01-11-24

16 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY january 11-17, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Up and Down Monterey County, 1861 | Part III - Monterey Peninsula his is the Weekly’s third installment of letters William H. Brewer, a botanist and field leader of California’s first geological survey, wrote to his brother back east as the survey’s team made their way through Monterey County in 1861. The surveyors entered the county at its southern border, near what is now Lake Nacimiento, and made their way up the Salinas Valley en route to the Monterey Peninsula. The previous two installments covered those legs of the journey, and in this installment, we follow Brewer into Monterey, Pebble Beach—then called Pescadero Ranch—and into Carmel, where the surveyors scope out the ruins of the Carmel Mission, which at the time was only populated by ground squirrels and birds. It’s a fun, enlightening read, and provides a unique window into the region at the time. Brewer, who was a fine writer, delivers vivid, conversational descriptions of the state of things, and does so with a remarkably keen eye. You won’t find a better description anywhere of Monterey County at that time—his letters stand up as a historical treasure. The property Brewer and his team stayed at in Pescadero Ranch was sold to David Jacks in 1862, and in 1880, Jacks sold it to the Pacific Improvement Company, which was formed by “The Big Four”—railroad tycoons Leland Stanford, Collis Potter Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker. In the early 20th century, that land was sold to Samuel F.B. Morse, at the time the company’s general manager, and he formed what would later be named the Pebble Beach Company. In Brewer’s visit, there were no greens or fairways. Instead there was chaparral, and there were grizzlies. It was best to travel armed. -David Schmalz Monterey. May 17. We arrived here on Wednesday. On Monday, May 13, we left Guadalupe Ranch and came about 14 or 15 miles and camped in a valley that turns off from the Salinas on the road to Monterey. We had hardly camped, and were eating dinner, when the stage came along. I went to the driver to get him to carry a letter to the next post office. He had to stop there to water his horses. A familiar face appeared in the stage, not at first recognized, but a mutual recognition soon took place—it was a good friend I had known on shipboard, a friend of Averill’s, a lawyer from New York, a Mr. Tompkins, one of the finest gentlemen and most entertaining that I have met for a long while. We were much together on shipboard. He had traded eastern property for a ranch near Monterey, on the coast, and had just been to it and was returning to San Francisco. He was the first acquaintance met since Los Angeles, or I should say, since we left San Francisco. The meeting was mutually pleasant. He tendered us the hospitality of his ranch, although he could not be with us there, but gave us a letter to his majordomo (head ranchero) to give us all attention, feed, board, horses to ride, etc. We shall go there next week. He had so improved that we did not at first know him—he was in ill health last fall, but hearty enough now. We, tanned by the sun, bronzed by exposure, without coats or vests, in buckskin pants, bowie and Colt at our belts—he said at first sight we fulfilled his beau ideal of buccaneers stopping the stage. We stopped there over Tuesday and the driver gave us a Monday’s paper from San Francisco, with the latest news. That was the 14th, and we had news up to May 3, by Pony Express, that is, only 11 days from New York to camp. We have been quite lucky thus far for news, and it has been a great item in these times. I cannot write how heavily the national troubles bear upon my mind, they are in my mind by night and by day. God grant that we may yet save the United States, but I fear for the worst. Newspapers from home are always acceptable, but we get the great news by earlier means. On arriving here, by a “judicious” distribution of patronage to two leading stores, we got lots of papers for reading, a dozen or more. This sheet finishes my letter paper of thin kind—the last scrap is here—and I must use such as I can get hereafter until I get to “Frisco.” Trusting that the mails will not be “seized” by pirates, it must go by next steamer. The last steamer went out fully armed, for it was currently believed that a party was going abroad as passengers to take her for the Southern Confederacy. The Union sentiment here is overwhelming. Monterey. Sunday, May 19. It is a lovely evening—the moon shines brightly, the old pines and thick oaks by our camp cast dark shadows, and the quiet bay sparkles in the moonlight. I have been to church today— attended Protestant service for the first time since last November, nearly six months ago. There is a Methodist mission station here. I heard there was to be service at 11am in the courthouse, so was on hand. The rest of the party went to Mass. I found two or three fellows loafing on the porch, and as the door was locked, a man started to find somebody who had the key. Meanwhile, a dozen collected on the porch. After much delay the key was found, and, half an hour after time, services opened. How unlike a Roman missionary— he would have had all ready and shown himself “diligent in business” as well as “fervent in spirit.” The congregation at last numbered some 20 or 25 persons, Observations on 19th-century culture and wilderness on the Monterey Peninsula, during travels for the California Geological Survey. By William H. Brewer Edited by David Schmalz The number of whale bones on the sandy beach is astonishing— the beach is white with them.

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