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October 4, 1861: Clayton

October 4, 2011

Gravel Shadow

Gravel quarry, lower Mitchell Canyon; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 57

We made Mount Diablo higher than it is marked on the maps, so wished to make another and more careful measurement. We sent Averill to the top with barometer this morning, to observe today, while I stay here in camp and observe another barometer. I have been making calculations all day and will now write—with the necessary interruption of having to note observations every fifteen minutes.

Summit with base line and Mt Diablo Meridian

Mount Diablo Baseline & Meridian marker; by Elaine with Grey Cats, on Flickr

We have a pretty camp, on the north side of the mountain, about five miles from the summit in direct line. Fine oaks shade our camp, and the grand mass of the mountain looms up in front of us. When lit by the evening sun it is a magnificent object.

The Californians tell us that once in olden time they had a battle with the Indians here; it was going hard with the Spaniards, when the Devil came out of the mountain, helped the Spaniards, and the Indians were vanquished. I cannot vouch for the truth of their story, but the story gave the name to the mountain, and the rocks certainly do look as if the devil had been about at some time. There is a breaking up and roasting of strata on a grand scale.

We are having lovely weather here now—days and nights clear, not a cloud to be seen for week in and week out, days warm (70° to 80° in shade, but the sun is scorching) yet with a delicious breeze every day from the bay. The nights are cool (it has been down below 40° the last two nights) but without dew—glorious nights to sleep under the clear sky, only a little cool.

As I have read home letters telling of “dry weather,” “very dry spell,” “no rain for six weeks,” I often compare that with this climate. There was a heavy rain here last April, but none since. I have seen no heavy rain since early last January. We had slight showers later, but not a drop since a slight shower at Monterey late in May (possibly the first week of June). Think and try to conceive, if possible, how dry it must be—everything, except trees, parched and sere, watercourses but dry beds of sand, roads two to eight inches deep of the finest dust, soil everywhere cracked to the depth of two to six feet, the cracks often wide enough for the foot to slip in when walking, and indeed, the whole surface fissured with cracks one to three inches wide. “Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return” extends to the soil here as well as to its inhabitants.

A young man of whom I have long heard much has just returned from Arizona. His name is Pumpelly, originally from Owego, New York, then in the Scientific School at Yale after I left, then at Freiburg and other European schools. A year ago he went to Arizona as engineer in one of the mines of that country. You have seen enough in the papers of that region—a region of vast mineral wealth, but the most inhospitable part of America—desert, hot, parched—producing only thorns and cacti—with here and there a fertile valley—cut off from the world—inhabited by the Apaches, the most treacherous and bloodthirsty of American Indians—with Mexicans, more treacherous but less honorable than the Indians. Twice in the history of that country, before its purchase by the United States, the Apaches expelled and exterminated the Mexican race from the territory, and now they have expelled the Americans—the first place on the continent where our race has had to resign territory once occupied. But the treachery of the United States officers, the withdrawal of troops, the inciting of the Indians to murder by the Southern Confederacy, has inaugurated scenes of horror in that country for which the early history even of the eastern states shows no parallel for cruelty and atrocity.

Every superintendent of mines in the country has been killed, men, women, and children murdered, their dead bodies always mutilated, many tortured, others burned, and no means of redress for the present. Pumpelly, with some others, escaped, as if by miracle, traveling six hundred miles across deserts with only panoli (roasted corn or wheat, pounded) to eat, and is now safely here. A terrible responsibility rests on the heads of those who inaugurated this war on our country. It makes me lose my patience to hear them excused or even palliated.

I must fear trouble in this state. I know that the state as a state is loyal—it has shown it at the last election, it has shown it at the recruiting offices. But we have a large desperado population, most of whom belong to the Secessionists—men ready for anything, who care nothing for the cause of either North or South in the abstract, but who would inaugurate war for the sake of its spoils. Then there are others of southern birth and southern sympathies to lead them. A large Mexican population, but semi-civilized at best, and who, as a class, hate the Americans with an inveterate hatred, is being incited by the Secessionists, especially in the southern part of the state. Already, over a large region life is very insecure, unarmed men stand no chance, robberies are daily committed by armed bodies calling themselves Secessionists. This does not extend here. It is mostly in San Diego, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties—an immense region, sparsely peopled, and containing much desert. It is the worst in San Bernardino, and while I hope for the best, there is just cause of apprehension for a terrible state of affairs yet in this state.

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