In the world’s history of commercial and industrial progress California lays claim to five distinct miracles of achievement. These are :
I. The building of the chain of twenty-one Franciscan Missions in an uncivilized land, resulting in the regeneration of the Indians of California from heathen barbarism to Christianity and the arts of peace.
II. The building of the Central Pacific railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains.
III. The reclamation of the deserts by irrigation.
IV. The rebuilding of the city of San Francisco in three years after its destruction by earthquake and fire in 1906.
V. The Owens River aqueduct.
Before and since these achievements, and in between them, there are many other milestones on the road of human progress which California may well point to with pride, but the “five miracles” above named stand out as climaxes in the pageant.
From Junipero Serra’s first little, uncertain irrigation ditch at San Diego, from the ox-teams of the pioneer traders, the caravels of the Spanish explorers and mariners and the wind-jamming brigs of New England that wandered around Cape Horn to California in quest of hides and tallow, it is, in-deed, a far cry forward to the mighty railways and the splendid deep-sea steamship lines of today which place California and her thronging harbors in quick and constant touch with all the world.
The fact that more than three hundred years of time elapsed after the voyage of discovery by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo before California assumed the position in the world’s commerce to which her natural wealth and advantages entitled her, will not be a cause for wonder when the conditions that surrounded her are understood. For the purpose of necessary enlightenment it might be well to briefly review those conditions.
Considering California in its present entity, the date of its discovery was the year 1542, only fifty years after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Why, then, was advancement and commercial progress so much greater on the Atlantic Coast than it has been on the Pacific Coast of the present boundaries of the United States?
The time-worn boast that it was due to the superior energy, virility and intelligence of the Anglo-Saxon will hardly suffice. Following the discovery of the New World by Columbus, the Spanish and the Portuguese practically dominated the whole earth between them. It was the Latin race that was then the incarnation of vigor, both on sea and land.
The true answer is that had California faced Europe and not Cathay the Atlantic seaboard of the United States would still be to some extent an unpopulated wilderness. The Orient has been asleep for a much longer period of time than three centuries, while Europe, where Latin, Teuton, Saxon and Celt are combined, has been very much awake.
This and this alone is the reason that California trailed along, isolated and unprogressive, three hundred years behind the Atlantic seaboard. The three centuries that are to come will tell an entirely different story. That the checkerboard of Fate will be exactly reversed it is scarcely worth while to argue.
From the commanding position commercially which she has now attained and which she is destined with absolute certainty to incalculably increase, California stands forth a veritable Empire of the Sun. It is as a land of sunshine that she is dreamed of throughout the universe. And that she is called a golden land means not only that her hills and valleys have been and are still unrivalled in golden wealth, but also that she is a land of golden weather. In the poetry of her Pantheism, the sun god is California’s titular deity.
In the fertility of her soil California equals the Valley of the Nile or any other distinct section of the earth, even taking into consideration the vastly smaller areas of those sections. In the extent, variety and richness of her mineral wealth she has no rival. Climatically she stands alone in a class by herself, comparison in this respect being wholly invidious and a wastefulness of time.
If California were to be lifted from its setting between the mountains and the sea and placed over on the Atlantic Coast it would cover the territory reaching from Cape Cod to Charleston in South Carolina. The state is over seven hundred miles long and has a coast line of approximately one thou-sand miles. It extends over an area larger than that of New England, New York and Pennsylvania combined. The United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland are not nearly as large in area as California.
Great variations in climate might be expected in a stretch of country extending over nine degrees of latitude, and it is true that almost any sort of climate may be found in California, in spots, from valleys of endless warmth to mountain peaks of eternal ice and snow. But it is to be remembered that there is much the same climate everywhere in the state during the major portion of the year. There are seasons when in the central and southern valleys the heat is in-tense, running up to as high as 120 degrees. On the other hand, in the extreme northern parts of the state there is occasionally a stretch of good sleighing in winter. But, for six hundred miles in between the northern counties and those of the south the climate may be said to be the same, which is to say that there is the same kind of weather Christmas Day as the Fourth of Julyblue skies and balmy air, the days not too warm and the nights delightfully cool.
Civilization had its beginning in California with the arrival of Fray Junipero Serra and the Franciscans at San Diego in 1769. Its commercial awakening, however, did not really take place until the gold discoveries of 1848. There was a small commerce, to be sure, prior to 1848, but it was trivial. Even following 1848, until several years after the close of the Civil War, California gave no fitting prophecy of her present standing in the world’s trade, much less of her glittering future, the very thought of which thrills the imagination.
At the height of his success a man likes to look backward over the long road up which he has struggled. It is equally as fascinating to review the struggles of a commonwealth that has risen from obscurity and the dust and ruin of time to entity and power. And no province, state or principality has had a more romantic rise to greatness than California has had.
Spaniards controlled the trade of the Philippines until about 1815, and their richly freighted galleons from those islands, which were so often the prey of Sir Francis Drake and other British privateersmen, came always almost in sight of the shores of California. This was owing to the fact that as early as 1565 Andres de Urdenata had discovered the northwest trade winds by means of which ships are wafted straight from Asia to the Golden Gate.
Here, then, were the Spaniards having knowledge that California existed; and the question has been asked why they did not do something with it? Blithe writers of books innumerable have invariably pointed out that nothing in the way of commerce worthy of the name was set in motion in California until “the Gringos came.” And that is true, only that the “Gringos” were also a long time in California before they were distinguished in commerce.
The reason the Spaniards paid no attention to California is that they were too busy in Mexico, South America and the Western Islands, where the picking was extremely good. They knew little or nothing about California except that it was a pleasant country. That it was rich in gold, silver and other precious metals they did not know. Had they known what James W. Marshall came to know one morning at Coloma in Sutter’s millrace, it may be regarded as an absolute certainty that Spaniards would have been as thick in California as the leaves in Vallambrosa.
From 1769 until, say, 1840, the Padres and their Indian neophytes were really the only people who did anything like work. The trade of California during all those years was its trade with itself. For a long time a cargo of hides and tallow was sent annually to Callao, in Spain, and occasionally a New England ship came to the ports to trade. In 1822 an English firm doing business in Peru established a branch post at Monterey, but its transactions were not large. In 1832 the Missionsprobably seeing that their end was nearmade a spurt and sold up-wards of 100,000 hides to trading ships. In 1841 the total export trade did not exceed $150,000. For a few years the trade in the skins of sea otters was quite important, but by 1840 the otters had been exterminated. About this time the Russians did a little trading in California, as did also the Hudson Bay Company, but altogether there was very little of it.
With Marshall’s discovery of gold in 1848, California awoke. It is true that she fell into the habit of taking a siesta now and then, long after her awakening, but, on the whole, she forged ahead.
It is estimated that the white population was not more than 12,000 in 1848, the vast majority of whom were of the Spanish race. A population of this size could not be expected, of course, to have built up an enormous commerce, yet writers appear to have thought that these 12,000 personsincluding, doubt-less, a large number of women and childrenshould have covered the seas with a merchant marine. As a matter of fact the writers speak slightingly of the inhabitants of California of those times because of the lack of the seagoing trade.
The harbor of San Francisco must have had the surprise of its existence when the ships began to sail in from every quarter of the globe on the heels of the news of the gold discovery. The last of February, 1849, witnessed the arrival of the steamship “California” from New York with the first party of gold-seekers from the Atlantic States. A month later the “Oregon” arrived. In June there were two hundred square-rigged vessels lying in San Francisco Bay. At the same time caravans were making their devious and dangerous way across the overland trail.
With so sudden and so large an increase in population, California began to acquire a commerce.
Beginning with a gold production. of $10,000,000 in 1848, the output of the placer diggings steadily rose, year by year, reaching the climax in 1853 when the production amounted to $65,000,000. For several years thereafter it continued in excess of $50,000,000 a year and did not fall below $30,000,000 annually until 1864. During the twenty years following Marshall’s discovery, California contributed nearly $1,000,000,000 in gold to the wealth of the world.
Exclusive of the mineral production, the state appears to have been able to build up a handsome export merchandise trade during the twenty years following 1848. In 1851, for instance, these exports amounted to $1,000,000. The figures steadily in-creased from one year to another. In 1861, with the breaking out of the Civil War, with which, by the way, California was not largely disturbed, the ex-ports of merchandise had advanced to nearly $10,-000,000. In 1867 the figures had reached nearly $23,000,000. These figures are taken from the statistics of the Port of San Francisco, which was the most important port and, indeed, the only port of importance on the California coast in those days.
It took California a long time to get over the idea that nothing was worth while except the digging of gold. A full realization of this mistaken belief seems to have come about in the year 1868 when the wheat crop of the state equaled in value the output of gold. Men then began to turn their thoughts to the wealth of a soil which was to prove vastly more profitable than the placer mines had ever been.
The great handicap that California suffered in her commercial ambitions at the time of her real awakening to the possibilities of agriculture, horticulture and husbandry in all its phases, was the lack of transportation facilities. There was no overland railway and the journeys by sea to the great markets of “the States” and the world were extremely hazardous.
In 1868 there were about three hundred miles of railway in California. There were little roads leading here and there in the country adjacent to the Bay of San Francisco. The oldest road in the state ran a distance of twenty-one miles from Sacramento to Folsom. There was a road between San Francisco and San Jose. Another operated between Marysville and Oroville and there were several other small lines.
The famous Central Pacific road, with which the names of Leland Stanford, C. P. Huntington, the Crockers, Mark Hopkins and others are forever associated, was operating over a distance of one hundred and five miles out of Sacramento in 1868. It had already surmounted the supposedly insurmountable Sierra Nevada, swinging across altitudes of more than 7000 feet, under enormous snowsheds and cutting its way through fifteen tunnels in mountains of solid granite.
The subsidies granted to the Central Pacific company by the United States Government were immense, yet not too tempting when the obstacles that had to be overcome are taken into consideration. The Government agreed to aid the company with loans for each mile of track laid and completed. In addition to this, concessions of every alternate section of public lands lying on each side of the road were granted. The city of San Francisco and the States of California and Nevada also rendered financial assistance to the project.
The student of history who delves into the story of the construction of the Central Pacific railroad in its mere statistical features only, does not delve deep enough. In the shadows of the years, when Time has turned the throbbing brain and the fiery heart of dreamer and doer into dust, we are not apt to view a great accomplishment with anything more than analytical coldness. We see the mathematical figures and not the heroic figures of those who dreamed and those who wrought the achievements of men who were as potent as the gods.
California’s first miracle was wrought by Junipero Serra at San Diego in 1769. Her second miracle was wrought exactly a century later when the golden spike was driven in a railway tie of California laurel on the wild and desolate deserts of Nevada, linking the Golden Gate with bands of iron to the Harbor of New York. Between the brown Franciscan miracle-worker of San Diego and the Yankee miracle-workers of Sacramento stretched the dusty highway of exactly one hundred years.
For many years the dream of a transcontinental railroad had been a thing to keep warm the hearts that dwelt within the tents of the faithful amid the golden hills. Chief among these dreamers was a young engineer named Judah. The road was this man’s vision. It was the dream that he carried with him everywhere, day and night, in the sun-swept valleys and upon the starry trails. Wherever Theodore Judah could find a willing ear to listen he wrought upon that wondering soul the wonder of his dream.
With compass and caliper he had drawn upon his maps the winding trail of the iron horse across valleys and plain, the snow-crowned Sierra and the mystic deserts that he knew so well. With his drawings under his arm he went, in 1860, to Washington, there to storm the citadels of power with his project. And he was earnestly listened to. But the dark clouds of war hovered over the nation then. The lightnings of death and its thunders were flashing and rumbling threateningly in the skies. Judah was told that he must await another and a happier time for the fruition of his hopes.
Yet he came back to California undismayed, still with his dream, still wandering the trails of sun and stars in quest of neophytes. And at last he found them. And it was in the most prosaic if not exactly humble surroundings.
In the city of Sacramento in 1861 there were several enterprising merchants. All of them were thriving in trade, but none of them had risen to great influence in the financial life of the West. There was Leland Stanford who had been a lawyer but who had abandoned Kent and Blackstone to engage in the perhaps less precarious occupation of a grocer. Collis P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins were en-gaged in the hardware business. Charles Crocker kept a dry goods store.
They were all clear-headed men, strong in character. After much discussion they held a meeting in June, 1861, and organized the Central Pacific Railroad Company, facing boldly with their own resources a problem that was as big as any that had yet been faced by the human race. That they dreamed of large financial gains as a result of their boldness, it may as well be admitted, but that these men were equally impelled by high and patriotic motives it were a meanness to deny. They became very rich in the end, and Stanford rose to political greatness as Governor of California and as a Senator in Congress. He left his riches practically to the people when he died. The noble University that he erected and endowed in memory of his son, Leland Stanford, Jr., is his lasting monument for all time.
The burden that this little band of empire-builders assumed in undertaking the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, with all the aid that it later received from the Government, was almost unparalleled. No engineering feat had ever before been attempted that was fraught with such tremendous difficulties. When Theodore Judah returned from Washington a second time victory perched on his banners, and he came also with a task for that coterie of Sacramento merchants that would have discouraged any but the bravest men.
For it was Judah who had succeeded at last in convincing Washington that the transcontinental railway should be built. The outbreak of the Civil War had served as a good argument in his behalf, after all. The Federal Government doubtless saw that unless the road were constructed the Republic was just that much more vulnerable to dismemberment. In July, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the bill which had passed both houses of Congress and which started the Union Pacific on its way to meet the Central Pacific and thus create a transcontinental railway.
Judah died without seeing his vision come true. His theoretical surveys, however, were practically followed by the Government engineers. The work was started and the troubles of the Sacramento dreamers began. The question of more ready money than had been provided was a constant nightmare. Stanford bombarded the coffers of the West and Huntington pleaded in the East. Crocker sweated and toiled on the mountains and the deserts, driving the road ahead.
In the building of the road Charles. Crocker distinguished himself. To supply the lack of laborers he imported Chinese who proved industrious and peaceable workers. He organized them into companies and they were proudly referred to as “Crocker’s battalions.”
In an address before a committee of the Senate of the United States, in 1888, Creed Haymond described the difficulties which attended the construction of the Central Pacific across the Sierra. Haymond was attorney for the road, but every statement he made was borne out by facts and his great speech must for-ever remain as a classic in the literature of California. From this magnificent oration, which consumed three days’ time in its delivery, the following vivid word pictures are extracted :
“From Emigrant Gap to Truckee the difficulties encountered can never be described so as to be appreciated by one not conversant with that range of mountains or who has not lived among them during the months of almost constant storm. The snow usually begins to fall on the Sierra in the month of November or December, and sometimes continues, with but slight intermission, until April or May.
“On the western slope the annual snowfall will vary from thirty to sixty feet in depth, and snow has remained on the summit to the depth of four feet as late as July. Rain at intervals falls on these vast bodies of snow, and when they are reduced by the influence of the rays of the sun and the saturation of rain to the depth of ten or fifteen feet the mass ceases to be snow and becomes a body of ice which cannot be removed except with pick and powder.
“The three winters during which our people, with from ten to twelve thousand men, were working on these mountains were among the severest known in the history of the state. As the snow began to fall it required as many men to clear the ground as it did to do the work of excavation. As the storms progressed it became impossible to clear off the snow, and the work was done under it. Long tunnels were run through the snow to get at the rock to be excavated and at the rock tunnels to be bored. Shafts were sunk in the snow; domes excavated under them, and in these domes the masonry necessary to be used in construction was laid, the stones being lowered through the snow shafts.
“There was constant danger from the mountain avalanches; men were frequently swept away and their remains not found until the snow melted in the summer. For miles and miles great masses of snow, drifted and compact, rested upon the cliffs near the summits of the mountains, endangering all below them, and these masses had, for protection, to be removed before the work could be even carried on with comparative safety.
“While these storms were raging in the mountains rain deluged the foothills and the valleys, rendering them impassable even for teams, and many of the supplies to points which could not be reached by rail were borne upon the backs of mules. For days at a time so terrific would be these storms that not an hour’s work could be done ; yet the men who were risking their lives could only be retained by full payment, whether working or idle.
“While this work was going on in the mountains a force was pushed forty miles ahead to the cañon of the Truckee, and twenty miles of rails with their fastenings, and locomotives and cars sufficient for carrying on the work in that cañon, were hauled through the snow and over the summit to that place. The expense of such transportation could only be appreciated by those who had lived in the Sierra during the winter months, and could only be justified by the necessity of the work and the great interest which the nation had therein.
“It was also deemed important to do work in the lower mountains crossed by the railroad in Utah, so that when the track reached those points there should be no delay. Men and material were transported by wagons over deserts, sometimes forty miles without water, at immense cost. Provisions to sustain them and forage for teams were expensive beyond any-thing ever known in the Atlantic States. Barley and oats ranged from $200 to $300 per ton ; hay, $120 per ton, and all other supplies in Utah in the same ratio.
“The work in the Sierra was done before the days of high explosives or the Burleigh drill. Five hundred kegs of powder was the daily average, and its price was beyond anything ever known in the country before. There were no means in California for manufacturing railroad material. Only a few years had elapsed since there had been any considerable emigration to the state. Labor was scarce, and only obtainable at great cost. Miners, accustomed to work or not in the placer mines, as it suited them, would not undergo the discipline of railroad work. They were indifferent and independent and their labor high-priced.
“At the first mining excitement many of them would abandon the work. As an illustration, 1100 men were transported at one time to work on the eastern sections of the road, and out of 1100 only 100 remained, the balance going to the mines newly opened at Austin, in Nevada.
“Iron rails, laid in the track, 100 tons per mile (including switches, sidetracks and material), cost over $140 a ton. For two locomotive engines there was paid in cost and freight $70,000. The first ten engines purchased in a lot by the Central Pacific road cost $191,000 and the second ten upwards of $215,000.. Freight by Cape Horn to San Francisco was over $2000 on the first locomotive. Cars were manufactured in the East, taken to pieces, brought around Cape Horn or across the Isthmus, landed at San Francisco, carried by boat to Sacramento and there put together. Thousands of tons of rails were transported by steamship from New York to Aspinwall, thence across the Isthmus to Panama, and then shipped again to San Francisco at great expense.
“An average of 11,000 men were engaged for three years in this mighty work upon the mountainsa force far greater than General Taylor led across the Rio Grande to Monterey and to Buena Vista; a force nearly in numbers to that with which General Scott swept from Vera Cruz to the City of Mexico. More work was done and more money actually expended in the construction of 150 miles of the Central Pacific road across the Sierra Nevada Mountains than would have been necessary to build the road from the eastern base of those mountains to the city of Chicago.
“When the mountains were passed the desert was encountered, and there was neither fuel nor timber. Water was scarce, and, except upon the Truckee and Humboldt rivers, had to be hauled by teams for steam and for the use of the grading forces. Thousands of dollars without result were expended in well-boring ; tunnels were run into the mountains east of Wads-worth, small springs developed, and the water thus found was carefully husbanded and conveyed, in some cases more than eight miles, in pipes to the line of the road.
“There was not a tree for five hundred miles of the route that would make a board, and no satisfactory quality of building stone. With the exception of a few acres of stunted pine and juniper trees, all fuel was hauled over the Sierra. A maximum haul for ties was six hundred miles, and for rails and other materials and supplies the haul was the entire length of the Central Pacific road.
“It has been said that the promoters of the Central Pacific road were wealthy when the road was completed from Sacramento to the connection near Ogden. If this was true who would complain’? If they had failed to complete the road they would, it is true, have been losers, but the Government would have lost more. If the pioneer line had failed, the vast domain between the Missouri and the Sierra would in all probability have been still in the possession of the savage. [1888.] None of the thousands of miles of road which runs through that territory would now be in existence. Their success meant the Government’s success, and none could justly complain if the men who braved all and risked all were sharers in the results which followed,
“But what is the truth in this respect? When the junction was made and the road finally completed, these men had expended all their meansall the aids grantedand were more than three millions of dollars in debt for which they were personally liable.”
All this and the rest that Creed Haymond said before the Senate committee may be regarded as the special pleading of an eloquent lawyer on behalf of his clients. Yet what he said was the truth.
It was indeed a fateful day, that tenth of May, 1869, when the two roads came together and the greatest achievement of the nineteenth century, or of any century that preceded it, was consummated. At that hour the attention of the civilized world was concentrated on the sagebrush plains of Nevada where Califorina was joined by rail with the Atlantic seaboard.
Beside the hundreds of laborers, mechanics, engineers and builders present, a number of distinguished men was in attendance. The ceremonies were unique and such as to appeal to the most fervid powers of the imagination, On the last day Charles Crocker made the world’s record in railroad construction when the forces under his command laid ten miles and one hundred and eighty-five feet of track.
The last spike to be driven was made of California gold, and the railway tie in which the silver sledge-hammer was to drive it was of the wood of the California laurel. The Territory of Arizona sent an offering of a spike made of gold, silver and iron. A silver spike was presented by Nevada.
As the epoch-making moment arrived, Leland Stanford and Vice-President Durant of the Union Pacific each struck the golden spike with blows from the silver hammer. Telegraph wires attached to the spike repeated the blows east and west. The electric wave rang the bells in the city hall at San Francisco and fired a cannon at Fort Point. At that instant the whole city went mad with joy. And in the East the excitement was no less. Celebrations were held in Buffalo, Boston and other cities, while away on the wild plains of the West the engines were advancing and backing in an exchange of eloquent courtesies.
The “Big Four”as Stanford, Huntington, Crocker and Hopkins came to be popularly known reaped fully the rewards of their daring enterprise. They soon acquired the Western Pacific, which connected San Francisco and San Jose. They went steadily onward, building and expanding. They secured a terminus on the Oakland side of the Bay. Under the name of the “Southern Pacific Railroad,” the great system which the four merchants of Sacramento began on no other foundation than their own private means and the dream of Theodore D. Judah, has been flung north and south, to the forests of the northwest, the Gulf of Mexico, and Mexico’s west coast, far and near, till it covers the West like an octopus with countless tentacles.
The “Big Four” came to hold tremendous power in their hands. They quarreled with the public and even quarreled among themselves. Huntington out-lasted them all, standing at last as the greatest rail-road man of his time. Now the dust covers them, each and all. They died richer than their own wildest dreams. But had they died in rags their fame were none the less secure. They were the boldest dreamers of their age ; and when their dreams were done the iron horse neighed in the desert’s desolation and whinnied to his mates from cloud-piercing mountain peaks amid the wastes of immemorial snows.
Several other railroads have followed since. In 1880 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, with the romance of the old “Santa Fe Trail” behind it, succeeded in making an entrance into California and now operates its lines nearly the entire length of the state with terminals at both San Diego and Oakland across the Bay from San Francisco.
This road is popularly called the “Santa Fe,” in the West at least, and the name is indeed appropriate, for the reason that to reach the ancient city of Santa Fe in New Mexico it was originally projected.
Santa Fe was established as a Spanish settlement early in the sixteenth century, probably by stragglers from the army of Coronado. For many years the pueblo depended on the City of Mexico, fifteen hundred miles distant, for its touch with civilization. The scant trade which was carried on between the two places proved tremendously expensive. Then American trappers and wanderers found the settlement. In 1812, Kansas City (then known as West-port), began to reach out for business, and a trading expedition was sent out from that point to Santa Fe. The caravan was promptly confiscated and the traders thrown into prison as “Yankee spies.”
This incident did not, of course, deter other traders from venturing across the plains to Santa Fe. Soon the trail was blazed completely and was dusty with the caravans of the Yankees. They had much to contend with, but the trade was profitable. Despite the fact that old Dick Wooten had preempted the Raton Pass where he exacted tolls from the traders, and in the face of marauding bands of Indians, the outfits from Kansas City made good money in their dealings with the Spaniards. In 1843 the annual trade of the Santa Fe Trail amounted to not less than $450,000, employing three hundred and fifty men and the use of two hundred and thirty wagons which were drawn by mules or oxen. Seventy days were required to make the trip outward with the loads, while the practically empty wagons were able to return inside of forty days. In later days a line of stage coaches, often protected by United States troops, made the trip with passengers in two weeks.
In 1863 the railway was first projected from Kansas City and was pushed on across the old Santa Fe Trail. This line was the nucleus of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway which is today one of the most splendid systems of transportation in the world. The road was continued to Albuquerque and later gained entrance to California through an arrangement with the Southern Pacific by which the Santa Fe acquired the old Atlantic and Pacific road from Needles to Mojave. It then built from Barstow into Los Angeles and San Diego and later acquired a line through the San Joaquin Valley, paralleling the Southern Pacific to Oakland.
Among the later invasions of railways that have terminals at Oakland and San Francisco, the Western Pacific, or “Gould Line,” is especially important. This road affords a valuable outlet for California to the northwest in addition to other facilities in the same direction. The Western Pacific also proves of inestimable value in developing the marvelously rich agricultural and mineral sections of extreme northern California.
The latest of the transcontinental railways to find a western terminus at Los Angeles was the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, better known by its trademark title, the “Salt Lake Route.”
During twenty years there had been several at-tempts made to construct a direct line of railway between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Utah, following closely the original pioneer pathway between these two cities which has passed into history as “The Mormon Trail.”
Until 1901 all of these attempts at the construction of this line, over practically an air line route to the Mormon capital, had been failures. At that time the project was taken up by former United States Senator W. A. Clark of Montana who, in conjunction with several capitalist friends, planned and finally finished the line which reduced the distance between Pacific tidewater and Utah’s metropolis by over one-third. Allied with Senator Clark was his brother, J. Ross Clark, who had for several years been a resident of Los Angeles and on whom fell the carrying out of the details of construction.
By the purchase of what was then known as the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, excellent terminal properties were secured at Los Angeles as well as extensive and valuable properties at San Pedro which latter gave the new line particularly advantageous wharf and waterfront facilities at the port.
On May 1, 1905, the Clark railroad was opened as a transcontinental line with through service and fast trains to Chicago connecting at Salt Lake City with the Harriman system. The new line sprang at once into popularity.
One of the particular features of the new railroad was the scenic beauty of that section of the line which wound through the series of canons which form the Meadow Valley wash in southern Nevada. This route proved, for some time, a serious detriment, owing to the losses suffered at this point from flood waters. To meet these conditions without abandoning its scenic capital, it became necessary to raise the line high above the possible reach of floods. To accomplish this one hundred miles of the heaviest kind of construction were planned and carried out, which stand today as a bulwark of safety through that gorge in the Nevada hills where the Mormons first blazed a trail in making the original Anglo-Saxon emigration to California. The construction of this high line by the Clark road has formed one of the great engineering feats of western railroad history and the cost of a hundred miles of line through these winding canons has run up into the millions.
A branch of the Clark system connects the Salt Lake Route with the great mining zone of Nevada and is known as the Las Vegas and Tonopah Rail-road. This line has been constructed north from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Goldfield in the same state. Another branch connects the main line with the historic mining camp of Pioche, Nevada.
California’s third miracle is the reclamation of the deserts by irrigation. Here the term “desert” is used in a very broad sense, even stretching the meaning to include more than arid lands, and taking in every portion of the state where agriculture and horticulture is or can be aided by irrigation.
One hundred million acres of land is the total area of California. A great deal of this land is not irrigable owing to its situation on mountains. But it is safe to say that at least twenty million acres are irrigable and that the water supply of the state from its rivers and by means of artesian wells is ample to meet this demand when it shall have fully arrived. At the time this book is written about five million acres are under irrigation. In no other state of the Union is there an available supply of water for irrigation for so great an area of fertile land.
In the early history of California the province was composed of vast ranchos over which cattle and sheep roamed at will. Indeed it is only now that the state is entering upon its real destiny as a country of small farms occupied by a large population. Until recently it was not believed that water in great quantities for irrigation purposes could be secured. Now it is known that over forty-five million acre feet of water are available from the streams of California alone, not to speak of the vast quantities that are to be had from subterranean sources.
The $27,000,000 expended on irrigation in California up to the year 1902 had come mostly from the promoters of private enterprises. The returns from these irrigated farms to the farmer are not millions, but hundreds of millions of dollars, the amount increasing every year as though by magic. The Imperial Valley, which is an empire in itself, was aided by the Government to enable the settlers to secure water from the Colorado River. Never was a more sudden transformation from desert to blossom witnessed, as a result. Cities sprang up almost in a day. A vast expanse of green fields gladdens the eye of the traveler now where only a few years ago there was only the desolation of sand and scraggy greasewood. Thousands upon thousands of acres in the San Joaquin and other valleys where crops of wheat were grown wholly on the gamble of uncertain rains are now lush with alfalfa fields, busy with dairy farming and marvelous with the finest fruit orchards on earth.
If there be miracles this is surely one, that out of desolation there has sprung verdure and opulence at the touch of living waters. Here has the American Moses struck the rock and brought forth the springs of life. Men once said that God had made California without a flaw except for its lack of water. But now it is seen that there is no such lack.
It were idle to attempt to foretell the time when the products of California, resulting from water on the land, will cease to increase. Every day there is a new green field, a new orchard, a new vineyard, another flame of flower in a magic garden where there was no garden yesterday. Not only the valleys but the mesas and the very fastnesses of the mountains are made to bloom.
Perhaps the most striking result of irrigation in California is the creation of the citrus industry. In the production of oranges, especially, California has not even a near competitor anywhere. More than thirty thousand carloads of oranges are shipped out of the state every year, and the limit has not been reached. What the production will be in years to come no man can say.
The particular variety of orange which has made Southern California noted and which forms the bulk of the citrus product is known as the “Washington Navel,” which made its way into the United States from Brazil. Two trees were brought from the Government experimental station at Washington. They thrived wonderfully on California soil. One of these trees, known as “the original orange tree,” is still to be seen in the patio of the famous Glenwood Mission Inn at Riverside on which spot it was transplanted by Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United States, on May 7, 1903. On that memorable occasion, the late John North of Riverside, President of the Pioneer Society, addressed President Roosevelt and the multitude assembled, as follows :
“This little tree is of importance and historic value far beyond anything indicated by its size or appearance. It is the progenitor of that great industry which has done most to make Southern California famous. The two trees, of which this is one, were brought from Bahia, in Brazil, and sent to Riverside by the Agricultural Department at Washington in the year 1874. From these two trees, by the process of budding into seedling stock, all of the navel oranges of California have sprung. The fruit of this tree is so perfect, its descendants so numerous, its posterity so great, its family so enormous, that we believe it merits your unqualified approval”
California’s fourth miracle is without a parallel anywhere in either ancient or modern times. On the morning of the nineteenth of April, 1906, San Francisco, with a population of half a million souls was destroyed by earthquake and fire. For three days of horror the flames consumed the city and it lay at last a pathetic and blackened ruin beside the Golden Gate.
Then the work of fifty years and longer, that was destroyed in three days, was done over again in three yearsdone better and at greater expense. It was an achievement that must stand forever as an inspiration to the entire human race.
The shock of the earthquake would, of itself, have done no great damage had not a break occurred in the mains which carried the city’s water supply, thus rendering the fire department helpless when the conflagration broke out. In the incredibly short space of fifty-two hours the flames had destroyed twenty-eight thousand buildings, licking five hundred and fourteen city blocks clean of structures of steel and stone, brick and wood. The loss was a billion dollars.
The great heart of the world was stricken with infinite pity. Men in all lands and the wanderers upon every sea had loved San Francisco as few cities had ever been loved. Its olden haunts so dear to Bohemia, its streets glamorous with the romance of ’49, its love of life and color and its tireless hospitality were recalled and mourned as things that now had passed away forever. That a generation, at least, must pass before the city could be rebuiltif, indeed, it were ever to be rebuiltwas the settled conclusion of all thoughtful minds. But the world that knew so well the city that was, was yet to know of what god-like fiber the people of San Francisco, themselves, were made.
“The first contract for a large building was signed, sealed and delivered six days after the disaster fell,” writes Rufus Steele. “Scores of other buildings were being planned, but the contract referred to was the first to take on a notarial seal, so far as known.
At that time the fire was still burning itself out in a hundred different places. It was impossible to get out of the city or back into it without a permit signed by the Governor and military commander. There were no building materials at hand ; indeed there was still no food supply except that in the hands of the soldiery, but the men who undertook that contract were of the sort who could scramble for bricks and biscuits at the same time.
“The rebuilding dates back to those uncertain days of all manner of unfamiliar doings. The first thing that came out of chaos was the resolve to reconstruct, and action followed fast on resolution. It is a fact that on some lots in San Francisco the debris was not allowed to cool. Broken bricks were pitched from many a site while the bricks were still as warm as muffins. The property owner who was not impressed by the soldiery and set to cleaning the streets at the point of the bayonet, was likely to secure a shovel and advance upon his own premises as fast as the dying heat would permit.”
Awful as the blow proved to be, the destruction of the city brought out all that was wonderful and exceptional in Californians who have in their veins the heritage of the men and women who came around the Horn and faced the trackless wilderness of plain and mountain and desert in the “Days of Fortynine”and before those days. More beautiful than ever, stronger and greater than ever, again the City of St. Francis looks out upon the Sunset Sea from thrice her seven hillsonce more,
“Serene, indifferent of Fate, She sits beside the Golden Gate.”
The fifth of the miracles, and in some respects the greatest, is the Owens River Aqueduct, two-thirds completed as this book is written and destined to be wholly completed before the ships will have sailed through the Panama Canal.
The story of the Owens River Aqueduct is the story of a great city builded on a desert that one day awoke to the very serious fact that it must stop growing or find more water for its uses. The city did not desire to stop growing, but there was no more water any-where within sight that it could obtain. It had utilized to the utmost limit every drop of water in every stream and in every well to which it had a right or could ever have a right in all the land of Southern California. The city that faced this grave problem was the city of Los Angeles.
The story of the Owens River Aqueduct is also the story of the unlimited confidence that the people of Los Angeles placed in one man and upon that man’s word. The man is William Mulholland, and he kept the faith.
Los Angeles was founded as a Spanish pueblo in 1781 by Don Felipe de Neve, Governor of the California. Throughout the Spanish era in California and the Mexican era which followed, the pueblo had not been an important place. Even under American rule its growth was slow for many years. But at last it awoke. In the year 1905 it had attained to a population of close to 300,000 and was growing like magic. It was then that William Mulholland, who was the engineer and superintendent of the city’s water works, saw that Los Angeles must have more water or bar her gates against a further influx of population.
While Mulholland was worrying himself over the situation, there came to him a man named Fred Eaton, who had been connected with the water works of Los Angeles in former years and who had later served a term as Mayor of the city. For a period of thirteen years prior to 1905, however, Eaton had resided in the Owens River Valley in Inyo county, northward more than two hundred miles from Los Angeles. In that valley there is a river tumbling down from the eternal snows of the Sierra into an alkaline lake. The waters of the river are as pure as crystal and were being put to little or no use by anybody. Eaton told Mulholland about this stream. Then and there these two men conceived the gigantic dream of diverting the waters of the Owens River to the uses of Los Angeles.
Eaton led the engineer to the spot and Mulholland became absolutely convinced of the feasibility of the idea. They kept their movements secret. Later, when he had checked up and felt certain of his ground, Mulholland confided the secret to the Water Board of Los Angeles, a body composed of strong men appointed without regard to their political affiliations. The board supplied the engineer with funds to make surveys and to buy up water rights in the Valley of the Owens River. So quietly and successfully was everything done that when speculators became informed of the proposed project, the city was wholly in possession of all that was worth having. Then, one morning, the whole matter was announced in the columns of the Los Angeles Times, creating the greatest sensation in the city’s history.
To put the Aqueduct through was a question of twenty-three million dollars. A bond issue was promptly voted and Mulholland was told to go ahead. This man, who was not a product of the schools, was given unquestioningly a project so immense to handle. Eaton was the dreamer in whose soul was born the vision of a city saved. Mulholland was the doer.
Born in Ireland, William Mulholland went to sea when a lad and beat around the world before the mast. When still not more than twenty years old he reached Los Angeles and was employed as the “zanjero” of the pueblothe man whose duty it was to look after the water ditches. He lived in a cabin alone for several years. He spent his nights in study. He taught himself what the schools teach other men. He rose to be superintendent of the Los Angeles water works. And when he had spent thirty years among these people they placed twenty-three million dollars practically at his disposal to bring a river from the high Sierra down to their town. The faith of the people in him was without a flaw. The “zanjero” rose at one bound to take his place among the greatest engineers of the world.
Los Angeles was able to supply its three hundred thousand inhabitants with water before the Owens River Aqueduct was decided upon. Now it obtains an additional supply of two hundred and sixty million gallons daily from an unpolluted source that has a drainage area of twenty-eight hundred square miles. For many years the city will be able to supply water for the irrigation of thousands of acres of land beside developing from the Aqueduct electrical power to the extent of one hundred and twenty thousand horse-power, peak load, for manufacturing purposes. What this means to a city that already has a great harbor and a “back country” rich in every way is a question that only the imagination may attempt to answer.
The romance of today is the romance of the wild places made to blossom, of orange and lemon and peach and apple orchards, and vineyards crowding the valleys and the hillsides where once roamed the deer in the wild clover and barley. It is the romance of roaring cities that clash with traffic, of trade that sings at its looms, of ships that rock in the happy harbors.
The tide of power, ever shifting through the count-less ages of the world, now to Tyre and now to Carthage, again to Britain and again to Gaul, the steel leviathans of the oceans dimming the glory of the Phoenician with his first little ragged sailthis tide of power shifts now to the western shores of America. California faces the awakening Orient with its count-less peoples, and its undreamed of and undeveloped wealth. And, in the days to be, she shall outrival the achievements of all the past as she sits in queenly sway upon her golden throne of greatness and content.
But, in considering the present and future greatness of California, the imagination constantly reverts to the first attempts that were made at civilization and commercial progress. One who knows and loves the story of California can never behold the great irrigation ditches which wake to living bloom the vast stretches of opulent plain and valley without seeing, as in a dream, the first uncertain waterway which Junipero Serra projected in the Mission Valley of San Diego. As one speeds now upon the shining highways that link towns and cities together from end to end of the Golden State, memory stirs in the loving heart the dream of days when the Mission hospices, with their flocks and herds on the hillsides, and the Indian neophytes chanting in the harvest fields, awaited the welcome traveler on the King’s Highway. And thus Junipero Serra stands forth the first and greatest character of which California yet can boasther first missionary, her first merchant, the first of her empire builders.
That the Five Miracles will be increased by other miracles to which California shall also lay full claim as she speeds ever onward on the road of progress is not a subject that the historian of today may discuss, but it is something in which the faithful may believe. A land so rich in soil, so nearly perfect in climate, and which has practically an inexhaustible wealth of minerals will not fall asleep. With her thousand miles of sea coast California is fitted as a keystone into the western shores of both the Americas. Before her lie Cathay, the Orient, Asia and Africa, the continents and the islands of the greatest of the oceans. Behind her are all other lands and all other seas. Her soul is the soul of beauty; her heart is boundless in its love.
The mighty mountains o’er it, Below, the white seas swirled Just California, stretching down The middle of the world.