Friday, September 23, 2011

San Joaquin City: Ghost Town

Old San Joaquin City was located just south of where the Dunham Road goes over the San Joaquin River on the River Road, now Kasson Road.  It was on the west side of the road.  It originally was a ferry town, the Dunham Ferry crossing about where the bridge is now.  It later became a river time and at one time had 1500 residents.  Today there is one farm house in the area, and everything else is farms, or brush area leading to the river.  These pictures were taken on the east side of the river going towards Sturgeon Bend.  They are of the East Side Slough, but hopefully in the area where George Williams lived.  He was a resident who pioneers electricity in the area.  He also had the first wireless.  He had come up with an idea for smokeless gun powder.  In an effort to get money for his project, he attempted to rob a train in Manteca.  This went array when a hobo came from under the train and started George.  He ended up shooting him and killed him.  He was convicted of train robbery and sent to prison.  He was later paroled and returned to live long the river.

This picture is from the other side of the river where the city was actually located.  In the early days the boats would tie up to the trees.  Grain and wood were hauled from here to Stockton.  The landing helped the west side of the valley develop the wheat industry.  Today the channel of the river has moved east some yards.  The plaque is now missing, having been stolen at least five years ago.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Francis Webster: California Gold Miner; Handcart Pioneer

Before reading the words of Francis Webster, it is important to note that he did not need to be a hand cart pioneer.  He was not poor  He had been to the California gold fields, and had done well.  He then returned to England, and became branch president in London.  He was planning on immigrating with his wife in a covered wagon, but chose to come by hand cart as an example to his branch.  He used the money he saved to help others join the handcart company.  They were able to help nine others.  The links at the bottom of the page will lead you to this article, as well as the original from David O. McKay and an article from Chad Orton with regards to Francis Webster.

Some years ago president David O. McKay told from this pulpit of the experience of some of those in the Martin handcart company. Many of these early converts had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. President McKay relates an occurrence which took place some years after the heroic exodus: “A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.
“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: San Joaquin: A River Betrayed

I checked this book out at the Manteca Library.  It is written by Gene Rose and was published in 1992by Linrose Publishing, Fresno, CA.  It is available online at Google Books.  I was worried this was just going to be some environmental wacko book, but in fact I really enjoyed it. Maybe I am more an environmentalist wacko than I admit.  I like to call myself a conservationist; after all, I did earn my Conservation of Natural Resources Merit badge.  (I don't know if they still have that one.)

This book included enough history to keep it interesting.  It did go off on its environmental soap opera a few times, and using its labels of others like I use the label wacko, "Greedy, selfish, etc."  It was published in 1992, and left me wanting more of the story, the story of the last 20 years.  Maybe I got some from the news a couple years ago when farmers were starving for water and had fields unplanted. This may be a response to this book, as the river passing by Manteca looks very vibrant.  In fact it was flooding earlier this year.  But the contention of the book is that the river is diverted up stream; 95 percent of the water is run through irrigation, and the run off is overly polluted with chemicals and run off from the natural minerals in the ground.  Selenium occurs naturally in the western side of the Valley.  This has resulted in a toxic river and irrigation system downstream and salts and minerals being overly applied to fields.  Most notably the Kesterson Reservoir, where the runoff waters were accumulated, became a dead reservoir, casing bird and animal deformities.  Some of the water is put back into the river, causing higher levels of minerals there as well.

The most interesting part of the book is the history.  It starts with the Native populations, who used the tulle reeds which were supported by the river.  They made canoes and baskets from the tulle.  The river supported their lifestyle.  It talked of Jedediah Smith who hunted beaver in the valley.  Of Smith he said, "Some historians have speculated that Smith first discovered gold during his 1827 trip when he was exploring and trapping along the Stanislaus River." (p 19) The book informs us that only Smith knew where the gold was, that they didn't have proper equipment to extract the gold, and that he went East to obtain this.  However on his way back to California, he was killed by Indians along the Santa Fe Trail.  It is interesting to note the supposed location of the find, "...near the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers--although the geology of that area does not support a known gold bearing lode." (p 20)  (Let me note that this is within five miles of our current home.  I was talking to the docents at the history museum today who said it is possible for gold to travel that far, washing down from the lodes higher up, especially in wet years.)
 reason, they soon established a community, New Hope, in the wilds of the valley. 

Also close to this confluence is the community established by Mormons.  "A group of Mormon settlers forced their way up from the San Francisco Bay in a small boat rigged with sails form the larger "Brooklyn."  Led by Sam Brannan, the group made their way up the San Joaquin channel to the Stanislaus River.  About a mile above the confluence, they went ashore.  Putting hope and prayer before reason, they soon established a community, New Hope, in the wilds of the valley.  A barn, sawmill and a collection of shelters were built.  Others began tilling the virgin soil; planting wheat and other crops in preparation for the arrival of their spiritual leader Brigham Young, along with other members who were fleeing religious persecution of Nauvoo, Illinois.  Next, the settlers turned to the construction a small sailing craft, the "San Joaquin"--the first known bot to be built along the river.  But something went wrong.  Somewhere along the line, the Saints' revered leader, Young, failed to arrive at new Hope.  Puzzled by this incident, Brannan then made his was to Salt Lake City, only to find Young committed to the Utah location.  Despite his appeals, Brannan was unable to sway the church's elder and he returned to New Hope discouraged and dismayed.  Gradually dissension set in and the members of the colony began drifting away.  Today, New Hope remains on a facing enigma, its fate and precise location unknown."

The author also mentions the Mormons when talking about navigation on the San Joaquin River.  "No craft of man had rippled its waters save the rude balsas and tule rafts of the Indians, till one day in 1846 the nose of a little schooner worked its way up the crooked channel of the Suison bay to the mouth of the Stanislaus.  This Mormon boat was he first to which the San Joaquin submitted..."

A couple corrections to the account should be made.  The Mormon's did not land one mile up the Stanislaus, but four miles before the confluence at Moss landing.  The traveled the last few miles overland.  Sam Brannan did not meet Brigham Young at Salt Lake City, but at Fort Laramie while the Mormons were enroute to Salt Lake.  They had not yet seen the valley. 

This book is worth reading.  It does have a few grammatical errors, but they can be easily over looked for the content, and the story of the river.  Of course there are many more stories than those I shared; the story of gold, of hunting, fishing, irrigating, ranching and of manufacture, etc.  The story of the high country and hydro electric power, and that of John Muir.  They all belong to this valley.

I previously wrote about New Hope and the plaque in Ripon.;postID=611725638337466151 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Echoes From the Past

This book I checked out from the Manteca library.  It is written by General John Bidwell (he was Captain during the Mexican American War and general of the California Militia during the Civil War.

I was very impressed with this book, which is actually a series of three articles which he wrote and were first published in the Century Magazine.  He was one of the first American settlers of California.   However I have noted that it is available online.

John Bidwell emigrated in 1841, saying his group was the first to come over the Sierra Mountains into California.  His party went up the East side of the Sierras at Walker River, and then followed the Stanislaus River which brought them to the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers, pretty much in our front yard, only three miles away.  He tells of many harrowing experiences along the trail.

They first went to the home of Dr. Henry Marsh, an American settler.  [He was not a real doctor.]  He then tells of his early life in California.  He spent some time in jail, before getting a visa.  He worked with John Sutter and talks about how Sutter got his start in California.  The other articles include life before the Gold where he talks of the discovery of gold. He and a Californio had figured there was gold, and were going to look together.  However this plan came to nothing when his friend was caught and hung carrying papers during a revolt.  [This was an internal Mexican revolt with a change of the governor of California.]

He also has an article describing the events surrounding the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican American War.  He down plays the role of William Ide and puts the credit on John Fremont.  He did participate in the retaking of L.A.

This book gives a gives a general description of California History, 1841 though 1849.