down and reloaded. Don Luis was the first to let fly at the advancing party,
but without success. His shot was answered by a discharge of rifles from the
enemy, which whistled over his and Bradley's heads. Crack went Bradley's
rifle again " And you would have thought," said Don Luis to us, "that the
ball had split into four pieces, and had given each man a tender touch, for
they wheeled round their horses in an instant, and galloped off, driving
Malcolm's horse before them, which we never saw again."
Don Luis then went on to say. that as soon as they saw the coast was clear, they left their cover and sought out Malcolm, who was lying on the ground with the lasso tightly pinioning his arms, and to all appearance dead. On a closer examination, however, they found that he still breathed, and also that he had been severely trampled on by some of the horses of the robbers in their retreat. Bradley pulled out his bowie-knife and cut the lasso in a few moments, when they tried to raise him up, but found that the injuries he had sustained prevented him from standing. He was, in fact, quite insensible. At that moment they were alarmed by the sound of voices, and looking round they saw a party of horsemen riding up at full speed from the direction of the Sacramento. They gave themselves up for lost, but, to their delight, the new-comers proved to be a party of miners, who hearing so many rifle-reports in such rapid succession, had immediately hastened to the spot.
Malcolm was slowly borne down the hill-side, until a rude shanty was reached. He was carried inside, and we were fortunate enough to meet with a kind Californian woman, who promised to attend on him while we returned here for your assistance." We made a hasty meal from our scanty stock of provisions on the morning of the 6th, and directly it was over just as I was about saddling my horse, to start off to visit poor Malcolm Don Luis informed me that our companions seemed all to be of opinion that it would be best to share the stock of gold still remaining at once, when those that preferred it could make their way to the settlements, and the others could continue working, if they pleased, on their own account. I had no objection to offer to this proposition, and the gold was all collected together and weighed. Bradley undertook the charge of Lacosse's share, and I was requested to convey Malcolm's to him. Altogether we scraped up nearly forty-two pounds' weight ; for, besides the gold which Don Luis and Bradley had in their saddle-bags, there were a few pounds more belonging to the general stock. This had to be divided equally, for the gold we had brought from Weber's Creek had been confided to Malcolm's charge in a separate bag. It gave exactly four pounds two ounces a man value seven hundred dollars. This, with six hundred and fifty dollars, my share of the gold deposited with Captain Sutter, and the dust, scales, and lumps, arising from my share of the sale of the cradles, and the produce at the Mormon diggings, before Lacosse and Biggs joined us, would amount, in the whole, to over fifteen hundred dollars.
Don Luis, Bradley, M'Phail, and Jose left us about noon on their way to Sutter's Fort. I promised to rejoin them in a few days, if Malcolm so far recovered as no longer to be in need of my services. I was in great hopes of such a result, as he showed evident signs of improvement since I saw him the previous day. I stayed with Malcolm throughout the next few days, and spent a good part of my time out of doors among the gold-washers, but still I felt no inclination to take part in their labors. Fever was very prevalent, and I found that more than two-thirds of the people at this settlement were unable to move out of their tents. The other third were too selfish to render them any assistance. The rainy season was close at hand, when they would have to give over work, but meanwhile they sought after the gold as though all their hopes of salvation rested on their success. I was told that deaths were continually taking place, and that the living comrades of those whose eyes were closed in that last sleep when "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest," denied the poor corpses of their former friends a few feet of earth for a grave, and left the bodies exposed for the wolf to prey upon.
In a couple of days Malcolm was sufficiently recovered no longer to require my assistance. At his instigation, I took my departure toward Sutter's Fort, where M'Phail or Lacosse might perhaps still be waiting for me. I felt that he was in good hands, and that his kind Californian nurse and her husband would do all that they could for him. Their kind treatment of my poor friend offered a striking contrast to the callous selfishness around.
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