California Romantic and Resourceful Part 3

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Far and near the people gathered to the costly banquet set, And exchanged congratulations with the English baronet;

Till, the formal speeches ended, and amidst the laugh and wine, Some one spoke of Concha's lover,--heedless of the warning sign.

Quickly then cried Sir George Simpson: "Speak no ill of him, I pray!

He is dead. He died, poor fellow, forty years ago this day,

"Died while speeding home to Russia, falling from a fractious horse.

Left a sweetheart, too, they tell me. Married, I suppose, of course!

"Lives she yet?" A deathlike silence fell on banquet, guests, and hall, And a trembling figure rising fixed the awestruck gaze of all.

Two black eyes in darkened orbits gleamed beneath the nun's white hood[17]; Black serge hid the wasted figure, bowed and stricken where it stood.

"Lives she yet?" Sir George repeated. All were hushed as Concha drew Closer yet her nun's attire. "Senor, pardon, she died, too!"

[1] p.r.o.nounced Hoo-neep-ero, with the accent on the second syllable.

[2] The best pen-picture of San Francisco just before the discovery of gold that I know of is that given by one who was an eye-witness: "At that time (July, 1847), what is now called San Francisco was called Yerba Buena. A naval officer, Lieutenant Washington A. Bartlett, its first Alcalde, had caused it to be surveyed and laid out into blocks and lots, which were being sold at sixteen dollars a lot of fifty varas square; the understanding being that no single person could purchase of the Alcalde more than one in-lot of fifty varas, and one out-lot of a hundred varas. Folsom, however, got his clerks, orderlies, etc., to buy lots, and they, for a small consideration, conveyed them to him, so that he was nominally the owner of a good many lots. Lieutenant Halleck had bought one of each kind, and so had Warner. Many naval officers had also invested, and Captain Folsom advised me to buy some, but I felt actually insulted that he should think me such a fool as to pay money for property in such a horrid place as Yerba Buena, especially in his quarter of the city, then called Happy Valley. At that day Montgomery Street was, as now, the business street, extending from Jackson to Sacramento, the water of the bay leaving barely room for a few houses on its east side, and the public warehouses were on a sandy beach about where the Bank of California now stands, viz., near the intersection of Sansome and California streets . . . . . . . The population was estimated at about four hundred, of whom Kanakas (natives of the Sandwich Islands) formed the bulk."--Personal Memoirs of General W. T.

Sherman (Charles L. Webster & Co., New York, 1891), p. 61.

[3] United States vs. Castellero, 2 Black (67 U. S.), 17-371.

[4] A vivid and most interesting account of General Sutter's helpless attempt to obtain from the military Governor a recognition of his t.i.tle to the land upon which his tail race was situated is given by General W.

T. Sherman: "I remember one day in the spring of 1848, that two men, Americans, came into the office and inquired for the Governor. I asked their business, and one answered that they had just come down from General Sutter on special business, and wanted to see Governor Mason in person. I took them in to the Colonel, and left them together. After sometime the Colonel came to his door and called to me. I went in, and my attention was directed to a series of papers unfolded on his table, in which lay about half an ounce of placer gold . . . . . . . Colonel Mason then handed me a letter from Captain Sutter, addressed to him, stating that he (Sutter) was engaged in erecting a sawmill at Coloma, about forty miles up the American Fork, above his fort at New Helvetia, for the general benefit of the settlers in that vicinity; that he had incurred considerable expense, and wanted a 'preemption' to the quarter section of land on which the mill was located, embracing the tail-race in which this particular gold had been found. Mason instructed me to prepare a letter, reciting that California was yet a Mexican province, simply held by us as a conquest; that no laws of the United States yet applied to it, much less the land laws or preemption laws, which could only apply after a public survey. Therefore it was impossible for the Governor to promise him (Sutter) a t.i.tle to the land; yet, as there were no settlements within forty miles, he was not likely to be disturbed by trespa.s.sers. Colonel Mason signed the letter, handed it to one of the gentlemen who had brought the sample of gold, and they departed . . . .

. . . That gold was the first discovered in the Sierra Nevada, which soon revolutionized the whole country, and actually moved the whole civilized world."--Personal Memoirs, p. 68.

[5] Cross vs. Harrison, 16 Howard (57 U. S.), 164, 192.

[6] "In 1850 the Congress of the United States pa.s.sed what is called a series of compromise measures. Among them was a fugitive slave law, the indemnity to Texas, the creation of territories in Utah and New Mexico, the admission of California, and the change in the Texas boundary. Four of them had direct relation to the question of slavery, and one was the admission of this State. Being in Congress, as a member of the House, at that time, I know well what you remember. The admission of California as a State was delayed for some nine or ten months, because the leaders of the Pro-Slavery Party were determined to secure their own way on all the other measures before California should be admitted."--E. D. Baker, Forest Hill speech, Aug. 19, 1859.

[7] J. Ross Browne: Debates in the Convention of California on the Formation of the Const.i.tution in 1849, pp. 304, 322, 323.

[8] The "Triunfo de la Cruz" was begun July 16, 1719, and finally launched at Mulege, near Loreto, Lower California, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Sept. 14, 1719, on its mission to determine whether California was an island, as described and delineated in many official accounts and maps of the period.

[9] The original Proclamation of Commodore Sloat, July 7, 1846, signed by his own hand, here produced, is preserved in Golden Gate Park Museum, San Francisco, to whose Curator, Mr. George Barron, it was recently presented in person as authentic by the lately deceased Rev. S. H.

Willey, the chaplain of the Const.i.tutional Convention of 1849 in Colton Hall.

[10] See Appendices A and B.

[11] G. H. von Langsdorff, Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World (Henry Colburn, London, 1814), part 2, page 150. Langsdorff, of course, gives it as March 28, 1806, old style, in that year twelve days earlier than our calendar west of the 180th degree of longitude, and eleven days earlier than our calendar cast of that degree. H. H.

Bancroft states that "the loss of a day in coming eastward from St.

Petersburg was never taken into account until Alaska was transferred to the United States" (Bancroft, Hist. of California, II, page 299, foot-note 9). Certainly, Langsdorff makes no such allowance in his narrative of old-style dates, and in the only place east of the 180th parallel where he computes the corresponding new style he adds eleven days, instead of twelve (Voyages and Travels, II, page 136). Bancroft adopts the date of April 5th, basing it on the Tikhmenef narrative.

Richman and Eldredge follow him in preferring the Tikhmenef narrative to the Langsdorff narrative as a basis, though they differ from each other in reducing it to the new style from the old style, Richman making it April 5th, following Bancroft in this regard also, and Eldredge making it April 4th, I prefer, with Father Engelhardt, to follow as a basis the painstaking German, Langsdorff, who kept his diary day by day.

[12] G. H. von Langsdorff, Voyages and Travels, part 2, pages 183, 217.

Tikhmenef's narrative would make the "Juno" leave on the 19th of May, but Langsdorff was himself aboard and kept a log.

[13] Nicola Petrovich Rezanov, Chamberlain to the Czar, died March 13, 1807 (March 1, old style), at the little town of Krasnoarsk, capital of the Province of Yenisseisk, now a station on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, where his body is still interred. Von Langsdorff visited his grave Dec. 9, 1807 (Nov. 27, old style), and found a tomb which be described as "a large stone, in the fashion of an altar, but without any inscription." (Voyages and Travels, part 2, page 385.) Sir George Simpson visited the grave in 1842, and states that a tomb had been erected by the Russian American Company in 1831, but does not describe it. Whether this is a mistake in the date on his part, or whether a later and more elaborate tomb displaced the first one, I have not yet been able to ascertain. It is certain, however, that Sir George Simpson had read von Langsdorff's book.

The body of Sor Dominga Arguello, commonly called Sister Mary Dominica (Concepcion Arguello) after her death, which occurred Dec. 23, 1857, was first interred in the small cemetery in the convent yard, but in the latter part of 1897 (Original Annals, St. Catherine's, Benicia), when the bodies were removed, it was reinterred in the private cemetery of the Dominican order overlooking Suisun Bay, on the heights back of the old military barracks. Her grave is the innermost one, in the second row, of the group in the southwesterly corner of the cemetery. It is marked by a humble white marble slab, on which is graven a little cross with her name and the date of her death. This grave deserves to be as well known as that of Helose and Abelard, in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise.

[14] "Rezanov," by Gertrude Atherton (John Murray, London). See also Appendix B. The quaint poem of Richard E. White to "The Little Dancing Saint" (Overland, May, 1914) is worthy of mention, though the place of her childhood is mistakenly a.s.sumed to be Lower California instead of San Francisco. It is to be hoped also that the very clever skit of Edward F. O'Day, ent.i.tled "The Defeat of Rezanov," purely imaginative as a historical incident, but with a wealth of local "atmosphere," written for the Family Club, of San Francisco, and produced at one of its "Farm Plays," will yet be published, and not buried in the archives of a club.

[15] If the facsimile of the chamberlain's signature, when written in Roman alphabetical character, is as set forth in part 2 of the Russian publication "Istoritcheskoe Obosrenie Obrasovania Rossiisko-Amerikanskoi Kompanii," by P. Tikhmenef, published in 1863, by Edward Weimar, in St.

Petersburg, then the proper spelling is "Rezanov," the accent on the penult, and the "v" p.r.o.nounced like "ff."

For metrical purposes Bret Harte has here taken the same kind of liberty with "Resanoff," and in another poem with Portola, as Byron took with Trafalgar, in Childe Harold.

[16] The mention of Monterey is a poetic license. Sir George Simpson actually met her and acquainted her for the first time with the immediate cause of her lover's death, at Santa Barbara, where she was living with the De la Guerra family, Jan. 24, 1842, after her return from Lower California, following the death of her parents. "Though Dona Concepcion," wrote Sir George Simpson, in 1847, "apparently loved to dwell on the story of her blighted affections, yet, strange to say, she knew not, till we mentioned it to her, the immediate cause of the chancellor's sudden death. This circ.u.mstance might in some measure be explained by the fact that Langsdorff's work was not published before 1814; but even then, in any other country than California, a lady who was still young, would surely have seen a book, which, besides detailing the grand incident of her life, presented so gratifying a portrait of her charms." (An Overland journey Round the World, during the years 1841 and 1842, by Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-chief of the Hudson Bay Company's Territories, published by Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia, in 1847, page 207.)

[17] She did not actually receive the white habit till she was received into the Dominican sisterhood, April 11, 1851, by Padre F. Sadoc Vilarrasa, in the Convent of Santa Catalina de Sena (St. Catherine of Siena), at Monterey, being the first one to enter, where she took the perpetual vow April 13, 1852 (Original Records, Book of Clothings and Professions, page 1, now at Dominican College, at San Rafael, Cal.), and where she remained continuously till the convent was transferred to Benicia, Aug. 26, 1854. There being no religious order for women in California until the Dominican sisterhood was founded at Monterey, March 13, 1851 (Original Annals, at Benicia, Reg. 1, pages I and 14), she had at first to content herself with joining the Third Order of St. Francis "in the world," and it was really the dark habit of this secular order which const.i.tuted the "nun's attire" at the time Sir George Simpson met her in 1842.

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