VERY early in the sixteenth century there was published in Spain a book of romance called “Las Sergas de Esplandian.” In this book the author told of “the great Island of California, where a great abundance of gold and precious stone is found.” As far as can be known it was in this book that the name “California” was first coined. And from that hour the quest of the same island beganthe goal of deep-sea wanderers and soldiers of fortune, conquistadores, proselytizers and the dreamers of dreams.
The mistaken idea that California was an island lasted long after her golden shores of glory had been seen and to some extent explored. Legend also peopled it with a race of Amazons who wore bracelets and other ornaments of gold. It was pictured as a land of untold riches, which, of course, it was and is, but the discovery of gold remained for the Americans who did not come in the footsteps of the Spaniards until more than three hundred years had passed.
To begin at the beginning of California, or rather to go back to events which led up to its beginning, it is necessary that the mind revert to the year 1521 when Cortes had reduced by conquest the New Spain of those times, which is the Mexico and the South America of today. Cortes had reduced the country to a state of servility and the Aztecs who still remained alive had been tamed to eat out of the Conqueror’s hand, although a time had now come when Cortes had somewhat lost his influence with the throne in far-away Spain. He had also lost a good deal of the gold and treasure he had wrung from poor old Montezuma and his people, and was eager to find another virgin field for his masterly exploitation in order that he might make another haul and reinstate himself with the King by adding new and perhaps greater provinces to Castile and Leon.
Well, there were great tales going the rounds in Mexico those days of a country to the north which outshone both Mexico and Peru in wealth as the sun outshines the moon. And the favorite tale was of the Seven Cities of Cibolaseven magical cities where the people made use of gold with the same abandon that people living on a lake use water. Their great flat-roofed houses were said to be fairly wainscoted with gold ; gold nuggets were lying around in the streets to throw at the cats. The Seven Cities were the talk of all Mexico, and everybody believed in their existence, including Cortes, who sent out three different expeditions, from time to time, in vain searches to find them.
It was in the height of this excitement that Alvaro Nunez Cabesa de Vaca appeared in the City of Mexico one fine summer’s day in the year 1537, footsore and weary, but able to eat a man’s-sized meal and to swallow a few flagons of pulque to wash the cob-webs and the dust of travel from his throat. With him were three companions, Alonzo del Castillo, Andres de Orantes and a negro named Estevanico. It does not appear from the ancient chronicles that the three companions had much, if anything, to say, but it does appear that Cabesa de Vaca was full of speech and nowise loth to let it out.
The tale which de Vaca brought to Mexico was well calculated to stir the blood of men whose sole object in life was the amassment of wealth. He said he had come from Florida, a distance of consider-ably more than 3000 miles, and that it had taken himself and his companions a period of nine years to make the journey. He explained his presence in Florida by the statement that he had been a member of an ill-fated expedition from Spain to those shores and that all his companions except the three who were now with him had perished at the hands of the natives. He and the three who were saved with him managed to escape only because he had persuaded the Indians that he was possessed of miraculous powers.
So greatly had this man caused himself to be reverenced that the Indians handed him along from tribe to tribe without even so much as examining his hair to see how he would look without it. In those wonderful years of his wandering he had seen many great nations and grand cities ; he had seen so many bags of silver in different places that he couldn’t begin to count them. The natives of the countries through which he passed even used emeralds for arrowheads. But what he had seen, he said, appeared to be trifling compared to what he had heard of as existing in other countries and other cities farther north, in which gold and silver and precious gems were as common as thistles in Scotland.
Mexico was stirred to its deepest depths by the narrative, and nobody even so much as took the trouble to cross-examine de Vaca. He was not asked to explain how he managed to wade the swamps and morasses and wend his way through the forests and tramp the great wastes that lie through Louisiana, Alabama and Texas; or how he got across the Mississippi River and tramped the vast waterless plains and on down another seven hundred miles to the City of Mexico. It must be remembered, anyway, that in the year 1537 the geography of America was not clear in anybody’s mind. One would suppose, however, that some doubting Thomas would have asked to be shown an emerald arrowhead, at least, being that they were so plentiful; but, no. Alvaro Nunez Cabesa de Vaca was a gentleman and therefore his word was not to be questioned by a people so imbued with chivalry as were the Spaniards. But we of this day may be excused if we sometimes wonder what became of that tremendous supply of emeralds and in what particular portion of the southern part of the present United States they were indigenous to the soil, so to speak.
It must have been a delight to de Vaca’s heart to note the reawakening of energies which his tale called forth. The message of the really great liar is always one of awakeument. His purpose is to set things going, to stir sluggish blood and to supply courage to timid spirits. All this de Vaca did and more. Cortes and other men in Mexico immediately jumped out of the dumps and started in to build ships and to outfit expeditions. The Seven Cities of Cibola, golden and studded with gems, again miraged the horizon.
Comes now Marcos de Niza, a friar, consumed with a burning desire to convert the heathen of the Seven Cities to the faith. At any rate, and be this as it may, it is certain that Fray Marcos was the first man to get into action for the purpose of taking some advantage of the magnificent opportunities which Cabesa de Vaca had recounted. Calling the negro Estevanico aside in the cool of the cloister one fateful day, he interrogated him as to the truth of the tale. Estevanico was shocked that anybody should doubt what his master had told, but Fray Marcos smoothed that over somehow or other and asked the negro to go with him on an expedition to the Seven Cities.
So, two years almost to the day after Cabesa de Vaca had appeared with his thrilling story, Marcos de Niza was on his way north with an expedition headed for Cibola and its Seven Cities, with Estevanico as guide and seyeral Indian porters to carry the baggage and supplies.
It was many moons before Fray Marcos returned, but when he did he brought with him exact information of his journey, together with the sad intelligence that his entire entourage had been left dead behind him, including Estevanico. Of all that brave company whose eyes had beheld so many wonders the friar himself was the only one destined to return. But what are a few men, more or less, in a world that was then, as now, perhaps overburdened with men’? And, anyway, since Marcos was a holy man, it was not necessary that he should furnish corroboration of his story. Everybody believed him without the slightest hesitation.
The account of his travels on this memorable journey given by Marcos de Niza was substantially as follows :
Upon setting out from Mexico he trayeled a distance of one hundred leagues and struck a desert which required four days to cross. He then met a number of natives who had never before seen a white man and who believed the friar to have come from another world. They offered him all kinds of provisions and presents and there wasn’t anything that they were not willing to do for him. He had but to say the word. In answer to his inquiries they told him that there was a valley four days’ journey to the east the inhabitants of which wore ornaments of gold on their arms and legs and in their ears and nostrils. Their pots and pans and kettles and things were also made of gold and the precious yellow metal was as common among them as adobe.
But Fray Marcos did not take the trouble to visit this valley. What he was after was the Seven Cities, and he was on his way. He had no time to bother about a mere valley, no matter what amount of gold it might contain. Besides, Estevanico, the negro guide, was opposed to side trips. He said a valley of gold was a mere bagatelle to what was ahead of them.
The expedition pushed on until it is likely that it was up beyond the present location of Fort Apache in Arizona. Many weeks had now passed, and the Easter season being at hand, Fray Marcos decided that he would rest and pray awhile, sending his followers out in three different directions to explore the country, Estevanico taking command of the principal party which went to the north, the other two taking to the east and west respectively.
Later on two of the parties returned with nothing special to report, and things looked a little blue until one morning Estevanico was heard from. His report proved that there is all the difference in the world in sending out a man of imagination to do something and sending those who have to take a thing in their hands and feel of it before they can make up their minds what it is like. Estevanico had found the Seven Cities of Cibola and, though he did not return, himself, he sent a messenger with the good news.
Fray Marcos de Niza now relates that he immediately set forth in company with the messenger, leaving the rest of the party, alas ! to die during his absence.
As he advanced he received many confirmatory evidences of the greatness of the land which he was approaching, both from the people on the way and from the things he saw. He passed through a district where unicorns were as thick as the buffalo once were in Montana. These unicorns were twice the size of ordinary oxen and each beast had a horn of great length and strength growing out of the middle of its forehead. He also was told of another kingdom farther north that was even richer than Cibola.
As the friar proceeded he was constantly joined by bands of friendly Indians who told him tales that made his eyes stick out, and he felt that he couldn’t get into the Cibola country any too soon. He kept pushing along as fast as his legs could carry him and at last he was told that just on the other side of a hill to which he came the Seven Cities awaited him. At that moment a messenger came breathlessly to meet him with the terrifying news that the King of Cibola had put Estevanico and all his companions to a cruel and bloody death and that this fierce monarch was, even then, waiting with the same war-club for Fray Marcos in order that he might kill him also. It was very discouraging, as any one might suppose, and the heart of the good friar faltered.
Although Marcos was a brave man, he felt that he owed a duty to his country. If he were to die, who would take back to Mexico the news of the discovery of Cibola, the long-dreamed-of land of the Seven Cities? Ah, no ! he must think of Spain. So he turned his face once more toward the south. But he could not resist the temptation to get at least a glimpse of Cibola. He stole stealthily upward until he had reached the summit of the hill overlooking the valley, and there before his entranced vision shone the Seven Cities in all their glory, encrusted in gold and shining with jewels. It was enough. Backward he traced his steps across the deserts to Mexico, arriving there safely and in due time with his tale of wonder.
What happened after that was a-plenty. Ships started immediately up the West Coast to land expeditions that would cut across the country and strike into the heart of Cibola from the sea. A land expediction under command of the famous Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, after whom Coronado Beach in California and the islands off the San Diego coast are named, also started out. Coronado got as far as the middle of Kansas,. but was obliged to return disappointed in his quest. The sea expedition also came back unrewarded. The Seven Cities were never seen again, save as the present well-known Indian pueblos of New Mexico.
Next comes Juan de Fuca, a Greek, and famous in his time as a pilot. And it was in his time that there was all kinds of talk in Mexico and all over the then known world of what were called “The Straits of Anion,” which constituted a waterway somewhere up in Oregon from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Probably they had been better called the Straits of Ananias, because there never were any such straits. But navigators thought there surely must be a north-ern way to get back to Europe by boat without having to double Cape Horn.
The hope of this short-cut by water back to Europe was not forsaken, and it was in the year 1592 that Juan de Fuca came to the fore with a proposition to go find this passage. His reputation as a sailor was so great that the Viceroy of Mexico fitted him out with two ships, well manned and provisioned.
Juan de Fuca sailed away blithely and in due time returned with banners flying and an air of triumph about all his movements. He told the Viceroy he had found the Straits, all right, and had sailed through them from the Pacific clear out into the Atlantic and back again. He described the country along the Straits on both sides with patient minuteness of detail, drew pictures of the islands he passed and, of course, said that the people living along the route were as rich as Midas.
Juan de Fuca was never able to collect the bill with which he presented the Viceroy for his services. He later returned to his native land of Greece broken-hearted by the shabby treatment he had received at the hands of a rich but ungrateful nation. All that was ever done for him, as far as can be learned, was to name the entrance to Puget Sound in his honor, which was small reward for a man who had set things going as he had done.
It was fifty years prior to Juan de Fuca voyage of fable, however, that our California of today was discovered. In the year 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator of great repute, sailed from Navidad in the service of Cortes under the flag of Spain, and arrived in the Bay of San Diego. This is the first record that we have of the presence of white men in that harbor, and history acknowledges that the discovery of California belongs to this man, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. From out the mass of fiction, romance, legend and fairy tale that clings around California, the certain and authenticated voyage of Cabrillo stands as the one unimpeached fact upon which we can rely.
Cabrillo never returned from the new bright Empire of the Sun which he had discovered from the prows of his daring ships. Ile died in California ; his ships returned under another commander. Neither did the voyage bring back to Cortes, who had sent it out, any profit or benefit; but the adventure has become immortal from the fact that it placed California on the map of the world. And it was from the records of the voyage which Cabrillo made and from the reckoning of the California coast line as far north as Cape Mendocino which he made that Sebastian Vizcaino, sixty years later, was able to sail over the same pathway to San Diego, the Isles of Santa Barbara, the dancing waters of Monterey and far northward beyond the portals of the Golden Gate.
It is a strange thing that the great encyclopedias of modern times make no mention of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, whose achievements as a discoverer are second only to the achievements of Columbus, and whose ability as a navigator was so marvelous. The books have taken great care to record the name of James W. Marshall, who discovered the first gold nugget in California, but the name of the man who discovered California itself is usually left out of works of reference, and the fame of one of the world’s greatest sailors is in, this way neglected.
Cabrillo voyage, which resulted in the discovery of California, thrills with the interest of adventure. To begin with, it is to be remembered that he succeeded in penetrating portions of the Pacific which had turned back the repeated daring attempts of other capable mariners. The ships in which Cabrillo sailed, the San Salvador and the Victoria, were small vessels that would now be considered unfit for service on our placid lakes. He met with many an adverse tide and was buffeted and beaten by furious storms, yet he sailed on and on with a dauntless heart until he had mapped leagues upon leagues of shore that the eyes of no white man had ever seen before.
Leaving the port of Navidad at the end of June, 1542, Cabrillo reached on August 20 a point on the west coast of Mexico called Cabo Banjo, which was the most northerly point ever reached by any of his predecessors. Putting in and out of every harbor he met upon the way and placing its location correctly in his log, as well as giving these harbors and prominent headlands names, he at length passed the Coronado Islands and entered San Diego harbor, which he called San Miguel. The name San Diego was given to the place in subsequent years, and, although it is a goodly name, it seems that the saints themselves might have well agreed that this great harbor and the great city on its shores should bear the name of Cabrillo of the ships who was the first of his race to drag an anchor there or to set foot upon its sun-swept hills.
It seems that Cabrillo’s expedition tarried a space of six days in San Diego and was loth to leave. A few days later he discovered the isles of San Clemente and Santa Catalina, planting the flag of Spain where-ever he went and claiming the country for the Spanish King. He visited the Harbor of San Pedro and sailing from thence he came upon the islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel lying off the coast of Santa Barbara. Upon these islands and the points on the mainland at which he touched the Indians came to meet and to greet him, often bringing him fish and other things to eat.
Again lifting sail, the little fleet put out to sea and sailed northward to what is now known as Point Concepcion, where it met with violent head-winds which drove it out to sea for several days. When the winds had somewhat abated Cabrillo put back into the shelter of a small port where he remained for a time, and where an Indian queen and many of her people came to his ships as guests and made merry in feast and dance with the Spanish sailors.
Although the weather continued very lowering with black skies, the expedition once more proceeded upon its voyage, rounding Point Pinos and entering the Bay of Monterey in the waters of which the ships anchored and the crews attempted to land. The violence of the sea was such, however, and continued to be so, that Cabrillo concluded to put back to the Santa Barbara coast and winter there. It is recorded that on the return voyage a severe accident from a falling mast befell the admiral, breaking his arm and otherwise so severely injuring him that, a few weeks after his arrival on the Island of San Miguel, he sickened and died, January 3, 1543. And there on that sunny island he still sleeps on, heedless of running tides and passing sail, the immortal Portuguese whose ships were first to sail on pathways of the seas to the Land of Heart’s Desire.
When Cabrillo knew that his time had come he placed his fleet in command of his chief pilot, Bartolome Ferrelo, at the same time exacting from him a solemn pledge to continue the voyage of exploration as far northward as ships could sailthe thing he himself would have done had not death cut short his brave and splendid career. And when the great admiral had been laid in a sailor’s grave on the sunny isle, they left him lonely there and the ships again sailed northward, reaching the point now known as Cape Mendocino. Then a furious storm blew up, driving Ferrelo ahead at tremendous speed until, when the calm fell and the thick fog had partly lifted, he found he was as far northward as Cape Blanco on the southern coast of what is now the State of Oregon. The storms continued and the ships, greatly disheartened, again turned southward intending to put in at the isle of San Clemente.
On the way the Victoria disappeared. Ferrelo on his own ship, the San Salvador, searched far and near but could not find the sister vessel. He then ran down to San Diego and, still failing to find the Victoria, the San Salvador started for home. Far south-ward at Cerros the two wandering and sadly buffeted vessels came together at last, the crews half-starved. On April 18 they again entered the port of Navidad, from which they had sailed almost a year before.
The next man after Cabrillo who appears to have left any footprints in California was the famous English buccaneer, Sir Francis Drake, sometimes less harshly referred to as a “privateersman.” Perhaps since the asperities of the times are so long ended, and in order to offend no one, Drake may be placed in history as a gentleman adventurer. His appearance in California was in the year 1579, thirty-seven years after the voyage of Cabrillo. On June 17 of that year his ships anchored on the coast at the place still known as Sir Francis Drake Bay, where he remained for a period of thirty-six days overhauling and replenishing his vessels and otherwise getting into shape for his return voyage to England, laden with the spoils of a very successful privateering campaign on the Spanish Main.
During his stay in California, Drake established very friendly relations with the Indians. It was to assuage the fears of the savages, who regarded the white men as gods, that Drake ordered religious services to be performed with the Indians as witnesses in order to convey to their minds the idea of the ever-lasting God who created heaven and earth and reigned above. The important contention is made that this was the first Christian service ever held on the soil of California, and the contention is one that must be regarded as correct except it be true that the members of Cabrillo’s expedition in 1542 were moved when on shore to hold divine service. It does not appear from the records that Cabrillo’s expedition carried a chaplain and for this reason historians are inclined to the belief that there was no celebration of divine service during Cabrillo’s presence in California. There is no mention of anything of the kind in Cabrillo’s log, which fact greatly strengthens the belief that no such ceremony was held. But there can be no doubt of the record in Drake’s case, so that it is quite certain that the first Christian service ever held in California was celebrated by Sir Francis Drake and his crew on the shores of the bay bearing his name, near the headlands of Point Reyes, in the year 1579.
Drake’s presence in California was purely accidental, but he took full advantage of the accident by claiming the country for his English Sovereign. His presence on the California coast so far north from the scenes of his marauding adventures on the coast of South America is accounted for by the fact that he was looking for a shorter way back to England. He was a victim of the old mistaken belief that there was a northern passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific as set forth by Juan de Fuca and other splendid romancers of earlier days. Drake failed to find the Northwest Passage and returned to the shores of his native country by the way of the Pacific.
His arrival in his native country was made a matter of great acclaim. In the first place he was regarded as a hero who had wiped out an old personal score against the Spaniards who had some years before severely castigated him, also his exploits assumed national importance for the reason that the English regarded the Spaniards as their enemies and therefore subjects upon whom depredations might be committed properly, although there was no open rupture of war. The Sovereign and the Court heaped great honors on Drake and the sight of the vast treasures which he had brought home with him as the spoils of his adventures aroused the cupidity of many other gentlemen of his class.
It was even thought that the time might come when California would be made an English possession. This was something that never came about, but it did come about that some of Drake’s countrymen imitated his exploits on the California coast with varying for-tunes. Eminent among these adventurers was Thomas Cavendish, described as having been “a gentleman of Suffolk” who occupied a high position at the English Court but was in straitened circumstances. He managed to fit out a fleet of three vessels with crews numbering one hundred twenty-three men and sailed from Plymouth in July, 1586, bound for the Spanish Main. By February he had passed the Straits of Magellan and was on the way up the west coast of South America, fighting as he went along and losing a number of his men, creating what depredation he could and seizing what-ever spoils were at hand. On his return to England he made this boast: “I navigated along the coast of Chili, Peru and New Spain, where I made great spoils. I burned and sunk nineteen sail of ships, small and great. All the towns and villages that ever I landed at, I burned and spoiled.” Cavendish made another voyage to the scenes of his former exploits, in 1591.
In 1708 Woodes Rogers, another gentleman adventurer, visited these same Pacific waters, creating considerable hayoc. In 1719 Capt. George Shelvoke headed a similar expedition, taking back with him much valuable data concerning the Indians of the New World. He did not manage to get as far north as California.
It must not be supposed that Drake and the other English privateersmen who followed him into these Pacific watersvisited the coast of North and South America for the purpose of exploration. Their purpose was, instead, solely to gather spoils. When Alexander VI, Pope of Rome in the time of Columbus, drew his famous line of demarcation north and south one hundred leagues west of the Cape de Verde and Azores Islands, giving the Portuguese all east of that line and the Spaniards all west of it, together with rights to each of exclusive navigation, Spanish ships carrying on a trade with the Philippines were compelled to cross the Pacific. With a knowledge of this fact in mind, Drake and the privateersmen who succeeded him steered to the western shores of the Americas to lie in wait on the high seas for Spanish vessels laden with treasure, returning from the Philippines, homeward bound for Spain.
No foothold whatever was gained in California by the English or any nation, other than Spain, in those early days, or in fact, until the occupation by the United States, centuries afterwards. Referring back, therefore, to the original voyage of discovery made by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, we come again to the Spaniards as the real explorers and ultimately the colonizers of California. Cabrillo’s voyage, made only fifty years after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, shows that California had its beginning at an early date in the history of the New World.
Putting aside the mere marauding expeditions of the English privateers who have been mentioned, the next important expedition to California was that of Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. The expedition was undertaken by command of Philip III, then King of Spain. Vizcaino had four ships and, serving under him as Captain General, were the necessary number of sailors and soldiers, together with some learned men, the purpose being, obviously, to thoroughly explore California and, if advisable, to set up there the authority of Spain.
Very great care was taken by this expedition to survey every spot along shore that might present possibilities for settlement, but no such place was found until San Diego was reached on November 10. It does not appear that any settlement was then made at San Diego but that the whole expedition set forth again, touching at Santa Catalina Island and the other islands of the coast, anchoring on December 15, 1602, within the waters sheltered by Point Pinos, finding the place a good harbor and giving it the name of Monterey, in honor of the Mexican Viceroy.
The expedition went ashore at Monterey, where it camped for several days, visiting the neighboring Indians and exploring the adjacent country. It was during this visit that the first Roman Catholic celebration of divine service took place on the soil of California.
The expedition then sailed north, one of the ships reaching latitude 43 degrees and finding the mouth of what appeared to be a very large river. The commander of this ship, Juan Martin de Aguilar, with-out attempting to explore the river, immediately turned about and hastened back to Mexico where he meant to claim that he had found the western en-trance to the celebrated straits of Anian, which were supposed to lead to the fabled city of Quivira and onward to the Atlantic. But, during the passage, Aguilar and many of his sailors died from scurvy. A month afterward Vizcaino and the remainder of the expedition also returned to Mexico, having accomplished nothing except to gather a great deal of valuable information which formed a basis for the future Spanish conquest of California.
In looking backward upon the early explorations, the one great fact that stands out more strikingly than any other in connection with them is that three great sailors each sailed past the very portals of the Golden Gate, yet failed to discover the existence of the greatest harbor in the world. Cabrillo never sailed as far north as San Francisco or possibly he might have secured the deathless honor of making that great discovery, but after Cabrillo’s death his successor, Bartolome Ferrelo, passed the entrance to the mighty port unknowingly and, returning south-ward, unknowingly passed it again. Sir Francis Drake passed it also in the same way and camped for a week on shore almost within stone’s throw of the splendid inland sea, but he never knew it was there. Then came Sebastian Vizcaino with no better luck, and it seems more than passing strange that these three great sailors should so unaccountably have missed plucking so great a prize and that the glory of it was destined, more than a century and a half afterward, to fall unexpectedly into the hands of a footsore and weary soldier wandering in quest of the lost port of Monterey.
It was in stirring days such as these that have been described that California began, as far as the white man and his civilization is concerned. When it began geologically, who can say? Certainly it is very old, perhaps as old as any other portion of the earth and it may be that it was the first to emerge from the Deluge. In very recent years the remains of pre-historic animals unknown to the science of zoology have been unearthed from asphaltum beds in the Malibu hills of Southern California. Still growing and vibrant with life are the great Sequoias of the north, six thousand years oldthe oldest living things on the face of the earth. Wherefore, who can say when California began?
Had Cabrillo, when he came in 1542, or the explorers and pirates who came afterward, found in California an intelligent race of human beings, some light on the question as to when California began might have been secured if only from traditions. But the natives which the white men found here were Indian savages of the lowest possible order. They knew not from whence they came and had not even a theory as to whom their immediate ancestors may have been. It is interesting as well as important to the story of California that some knowledge of the aborigines be had. Cabrillo’s account of them is very meager and not at all illuminating. The same may be said of the account given by Vizcaino. It is really the English gentlemen adventurers to whom we are indebted for the first authentic description of the Indians of California and their methods of life. Other visitors of other nationalities who were in California during the days of the Franciscan padres also give us entertaining descriptions of the Indians. From all these sources it is quite easy to get a clear picture of these primitive people.
Sir Francis Drake has described the Indians he met when he was camped under Point Reyes in 1579. He relates a visit of state made to him on one occasion when it appears that the Indians placed a feather crown on Drake’s head and hung a string of wampum about his neck, which he took to mean that they desired to make him their chief. While it is thought that the famous sailor was somewhat fanciful in his account, it is probably in the main quite true.
According to Sir Francis the Indians who came to visit him in state had with them their “hioh” or ruler who was preceded by a sort of scepter-bearer in line with the best European usages. The “hioh” was attired in an elaborate head-dress and a mantle of squirrel skins was thrown over his shoulders and hung down to his waist. The hioh’s attendants also wore head-dress, but the multitude of men who followed were entirely naked, their faces painted. The women who followed were dressed with extreme scantiness and it was noticed that the bodies of all of them were terribly bruised, their faces torn and their breasts bespattered with blood.
It seems that the country immediately around San Francisco Bay contained a large population of Indians, as was the case throughout all California. They were separated into small tribes or families, their communities being designated as “rancherias” by the Spaniards. Although separated by short distances, the Indians of one rancheria spoke a different language from that spoken by even their nearest neighbors. They had no houses or tepees and were accustomed in the severe weather of winter to cover their bodies with mud in order to keep out the cold.
Very few of the California Indians occupied a plane of civilization higher than that of beasts when the white men first found them. Some, it is true, were a little more intelligent than others. For instance, the “Channel Indians,” who lived in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, built rude shelters for themselves in the shape of huts. The Indians found on the California islands had some skill in the making of implements and in some instances really fashioned a sort of pretty jewelry from shells and the bones and claws of animals. Occasionally natives were found who fished and navigated in a small way with rude canoes that they had somehow learned to construct. Like all Indians, the world over, they used bows and arrows, and the men of some of the tribes were very skilful archers in war and in the hunt. Perhaps the best fighting men among them were found in the San Joaquin Valley. The physical appearance of these natives was not such as to fascinate an artist in quest of types of beauty. Men and women alike were usually below the average height of human beings. They were fat and ungainly, with abnormal abdomens but thin shrunken legs, the result, no doubt, of an almost nameless diet. They ate anything they could lay their hands on, including bugs, lizards, grub worms, grasshoppers, carrion and raw fish. It made no difference to them in what state of decay these things were found, they ate them. They had straight coarse black hair, low foreheads, small eyes and wide flat noses on wide flat faces.
They had no names for themselves, no traditions and no religion. They were lazy and indolent to a degree and made no attempt whatever to till the soil. In their dealings with the white men they were much given to petty thievery and treachery. On occasion they committed murder. The lives they led subjected them to many diseases. Such a thing as a marriage relation appears to have been almost wholly unknown among them and there was no such thing as morals.
As has been stated, the Indians of the islands were the intellectual superiors of those who dwelt on the mainland. Concerning them a pathetic tale is told which belongs to later years yet which furnishes a vivid picture of the manner in which they must have existed. It is the story of “The Woman of San Nicolas.”
In the days when the Mission of Santa Barbara had attained great strength and power there resided on the island of San Nicolas an Indian tribe differing in language and in customs from the Indians of the mainland. They lived as in a world by them-selves and were seldom, if ever, visited by their kinsmen from across the channel for the reason that the Indians of California were not a sea-faring people. The most they ever did in the way of seamanship was to venture short distances from shore on rafts constructed of tules.
There came a day when it was decided to transport the Indians of the islands to the Mission at Santa Barbara in order that they might be under the more constant care of the Padres, who desired, of course, to civilize and christianize them. So, a ship was sent to San Nicolas and the tribe was gathered together and put on board.
But just before the ship sailed an Indian woman ran back on the island for her baby, which in the excitement she had forgotten. As she did not return in a reasonable length of time, and a great storm having come up, the ship sailed without her, doubtless with the intention of returning later.
But the ship never returned, nor any other ship for eighteen years. At the end of those yearsa generationa boat put into the island, and the boat-men saw a strange sight. Awaiting them at the water’s edge was a creature that resembled nothing so much as a huge human bird. It was the forgotten woman of San Nicolas clad in a robe of feathers which she had woven from the wings and backs of wild birds and sea-fowl.
The experiences of this untutored Indian woman who lived so long alone on that island make the experience of Robinson Crusoe seem easily plausible. There were dogs on San Nicolas and one of these appears to have been the only companion the woman had. She had made a hut of whalebones, covered it with brush and had built a brush fence around it to shelter her little home from the winds of the sea. She had a plentiful supply of food from abalone and other fish. She was a skilful weaver and had made many baskets from grass fiber. Her method of killing seal was to hunt them at night, stealing up to them and killing them with stones. Her fish-lines were made from flesh of seals and her hooks from abalone shells. She had become very skilful in catching birds.
It was with difficulty that the boat’s crew managed to capture her, but once captured she became very friendly and as playful as a child. Her captors remained a month on the island hunting otter, and one day the woman of San Nicolas was found to have built a screen to shield the eyes of a young otter from the sun, thus proying her gentleness of heart.
When at length the woman was brought to Santa Barbara she was much terrified at the sight of men on horseback and other things connected with the ways of white men which she had never seen before or of which she had never heard. The Padres of the mission brought Indians from far and near in an effort to understand the woman’s speech, but it was all in vain. No one could grasp the meaning of a word she spoke. She was the last of her people.
Very kind were all the people of Santa Barbara to the lost woman of San Nicolas, but in six weeks she sickened and died. The captain of the boat, who had accomplished her capture and in whose house-hold she had been so tenderly cared for, presented the Padres at the mission with all her household implements, her baskets and grass bottles and her birdskin dresses. In turn the Padres sent them with an ac-count of her life to the Pope at Rome, where they were kept in the museum of the Vatican.
Here and there other instances are related, similar to this, which picture Californian Indians above the level of a brute beast, but as a whole these people were unspeakably low and degraded, appearing also hopelessly stupid to the white men who first saw them when California began.
And this was the material with which Junipero Serra and the Franciscan Fathers who came with him from Mexico in 1769 had to work. It was from this ignorant mass that the Padres brought forth skilled artisans, husbandmen, painters, craftsmen and musicians.
THE LOG OF CABRILLO
Following is a translation of Cabrillo’s log as published in Charles Frederick Holder’s book, “The Channel Islands”:
“Sunday, on the seventeenth of the said month, they set sail to pursue their voyage; and about six leagues from Cabo de la Cruz they found a good port well inclosed; and to arrive there, they passed by a small island which is near the mainland. In this port they obtained water in a little pond of rain-water; and there are groves resembling silk-cotton trees, except that it is a hard wood. They found thick and tall trees which the sea brought ashore. This port was called San Mateo (San Diego Bay). It is a good country in appearance. There are large cabins, and the herbage is like that of Spain and the land, high and rugged. They saw herds of animals like flocks of sheep, which went together by the hundred or more, which resembled in appearance and movement Peruvian sheep, and with long wool. They have small horns of a span in length and as thick as the thumb, and the tail is broad and round and of the length of a palm. It is in 33 1-3 degrees. They took possession of it. They were in this port until the following Saturday.
“Saturday, the twenty-third of the said month, they departed from the said port of San Mateo, and sailed along the coast until the following Monday, in which time they made about eighteen leagues. They saw very beautiful valleys and groves, and a country flat and rough, and they did not see Indians.
“On the Tuesday and Wednesday following, they sailed along the coast about eight leagues, and passed by some three uninhabited islands. One of them is larger than the others, and extends two entire leagues, and forms a shelter from the west winds. They are three leagues from the mainland ; they are in 34 degrees. This day they saw on land great signal smokes. It is a good land in appearance, and there are great valleys, and in the interior there are high ridges. They called them Las Islas Desiertas (the Desert Isles).
“The Thursday following they proceeded about six leagues by a coast running north-northwest and discovered a port inclosed and very good, to which they gave the name of San Miguel (San Pedro Bay). It is 34 1-3 degrees ; and after anchoring in it, they went on shore, which had people, three of whom remained and all the others fled. To these they gave some presents ; and they said by signs that in the interior had passed people like the Spaniards. They manifested much fear. This same day at night they went on shore from the ships to fish with a net; and it appears that there were here some Indians, and they began to discharge arrows and wounded three men.
“The next day in the morning they entered further within the port, which is large, with the boat, and brought away two boys, who understood nothing by signs ; and they gave them both shirts and immediately sent them away.
“And the following day in the morning there came to the ship three large Indians ; and by signs they said that there were traveling in the interior men like us, with beards, and clothed and armed like those of the ships; and they made signs that they carried cross-bows and swords, and made gestures with the right arm as if they were throwing lances, and went running in a posture as if riding on horseback, and made signs that they killed many of the native Indians, and that for this they were afraid. This people are well disposed and advanced. They go covered with the skins of animals. Being in this port there passed a very great tempest ; but on account of the port’s being good they suffered nothing. It was a violent storm from the west-southwest and southwest. This is the first storm which they have experienced. They were in this port until the following Tuesday. Here Christians were called Guacamal.
“The following Tuesday, on the third day of the month of October, they departed from this port of San Miguel; and Wednesday and Thursday and Fri-day they proceeded on their course about eighteen leagues, fifty-four miles along the coast, on which they saw many valleys and much level ground and many large smokes, and, in the interior, sierras. They were at dusk near some islands, which are about seven leagues from the mainland; and because the wind was becalmed they could not reach them this night.
“Saturday, the seventh day of the month of October, they arrived at the islands at daybreak, which they named San Salvador (San Clemente) and La Vittoria (Santa Catalina) ; and they anchored off one of them; and they went with the boat on shore to see if there were people there ; and as the boat came near, there issued a great quantity of Indians from among the bushes and grass, yelling and dancing and making signs that they should come ashore; and they saw that the women were running away ; and from the boats they made signs that they should have no fear; and immediately they assumed confidence and laid on the ground their bows and arrows ; and they launched a good canoe in the water, which held eight or ten Indians, and they came to the ships. They gave them beads and little presents, with which they were delighted, and they presently went away. The Spaniards afterwards went ashore and were very secure, they and the Indian women and all. Here an old Indian made signs to them that on the mainland men were journeying, clothed and with beards like the Spaniards. They were in this island only until noon.
“The following Sunday, on the eighth of the said month, they came near the mainland in a great bay, which they named La Bahia de los Fumos (Bahia Ona Bay; recently named Santa Monica Bay) on account of the numerous smokes which they saw upon it. Here they held intercourse with some Indians; whom they took in a canoe, who made signs that towards the north there were Spaniards like them. This bay is 35 degrees; and it is a good port; and the country is good, with many valleys and plains and trees.
“The following Monday, on the ninth day of the said month of October, they departed from La Bahia de los Fumos (Santa Monica) and proceeded this day about six leagues, and anchored in a large inlet (laguna near Point Mugu) ; and they passed on thence the following day, Tuesday, and proceeded about eight leagues on a coast northwest and south-east; and they saw on the land a village of Indians near the sea and the houses large in the manner of those of New Spain ; and they anchored in front of a very large valley on the coast. Here came to the ships many very good canoes which held in each one twelve or thirteen Indians; and they gave them notice of Christians who were journeying in the interior. The coast is from northwest to southeast. Here they gave them some presents, with which they were much pleased. They made signs that in seven days they could go where the Spaniards were traveling and Juan Rodriguez was determined to send two Spaniards to the interior. They also made signs that there was a great river (Rio Colorado). With these Indians they sent a letter at a venture to the Christians. They gave name to this village of El Pueblo de las Canoas (The Village of Canoes, near Buenaventura). (Pueblo de las Canoas has usually been identified with Santa Barbara but the distance places it below that point, while the beautiful valley described certainly does not apply to the location of Santa Barbara, which can scarcely be said to be in a valley at all. The Santa Clara Valley and mountains agree exactly with the description.) They go covered with some skins of animals; they are fishers and eat the fish raw ; they also eat agaves. This village is 35 1-3 degrees. The country within is a very beautiful valley; and they made signs that there was in that valley much maize and much food. There appear within this valley some sierras very high, and the land is very rugged. They call the Christians Taquimine. Here they took possession ; here they remained until Friday, the thirteenth day of the said month.
“Friday, the thirteenth day of the said month of October, they departed from Pueblo de las Canoas on their voyage, and proceeded this day six or seven leagues and passed two large islands (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands), which extend four leagues each one, and are four leagues from the continent. They are uninhabited, because there is no water in them, and they have good ports. The coast of the main-land rims west-northwest; the country is level, with many cabins and trees; and the following Saturday they continued on their .course, and proceeded two leagues, no more ; and they anchored opposite a valley very beautiful and very populous, the land being level, with many trees. Here came canoes with fish to barter ; they remained great friends.
“And the Sunday following, the fifteenth day of the said month, they held on their voyage along the coast, about ten leagues, and there were always many canoes, for all the coast is very populous; and many Indians were continually coming aboard the ship; and they pointed out to us the villages, and named them by their names, which are Xucu, Bis, Sopono, Alloc, Xabaagua, Xotococ, Potoltuc, Nacbuc, Quelqueme, Misinagua, Misesopano, Elquis, Coloc, Mugu, Xagua, Anacbuc, Partocac, Susuquey, Quanmu, Gua, Asimu, Auguin, Casalic, Tucumu, Incpupu. All these villages extend from the first, Pueblo de las Canoas, which is called Xucu, as far as this place; they are in a very good country, with very good plains and many trees and cabins ; they go clothed with skins ; they said that inland there were many towns, and much maize at three days’ distance ; they called the maize oet; and also that there were many cows (elk). They call the cows cae; they also gave them notice of some people with beards and clothes. They passed this day along the shore of a large island which is fifteen leagues in length ; and they said that it was very populous, and that it contained the following villages : Niquitos, Maxul, Xugua, Nitel, Macamo, Nimitotal. They named the island San Nicolas (Santa Rosa Island) ; it is from this place to Pueblo de las Canoas eighteen leagues ; the island is from the continent six leagues.
“Monday, the sixteenth day of said month, sailing along the coast, they proceeded four leagues and anchored in the evening opposite two villages ; and also this day canoes were continually coming to the ship; and they made signs that farther on there were canoes much larger.
“The Tuesday following, the seventeenth day of the said month, they proceeded three leagues with fair weather; and there were with the ship from daybreak many canoes; and the Captain continually gave them many presents ; and all this coast where they have passed is very populous; they brought them a large quantity of fresh sardines very good; they say that inland there are many villages and much food ; these did not eat any maize ; they went clothed with skins and wear their hair very long and tied up with cord very long and placed within the hair; and these strings haye many small daggers attached of flint and wood and bones. The land is very excellent in appearance.
“Wednesday, the eighteenth day of the said month, they went running along the coast until ten o’clock, and saw all the coast populous; and, because a fresh wind sprung up, canoes did not come. They came near a point which forms a cape like a galley, and they named it Cabo de Galera, and it is in a little over 36 degrees; and because there was a fresh north-west wind they stood off from the shore and discovered two islands, the one large, which has eight leagues of coast running east and west (Santa Rosa), but with only five leagues of coast running as described; the other has four leagues (San Miguel), with only two leagues, and in this small one there is a good port (Cuyler’s harbor), and they are peopled; they are ten leagues from the continent; they are called Las Islas de San Lucas. From the mainland to Cabo de Galera it runs west by northeast; and from Pueblo de las Canoas to Cabo de Galera there is a very populous province, they call it Xexu; it has many languages different from each other; they have many great wars with each other; it is from El Pueblo de las Canoas to El Cabo de Galera thirty leagues; they were in these islands until the following Wednesday because it was very stormy.
“Wednesday, the twenty-fifth of the said month, they departed from the said islands from the one which was more to the windward; it has a very good port so that from all the storms of the sea no dam-age will be suffered from those within its shelter; they called it La Posesion (San Miguel previously, with Santa Rosa, called Las Islas de San Lucas).
“Thursday, on the twenty-third day of the month, they approached on a backward course the islands of San Lucas, and one of them named La Posesion (San Miguel) ; and they ran along all the coast, point by point, from El Cabo de Pinos to them, and they found no harbor, so that of necessity they had to return to the said island, on account of having these days a very high west-northwest wind, and the swell of the sea was very great. From Cabo de Martin to Cabo de Pinos they saw no Indians, because of the coast’s being bold and without harbor and rugged ; and on the southeast side of Cabo de Martin for fifteen leagues they found the country inhabited, and many smokes, for the land is good; but from El Cabo de Martin as far as to forty degrees they saw no sign of Indians. El Cabo de San Martin is in 37½ degrees.
“While wintering in this Isla de Posesion (San Miguel), on the third day of January, 1543, departed from this present life Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Captain of the said ships, from a fall which he had on the same island at the former time when they were there, by which he broke an arm near the shoulder. He left for captain the chief pilot, who was one Bartolome Ferrelo, a native of Levant; and he charged them much at the time of his death that they should not give up the discovery, as far as possible, of all the coast. They named the island La Isla de Juan Rodriguez. The Indians call this island Liqui Muymu, and another they call Nicalque, and the other they call Limu. In this island De la Posesion there are two villages; the one is called Zaco and the other Nimollollo. On one of the other islands there are three villages ; one they call Nichochi, and another Coycoy, and the other Estocoloco. On the other island there are ten villages, which are Miquesesquelua, Poele, Pisqueno, Pualnacatup, Patiquiu, Patiquilid, Ninumu, Muoc, Pilidquay, Lilibeque.
“The Indians of these islands are very poor. They are fishermen ; they eat nothing but fish ; they sleep on the ground ; all their business and employment is to fish. In each house they say there are fifty souls. They live very swinishly. They go naked. They were in these islands from the twenty-third of November to the nineteenth of January. In all this time, which was almost two months, there were very hard wintry storms on the land and sea. The winds which prevailed most were west-southwest, and south-southwest, and west-northwest. The weather was very tempestuous.”