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May 19, 1861: Monterey

May 19, 2011

Monterey; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 33

It is a lovely evening—the moon shines brightly, the old pines and thick oaks by our camp cast dark shadows, and the quiet bay sparkles in the moonlight.

I have been to church today—attended Protestant service for the first time since last November, nearly six months ago. There is a Methodist mission station here. I heard there was to be service at 11 A.M. in the courthouse, so was on hand. The rest of the party went to Mass. I found two or three fellows loafing on the porch, and as the door was locked, a man started to find somebody who had the key. Meanwhile, a dozen collected on the porch. After much delay the key was found, and, half an hour after time, services opened. How unlike a Roman missionary—he would have had all ready and shown himself “diligent in business” as well as “fervent in spirit.” The congregation at last numbered some twenty or twenty-five persons, not counting the few children. The clergyman was a very doleful looking man, with very dull style and manner, who spoke as if he did it because he thought it his duty to preach and not because he had any special object in convincing or moving his audience. His nose was very pug, his person very lean, his collar very high and stiff, and his whole appearance denoted a man entirely lacking energy, surely not the man for a California missionary. Yet how good it seemed to meet again with a few for divine service—it was indeed a pleasure. We have now been over a country twice as large as Massachusetts, and this is the second Protestant congregation we have seen, and both of these feeble and small. But there are Catholic churches in every considerable town.

As I came out of church and met Averill in the street, we were accosted by a man who wanted us to ride a few miles and look at a supposed silver “lead” he had discovered. We declined, but were soon beset by others, with ore and “indications” from another mine. I must take the specimens, which I did, and returned to camp and “blowpiped” them to get rid of them—found a little silver.

Monterey has about 1,600 inhabitants and is more Mexican than I expected. It is the old capital of California. There are two Catholic churches, and Spanish is still the prevailing language. Like all other places yet seen, more than half of the “places of business” are liquor shops, billard saloons, etc.—all the stores sell cigars, cigarritos, and liquor. Stores are open on Sunday as well as other days, and that is the day for saloons and barrooms to reap a rich harvest. Billiard tables go from morning till midnight—cards and monte are no secrets. Thus it has been in all the towns. Liquor and gambling are the curse of this state. Lots of drunken Indians are in the outskirts of the town tonight.

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