James Richmond's
California Story

San Fransisco and the Land of Gold

March 20, 1860 This morning we are to land in the "Land of Gold". All is excitement. I, to my surprise, find myself minus my pocketbook, checks and all. Not all either thanks to Kate’s foresight. I presume the thieves swore over the small amount of money they found in my pocketbook. Before we left New York we had a consultation in regard to our money, Kate, Abe and myself. It ended by Kate taking it all and sewing it in a drilling belt which they voted I should wear. I tried to have them take charge of it. But no! I must wear it. They were two to one so I had to accept the situation. I strapped it around me, over shoulder and so down across my chest. I told them if I went down they should have to send a diver after me to get their money. The loss of my checks was quite an inconvenience to me and the ships company. I had to give a description of my trunks and their contents before they were opened and so gained possession of them.

Our first site of San Francisco was not very encouraging. It looks a desolate place, more like a lot of sand hills than anything else. We passed through the Golden Gate to the Land of Gold! The Golden Gate is a narrow channel which leads the Pacific into the Bay. It was first discovered by Ortega, a Spaniard. I suppose the first ship to enter the Bay was the San Carlos, commanded by Lieutenant Ortega. He spent forty days here and then returned to Monterey and informed Serra that not a harbor but a multitude of harbors in which the Navies of Spain could play hide and seek.

Serra was a Franciscan Monk who was placed at the head of an expedition to establish missions in upper California. It is related of him in history that he was a man to whom religion was everything. He had renounced all joys of love and home, he never made a joke or indulged in a jovial action. He cared nothing for, science or philosophy. He believed it his duty to inflict upon himself personal chastisement . He often lashed himself with ropes of wire and burned himself with torches. He was kindly, humble and quiet. He had no quarrels and made no enemies. Such was the beginning of the permanent settlement of the white man on the site of San Francisco. I suppose the Mission was located somewhere back in the futile valleys. The sand hill would not afford much pasturage for the mission’s flocks that we were told once roamed o’er the country.