Through the Golden Gate - San Francisco 1769 - 1937 - Catherine Coffin Phillips - ebook

Through the Golden Gate - San Francisco 1769 - 1937 ebook

Catherine Coffin Phillips



California's name was associated with stories of romance and adventure as far back in history as the year 1510. Among those who heard and half believed the romantic tale was Hernando Cortes. By the year 1521 he had conquered the Aztecs of Mexico and forced them to become the subjects of Spain. He was now looking over the western seas for new worlds to conquer. He firmly believed that somewhere in the direction ascribed to California there was a rich and prosperous country. But there were many more who sailed through the Golden Gate in the early years. This book gives an account of their fate and success.

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Through the Golden Gate


San Francisco 1769 - 1937








Through the Golden Gate, C. C. Phillips

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849650681

[email protected]








Introduction. 1

Chapter I. Indian and Elk. 3

Chapter II. Friar and Mission. 7

Chapter III. Pueblo Yerba Buena. 13

Chapter IV. Stars and Stripes Over the Plaza. 18

Chapter V. Gold Seekers. 24

Chapter VI. California in the Union. 30

Chapter VII. Miner and Merchant 36

Chapter VIII. The Queen of the Clippers. 41

Chapter IX. Gold for the Boys in Blue. 46

Chapter X. Iron Horse and Smoke Dragon. 53

Chapter XI President and Poet 58

Chapter XII Remember the Maine. 63

Chapter XIII. The Phoenix Rises Again. 67

Chapter XIV. The Tower of Jewels. 71

Chapter XV. The World at War 77

Chapter XVI. The Flight of the China Clippers. 81

Chapter XVII San Francisco Bridges the Bay. 86

Chapter XVIII. Golden Span. 90

Chapter XIX The Old Within the New.. 95

Craft That Have Come Through The  Golden Gate Chronologically Arranged  99

Governors Of California. 102




CALIFORNIA'S name was associated with stories of romance and adventure as far back in history as the year 1510. In that year Ordonez de Montalvo, a Spaniard, wrote a romance called The Adventures of Esplandian in which he mentioned a magic island, California, situated "on the right hand of the Indies, very near the Terrestrial Paradise."

This island, whose name came from two Greek words, kallos (beauty) and ornis (bird), was said to be an enchanted place, the air fragrant with the perfume of rare flowers and vibrant with the music of bright-plumaged birds. The hills and valleys were rich with gold, silver, and precious stones. The ruler of California was a beautiful Amazon Queen, Califia. She and her warriors were guarded by giants so tall that their shoulders rose over the mountain tops. Winged griffins high on the crags above the seashore frightened away all but the bravest and boldest sailors. Seamen reported that Califia and her followers wore armor of gold, that their spears were inlaid with pearls and diamonds, that even the harness of the wild beasts they tamed to ride was made of ropes of precious stones.

Montalvo's romance became so popular in Spain and Mexico that many readers of an adventurous nature began to believe it worth their while to go in search of this fabulous island. Among those who heard and half believed the romantic tale was Hernando Cortes. By the year 1521 he had conquered the Aztecs of Mexico and forced them to become the subjects of Spain. He was now looking over the western seas for new worlds to conquer. He firmly believed that somewhere in the direction ascribed to California there was a rich and prosperous country.

In his shipyards at Zacatula, Cortes built and equipped four ships to be sent out under trusted captains. He then wrote to the Emperor, Charles II of Spain, recounting the story of California and assuring him that should such an island be found in the forthcoming voyage of discovery, its finest gold and richest gems would be brought back as tribute to His Majesty. The first expedition failed of its mission.

Ship after ship sent to search the coast of the Pacific met with disaster through mutiny or shipwreck. Undaunted by these losses, Cortes continued to build and send forth others at his own expense.

In 1533 at his port of Tehuantepec he superintended the construction of two vessels, a flagship, La Conception, and a smaller vessel, the San Lazaro. La Conception was commanded by Bezerra de Mendoza, and with him went two Franciscan Fathers to convert any natives they might encounter. In October the two ships sailed away together, but shortly after they left port, a storm separated them and they never met again.

Bezerra continued on his course in La Conception, little thinking that a secret plot was being made against him. At Jalisco as he lay asleep, he was murdered by Fortuno Ximenes, his chief pilot, who then called together his own confederates and took command. Fortuno set ashore Bezerra's friends, including the Franciscan Fathers, then sailed away from the coast, and fled toward unknown northern seas.

In their wanderings the adventurers found no enchanted island, but they did discover a land where the natives showed them pearls and brightly colored stones. This was the peninsula we now know as Lower California. The sailors, as Christopher Columbus, Balboa, and Cortes had done before them, called the natives Indians.

In 1534 they reached a bay where Fortuno with twenty others went ashore. There swift vengeance for his crime of mutiny overtook him.

He and his companions were slain by the Indians. The few who had remained on the ship turned back at once to Jalisco, where they told their story and reported the discovery of a new country. The tale lost nothing in the telling. They declared the place to be a veritable paradise, well peopled, its coasts abounding with pearls of enormous size.

It is to be hoped that this account convinced Cortes that his efforts had not been in vain, for while Fortuno Ximenes was the discoverer of Baja California, it was Cortes, the dreamer, whose vision and perseverance had made that discovery possible. It was the confidence inspired by his expeditions which eight years later led to the successful explorations of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who followed the coast almost as far north as the hidden entrance to the bay later named for St. Francis of Assisi. Hernando Cortes has been well named the Father of California.


Chapter I. Indian and Elk


THE real California had no giants in her mountains. The grizzly bear and the wide-antlered elk were her guardians. Although no winged griffins perched above her shores, eagles and snowy pelicans flew among the crags. Sea lions, otters, whales, and seals lived in the ocean below. No Amazon Queen and her women warriors dwelt in the valleys that lay between the two great mountain ranges, but there Indian chiefs ruled tribes which numbered many thousands.

These brown children of the sun did not know that their country was a thousand miles long. They did not dream that they were lords over one hundred million acres of rich land, vast forests, peaceful lakes, and swift-moving streams. They did know how to build houses for shelter, how to catch wild animals for food, and how to make clothing from skins and furs. They divided the year into spring, summer, the fall of the leaf, and winter, and gave to the months such names as the Hot Month, the Month of Cold, and the Month of Rain. They greeted the appearance of each new moon with joyful exclamations.

The Tulomos tribe with their chief lived on the shore of a landlocked bay facing the narrow opening we know as the Golden Gate.

They called this passage between two great rocks "Yulupa (ee-oo-loopa), the place where the sun plunges into the ocean." The natives worshiped the sun as the source of life and believed that when good Indians died, they went to a happy land beyond the sunset.

To the north and east of the village lay the bay, where elk in great numbers came to swim at sunrise. To the south were wooded hills ■ -and valleys where roamed grizzly bears, deer, and other wild animals.

The village .lay sheltered by a hill at the foot of which was a for the balsas. These were small boats made of elk hide stretched over stout rushes. The Tulomos called their village the Place of the Good Herb, because of the fragrant trailing mint vine that covered the ground.

This vine had many uses. The women and children gathered and dried the leaves to make tea. The men and boys, before going into the hills to hunt deer, crushed the fresh leaves and rubbed them on their bows and arrows so that the game would not scent the hunter.

The Indian boys hunted in pairs, carrying their bows and arrows in deer-skin bags. With old deer heads fastened to their own, they crept on all fours until near enough to shoot the browsing animals.

The dwellings in the village were made like those of other tribes around the bay. The men would dig a large cellar-like opening from twelve to thirty feet around and three feet deep. Within this circle posts were planted, forked at the top. On them rested other poles which reached from one to the other. The space between the posts was filled with rule rushes against which the earth was firmly banked outside. The roofs were dome shaped and thatched with rushes woven together and covered with a foot-thick layer of earth. This formed a protection which kept out the heaviest rains. Inside, the center of the earthen floor held a pit for the fire, and the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. Around the inside walls, wide shelves lined with rushes served as beds.

Near the water's edge stood the temescal, or sweat house. Here the villagers came to bathe and to cure themselves when ill. This "house" was a hole in the ground roofed over and made almost airtight with rushes. After a fire had been built in the center, the patient would enter through a small hole and lie naked on the ground until the sweat poured from his body. He would then run to the cove and jump into the cold water.

In summer the men and boys went naked, but the women and girls wore fringed skirts of braided grass and many strings of shell beads about their neck. These skirts were embroidered with colored grasses and decorated with tiny shells. The women were clever at tanning.

In winter men and boys put on broad leather belts and breechcloths, as well as capes of skins sewed together with thongs. The capes were often inlaid with bright feathers from the heads of wild ducks caught with the help of wooden decoys.

Good food was easy to find, for at low tide the waters of the inlet held many shellfish. In the scrub oak on the hills lived quail and partridge, and in warm corners of the sand dunes grew wild strawberries. The food the Indians liked best was roasted meat of elk.

These animals roamed the hills on all sides and often swam far out beyond the entrance to the bay. The Indians trapped them by digging a deep pit under the branch of a tree and covering the top with brush. A piece of fresh meat was then hung from the branch. The elk, scenting it, would approach and fall into the pit. The women had the task of cutting up the elk meat and salting it. They then placed it in a shallow pit lined with hot stones, covered it with more hot stones, and left it to cook for many hours until the roast was ready. With this they ate bread made from dried acorn flour mixed with berries.

Food was stored in strong baskets fashioned by the women. Many of these baskets were beautiful, made of willows, tough slough grass, young spruce, and the fine roots of fern and redbud. The figures used in decorating them had special meaning and often told a story.

One large basket might show a man going out to hunt at sunrise.

Others had sacred symbols such as the sun and the diamond-backed rattlesnake, their totem, or guardian spirit. Many baskets were watertight and were used to hold grain while it cooked. Trays for food were made of fir-tree roots, and fine-meshed nets for carrying nuts, seeds, and berries were woven of rule fiber.

A great delicacy of the Tulomos was whale blubber. When in spring a luckless young whale was stranded on shore, the chief at once ordered that it be clubbed to death and prepared for the feast.

While the women cut the blubber into long strips, salted it, and roasted it on hot stones, the children gathered wood to make a bonfire which at night would light the village and all the surrounding hills. The all-day feast consisted of elk meat, baked wild onions, bread made with acorn flour, crisp brown strips of the whale blubber, dried nut meats, and berries.

 Indians at Home All dressed for the occasion in feather-trimmed skirts, necklaces of shell beads, and elaborate head bands. The chief's headdress had many rare feathers from the tails of golden woodpeckers.

At twilight the bonfire was lighted and the dancing began. Singers kept time to their chant by rattling turtle shells filled with pebbles.

The dancers moved at first slowly, then faster and faster, until at midnight the weary revelers stretched themselves on the ground to sleep. Well they knew that the light and smoke from the fire would have told the Tomales across the bay that the Tulomos, having feasted, would be in good humor to trade by morning.

Next day when the balsas of the Tomales were sighted, the boys of the village stopped their games and formed a procession to greet the visitors. After gifts were exchanged, the bargaining began. Baskets, beads made of pine nuts, and dried grasshoppers, a great delicacy, were bartered to the Tulomos for clams, mussels, abalone shells, and dried elk meat. The article which brought the highest price was the white deer skin so coveted for ceremonial dances. Indian "money" was made of abalone shells cut into thin oblong strips perhaps two inches long, with holes drilled near one end so that they might be strung together. Also the tribesmen used as money a tusk-shaped shell they called alli-co-chick. These shells were to be found deeply burrowed in the sand at the bottom of inlets, and when polished, were strung on dried sinew through a natural orifice at each end.

Trading finished, the visitors made up their packs, and when the wind died down, carefully loaded their balsas at the inlet. It was considered good luck to row toward home in the setting sun. As the paddle strokes died away, the villagers stood watching the glowing disk drop behind the cliffs which guarded the bay. Perhaps they watched until the pale crescent moon also sank out of sight. Then slowly they turned back to the fire lighted in the first chill of the evening, and listened while the chief told them this legend of how the sun and the moon came to be: "Darkness was once so thick and deep that the birds in the air and the animals on land bumped against each other. Hawk, who was wise in the air, talked long with Coyote, who was wise on land. Coyote then collected dry tule reeds from the swamp. He made them into a great ball and gave it to Hawk, with flints to set it afire. Hawk flew very high, lighted the ball, and set it whirling round the earth. It became the sun, source of light and life.

"Now the days were light, but the nights were still dark. Coyote made another ball of rule reeds, but some of them were still green.

When set afire by Hawk, they burned with a pale light. Thus the moon was made."

 Indians of the Tcholovoni Tribe Hunting on the Shores of San Francisco Bay Sometimes the chief ended his story with: "As the moon dies and comes to life again, so man comes to life after death."

The years passed one like another in the Village of the Good Herb until the year 1769. Then disturbing reports came from a neighboring tribe. Strange bearded men wearing leather clothing with shining ornaments, bright capes, and curious headgear with long, curling feathers, had come from the south. One morning they had climbed to the top of a ridge and had shouted in amazement as they looked out over the bay. The men had made signs asking the Indians for food, offering beads and glittering trinkets in exchange. After a few days they had packed up and gone away, and why they had come or where they had gone, no one could tell.

Six more years passed, each like the other. Then one day in the Hot Month (August, 1775), between the setting sun and the rising moon, the chief of the Village of the Good Herb saw from the hilltop a miraculous sight. He called his people, and together they waited. Far out over the water was a great white bird, so large that as it flew toward them, its shining wings seemed to mingle with the clouds. It would have meant nothing to the Indians had they known that this giant "bird" which came riding the wind through the long narrow passage into the bay was the Spanish packet ship San Carlos under the command of Juan Manuel de Ayala, lieutenant of the royal navy of Spain. Like a god from the land beyond the sun he came, and as a god they greeted him.

No more would the years pass, one like the other, for the natives of California.


Chapter II. Friar and Mission


THE Indians of the Village of the Good Herb, unlike those far to the south, knew nothing of the ships of the brave Spanish explorers that previously had fought wind and wave across strange seas as they beat their way to a landing on the shores of California. They did not know that two hundred years earlier, in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator, sailing under the flag of Spain, had discovered the Bay of San Diego and had claimed the land for his King and the Catholic Church. Although he did not reach what is now called San Francisco Bay, he was the true discoverer of Alta California.

Thirty-seven years later Sir Francis Drake, Admiral of the British navy and terror of the Spanish Main, determined to venture around the Horn and extend his activities to the Pacific Ocean. After a hazardous raiding expedition among the Spanish settlements along the west coast of South America, Drake sailed northward in an effort to return to England by way of the fabled Northwest Passage. Unable to locate that long-sought strip of water, he beached his treasure-laden ship, the Golden Hind, on the shores of a small harbor which came to be known as Drake's Bay.

Tents were set up, and a barricade of stones was erected. The Indians proved friendly, and while the ship was being overhauled, Drake and a few of his company went inland. Here they found soil so rich and game so plentiful that Drake decided to take possession in the name of his sovereign, Queen Elizabeth. A few days before sailing he planted a large post and nailed to it a plate of brass in which was set a sixpence so placed as to exhibit the Queen's likeness.

On the surface of the plate was crudely cut the following inscription: Bee it knowne vnto all men by these presents ivne 17 1579 by the grace of God and in the name of Herr Maiesty Qveen Elizabeth of England and herr svccessors forever I take possession of this kingdome whose King and people freely resigne their right and title in the whole land vn to Herr Maiesties keepeing now named by me an to bee knowne vnto all men as Nova Albion.

Francis Drake.

Supposing himself to be the discoverer of the country he had named New Albion, Drake made his way back to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1602 Sebastian Vizcaino visited San Diego and a bay far to the north which he called Monterey in honor of the Count of Monterey, ninth viceroy of Mexico. Vizcaino hastened the settling of California by white men when he reported Monterey Bay as a safe harbor where the Manila galleons might put in for fresh water and repairs. These Friar and Mission 11 galleons were the treasure ships that had sailed the Spanish Main for a hundred years, carrying gold from Acapulco on the west coast of Mexico to exchange for the rich silks, ivories, rubies, sapphires, and other treasures of the East Indies so coveted in Mexico and Spain.

The voyage out was not so difficult, but on the long voyage back, the water casks often leaked, the food spoiled, and owing to lack of fresh fruit and vegetables the crew fell ill with scurvy. Sometimes they were too ill to repair the masts broken by the wind, and the stately galleon loaded with merchandise would be lost with all on board.

Thus the discovery of Monterey as a safe harbor to put into for repairs, fresh food, and water was an important step in the plan of the Spanish to occupy California.

About this time Russian trappers, who had crossed the Bering Sea and established trading posts far to the north on the American continent, began to move down the coast in search of a milder climate and the sea otters which were to be found in such great numbers on the farallones in Spanish territory.

The King of Spain, Charles III, and his far-sighted Visitador General of Mexico, Jose de Galvez, aware of Drake's visit and the plans of the Russians who were drawing nearer to Spain's possessions on the Pacific, determined upon two expeditions, one by land and one by sea, for the purpose of renewing explorations in California and converting the natives. They enlisted the aid of the Franciscan Fathers who had recently been given charge of the missions in Baja California. Junipero Serra had been made padre presidente of the missions on the peninsula, and with him were three friars of the same heroic type, Francisco Palou, Juan Crespi, and Fermin Lasuen. With their help two available brigantines, the San Carlos and the San Antonio, were equipped with food supplies and furnishings for the new missions to be established in California. They were to sail together from La Paz, the most important harbor of Lower California.

The San Carlos set sail on January 9, 1769. The San Antonio, having been delayed at San Bias, sailed three weeks later and without special hardship reached San Diego on April 10, only to find that the San Carlos had not yet arrived. Not until April 30 did they sight her off shore.

Great was their joy when she anchored, but rejoicing soon gave way to anxiety because only thirteen volunteers and five of the crew had survived the hardships of the voyage. These were ill, and as soon as a shelter of earth and boughs could be built, they were all brought ashore. With supplies low and all medicines exhausted, the outlook was daily more discouraging. However, on May 14 friendly Indians reported that men mounted on horses had been seen approaching from the south. They proved to be the first division of the land expedition. They had made the two months' march without loss of a man and without sickness. Shouts of joy and the firing of salutes from the pickets greeted their arrival.

The main division of the overland expedition under Don Gaspar de Portola, with Father Junipero Serra and a company of soldiers, reached San Diego on July 1, 1769. With so much sickness and death in the camp and no definite plans for the future, the courage of all was put to severe test, but there was neither cowardice nor complaint.

Portola decided to send the San Antonio back to San Bias for supplies, while he took an exploring party in search of Monterey Bay before snows should block the mountain passes. On July 14 Portola with his officers, gray-cowled priests, leather-coated soldiers, muleteers, and Indians began the long northward journey. They knew only the general character of the coast and the latitude of the port as given by Vizcaino. They also had with them the description of a bay which had been named San Francisco by Carmeno on his voyage of discovery in 1595. After a long and cruel march over mountains and through canyon solitudes, the explorers followed a broad river valley to the point where it formed a shallow bay. The bay was protected by a pine-clad ridge like that described by Vizcaino, but Portola could not believe that this unimposing strip of water was the perfect landlocked harbor he had been sent to find. Discouraged but undaunted, the men held council and determined, though it cost the lives of all, to continue northward in duty to God and King.

Sixteen of the men, too weak to walk, had to be carried on litters, but despite privations and suffering the party pressed on, finally reaching a point with detached rocks and farallones where passage along the shore was barred by hills. Here they made camp. Fires were built, and the store of bran tortillas was brought out.

The next day the scout Jose Ortega went into the hills in search of deer, and after long hours of walking, found himself looking down from the heights upon an unexpected sight. To his left was the sea rolling off to the westward, while to the right lay a bay guarded by the point on which he stood and another extending into the sea from the northeast. He gazed awhile in wonderment and then returned to camp. A day or two later the whole party followed him and looked out upon those miles of misty hill-encircled water. These men were the strangers in leather clothing and bright capes whom the Indians had seen in 1769, six years before the San Carlos appeared.

After a return journey of six months filled with every kind of hardship, Portola and his men reached San Diego where they reported their failure to locate the elusive Monterey Bay and described the arm of the sea located north of the latitude indicated by Vizcaino As Father Serra listened to their account of the neighborhood where they had camped, and compared it with the details of Vizcaino's chart, he became more and more convinced that the party had reached its destination but had failed to recognize it. As for the great bay to the Friar and Mission 15 north, no doubt its discovery was due to the miraculous intervention of God in the interest of St. Francis. Before leaving Mexico Father Serra had asked Visitador General Galvez if there was to be no mission named for San Francisco de Asis. To this Galvez had replied that if St. Francis wished a mission, he would disclose the port named in his honor by Carmeno. Ortega's unexpected discovery was a port worthy to bear the great saint's name, whether or not it was the one the Visitador General had in mind.

In Portola's absence the timely arrival of the San Antonio with food and supplies had saved the San Diego settlement. This fact enabled him to undertake a second expedition almost at once, in the hope of verifying Father Serra's conviction that the Bay of Monterey had actually been reached. The San Antonio, with Father Serra and Father Crespi aboard, was dispatched by sea, while Portola led his men by land over the trail they had so painfully blazed a few months before.