Time of the Bells, 1769-1835
CHAPTER TWELVE: The Hide Droghers
Hides of cattle began to replace furs of otters as the chief stock in trade of California. In fact, hides became known as California banknotes. The hide trade, for leather for the shoes of Europe and America, began to grow swiftly when the Mexicans wiped out many of the restrictions imposed on foreigners by Spain. For all practical purposes San Diego and Monterey became open ports. The British started the hide trade but the Boston men took over; everybody liked the Yankee traders. It was a turbulent period for California. The years of Spanish rule had generally been peaceful ones, as they had been over all of New Spain, but now unrest became rife. San Diego had been under military government since the founding of the first mission in California in 1769, but now there were feeble attempts at representative government in the spirit of republicanism that came over Mexico with the collapse of the empire that Gen. Agustin de Iturbide had sought to erect in the chaos of revolution. But there was more disorder than order, and Mexico itself was to know little but trouble and sorrow for almost a century.
In San Diego, the names associated with the first families of early California — the Picos, the Bandinis, the Estudillos, the Carrillos, the Argellos and the Osunas, among others — began to appear in reports and correspondence. A colonization law passed by the Mexican Congress in 1824 favored the entry of foreign colonists though giving preference to Mexican citizens, and subsequent provisions opened the way for more land grants. Mission lands were not to be distributed, at the time, which in itself suggested an approaching end to the mission system and the land seizures that led to the great ranchos and the Days of the Dons which followed. By 1830 nearly 50 private ranchos had been granted to private individuals in California.
In 1820 the white population of the southern district, including the Presidio and Mission of San Diego, the Missions of San Luis Rey and San Juan Capistrano, but excluding the guard at San Gabriel Mission, was about 450 persons, a gain in a decade of only about 130 persons. The Pueblo of Los Angeles had about 650 white persons. The San Diego military force was about 100, including 23 invalids, of which 20 lived at Los Angeles or on private ranchos. By 1830 the white population had risen to about 520. Perhaps 400 white persons, 150 Indians, and two or three foreigners lived in the San Diego Presidio proper. Los Angeles had grown to about 1200.
The Bouchard scare of 1818, when the French captain sacked California, had brought about a belated effort to reinforce territorial defenses, and orders were sent to Guadalajara, San Blas and Sonora that two vessels were to be sent north with all the troops and ammunition they could carry. The first reinforcements of 100 arrived at Monterey on the transport San Carlos and the trading ship Reina de Los Angeles captained by one Jose Bandini. The name Bandini is of Italian origin though José Bandini was born in Andalusia, a province of Spain. José served the Mexican revolution well, and when peace came, he and a son, Juan, born in Lima, Peru, decided to settle in California, and came to San Diego and built a home, which became famous in the journals of the times and still stands in Old Town.
The second detachment, a company of 100 cavalry, part of the Escuadrón de Mazatlan, under Capt. Pablo de la Portilla and Lts. Juan Maria Ibarra and Narciso Fabregat and Ensign Ignacio Delgado, was ordered to San Diego, embarking on the ship Cossack on July 14, 1819. Winds carried the ship up into the gulf and they finally landed at San Luis Gonzaga Bay, in northern Baja California, and marched overland to San Diego, arriving Sept. 16.
Portilla’s company was of high order, most of its men remaining here and contributing to development. The other detachment, an infantry company of San Blas under a Capt. José Antonio Navarette, was composed of criminals and vagabonds gathered from jails or by press gangs, and they were to prove a heavy burden on California. Pablo Vicente de Sold, who was governor at the time, had asked for a heavy artillery detachment, 400 carbines, 300 swords, and 15 or 20 cannon of large caliber, and money to repair the presidios and forts, so long neglected by Spain, but the Reina carried only five six-pounders and 10 four-pounders, and the San Carlos, 400 sabres and three flags. Sold described the sabre blades as “not fit for sickles.” All the Mexicans had to fight were rebellious Indians.
Lt. Juan M. Ibarra led several engagements against rampaging Indians in April of 1826, losing three men but killing 28, at Santa Ysabel. He sent 20 pairs of ears and one prisoner back to the presidio, where the captured Indian was publicly shot on April 25. Ibarra used pagan and neophyte Indians in a second battle in San Felipe Valley, at about the same time, losing one Indian and having 14 others and one soldier wounded. Eighteen pairs of ears were taken.
In the same year a commission composed of Capt. Portilla, Lt. Romualdo Pacheco and Cadet Domingo Carrillo made a survey of the military situation and reported the presidio buildings in a “deplorable ruinous condition” and at least $40,000 was needed to repair them and the fort. Little assistance was forthcoming, but evidently, with tools and help borrowed from the mission, some work was done, at least at the fort, which was able to send a flurry of cannon balls at the Franklin, as will be remembered.
The Mexicans, in the flush of independence, drew up plans, more picturesque than practical, to assure the retention of California and to wrest all the trade in the vast Pacific from the Englishmen and the Americans, by revival of the old Philippine trade dominated for two and-a-half centuries by the Spanish Manila galleons. California was described as a paradise surely worth holding: “Fortunate the Californians in the midst of the promised land; happy the provinces that adjoin that land; lucky even the hemisphere that contains it.”
To hold California, the Mexicans knew there would have to be a land connection, though the memory of the Yuma massacre was still alive, and attempts were made to re-open the Sonora route pioneered by Anza 49 years before. Capt. Jose Romero in 1823 was ordered to set out from Sonora with a force of 60 men to investigate the possibility of a mail service by way of the Colorado, but it wasn’t until a year later that he got under way, not with 60 men, but 10. At the Colorado, the Indians agreed to help them cross the river on rafts. In mid-stream, they turned about and pushed the rafts back to shore, along with all the expedition’s supplies and horses. Romero and his men were left practically naked and without food, and were forced to cross the desert and mountains to Mission Santa Catalina, over the same route taken later by the mountain trapper, Pattie.
A new path to San Diego and Los Angeles was marked out with the discovery of Warner’s Pass by Santiago Argüello, while chasing Indian horse thieves in 1825. Argüello suggested that instead of following the old Anza route all the way across the Borrego Desert and up Coyote Canyon and over the San Carlos Pass, it would be better to go by way of the Fages’ trail through the Carrizo Corridor and then turn off through San Felipe Valley and Warner’s Hot Springs. The Mexican government sent Pacheco, who was a lieutenant of engineers, to investigate, and as a result, this became the official route for mail and was used by some immigrants from Sonora.
As with so many good intentions, the fine plans for California largely wound up in somebody’s desk and were heard of no more. The “enemy” already had taken over considerably. His ships were everywhere. In 1825, for example, of the 47 vessels on the coast, 20 were American ships, eight English, two Russian, one Californian, one French, and only two Mexican. The nationality of eight is not known. In 1827 there were 33 ships on the coast, of which 12 were American, 10 English, three Russian, two French, and perhaps one German. Again, there were only three Mexican vessels.
How many Russian ships actually visited San Diego is difficult to determine. In 1825 three Russian ships, the Baikal, Okhotsk and Kiakhta, received permission to hunt for otter skins on equal shares between San Diego and San Quintín Bay, and records indicate that the Baikal went back and forth from Fort Ross to San Diego continuously between 1825 and 1830, and the Okhotsk between 1827 and 1829. A Hawaiian brig, the Karimoku gave considerable trouble. Capt. John Lawlor had a practice of hiding most of his cargo on some lonely section of the coast, or on one of the channel islands, and then putting into port with a small amount of goods, at a great saving in duties. When he arrived in San Diego in the autumn of 1828 he was accused of avoiding $1,000 in duties at San Pedro and touching at Santa Catalina despite warnings not to do so. The sails of his vessel were seized and held until he evidently worked out an arrangement for getting his goods and livestock off the island. Capt. William Cunningham of the American ship Courier, which made several visits here, and other sailing masters went so far as to erect buildings on Santa Catalina, but they were forced to remove them. With the reduction of the otter herds in the north, and the more liberal commercial policies that arose under the Mexican government, licensed hunting on a share basis, much of it in less-worked southern waters, was gradually replacing poaching. Many Americans who drifted into California, or deserted from ships, took to otter hunting, as did prominent Mexicans. The California-Russian contract with the Baikal was written by the Mexican fiscal agent at Monterey, and when the ship put into San Diego Harbor in 1826, Gov. Echeandia went aboard, and toasts were drunk in an atmosphere of friendship and good cheer, until Echeandía discovered that a license to hunt had been granted by his old enemy, the fiscal agent. He cancelled it forthwith. In turn, Echeandía granted a new permit, though restrictive, which permitted the Baikal to hunt for otter in San Diego Bay, as well as along the coast from opposite San Luis Rey Mission to Todos Santos Bay. Aleuts from the Baikal in 20 canoes collected 468 furs in about less than three months. San Diego became a provisioning point for Russian operations in southern waters. A young seaman, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., later was to find evidence of their long stays in San Diego.
The growth of the hide and tallow trade was beginning to flood the California market with goods, and the fur men slowly gave way before a new trade, though furs were to make up parts of shipments from the coast for many years to come.
While Upper California was showing so much promise, despite official incompetence, Lower California was sliding backward down the path of history. The missionary movement had almost completely collapsed. By 1822, or near that time, 17 of the older mission establishments no longer even had resident priests. The native population, cruelly affected by disease and changes in ways of living, had declined in 150 years from about 40,000 at the time of the first white settlement to perhaps 5000. Few of the native Indians survive today. The revolution struck Baja California more directly than it did Upper California. Attacks by sea were carried out against the Pueblos of Loreto and San Jose del Cabo by ships of the English sea lord, Thomas Cochrane. Cochrane, who had fought the Spaniards in European waters, and participated in the revolutions in Per6 and Chile, hoisted the flag of newly-independent Chile and, on the pretense that Baja California still belonged to Spain, sacked San José del Cabo on Feb. 17, 1822, even looting the church, and then sent one ship of war on up the gulf to Loreto, attacking it on March 4. The governor and the missionaries fled to Comondú, and Lt. Jose Maria Mata, with 16 men, was left to repulse the attackers, which he did after a time, and even recovered some of the booty.
One of the first foreigners to travel through Baja California, and to report on its progress, or lack of progress, was an Englishman, R.W.H. Hardy, sent to Mexico by the London Pearl Fishery Association to survey Baja California’s pearl fishing which had been started so long before by Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conqueror of Mexico. He visited Loreto in 1825, found it a town of 250 persons, with the commandant able to muster a force of no more than six soldiers . . . “and their two cannon, with open breeches, so they might be expected to do equal execution, among friends in the rear and the enemy in front.” As for the commandant, “he resides in the best house in the place, near the church, which was formerly celebrated for the richness of the Virgin’s pearls; but in the visit paid by some Chilean or Colombian vessels … under pretense of making the colony free, the crew thought it their duty, it is said, to relieve the Virgin from her superfluous weight of pearls, and the church the greater part of its gold and silver.”
He found that “the inhabitants of Loreto were of a dingy opaque olive-green which shows that there is no friendly mixture in the blood of the Spaniards and the Indians,” . . . but in contrast, he said that in La Paz, “the inhabitants … are descendants chiefly of English, American and French sailors. There is an old seaman, married and living near it, who was with Lord Nelson in the ever-memorable battle of Trafalgar.” The population was about 2000.
Pearl fishing along the gulf coast, and in particular from La Paz to Loreto, which once produced tremendous wealth, was dying; the beds were being fished out because no attention was being paid to the size of oysters taken. At Loreto, Hardy found six to eight boats engaged in pearl fishing, with the quantity procured annually by each of them between four and five pounds and worth perhaps $8000 to $10,000. A larger number of boats fished in the La Paz area.
It was Lt. Col. José María Echeandía, when he became Mexican governor of Lower as well as Upper California in 1825, who proceeded to establish a more representative government. Echeandía preferred the climate of San Diego, though some claimed it was not the climate he preferred but a woman of San Diego. There had been some territorial representation in the past but in 1826 Echeandía called a new election. On Feb. 18, 1827, five electors met at San Diego to choose not only diputados to reorganize the territorial diputación but also a diputado to the national congress. Ignacio Lopez had been the first partido elector for the San Diego district, starting with 1822, and he had been succeeded by Carlos Castro. Agustin V. Zamorano, secretary to the governor, now was chosen elector for 1827-28, and in 1830 Juan Maria Osuna was elected. Juan Bandini succeeded Domingo Carrillo as comisaro subalterno, or revenue collector, in 1828, and Jose Antonio Estudillo became associate and treasurer of local funds.
Pablo Vicente de Sola, the last Spanish governor of California, was chosen to be the first congressman, but, in view of his background, this didn’t seem very wise and the vote was reconsidered. Elected in his stead was Capt. Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, with Gervasio Arguello as substitute. Again the Californians seem to have acted without good judgment. Noriega. had been born in Spain, though he was brought to Mexico as a child, and that was enough to make him undesirable in Mexico City and he was refused his seat in Congress. Argüello finally assumed the office.
At the meeting in San Diego, on Feb. 19, 1827, the junta of electors also chose seven vocales, or members, and three suplentes, or substitutes, for the territorial diputación, which convened at Monterey. In 1828 Echeandía summoned the diputados to San Diego but apparently most of the members didn’t want to come and no meeting was held. They didn’t seem to share Echeandía’s local enthusiasms, whatever they were. Later in the year a meeting of the junta of electors was held here to reorganize the diputación by adding four more members. It convened at San Diego on Jan. 1, 1829, but proved unmanageable and was dismissed. Juan Bandini got in here too, as a vocal.
Trouble was in the air. Military officers also didn’t seem to get along with each other, and Lt. José María Estudillo returned here from Monterey and in 1827 took command of the San Diego Presidio. He succeeded Capt. Francisco María Ruiz, who was 73 years old and moved down from the presidio to Old Town where he planted one of the first orchards. Ruiz, born in Loreto, and a bachelor, also had been granted the first large private rancho within present San Diego County, a tract of 8486 acres which later became known as Los Peñasquitos Rancho, or small cliffs, occupying a narrow strip of valley running northeast from Sorrento to the Poway area. The grant was made in 1823 by Luis Antonio Argüello while serving as interim governor. The padres had protested strongly that the grant violated mission lands. The carving up had begun. In 1829, Jamul Rancho, 8926 acres lying between Jamul and Dulzura, was granted by Echeandía to Pio Pico, and Janal Rancho, 4436 acres, and the adjoining Otay Rancho, 6657 acres, east and southeast of Chula Vista, respectively, were granted to the Estudillo family. José María Estudillo became a captain in the same year, died in 1830, and was buried on Presidio Hill. He was the founder of a famous California family, which built the Old Town house now known as Ramona’s Marriage Place.
Echeandía represented the long arm of the Mexican revolutionists and he attempted to move against all persons who had been born in Spain, or those who had not yet taken an oath of allegiance to the new Constitution. The padres had taken an oath of fealty to the republican government of Mexico, but they considered the new Constitution as anti-religious, and with some exceptions, one of them being Fr. Peyri at San Luis Rey, they refused to swear allegiance to any provisions which they believed to be against their religion or profession. Two of these were Frs. Fernando Martin and Vicente Pascual Oliva, of San Diego. The padres were still needed in California, however, as all feared the chaos that might follow if the padres were evicted, the mission system broken up too quickly, and the Indians released from any control. Echeandía issued a decree of partial emancipation for the mission Indians, permitting those at San Diego, for example, who had been Christians since childhood, or for 15 years, and those who were married and who had some means of livelihood, to leave the mission. He wanted the Indian communities to be organized into pueblos; the padres replaced with the secular clergy — as always was the long-range intention — and then parcel out the mission lands. This decree was issued on July 25, 1826.
The effect of this “emancipation” was described by an English sea captain, Frederich William Beechey, R.N., who visited California on HMS Blossom, in 1827 and 1828. In the latter year he wrote:
“In my former visit to this country, I remarked that the padres were much mortified at being desired to liberate from the missions all the Indians who bore good characters, and who were acquainted with the art of tilling the ground. In consequence of these remonstrances, the government modified the order, and consented to make the experiment upon a few only at first, and desired that a certain number might be settled in the proposed manner. After a few months’ trial much to his surprise, he found that these people who had been always accustomed to the care and discipline of school boys, finding themselves their own masters, indulged freely in all those excesses which it had been the endeavor of their tutors to repress, and that many having gambled away their clothes, implements, and even their lands, were compelled to beg or to plunder in order to support life. They at length became so obnoxious to the peaceable inhabitants, that the padres were requested to take some of them back to the missions, while others who had been guilty of misdemeanor, were loaded with shackles and put to work.”
Accompanying Beechey was William Smyth, of the Royal Navy, an artist, who on this journey and subsequent visits to the Americas, made many water color sketches of early California life. He later became an admiral and a member of the Royal Geographic Society.
The view of the native, or of the adopted, Californian on the necessity of secularization was quite different from that of the missionaries, who labored until the end under the impression that they were obligated to hold the lands until the Indians were ready to receive them and care for themselves in a civilized state. But nobody could foresee when such a time ever would arrive.
The case of the Californians was best stated by José Bandini of San Diego, who in 1828 presented a detailed description of California in a report he made to the British vice consul at Tepic, for some reason or other, and on which he later expanded. Much of the material was used by his son, Juan, in his own political efforts.
José Bandini warned that “the missions have extended their holdings from one end of the territory to the other and have had a way of bounding one piece of property by the next, always opposing the private ownership of lands in between. They have unfeelingly appropriated the whole region, although for their planting and for the maintenance of their cattle they do not need all they possess. It is hoped that the new system of enlightment and the need for encouraging the resident gente de razón will compel the government to take adequate means to reconcile the interests of all.”
He estimated there were about 5000 white people in California, most of them descendants of early settlers, and thus in 50 years a new generation had been formed, while, at the same time, deaths among the Indians were exceeding births by 10 per cent. As for the Californians, he reported they were robust, healthy and well built, and though they raised some cattle and vegetables, lacking privately-owned lands, their private enterprise was limited. He condemned his fellow citizens, as had visitors to California, and others still to arrive would do. “Most live in idleness. It is a rare person who is dedicated to increasing his fortune. They exert themselves only in dancing, horsemanship, and gambling, with which they fill their days. Most illnesses are unknown, and the freshness and the hardiness of the people demonstrate the beneficial effect of the climate.” Ever gallant, as befitted a true Spanish son, he wrote that “the women in particular always have roses in their cheeks. These beautiful creatures are without doubt more active and industrious than the men.”
He warned that unwise Mexican regulations would strangle trade, and that the port of San Diego should be left open, as the limiting of foreign trade to Monterey would ruin California. San Diego, he said, had a better port, a more powerful presidio, and a mission which needed the resources possible because of having to attend to frontier establishments. As places of residence, the presidios had outlived their usefulness and “it is certain that substantial towns will soon appear in California.”
For all practical purposes, the port was open to foreign trade, as orders to close it in 1826 had not been carried out.
With time on their hands, the Californians were inclined to get themselves into trouble. The annals of the decade indicate that a woman charged with promiscuity had to stand with shaven head in church where all in the presidio could see her, and even a house of ill fame found mention. In 1826 a soldier, Victor Linares, shot his neighbor, Juan Germán, while on sentry duty, and a court-martial, after due deliberation, acquitted him on the grounds he had merely performed his duty. In 1828, five soldiers complained to Lt. Argüello of hunger and lack of clothing, and boldly requested some of their back pay. An angered Argúello started to put them in irons, but the adverse reaction of other troops caused him to slow down, and the appeal was taken to Echeandía. He promised to do something, and from all indications, all he did was to scatter the five to other presidios and stations. There were many small crimes of passion but one had a particular interest. In May of 1830 a civilian cut a soldier with a knife, escaped from the lockup, and sought refuge in the mission church. The right of church asylum again was an issue, as it was back in the early days of the presidio. Apparently the civilian lost the argument as he was sentenced to eight years in the chain gang. The majordomo, Hilario Garcia, in November of the same year, was tried for cruelty to Indians, being charged with flogging a group of cattle thieves, and pulling one of them around by the hair until he died. The fiscal, Cadet Ignacio del Valle, insisted that Garcia be sentenced to 10 years on the chain gang, but later his defender, Juan Bandini, branded the charges as Indian lies. In the end, Garcia was sentenced to five years. The record also shows that an Indian was publicly executed in the presidio, on Oct. 30, 1824, before a great crowd, but nobody, apparently, thought to put down the reason.
The new Mexican government didn’t help matters by increasing the number of convicts being sent to California. A small number had arrived in 1825, and then orders were issued that convicted criminals from all parts of the republic were to be sent to California, and within a year more than 100 had been sentenced to go and work on the presidios. Echeandía protested somewhat feebly, and asked that at least “useful convicts” be sent. In 1830, the Mari a Ester brought 80 convicts from Acapulco, but they were not allowed to land at San Diego, because of the absence of the governor, and they were unloaded at Santa Barbara. Thirty of the worst were promptly trans-shipped to Santa Cruz Island, supplied with some cattle and fish hooks, and left to their own fate. Soon reduced to virtual nakedness, they built rafts and floated back to the mainland. A good many of them became law-abiding citizens. Six months after the first group had arrived, the Leonor under the command of Capt. Henry D. Fitch, a Massachusetts-born captain, brought 50 more and left 23 of them at San Diego. It seems, however, that by paying a $3-head tax they gained their liberty. The issue of the convicts was the start of the bitter feelings that arose between Californians and Mexicans.
The padres of Upper California still were carrying on pretty much as usual. The missions had become great commercial institutions which supported the life of the country. And the hide trade was turning San Diego into a cosmopolitan settlement. The firm of McCullough, Hartnell & Co., which sent the vessel John Begg to San Diego for hides in 1823, became the first mercantile house in California. An Englishman, John Begg, had established himself at Lima, Per6, and developed an extensive trade in South American hides, and then with the easing of restrictions against foreigners trading in California, joined with William Petty Hartnell, another Englishman, and Hugh McCullough, a Scotsman, in entering the California market. Hartnell and McCullough were aboard the John Begg and got official permission from the governor to make contracts with the various missions for hides and tallow. Some of their dozen ships sailed direct from California to England and others began trading from Monterey to San Diego, to Lima and Santiago, and then around the Horn, up the South American Coast to Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro, and then across the Atlantic to Liverpool.
There were hides for the English market and tallow for South America, as well as other miscellaneous products, such as soap, horse hair, horns, hemp, beef in brine, suet, and at times, wheat. For the missions, in exchange, came the products of civilization, such as clothing, farming implements, musical instruments of all kinds, kitchen utensils, a variety of food products to relieve the monotony of daily life, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, and rice, and the gold and silver threads so desired for embroidery and ornaments, and needles and buttons.
Cattle were multiplying by the thousands and they dotted the hills and upper valleys from the Mexican border to Sonoma County. The cattle were the fattest during the summer months of July, August and September, and the roundup, called the matanza, was held at every mission, with the vaquero lassoing the cattle with their reatas and Indians doing the butchering. The hides were removed for trading, the best meat cut into strips and dried or jerked, and the remainder left for the coyotes. San Diego became the chief center of the hide trade and all Boston firms eventually maintained depots here on a sandy shelf of Point Loma which now is the site of the Naval Fuel Depot. The drying, curing and storing of hides required a warm port, free from rain and heavy surf, and with not too much fog, and the loading was easier and faster in calm, protected waters. This was the only port which met all requirements.
The busiest time of the year at all the missions was during la matanza. The work had to be done quickly, and usually with heavy waste, because of the lack of refrigeration. Mission ranchos were the scene of feverish activity with scores and sometimes hundreds of Indians employed in a variety of tasks. The stench of rotting carcasses, or that from the burning of piles of unwanted meat, would hang over the valleys and hills for days.
Fats were piled into carretas to be taken to the mission for making tallow and soap. The tongues were saved for smoking and storing. At the end of the day the ox heads were placed in holes in the ground, covered with hot stones, and left to roast all night, for a favorite breakfast.
The hides removed by skinners would be staked out on the ground to dry, to prevent shrinking, then, folded lengthwise, packed and carted to the mission tannery. All of the missions had elaborate brick vat systems for the curing and tanning of hides, with use of brine, lime and oak bark; and while some had vat systems for rendering tallow, others melted it in iron kettles placed over huge brick furnaces. Some of the leather would go for shoes, saddles, beds, reatas, and rawhide thongs for tying building planks, and scores of other uses. Hides of sheep went for leather jackets for the soldiers. Most of the ox hides, however, would be stored for the merchants of England and America. When the ships arrived, long lines of Indians, pack mules and carretas loaded with hides and botas, or bags, of tallow would wind their way down Mission Valley across the dry river bed and the silt plain between Old Town and Point Loma, and along the base of the point to La Playa.
Before being loaded aboard ship, the hides would have to be softened by soaking in salt water and brine, scraped, stretched again, dried, and then beaten to remove all dust. Packed on ship they would be taken thousands of miles to London or Boston, and often the same hide came back to San Diego in the shape of fancy shoes. When the hot, trying season was over, there was the fiesta, and hundreds of candles made from tallow twinkled from mission windows and arches in the late summer evening of a mellow countryside.
The company’s schooner, Young Tartar sailed up and down the coast, collecting hides and goods at various depots, and then reloading them onto larger vessels at San Diego and Monterey, for the long run to England. The Young Tartar was wrecked on a San Diego beach in 1826. The McCullough and Hartnell firm broke up in 1828, but Hartnell remained in California, and became a respected, but sometimes tragic figure, in the state’s pioneer history.
The missionaries at San Diego liked Hartnell, a Protestant, though they seemed to be more canny than their brothers in the north, preferring not to tie up on long contracts, as the Americans indicated they were willing to offer more for hides than would the Britishers. Though the local customs officers welcomed the English firm, calling it “Macala y Arnel,” and offered land for a store and warehouse, and young Hartnell always stayed at the famed Bandini home when in San Diego — where something always was going on — he preferred Monterey, being so unkind as to describe San Diego as “the Devil’s hole.” Juan Bandini had married Dolores Estudillo, the daughter of Capt. Estudillo, and they were raising a family that became known the land over for the beauty of its women and the graciousness of its hospitality. Monterey proved to be bad for Hartnell, personally. It was the same old story of wine, women, and debts. Worse, however, in the eyes of the padres, was the discovery that he had been consorting in the privacy of his library with the works of Voltaire. He was rescued from his Godless ways by the friendly but concerned padres, undergoing baptism and writing that at last grace had been granted him “to know the right path.”
A month after Hartnell and McCullough had first arrived in California, one William Alden Gale, an American engaged in the otter and seal trade along the coast, returned to Boston and persuaded the shipping firm of Bryant and Sturgis to enter the California hide trade. That brought the ship Sachem to San Diego on two voyages, with Gale as supercargo, to start another long association by sea between San Diego on the West Coast and Boston on the East Coast. Thus it was, too, that in 1828, the ship Brookline, outfitted by Bryant and Sturgis, sailed from Boston harbor with a young man named Alfred Robinson aboard her as a clerk.
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THE TIME OF THE BELLS
Ch. 1 The Ring of Faith
Ch. 2 The Fight to Live
Ch. 3 The Test by Fire
Ch. 4 Death on a River
Ch. 5 Opening the Land
Ch. 6 Fr. Serra’s Death
Ch. 7 George Vancouver
Ch. 8 The Boston Ships
Ch. 9 The Golden Age
Ch. 10 Capt. Duhaut-Cilly
Ch. 11 The Mountain Men
Ch. 12 The Hide Droghers
Ch. 13 Alfred Robinson
Ch. 14 Richard Henry Dana
Ch. 15 The Toll of Time