By O. P. Fitzgerald
With an Introduction by Bishop George F. Pierce.
The bearded men in rude attire,
With nerves of steel and hearts of fire,
The women few but fair and sweet,
Like shadowy visions dim and fleet,
Again I see, again I hear,
As down the past I dimly peer,
And muse o'er buried joy and pain,
And tread the hills of youth again.
Encores are usually anticlimaxes. I never did like them. Yet here I am
again before the public with another book of "California Sketches." The
kind treatment given to the former volume, of which six editions have
been printed and sold; the expressed wishes of many friends who have
said, Give us another book; and my own impulse, have induced me to
venture upon a second appearance. If much of the song is in the minor
key, it had to be so: these Sketches are from real life, and "all lives
Nashville, September, 1881.
The first issue of the "California Sketches" was very popular,
deservedly so. The distinguished Author has prepared a Second Series. In
this fact the reading public will rejoice.
In these hooks we have the romance and prestige of fiction; the thrill
of incident and adventure; the wonderful phases of society in a new
country, and under the pressure of strong and peculiar excitements;
human character loose from the restraints of an old civilization—a
settled order of things; individuality unwarped by imitation—free,
varied, independent. The materials are rich, and they are embodied in a
glowing narrative. The writer himself lived amid the scenes and the
people he describes, and, as a citizen, a preacher, and an editor, was
an important factor among the forces destined to mold the elements which
were to be formulated in the politics of the State and the enterprises
of the Church. A close observer, gifted with a keen discrimination and
retentive memory, a decided relish for the ludicrous and the sportive,
and always ready to give a religions turn to thought and conversation,
he is admirably adapted to portray and recite what he saw, heard, and
These Sketches furnish good reading for anybody. For the young they are
charming, full of entertainment, and not wanting in moral instruction.
They will gratify the taste of those who love to read, and, what is more
important, beget the appetite for books among the dull and indifferent.
He who can stimulate children and young men and women to read renders a
signal service to society at large. Mental growth depends much upon
reading, and the fertilization of the original soil by the habit wisely
directed connects vitally with the outcome and harvest of the future.
Dr. Fitzgerald is doing good service in the work already done, and I
trust the patronage of the people will encourage him to give us another
and another of the same sort. At my house we all read the "California
Sketches"—old and young—and long for more.
G. F. Pierce.
Dick The Diggers The California Mad-House San Quentin
Reblooming The Emperor Norton Camilla Cain Lone Mountain Newton
California Politician Old Man Lowry Suicide In California Father Fisher
Jack White The Rabbi My Mining Speculation Mike Reese Uncle Nolan
Buffalo Jones Tod Robinson Ah Lee The Climate of California After
Storm Bishop Kavanaugh In California Sanders A Day Winter-Blossomed
Virginian In California At The End
Dick was a Californian. We made his acquaintance in Sonora about a month
before Christmas, Anno Domini 1855. This is the way it happened:
At the request of a number of families, the lady who presided in the
curious little parsonage near the church on the hill-side had started a
school for little girls. The public schools might do for the boys, but
were too mixed for their sisters—so they thought. Boys could rough it
—they were a rough set, anyway—but the girls must he raised according
to the traditions of the old times and the old homes. That was the view
taken of the matter then, and from that day to this the average
California girl has been superior to the average California boy. The boy
gets his bias from the street; the girl, from her mother at home. The
boy plunges into the life that surges around him; the girl only feels
the touch of its waves as they break upon the embankments of home. The
boy gets more of the father; the girl gets more of the mother. This may
explain their relative superiority. The school for girls was started on
condition that it should be free, the proposed teacher refusing all
compensation. That part of the arrangement was a failure, for at the end
of the first month every little girl brought a handful of money, and
laid it on the teacher's desk. It must have been a concerted matter.
That quiet, unselfish woman had suddenly become a money-maker in spite
of herself. (Use was found for the coin in the course of events.) The
school was opened with a Psalm, a prayer, and a little song in which the
sweet voices of the little Jewish, Spanish, German, Irish, and American
maidens united heartily. Dear children! they are scattered now. Some of
them have died, and some of them have met with what is worse than death.
There was one bright Spanish girl, slender, graceful as a willow, with
the fresh Castilian blood mantling her cheeks, her bright eyes beaming
with mischief and affection. She was a beautiful child, and her winning
ways made her a pet in the little school. But surrounded as the bright,
beautiful girl was, Satan had a mortgage on her from her birth, and her
fate was too dark and sad to be told in these pages. She inherited evil
condition, and perhaps evil blood, and her evil life seemed to be
inevitable. Poor child of sin, whose very beauty was thy curse, let the
curtain fall upon thy fate and name; we leave thee in the hands of the
pitying Christ, who hath said, "Where little is given little will be
required." Little was given thee in the way of opportunity, for it was a
mother's hand that bound thee with the chains of evil.
Among the children that came to that remarkable academy on the hill was
little Mary Kinneth, a thin, delicate child, with mild blue eyes, flaxen
hair, a peach complexion, and the blue veins on her temples that are so
often the sign of delicacy of organization and the presage of early
death. Mike Kinneth,—her father, was a drinking Irishman, a
good-hearted fellow when sober, but pugnacious and disposed to beat his
wife when drunk. The poor woman came over to see me one day. She had
been crying, and there was an ugly bruise on her cheek.
"Your riverence will excuse me," she said, curtseying, "but I wish you
would come over and spake a word to me husband. Mike's a kind, good
craythur except when he is dhrinking, but then he is the very Satan
"Did he give you that bruise on your face, Mrs. Kinneth?"
"Yis; he came home last night mad with the whisky, and was breaking
ivery thing in the house. I tried to stop him, and thin he bate me—O!
he never did that before! My heart is broke!"
Here the poor woman broke down and cried, hiding her face in her apron.
"Little Mary was asleep, and she waked up frightened and crying to see
her father in such a way. Seeing the child seemed to sober him a little,
and he stumbled on to the bed, and fell asleep. He was always kind to
the child, dhrunk or sober. And there is a good heart in him if he will
only stay away from the dhrink."
"Would he let me talk to him?"
"Yis; we belong to the old Church, but there is no priest here now, and
the kindness your lady has shown to little Mary has softened his heart
to ye both. And I think he feels a little sick and ashamed this mornin',
and he will listen to kind words now if iver."
I went to see Mike, and found him half-sick and in a penitent mood. He
called me "Father Fitzgerald," and treated me with the utmost politeness
and deference. I talked to him about little Mary, and his warm Irish
heart opened to me at once.
"She is a good child, your riverence, and shame on the father that would
hurt or disgrace her!"
The tears stood in Mike's eyes as he spoke the words.
"All the trouble comes from the whisky. Why not give it up?"
"By the help of God I will!" said Mike, grasping my hand with energy.
And he did. I confess that the result of my visit exceeded my hopes.
Mike kept away from the saloons, worked steadily, little Mary had no
lack of new shoes and neat frocks, and the Kinneth family were happy in
a humble way. Mike always seemed glad to see me, and greeted me warmly.
One morning about the last of November there was a knock at the door of
the little parsonage. Opening the door, there stood Mrs. Kinneth with a
turkey under her arm.
"Christmas will soon be coming, and I've brought ye a turkey for your
kindness to little Mary and your good talk to Mike. He has not touched a
dhrop since the blissed day ye spake to him. Will ye take the turkey,
and my thanks wid it?"
The turkey was politely and smilingly accepted, and Mrs. Kinneth went
away looking mightily pleased.
I extemporized a little coop for our turkey. Having but little
mechanical ingenuity, it was a difficult job, but it resulted more
satisfactorily than did my attempt to make a door for the miniature
kitchen attached to the parsonage. My object was to nail some
cross-pieces on some plain boards, hang it on hinges, and fasten it on
the inside by a leather strap attached to a nail. The model in my mind
was, as the reader sees, of the most simple and primitive pattern. I
spent all my leisure time for a week at work on that door. I spoiled the
lumber, I blistered my hands, I broke several dollars' worth of
carpenter's tools, which I had to pay, and—then I hired a man to make
that door! This was my last effort in that line of things, excepting the
turkey-coop, which was the very last. It lasted four days, at the end of
which time it just gave way all over, and caved in. Fortunately, it was
no longer needed. Our turkey would not leave us. The parsonage fare
suited him, and he staid, and throve, and made friends.
We named him Dick. He is the hero of this Sketch. Dick was intelligent,
sociable, and had a good appetite. He would eat any thing, from a crust
of bread to the pieces of candy that the schoolgirls would give him as
they passed. He became as gentle as a dog, and would answer to his name.
He had the freedom of the town, and went where he pleased, returning at
meal-times, and at night to roost on the western end of the
kitchen-roof. He would eat from our hands, looking at us with a sort of
human expression in his shiny eyes. If he were a hundred yards away, all
we had to do was to go to the door and call out, "Dick!"
"Dick!" once or twice, and here he would come, stretching his long legs,
and saying, "Oot," "oot," "oot" (is that the way to spell it?). He got
to like going about with me. He would go with me to the post-office, to
the market, and sometimes he would accompany me in a pastoral visit.
Dick was well known and popular. Even the bad boys of the town did not
throw stones at him. His ruling passion was the love of eating. He ate
between meals. He ate all that was offered to him. Dick was a pampered
turkey, and made the most of his good luck and popularity. He was never
in low spirits, and never disturbed except when a dog came about him. He
disliked dogs, and seemed to distrust them.
The days rolled by, and Dick was fat and happy. It was the day before
Christmas. We had asked two bachelors to take Christmas-dinner with us,
having room and chairs for just two more persons. (One of our four
chairs was called a stool—it had a bottom and three legs, one of which
was a little shaky, and no back.) There was a constraint upon us both
all day. I knew what was the matter, but said nothing. About four
o'clock in the afternoon Dick's mistress sat down by me, and, after a
"Do you know that tomorrow is Christmas-day?"
"Yes, I know it."
Another pause. I had nothing to say just then. "Well, if—if—if any
thing is to be done about that turkey, it is time it were done."
"Do you mean Dick?"
"Yes," with a little quiver in her voice.
"I understand you—you mean to kill him—poor Dick! the only pet we
She broke right down at this, and began to cry.
"What is the matter here?" said our kind, energetic neighbor, Mrs. T—,
who came in to pay us one of her informal visits. She was from
Philadelphia, and, though a gifted woman, with a wide range of reading
and observation of human life, was not a sentimentalist. She laughed at
the weeping mistress of the parsonage, and, going to the back-door, she
Dick, who was taking the air high up on the hillside, came at the call,
making long strides, and sounding his "Oot," "oot," "oot," which was the
formula by which he expressed all his emotions, varying only the tone.
Dick, as he stood with outstretched neck and a look of expectation in
his honest eyes, was scooped up by our neighbor, and carried off down
the hill in the most summary manner.
In about an hour Dick was brought back. He was dressed. He was also
The Digger Indian holds a low place in the scale of humanity. He is not
intelligent; he is not handsome; he is not very brave. He stands near
the foot of his class, and I fear he is not likely to go up any higher.
It is more likely that the places that know him now will soon know him
no more, for the reason that he seems readier to adopt the bad white
man's whisky and diseases than the good white man's morals and religion.
Ethnologically he has given rise to much conflicting speculation, with
which I will not trouble the gentle reader. He has been in California a
long time, and he does not know that he was ever anywhere else. His
pedigree does not trouble him; he is more concerned about getting
something to eat. It is not because he is an agriculturist that he is
called a Digger, but because he grabbles for wild roots, and has a
general fondness for dirt. I said he was not handsome, and when we
consider his rusty, dark-brown color, his heavy features, fishy black
eyes, coarse black hair, and clumsy gait, nobody will dispute the
statement. But one Digger is uglier than another, and an old squaw caps
The first Digger I ever saw was the best-looking. He had picked up a
little English, and loafed around the mining-camps picking up a meal
where he could get it. He called himself "Captain Charley," and, like a
true native American, was proud of his title. If it was self-assumed, he
was still following the precedent set by a vast host of captains,
majors, colonels, and generals, who never wore a uniform or hurt
anybody. He made his appearance at the little parsonage on the hill-side
in Sonora one day, and, thrusting his bare head into the door, he said:
"Me Cappin Charley," tapping his chest complacently as he spoke.
Returning his salutation, I waited for him to speak again.
"You got grub—coche carne?" he asked, mixing his Spanish and English.
Some food was given him, which he snatched rather eagerly, and began to
eat at once. It was, evident that Captain Charley had not breakfasted
that morning. He was a hungry Indian, and when he got through his meal
there was no reserve of rations in the unique repository of dishes and
food which has been mentioned heretofore in these Sketches. Peering
about the premises, Captain Charley made a discovery. The modest little
parsonage stood on a steep incline, the upper side resting on the red
gravelly earth, while the lower side was raised three or four feet from
the ground. The vacant space underneath had been used by our several
bachelor predecessors as a receptacle for cast-off clothing. Malone,
Lockley, and Evans, had thus disposed of their discarded apparel, and
Drury Bond and one or two other miners had also added to the treasures
that caught the eye of the inquisitive Digger. It was a museum of
sartorial curiosities—seedy and ripped broadcloth coats, vests, and
pants, flannel mining-shirts of gay colors and of different degrees of
wear and tear, linen shirts that looked like battle-flags that had been
through the war, and old shoes and boots of all sorts, from the high
rubber water-proofs used by miners to the ragged slippers that had
adorned the feet of the lonely single parsons whose names are written
"Me take um?" asked Captain Charley, pointing to the treasure he had
Leave was given, and Captain Charley lost no time in taking possession
of the coveted goods. He chuckled to himself as one article after
another was drawn forth from the pile which seemed to be almost
inexhaustible. When he had gotten all out and piled up together, it was
a rare-looking sight.
"Mucho bueno!" exclaimed Captain Charley, as he proceeded to array
himself in a pair of trousers. Then a shirt, then a vest, and then a
coat, were put on. And then another, and another, and yet another suit
was donned in the same order. He was fast becoming a "big Indian"
indeed. We looked on and smiled, sympathizing with the evident delight
of our visitor in his superabundant wardrobe. He was in full-dress, and
enjoyed it. But he made a failure at one point—his feet were too
large, or were not the right shape, for white men's boots or shoes. He
tried several pairs, but his huge flat foot would not enter them, and
finally he threw down the last one tried by him with a Spanish
exclamation not fit to be printed in these pages. That language is a
musical one, but its oaths are very harsh in sound. A battered
"stove-pipe" hat was found among the spoils turned over to Captain
Chancy. Placing it on his head jauntily, he turned to us, saying, Adios,
and went strutting down the street, the picture of gratified vanity. His
appearance on Washington Street, the main thoroughfare of the place,
thus gorgeously and abundantly arrayed, created a sensation. It was as
good as a "show" to the jolly miners, always ready to be amused. Captain
Charley was known to most of them, and they had a kindly feeling for the
good-natured "fool Injun," as one of them called him in my hearing.
The next Digger I noticed was of the gentler (but in this case not
lovelier) sex. She was an old squaw, who was in mourning. The sign of
her grief was the black adobe mud spread over her face. She sat all day
motionless and speechless, gazing up into the sky. Her grief was caused
by the death of a child, and her sorrowful look showed that she had a
mother's heart. Poor, degraded creature! What were her thoughts as she
sat there looking so pitifully up into the silent, far-off heavens? All
the livelong day she gazed thus fixedly into the sky, taking no notice
of the passersby, neither speaking, eating, nor drinking. It was a
custom of the tribe, but its peculiar significance is unknown to me.
It was a great night at an adjoining camp when the old chief died. It
was made the occasion of a fearful orgy. Dry wood and brush were
gathered into a huge pile, the body of the dead chief was placed upon
it, and the mass set on fire. As the flames blazed upward with a roar,
the Indians, several hundred in number, broke forth into wild wailings
and howlings, the shrill soprano of the women rising high above the din,
as they marched around the burning pyre. Fresh fuel was supplied from
time to time, and all night long the flames lighted up the surrounding
hills which echoed with the shouts and howls of the savages. It was a
touch of pandemonium. At dawn there was nothing left of the dead chief
but ashes. The mourners took up their line of march toward the
Stanislaus River, the squaws bearing their papooses on their backs, the
"bucks" leading the way.
The Digger believes in a future life, and in future rewards and
punishments. Good Indians and bad Indians are subjected to the same
ordeal at death. Each one is rewarded according to his deeds.
The disembodied soul comes to a wide, turbid river, whose angry waters
rush on to an unknown destination, roaring and foaming. From high banks
on either side of the stream is stretched a pole smooth and small, over
which he is required to walk. Upon the result of this post-mortem
Blondinizing his fate depends. If he was in life a very good Indian he
goes over safely, and finds on the other side a paradise, where the
skies are cloudless, the air balmy, the flowers brilliant in color and
sweet in perfume, the springs many and cool, and the deer plentiful and
fat. In this fair clime there are no bad Indians, no briers, no snakes,
no grizzly bears. Such is the paradise of good Diggers.
The Indian who was in life a mixed character, not all good or bad, but
made up of both, starts across the fateful river, gets on very well
until he reaches about half-way over, when his head becomes dizzy, and
he tumbles into the boiling flood below. He swims for his life. (Every
Indian on earth can swim, and he does not forget the art in the world of
spirits.) Buffeting the waters, he is carried swiftly down the rushing
current, and at last makes the shore, to find a country which, like his
former life, is a mixture of good and bad. Some days are fair, and
others are rainy and chilly; flowers and brambles grow together; there
are some springs of water, but they are few, and not all cool and sweet;
the deer are few, and shy, and lean, and grizzly bears roam the hills
and valleys. This is the limbo of the moderately-wicked Digger.
The very bad Indian, placing his feet upon the attenuated bridge of
doom, makes a few steps forward, stumbles, falls into the whirling
waters below, and is swept downward with fearful velocity. At last, with
desperate struggles he half swims, and is half washed ashore on the same
side from which he started, to find a dreary land where the sun never
shines, and the cold rains always pour down from the dark skies, where
the water is brackish and foul, where no flowers ever bloom, where
leagues may be traversed without seeing a deer, and grizzly bears
abound. This is the hell of very bad Indians—and a very had one it is.
The worst Indians of all, at death, are transformed into grizzly bears.
The Digger has a good appetite, and he is not particular about his
eating. He likes grasshoppers, clover, acorns, roots, and fish. The
flesh of a dead mule, horse, cow, or hog, does not come amiss to him—I
mean the flesh of such as die natural deaths. He eats what he can get,
and all he can get. In the grasshopper season he is fat and flourishing.
In the suburbs of Sonora I came one day upon a lot of squaws, who were
engaged in catching grasshoppers. Stretched along in line, armed with
thick branches of pine, they threshed the ground in front of them as
they advanced, driving the grasshoppers before them in constantly
increasing numbers, until the air was thick with the flying insects.
Their course was directed to a deep gully, or gulch, into which they
fell exhausted. It was astonishing to see with what dexterity the squaws
would gather them up and thrust them into a sort of covered basket; made
of willow-twigs or tule-grass, while the insects would be trying to
escape; but would fall back unable to rise above the sides of the gulch
in which they had been entrapped. The grasshoppers are dried, or cured,
for winter use. A white man who had tried them told me they were
pleasant eating, having a flavor very similar to that of a good shrimp.
(I was content to take his word for it.)
When Bishop Soule was in California, in 1853, he paid a visit to a
Digger campoody (or village) in the Calaveras hills. He was profoundly
interested, and expressed an ardent desire to be instrumental in the
conversion of one of these poor kin. It was yet early in the morning
when the Bishop and his party arrived, and the Diggers were not astir,
save here and there a squaw, in primitive array, who slouched lazily
toward a spring of water hard by. But soon the arrival of the visitors
was made known, and the bucks, squaws, and papooses, swarmed forth. They
cast curious looks upon the whole party, but were specially struck with
the majestic bearing of the Bishop, as were the passing crowds in
London, who stopped in the streets to gaze with admiration upon the
great American preacher. The Digger chief did not conceal his delight.
After looking upon the Bishop fixedly for some moments, he went up to
him, and tapping first his own chest and then the Bishop's, he said:
"Me big man—you big man!"
It was his opinion that two great men had met, and that the occasion was
a grand one. Moralizers to the contrary notwithstanding, greatness is
not always lacking in self-consciousness.
"I would like to go into one of their wigwams, or huts, and see how they
really live," said the Bishop.
"You had better drop that idea," said the guide, a white man who knew
more about Digger Indians than was good for his reputation and morals,
but who was a good-hearted fellow, always ready to do a friendly turn,
and with plenty of time on his hands to do it. The genius born to live
without work will make his way by his wits, whether it be in the lobby
at Washington City, or as a hanger-on at a Digger camp.
The Bishop insisted on going inside the chief's wigwam, which was a
conical structure of long tule-grass, air-tight and weather-proof, with
an aperture in front just large enough for a man's body in a crawling
attitude. Sacrificing his dignity, the Bishop went down on all-fours,
and then a degree lower, and, following the chief; crawled in. The air
was foul, the smells were strong, and the light was dim. The chief
proceeded to tender to his distinguished guest the hospitalities of the
establishment, by offering to share his breakfast with him. The bill of
fare was grasshoppers, with acorns as a side-dish. The Bishop maintained
his dignity as he squatted there in the dirt—his dignity was equal to
any test. He declined the grasshoppers tendered him by the chief,
pleading that he had already breakfasted, but watched with peculiar
sensations the movements of his host, as handful after handful of the
crisp and juicy gryllus vulgaris were crammed into his capacious mouth,
and swallowed. What he saw and smelt, and the absence of fresh air,
began to tell upon the Bishop—he became sick and pale, while a gentle
perspiration, like unto that felt in the beginning of seasickness,
beaded his noble forehead. With slow dignity, but marked emphasis, he
"Brother Bristow, I propose that we retire."
They retired, and there is no record that Bishop Soule ever expressed
the least desire to repeat his visit to the interior of a Digger
The whites had many difficulties with the Diggers in the early days. In
most cases I think the whites were chiefly to blame. It is very hard for
the strong to be just to the weak. The weakest creature, pressed hard,
will strike back. White women and children were massacred in retaliation
for outrages committed upon the ignorant Indians by white outlaws. Then
there would be a sweeping destruction of Indians by the excited whites,
who in those days made rather light of Indian shooting. The shooting of
a "buck" was about the same thing, whether it was a male Digger or a
"There is not much fight in a Digger unless he's got the dead-wood on
you, and then he'll make it rough for you. But these Injuns are of no
use, and I'd about as soon shoot one of them as a coyote" (ki-o-te).
The speaker was a very red-faced, sandy-haired man, with blood-shot blue
eyes, whom I met on his return to the Humboldt country after a visit to
"Did you ever shoot an Indian?" I asked.
"I first went up into the Eel River country in '46," he answered. "They
give us a lot of trouble in them days. They would steal cattle, and our
boys would shoot. But we've never had much difficulty with them since
the big fight we had with them in 1849. A good deal of devilment had
been goin' on all roun', and some had been killed on both sides. The
Injuns killed two women on a ranch in the valley, and then we set in
just to wipe 'em out. Their camp was in a bend of the river, near the
head of the valley, with a deep slough on the right flank. There was
about sixty of us, and Dave was our captain. He was a hard rider, a dead
shot, and not very tender-hearted. The boys sorter liked him, but kep' a
sharp eye on him, knowin' he was so quick and handy with a pistol. Our
plan was to git to their camp and fall on em at daybreak, but the sun
was risin' just as we come in sight of it. A dog barked, and Dave sung
"'Out with your pistols! pitch in, and give 'em the hot lead!'
"In we galloped at full speed, and as the Injuns come out to see what
was up, we let 'em have it. We shot forty bucks—about a dozen got away
by swimmin' the river."
"Were any of the women killed?"
"A few were knocked over. You can't be particular when you are in a
hurry; and a squaw, when her blood is up, will fight equal to a buck."
The fellow spoke with evident pride, feeling that he was detailing a
heroic affair, having no idea that he had done any thing wrong in merely
killing "bucks." I noticed that this sane man was very kind to an old
lady who took the stage for Bloomfield—helping her into the vehicle,
and looking after her baggage. When we parted, I did not care to take
the hand that had held a pistol that morning when the Digger camp was
The scattered remnants of the Digger tribes were gathered into a
reservation in Round Valley, Mendocino county, north of the Bay of San
Francisco, and were there taught a mild form of agricultural life, and
put under the care of Government agents, contractors, and soldiers, with
about the usual results. One agent, who was also a preacher, took
several hundred of them into the Christian Church. They seemed to have
mastered the leading facts of the gospel, and attained considerable
proficiency in the singing of hymns. Altogether, the result of this
effort at their conversion showed that they were human beings, and as
such could be made recipients of the truth and grace of God, who is the
Father of all the families of the earth. Their spiritual guide told me
he had to make one compromise with them—they would dance. Extremes
meet—the fashionable white Christians of our gay capitals and the
tawny Digger exhibit the same weakness for the fascinating exercise that
cost John the Baptist his head.
There is one thing a Digger cannot bear, and that is the comforts and
luxuries of civilized life. A number of my friends, who had taken Digger
children to raise, found that as they approached maturity they fell into
a decline and died, in most cases of some pulmonary affection. The only
way to save them was to let them rough it, avoiding warm bed-rooms and
too much clothing. A Digger girl belonged to my church at Santa Rosa,
and was a gentle, kind-hearted, grateful creature. She was a domestic in
the family of Colonel H—. In that pleasant Christian household she
developed into a pretty fair specimen of brunette young womanhood, but
to the last she had an aversion to wearing shoes.
The Digger seems to be doomed. Civilization kills him; and if he sticks
to his savagery, he will go down before the bullets, whisky, and vices
of his white fellow-sinners.
The California Mad-House.
On my first visit to the State Insane Asylum, at Stockton, I was struck
by the beauty of a boy of some seven or eight years, who was moving
about the grounds clad in a strait-jacket. In reply to my inquiries, the
resident physician told me his history:
"About a year ago he was on his way to California with the family to
which he belonged. He was a general pet among the passengers on the
steamer. Handsome, confiding, and overflowing with boyish spirits,
everybody had a smile and a kind word for the winning little fellow.
Even the rough sailors would pause a moment to pat his curly head as
they passed. One day a sailor, yielding to a playful impulse in passing,
caught up the boy in his arms, crying:
"'I am going to throw you into the sea!'
"The child gave one scream of terror, and went into convulsions. When
the paroxysm subsided, he opened his eyes and gazed around with a vacant
expression. His mother, who bent over him with a pale face, noticed the
look, and almost screamed:
"'Tommy, here is your mother—don't you know me?'
"The child gave no sign of recognition. He never knew his poor mother
again. He was literally frightened out of his senses. The mother's
anguish was terrible. The remorse of the sailor for his thoughtless
freak was so great that it in some degree disarmed the indignation of
the passengers and crew. The child had learned to read, and had made
rapid progress in the studies suited to his age, but all was swept away
by the cruel blow. He was unable to utter a word intelligently. Since he
has been here, there have been signs of returning mental consciousness,
and we have begun with him as with an infant. He knows and can call his
own name, and is now learning the alphabet."
"How is his health?"
"His health is pretty good, except that he has occasional convulsive
attacks that can only be controlled by the use of powerful opiates."
I was glad to learn, on a visit made two years later, that the
unfortunate boy had died.
This child was murdered by a fool. The fools are always murdering
children, though the work is not always done as effectually as in this
case. They cripple and half kill them by terror. There are many who will
read this Sketch who will carry to the grave, and into the world of
spirits, natures out of which half the sweetness, and brightness, and
beauty has been crushed by ignorance or brutality. In most cases it is
ignorance. The hand that should guide, smites; the voice that should
soothe, jars the sensitive chords that are untuned forever. He who
thoughtlessly excites terror in a child's heart is unconsciously doing
the devil's work; he that does it consciously is a devil.
"There is a lady here whom I wish you would talk to. She belongs to one
of the most respectable families in San Francisco, is cultivated,
refined, and has been the center of a large and loving circle. Her
monomania is spiritual despair. She thinks she has committed the
unpardonable sin. There she is now. I will introduce you to her. Talk
with her, and comfort her if you can."
She was a tall, well-formed woman in black, with all the marks of
refinement in her dress and bearing. She was walking the floor to and
fro with rapid steps, wringing her hands, and moaning piteously.
Indescribable anguish was in her face—it was a hopeless face. It
haunted my thoughts for many days, and it is vividly before me as I
write now. The kind physician introduced me, and left the apartment.
There is a sacredness about such an interview that inclines me to veil
"I am willing to talk with you, sir, and appreciate your motive, but I
understand my situation. I have committed the unpardonable sin, and I
know there is no hope for me."
With the earnestness excited by intense sympathy, I combated her
conclusion, and felt certain that I could make her see and feel that she
had given way to an illusion. She listened respectfully to all I had to
say, and then said again:
"I know my situation. I denied my Saviour after all his goodness to me,
and he has left me forever."
There was the frozen calmness of utter despair in look and tone. I left
her as I found her.
"I will introduce you to another woman, the opposite of the poor lady
you have just seen. She thinks she is a queen, and is perfectly
harmless. You must be careful to humor her illusion. There she is—let
me present you."
She was a woman of immense size, enormously fat, with broad red face,
and a self-satisfied smirk, dressed in some sort of flaming scarlet
stuff, profusely tinseled all over, making a gorgeously ridiculous
effect. She received me with a mixture of mock dignity and smiling
condescension, and surveying herself admiringly, she asked:
"How do you like my dress?"
It was not the first time that royalty had shown itself not above the
little weaknesses of human nature. On being told that her apparel was
indeed magnificent, she was much pleased, and drew herself up proudly,
and was a picture of ecstatic vanity. Are the real queens as happy? When
they lay aside their royal robes for their grave clothes, will not the
pageantry which was the glory of their lives seem as vain as that of
this tinseled queen of the mad-house? Where is happiness, after all? Is
it in the circumstances, the external conditions? or, is it in the mind?
Such were the thoughts passing through my mind, when a man approached
with a violin. Every eye brightened, and the queen seemed to thrill with
pleasure in every nerve.
"This is the only way we can get some of them to take any exercise. The
music rouses them, and they will dance as long as they are permitted to
The fiddler struck up a lively tune, and the queen, with marvelous
lightness of step and ogling glances, ambled up to a tall, raw-boned
Methodist preacher, who had come with me, and invited him to dance with
her. The poor parson seemed sadly embarrassed, as her manner was very
pressing, but he awkwardly and confusedly declined, amid the titters of
all present. It was a singular spectacle, that dance of the mad-women.
The most striking figure on the floor was the queen. Her great size, her
brilliant apparel, her astonishing agility, the perfect time she kept,
the bows, the smiles and blandishments, she bestowed on an imaginary
partner, were indescribably ludicrous. Now and then, in her evolutions,
she would cast a momentary reproachful glance at the ungallant clergyman
who had refused to dance with feminine royalty, and who stood looking on
with a sheepish expression of face. He was a Kentuckian, and lack of
gallantry is not a Kentucky trait.
During the session of the Annual Conference at Stockton, in 1859 or
1860, the resident physician invited me to preach to the inmates of the
Asylum on Sunday afternoon. The novelty of the service, which was
announced in the daily papers, attracted a large number of visitors,
among them the greater part of the preachers. The day was one of those
bright, clear, beautiful October days, peculiar to California, that make
you think of heaven. I stood on the steps, and the hundreds of men and
Women stood below me, with their upturned faces. Among them were old men
crushed by sorrow, and old men ruined by vice; aged women with faces
that seemed to plead for pity, women that made you shrink from their
unwomanly gaze; lion-like young men, made for heroes but caught in the
devil's trap and changed into beasts; and boys whose looks showed that
sin had already stamped them with its foul insignia, and burned into
their souls the shame which is to be one of the elements of its eternal
punishment. A less impressible man than I would have felt moved at the
sight of that throng of bruised and broken creatures. A hymn was read,
and when Burnet, Kelsay, Neal, and others of the preachers, struck up an
old tune, voice after voice joined in the melody until it swelled into a
mighty volume of sacred song. I noticed that the faces of many were wet
with tears, and there was an indescribable pathos in their voices. The
pitying God, amid the rapturous hallelujahs of the heavenly hosts, bent
to listen to the music of these broken harps. This text was announced,
My peace I give unto you; and, the sermon began.
Among those standing nearest to me was "Old Kelley," a noted patient
whose monomania was the notion that he was a millionaire, and who spent
most of his time in drawing checks on imaginary deposits for vast sums
of money. I held one of his checks for a round million, but it has never
yet been cashed. The old man pressed up close to me, seeming to feel
that the success of the service somehow depended on him. I had not more
than fairly begun my discourse, when he broke in:
"That's Daniel Webster!"
I don't mind a judicious "Amen," but this put me out a little. I resumed
my remarks, and was getting another good start, when he again broke in
The preachers standing around me smiled—I think I heard one or two of
them titter. I could not take my eyes from Kelley, who stood with open
mouth and beaming countenance, waiting for me to go on. He held me with
an evil fascination. I did go on in a louder voice, and in a sort of
desperation; but again my delighted hearer exclaimed:
"Old Kelley" spoiled that sermon, though he meant kindly. He died not
long afterward, gloating over his fancied millions to the last.
"If you have steady nerves, come with me and I will show you the worst
case we have—a woman half tigress, and half devil."
Ascending a stairway, I was led to an angle of the building assigned to
the patients whose violence required them to be kept in close
"Hark! don't you hear her? She is in one of her paroxysms now."
The sounds that issued from one of the cells were like nothing I had
ever heard before. They were a series of unearthly, fiendish shrieks,
intermingled with furious imprecations, as of a lost spirit in an
ecstasy of rage and fear.
The face that glared upon me through the iron grating was hideous,
horrible. It was that of a woman, or of what had been a woman, but was
now a wreck out of which evil passion had stamped all that was womanly
or human. I involuntarily shrunk back as I met the glare of those fiery
eyes, and caught the sound of words that made me shudder. I never
suspected myself of being a coward, but I felt glad that the iron bars
of the cell against which she dashed herself were strong. I had read of
Furies—one was now before me. The bloated, gin-inflamed face, the
fiery-red, wicked eyes, the swinish chin, the tangled coarse hair
falling around her like writhing snakes, the tiger-like clutch of her
dirty fingers, the horrible words—the picture was sickening, disgust
for the time almost, extinguishing pity.
"She was the keeper of a beer-saloon in San Francisco, and led a life of
drunkenness and licentiousness until she broke down, and she was brought
"Is there any hope of her restoration?"
"I fear not—nothing short of a miracle can, retune an instrument so
fearfully broken and jangled."
I thought of her out of whom were cast the seven devils, and of Him who
came to seek and to save the lost, and resisting the impulse that
prompted me to hurry away from the sight and hearing of this lost woman,
I tried to talk with her, but had to retire at last amid a volley of
such language as I hope never to hear from a woman's lips again.
"Listen! Did you ever hear a sweeter voice than that?"
I had heard the voice before, and thrilled under its power. It was a
female voice of wonderful richness and volume, with a touch of something
in it that moved you strangely—a sort of intensity that set your
pulses to beating faster, while it entranced you. The whole of the
spacious grounds were flooded with the melody, and the passing teamsters
on the public highway would pause and listen with wonder and delight.
The singer was a fair young girl, with dark auburn hair, large brown
eyes, that were at times dreamy and sad, and then again lit up with
excitement, as her moods changed from sad to gay.
"She will sit silent for hours gazing listlessly out of the window, and
then all at once break forth into a burst of song so sweet and thrilling
that the other patients gather near her and listen in rapt silence and
delight. Sometimes at a dead hour of the night her voice is heard, and
then it seems that she is under a special afflatus—she seems to be
inspired by the very soul of music, and her songs, wild and sad, wailing
and rollicking, by turns, but all exquisitely sweet, fill the long
night-hours with their melody."
The shock caused by the sudden death of her betrothed lover overthrew
her reason, and blighted her life. By the mercy of God, the love of
music and the gift of song survived the wreck of love and of reason.
This girl's voice, pealing forth upon the still summer evening air, is
mingled with my last recollection of Stockton and its refuge for the
doubly miserable who are doomed to death in life.
"I want you to go with me over to San Quentin next Thursday, and preach
a thanksgiving-sermon to the poor fellows in the State-prison."
On the appointed morning, I met our party at the Vallejo-street wharf,
and we were soon steaming on our way. Passing under the guns of Fort
Alcatraz, past Angel Island—why so called I know not, as in early days
it was inhabited not by angels but goats only—all of us felt the
exhilaration of the California sunshine, and the bracing November air,
as we stood upon the guards, watching the play of the lazy-looking
porpoises, that seemed to roll along, keeping up with the swift motion
of the boat in such a leisurely way. The porpoise is a deceiver. As he
rolls up to the surface of the water, in his lumbering way, he looks as
if he were a huge lump of unwieldy awkwardness, floating at random and
almost helpless; but when you come to know him better, you find that he
is a marvel of muscular power and swiftness. I have seen a "school" of
porpoises in the Pacific swimming for hours alongside one of our
fleetest ocean-steamers, darting a few yards ahead now and then, as if
by mere volition, cutting their way through the water with the
directness of an arrow. The porpoise is playful at times, and his
favorite game is a sort of leap-frog. A score or more of the creatures,
seemingly full of fun and excitement, will chase one another at full
speed, throwing themselves from the water and turning somersaults in the
air, the water boiling with the agitation, and their huge bodies
flashing in the light. You might almost imagine that they had found
something in the sea that had made them drunk, or that they had inhaled
some sort of piscatorial anaesthetic. But here we are at our
destination. The bell rings, we round to, and land.
At San Quentin nature is at her best, and man at his worst. Against the
rocky shore the waters of the bay break in gentle splashings when the
winds are quiet. When the gales from the southwest sweep through the
Golden Gate, and set the white caps to dancing to their wild music, the
waves rise high, and dash upon the dripping stones with a hoarse roar,
as of anger. Beginning a few hundreds of yards from the water's edge,
the hills slope up, and up, and up, until they touch the base of
Tamalpais, on whose dark and rugged summit, four thousand feet above the
sea that laves his feet on the west, the rays of the morning sun fall
with transfiguring, glory while yet the valley below lies in shadow. On
this lofty pinnacle linger the last rays of the setting sun, as it drops
into the bosom of the Pacific. In stormy weather, the mist and clouds
roll in from the ocean, and gather in dark masses around his awful head,
as if the sea-gods had risen from their homes in the deep, and were
holding a council of war amid the battle of the elements; at other
times, after calm, bright days, the thin, soft white clouds that hang
about his crest deepen into crimson and gold, and the mountaintop looks
as if the angels of God had come down to encamp, and pitched here their
pavilions of glory. This is nature at San Quentin, and this is Tamalpais
as I have looked upon it many a morning and many an evening from my
window above the sea at North Beach.
The gate is opened for us, and we enter the prison-walls. It is a
holiday, and the day is fair and balmy; but the chill and sadness cannot
be shaken off, as we look around us. The sunshine seems almost to be a
mockery in this place where fellow-men are caged and guarded like wild
beasts, and skulk about with shaved heads, clad in the striped uniform
of infamy. Merciful God! is this what thy creature man was made for? How
long, how long?
Seated upon the platform with the prison officials and visitors, I
watched my strange auditors as they came in. There were one thousand of
them. Their faces were a curious study. Most of them were bad faces.
Beast and devil were printed on them. Thick necks, heavy back-heads, and
low, square foreheads, were the prevalent types. The least repulsive
were those who looked as if they were all animal, creatures of instinct
and appetite, good-natured and stupid; the most repulsive were those
whose eyes had a gleam of mingled sensuality and ferocity. But some of
these faces that met my gaze were startling—they seemed so out of
place. One old man with gray hair, pale, sad face, and clear blue eyes,
might have passed, in other garb and in other company, for an honored
member of the Society of Friends. He had killed a man in a mountain
county. If he was indeed a murderer at heart, nature had given him the
wrong imprint. My attention was struck by a smooth-faced, handsome young
fellow, scarcely of age, who looked as little like a convict as anybody
on that platform. He was in for burglary, and had a very bad record.
Some came in half laughing, as if they thought the whole affair more a
joke than anything else. The Mexicans, of whom there was quite a number,
were sullen and scowling. There is gloom in the Spanish blood. The
irrepressible good nature of several ruddy-faced Irishmen broke out in
sly merriment. As the service began, the discipline of the prison showed
itself in the quiet that instantly prevailed; but only a few, who joined
in the singing, seemed to feel the slightest interest in it. Their eyes
were wandering, and their faces were vacant. They had the look of men
who had come to be talked at and patronized, and who were used to it.
The prayer that was offered was not calculated to banish such a feeling
—it was dry and cold. I stood up to begin the sermon. Never before had
I realized so folly that God's message was to lost men, and for lost
men. A mighty tide of pity rushed in upon my soul as I looked down into
the faces of my hearers. My eyes filled, and my heart melted within me.
I could not speak until after a pause, and only then by great effort.
There was a deep silence, and every face was lifted to mine as I
announced the text. God had touched my heart and theirs at the start. I
read the words slowly: God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain
salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Then I said:
"My fellow-men, I come to you today with a message from my Father, and
your Father in heaven. It is a message of hope. God help me to deliver
it as I ought! God help you to hear it as you ought! I will not insult
you by saying that because you have an extra dinner, a few hours respite
from your toil, and a little fresh air and sunshine, you ought to have a
joyful thanksgiving today. If I should talk thus, you would be ready to
ask me how I would like to change places with you. You would despise me,
and I would despise myself, for indulging in such cant. Your lot is a
hard one. The battle of life has gone against you—whether by your own
fault or by hard fortune, it matters not, so far as the fact is
concerned; this thanksgiving-day finds you locked in here, with broken
lives, and wearing the badge of crime. God alone knows the secrets of
each throbbing heart before me, and how it is that you have come to
this. Fellow-men, children of my Father in heaven, putting myself for
the moment in your place, the bitterness of your lot is real and
terrible to me. For some of you there is no happier prospect for this
life than to toil within these walls by day, and sleep in yonder cells
by night, through the weary, slow-dragging years, and then to die, with
only the hands of hired attendants to wipe the death-sweat from your
brows; and then to be put in a convict's coffin, and taken up on the
hill yonder, and laid in a lonely grave. My God! this is terrible!"
An unexpected dramatic effect followed these words. The heads of many of
the convicts fell forward on their breasts, as if struck with sudden
paralysis. They were the men who were in for life, and the horror of it
overcame them. The silence was broken by sobbings all over the room. The
officers and visitors on the platform were weeping. The angel of pity
hovered over, the place, and the glow of human sympathy had melted those
stony hearts. A thousand strong men were thrilled with the touch of
sympathy, and once more the sacred fountain of tears was unsealed. These
convicts were men, after all, and deep down under the rubbish of their
natures there was still burning the spark of a humanity not yet extinct.
It was wonderful to see the softened expression of their faces. Yes,
they were men, after all, responding to the voice of sympathy, which had
been but too strange to many of them all their evil lives. Many of them
had inherited hard conditions; they were literally conceived in sin and
born in iniquity; they grew up in the midst of vice. For them pure and
holy lives were a moral impossibility. Evil with them was hereditary,
organic, and the result of association; it poisoned their blood at the
start, and stamped itself on their features from their cradles. Human
law, in dealing with these victims of evil circumstance, can make little
discrimination. Society must protect itself, treating a criminal as a
criminal. But what will God do with them hereafter? Be sure he will do
right. Where little is given, little will be required. It shall be
better for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for Chorazin and
Bethsaida. There is no ruin without remedy, except that which a man
makes for himself by abusing mercy, and throwing away proffered
opportunity. Thoughts like these rushed through the preacher's mind, as
he stood there looking in the tear-bedewed faces of these men of crime.
A fresh tide of pity rose in his heart, that he felt came from the heart
of the all-pitying One.
"I do not try to disguise from you, or from myself the fact that for
this life your outlook is not bright. But I come to you this day with a
message of hope from God our Father. He hath not appointed you to wrath.
He loves all his children. He sent his Son to die for them. Jesus trod
the paths of pain, and drained the cup of sorrow. He died as a
malefactor, for malefactors. He died for me. He died for each one of
you. If I knew the most broken, the most desolate-hearted, despairing
man before me, who feels that he is scorned of men and forsaken of God,
I would go to where he sits and put my hand on his head, and tell him
that God hath not appointed him to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our
Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. I would tell him that his Father in
heaven loves him still, loves him more than the mother that bore him. I
would tell him that all the wrongs and follies of his past life may from
this hour be turned into so much capital of a warning experience, and
that a million of years from today he may be a child of the Heavenly
Father, and an heir of glory, having the freedom of the heavens and the
blessedness of everlasting life. O brothers, God does love you! Nothing
can ruin you but your own despair. No man has any right to despair who
has eternity before him. Eternity? Long, long eternity! Blessed, blessed
eternity! That is yours—all of it. It may be a happy eternity for each
one of you. From this moment you may begin a better life. There is hope
for you, and mercy, and love, and heaven. This is the message I bring
you warm from a brother's heart, and warm from the heart of Jesus, whose
life-blood was poured out for you and me. His loving hand opened the
gate of mercy and hope to every man. The proof is that he died for us. O
Son of God, take us to thy pitying arms, and lift us up into the light
that never, never grows dim—into the love that fills heaven and
As the speaker sunk into his seat, there was a silence that was almost
painful for a few moments. Then the pent-up emotion of the men broke
forth in sobs that shook their strong frames. Dr. Lucky, the prisoner's
friend, made a brief, tearful prayer, and then the benediction was said,
and the service was at an end. The men sat still in their seats. As we
filed out, of the chapel, many hands were extended to grasp mine,
holding it with a clinging pressure. I passed out bearing with me the
impression of an hour I can never forget; and the images of those
thousand faces are still painted in memory.
"So you were corralled last night?"
This was the remark of a friend whom I met in the streets of Stockton
the morning after my adventure. I knew what the expression meant as
applied to cattle, but I had never heard it before in reference to a
human being. Yes, I had been corralled; and this is how it happened:
It was in the old days, before there were any railroads in California.
With a wiry, clean-limbed pinto horse, I undertook to drive from
Sacramento City to Stockton one day. It was in the winter season, and
the clouds were sweeping up from the south-west, the snow-crested
Sierras hidden from sight by dense masses of vapor boiling at their
bases and massed against their sides. The roads were heavy from the
effects of previous rains, and the plucky little pinto sweated as he
pulled through the long stretches of black adobe mud. A cold wind struck
me in the face, and the ride was a dreary one from the start. But I
pushed on confidently, having faith in the spotted mustang, despite the
evident fact that he had lost no little of the spirit with which he
dashed out of town at starting. When a genuine mustang flags, it is a
serious business. The hardiness and endurance of this breed of horses
almost exceed belief.
Toward night a cold rain began to fall, driving in my face with the
headwind. Still many a long mile lay between me and Stockton. Dark came
on, and it was dark indeed. The outline of the horse I was driving could
not be seen, and the flat country through which I was driving was a
great black sea of night. I trusted to the instinct of the horse, and
moved on. The bells of a wagon-team meeting me fell upon my ear. I
"What's the matter?" answered a heavy voice through the darkness.
"Am I in the road to Stockton, and can I get there tonight?"
"You are in the road, but you will never find your way such a night as
this. It is ten good miles from here; you have several bridges to cross
—you had better stop at the first house you come to, about half a mile
ahead. I am going to strike camp myself."
I thanked my adviser, and went on, hearing the sound of the tinkling
bells, but unable to see any thing. In a little while I saw a light
ahead, and was glad to see it. Driving up in front and halting, I
repeated the traveler's "halloo" several times, and at last got a
response in a hoarse, gruff voice.
"I am belated on my way to Stockton, and am cold, and tired, and hungry.
Can I get shelter with you for the night?"
"You may try it, if you want to," answered the unmusical voice abruptly.
In a few moments a man appeared to take the horse, and taking my satchel
in hand, I went into the house. The first thing that struck my attention
on entering the room was a big log-fire, which I was glad to see, for I
was wet and very cold. Taking a chair in the corner, I looked around.
The scene that presented itself was not reassuring. The main feature of
the room was a bar, with an ample supply of barrels, demijohns, bottles,
tumblers, and all the et ceteras. Behind the counter stood the
proprietor, a burly fellow with a buffalo-neck, fair skin and blue eyes,
with a frightful scar across his left under-jaw and neck; his
shirt-collar was open, exposing, a huge chest, and his sleeves were
rolled up above the elbows. I noticed also that one of his hands was
minus all the fingers but the half of one—the result probably of some
desperate reencounter. I did not like the appearance of my landlord, and
he eyed me in a way that led me to fear that he liked my looks as little
as I did his; but the claims of other guests soon diverted his attention
from me, and I was left to get warm and make further observations. At a
table in the middle of the room several hard-looking fellows were
betting at cards, amid terrible profanity and frequent drinks of whisky.
They cast inquiring and not very friendly glances at me from time to
time, once or twice exchanging whispers and giggling. As their play went
on, and tumbler after tumbler of whisky was drunk by them, they became
more boisterous. Threats were made of using pistols and knives, with
which they all seemed to be heavily armed; and one sottish-looking brute
actually drew forth a pistol, but was disarmed in no gentle way by the
big-limbed landlord. The profanity and other foul language were
horrible. Many of my readers have no conception of the brutishness of
men when whisky and Satan have full possession of them. In the midst of
a volley of oaths and terrible imprecations by one of the most violent
of the set, there was a faint gleam of lingering decency exhibited by
one of his companions:
"Blast it, Dick, don't cuss so loud—that fellow in the corner there is
There was some potency in "the cloth" even there. How he knew my calling
I do not know. The remark directed particular attention to me and I
became unpleasantly conspicuous. Scowling glances were bent upon me by
two or three of the ruffians, and one fellow made a profane remark not
at all complimentary to my vocation—where at there was some coarse
laughter. In the meantime I was conscious of being very hungry. My
hunger, like that of a boy, is a very positive, thing at, least it was
very much so in those days. Glancing toward the maimed and scarred giant
who stood behind the bar, I found he was gazing at me with a fixed
"Can I get something to eat? I am very hungry, sir," I said in my
"Yes, we've, plenty of 'cold' goose, and maybe Pete can pick up
something else for you if he, is sober and in a good humor. Come this
I followed him through a narrow passage-way, which led to a long,
low-ceiled room, along nearly the whole length of which was stretched a
table, around which were placed rough stools for the rough men about
Pete, the cook; came in and the head of the house turned me over to him,
and returned to his duties behind the bar. From the noise of the uproar
going on, his presence was doubtless needed. Pete set before me a large
roasted wild-goose, not badly cooked, with bread, milk, and the
inevitable cucumber pickles. The knives and forks were not very bright
—in fact, they had been subjected to influences promotive of oxidation;
and the dishes were not free from signs of former use. Nothing could be
said against the tablecloth—there was no tablecloth there. But the
goose was fat, brown, and tender; and a hungry man defers his criticisms
until he is done eating. That is what I did. Pete evidently regarded me
with curiosity. He was about fifty years of age, and had the look of a
man who had come down in the world. His face bore the marks of the
effects of strong drink, but it was not a bad face; it was more weak
"Are you a preacher?" he asked.
"I thought so," he added, after getting my answer to his question. "Of
what persuasion are you?"! he further inquired.
When I told him I was a Methodist, he said quickly and with some warmth:
"I was sure of it. This is a rough place for a man of your calling.
Would you like some eggs? we've plenty on hand. And may be you would
like a cup of coffee," he added, with, increasing hospitality.
I took the eggs, but declined the coffee, not liking the looks of the
cups and saucers, and not caring to wait.
"I used to be a Methodist myself," said Pete, with a sort of choking in
his throat, "but bad luck and bad company have brought me down to this.
I have a family in Iowa, a wife and four children. I guess they think
I'm dead, and sometimes I wish I was."
Pete stood by my chair, actually crying. The sight of a Methodist
preacher brought up old times. He told me his story. He had come to
California hoping to make a fortune in a hurry, but had only ill luck
from the start. His prospectings were always failures, his partners
cheated him, his health broke down, his courage gave way, and—he
faltered a little, and then spoke it out—he took to whisky, and then
the worst came.
"I have come down to this—cooking for a lot of roughs at five dollars
a week, and all the whisky I want. It would have been better for me if I
had died when I was in the hospital at San Andreas."
Poor Pete! he had indeed touched bottom. But he had a heart and a
conscience still, and my own heart warmed toward my poor backslidden
"You are not a lost man yet. You are worth a thousand dead men. You can
get out of this, and you must. You must act the part of a brave man, and
not be any longer a coward. Bad luck and lack of success are a disgrace
to no man. There is where you went wrong. It was cowardly to give up and
not write to your family, and then take to whisky."
"I know all that, Elder. There is no better little woman on earth than
my wife"—Pete choked up again.
"You write to her this very night, and go back to her and your children
just as soon as you can get the money to pay your way. Act the man, and
all will come right yet. I have writing materials here in my satchel
—pen, ink, paper, envelopes, stamps, every thing; I am an editor, and go
fixed up for writing."
The letter was written, I acting as Pete's amanuensis, he pleading that
he was a poor scribe at best and that his nerves were too unsteady for
such work. Taking my advice, he made a clean breast of the whole matter,
throwing himself on the forgiveness of the wife whom he had so
shamefully neglected, and promising by the help of God to make all the
amends possible in time to come. The letter was duly directed, sealed,
and stamped; and Pete looked as if a great weight had been lifted from
his soul, He had made me a fire in the little stove, saying it was
better than the barroom; in which opinion I was fully agreed.
"There is no place for you to sleep tonight without corralling you with
the fellows; there is but one bedroom, and there are fourteen bunks in
I shuddered at the prospect-fourteen bunks in one small room, and those
whisky-sodden, loud-cursing card-players to be my roommates for the
"I prefer sitting here by the stove all night," I said; "I can employ
most of the time writing, if I can have a light."
Pete thought a moment, looked grave, and then said:
"That won't do, Elder; those fellows would take offense, and make
trouble. Several of them are out now goose-hunting; they will be coming
in at all hours from now till daybreak, and it won't do for them to find
you sitting up here alone. The best, thing for you to do is to go in and
take one of those bunks; you, needn't takeoff any thing but your coat
and boots, and"—here he lowered his voice, looking about him as he
spoke—"if you have any money about, keep it next to your body."
The last words were spoken with peculiar emphasis.
Taking the advice given me, I took up my baggage and followed Pete to
the room where I was to spend the night. Ugh! it was dreadful. The
single window in the room was nailed down, and the air was close and
foul. The bunks were damp and dirty beyond belief, grimed with foulness,
and reeking with ill odors. This was being corralled.
I turned to Pete, saying:
"I can't stand this—I will go back to the kitchen."
"You had better follow my advice, Elder," said he very gravely. "I know
things about here better than you do. It's rough, but you had better
And I did; being corralled, I had to stand it. That fearful night! The
drunken fellows staggered in one by one, cursing and hiccoughing, until
every bunk was occupied. They muttered oaths in their sleep, and their
stertorous breathings made a concert fit for Tartarus. The sickening
odors of whisky, onions, and tobacco filled the room. I lay there and
longed for daylight, which seemed as if it never would come. I thought
of the descriptions I had heard and read of hell, and just then the most
vivid conception of its horror was to be shut up forever with the
aggregated impurity of the universe. By contrast I tried to think of
that city of God into which, it is said, "there shall in no wise enter
into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination,
or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
But thoughts of heaven did not suit the situation; it was more
suggestive of the other place. The horror of being shut up eternally in
hell as the companion of lost spirits was intensified by the experience
and reflections of that night when I was corralled.
Day came at last. I rose with the first streaks of the dawn, and not
having much toilet to make, I was soon out-of-doors. Never did I breathe
the pure, fresh air with such profound pleasure and gratitude. I drew
deep inspirations, and, opening my coat and vest, let the breeze that
swept up the valley blow upon me unrestricted. How bright, was the face
of nature, and how sweet her, breath after the sights, sounds, and
smells of the night!
I did not wait for breakfast, but had my pinto and buggy brought out,
and, bidding Pete good-by, hurried on to Stockton.
"So you were corralled last night?" was the remark of a friend, quoted
at the beginning of this true sketch. "What was the name of the
proprietor of the house?"
I gave him the name.
"Dave W—!" he exclaimed with fresh astonishment. "That is the roughest
place in the San Joaquin Valley. Several men have been killed and robbed
there during the last two or three years."
I hope Pete got back safe to his wife and children in Iowa; and I hope I
may never be corralled again.
It is now more than twenty years since the morning a slender youth of
handsome face and modest mien came into my office on the corner of
Montgomery and Clay streets, San Francisco. He was the son of a preacher
well known in Missouri and California, a man of rare good sense, caustic
wit, and many eccentricities. The young man became an attache of my
newspaper-office and an inmate of my home. He was as fair as a girl, and
refined in his taste and manners. A genial taciturnity, if the
expression may be allowed, marked his bearing in the social circle.
Everybody had a kind feeling and a good word for the quiet, brightfaced
youth. In the discharge of his duties in the office he was punctual and
trustworthy, showing not only industry but unusual aptitude for business
It was with special pleasure that I learned that he was turning his
thoughts to the subject of religion. During the services in the little
Pine-street church he would sit with thoughtful face, and not seldom
with moistened eyes. He read the Bible and prayed in secret. I was not
surprised when he came to me one day and opened his heart. The great
crisis in his life had come. God was speaking to his soul, and he was
listening to his voice. The uplifted cross drew him, and he yielded to
the gentle attraction. We prayed together, and henceforth there was a
new and sacred bond that bound us to each other. I felt that I was a
witness to the most solemn transaction that can take place on earth—the
wedding of a soul to a heavenly faith. Soon thereafter he went to
Virginia, to attend college. There he united with the Church. His
letters to me were full of gratitude and joy. It was the blossoming of
his spiritual life, and the air was full of its fragrance, and the earth
was flooded with glory. A pedestrian tour among the Virginia hills
brought him into communion with Nature at a time when it was rapture to
drink in its beauty and its grandeur. The light kindled within his soul
by the touch of the Holy Spirit transfigured the scenery upon which he
gazed, and the glory of God shone round about the young student in the
flush and blessedness of his first love. O blessed days! O days of
brightness, and sweetness, and rapture! The soul is then in its
blossoming-time, and all high enthusiasms, all bright dreams, all
thrilling joys, are realities which inwork themselves into the
consciousness, to be forgotten never; to remain with us as prophecies of
the eternal springtime that awaits the true-hearted on the hills of God
beyond the grave, or as accusing voices charging us with the murder of
our dead ideals! Amid the dust and din of the battle in after-years we
turn to this radiant spot in our journey with smiles or tears; according
as we have been true or false to the impulses, aspirations, and purposes
inspired within us by that first, and brightest, and nearest
manifestation of God. Such a season is a natural to every life as the
April buds and June roses are to forest and garden. The springtime of
some lives is deferred by unpropitious circumstance to the time when it
should be glowing with autumnal glory, and rich in the fruitage of the
closing year. The life that does not blossom into religion in youth may
have light at noon, and peace at sunset, but misses the morning glory on
the hills, and the dew that sparkles on grass and flower. The call of
God to the young to seek him early is the expression of a true
psychology no less than of a love infinite in its depth and tenderness.
His college-course finished, my young friend returned to California, and
in one of its beautiful valley-towns he entered a law-office, with a
view to prepare himself for the legal profession. Here he was thrown
into daily association with a little knot of skeptical lawyers. As is
often the case, their moral obliquities ran parallel with their errors
in opinion. They swore, gambled genteelly, and drank. It is not strange
that in this icy atmosphere the growth of any young friend in the
Christian life was stunted. Such influences are like the dreaded north
wind that at times sweeps over the valleys of California in the spring
and early summer, blighting and withering the vegetation it does not
kill. The brightness of his hope was dimmed, and his soul knew the
torture of doubt—a torture that is always keenest to him who allows
himself to sink in the region of fogs after he has once stood upon the
sunlit summit of faith. Just at this crisis, a thing little in itself
deepened the shadow that was falling upon his life. A personal
misunderstanding with the pastor kept him from attending church. Thus he
lost the most effectual defense against the assaults that were being
made upon his faith and hope, in being separated from the fellowship and
cut off from the activities of the Church of God. Have you not noted
these malign coincidences in life? There are times when it seems that
the tide of events sets against us when, like the princely sufferer of
the land of Uz, every messenger that crosses the threshold brings fresh
tidings of ill, and our whole destiny seems to be rushing to a predoomed
perdition. The worldly call it bad luck; the superstitious call it fate;
the believer in God calls it by another name. Always of a delicate
constitution, my friend now exhibited symptoms of serious pulmonary
disease. It was at that time the fashion in California to prescribe
whisky as a specific for that class of ailments. It is possible that
there is virtue in the prescription, but I am sure of one thing, namely,
that if consumption diminished, drunkenness increased; if fewer died of
phthisis, more died of delirium tremens. The physicians of California
have sent a host of victims raving and gibbering in drunken frenzy or
idiocy down to death and hell! I have reason to believe that my friend
inherited a constitutional weakness at this point. As flame to tinder,
was the medicinal whisky to him. It grew upon him rapidly, and soon this
cloud overshadowed all his life. He struggled hard to break the
serpent-folds that were tightening around him; but the fire that had
been kindled seemed to be quenchless. An uncontrolled evil passion is
hellfire. He writhed in its burnings in an agony that could be
understood only by such as knew how almost morbidly sensitive was his
nature, and how vital was his conscience. I became a pastor in the town
where he lived, and renewed my association with him as far as I could.
But there was a constraint unlike the old times. When under the
influence of liquor, he would pass me in the streets with his head down,
a deeper flush mantling his cheek as he hurried by with unsteady step.
Sometimes I met him staggering homeward through a back street, hiding
from the gaze of men. He was at first shy of me when sober, but
gradually the constraint wore off, and he seemed disposed to draw nearer
to me, as in the old days. His struggle went on, days of drunkenness
following weeks of soberness, his haggard face after each debauch
wearing a look of unspeakable weariness and wretchedness. One of the
lawyers who had led him into the mazes of doubt—a man of large and
versatile gifts, whose lips were touched with a noble and persuasive
eloquence—sunk deeper and deeper into the black depths of drunkenness,
until the tragedy ended in a horror that lessened the gains of the
saloons for at least a few days. He was found dead in his bed one
morning in a pool of blood, his throat cut by his own guilty hand.
My friend had married a lovely girl, and the cottage in which they lived
was one of the coziest, and the garden in front was a little paradise of
neatness and beauty. Ah! I must drop a veil over a part of this true
tale. All along I have written under half protest, the image of a sad,
wistful face rising at times between my eyes and the sheet on which
these words are traced. They loved each other tenderly and deeply, and
both were conscious of the presence of the devil that was turning their
heaven into hell.
"Save him, Doctor, save him! He is the noblest of men, and the
tenderest, truest husband. He loves you, and he will let you talk to
him. Save him, O save him! Help me to pray for him! My heart will
Poor child! her loving heart was indeed breaking; and her fresh young
life was crushed under a weight of grief and shame too heavy to be
What he said to me in the interviews held in his sober intervals I have
not the heart to repeat now. He still fought against his enemy; he still
buffeted the billows that were going over him, though with feebler
stroke. When their little child died, her tears fell freely, but he was
like one stunned. Stony and silent he stood and saw the little grave
filled up, and rode away tearless, the picture of hopelessness.
By a coincidence; after my return to San Francisco, he came thither, and
again became my neighbor at North Beach. I went up to see him one
evening. He was very feeble, and it was plain that the end was not far
off. At the first glance I saw that a great change had taken place in
He had found his lost self. The strong drink was shut out from him, and
he was shut in with his better thoughts and with God. His religious life
rebloomed in wondrous beauty and sweetness. The blossoms of his early
joy had fallen off, the storms had torn its branches and stripped it of
its foliage, but its root had never perished, because he had never
ceased to struggle for deliverance. Aspiration and hope live or die
together in the human soul. The link that bound my friend to God was
never wholly sundered. His better nature clung to the better way with a
grasp that never let go altogether.
"O Doctor, I am a wonder to myself! It does seem to me that God has
given back to me every good thing I possessed in the bright and blessed
past. It has all come back to me. I see the light and feel the joy as I
did when I first entered the new life. O it is wonderful! Doctor, God
never gave me up, and I never ceased to yearn for his mercy and love,
even in the darkest season of my unhappy life?"
His very face had recovered its old look, and his voice its old tone.
There could be no doubt of this soul had rebloomed in the life of God.
The last night came—they sent for me with the message,
"Come quickly! he is dying."
I found him with that look which I have seen on the faces of others who
were nearing death—a radiance and a rapture that awed the beholder. O
solemn, awful mystery of death! I have stood in its presence in every
form of terror and of sweetness, and in every case the thought has been
impressed upon me that it was a passage into the Great Realities.
"Doctor," he said, smiling, and holding my hand; "I had hoped to be with
you in your office again, as in the old days—not as a business
arrangement, but just to be with you, and revive old memories, and to
live the old life over again. But that cannot be, and I must wait till
we meet in the world of spirits, whither I go before you. It seems to be
growing dark. I cannot see your face hold my hand. I am going—going. I
am on the waves—on the waves—." The radiance was still upon his
face, but the hand I held no longer clasped mine-the wasted form was
still. It was the end. He was launched upon the Infinite Sea for the
The Emperor Norton.
That was his title. He wore it with an air that was a strange mixture of
the mock-heroic and the pathetic. He was mad on this one point, and
strangely shrewd and well-informed on almost every other. Arrayed in a
faded-blue uniform, with brass buttons and epaulettes, wearing a
cocked-hat with an eagle's feather, and at times with a rusty sword at
his side, he was a conspicuous figure in the streets of San Francisco,
and a regular habitue of all its public places. In person he was stout,
full-chested, though slightly stooped, with a large head heavily coated
with bushy black hair, an aquiline nose, and dark gray eyes, whose mild
expression added to the benignity of his face. On the end of his nose
grew a tuft of long hairs, which he seemed to prize as a natural mark of
royalty, or chieftainship. Indeed, there was a popular legend afloat
that he was of true royal blood—a stray Bourbon, or something of the
sort. His speech was singularly fluent and elegant. The Emperor was one
of the celebrities that no visitor failed to see. It is said that his
mind was unhinged by a sudden loss of fortune in the early days, by the
treachery of a partner in trade. The sudden blow was deadly, and the
quiet, thrifty, affable man of business became a wreck. By nothing is
the inmost quality of a man made more manifest than by the manner in
which he meets misfortune. One, when the sky darkens, having strong
impulse and weak will, rushes into suicide; another, with a large vein
of cowardice, seeks to drown the sense of disaster in strong drink; yet
another, tortured in every fiber of a sensitive organization, flees from
the scene of his troubles and the faces of those that know him,
preferring exile to shame. The truest man, when assailed by sudden
calamity, rallies all the reserved forces of a splendid manhood to meet
the shock, and, like a good ship, lifting itself from the trough of the
swelling sea, mounts the wave and rides on. It was a curious
idiosyncrasy that led this man, when fortune and reason were swept away
at a stroke, to fall back upon this imaginary imperialism. The nature
that could thus, when the real fabric of life was wrecked, construct
such another by the exercise of a disordered imagination, must have been
originally of a gentle and magnanimous type. The broken fragments of
mind, like those of a statue, reveal the quality of the original
creation. It may be that he was happier than many who have worn real
crowns. Napoleon at Chiselhurst, or his greater uncle at St. Helena,
might have been gainer by exchanging lots with this man, who had the
inward joy of conscious greatness without its burden and its perils. To
all public places he had free access, and no pageant was complete
without his presence. From time to time he issued proclamations, signed
"Norton I.," which the lively San Francisco dailies were always ready to
print conspicuously in their columns. The style of these proclamations
was stately, the royal first person plural being used by him with all
gravity and dignity. Ever and anon, as his uniform became dilapidated or
ragged, a reminder of the condition of the imperial wardrobe would be
given in one or more of the newspapers, and then in a few days he would
appear in a new suit. He had the entree of all the restaurants, and he
lodged—nobody knew where. It was said that he was cared for by members
of the Freemason Society to which he belonged at the time of his fall. I
saw him often in my congregation in the Pine-street church, along in
1858, and into the sixties. He was a respectful and attentive listener
to preaching. On the occasion of one of his first visits he spoke to me
after the service, saying, in a kind and patronizing tone:
"I think it my duty to encourage religion and morality by showing myself
at church, and to avoid jealousy I attend them all in turn."
He loved children, and would come into the Sunday-school, and sit
delighted with their singing. When, in distributing the presents on a
Christmas-tree, a necktie was handed him as the gift of the young
ladies, he received it with much satisfaction, making a kingly bow of
gracious acknowledgment. Meeting him one day, in the springtime, holding
my little girl by the hand, he paused, looked at the child's bright
face, and taking a rose-bud from his button-hole, he presented it to her
with a manner so graceful, and a smile so benignant, as to show that
under the dingy blue uniform there beat the heart of a gentleman. He
kept a keen eye on current events, and sometimes expressed his views
with great sagacity. One day he stopped me on the street, saying:
"I have just read the report of the political sermon of Dr.—(giving
the name of a noted sensational preacher, who was in the habit, at
times, of discussing politics from his pulpit). I disapprove
political-preaching. What do you think?"
I expressed my cordial concurrence.
"I will put a stop to it. The preachers must stop preaching politics, or
they must all come into one State Church. I will at once issue a decree
to that effect."
For some unknown reason, that decree never was promulgated.
After the war, he took a deep interest in the reconstruction of the
Southern States. I met him one day on Montgomery street, when he asked
me in a tone and with a look of earnest solicitude:
"Do you hear any complaint or dissatisfaction concerning me from the
I gravely answered in the negative.
"I was for keeping the country undivided, but I have the kindest feeling
for the Southern people, and will see that they are protected in all
their rights. Perhaps if I were to go among them in person, it might
have a good effect. What do you think?"
I looked at him keenly as I made some suitable reply, but could see
nothing in his expression but simple sincerity. He seemed to feel that
he was indeed the father of his people. George Washington himself could
not have adopted a more paternal tone.
Walking along the street behind the Emperor one day, my curiosity was a
little excited by seeing him thrust his hand into the hip-pocket of his
blue trousers with sudden energy. The hip-pocket, by the way, is a
modern American stupidity, associated in the popular mind with rowdyism,
pistol shooting, and murder. Hip-pockets should be abolished wherever
there are courts of law and civilized men and women. But what was the
Emperor after? Withdrawing his hand just as I overtook him, the mystery
was revealed—it grasped a thick Bologna sausage, which he began to eat
with unroyal relish. It gave me a shock, but he was not the first royal
personage who has exhibited low tastes and carnal hankerings.
He was seldom made sport of or treated rudely. I saw him on one occasion
when a couple of passing hoodlums jeered at him. He turned and gave them
a look so full of mingled dignity, pain, and surprise, that the low
fellows were abashed, and uttering a forced laugh, with averted faces
they hurried on. The presence that can bring shame to a San Francisco
hoodlum must indeed be kingly, or in some way impressive. In that genus
the beastliness and devilishness of American city-life reach their
lowest denomination when the brutality of the savage and the lowest
forms of civilized vice are combined, human nature touches bottom.
The Emperor never spoke of his early life. The veil of mystery on this
point increased the popular curiosity concerning him, and invested him
with something of a romantic interest. There was one thing that excited
his disgust and indignation. The Bohemians of the San Francisco press
got into the practice of attaching his name to their satires and hits at
current follies, knowing that the well-known "Norton I." at the end
would insure a reading. This abuse of the liberty of the press he
denounced with dignified severity, threatening extreme measures unless
it were stopped. But nowhere on earth did the press exhibit more
audacity, or take a wider range, and it would have required a sterner
heart and a stronger hand than that of Norton I. to put a hook into its
The end of all human grandeur, real or imaginary, comes at last. The
Emperor became thinner and more stooped as the years passed. The humor
of his hallucination retired more and more into the background, and its
pathetic side came out more strongly. His step was slow and feeble, and
there was that look in his eyes so often seen in the old and sometimes
in the young, just before the great change comes—a rapt, far-away
look, suggesting that the invisible is coming into view, the shadows
vanishing and the realities appearing. The familiar face and form were
missed on the streets, and it was known that he was dead. He had gone to
his lonely lodging, and quietly lain down and died. The newspapers spoke
of him with pity and respect, and all San Francisco took time, in the
midst of its roar-and-rush fever of perpetual excitement, to give a kind
thought to the dead man who had passed over to the life where all
delusions are laid aside, where the mystery of life shall be revealed,
and where we shall see that through all its tangled web ran the golden
thread of mercy. His life was an illusion, and the thousands who sleep
with him in Lone Mountain waiting the judgment-day were his brothers.
She was from Baltimore, and had the fair face and gentle voice peculiar
to most Baltimore women. Her organization was delicate but elastic—one
of the sort that bends easily, but is hard to break. In her eyes was
that look of wistful sadness so often seen in holy women of her type.
Timid as a fawn, in the class-meeting she spoke of her love to Jesus and
delight in his service in a voice low and a little hesitating, but with
strangely thrilling effect. The meetings were sometimes held in her own
little parlor in the cottage on Dupont street, and then we always felt
that we had met where the Master himself was a constant and welcome
guest. She was put into the crucible. For more than fifteen years she
suffered unceasing and intense bodily pain. Imprisoned in her sick
chamber, she fought her long, hard battle. The pain-distorted limbs lost
their use, the patient face waxed more wan, and the traces of agony were
on it always; the soft, loving eyes were often tear washed. The fires
were hot, and they burned on through the long, long years without
respite. The mystery of it all was too deep for me; it was too deep for
her. But somehow it does seem that the highest suffer most:
The sign of rank in Nature Is capacity for pain, And the anguish of the
singer Makes the sweetness of the strain.
The victory of her faith was complete. If the inevitable why? sometimes
was in her thought, no shadow of distrust ever fell upon her heart. Her
sick-room was the quietest, brightest spot in all the city. How often
did I go thither weary and faint with the roughness of the way, and
leave feeling that I had heard the voices and inhaled the odors of
paradise! A little talk, a psalm, and then a prayer, during which the
room seemed to be filled with angel-presences; after which the thin,
pale face was radiant with the light reflected from our Immanuel's face.
I often went to see her, not so much to convey as to get a blessing. Her
heart was kept fresh as a rose of Sharon in the dew of the morning. The
children loved to be near her; and the pathetic face of the dear
crippled boy, the pet of the family, was always brighter in her
presence. Thrice death came into the home-circle with its shock and
mighty wrenchings of the heart, but the victory was not his, but hers.
Neither death nor life could separate her from the love of her Lord. She
was one of the elect. The elect are those who know, having the witness
in themselves. She was conqueror of both—life with its pain and its
weariness, death with its terror and its tragedy. She did not endure
merely, she triumphed. Borne on the wings of a mighty faith, her soul
was at times lifted above all sin, and temptation, and pain, and the
sweet, abiding peace swelled into an ecstasy of sacred joy. Her swimming
eyes and rapt look told the unutterable secret. She has crossed over the
narrow stream on whose margin she lingered so long; and there was joy on
the other side when the gentle, patient, holy Camilla Cain joined the
O though oft depressed and lonely, All my fears are laid aside, If I but
remember only Such as these have lived and died!
The sea-wind sweeps over the spot at times in gusts like the frenzy of
hopeless grief, and at times in sighs as gentle as those heaved by aged
sorrow in sight of eternal rest. The voices of the great city come
faintly over the sand-hills, with subdued murmur like a lullaby to the
pale sleepers that are here lying low. When the winds are quiet, which
is not often, the moan of the mighty Pacific can be heard day or night,
as if it voiced in muffled tones the unceasing woe of a world under the
reign of death. Westward, on the summit of a higher hill, a huge cross
stretches its arms as if embracing the living and the dead-the first
object that catches the eye of the weary voyager as he nears the Golden
Gate, the last that meets his lingering gaze as he goes forth upon the
great waters. O sacred emblem of the faith with which we launch upon
life's stormy main—of the hope that assures that we shall reach the
port when the night and the tempest are past! When the winds are high,
the booming of the breakers on the cliff sounds as if nature were
impatient of the long, long delay, and had anticipated the last thunders
that wake the sleeping dead. On a clear day, the blue Pacific,
stretching away beyond the snowy surf-line, symbolizes the shoreless sea
that rolls through eternity. The Cliff House road that runs hard by is
the chief drive of the pleasure-seekers of San Francisco. Gayety, and
laughter, and heart-break, and tears, meet on the drive; the wail of
agony and the laugh of gladness mingle as the gay crowds dash by the
slow-moving procession on its way to the grave. How often have I made
that slow, sad journey to Lone Mountain—a Via Doloroso to many who
have never been the same after they had gone thither, and coming back
found the light quenched and the music bushed in their homes! Thither
the dead Senator was borne, followed by the tramping thousands, rank on
rank, amid the booming of minute-guns, the tolling of bells, the
measured tread of plumed soldiers, and the roll of drums. Thither was
carried, in his rude coffin, the "unknown man" found dead in the
streets, to be buried in potter's-field. Thither was borne the hard and
grasping idolater of riches, who clung to his coin, and clutched for
more, until he was dragged away by the one hand that was colder and
stronger than his own. Here was brought the little child, out of whose
narrow grave there blossomed the beginnings of a new life to the father
and mother, who in the better life to come will be found among the
blessed company of those whose only path to paradise lay through the
valley of tears. Here were brought the many wanderers, whose last
earthly wish was to go back home, on the other side of the mountains, to
die, but were denied by the stern messenger who never waits nor spares.
And here was brought the mortal part of the aged disciple of Jesus, in
whose dying-chamber the two worlds met, and whose death-throes were
demonstrably the birth of a child of God into the life of glory.
The first time I ever visited the place was to attend the funeral of a
suicide. The dead man I had known in Virginia, when I was a boy. He was
a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, and when I first knew him
he was the captain of a famous volunteer company. He was as handsome as
a picture—the admiration of the girls, and the envy of the young men
of his native town. He was among the first who rushed to California on
the discovery of gold, and of all the heroic men who gave early
California its best bias none was knightlier than this handsome
Virginian; none won stronger friends, or had brighter hopes. He was the
first State Senator from San Francisco. He had the magnetism that won
and the nobility that retained the love of men. Some men push themselves
forward by force of intellect or of will—this man was pushed upward by
his friends because he had their hearts. He married a beautiful woman,
whom he loved literally unto death. I shall not recite the whole story.
God only knows it fully, and he will judge righteously. There was
trouble, rage, and tears, passionate partings and penitent reunions—the
old story of love dying a lingering yet violent death. On the fatal
morning I met him on Washington street. I noticed his manner was hurried
and his look peculiar, as I gave him the usual salutation and a hearty
grasp of the hand. As be moved away, I looked after him with mingled
admiration and pity, until his faultless figure turned the corner and
Ten minutes afterward he lay on the floor of his room dead, with a
bullet through his brain, his hair dabbled in blood. At the
funeral-service, in the little church on Pine street, strong men bowed
their heads and sobbed. His wife sat on a front seat, pale as marble and
as motionless, her lips compressed as with inward pain; but I saw no
tears on the beautiful face. At the grave the body had been lowered to
its resting-place, and all being ready, the attendants standing with
uncovered heads, I was just about to begin the reading of the solemn
words of the burial service, when a tall, blue-eyed man with gray
side-whiskers pushed his way to the head of the grave, and in a voice
choked with passion, exclaimed:
"There lies as noble a gentleman as ever breathed, and he owes his death
to that fiend!" pointing his finger at the wife, who stood pale and
silent looking down into the grave.
She gave him a look that I shall never forget, and the large steely-blue
eyes flashed fire, but she spoke no word. I spoke:
"Whatever maybe your feelings, or whatever the occasion for them, you
degrade yourself by such an exhibition of them here."
"That is so, sir; excuse me, my feelings overcame me," he said, and
retiring a few steps, he leaned upon a branch of a scrub-oak and sobbed
like a child.
The farce and the tragedy of real life were here exhibited on another
occasion. Among my acquaintances in the city were a man and his wife who
were singularly mismatched. He was a plain, unlettered, devout man, who
in a prayer-meeting or class-meeting talked with a simple-hearted
earnestness that always produced a happy effect.
She was a cultured woman, ambitious and worldly, and so fine-looking
that in her youth she must have been a beauty and a belle. They lived in
different worlds, and grew wider apart as time passed by—he giving
himself to religion, she giving herself to the world. In the gay city
circles in which she moved she was a little ashamed of the quiet, humble
old man, and he did not feel at home among them. There was no formal
separation, but it was known to the friends of the family that for
months at a time they never lived together. The fashionable daughters
went with their mother. The good old man, after a short sickness, died
in great peace. I was sent for to officiate at the funeral-service.
There was a large gathering of people, and a brave parade of all the
externals of grief, but it was mostly dry-eyed grief, so far as I could
see. At the grave, just as the sun that was sinking in the ocean threw
his last rays upon the spot, and the first shovelful of earth fell upon
the coffin that had been gently lowered to its resting-place, there was
a piercing shriek from one of the carriages, followed by the
"What shall I do? How can I live? I have lost my all! O! O! O!"
It was the dead man's wife. Significant glances and smiles were
interchanged by the bystanders. Approaching the carriage in which the
woman was sitting, I laid my hand upon her arm, looked her in the face,
She understood me, and not another sound did she utter. Poor woman! She
was not perhaps as heartless as they thought she was. There was at least
a little remorse in those forced exclamations, when she thought of the
dead man in the coffin; but her eyes were dry, and she stopped very
Another incident recurs to me that points in a different direction. One
day the most noted gambler in San Francisco called on me with the
request that I should attend the funeral of one of his friends, who had
died the night before. A splendid-looking fellow was this knight of the
faro-table. More than six feet in height, with deep chest and perfectly
rounded limbs, jet black hair, brilliant black eyes, clear olive
complexion, and easy manners, he might have been taken for an Italian
nobleman or a Spanish Don. He had a tinge of Cherokee blood in his
veins. I have noticed that this cross of the white and Cherokee blood
often results in producing this magnificent physical development. I have
known a number of women of this lineage, who were very queens in their
beauty and carriage. But this noted gambler was illiterate. The only
book of which he knew or cared much was one that had fifty-two pages,
with twelve pictures. If he had been educated, he might have handled the
reins of government, instead of presiding over a nocturnal banking
"Parson, can you come to number—, on Kearney street, tomorrow at ten
o'clock, and give us a few words and a prayer over a friend of mine, who
died last night?"
I promised to be there, and he left.
His friend, like himself, had been a gambler. He was from New York. He
was well educated, gentle in his manners, and a general favorite with
the rough and desperate fellows with whom he associated, but with whom
he seemed out of place. The passion for gambling had put its terrible
spell on him, and be was helpless in its grasp. But though he mixed with
the crowds that thronged the gambling-hells, he was one of them only in
the absorbing passion for play. There was a certain respect shown him by
all that venturesome fraternity. He went to Frazer River during the gold
excitement. In consequence of exposure and privation in that wild chase
after gold, which proved fatal to so many eager adventurers, he
contracted pulmonary disease, and came back to San Francisco to die. He
had not a dollar. His gambler friend took charge of him, placed him in a
good boarding-place, hired a nurse for him, and for nearly a year
provided for all his wants.
The miners called him the "Wandering Jew." That was behind his back. To
his face they addressed him as Father Newton. He walked his circuits in
the northern mines. No pedestrian could keep up with him, as with his
long form bending forward, his immense yellow beard that reached to his
breast floating in the wind, he strode from camp to camp with the
message of salvation. It took a good trotting-horse to keep pace with
him. Many a stout prospector, meeting him on a highway, after panting
and straining to bear him company, had to fall behind, gazing after him
in wonder, as he swept out of sight at that marvelous gait. There was a
glitter in his eye, and an intensity of gaze that left you in doubt
whether it was genius or madness that it bespoke. It was, in truth, a
little of both. He had genius. Nobody ever talked with him, or heard him
preach, without finding it out. The rough fellow who offended him at a
camp-meeting, near "Yankee Jim's," no doubt thought him mad. He was
making some disturbance just as the long bearded old preacher was
passing with a bucket of water in his hand.
"What do you mean?" he thundered, stopping and fixing his keen eye upon
A rude and profane reply was made by the jeering sinner.
Quick as thought Newton rushed upon him with flashing eye and uplifted
bucket, a picture of fiery wrath that was too much for the thoughtless
scoffer, who fled in terror amid the laughter of the crowd. The
vanquished son of Belial had no sympathy from anybody, and the plucky
preacher was none the less esteemed because he was ready to defend his
Master's cause with carnal weapons. The early Californians left scarcely
any path of sin unexplored, and were a sad set of sinners, but for
virtuous women and religion they never lost their reverence. Both were
scarce in those days, when it seemed to be thought that gold-digging and
the Decalogue could not be made to harmonize. The pioneer preachers
found that one good woman made a better basis for evangelization than a
score of nomadic bachelors. The first accession of a woman to a church
in the mines was an epoch in its history. The church in the house of
Lydia was the normal type—it must be anchored to woman's faith, and
tenderness, and love, in the home.
He visited San Francisco during my pastorate in 1858. On Sunday morning
he preached a sermon of such extraordinary beauty and power that at the
night-service the house was crowded by a curious congregation, drawn
thither by the report of the forenoon effort. His subject was the faith
of the mother of Moses, and he handled it in his own way. The powerful
effect of one passage I shall never forget. It was a description of the
mother's struggle, and the victory of her faith in the crisis of her
trial. No longer able to protect her child, she resolves to commit him
to her God. He drew a picture of her as she sat weaving together the
grasses of the little ark of bulrushes, her hot tears falling upon her
work, and pausing from time to time with her hand pressed upon her
throbbing heart. At length, the little vessel is finished, and she goes
by night to the bank of the Nile, to take the last chance to save her
boy from the knife of the murderers. Approaching the river's edge, with
the ark in her hands, she stoops a moment, but her mother's heart fails
her. How can she give up her child? In frenzy of grief she sinks upon
her knees, and lifting her gaze to the heavens, passionately prays to
the God of Israel. That prayer! It was the wail of a breaking heart, a
cry out of the depths of a mighty agony. But as she prays the
inspiration of God enters her soul, her eyes kindle, and her face beams
with the holy light of faith. She rises, lifts the little ark, looks
upon the sleeping face of the fair boy, prints a long, long kiss upon
his brow, and then with a firm step she bends down, and placing the tiny
vessel upon the waters, lets it go. "And away it went," he, said,
"rocking upon the waves as it swept beyond the gaze of the mother's
straining eyes. The monsters of the deep were there, the serpent of the
Nile was there, behemoth was there, but the child slept as sweetly and
as safely upon the rocking waters as if it were nestled upon its
mother's breast—for God was there!" The effect was electric. The
concluding words, "for God was there!" were uttered with upturned face
and lifted hands, and in a tone of voice that thrilled the hearers like
a sudden clap of thunder from a cloud over whose bosom the lightnings
had rippled in gentle flashes. It was true eloquence.
In a revival meeting, on another occasion, he said, in a sermon of
terrific power: "O the hardness of the human heart! Yonder is a man in
hell. He is told that there is one condition on which he may be
delivered, and that is that lie must get the consent of every good being
in the universe. A ray of hope enters his soul, and he sets out to
comply with the condition. He visits heaven and earth, and finds
sympathy and consent from all. All the holy angels consent to his
pardon; all the pure and holy on earth consent; God himself repeats the
assurance of his willingness that he maybe saved. Even in hell, the
devils do not object, knowing that his misery only heightens theirs. All
are willing, all are ready—all but one man. He refuses; he will not
consent. A monster of cruelty and wickedness, he refuses his simple
consent to save a soul from an eternal hell! Surely a good God and all
good beings in the universe would turn in horror from such a monster.
Sinner, you are that man! The blessed God, the Holy Trinity, every angel
in heaven, every good man and woman on earth, are not only willing but
anxious that you shall be saved. But you will not consent. You refuse to
come to Jesus that you may have life. You are the murderer of your own
immortal soul. You drag yourself down to hell. You lock the door of your
own dungeon of eternal despair, and throw the key into the bottomless
pit, by rejecting the Lord that bought you with his blood! You will be
lost! you must be lost! you ought to be lost."
The words were something like these, but the energy, the passion, the
frenzy of the speaker must be imagined. Hard and stubborn hearts were
moved under that thrilling appeal. They were made to feel that the
preacher's picture of a self doomed soul described their own eases.
There was joy in heaven that night over repenting sinners.
This old man of the mountains was a walking encyclopedia of theological
and other learning. He owned books that could not be duplicated in
California; and he read them, digested their contents, and constantly
surprised his cultivated bearers by the affluence of his knowledge, and
the fertility of his literary and classic allusion. He wrote with
elegance and force. His weak point was orthography. He would trip
sometimes in the spelling of the most common words. His explanation of
this weakness was curious: He was a printer in Mobile, Alabama. On one
occasion a thirty-two-page book-form of small type was "pied." "I
undertook,", said he, "to set that pied form to rights, and, in doing
so, the words got so mixed in my brain that my spelling was spoiled
He went to Oregon, and traveled and preached from the Cascade Mountains
to Idaho, thrilling, melting, and amusing, in turn, the crowds that came
out to hear the wild-looking man whose coming was so sudden, and whose
going as so rapid, that they were lost in wonder, as if gazing at a
meteor that flashed across the sky.
He was a Yankee from New Hampshire, who, going to Alabama, lost his
heart, and was ever afterward intensely Southern in all his convictions
and affections. His fiery soul found congenial spirits among the
generous, hotblooded people of the Gulf States, whose very faults had a
sort of charm for this impulsive, generous, erratic, gifted, man. He
made his way back to his New England hills, where he is waiting for the
sunset, often turning a longing eye southward, and now and then sending
a greeting to Alabama.
The California Politician.
The California politician of the early days was plucky. He had to be so,
for faint heart won no votes in those rough times. One of the Marshalls
(Tom or Ned—I forget which), at the beginning of a stump speech one
night in the mines, was interrupted by a storm of hisses and execrations
from a turbulent crowd of fellows, many of whom were full of whisky. He
paused a moment, drew himself up to his full height, coolly took a
pistol from his pocket, laid it on the stand before him, and said:
"I have seen bigger crowds than this many a time. I want it to be fully
understood that I came here to make a speech tonight, and I am going to
do it, or else there will be a funeral or two."
That touch took with that crowd. The one thing they all believed in was
courage. Marshall made one of his grandest speeches, and at the close
the delighted miners bore him in triumph from the rostrum.
That was a curious exordium of "Uncle Peter Mehan," when he made his
first stump-speech at Sonora: "Fellow-citizens, I was born an orphin at
a very early period of my life." He was a candidate for supervisor, and
the good-natured miners elected him triumphantly. He made a good
supervisor, which is another proof that book-learning and elegant
rhetoric are not essential where there are integrity and native good
sense. Uncle Peter never stole any thing, and he was usually on the
right side of all questions that claimed the attention of the
county-fathers of Tuolumne.
In the early days, the Virginians, New Yorkers, and Tennesseans, led in
politics. Trained to the stump at home, the Virginians and Tennesseans
were ready on all occasions to run a primary-meeting, a convention, or a
canvass. There was scarcely a mining-camp in the State in which there
was not a leading local politician from one or both of these States. The
New Yorker understood all the inside management of party organization,
and was up to all the smart tactics developed in the lively struggles of
parties in the times when Whiggery and Democracy fiercely fought for
rule in the Empire State. Broderick was a New Yorker, trained by Tammany
in its palmy days. He was a chief, who rose from the ranks, and ruled by
force of will. Thick-set, strong-limbed, full-chested, with immense
driving-power in his back-head, he was an athlete whose stalwart
physique was of more value to him than the gift of eloquence, or even
the power of money. The sharpest lawyers and the richest money-kings
alike went down before this uncultured and moneyless man, who dominated
the clans of San Francisco simply by right of his manhood. He was not
without a sort of eloquence of his own. He spoke right to the point, and
his words fell like the thud of a shillalah; or rang like the clash of
steel. He dealt with the rough elements of politics in an exciting and
turbulent period of California politics, and was more of a border chief
than an Ivanhoe in his modes of warfare. He reached the United States
Senate, and in his first speech in that august body he honored his
manhood by an allusion to his father, a stone mason, whose hands, said
Broderick, had helped to erect the very walls of the chamber in which he
spoke. When a man gets as high as the United States Senate, there is
less tax upon his magnanimity in acknowledging his humble origin than
while he is lower down the ladder. You seldom hear a man boast how low
he began until he is far up toward the summit of his ambition.
Ninety-nine out of every hundred self-made men are at first more or less
sensitive concerning their low birth; the hundredth man who is not is a
Broderick's great rival was Gwin. The men were antipodes in every thing
except that they belonged to the same party. Gwin still lives, the most
colossal figure in the history of California. He looks the man he is. Of
immense frame, ruddy complexion, deep-blue eyes that almost blaze when
he is excited, rugged yet expressive features, a massive bead crowned
with a heavy suit of silver-white hair, he is marked by Nature for
leadership. Common men seem dwarfed in his presence. After he had
dropped out of California politics for awhile, a Sacramento hotel-keeper
expressed what many felt during a legislative session: "I find myself
looking around for Gwin. I miss the chief."
My first acquaintance with Dr. Gwin began with, an incident that
illustrates the man and the times. It was in 1856. The Legislature was
in session at Sacramento, and a United States Senator was to, be
elected. I was making a tentative movement toward starting a Southern
Methodist newspaper, and visited Sacramento on that business. My friend
Major P. L. Solomon was there, and took a friendly interest in my
enterprise. He proposed to introduce me to the leading men of both
parties, and I thankfully availed myself of his courtesy. Among the
first to whom he presented me was a noted politician who, both before
and since, has enjoyed a national notoriety, and who still lives, and is
as, ready as ever to talk or fight. His name I need not give. I
presented to him my mission, and he seemed embarrassed.
"I am with you, of course. My mother was a Methodist, and all my
sympathies are with the Methodist Church. I am a Southern man in all my
convictions and impulses, and I am a Southern Methodist in principle.
But you see, sir, I am a candidate for United States Senator, and
sectional feeling is likely to enter into the contest, and if it were
known that my name was on your list of subscribers, it might endanger my
He squeezed my arm, told me he loved me and my Church, said he would be
happy to see me often, and so forth—but he did not give me his name. I
left him, saying in my heart, Here is a politician.
Going on together, in the corridor we met Gwin. Solomon introduced me,
and told him my business.
"I am glad to know that you are going to start a Southern Methodist
newspaper. No Church can do without its organ. Put me down on your list,
and come with me, and I will make all these fellows subscribe. There is
not much religion among them, I fear, but we will make them take the
This was said in a hearty and pleasant way, and he took me from man to
man, until I had gotten more than a dozen names, among them two or three
of his most active political opponents.
This incident exhibits the two types of the politician, and the two
classes of men to be found in all communities—the one all "blarney"
and selfishness, the other with real manhood redeeming poor human
nature, and saving it from utter contempt. The senatorial prize eluded
the grasp of both aspirants, but the reader will not be at a loss to
guess whose side I was on. Dr. Gwin made a friend that day, and never
lost him. It was this sort of fidelity to friends that, when fortune
frowned on the grand old Senator after the collapse at Appomattox,
rallied thousands of true hearts to his side, among whom were those who
had fought him in many a fierce political battle. Broderick and Gwin
were both, by a curious turn of political fortune, elected by the same
Legislature to the United States Senate. Broderick sleeps in Lone
Mountain, and Gwin still treads the stage of his former glory, a living
monument of the days when California politics was half romance and half
tragedy. The friend and protege of General Andrew Jackson, a member of
the first Constitutional Convention of California, twice United States
Senator, a prominent figure in the civil war, the father of the great
Pacific Railway, he is the front figure on the canvas of California
Gwin was succeeded by McDougall. What a man was he! His face was as
classic as a Greek statue. It spoke the student and the scholar in every
line. His hair was snow-white, his eyes bluish gray, and his form
sinewy and elastic. He went from Illinois, with Baker and other men of
genius, and soon won a high place at the bar of San Francisco. I heard
it said, by an eminent jurist, that when McDougall had put his whole
strength into the examination of a case, his side of it was exhausted.
His reading was immense, his learning solid. His election was doubtless
a surprise to himself as well as to the California public. The day
before he left for Washington City, I met him in the street, and as we
parted I held his hand a moment, and said:
"Your friends will watch your career with hope and with fear."
He knew what I meant, and said, quickly:
"I understand you. You are afraid that I will yield to my weakness for
strong drink. But you may be sure I will play the man, and California
shall have no cause to blush on my account."
That was his fatal weakness. No one, looking upon his pale, scholarly
face, and noting his faultlessly neat apparel, and easy, graceful
manners, would have thought of such a thing. Yet he was a—I falter in
writing it—a drunkard. At times he drank deeply and madly. When half
intoxicated he was almost as brilliant as Hamlet, and as rollicking as
Falstaff. It was said that even when fully drunk his splendid intellect
never entirely gave way.
"McDougall commands as much attention in the Senate when drunk as any
other Senator does when sober," said a Congressman in Washington in
1866. It is said that his great speech on the question of
"confiscation," at the beginning of the war, was delivered when he was
in a state of semi-intoxication. Be that as it may, it exhausted the
whole question, and settled the policy of the Government.
"No one will watch your senatorial career with more friendly interest
than myself; and if you will abstain wholly from all strong drink, we
shall all, be proud of you, I know."
"Not a drop will I touch, my friend; and I'll make you proud of me."
He spoke feelingly, and I think there was a moisture about his eye as he
pressed my hand and walked away.
I never saw him again. For the first few months he wrote to me often,
and then his letters came at longer intervals, and then they ceased. And
then the newspapers disclosed the shameful secret California's brilliant
Senator was a drunkard. The temptations of the Capital were too strong
for him. He went down into the black waters a complete wreck. He
returned to the old home of his boyhood in New Jersey to die. I learned
that he was lucid and penitent at the last. They brought his body back
to San Francisco to be buried, and when at his funeral the words "I know
that my Redeemer liveth," in clear soprano, rang through the vaulted
cathedral like a peal of triumph, I indulged the hope that the spirit of
my gifted and fated friend had, through the mercy of the Friend of
sinners, gone from his boyhood hills up to the hills of God.
The typical California politician was Coffroth. The "boys" fondly called
him "Jim" Coffroth. There is no surer sign of popularity than a popular
abbreviation of this sort, unless it is a pet nickname. Coffroth was
from Pennsylvania, where he had gained an inkling of polities and
general literature. He gravitated into California polities by the law of
his nature. He was born for this, having what a friend calls the gift of
popularity. His presence was magnetic; his laugh was contagious; his
enthusiasm irresistible. Nobody ever thought of taking offense at Jim
Coffroth. He could change his politics with impunity without losing a
friend—he never had a personal enemy; but I believe he only made that
experiment once. He went off with the Know-nothings in 1855, and was
elected by them to the State Senate, and was called to preside over
their State Convention. He hastened back to his old party associates,
and at the first convention that met in his county on his return from
the Legislature, he rose and told them how lonesome he had felt while
astray from the old fold, how glad he was to get back, and how humble he
felt, concluding by advising all his late supporters to do as he had
done by taking "a straight chute" for the old party. He ended amid a
storm of applause, was reinstated at once, and was made President of the
next Democratic State Convention. There he was in his glory. His tact
and good humor were infinite, and he held those hundreds of excitable
and explosive men in the hollow of his hand. He would dismiss a
dangerous motion with a witticism so apt that the mover himself would
join in the laugh, and give it up. His broad face in repose was that of
a Quaker, at other times that of a Bacchus. There was a religious streak
in this jolly partisan, and he published several poems that breathed the
sweetest and loftiest religious sentiment. The newspapers were a little
disposed to make a joke of these ebullitions of devotional feeling, but
they now make the light that casts a gleam of brightness upon the
background of his life. I take from an old volume of the Christian
Spectator one of these poems as a literary curiosity. Every man lives
two lives. The rollicking politician, "Jim Coffroth," every Californian
knew; the author of these lines was another man by the same name:
Amid the Silence of the Night. "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall
neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm cxxi.
Amid the silence of the night, Amid its lonely hours and dreary, When we
Close the aching sight, Musing sadly, lorn and weary, Trusting that
tomorrow's light May reveal a day more cheery;
Amid affliction's darker hour, When no hope beguiles our sadness, When
Death's hurtling tempests lower, And forever shroud our gladness, While
Grief's unrelenting power Goads our stricken hearts to madness;
When from friends beloved we're parted, And from scenes our spirits
love, And are driven, broken-hearted, O'er a heartless world to rove;
When the woes by which we've smarted, Vainly seek to melt or move; When
we trust and are deluded, When we love and are denied, When the schemes
o'er which we brooded Burst like mist on mountain's side, And, from
every hope excluded, We in dark despair abide;
Then, and ever, God sustains us, He whose eye no slumber knows, Who
controls each throb that pains us, And in mercy sends our woes, And by
love severe constrains us To avoid eternal throes.
Happy he whose heart obeys him! Lost and ruined who disown! O if idols
e'er displace him, Tear them from his chosen throne! May our lives and
language praise him! May our hearts be his alone!
He took defeat with a good nature that robbed it of its sting, and made
his political opponents half sorry for having beaten him. He was talked
of for Governor at one time, and he gave as a reason, why he would like
the office that "a great many of his friends were in the State-prison,
and he wanted to use the pardoning power in their behalf." This was a
jest, of course, referring to the fact that as a lawyer much of his
practice was in the criminal courts. He was never suspected of treachery
or dishonor in public or private life. His very ambition was unselfish:
he was always ready to sacrifice himself in a hopeless candidacy if he
could thereby help his party or a friend.
His good nature was tested once while presiding over a party convention
at Sonora for the nomination of candidates for legislative and county
offices. Among the delegates was the eccentric John Vallew, whose mind
was a singular compound of shrewdness and flightiness, and was stored
with the most out-of-the-way scraps of learning, philosophy, and poetry.
Some one proposed Vallew's name as a candidate for the Legislature. He
rose to his feet with a clouded face, and in an angry voice said:
"Mr. President, I am surprised and mortified. I have lived in this
county more than seven years, and I have never had any difficulty with
my neighbors. I did not know that I had an enemy in the world. What have
I done, that it should be proposed to send me to the Legislature? What
reason has anybody to think I am that sort of a man? To think I should
have come to this! To propose to send me to the Legislature, when it is
a notorious fact that you have never sent a man thither from this county
who did not come back morally and pecuniarily ruined!"
The crowd saw the point, and roared with laughter, Coffroth, who had
served in the previous session, joining heartily in the merriment.
Vallew was excused.
Coffroth grew fatter and jollier; his strong intellect struggled against
increasing sensual tendencies. What the issue might have been, I know
not. He died suddenly, and his destiny was transferred to another
sphere. So there dropped out of California-life a partisan without
bitterness, a satirist without malice, a wit without a sting, the
jolliest, freest, readiest man that ever faced a California audience on
the hustings—the typical politician of California.
Old Man Lowry.
I had marked his expressive physiognomy among my hearers in the little
church in Sonora for some weeks before he made himself known to me. As I
learned afterward, he was weighing the young preacher in his critical
balances. He had a shrewd Scotch face, in which there was a mingling of
keenness, benignity, and humor. His age might be sixty, or it might be
more. He was an old bachelor, and wide guesses are sometimes made as to
the ages of that class of men. They may not live longer than married
men, but they do not show the effects of life's wear and tear so early.
He came to see us one evening. He fell in love with the mistress of the
parsonage, just as he ought to have done, and we were charmed with the
quaint old bachelor. There was a piquancy, a sharp flavor, in his talk
that was delightful. His aphorisms often crystallized a neglected truth
in a form all his own. He was an original character. There was nothing
commonplace about him. He had his own way of saying and doing every
Society in the mines was limited in that day, and we felt that we had
found a real thesaurus in this old man of unique mold. His visits were
refreshing to us, and his plain-spoken criticisms were helpful to me.
He had left the Church because he did not agree with the preachers on
some points of Christian ethics, and because they used tobacco. But he
was unhappy on the outside, and finding that my views and habits did not
happen to cross his peculiar notions, he came back. His religious
experience was out of the common order. Bred a Calvinist, of the good
old Scotch-Presbyterian type, he had swung away from that faith, and was
in danger of rushing into Universalism, or infidelity. That once famous
and much-read little book, "John Nelson's Journal," fell into his hands,
and changed his whole life. It led him to Christ, and to the Methodists.
He was a true spiritual child of the unflinching Yorkshire stone-cutter.
Like him he despised half-way measures, and like him he was aggressive
in thought and action. What he liked he loved, what he disliked he
hated. Calvinism he abhorred, and he let no occasion pass for pouring
into it the hot shot of his scorn and wrath. One night I preached from
the text, Should it be according to thy mind?
"The first part of your sermon," he said to me as we passed out of the
church, "distressed me greatly. For a full half hour you preached
straight out Calvinism, and I thought you had ruined every thing; but
you had left a little slip-gap, and crawled out at the last."
His ideal of a minister of the gospel was Dr. Keener, whom he knew at
New Orleans before coming to California. He was the first man I ever
heard mention Dr. Keener's name for the episcopacy. There was much in
common between them. If my eccentric California bachelor friend did not
have as strong and cool a head, he had as brave and true a heart as the
incisive and chivalrous Louisiana preacher, upon whose head the miter
was placed by the suffrage of his brethren at Memphis in 1870.
He became very active as a worker in the Church. I made him
class-leader, and there have been few in that office who brought to its
sacred duties as much spiritual insight, candor, and tenderness. At
times his words flashed like diamonds, showing what the Bible can reveal
to a solitary thinker who makes it his chief study day and night. When
needful, he could apply caustic that burned to the very core of an error
of opinion or of practice. He took a class in the Sunday-school, and his
freshness, acuteness, humor, and deep knowledge of the Scriptures, made
him far more than an ordinary teacher. A fine pocket Bible was offered
as a prize to the scholar who should, in three months, memorize the
greatest number of Scripture verses. The wisdom of such a contest is
questionable to me now, but it was the fashion then, and I was too young
and self-distrustful to set myself against the current in such matters.
The contest was an exciting one—two boys, Robert A—and Jonathan R—,
and one girl, Annie P—, leading all the school. Jonathan suddenly fell
behind, and was soon distanced by his two competitors. Lowry, who was
his teacher, asked him what was the reason of his sudden breakdown. The
boy blushed, and stammered out:
"I didn't want to beat Annie."
Robert won the prize, and the day came for its presentation. The house
was full, and everybody was in a pleasant mood. After the prize had been
presented in due form and with a little flourish, Lowry arose, and
producing a costly Bible, in a few words telling how magnanimously and
gallantly Jonathan had retired from the contest, presented it to the
pleased and blushing boy. The boys and girls applauded California
fashion, and the old man's face glowed with satisfaction. He had in him
curiously mingled the elements of the Puritan and the Cavalier—the
uncompromising persistency of the one, and the chivalrous impulse and
openhandedness of the other.
The old man had too many crotchets and too much combativeness to be
popular. He spared no opinion or habit he did not like. He struck every
angle within reach of him. In the state of society then existing in the
mines there were many things to vex his soul, and keep him on the
warpath. The miners looked upon him as a brave, good man, just a little
daft. He worked a mining-claim on Wood's Creek, north of town, and lived
alone in a tiny cabin on the hill above. That was the smallest of
cabins, looking like a mere box from the trail which wound through the
flat below. Two little scrub-oaks stood near it, under which he sat and
read his Bible in leisure moments. There, above the world, he could
commune with his own heart and with God undisturbed, and look down upon
a race he half pitied and half despised. From the spot the eye took in a
vast sweep of hill and dale: Bald Mountain, the most striking object in
the near background, and beyond its dark, rugged mass the snowy summits
of the Sierras, rising one above another, like gigantic stair-steps,
leading up to the throne of the Eternal. This lonely height suited
Lowry's strangely compounded nature. As a cynic, he looked down with
contempt upon the petty life that seethed and frothed in the camps
below; as a saint, he looked forth upon the wonders of God's handiwork
around and above him.
There was an intensity in all that he did. Passing his mining-claim on
horseback one day, I paused to look at him in his work. Clad in a blue
flannel mining-suit, he was digging as for life. The embankment of red
dirt and gravel melted away rapidly before his vigorous strokes, and he
seemed to feel a sort of fierce delight in his work. Pausing a moment,
he looked up and saw me.
"You dig as if you were in a hurry," I said.
"Yes, I have been digging here three years. I have a notion that I have
just so much of the earth to turn over before I am turned under," he
replied with a sort of grim humor.
He was still there when we visited Sonora in 1857. He invited us out to
dinner, and we went. By skillful circling around the hill, we reached
the little cabin on the summit with horse and buggy. The old man had
made preparations for his expected guests. The floor of the cabin had
been swept, and its scanty store of furniture put to rights, and a
dinner was cooking in and on the little stove. His lady-guest insisted
on helping in the preparation of the dinner, but was allowed to do
nothing further than to arrange the dishes on the primitive table, which
was set out under one of the little oaks in the yard. It was a miner's
feast—can-fruits, can-vegetables, can-oysters, can-pickles, can-every
thing nearly, with tea distilled from the Asiatic leaf by a receipt of
his own. It was a hot day, and from the cloudless heavens the sun
flooded the earth with his glory, and the shimmer of the sunshine was in
the still air. We tried to be cheerful, but there was a pathos about the
affair that touched us. He felt it too. More than once there was a tear
in his eye. At parting, he kissed little Paul, and gave us his hand in
silence. As we drove down the hill, he stood gazing after us with a look
fixed and sad. The picture is till before me the lonely old man standing
sad and silent, the little cabin, the rude dinner-service under the oak,
and the overarching sky. That was our last meeting. The next will be on
the Other Side.
Suicide in California.
A half protest rises within me as I begin this Sketch. The page almost
turns crimson under my gaze, and shadowy forms come forth out of the
darkness into which they wildly plunged out of life's misery into
death's mystery. Ghostly lips cry out, "Leave us alone! Why call us back
to a world where we lost all, and in quitting which we risked all?
Disturb us not to gratify the cold curiosity of unfeeling strangers. We
have passed on beyond human jurisdiction to the realities we dared to
meet. Give us the pity and courtesy of your silence, O living brother,
who didst escape the wreck!" The appeal is not without effect, and if I
lift the shroud that covers the faces of these dead self-destroyed, it
will be tenderly, pityingly. These simple Sketches of real California
life would be imperfect if this characteristic feature were entirely
omitted; for California was (and is yet) the land of suicides. In a
single year there were one hundred and six in San Francisco alone. The
whole number of suicides in the State would, if the horror of each case
could be even imperfectly imagined, appall even the dryest statistician
of crime. The causes for this prevalence of self-destruction are to be
sought in the peculiar conditions of the country, and the habits of the
people. California, with all its beauty, grandeur, and riches, has been
to the many who have gone thither a land of great expectations, but
small results. This was specially the case in the earlier period of its
history, after the discovery of gold and its settlement by "Americans,"
as we call ourselves, par excellence. Hurled from the topmost height of
extravagant hope to the lowest deep of disappointment, the shock is too
great for reaction; the rope, razor, bullet, or deadly drug, finishes
the tragedy. Materialistic infidelity in California is the avowed belief
of multitudes, and its subtle poison infects the minds and unconsciously
the actions of thousands who recoil from the dark abyss that yawns at
the feet of its adherents with its fascination of horror. Under some
circumstances, suicide becomes logical to a man who has neither hope nor
dread of a hereafter. Sins against the body, and especially the nervous
system, were prevalent; and days of pain, sleepless nights, and weakened
wills, were the precursors of the tragedy that promised change, if not
rest. The devil gets men inside a fiery circle, made by their own sin
and folly, from which there seems to be no escape but by death, and they
will unbar its awful door with their own trembling hands. There is
another door of escape for the worst and most wretched, and it is opened
to the penitent by the hand that was nailed to the rugged cross. These
crises do come, when the next step must be death or life-penitence or
perdition. Do sane men and women ever commit suicide? Yes—and, No.
Yes, in the sense that they sometimes do it with even pulse and steady
nerves. No, in the sense that there cannot be perfect soundness in the
brain and heart of one who violates a primal instinct of human nature.
Each case has its own peculiar features, and must be left to the
all-seeing and all-pitying Father. Suicide, where it is not the greatest
of crimes, is the greatest of misfortunes. The righteous Judge will
classify its victims.
A noted case in San Francisco was that of a French Catholic priest. He
was young, brilliant, and popular—beloved by his flock, and admired by
a large circle outside. He had taken the solemn vows of his order in all
sincerity of purpose, and was distinguished as well for his zeal in his
pastoral work as for his genius. But temptation met him, and he fell. It
came in the shape in which it assailed the young Hebrew in Potiphar's
house, and in which it overcame the poet-king of Israel. He was seized
with horror and remorse, though he had no accuser save that voice
within, which cannot be hushed while the soul lives. He ceased to
perform the sacred functions of his office, making some plausible
pretext to his superiors, not daring to add sacrilege to mortal sin.
Shutting himself in his chamber, he brooded over his crime; or, no
longer able to endure the agony he felt, he would rush forth, and walk
for hours over the sand-dunes, or along the sea-beach. But no answer of
peace followed his prayers, and the voices of nature soothed him not. He
thought his sin unpardonable—at least, he would not pardon himself. He
was found one morning lying dead in his bed in a pool of blood. He had
severed the jugular-vein with a razor, which was still clutched in his
stiffened fingers. His handsome and classic face bore no trace of pain.
A sealed letter, lying on the table, contained his confession and his
Among the lawyers in one of the largest mining towns of California was
H. B—. He was a native of Virginia, and an alumnus of its noble
University. He was a scholar, a fine lawyer, handsome and manly in
person and bearing, and had the gift of popularity. Though the youngest
lawyer in the town, he took a front place at the bar at once. Over the
heads of several older aspirants, he was elected county judge. There was
no ebb in the tide of his general popularity, and he had qualities that
won the warmest regard of his inner circle of special friends. But in
this case, as in many others, success had its danger. Hard drinking was
the rule in those days. Horace B—had been one of the rare exceptions.
There was a reason for this extra prudence. He had that peculiar
susceptibility to alcoholic excitement which has been the ruin of so
many gifted and noble men. He knew his weakness, and it is strange that
he did not continue to guard against the danger that he so well
understood. Strange? No; this infatuation is so common in everyday life
that we cannot call it strange. There is some sort of fatal fascination
that draws men with their eyes wide open into the very jaws of this hell
of strong drink. The most brilliant physician in San Francisco, in the
prime of his magnificent young manhood, died of delirium tremens, the
victim of a self-inflicted disease, whose horrors no one knew or could
picture so well as himself. Who says man is not a fallen, broken
creature, and that there is not a devil at hand to tempt him? This
devil, under the guise of sociability, false pride, or moral cowardice,
tempted Horace B—, and he yielded. Like tinder touched by flame, he
blazed into drunkenness, and again and again the proud-spirited, manly,
and cultured young lawyer and jurist was seen staggering along the
streets, maudlin or mad with alcohol. When he had slept off his madness,
his humiliation was intense, and he walked the streets with pallid face
and downcast eyes. The coarser-grained men with whom he was thrown in
contact had no conception of the mental tortures he suffered, and their
rude jests stung him to the quick. He despised himself as a weakling and
a coward, but he did not get more than a transient victory over his
enemy. The spark had struck a sensitive organization, and the fire of
hell, smothered for the time, would blaze out again. He was fast
becoming a common drunkard, the accursed appetite growing stronger, and
his will weakening in accordance with that terrible law by which man's
physical and moral nature visits retribution on all who cross its path.
During a term of the court over which he presided, he was taken home one
night drunk. A pistol-shot was heard by persons in the vicinity some
time before daybreak; but pistol-shots, at all hours of the night, were
then too common to excite special attention. Horace B—was found next
morning lying on the floor with a bullet through his head. Many a stout,
heavy-bearded man had, wet eyes when the body of the ill-fated and
brilliant young Virginian was let down into the grave, which had been
dug for him on the hill overlooking the town from the south-east.
In the same town there was a portrait-painter, a quiet, pleasant fellow,
with a good face and easy, gentlemanly ways. As an artist, he was not
without merit, but his gift fell short of genius. He fell in love with a
charming girl, the eldest daughter of a leading citizen. She could not
return his passion. The enamored artist still loved, and hoped against
hope, lingering near her like a moth around a candle. There was another
and more favored suitor in the case, and the rejected lover had all his
hopes killed at one blow by her marriage to his rival. He felt that
without her life was not worth living. He resolved to kill himself, and
swallowed the contents of a two-ounce bottle of laudanum. After he had
done the rash deed, a reaction took place. He told what he had done, and
a physician was sent for. Before the doctor's arrival, the deadly drug
asserted its power, and this repentant suicide began to show signs of
going into a sleep from which it was certain he would never awake.
"My God! What have I done?" he exclaimed in horror. "Do your best, boys,
to keep me from going to sleep before the doctor gets here."
The doctor came quickly, and by the prompt and very vigorous use of the
stomach-pump he was saved. I was sent for, and found the would-be
suicide looking very weak, sick, silly, and sheepish. He got well, and
went on making pictures; but the picture of the fair, sweet girl, for
love of whom he came so near dying, never faded from his mind. His face
always wore a sad look, and he lived the life of a recluse, but he never
attempted suicide again—he had had enough of that.
"It always makes me shudder to look at that place," said a lady, as we
passed an elegant cottage on the western side of Russian Hill, San
"Why so? The place to me looks specially cheerful and attractive, with
its graceful slope, its shrubbery, flowers, and thick greensward."
"Yes, it is a lovely place, but it has a history that it shocks me to
think of. Do you see that tall pumping-apparatus, with water-tank on
top, in the rear of the house?"
"Yes; what of it?"
"A woman hanged herself there a year ago. The family consisted of the
husband and wife, and two bright, beautiful children. He was thrifty and
prosperous, she was an excellent housekeeper, and the children were
healthy and well-behaved. In appearance a happier family could not be
found on the hill. One day Mr. P—came home at the usual hour, and,
missing the wife's customary greeting, he asked the children where she
was. The children had not seen their mother for two or three hours, and
looked startled when they found she was missing. Messengers were sent to
the nearest neighbors to make inquiries, but no one had seen her. Mr. P
——'s face began to wear a troubled look as he walked the floor, from
time to time going to the door and casting anxious glances about the
"About dusk a sudden shriek was heard, issuing from the water-tank in the
yard, and the Irish servant-girl came rushing from it, with eyes
distended and face pale with terror.
"Holy Mother of God! It's the Missus that's hanged herself!"
The alarm spread, and soon a crowd, curious and sympathetic, had
collected. They found the poor lady suspended by the neck from a beam at
the head of the staircase leading to the top of the inclosure. She was
quite dead, and a horrible sight to see. At the inquest no facts were
developed throwing any light on the tragedy. There had been no cloud in
the sky portending the lightning stroke that laid the happy little home
in ruins. The husband testified that she was as bright and happy the
morning of the suicide as he had ever seen her, and had parted with him
at the door with the usual kiss. Every thing about the house that day
bore the marks of her deft and skillful touch. The two children were
dressed with accustomed neatness and, good taste. And yet the bolt was
in the cloud, and it fell before the sun had set! What was the mystery?
Ever afterward I felt something of the feeling expressed by my lady
friend when, in passing, I looked upon the structure which had been the
scene of this singular tragedy.
One of the most energetic business men living in one of the foothill
towns, on the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley, had a charming
wife, whom he loved with a deep and tender devotion. As in all true
love-matches, the passion of youth had ripened into a yet stronger and
purer love with the lapse of years and participation in the joys and
sorrows of wedded life. Their union had been blessed with five children,
all intelligent, sweet, and full of promise. It was a very affectionate
and happy household. Both parents possessed considerable literary taste
and culture, and the best books and current magazine literature were
read, discussed, and enjoyed in that quiet and elegant home amid the
roses and evergreens. It was a little paradise in the hills, where Love,
the home-angel, brightened every room and blessed every heart. But
trouble came in the shape of business reverses; and the worried look and
wakeful nights of the husband told how heavy were the blows that had
fallen upon this hard and willing worker. The course of ruin in
California was fearfully rapid in those days. When a man's financial
supports began to give way, they went with a crash. The movement
downward was with a rush that gave no time for putting on the brakes.
You were at the bottom, a wreck, almost before you knew it. So it was in
this case. Every thing was swept away, a mountain of unpaid debts was
piled up, credit was gone, clamor of creditors deafened him, and the
gaunt wolf of actual want looked in through the door of the cottage upon
the dear wife and little ones. Another shadow, and a yet darker one,
settled upon them. The unhappy man had been tampering with the delusion
of spiritualism, and his wife had been drawn with him into a partial
belief in its vagaries. In their troubles they sought the aid of the
"familiar spirits" that peeped and muttered through speaking, writing,
and rapping mediums. This kept them in a state of morbid excitement that
increased from day to day until they were wrought up to a tension that
verged on insanity. The lying spirits; or the frenzy of his own heated
brain, turned his thought to death as the only escape from want.
"I see our way out of these troubles, wife," he said one night, as they
sat hand in hand in the bedchamber, where the children were lying
asleep. "We will all die together! This has been revealed to me as the
solution of all our difficulties. Yes, we will enter the beautiful
spirit-world together! This is freedom! It is only getting out of
prison. Bright spirits beckon and call us. I am ready."
There was a gleam of madness in his eyes, and, as he took a pistol from
a bureau-drawer, an answering gleam flashed forth from the eyes of the
wife, as she said:
"Yes, love, we will all go together. I too am ready."
The sleeping children were breathing sweetly, unmindful of the horror
that the devil was hatching.
"The children first, then you, and then me," he said, his eye kindling
with increasing excitement.
He penciled a short note addressed to one of his old friends, asking him
to attend to the burial of the bodies, then they kissed each of the
sleeping children, and then—but let the curtain fall on the scene that
followed. The seven were found next day lying dead, a bullet through the
brain of each, the murderer, by the side of the wife, still holding the
weapon of death in his hand, its muzzle against his right temple.
Other pictures of real life and death crowd upon, my mind, among them
noble forms and faces that were near and dear to me; but again I hear
the appealing voices. The page before me is wet with tears—I cannot
see to write.
He came to California in 1855. The Pacific Conference was in session at
Sacramento. It was announced that the new preacher from Texas would
preach at night. The boat was detained in some way, and he just had time
to reach the church, where a large and expectant congregation were in
waiting. Below medium height, plainly dressed, and with a sort of
peculiar shuffling movement as he went down the aisle, he attracted no
special notice except for the profoundly reverential manner that never
left him anywhere. But the moment he faced his audience and spoke, it
was evident to them that a man of mark stood before them. They were
magnetized at once, and every eye was fixed upon the strong yet
benignant face, the capacious blue eyes, the ample forehead, and massive
head, bald on top, with silver locks on either side. His tones in
reading the Scripture and the hymns were unspeakably solemn and very
musical. The blazing fervor of the prayer that followed was absolutely
startling to some of the preachers, who had cooled down under the
depressing influence of the moral atmosphere of the country. It almost
seemed as if we could hear the rush of the pentecostal wind, and see the
tongues of flame. The very house seemed to be rocking on its
foundations. By the time the prayer had ended, all were in a glow, and
ready for the sermon. The text I do not now call to mind, but the
impression made by the sermon remains. I had seen and heard preachers
who glowed in the pulpit—this man burned. His words poured forth in a
molten flood, his face shone like a furnace heated from within, his
large blue eyes flashed with the lightning of impassioned sentiment, and
anon swam in pathetic appeal that no heart could resist. Body, brain,
and spirit, all seemed to feel the mighty afflatus. His very frame
seemed to expand, and the little man who had gone into the pulpit with
shuffling step and downcast eyes was transfigured before us. When, with
radiant face, upturned eyes, an upward sweep of his arm, and
trumpet-voice, he shouted, "Hallelujah to God!" the tide of emotion
broke over all barriers, the people rose to their feet, and the church
reechoed with their responsive hallelujahs. The new preacher from Texas
that night gave some Californians a new idea of evangelical eloquence,
and took his place as a burning and a shining light among the ministers
of God on the Pacific Coast.
"He is the man we want for San Francisco!" exclaimed the impulsive B. T.
Crouch, who had kindled into a generous enthusiasm under that marvelous
He was sent to San Francisco. He was one of a company of preachers who
have successively had charge of the Southern Methodist Church in that
wondrous city inside the Golden Gate—Boring, Evans, Fisher,
Fitzgerald, Gober, Brown, Bailey, Wood, Miller, Ball, Hoss, Chamberlin,
Mahon, Tuggle, Simmons, Henderson. There was an almost unlimited
diversity of temperament, culture, and gifts among these men; but they
all had a similar experience in this, that San Francisco gave them new
revelations of human nature and of themselves. Some went away crippled
and scarred, some sad, some broken; but perhaps in the Great Day it may
be found that for each and all there was a hidden blessing in the
heart-throes of a service that seemed to demand that they should sow in
bitter tears, and know no joyful reaping this side of the grave. O my
brothers, who have felt the fires of that furnace heated seven times
hotter than usual, shall we not in the resting-place beyond the river
realize that these fires burned out of us the dross that we did not know
was in our souls? The bird that comes out of the tempest with broken
wing may henceforth take a lowlier flight, but will be safer because it
ventures no more into the region of storms.
Fisher did not succeed in San Francisco, because he could not get a
hearing. A little handful would meet him on Sunday mornings in one of
the upper-rooms of the old City Hall, and listen to sermons that sent
them away in a religious glow, but he had no leverage for getting at the
masses. He was no adept in the methods by which the modern sensational
preacher compels the attention of the novelty-loving crowds in our
cities. An evangelist in every fiber of his being, he chafed under the
limitations of his charge in San Francisco, and from time to time he
would make a dash into the country, where, at camp-meetings and on other
special occasions, he preached the gospel with a power that broke many a
sinner's heart, and with a persuasiveness that brought many a wanderer
back to the Good Shepherd's fold. His bodily energy, like his religious
zeal, was unflagging. It seemed little less than a miracle that he
could, day after day, make such vast expenditure of nervous energy
without exhaustion. He put all his strength into every sermon and
exhortation, whether addressed to admiring and weeping thousands at a
great camp-meeting, or to a dozen or less "standbys" at the
Saturday-morning service of a quarterly-meeting.
He had his trials and crosses. Those who knew him intimately learned to
expect his mightiest pulpit efforts when the shadow on his face and the
unconscious sigh showed that he was passing through the waters and
crying to God out of the depths. In such experiences, the strong man is
revealed and gathers new strength; the weak one goes under. But his
strength was more than mere natural force of will, it was the strength
of a mighty faith in God—that unseen force by which the saints work
righteousness, subdue kingdoms, escape the violence of fire, and stop
the mouths of lions.
As a flame of fire, Fisher itinerated all over California and Oregon,
kindling a blaze of revival in almost every place he touched. He was
mighty in the Scriptures, and seemed to know the Book by heart. His was
no rose-water theology. He believed in a hell, and pictured it in Bible
language with a vividness and awfulness that thrilled the stoutest
sinner's heart; he believed in heaven, and spoke of it in such a way
that it seemed that with him faith had already changed to sight. The
gates of pearl, the crystal river, the shining ranks of the white-robed
throngs, their songs swelling as the sound of many waters, the holy love
and rapture of the glorified hosts of the redeemed, were made to pass in
panoramic procession before the listening multitudes until the heaven he
pictured seemed to be a present reality. He lived in the atmosphere of
the supernatural; the spirit-world was to him most real.
"I have been out of the body," he said to me one day. The words were
spoken softly, and his countenance, always grave in its aspect, deepened
in its solemnity of expression as he spoke.
"How was that?" I inquired.
"It was in Texas. I was returning from a quarterly-meeting where I had
preached one Sunday morning with great liberty and with unusual effect.
The horses attached to my vehicle became frightened, and ran away. They
were wholly beyond control, plunging down the road at a fearful speed,
when, by a slight turn to one side, the wheel struck a large log. There
was a concussion, and then a blank. The next thing I knew I was floating
in the air above the road. I saw every thing as plainly as I see your
face at this moment. There lay my body in the road, there lay the log,
and there were the trees, the fence, the fields, and every thing,
perfectly natural. My motion, which had been upward, was arrested, and
as, poised in the air, I looked at my body lying there in the road so
still, I felt a strong desire to go back to it, and found myself sinking
toward it. The next thing I knew I was lying in the road where I had
been thrown out, with a number of friends about me, some holding up my
head, others chafing my hands, or looking on with pity or alarm. Yes, I
was out of the body for a little, and I know there is a spirit-world."
His voice had sunk into a sort of whisper, and the tears were in his
eyes. I was strangely thrilled. Both of us were silent for a time, as if
we heard the echoes of voices, and saw the beckonings of shadowy hands
from that Other World which sometimes seems so far away, and yet is so
near to each one of us.
Surely you heaven, where angels see God's face, Is not so distant as we
deem From this low earth. 'Tis but a little space, 'Tis but a veil the
winds might blow aside; Yes, this all that us of earth divide From the
bright dwellings of the glorified, The land of which I dream.
But it was no dream to this man of mighty faith, the windows of whose
soul opened at all times Godward. To him immortality was a demonstrated
fact, an experience. He had been out of the body.
Intensity was his dominating quality. He wrote verses, and whatever they
may have lacked of the subtle element that marks poetical genius, they
were full of his ardent personality and devotional abandon. He
compounded medicines whose virtues, backed by his own unwavering faith,
wrought wondrous cures. On several occasions he accepted challenge to
polemic battle, and his opponents found in him a fearless warrior, whose
onset was next to irresistible. In these discussions it was no uncommon
thing for his arguments to close with such bursts of spiritual power
that the doctrinal duel would end in a great religious excitement,
bearing disputants and hearers away on mighty tides of feeling that none
I saw in the Texas Christian Advocate an incident, related by Dr. F. A.
Mood, that gives a good idea of what Fisher's eloquence was when in full
"About ten years ago," says Dr. M., "when the train from Houston, on the
Central Railroad, on one occasion reached Hempstead, it was peremptorily
brought to a halt. There was a strike among the employees of the road,
on what was significantly called by the strikers 'The Death-warrant.'
The road, it seems, had required all of their employees to sign a paper
renouncing all claims to moneyed reparation in case of their bodily
injury while in the service of the road. The excitement incident to a
strike was at its height at Hempstead when our train reached there. The
tracks were blocked with trains that had been stopped as they arrived
from the different branches of the road, and the employees were gathered
about in groups, discussing the situation—the passengers peering
around with hopeless curiosity. When our train stopped, the conductor
told us that we would have to lie over all night, and many of the
passengers left to find accommodations in the hotels of the town. It was
now night, when a man came into the car and exclaimed, 'The strikers are
tarring and feathering a poor wretch out here, who has taken sides with
the road—come out and see it!' Nearly every one in the car hastened
out. I had risen, when a gentleman behind me gently pulled my coat, and
said to me, 'Sit down a moment.' He went on to say: 'I judge, sir, you
are a clergyman; and I advise you to remain here. You may be put to much
inconvenience by having to appear as a witness; in a mob of that sort,
too, there is no telling what may follow.' I thanked him, and resumed my
seat. He then asked me to what denomination I belonged, and upon my
telling him I was a Methodist preacher, he asked eagerly and promptly if
I had ever met a Methodist preacher in Texas by the name of Fisher,
describing accurately the appearance of our glorified brother. Upon my
telling him I knew him well, he proceeded to give the following
incident. I give it as nearly as I can in his own words. Said he:
"'I am a Californian, have practiced law for years in that State, and,
at the time I allude to, was district judge. I was holding court at [I
cannot now recall the name of the town he mentioned], and on Saturday
was told that a Methodist camp-meeting was being held a few miles from
town. I determined to visit it, and reached the place of meeting in good
time to hear the great preacher of the occasion—Father Fisher. The
meeting was held in a river canyon. The rocks towered hundreds of feet
on either side, rising over like an arch. Through the ample space over
which the rocks hung the river flowed, furnishing abundance of cool
water, while a pleasant breeze fanned a shaded spot. A great multitude
had assembled—hundreds of very hard cases, who had gathered there,
like myself, for the mere novelty of the thing. I am not a religious man
—never have been thrown under religious influences. I respect religion,
and respect its teachers, but have been very little in contact with
religious things. At the appointed time, the preacher rose. He was
small, with white hair combed back from his forehead, and he wore a
venerable beard. I do not know much about the Bible, and I cannot quote
from his text, but he preached on the Judgment. I tell you, sir, I have
heard eloquence at the bar and on the hustings, but I never heard such
eloquence as that old preacher gave us that day. At the last, when he
described the multitudes calling on the rocks and mountains to fall on
them, I instinctively looked up to the arching rocks above me. Will you
believe it, sir?—as I looked up, to my horror I saw the walls of the
canyon swaying as if they were coming together! Just then the preacher
called on all that needed mercy to kneel down. I recollect he said
something like this: "'Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall
confess;' and you might as well do it now as then." The whole multitude
fell on their knees—every one of them. Although I had never done so
before, I confess to you, sir, I got down on my knees. I did not want to
be buried right then and there by those rocks that seemed to be swaying
to destroy me. The old man prayed for us; it was a wonderful prayer! I
want to see him once more; where will I be likely to find him?'
"When he had closed his narrative, I said to him: 'Judge, I hope you
have bowed frequently since that day.' 'Alas! no, sir,' he replied; 'not
much; but depend upon it, Father Fisher is a wonderful orator—he made
me think that day that the walls of the canyon were falling.'"
He went back to Texas, the scene of his early labors and triumphs, to
die. His evening sky was not cloudless—he suffered much—but his
sunset was calm and bright; his waking in the Morning Land was glorious.
If it was at that short period of silence spoken of in the Apocalypse,
we may be sure it was broken when Fisher went in.
The only thing white about him was his name. He was a Piute Indian, and
Piutes are neither white nor pretty. There is only one being in human
shape uglier than a Piute "buck"—and that is a Piute squaw. One I saw
at the Sink of the Humboldt haunts me yet. Her hideous face, begrimed
with dirt and smeared with yellow paint, bleared and leering eyes, and
horrid long, flapping breasts—ugh! it was a sight to make one feel
sick. A degraded woman is the saddest spectacle on earth. Shakespeare
knew what he was doing when he made the witches in Macbeth of the
feminine gender. But as you look at them you almost forget that these
Piute hags are women—they seem a cross between brute and devil. The
unity of the human race is a fact which I accept; but some of our
brothers and sisters are far gone from original loveliness. If Eve could
see these Piute women, she would not be in a hurry to claim them as her
daughters; and Adam would feel like disowning some of his sons. As it
appears to me, however, these repulsive savages furnish an argument in
support of two fundamental facts of Christianity. One fact is, God did
indeed make of one blood all the nations of the earth; the other is the
fact of the fall and depravity of the human race. This unspeakable
ugliness of these Indians is owing to their evil living. Dirty as they
are, the little Indian children are not at all repulsive in expression.
A boy of ten years, who stood half-naked, shivering in the wind, with
his bow and arrows, had well-shaped features and a pleasant expression
of countenance, with just a little of the look of animal cunning that
belongs to all wild tribes. The ugliness grows on these Indians
fearfully fast when it sets in. The brutalities of the lives they lead
stamp themselves on their faces; and no other animal on earth equals in
ugliness the animal called man, when he is nothing but an animal.
There was a mystery about Jack White's early life. He was born in the
sagebrush desert beyond the Sierras, and, like all Indian babies,
doubtless had a hard time at the outset. A Christian's pig or puppy is
as well cared for as a Piute papoose. Jack was found in a deserted
Indian camp in the mountains. He had been left to die, and was taken
charge of by the kind hearted John M. White, who was then digging for
gold in the Northern mines. He and his good Christian wife had mercy on
the little Indian boy that looked up at them so pitifully with his
wondering black eyes. At first he had the frightened and bewildered look
of a captured wild creature, but he soon began to be more at ease. He
acquired the English language slowly, and never did lose the peculiar
accent of his tribe. The miners called him Jack White, not knowing any
other name for him.
Moving to the beautiful San Ramon Valley, not far from the Bay of San
Francisco, the Whites took Jack with them. They taught him the leading
doctrines and facts of the Bible, and made him useful in domestic
service. He grew and thrived. Broad-shouldered, muscular, and straight
as an arrow, Jack was admired for his strength and agility by the white
boys with whom he was brought into contact. Though not quarrelsome, he
had a steady courage that, backed by his great strength, inspired
respect and insured good treatment from them. Growing up amid these
influences, his features were softened into a civilized expression, and
his tawny face was not unpleasing. The heavy under-jaw and square
forehead gave him an appearance of hardness which was greatly relieved
by the honest look out of his eyes, and the smile which now and then
would slowly creep over his face, like the movement of the shadow of a
thin cloud on a calm day in summer. An Indian smiles deliberately, and
in a dignified way—at least Jack did.
I first knew Jack at Santa Rosa, of which beautiful town his patron, Mr.
White, was then the marshal. Jack came to my Sunday-school, and was
taken into a class of about twenty boys taught by myself. They were the
noisy element of the school, ranging from ten to fifteen years of age
—too large to show the docility of the little lads, but not old enough
to have attained the self-command and self-respect that come later in
life. Though he was much older than any of them, and heavier than his
teacher, this class suited Jack. The white boys all liked him, and he
liked me. We had grand times with that class. The only way to keep them
in order was to keep them very busy. The plan of having them answer in
concert was adopted with decided results. It kept them awake and the
whole school with them, for California boys have strong lungs. Twenty
boys speaking all at once, with eager excitement and flashing eyes,
waked the drowsiest drone in the room. A gentle hint was given now and
then to take a little lower key. In these lessons, Jack's deep guttural
tones came in with marked effect, and it was delightful to see how he
enjoyed it all. And the singing made his swarthy features glow with
pleasure, though he rarely joined in it, having some misgiving as to the
melody of his voice.
The truths of the gospel took strong hold of Jack's mind, and his
inquiries indicated a deep interest in the matter of religion. I was
therefore not surprised when, during a protracted-meeting in the town,
Jack became one of the converts; but there was surprise and delight
among the brethren at the class-meeting when Jack rose in his place and
told what great thing the Lord had done for him, dwelling with special
emphasis on the words, "I am happy, because I know Jesus takes my sins
away—I know he takes my sins away." His voice melted into softness,
and a tear trickled down his cheek as he spoke; and when Dan Duncan, the
leader, crossed over the room and grasped his hand in a burst of joy,
there was a glad chorus of rejoicing Methodists over Jack White, the
Jack never missed a service at the church, and in the social-meetings he
never failed to tell the story of his newborn joy and hope, and always
with thrilling effect, as he repeated with trembling voice, "I am happy,
because I know Jesus takes my sins away." Sin was a reality with Jack,
and the pardon of sin the most wonderful of all facts. He never tired of
telling it; it opened a new world to him, a world of light and joy. Jack
White in the class-meeting or prayer-meeting, with beaming face, and
moistened eyes, and softened voice, telling of the love of Jesus, seemed
almost of a different race from the wretched Piutes of the Sierras and
Jack's baptism was a great event. It was by immersion, the first baptism
of the kind I ever performed—and almost the last. Jack had been talked
to on the subject by some zealous brethren of another "persuasion," who
magnified that mode, and though he was willing to do as I advised in the
matter, he was evidently a little inclined to the more spectacular way
of receiving the ordinance. Mrs. White suggested that it might save
future trouble, and "spike a gun." So Jack, with four others, was taken
down to Santa Rosa Creek, that went rippling and sparkling along the
southern edge of the town, and duly baptized in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. A great crowd covered the bridge
just below, and the banks of the stream; and when Wesley Mock, the Asaph
of Santa Rosa Methodism, struck up—
O happy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Saviour and my God,
and the chorus—
Happy day, happy day, when
Jesus washed my sins away,
was swelled by hundreds of voices, it was a glad moment for Jack White
and all of us. Religiously it was a warm time; but the water was very
cold, it being one of the chilliest days I ever felt in that genial
"You were rather awkward, Brother Fitzgerald, in immersing those
persons," said my stalwart friend, Elder John McCorkle, of the
"Christian" or Campbellite Church, who had critically but not unkindly
watched the proceedings from the bridge. "If you will send for me the
next time, I will do it for you," he added, pleasantly.
I fear it was awkwardly done, for the water was very cold, and a
shivering man cannot be very graceful in his movements. I would have
done better in a baptistery, with warm water and a rubber suit. But of
all the persons I have welcomed into the Church during my ministry, the
reception of no one has given use more joy than that of Jack White, the
Jack's heart yearned for his own people. He wanted to tell them of
Jesus, who could take away their sins; and perhaps his Indian instinct
made him long for the freedom of the hills.
"I am going to my people," he said to me; "I want to tell them of Jesus.
You will pray for me?" he added, with a quiver in his voice and a
He went away, and I have never seen him since. Where he is now, I know
not. I trust I may meet him on Mount Sion, with the harpers harping with
their harps, and singing, as it were, a new song before the throne.
Postscript.—Since this Sketch was penciled, the Rev. C. Y. Rankin, in
a note dated Santa Rosa, California, August 3, 1880, says: "Mrs. White
asked me to send you word of the peaceful death of Jack White (Indian).
He died trusting in Jesus."
Seated in his library, enveloped in a faded figured gown, a black velvet
cap on his massive head, there was an Oriental look about him that
arrested your attention at once. Power and gentleness, childlike
simplicity, and scholarliness, were curiously mingled in this man. His
library was a reflex of its owner. In it were books that the great
public libraries of the world could not match—black-letter folios that
were almost as old as the printing art, illuminated volumes that were
once the pride and joy of men who had been in their graves many
generations, rabbinical lore, theology, magic, and great volumes of
Hebrew literature that looked, when placed beside a modern book, like an
old ducal palace alongside a gingerbread cottage of today. I do not
think he ever felt at home amid the hurry and rush of San Francisco. He
could not adjust himself to the people. He was devout, and they were
intensely worldly. He thundered this sentence from the teacher's desk in
the synagogue one morning: "O ye Jews of San Francisco, you have so
fully given yourselves up to material things that you are losing the
very instinct of immortality. Your only idea of religion is to acquire
the Hebrew language, and you don't know that!" His port and voice were
like those of one of the old Hebrew prophets. Elijah himself was not
more fearless. Yet, how deep was his love for his race! Jeremiah was not
more tender when he wept for the slain of the daughter of his people.
His reproofs were resented, and he had a taste of persecution; but the
Jews of San Francisco understood him at last. The poor and the little
children knew him from the start. He lived mostly among his books, and
in his school for poor children, whom he taught without charge. His
habits were so simple and his bodily wants so few that it cost him but a
trifle to live. When the synagogue frowned on him, he was as independent
as Elijah at the brook Cherith. It is hard to starve a man to whom
crackers and water are a royal feast.
His belief in God and in the supernatural was startlingly vivid. The
Voice that spoke from Sinai was still audible to him, and the Arm that
delivered Israel he saw still stretched out over the nations. The
miracles of the Old Testament were as real to him as the premiership of
Disraeli, or the financiering of the Rothschilds. There was, at the same
time, a vein of rationalism that ran through his thought and speech. We
were speaking one day on the subject of miracles, and, with his usual
energy of manner, he said:
"There was no need of any literal angel to shut the mouths of the lions
to save Daniel; the awful holiness of the prophet was enough. There was
so much of God in him that the savage creatures submitted to him as they
did to unsinning Adam. Man's dominion over nature was broken by sin, but
in the golden age to come it will be restored. A man in full communion
with God wields a divine power in every sphere that he touches."
His face glowed as he spoke, and his voice was subdued into a solemnity
of tone that told how his reverent and adoring soul was thrilled with
this vision of the coming glory of redeemed humanity.
He knew the New Testament by heart, as well as the Old. The sayings of
Jesus were often on his lips.
One day, in a musing, half-soliloquizing way, I heard him say:
"It is wonderful, wonderful! a Hebrew peasant from the hills of Galilee,
without learning, noble birth, or power, subverts all the philosophies
of the world, and makes himself the central figure of all history. It is
He half whispered the words, and his eyes had the introspective look of
a man who is thinking deeply.
He came to see me at our cottage on Post street one morning before
breakfast. In grading a street, a house in which I had lived and had the
ill luck to own, on Pine street, had been undermined, and toppled over
into the street below, falling on the slate-roof and breaking all to
pieces. He came to tell me of it, and to extend his sympathy.
"I thought I would come first, so you might get the bad news from a
friend rather than a stranger. You have lost a house; but it is a small
matter. Your little boy there might have put out his eye with a pair of
scissors, or he might have swallowed a pin and lost his life. There are
many things constantly taking place that are harder to bear than the
loss of a house."
Many other wise words did the Rabbi speak, and before he left I felt
that a house was indeed a small thing to grieve over.
He spoke with charming freedom and candor of all sorts of people.
"Of Christians, the Unitarians have the best heads, and the Methodists
the best hearts. The Roman Catholics hold the masses, because they give
their people plenty of form. The masses will never receive truth in its
simple essence; they must have it in a way that will make it digestible
and assimilable, just as their, stomachs demand bread, and meats, and
fruits, not their extracts or distilled essences, for daily food. As to
Judaism, it is on the eve of great changes. What these changes will be I
know not, except that I am sure the God of our fathers will fulfill his
promise to Israel. This generation will probably see great things."
"Do you mean the literal restoration of the Jews to Palestine?"
He looked at me with an intense gaze, and hastened not to answer. At
last he spoke slowly:
"When the perturbed elements of religious thought crystallize into
clearness and enduring forms, the chosen people will be one of the chief
factors in reaching that final solution of the problems which convulse
He was one of the speakers at the great Mortara indignation-meeting in
San Francisco. The speech of the occasion was that of Colonel Baker, the
orator who went to Oregon, and in a single campaign magnetized the
Oregonians so completely by his splendid eloquence that, passing by all
their old party leaders, they sent him to the United States Senate. No
one who heard Baker's peroration that night will ever forget it. His
dark eyes blazed, his form dilated, and his voice was like a bugle in
"They tell us that the Jew is accursed of God. This has been the plea of
the bloody tyrants and robbers that oppressed and plundered them during
the long ages of their exile and agony. But the Almighty God executes
his own judgments. Woe to him who presumes to wield his thunderbolts!
They fall in blasting, consuming vengeance upon his own head. God deals
with his chosen people in judgment; but he says to men, Touch them at
your peril! They that spoil them shall be for a spoil; they that carried
them away captive shall themselves go into captivity. The Assyrian smote
the Jew, and where is the proud Assyrian Empire? Rome ground them under
her iron heel, and where is the empire of the Caesars? Spain smote the
Jew, and where is her glory? The desert sands cover the site of Babylon
the Great. The power that hurled the hosts of Titus against the holy
city Jerusalem was shivered to pieces. The banners of Spain, that
floated in triumph over half the world, and fluttered in the breezes of
every sea, is now the emblem of a glory that is gone, and the ensign of
a power that has waned. The Jews are in the hands of God. He has dealt
with them in judgment, but they are still the children of promise. The
day of their long exile shall end, and they will return to Zion with
songs and everlasting joy upon their heads!"
The words were something like these, but who could picture Baker's
oratory? As well try to paint a storm in the tropics. Real thunder and
lightning cannot be put on canvas.
The Rabbi made a speech, and it was the speech of a man who had come
from his books and prayers. He made a tender appeal for the mother and
father of the abducted Jewish boy, and argued the question as calmly,
and in as sweet a spirit, as if he had been talking over an abstract
question in his study. The vast crowd looked upon that strange figure
with a sort of pleased wonder, and the Rabbi seemed almost unconscious
of their presence. He was as free from self-consciousness as a little
child, and many a Gentile heart warmed that night to the simple-hearted
sage who stood before them pleading for the rights of human nature.
The old man was often very sad. In such moods he would come round to our
cottage on Post street, and sit with us until late at night, unburdening
his aching heart, and relaxing by degrees into a playfulness that was
charming from its very awkwardness. He would bring little picture-books
for the children, pat them on their heads, and praise them. They were
always glad to see him, and would nestle round him lovingly. We all
loved him, and felt glad in the thought that he left our little circle
lighter at heart. He lived alone. Once, when I playfully spoke to him of
matrimony, he laughed quietly, and said:
"No, no—my books and my poor schoolchildren are enough for me."
He died suddenly and alone. He had been out one windy night visiting the
poor, came home sick, and before morning was in that world of spirits
which was so real to his faith, and for which he longed. He left his
little fortune of a few thousand dollars to the poor of his native
village of Posen, in Poland. And thus passed from California-life Dr.
Julius Eckman, the Rabbi.
My Mining Speculation.
"I Believe the Lord has put me in the way of making a competency for my
old age," said the dear old Doctor, as he seated himself in the armchair
reserved for him at the cottage at North Beach.
"How?" I asked.
"I met a Texas man today, who told me of the discovery of an immensely
rich silver mining district in Deep Spring Valley, Mono county, and he
says he can get me in as one of the owners."
I laughingly made some remark expressive of incredulity. The honest and
benignant face of the old Doctor showed that he was a little nettled.
"I have made full inquiry, and am sure this is no mere speculation. The
stock will not be put upon the market, and will not be assessable. They
propose to make me a trustee, and the owners, limited in number, will
have entire control of the property. But I will not he hasty in the
matter. I will make it a subject of prayer for twenty-four hours, and
then if there be no adverse indications I will go on with it."
The next day I met the broad-faced Texan, and was impressed by him as
the old Doctor had been.
It seemed a sure thing. An old prospector had been equipped and sent out
by a few gentlemen, and he had found outcroppings of silver in a range
of hills extending not less than three miles. Assays had been made of
the ores, and they were found to be very rich. All the timber and
waterpower of Deep Spring Valley had been taken up for the company under
the general and local preemption and mining laws. It was a big thing.
The beauty of the whole arrangement was that no "mining sharps" were to
be let in; we were to manage it ourselves, and reap all the profits.
We went into it, the old Doctor and I, feeling deeply grateful to the
broad-faced Texan, who had so kindly given us the chance. I was made a
trustee, and began to have a decidedly business feeling as such. At the
meetings of "the board," my opinions were frequently called for, and
were given with great gravity. The money was paid for the shares I had
taken, and the precious evidences of ownership were carefully put in a
place of safety. A mill was built near the richest of the claims, and
the assays were good. There were delays, and more money was called for,
and sent up. The assays were still good, and the reports from our
superintendent were glowing. "The biggest thing in the history of
California mining," he wrote; and when the secretary read his letter to
the board, there was a happy expression on each face.
At this point I began to be troubled. It seemed, from reasonable
ciphering, that I should soon be a millionaire. It made me feel solemn
and anxious. I lay awake at night, praying that I might not be spoiled
by my good fortune. The scriptures that speak of the deceitfulness of
riches were called to mind, and I rejoiced with trembling. Many
beneficent enterprises were planned, principally in the line of endowing
colleges, and paying church-debts. (I had had an experience in this
line.) There were further delays, and more money was called for. The
ores were rebellious, and our "process" did not suit them. Fryborg and
Deep Spring Valley were not the same. A new superintendent—one that
understood rebellious ores—was employed at a higher salary. He
reported that all was right, and that we might expect "big news" in a
few days, as he proposed to crush about seventy tons of the best rock,
"by a new and improved process."
The board held frequent meetings, and in view of the nearness of great
results did not hesitate to meet the requisitions made for further
outlays of money. They resolved to pursue a prudent but vigorous policy
in developing the vast property when the mill should be fairly in
All this time I felt an undercurrent of anxiety lest I might sustain
spiritual loss by my sudden accession to great wealth, and continued to
fortify myself with good resolutions.
As a matter of special caution, I sent for a parcel of the ore, and had
a private assay made of it. The assay was good.
The new superintendent notified us that on a certain date we might look
for a report of the result of the first great crushing and cleanup of
the seventy tons of rock. The day came. On Kearny street I met one of
the stockholders—a careful Presbyterian brother, who loved money. He
had a solemn look, and was walking slowly, as if in deep thought.
Lifting his eyes as we met, he saw me, and spoke:
"It is lead!"
"What is lead?"
"Our silver mine in Deep Spring Valley."
Yes; from the seventy tons of rock we got eleven dollars in silver, and
about fifty pounds of as good lead as was ever molded into bullets.
The board held a meeting the next evening. It was a solemn one. The
fifty-pound bar of lead was placed in the midst, and was eyed
reproachfully. I resigned my trusteeship, and they saw me not again.
That was my first and last mining speculation. It failed somehow—but
the assays were all very good.
I had business with him, and went at a business hour. No introduction
was needed, for he had been my landlord, and no tenant of his ever had
reason to complain that he did not get a visit from him, in person or by
proxy, at least once a month. He was a punctual man—as a collector of
what was due him. Seeing that he was intently engaged, I paused and
looked at him. A man of huge frame, with enormous hands and feet,
massive head, receding forehead, and heavy cerebral development, full
sensual lips, large nose, and peculiar eyes that seemed at the same time
to look through you and to shrink from your gaze—he was a man at whom
a stranger would stop in the street to get a second gaze. There he sat
at his desk, too much absorbed to notice my entrance. Before him lay a
large pile of one-thousand-dollar United States Government bonds, and he
was clipping off the coupons. That face! it was a study as he sat using
the big pair of scissors. A hungry boy in the act of taking into his
mouth a ripe cherry, a mother gazing down into the face of her pretty
sleeping child, a lover looking into the eyes of his charmer, are but
faint figures by which to express the intense pleasure he felt in his
work. But there was also a feline element in his joy—his handling of
those bonds was somewhat like a cat toying with its prey. When at length
he raised his head, there was a fierce gleam in his eye and a flush in
his face. I had come upon a devotee engaged in worship. This was Mike
Reese, the miser and millionaire. Placing his huge left-hand on the pile
of bonds, he gruffly returned my salutation,
He turned as he spoke, and east a look of scrutiny into my face which
said plain enough that he wanted me to make known my business with him
I told him what was wanted. At the request of the official board of the
Minna-street Church I had come to ask him to make a contribution toward
the payment of its debt.
"O yes; I was expecting you. They all come to me. Father Gallagher, of
the Catholic Church, Dr. Wyatt, of the Episcopal Church, and all the
others, have been here. I feel friendly to the Churches, and I treat all
alike—it won't do for me to be partial—I don't give to any!"
That last clause was an anticlimax, dashing my hopes rudely; but I saw
he meant it, and left. I never heard of his departing from the rule of
strict impartiality he had laid down for himself.
We met at times at a restaurant on Clay street. He was a hearty feeder,
and it was amusing to see how skillfully in the choice of dishes and the
thoroughness with which he emptied them he could combine economy with
plenty. On several of these occasions, when we chanced to sit at the
same table, I proposed to pay for both of us, and he quickly assented,
his hard, heavy features lighting up with undisguised pleasure at the
suggestion, as he shambled out of the room amid the smiles of the
company present, most of whom knew him as a millionaire, and me as a
He had one affair of the heart. Cupid played a prank on him that was the
occasion of much merriment in the San Francisco newspapers, and of much
grief to him. A widow was his enslaver and tormentor—the old story.
She sued him for breach of promise of marriage. The trial made great fun
for the lawyers, reporters, and the amused public generally; but it was
no fun for him. He was mulcted for six thousand dollars and costs of the
suit. It was during the time I was renting one of his offices on
Washington street. I called to see him, wishing to have some repairs
made. His clerk met me in the narrow hall, and there was a mischievous
twinkle in his eye as he said:
"You had better come another day—the old man has just paid that
judgment in the breach of promise case, and he is in a bad way."
Hearing our voices, he said,
"Who is there?—come in."
I went in, and found him sitting leaning on his desk, the picture of
intense wretchedness. He was all unstrung, his jaw fallen, and a most
pitiful face met mine as he looked up and said, in a broken voice,
"Come some other day—I can do no business today; I am very unwell."
He was indeed sick—sick at heart. I felt sorry for him. Pain always
excites my pity, no matter what may be its cause. He was a miser, and
the payment of those thousands of dollars was like tearing him asunder.
He did not mind the jibes of the newspapers, but the loss of the money
was almost killing. He had not set his heart on popularity, but cash.
He had another special trouble, but with a different sort of ending. It
was discovered by a neighbor of his that, by some mismeasurement of the
surveyors, he (Reese) had built the wall of one of his immense business
houses on Front street six inches beyond his own proper line, taking in
just so much of that neighbor's lot. Not being on friendly terms with
Reese, his neighbor made a peremptory demand for the removal of the
wall, or the payment of a heavy price for the ground. Here was misery
for the miser. He writhed in mental agony, and begged for easier terms,
but in vain. His neighbor would not relent. The business men of the
vicinity rather enjoyed the situation, humorously watching the progress
of the affair. It was a case of diamond cut diamond, both parties
bearing the reputation of being hard men to deal with. A day was fixed
for Reese to give a definite answer to his neighbor's demand, with
notice that, in case of his noncompliance, suit against him would be
begun at once. The day came, and with it a remarkable change in Reese's
tone. He sent a short note to his enemy breathing profanity and
"What is the matter?" mused the puzzled citizen; "Reese has made some
discovery that makes him think he has the upper-hand, else he would not
talk this way."
And he sat and thought. The instinct of this class of men where money is
involved is like a miracle.
"I have it!" he suddenly exclaimed; "Reese has the same hold on me that
I have on him."
Reese happened to be the owner of another lot adjoining that of his
enemy, on the other side. It occurred to him that, as all these lots
were surveyed at the same time by the same party, it was most likely
that as his line had gone six inches too far on the one side, his
enemy's had gone as much too far on the other. And so it was. He had
quietly a survey made of the premises, and he chuckled with inward joy
to find that he held this winning card in the unfriendly game. With grim
politeness the neighbors exchanged deeds for the two half feet of
ground, and their war ended. The moral of this incident is for him who
hath wit enough to see it.
For several seasons he came every morning to North Beach to take
sea-baths. Sometimes he rode his well-known white horse, but oftener he
walked. He bathed in the open sea, making, as one expressed it,
twenty-five tents out of the Pacific Ocean, by avoiding the bathhouse.
Was this the charm that drew him forth so early? It not seldom chanced
that we walked downtown together. At times he was quite communicative,
speaking of himself in a way that was peculiar. It seems he had thoughts
of marrying before his episode with the widow.
"Do you think a young girl of twenty could love an old man like me?" he
asked me one day, as we were walking along the street.
I looked at his huge and ungainly bulk, and into his animal face, and
made no direct answer. Love! Six millions of dollars is a great sum.
Money may buy youth and beauty, but love does not come at its call.
God's highest gifts are free; only the second-rate things can be bought
with money. Did this sordid old man yearn for pure human love amid his
millions? Did such a dream cast a momentary glamour over a life spent in
raking among the muck-heaps? If so, it passed away, for he never
He understood his own case. He knew in what estimation he was held by
the public, and did not conceal his scorn for its opinion.
"My love of money is a disease. My saving and hoarding as I do is
irrational, and I know it. It pains me to pay five cents for a streetcar
ride, or a quarter of a dollar for a dinner. My pleasure in accumulating
property is morbid, but I have felt it from the time I was a foot
peddler in Charlotte, Campbell, and Pittsylvania counties, in Virginia,
until now. It is a sort of insanity, and it is incurable; but it is
about as good a form of madness as any, and all the world is mad in
This was the substance of what he said of himself when in one of his
moods of free speech, and it gave me a new idea of human nature—a man
whose keen and penetrating brain could subject his own consciousness to
a cool and correct analysis, seeing clearly the folly which he could not
resist. The autobiography of such a man might furnish a curious
psychological study, and explain the formation and development in
society of those moral monsters called misers. Nowhere in literature has
such a character been fully portrayed, though Shakespeare and George
Eliot have given vivid touches of some of its features.
He always retained a kind feeling for the South, over whose hills he had
borne his peddler's pack when a youth. After the war, two young
ex-Confederate soldiers came to San Francisco to seek their fortunes. A
small room adjoining my office was vacant, and the brothers requested me
to secure it for them as cheap as possible. I applied to Reese, telling
him who the young men were, and describing their broken and impecunious
"Tell them to take the room free of rent—but it ought to bring five
dollars a month."
It took a mighty effort, and he sighed as he spoke the words. I never
heard of his acting similarly in any other case, and I put this down to
his credit, glad to know that there was a warm spot in that mountain of
mud and ice. A report of this generous act got afloat in the city, and
many were the inquiries I received as to its truth. There was general
His health failed, and he crossed the seas. Perhaps he wished to visit
his native hills in Germany, which he had last seen when a child. There
he died, leaving all his millions to his kindred, save a bequest of one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the University of California. What
were his last thoughts, what was his final verdict concerning human
life, I know not. Empty-handed he entered the world of spirits, where,
the film fallen from his vision, he saw the Eternal Realities. What
amazement must have followed his awakening!
He was black and ugly; but it was an ugliness that did not disgust or
repel you. His face had a touch both of the comic and the pathetic. His
mouth was very wide, his lips very thick and the color of a ripe damson,
blue-black; his nose made up in width what it lacked in elevation; his
ears were big, and bent forward; his eyes were a dull white, on a very
dark ground; his wool was white and thick. His age might be anywhere
along from seventy onward. A black man's age, like that of a horse,
becomes dubious after reaching a certain stage.
He came to the class-meeting in the Pine-street Church, in San
Francisco, one Sabbath morning. He asked leave to speak, which was
"Bredren, I come here sometime ago, from Vicksburg, Mississippi, where I
has lived forty year, or more. I heered dar was a culud church up on de
hill, an' I thought I'd go an' washup wid'em. I went dar three or fo'
Sundays, but I foun' deir ways didn't suit me, an' my ways didn't suit
dem. Dey was Yankees' niggers, an' [proudly] I's a Southern man myself.
Sumbody tole me dar was a Southern Church down here on Pine street, an'
I thought I'd cum an' look in. Soon 's I got inside de church, an' look
roun' a minit, I feels at home. Dey look like home-folks; de preacher
preach like home-folks; de people sing like home-folks. Yer see,
chillan, I'se a Southern man myself [emphatically], and I'se a Southern
Methodis'. Dis is de Church I was borned in, an' dis is de Church I was
rarred in, an' [with great energy] dis is de Church which de Scripter
says de gates ob hell shall not prevail ag'in it! ["Amen!" from Father
Newman and others.] When dey heerd I was comin' to dis Church, some ob
'em got arter me 'bout it. Dey say dis Church was a enemy to de black
people, and dat dey was in favor ob slavery. I tole 'em de Scripter
said, 'Love your enemies,' an' den I took de Bible an' read what it says
about slavery—I can read some, chillun Servants, obey yer masters in
all things, not wid eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as unto de Lord;'
and so on. But, bless yer souls, chillun, dey wouldn't lis'en to dat
—so I foun' out dey was abberlishem niggers, an' I lef' 'em.!"
Yes, he left them, and came to us. I received him into the Church in due
form, and with no little eclat, he being the only son of Ham on our roll
of members in San Francisco. He stood firm to his Southern Methodist
colors under a great pressure.
"Yer ought ter be killed fer goin' ter dat Southern Church," said one of
his colored acquaintances one day, as they met in the street.
"Kill me, den," said Uncle Nolan, with proud humility; "kill me, den;
yer can't cheat me out ob many days, nohow."
He made a living, and something over, by rag-picking at North Beach and
elsewhere, until the Chinese entered into competition with him, and then
it was hard times for Uncle Nolan. His eyesight partially failed him,
and it was pitiful to see him on the beach, his threadbare garments
fluttering in the wind, groping amid the rubbish for rags, or shuffling
along the streets with a huge sack on his back, and his old felt hat
tied under his nose with a string, picking his way carefully to spare
his swollen feet, which were tied up with bagging and woolens. His
religious fervor never cooled; I never heard him complain. He never
ceased to be joyously thankful for two things—his freedom and his
religion. But, strange as it may seem, he was a pro-slavery man to the
last. Even after the war, he stood to his opinion.
"Dem niggers in de South thinks dey is free, but dey ain't. 'Fore it's
all ober, all dat ain't dead will be glad to git back to deir masters,"
he would say.
Yet he was very proud of his own freedom, and took the utmost care of
his free-papers. He had no desire to resume his former relation to the
peculiar and patriarchal institution. He was not the first philosopher
who has had one theory for his fellows, and another for himself.
Uncle Nolan would talk of religion by the hour. He never tired of that
theme. His faith was simple and strong, but, like most of his race, he
had a tinge of superstition. He was a dreamer of dreams, and he believed
in them. Here is one which he recited to me. His weird manner, and low,
chanting tone, I must leave to the imagination of the reader:
Uncle Nolan's Dream.
A tall black man came along, an' took me by de arm, an' tole me he had
come for me. I said:
"What yer want wid me?"
"I come to carry yer down into de darkness."
"Cause you didn't follow de Lord."
Wid dat, he pulled me 'long de street till he come to a big black house,
de biggest house an' de thickest walls I eber seed. We went in a little
do', an' den he took me down a long sta'rs in de dark, till we come to a
big do'; we went inside, an' den de big black man locked de do' behin'
us. An' so we kep' on, goin' down, an' goin' down, an' goin' down, an'
he kep' lockin' dem big iron do's behin' us, an' all de time it was
pitch dark, so I couldn't see him, but he still hel' on ter me. At las'
we stopped, an' den he started to go 'way. He locked de do' behin' him,
an' I heerd him goin' up de steps de way we come, lockin' all de do's
behin' him as he went. I tell you, dat was dreafful when I heerd dat big
key turn on de outside, an' me 'way down, down, down dar in de dark all
alone, an' no chance eber to git out! An' I knowed it was 'cause I
didn't foller de Lord. I felt roun' de place, an' dar was nothin' but de
thick walls an' de great iron do'. Den I sot down an' cried, 'cause I
knowed I was a los' man. Dat was de same as hell [his voice sinking into
a whisper], an' all de time I knowed I was dar, 'cause I hadn't follered
de Lord. Bymeby somethin' say, "Pray." Somethin' keep sayin', "Pray."
Den I drap on my knees an' prayed. I tell you, no man eber prayed harder
'n I did! I prayed, an' prayed, an' prayed! What's dat? Dar's somebody
a-comin' down dem steps; dey 's unlockin' de do'; an' de fus' thing I
knowed, de place was all lighted up bright as day, an' a white-faced man
stood by me, wid a crown on his head, an' a golden key in his han'.
Somehow, I knowed it was Jesus, an' right den I waked up all of a
tremble, an' knowed it was a warnin' dat I mus' foller de Lord. An',
bless Jesus, I has been follerin' him fifty year since I had dat dream.
In his prayers, and class-meeting and love-feast talks, Uncle Nolan
showed a depth of spiritual insight truly wonderful, and the effects of
these talks were frequently electrical. Many a time have I seen the
Pine-street brethren and sisters rise from their knees, at the close of
one of his prayers, melted into tears, or thrilled to religious rapture,
by the power of his simple faith, and the vividness of his sanctified
He held to his pro-slavery views and guarded his own freedom-papers to
the last; and when he died, in 1875, the last colored Southern Methodist
in California was transferred from the Church militant to the great
company that no man can number, gathered out of every nation, and tribe,
and kindred, on the earth.
That is what the boys called him. His real Christian name was Zachariah.
The way he got the name he went by was this: He was a Methodist, and
prayed in public. He was excitable, and his lungs were of extraordinary
power. When fully aroused, his voice sounded, it was said, like the
bellowing of a whole herd of buffaloes. It had peculiar reverberations
—rumbling, roaring, shaking the very roof of the sanctuary, or echoing
among the hills when let out at its utmost strength at a camp-meeting.
This is why they called him Buffalo Jones. It was his voice. There never
was such another. In Ohio he was a blacksmith and a fighting man. He had
whipped every man who would fight him, in a whole tier of counties. He
was converted after the old way; that is to say, he was "powerfully"
converted. A circuit-rider preached the sermon that converted him. His
anguish was awful. The midnight hour found him in tears. The Ohio forest
resounded with his cries for mercy. When he found peace, it swelled into
rapture. He joined the Church militant among the Methodists, and he
stuck to them, quarreled with them, and loved them, all his life. He had
many troubles, and gave much trouble to many people. The old Adam died
hard in the fighting blacksmith. His pastor, his family, his friends,
his fellow-members in the Church, all got a portion of his wrath in due
season, if they swerved a hair-breadth from the straight-line of duty as
he saw it. I was his pastor, and I never had a truer friend, or a
severer censor. One Sunday morning he electrified my congregation, at
the close of the sermon, by rising in his place and making a personal
application of a portion of it to individuals present, and insisting on
their immediate expulsion from the Church. He had another side to his
character, and at times was as tender as a woman. He acted as
class-leader. In his melting moods he moved every eye to tears, as he
passed round among the brethren and sisters, weeping, exhorting, and
rejoicing. At such times, his great voice softened into a pathos that
none could resist, and swept the chords of sympathy with resistless
power. But when his other mood was upon him, he was fearful. He scourged
the unfaithful with a whip of fire. He would quote with a singular
fluency and aptness every passage of Scripture that blasted hypocrites,
reproved the lukewarm, or threatened damnation to the sinner. At such
times his voice sounded like the shout of a warrior in battle, and the
timid and wondering hearers looked as if they were in the midst of the
thunder and lightning of a tropical storm. I remember the shock he gave
a quiet and timid lady whom I had persuaded to remain for the
class-meeting after service. Fixing his stern and fiery gaze upon her,
and knitting his great bushy eyebrows, he thundered the question:
"Sister, do you ever pray?"
The startled woman nearly sprang from her seat in a panic as she
"Yes, sir; yes, sir."
She did not attend his class-meeting again.
At a camp-meeting he was present, and in one of his bitterest moods. The
meeting was not conducted in a way to suit him. He was grim, critical,
and contemptuous, making no concealment of his dissatisfaction. The
preaching displeased him particularly. He groaned, frowned, and in other
ways showed his feelings. At length he could stand it no longer. A young
brother had just closed a sermon of a mild and persuasive kind, and no
sooner had he taken his seat than the old man arose. Looking forth upon
the vast audience, and then casting a sharp and scornful glance at the
preachers in and around "the stand," he said:
"You preachers of these days have no gospel in you. You remind me of a
man going into his barnyard early in the morning to feed his stock. He
has a basket on his arm, and here come the horses nickering, the cows
lowing, the calves and sheep bleating, the hogs squealing, the turkeys
gobbling, the hens clucking, and the roosters crowing. They all gather
round him, expecting to be fed, and lo, his basket is empty! You take
texts, and you preach, but you have no gospel. Your baskets are empty."
Here he darted a defiant glance at the astonished preachers, and then,
turning to one, he added in a milder and patronizing tone:
"You, Brother Sim, do preach a little gospel in your basket there is one
Down he sat, leaving the brethren to meditate on what he had said. The
silence that followed was deep.
At one time his conscience became troubled about the use of tobacco, and
he determined to quit. This was the second great struggle of his life.
He was running a sawmill in the foothills at the time, and lodged in a
little cabin near by.
Suddenly deprived of the stimulant to which it had so long been
accustomed, his nervous system was wrought up to a pitch of frenzy. He
would rush from the cabin, climb along the hill-side, run leaping from
rock to rock, now and then screaming like a maniac. Then he would rush
back to the cabin, seize a plug of tobacco, smell it, rub it against his
lips, and away he would go again. He smelt, but never tasted it again.
"I was resolved to conquer, and by the grace of God I did," he said.
That was a great victory for the fighting blacksmith.
When a melodeon was introduced into the church, he was sorely grieved
and furiously angry. He argued against it, he expostulated, he
protested, he threatened, he staid away from church. He wrote me a
letter, in which he expressed his feelings thus:
San Jose, 1860.
Dear Brother:—They have got the devil into the church now! Put your
foot on its tail and it squeals.
This was his figurative way of putting it. I was told that he had, on a
former occasion, dealt with the question in a more summary way, by
taking his ax and splitting a melodeon to pieces.
Neutrality in politics was, of course, impossible to such a man. In the
civil war his heart was with the South. He gave up when Stonewall
Jackson was killed.
"It is all over—the praying man is gone," he said; and he sobbed like
a child. From that day he had no hope for the Confederacy, though once
or twice, when feeling ran high, he expressed a readiness to use carnal
weapons in defense of his political principles. For all his opinions on
the subject he found support from the Bible, which he read and studied
with unwearying diligence. He took its words literally on all occasions,
and the Old Testament history had a wonderful charm for him. He would
have been ready to hew any modern Agag in pieces before the Lord.
He finally found his way to the Insane Asylum. The reader has already
seen how abnormal was his mind, and will not be surprised that his
storm-tossed soul lost its rudder at last. But mid all its veerings he
never lost sight of the Star that had shed its light upon his checkered
path of life. He raved, and prayed, and wept, by turns. The horrors of
mental despair would be followed by gleams of seraphic joy. When one of
his stormy moods was upon him, his mighty voice could be heard above all
the sounds of that sad and pitiful company of broken and wrecked souls.
The old class-meeting instinct and habit showed itself in his semi-lucid
intervals. He would go round among the patients questioning them as to
their religious feeling and behavior in true class-meeting style. Dr.
Shurtleff one day overheard a colloquy between him and Dr. Rogers, a
freethinker and reformer, whose vagaries had culminated in his shaving
close one side of his immense whiskers, leaving the other side in all
its flowing amplitude. Poor fellow! Pitiable as was his case, he made a
ludicrous figure walking the streets of San Francisco half shaved, and
defiant of the wonder and ridicule he excited. The ex-class-leader's
voice was earnest and loud, as he said:
"Now, Rogers, you must pray. If you will get down at the feet of Jesus,
and confess your sins, and ask him to bless you, he will hear you, and
give you peace. But if you won't do it," he continued, with growing
excitement and kindling anger at the thought, "you are the most infernal
rascal that ever lived, and I'll beat you into a jelly!"
The good Doctor had to interfere at this point, for the old man was in
the very act of carrying out his threat to punish Rogers bodily, on the
bare possibility that he would not pray as he was told to do. And so
that extemporized class-meeting came to an abrupt end.
"Pray with me," he said to me the last time I saw him at the Asylum.
Closing the door of the little private office, we knelt side by side,
and the poor old sufferer, bathed in tears, and docile as a little
child, prayed to the once suffering, once crucified, but risen and
interceding Jesus. When he arose from his knees his eyes were wet, and
his face showed that there was a great calm within. We never met again.
He went home to die. The storms that had swept his soul subsided, the
light of reason was rekindled, and the light of faith burned brightly;
and in a few weeks he died in great peace, and another glad voice joined
in the anthems of the blood-washed millions in the city of God.
The image of this man of many moods and brilliant genius that rises most
distinctly to my mind is that connected with a little prayer-meeting in
the Minna-street Church, San Francisco, one Thursday night. His thin
silver locks, his dark flashing eye, his graceful pose, and his musical
voice, are before me. His words I have not forgotten, but their electric
effect must forever be lost to all except the few who heard them.
"I have been taunted with the reproach that it was only after I was a
broken and disappointed man in my worldly hopes and aspirations that I
turned to religion. The taunt is just"—here he bowed his head, and
paused with deep emotion "the taunt is just. I bow my head in shame, and
take the blow. My earthly hopes have faded and fallen one after another.
The prizes that dazzled my imagination have eluded my grasp. I am a
broken, gray-haired man, and I bring to my God only the remnant of a
life. But, brethren, it is this very thought that fills me with joy and
gratitude at this moment—the thought that when all else fails God
takes us up. Just when we need him most, and most feel our need of him,
he lifts us up out of the depths where we had groveled, and presses us
to his Fatherly heart. This is the glory of Christianity. The world
turns from us when we fail and fall; then it is that the Lord draws
higher. Such a religion must be from God, for its principles are
God-like. It does not require much skill or power to steer a ship into
port when her timbers are sound, her masts all rigged, and her crew at
their posts; but the pilot that can take an old hulk, rocking on the
stormy waves, with its masts torn away, its rigging gone, its planks
loose and leaking, and bring it safe to harbor, that is the pilot for
me. Brethren, I am that hulk; and Jesus is that Pilot!"
"Glory be to Jesus!" exclaimed Father Newman; as the speaker, with
swimming eyes, radiant face, and heaving chest, sunk into his seat. I
never heard any thing finer from mortal lips, but it seems cold to me as
I read it here. Oratory cannot be put on paper.
He was present once at a camp-meeting, at the famous Toll-gate
Camp-ground, in Santa Clara Valley, near the city of San Jose. It was
Sabbath morning, just such a one as seldom dawns on this earth. The
brethren and sisters were gathered around "the stand" under the
live-oaks for a speaking-meeting. The morning glory was on the summits
of the Santa Cruz Mountains that sloped down to the sacred spot, the
lovely valley smiled under a sapphire sky, the birds hopped from twig to
twig of the overhanging branches that scarcely quivered in the still
air, and seemed to peer inquiringly into the faces of the assembled
worshipers. The bugle-voice of Bailey led in a holy song, and Simmons
led in prayer that touched the eternal throne. One after another,
gray-haired men and saintly women told when and how they began the new
life far away on the old hills they would never see again, and how they
had been led and comforted in their pilgrimage. Young disciples, in the
flush of their first love, and the rapture of newborn hope, were borne
out on a tide of resistless feeling into that ocean whose waters
encircle the universe. The radiance from the heavenly hills was
reflected from the consecrated encampment, and the angels of God hovered
over the spot. Judge Robinson rose to his feet, and stepped into the
altar, the sunlight at that moment falling upon his face. Every voice
was hushed, as, with the orator's indefinable magnetism, he drew every
eye upon him. The pause was thrilling. At length he spoke:
"This is a mount of transfiguration. The transfiguration is on hill and
valley, on tree and shrub, on grass and flower, on earth and sky. It is
on your faces that shine like the face of Moses when he came down from
the awful mount where be met Jehovah face to face. The same light is on
your faces, for here is God's shekinah. This is the gate of heaven. I
see its shining hosts, I hear the melody of its songs. The angels of God
encamped with us last night, and they linger with us this morning. Tarry
with us, ye sinless ones, for this is heaven on earth!"
He paused, with extended arm, gazing upward entranced. The scene that,
followed beggars description. By a simultaneous impulse all rose to
their feet and pressed toward the speaker with awestruck faces, and when
Grandmother Bucker, the matriarch of the valley, with luminous face and
uplifted eyes, broke into a shout, it swelled into a melodious hurricane
that shook the very hills. He ought to have been a preacher. So he said
to me once:
"I felt the impulse and heard the call in my early manhood. I conferred
with flesh and blood, and was disobedient to the heavenly vision. I have
had some little success at the bar, on the hustings, and in legislative
halls, but how paltry has it been in comparison with the true life and
high career that might have been mine!"
He was from the hill-country of North Carolina, and its flavor clung to
him to the last. He had his gloomy moods, but his heart was fresh as a
Blue Ridge breeze in May, and his wit bubbled forth like a
mountain-spring. There was no bitterness in his satire. The very victim
of his thrust enjoyed the keenness of the stroke, for there was no
poison in the weapon. At times he seemed inspired, and you thrilled,
melted, and soared, under the touches of this Western Coleridge. He came
to my room at the Golden Eagle, in Sacramento City, one night, and left
at two o'clock in the morning. He walked the floor and talked, and it
was the grandest monologue I ever listened to. One part of it I could
not forget. It was with reference to preachers who turn aside from their
holy calling to engage in secular pursuits, or in politics.
"It is turning away from angels' food to feed on garbage. Think of
spending a whole life in contemplating the grandest things, and working
for the most glorious ends, instructing the ignorant, consoling the
sorrowing, winning the wayward back to duty and to peace, pointing the
dying to Him who is the light and the life of men, animating the living
to seek from the highest motives a holy life and a sublime destiny! O it
is a life that might draw an angel from the skies! If there is a special
hell for fools, it should be kept for the man who turns aside from a
life like this, to trade, or dig the earth, or wrangle in a court of
law, or scramble for an office."
He looked at me as he spoke, with flashing eyes and curled lip.
"That is all true and very fine, Judge, but it sounds just a little
peculiar as coming from you."
"I am the very man to say it, for I am the man who bitterly sees its
truth. Do not make the misstep that I did. A man might well be willing
to live on bread and water, and walk the world afoot, for the privilege
of giving all his thoughts to the grandest themes, and all his service
to the highest objects. As a lawyer, my life has been spent in a
prolonged quarrel about money, land, houses; cattle, thieving,
slandering, murdering, and other villainy. The little episodes of
politics that have given variety to my career have only shown me the
baseness of human nature, and the pettiness of human ambition. There are
men who will fill these places and do this work, and who want and will
choose nothing better. Let them have all the good they can get out of
such things. But the minister of the gospel who comes down from the
height of his high calling to engage in this scramble, does that which
makes devils laugh and angels weep."
This was the substance of what he said on this point. I have never
forgotten it. I am glad he came to my room that night. What else he
said I cannot write, but the remembrance of it is like to that of a
melody that lingers in my soul when the music has ceased.
"I thank you for your sermon today—you never told a single lie."
This was his remark at the close of a service in Minna street one
"What is the meaning of that remark?"
That the exaggerations of the pulpit repel thousands from the truth.
Moderation of statement is a rare excellence. A deep spiritual insight
enables a religious teacher to shade his meanings where it is required.
Deep piety is genius for the pulpit. Mediocrity in native endowments,
conjoined with spiritual stolidity in the pulpit, does more harm than
all the open apostles of infidelity combined. They take the divinity out
of religion and kill the faith of those who hear them. None but inspired
men should stand in the pulpit. Religion is not in the intellect merely.
The world by wisdom cannot know God. The attempt to find out God by the
intellect has always been, and always must be, the completest of
failures. Religion is the sphere of the supernatural, and stands not in
the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. It has often happened that
men of the first order of talent and the highest culture have been
converted by the preaching of men of weak intellect and limited
education, but who were directly taught of God, and had drunk deep from
the fount of living truth in personal experience of the blessed power of
Christian faith. It was through the intellect that the devil seduced the
first pair. When we rest in the intellect only, we miss God. With the
heart only can man believe unto righteousness. The evidence that
satisfies is based on consciousness. Consciousness is the satisfying
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But
God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. They can be revealed in no
Here was the secret he had learned, and that had brought a new joy and
glory into his life as it neared the sunset. The great change dated from
a dark and rainy night as he walked home in Sacramento City. Not more
tangible to Saul of Tarsus was the vision, or more distinctly audible
the voice that spoke to him on the way to Damascus, than was the
revelation of Jesus Christ to this lawyer of penetrating intellect,
large and varied reading, and sharp perception of human folly and
weakness. It was a case of conversion in the fullest and divinest sense.
He never fell from the wonder-world of grace to which he had been
lifted. His youth seemed to be renewed, and his life had rebloomed, and
its winter was turned into spring, under the touch of Him who maketh all
things new. He was a new man, and he lived in a new world. He never
failed to attend the class-meetings, and in his talks there the flashes
of his genius set religious truths in new lights, and the little band of
Methodists were treated to bursts of fervid eloquence, such as might
kindle the listening thousands of metropolitan churches into admiration,
or melt them into tears. On such occasions I could not help regretting
anew that the world had lost what this man might have wrought had his
path in life taken a different direction at the start. He died suddenly,
and when in the city of Los Angeles I read the telegram announcing his
death, I felt, mingled with the pain at the loss of a friend, exultation
that before there was any reaction in his religious life his mighty soul
had found a congenial home amid the supernal glories and sublime joys of
the world of spirits. The moral of this man's life will be seen by him
for whom this imperfect Sketch has been penciled.
He was the sunniest of Mongolians. The Chinaman, under favorable
conditions, is not without a sly sense of humor of his peculiar sort;
but to American eyes there is nothing very pleasant in his angular and
smileless features. The manner of his contact with many Californians is
not calculated to evoke mirthfulness. The brickbat may be a good
political argument in the hands of a hoodlum, but it does not make its
target playful. To the Chinaman in America the situation is new and
grave, and he looks sober and holds his peace. Even the funny-looking,
be-cued little Chinese children wear a look of solemn inquisitiveness,
as they toddle along the streets of San Francisco by the side of their
queer-looking mothers. In his own land, overpopulated and misgoverned,
the Chinaman has a hard fight for existence. In these United States his
advent is regarded somewhat in the same spirit as that of the seventeen
year locusts, or the cotton-worm. The history of a people may be read in
their physiognomy. The monotony of Chinese life during these thousands
of years is reflected in the dull, monotonous faces of Chinamen.
Ah Lee was an exception. His skin was almost fair, his features almost
Caucasian in their regularity; his dark eye lighted up with a peculiar
brightness, and there was a remarkable buoyancy and glow about him every
way. He was about twenty years old. How long he had been in California I
know not. When he came into my office to see me the first time, he
rushed forward and impulsively grasped my hand, saying:
"My name Ah Lee—you Doctor Plitzjellie?"
That was the way my name sounded as he spoke it. I was glad to see him,
and told him so.
"You makee Christian newspaper? You talkee Jesus? Mr. Taylor tellee me.
Me Christian—me love Jesus."
Yes, Ah Lee was a Christian; there could be no doubt about that. I have
seen many happy converts, but none happier than he. He was not merely
happy—he was ecstatic.
The story of the mighty change was a simple one, but thrilling. Near
Vacaville, the former seat of the Pacific Methodist College, in Solano
county, lived the Rev. Iry Taylor, a member of the Pacific Conference of
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Mr. Taylor was a praying man, and
he had a praying wife. Ah Lee was employed as a domestic in the family.
His curiosity was first excited in regard to family prayers. He wanted
to know what it all meant. The Taylor's explained. The old, old story
took hold of Ah Lee. He was put to thinking and then to praying. The
idea of the forgiveness of sins filled him with wonder and longing. He
hung with breathless interest upon the word of the Lord, opening to him
a world of new thought. The tide of feeling bore him on, and at the foot
of the cross he found what he sought.
Ah Lee was converted—converted as Paul, as Augustine, as Wesley, were
converted. He was born into a new life that was as real to him as his
consciousness was real. This psychological change will be understood by
some of my readers; others may regard it as they do any other
inexplicable phenomenon in that mysterious inner world of the human
soul, in which are lived the real lives of us all. In Ah Lee's heathen
soul was wrought the gracious wonder that makes joy among the angels of
The young Chinese disciple, it is to be feared, got little sympathy
outside the Taylor household and a few others. The right-hand of
Christian fellowship was withheld by many, or extended in a cold,
half-reluctant way. But it mattered not to Ah Lee; he had his own
heaven. Coldness was wasted on him. The light within him brightened
every thing without.
Ah Lee became a frequent visitor to our cottage on the hill. He always
came and went rejoicing. The Gospel of John was his daily study and
delight. To his ardent and receptive nature it was a diamond mine. Two
things he wanted to do. He had a strong desire to translate his favorite
Gospel into Chinese, and to lead his parents to Christ. When he spoke of
his father and mother his voice would soften, his eyes moisten with
"I go back to China and tellee my fader and mudder allee good news," he
said, with beaming face.
This peculiar development of filial reverence and affection among the
Chinese is a hopeful feature of their national life. It furnishes a
solid basis for a strong Christian nation. The weakening of this
sentiment weakens religious susceptibility; its destruction is spiritual
death. The worship of ancestors is idolatry, but it is that form of it
nearest akin to the worship of the Heavenly Father. The honoring of the
father and mother on earth is the commandment with promise, and it is
the promise of this life and of life everlasting.
There is an inter blending of human and divine loves; earth and heaven
are unitary in companionship and destiny. The golden ladder rests on the
earth and reaches up into the heavens.
About twice a week Ah Lee came to see us at North Beach. These visits
subjected our courtesy and tact to a severe test. He loved little
children, and at each visit he would bring with him a gayly-painted box
filled with Chinese sweetmeats. Such sweetmeats! They were to strong for
the palates of even young Californians. What cannot be relished and
digested by a healthy California boy must be formidable indeed. Those
sweetmeats were—but I give it up, they were indescribable! The boxes
were pretty, and, after being emptied of their contents, they were kept.
Ah Lee's joy in his new experience did not abate. Under the touch of the
Holy Spirit, his spiritual nature had suddenly blossomed into tropical
luxuriance. To look at him made me think of the second chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles. If I had had any lingering doubts of the
transforming power of the gospel upon all human hearts, this conversion
of Ah Lee would have settled the question forever. The bitter feeling
against the Chinese that just then found expression in California,
through so many channels, did not seem to affect him in the least. He
had his Christianity warm from the heart of the Son of God, and no
caricature of its features or perversion of its spirit could bewilder
him for a moment. He knew whom he had believed. None of these things
moved him. O blessed mystery of God's mercy, that turns the night of
heathen darkness into day, and makes the desert soul bloom with the
flowers of paradise! O cross of the Crucified! Lifted up, it shall draw
all men to their Saviour! And O blind and slow of heart to believe! why
could we not discern that this young Chinaman's conversion was our
Lord's gracious challenge to our faith, and the pledge of success to the
Church that will go into all the world with the news of salvation?
Ah Lee has vanished from my observation, but I have a persuasion that is
like a burning prophecy that he will be heard from again. To me he types
the blessedness of old China newborn in the life of the Lord, and in his
luminous face I read the prophecy of the redemption of the millions who
have so long bowed before the Great Red Dragon, but who now wait for the
coming of the Deliverer.
The Climate of California.
Had Shakespeare lived in California, he would not have written of the
"winter of our discontent," but would most probably have found in the
summer of that then undiscovered country a more fitting symbol of the
troublous times referred to; for, with the fogs, winds, and dust, that
accompany the summer, or the "dry season," as it is more appropriately
called in California, it is emphatically a season of discontent. In the
mountains of the State only are these conditions not found. True, you
will find dust even there as the natural consequence of the lack of
rain; but that is not, of course, so bad in the mountains; and with no
persistent, nagging wind to pick it up and fling it spitefully at you,
you soon get not to mind it at all. But of summer in the coast country
it is hard to speak tolerantly. The perfect flower of its unloveliness
flourishes in San Francisco, and, more or less hardily, all along the
coast. From the time the rains cease—generally some time in May
—through the six-months' period of their cessation, the programme for
the day is, with but few exceptions, unvaried. Fog in the morning
—chilling, penetrating fog, which obscures the rays of the morning sun
completely, and, dank and "clinging like cerements," swathes every thing
with its soft, gray folds. On the bay it hangs, heavy and chill,
blotting out everything but the nearest objects, and at a little
distance hardly distinguishable from the water itself. At such times is
heard the warning-cry of the foghorns at Fort Point, Goat Island, and
elsewhere—a sound which probably is more like that popularly supposed
to be produced by an expiring cow in her last agony than any thing else,
but which is not like that or any thing in the world but a foghorn. The
fog of the morning, however, gives way to the wind of the afternoon,
which, complete master of the situation by three o'clock P.M., holds
stormy sway till sunset. No gentle zephyr this, to softly sway the
delicate flower or just lift the fringe on the maiden's brow, but what
seamen call a "spanking breeze," that does not hesitate to knock off the
hat that is not fastened tightly both fore and aft to the underlying
head, or to fling sand and dust into any exposed eye, and which dances
around generally among skirts and coat-tails with untiring energy and
persistency. To venture out on the streets of San Francisco at such
times is really no trifling matter; and to one not accustomed to it, or
to one of a non-combative disposition, the performance is not a pleasant
one. Still the streets are always full of hurrying passengers; for,
whether attributable to the extra amount of vitality and vim that this
bracing climate imparts to its children, or to a more direct and obvious
cause, the desire to get indoors again as soon as possible, the fact
remains the same—that the people of California walk faster than do
those of almost any other country. Not only men either, who with their
coats buttoned up to their chins, and hats jammed tightly over their
half-shut eyes, present a tolerably secure surface to the attacks of the
wind, but their fairer sisters too can be seen, with their fresh cheeks
and bright eyes protected by jaunty veils, scudding along in the face or
the track of the wind, as the case may he, with wonderful skill and
grace, looking as trim and secure as to rigging as the lightest schooner
in full sail on their own bay.
But it is after the sun has gone down from the cloudless sky, and the
sea has recalled its breezes to slumber for the night, that the
fulfillment of the law of compensation is made evident in this matter.
The nights are of silver, if the days be not of gold. And all over the
State this blessing of cool, comfortable nights is spread. At any
season, one can draw a pair of blankets over him upon retiring, sure of
sound, refreshing slumber, unless assailed by mental or physical
troubles to which even this glorious climate of California cannot
The country here during this rainless season does not seem to the
Eastern visitor enough like what he has known as country in the summer
to warrant any outlay in getting there. He must, however, understand
that here people go to the country for precisely opposite reasons to
those which influence Eastern tourists to leave the city and betake
themselves to rural districts. In the East, one leaves the crowded
streets and heated atmosphere of the great city to seek coolness in some
sylvan retreat. Here, we leave the chilling winds and fogs of the city
to try to get warm where they cannot penetrate. Warm it may be; but the
country at this season is not at its best as to looks. The flowers and
the grass have disappeared with the rains, the latter, however, keeping
in its dry, brown roots, that the sun scorches daily, the germ of all
next winter's green. Of the trees, the live-oak alone keeps to the
summer livery of Eastern forests. Farther up in the mountain counties it
is very different. No fairer summer could be wished for than that which
reigns cloudless here; and with the sparkling champagne of that clear,
dry air in his nostrils, our Eastern visitor forgets even to sigh for a
summer shower to lay the dreadful dust. And even in the valleys and
around the bay, we must confess that some advantages arise from the
no-rain-for-six-months policy. Picnickers can set forth any day, with no
fear of the fun of the occasion being wet-blanketed by an unlooked-for
shower; and farmers can dispose of their crops according to convenience,
often leaving their wheat piled up in the field, with no fear of danger
from the elements.
Still we do get very tired of this long, strange summer, and the first
rains are eagerly looked for and joyously welcomed. The fall of the
first showers after such a long season of bareness and brownness is
almost as immediate in its effects as the waving of a fairy's magic wand
over Cinderella, sitting ragged in the ashes and cinders. The change
thus wrought is well described by a poet of the soil in a few
Week by week the near hills whitened, In their dusty leather cloaks;
Week by week the far hills darkened, From the fringing plain of oaks;
Till the rains came, and far breaking, On the fierce south-wester tost,
Dashed the whole long coast with color, And then vanished and were lost.
With these rains the grass springs up, the trees put out, and the winds
disappear, leaving in the air a wonderful softness. In a month or two
the flowers appear, and the hills are covered with a mantle of glory.
Bluebells, lupins, buttercups, and hosts of other blossoms, spring up in
profusion; and, illuminating every thing, the wild California poppy
lifts its flaming torch, typifying well, in its dazzling and glowing
color, the brilliant minds and passionate hearts of the people of this
land. All these bloom on through the winter, for this is a winter but in
name. With no frost, ice, or snow, it is more like an Eastern spring,
but for the absence of that feeling of languor and debility which is so
often felt in that season. True it rains a good deal, but by no means
constantly, more often in the night; and it is this season of smiles and
tears, this winter of flowers and budding trees, in which the glory of
the California climate lies. Certainly nothing could be more perfect
than a bright winter day in that State. Still, after all I could say in
its praise, you would not know its full charm till you had felt its
delicious breath on your own brow; for the peculiar freshness and
exhilaration of the air are indescribable.
Sometimes in March, the dwellers on the bay are treated to a blow or two
from the north, which is about as serious weather as the inhabitant of
that favored clime ever experiences. After a night whose sleep has been
broken by shrieks of the wind and the rattling of doors and windows, I
wake with a dullness of head and sensitiveness of nerve that alone would
be sufficient to tell me that the north wind had risen like a thief in
the night, and had not, according to the manner of that class, stolen
away before morning. On the contrary, he seems to be rushing around with
an energy that betokens a day of it. I dress, and look out of my window.
The bay is a mass of foaming, tossing waves, which, as they break on the
beach just below, cast their spray twenty feet in air. All the little
vessels have come into port, and only a few of the largest ships still
ride heavily at their anchors. The hue separating the shallow water near
the shore from the deeper waters beyond is much farther out than usual,
and is more distinct. Within its boundary, the predominant white is
mixed with a dark, reddish brown; without, the spots of color are
darkest green. The shy has been swept of every particle of cloud and
moisture, and is almost painfully blue. Against it, Mounts Tamalpais and
Diablo stand outlined with startling clearness. The hills and islands
round the bay look as cold and uncomfortable in their robes of bright
green as a young lady who has put on her spring-dress too soon. The
streets and walks are swept bare, but still the air is filled with
flying sand that cuts my face like needles, when, later, overcoated and
gloved to the utmost, I proceed downtown. Such days are Nature's
cleaning days, very necessary to future health and comfort, but, like
all cleaning-days, very unpleasant to go through with. With her
mightiest besom does the old lady sweep all the cobwebs from the sky,
all the dirt and germs of disease from the ground, and remove all specks
and impurities from her air-windows. One or two such "northers" finish
up the season, effectually scaring away all the clouds, thus clearing
the stage for the next act in this annual drama of two acts.
This climate of California is perfectly epitomized in a stanza of the
same poem before quoted:
So each year the season shifted, Wet and warm, and drear and dry,
Half a year-of cloud and flowers, Half a year of dust and sky.
After the Storm.
(Penciled in the bay-window above the Golden Gate, North Beach, San
Francisco, February 20, 1873.)
All day the winds the sea had lashed, The fretted waves in anger dashed
Against the rocks in tumult wild Above the surges roughly piled—No blue
above, no peace below, The waves still rage, the winds still blow.
Dull and muffled the sunset gun Tells that the dreary day is done; The
sea-birds fly with drooping wing—Chill and shadow on every thing—No
blue above, no peace below, The waves still rage, the winds still blow.
The clouds dispart; the sapphire dye In beauty spreads o'er the western
sky, Cloud-fires blaze o'er the Gate of Gold, Gleaming and glowing, fold
on fold—All blue above, all peace below, Nor waves now rage, nor winds
Souls that are lashed by storms of pain, Eyes that drip with sorrow's
rain; Hearts that burn with passion strong, Bruised and torn, and weary
of wrong—No light above, no peace within, Battling with self, and torn
Hope on, hold on, the clouds will lift; God's peace will come as his own
sweet gift, The light will shine at evening-time, The reflected beams of
the sunlit clime, The blessed goal of the soul's long quest, Where
storms ne'er beat, and all are blest.
Bishop Kavanaugh in California.
He came first in 1856. The Californians "took to" him at once. It was
almost as good as a visit to the old home to see and hear this
rosy-faced, benignant, and solid Kentuckian. His power and pathos in the
pulpit were equaled by his humor and magnetic charm in the social
circle. Many consciences were stirred. All hearts were won by him, and
he holds them unto this day. We may hope too that many souls were won
that will be stars in his crown of rejoicing in the day of Jesus Christ.
At San Jose, his quality as a preacher was developed by an incident that
excited no little popular interest. The (Northern) Methodist Conference
was in session at that place, the venerable and saintly Bishop Scott
presiding. Bishop Kavanaugh was invited to preach, and it so happened
that he was to do so on the night following an appointment for Bishop
Scott. The matter was talked of in the town, and not unnaturally a
spirit of friendly rivalry was excited with regard to the approaching
pulpit performances by the Northern and Southern Bishops respectively.
One enthusiastic but not pious Kentuckian offered to bet a hundred
dollars that Kavanaugh would preach the better sermon. Of course the two
venerable men were unconscious of all this, and nothing of the kind was
in their hearts. The church was thronged to hear Bishop Scott, and his
humility, strong sense, deep earnestness, and holy emotion, made a
profound and happy impression on all present. The church was again
crowded the next night. Among the audience was a considerable number of
Southerners—wild fellows, who were not often seen in such places,
among them the enthusiastic Kentuckian already alluded to. Kavanaugh,
after going through with the preliminary services, announced his text,
and began his discourse. He seemed not to be in a good preaching mood.
His wheels drove heavily. Skirmishing around and around, he seemed to be
reconnoitering his subject, finding no salient point for attack. The
look of eager expectation in the faces of the people gave way to one of
puzzled and painful solicitude. The heads of the expectant Southerners
drooped a little, and the betting Kentuckian betrayed his feelings by a
lowering of the under-jaw and sundry nervous twitchings of the muscles
of his face. The good Bishop kept talking, but the wheels revolved
slowly. It was a solemn and "trying time" to at least a portion of the
audience, as the Bishop, with head bent over the Bible and his broad
chest stooped, kept trying to coax a response from that obstinate text.
It seemed a lost battle. At last a sudden flash of thought seemed to
strike the speaker, irradiating his face and lifting his form as he gave
it utterance, with a characteristic throwing back of his shoulders and
upward sweep of his arms. Those present will never forget what followed.
The afflatus of the true orator had at last fallen upon him; the mighty
ship was launched, and swept out to sea under full canvas. Old Kentucky
was on her feet that night in San Jose. It was indescribable. Flashes of
spiritual illumination, explosive bursts of eloquent declamation,
sparkles of chastened wit, appeals of overwhelming intensity, followed
like the thunder and lightning of a Southern storm. The church seemed
literally to rock. "Amens" burst from the electrified Methodists of all
sorts; these were followed by "hallelujahs" on all sides; and when the
sermon ended with a rapturous flight of imagination, half the
congregation were on their feet, shaking hands, embracing one another,
and shouting. In the tremendous religious impression made, criticism was
not thought of. Even the betting Kentuckian showed by his heaving breast
and tearful eyes how far he was borne out of the ordinary channels of
his thought and feeling.
He came to Sonora, where I was pastor, to preach to the miners. It was
our second year in California, and the paternal element in his nature
fell on us like a benediction. He preached three noble sermons to full
houses in the little church on the red hillside, but his best discourses
were spoken to the young preacher in the tiny parsonage. Catching the
fire of the old polemics that led to the battles of the giants in the
West, he went over the points of difference between the Arminiau and
Calvinistic schools of theology in a way that left a permanent deposit
in a mind which was just then in its most receptive state. We felt very
lonesome after he had left. It was like a touch of home to have him with
us then, and in his presence we have had the feeling ever since. What a
home will heaven be where all such men will be gathered in one company!
It was a warm day when he went down to take the stage for Mariposa. The
vehicle seemed to be already full of passengers, mostly Mexicans and
Chinamen. When the portly Bishop presented himself, and essayed to
enter, there were frowns and expressions of dissatisfaction.
"Mucho malo!" exclaimed a dark-skinned Senorita, with flashing black
"Make room in there—he's got to go," ordered the bluff stage-driver,
in a peremptory tone.
There were already eight passengers inside, and the top of the coach was
covered as thick as robins on a sumac-bush. The Bishop mounted the step
and surveyed the situation. The seat assigned him was between two
Mexican women, and as he sunk into the apparently insufficient space
there was a look of consternation in their faces—and I was not
surprised at it. But scrouging in, the newcomer smiled, and addressed
first one and then another of his fellow-passengers with so much
friendly pleasantness of manner that the frowns cleared away from their
faces, even the stolid, phlegmatic Chinamen brightening up with the
contagious good humor of the "big Mellican man." When the driver cracked
his whip, and the spirited mustangs struck off in the California gallop
—the early Californians scorned any slower gait—everybody was
smiling. Staging in California in those days was often an exciting
business. There were "opposition" lines on most of the thoroughfares,
and the driving was furious and reckless in the extreme. Accidents were
strangely seldom when we consider the rate of speed, the nature of the
roads, and the quantity of bad whisky consumed by most of the drivers.
Many of these drivers made it a practice to drink at every
stopping-place. Seventeen drinks were counted in one forenoon ride by
one of these thirsty Jehus. The racing between the rival stages was
exciting enough. Lashing the wiry little horses to full speed, there was
but one thought, and that was, to "get in ahead." A driver named White
upset his stage between Montezuma and Knight's Ferry on the Stanislaus,
breaking his right-leg above the knee. Fortunately none of the
passengers were seriously hurt, though some of them were a little
bruised and frightened. The stage was righted, White resumed the reins,
whipped his horses into a run, and, with his broken limb hanging loose,
ran into town ten minutes ahead of his rival, fainting as he was lifted
from the seat.
"Old man Holden told me to go in ahead or smash everything, and I made
it!" exclaimed White, with professional pride.
The Bishop was fortunate enough to escape with unbroken bones as he
dashed from point to point over the California hills and valleys, though
that heavy body of his was mightily shaken up on many occasions.
He came to California on his second visit, in 1863, when the war was
raging. An incident occurred that gave him a very emphatic reminder that
those were troublous times.
He was at a camp-meeting in the San Joaquin Valley, near Linden—a
place famous for gatherings of this sort. The Bishop was to preach at
eleven o'clock, and a great crowd was there, full of high expectation. A
stranger drove up just before the hour of service—a broad shouldered
man in blue clothes, and wearing a glazed cap. He asked to see Bishop
Kavanaugh privately for a few moments.
They retired to "the preachers' tent," and the stranger said:
"My name is Jackson—Colonel Jackson, of the United States Army. I have
a disagreeable duty to perform. By order of General McDowell, I am to
place you under arrest, and take you to San Francisco."
"Can you wait until I preach my sermon?" asked the Bishop,
good-naturedly; "the people expect it, and I don't want to disappoint
them if it can be helped."
"How long will it take you?"
"Well, I am a little uncertain when I get started, but I will try not to
be too long."
"Very well; go on with your sermon, and if you have no objection I will
be one of your hearers."
The secret was known only to the Bishop and his captor. The sermon was
one of his best—the vast crowd of people were mightily moved, and the
Colonel's eyes were not dry when it closed. After a prayer, and a song,
and a collection, the Bishop stood up again before the people, and said:
"I have just received a message which makes it necessary for me to
return to San Francisco immediately. I am sorry that I cannot remain
longer, and participate with you in the hallowed enjoyments of the
occasion. The blessing of God be with you, my brethren and sisters."
His manner was so bland, and his tone so serene, that nobody had the
faintest suspicion as to what it was that called him away so suddenly.
When he drove off with the stranger, the popular surmise was that it was
a wedding or a funeral that called for such haste. These are two events
in human life that admit of no delays: people must be buried, and they
will be married.
The Bishop reported to General Mason, Provost-marshal General, and was
told to hold himself as in duress until further orders, and to be ready
to appear at headquarters at short notice when called for. He was put on
parole, as it were. He came down to San Jose and stirred my congregation
with several of his powerful discourses. In the meantime the arrest had
gotten into the newspapers. Nothing that happens escapes the California
journalists, and they have even been known to get hold of things that
never happened at all. It seems that someone in the shape of a man had
made an affidavit that Bishop Kavanaugh had come to the Pacific Coast as
a secret agent of the Southern Confederacy, to intrigue and recruit in
its interest! Five minutes' inquiry would have satisfied General
McDowell of the silliness of such a charge—but it was in war times,
and he did not stop to make the inquiry. In Kentucky the good old Bishop
had the freedom of the whole land, coming and going without hinderance;
but the fact was, he had not been within the Confederate lines since the
war began. To make such an accusation against him was the climax of
About three weeks after the date of his arrest, I was with the Bishop
one morning on our way to Judge Moore's beautiful country-seat, near San
Jose, situated on the far-famed Alameda. The carriage was driven by a
black man named Henry. Passing the post-office, I found, addressed to
the Bishop in my care, a huge document bearing the official stamp of the
provost-marshal's office, San Francisco. He opened and read it as we
drove slowly along, and as he did so he brightened up, and turning to
"Henry, were you ever a slave?"
"Yes, sah; in Mizzoory," said Henry, showing his white teeth.
"Did you ever get your free-papers?"
"Yes, sah—got 'em now."
"Well, I have got mine—let's shake hands."
And the Bishop and Henry had quite a handshaking over this mutual
experience. Henry enjoyed it greatly, as his frequent chucklings evinced
while the Judge's fine bays were trotting along the Alameda.
(I linger on the word Alameda as I write it. It is at least one
beneficent trace of the early Jesuit Fathers who founded the San Jose
and Santa Clara missions a hundred years ago. They planted an avenue of
willows the entire three miles, and in that rich, moist soil the trees
have grown until their trunks are of enormous size, and their branches,
overarching the highway with their dense shade, make a drive of
unequaled beauty and pleasantness. The horse-cars have now taken away
much of its romance, but in the early days it was famous for moonlight
drives and their concomitants and consequences. A long-limbed
four-year-old California colt gave me a romantic touch of a different
sort, nearly the last time I was on the Alameda, by running away with
the buggy, and breaking it and me—almost—to pieces. I am reminded of
it by the pain in my crippled right-shoulder as I write these lines in
July, 1881. But still I say, Blessings on the memory of the Fathers who
planted the willows on the Alameda!)
An intimation was given the Bishop that if he wanted the name of the
false-swearer who had caused him to be arrested he could have it.
"No, I don't want to know his name," said he; "it will do me no good to
know it. May God pardon his sin, as I do most heartily!"
A really strong preacher preaches a great many sermons, each of which
the hearers claim to be the greatest sermon of his life. I have heard of
at least a half dozen "greatest" sermons by Bascom and Pierce, and other
noted pulpit orators. But I heard one sermon by Kavanaugh that was
probably indeed his master-effort. It had a history. When the Bishop
started to Oregon, in 1863, I placed in his hands Bascom's Lectures,
which, strange to say, he had never read. Of these Lectures the elder
Dr. Bond said "they would be the colossal pillars of Bascom's fame when
his printed sermons were forgotten." Those Lectures wonderfully
anticipated the changing phases of the materialistic infidelity
developed since his day, and applied to them the reductio ad absurdum
with relentless and resistless power. On his return from Oregon,
Kavanaugh met and presided over the Annual Conference at San Jose. One
of his old friends, who was troubled with skeptical thoughts of the
materialistic sort, requested him to preach a sermon for his special
benefit. This request, and the previous reading of the Lectures,
directed his mind to the topic suggested with intense earnestness. The
result was, as I shall always think, the sermon of a lifetime. The text
was, There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty
giveth them understanding. (Job xxxii. 8.) That mighty discourse was a
demonstration of the truth of the affirmation of the text. I will not
attempt to reproduce it here, though many of its passages are still
vivid in my memory. It tore to shreds the sophistries by which it was
sought to sink immortal man to the level of the brutes that perish; it
appealed to the consciousness of his hearers in red-hot logic that
burned its way to the inmost depths of the coldest and hardest hearts;
it scintillated now and then sparkles of wit like the illuminated edges
of an advancing thundercloud; borne, on the wings of his imagination,
whose mighty sweep took him beyond the bounds of earth, through whirling
worlds and burning suns, he found the culmination of human destiny, in
the bosom of eternity, infinity, and God. The peroration was
indescribable. The rapt audience reeled under it. Inspiration! the man
of God was himself its demonstration, for the power of his word was not
"O I thank God that be sent me here this day to hear that sermon! I
never heard any thing like it, and I shall never forget it, or cease to
be thankful that I heard it," said the Rev. Dr. Charles Wadsworth, of
Philadelphia, the great Presbyterian preacher—a man of genius, and a
true prose-poet, as any one will concede after reading his published
sermons. As he spoke, the tears were in his eyes, the muscles of his
face quivering, and his chest heaving with irrepressible emotion. Nobody
who heard that discourse will accuse me of too high coloring in this
brief description of it.
"Don't you wish you were a Kentuckian?" was the enthusiastic exclamation
of a lady who brought from Kentucky a matchless wit and the culture of
Science Hill Academy, which has blessed and brightened so many homes
from the Ohio to the Sacramento.
I think the Bishop was present on another occasion when the compliment
he received was a left-handed one. It was at the Stone Church in Suisun
Valley. The Bishop and a number of the most prominent ministers of the
Pacific Conference were present at a Saturday-morning preaching
appointment. They had all been engaged in protracted labors, and,
beginning with the Bishop, one after another declined to preach. The lot
fell at last upon a boyish-looking brother of very small stature, who
labored under the double disadvantage of being a very young preacher,
and of having been reared in the immediate vicinity. The people were
disappointed and indignant when they saw the little fellow go into the
pulpit. None showed their displeasure more plainly than Uncle Ben Brown,
a somewhat eccentric old brother, who was one of the founders of that
Society, and one of its best official members. He sat as usual on a
front seat, his thick eyebrows fiercely knit, and his face wearing a
heavy frown. He had expected to hear the Bishop, and this was what it
had come to! He drew his shoulders sullenly down, and, with his eyes
bent upon the floor, nursed his wrath. The little preacher began his
sermon, and soon astonished everybody by the energy with which he spoke.
As he proceeded, the frown on Uncle Ben's face relaxed a little; at
length he lifted his eyes and glanced at the speaker in surprise. He did
not think it was in him. With abnormal fluency and force, the little
preacher went on with the increasing sympathy of his audience, who were
feeling the effects of a generous reaction in his favor. Uncle Ben,
touched a little with honest obstinacy as he was, gradually relaxed in
the sternness of his looks, straightening up by degrees until he sat
upright facing the speaker in a sort of half-reluctant, pleased wonder.
Just at the close of a specially vigorous burst of declamation, the old
man exclaimed, in a loud voice:
"Bless God! he uses the weak things of this world to confound the
mighty!" casting around a triumphant glance at the Bishop and other
This impromptu remark was more amusing to the hearers than helpful to
the preacher, I fear; but it was away the dear old brother had of
speaking out in meeting.
I must end this Sketch. I have dipped my pen in my heart in writing it.
The subject of it has been friend, brother, father, to me since the day
he looked in upon us in the little cabin on the hill in Sonora, in 1855.
When I greet him on the hills of heaven, he will not be sorry to be told
that among the many in the far West to whom he was helpful was the
writer of this too imperfect Sketch.
He belonged to the Church militant. In looks he was a cross between a
grenadier and a Trappist. But there was more soldier than monk in his
nature. He was over six feet high, thin as a bolster, and straight as a
long-leaf pine. His anatomy was strongly conspicuous. He was the boniest
of men. There were as many angles as inches in the lines of his face.
His hair disdained the persuasions of comb or brush, and rose in tangled
masses above a head that would have driven a phrenologist mad. It was a
long head in every sense. His features were strong and stern, his nose
one that would have delighted the great Napoleon—it was a grand organ.
You said at once, on looking at him, Here is a man that fears neither
man nor devil. The face was an honest face. When you looked into those
keen, dark eyes, and read the lines of that stormy countenance, you felt
that it would be equally impossible for him to tell a lie or to fear the
face of man.
This was John Sanders, one of the early California Methodist preachers.
He went among the first to preach the gospel to the gold-hunters. He got
a hearing where some failed. His sincerity and brainpower commanded
attention, and his pluck enforced respect. In one case it seemed to be
He was sent to preach in Placerville, popularly called in the old days,
"Hangtown." It was then a lively and populous place. The mines were
rich, and gold-dust was abundant as good behavior was scarce. The one
church in the town was a "union church," and it was occupied by Sanders
and a preacher of another sect on alternate Sundays. All went well for
many months, and if there were no sinners converted in that camp, the
few saints were at peace. It so happened that Sanders was called away
for a week or two, and on his return he found that a new preacher had
been sent to the place, and that he had made an appointment to preach on
his (Sanders's) regular day. Having no notion of yielding his rights,
Sanders also inserted a notice in the papers of the town that he would
preach at the same time and place. The thing was talked about in the
town and vicinity, and there was a buzz of excitement. The miners,
always ready for a sensation, became interested, and when Sunday came
the church could not hold the crowd. The strange preacher arrived first,
entered the pulpit, knelt a few moments in silent devotion, according to
custom, and then sat and surveyed the audience which was surveying him
with curious interest. He was a tall, fine-looking man, almost the equal
of Sanders in height, and superior to him in height. He was a Kentuckian
originally, but went from Ohio to California, and was a full-grown man,
of the best Western physical type. In a little while Sanders entered the
church, made his way through the dense crowd, ascended the pulpit, cast
a sharp glance at the intruder, and sat down. There was a dead silence.
The two preachers gazed at the congregation; the congregation gazed at
the preachers. A pin might have been heard to fall. Sanders was as
imperturbable as a statue, but his lips were pressed together tightly,
and there was a blaze in his eyes. The strange preacher showed signs of
nervousness, moving his hands and feet, and turning this way and that in
his seat. It was within five minutes of the time for opening the
service. The stranger rose, and was in the act of taking hold of the
Bible that lay on the cushion in front of him, when Sanders rose to his
full height, stepped in front of him, and darting lightning from his
eyes as he looked him full in the face, said:
"I preach here today, sir!"
That settled it. There was no mistaking that look or tone. The tall
stranger muttered an inarticulate protest and subsided. Sanders
proceeded with the service, making no allusion to the difficulty until
it was ended. Then he proposed a meeting of the citizens the next
evening to adjudicate the case. The proposal was acceded to. The church
was again crowded; and though ecclesiastically Sanders was in the
minority, with the genuine love for fair-play which is a trait of
Anglo-Saxon character, he was sustained by an overwhelming majority. It
is likely, too, that his plucky bearing the, day before made him some
votes. A preacher who would fight for his rights suited those wild
fellows better than one who would assert a claim that he would not
enforce. Sanders preached to larger audiences after this episode in his
It was after this that he went out one day to stake off a lot on which
he proposed to build a house of worship. It was near the Roman Catholic
Church. A zealous Irishman, who was a little more than half drunk, was
standing by. Evidently he did not like any such heretical movements,
and, after Sanders had placed the stake in the earth, the Hibernian
stepped forward and pulled it up.
"I put the stake back in its place. He pulled it up again. I put it
back. He pulled it up again. I put it back once more. He got fiery mad
by this time, and started at me with an ax in his hand. I had an ax in
my hand, and as its handle was longer than his, I cut him down."
The poor fellow had waked up the fighting preacher, and fell before the
sweep of Sanders's ax. He dodged as the weapon descended, and saved his
life by doing so. He got an ugly wound on the shoulder, and kept his bed
for many weeks. When he rose from his bed he had a profound regard for
Sanders, whose grit excited his admiration. There was not a particle of
resentment in his generous Irish heart. He became a sober man, and it
was afterward a current pleasantry among the "boys" that he was
converted by the use of the carnal weapon wielded by that spunky parson.
Nobody blamed Sanders for his part in the matter. It was a fair fight,
and he had the right on his side. Had he shown the white feather, that
would have damaged him with a community in whose estimation courage as
the cardinal virtue. Sanders was popular with all classes, and
Placerville remembers him to this day. He was no rose-water divine, but
thundered the terrors of the law into the ears of those wild fellows
with the boldness of a John the Baptist. Many a sinner quaked under his
stern logic and fiery appeals, and some repented.
I shall never forget a sermon he preached at San Jose. He was in bad
health, and his mind was morbid and gloomy. His text was, Who hath
hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? (Job ix. 4.) The
thought that ran through the discourse was the certainty that
retribution would overtake the guilty. God's law will be upheld. It
protects the righteous, but must crush the disobedient. He swept away
the sophisms by which men persuade themselves that they can escape the
penalty of violated law; and it seemed as if we could almost hear the
crash of the tumbling wrecks of hopes built on false foundations. God
Almighty was visible on the throne of his power, armed with the even
thunders of his wrath.
"Who hath defied God and escaped?" he demanded, with flashing eyes and
trumpet voice. And then he recited the histories of nations and men that
had made the fatal experiment, and the doom that had whelmed them in
"And yet you hope to escape!" he thundered to the silent and awestruck
men and women before him. "You expect that God will abrogate his law to
please you; that he will tear down the pillars of his moral government
that you may be saved in your sins! O fools, fools, fools! there is no
place but hell for such a folly as this!"
His haggard face, the stern solemnity of his voice, the sweep of his
long arms, the gleam of his deep-set eyes, and the vigor of his
inexorable logic, drove that sermon home to the listeners.
He was the keenest of critics, and often merciless. He was present at a
camp-meeting near San Jose, but too feeble to preach. I was there, and
disabled from, the effects of the California poison-oak. That deceitful
shrub! Its pink leaves smile at you as pleasantly as sin, and, like sin,
it leaves its sting. The "preachers' tent" was immediately in the rear
of "the stand," and Sanders and I lay inside and listened to the
sermons. He was in one of his caustic moods, and his comments were racy
enough, though not helpful to devotion.
"There! he yelled, clapped his hands, stamped, and—said nothing!"
The criticism was just: the brother in the stand was making a great
noise, but there was not much meaning in what he said.
"He made one point only—a pretty good apology for Lazarus's poverty."
This was said at the close of an elaborate discourse on "The Rich Man
and Lazarus," by a brother who sometimes got "in the brush."
"He isn't touching his text—he knows no more theology than a
guinea-pig. Words, words, words!"
This last criticism was directed against a timid young divine, who was
badly frightened, but who has since shown that there was good metal in
him. If he had known what was going on just behind him, he would have
collapsed entirely in that tentative effort at preaching the gospel.
Sanders kept up this running fire of criticism at every service, cutting
to the bone, at every blow, and giving me new light on homiletics, if he
did not promote my enjoyment of the preaching. He had read largely and
thought deeply, and his incisive intellect had no patience with what was
feeble or pointless.
Disease settled upon his lungs, and he rapidly declined. His strong
frame grew thinner and thinner, and his mind alternated between moods of
morbid bitterness and transient buoyancy. As the end approached, his
bitter moods were less frequent, and an unwonted tenderness came into
his words and tones. He went to the Lokonoma Springs, in the hills of
Napa county, and in their solitudes he adjusted himself to the great
change that was drawing near. The capacious blue sky that arched above
him, the sighing of the gentle breeze through the solemn pines, the
repose of the encircling mountains, bright with sunrise, or purpling in
the twilight, distilled the soothing influences of nature into his
spirit, and there was a great calm within. Beyond those California hills
the hills of God rose in their supernal beauty before the vision of his
faith, and when the summons came for him one midnight, his soul leaped
to meet it in a ready and joyous response. On a white marble slab, at
the "Stone Church," in Suisun Valley, is this inscription:
Rev. John Sanders.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him
out of them all.
The spring flowers were blooming on the grave when I saw it last.
Ah, that blessed, blessed day! I had gone to the White Sulphur Springs,
in Napa County, to get relief from the effects of the California
poison-oak. Gay deceiver! With its tender green and pink leaves, it
looks as innocent and smiling as sin when it woos youth and ignorance.
Like sin, it is found everywhere in that beautiful land. Many antidotes
are used, but the only sure way of dealing with it is to keep away from
it. Again, there is an analogy: it is easier to keep out of sin than to
get out when caught. These soft, pure white sulphur waters work miracles
of healing, and attract all sorts of people. The weary and broken down
man of business comes here to sleep, and eat, and rest; the woman of
fashion, to dress and flirt; the loudly-dressed and heavily-bejeweled
gambler, to ply his trade; happy bridal couples, to have the world to
themselves; successful and unsuccessful politicians, to plan future
triumphs or brood over defeats; pale and trembling invalids, to seek
healing or a brief respite from the grave; families escaping from the
wind and fog of the bay, to spend a few weeks where they can find
sunshine and quiet—it is a little world in itself. The spot is every
way beautiful, but its chief charm is its isolation. Though within a
few hours' ride of San Francisco, and only two miles from a
railroad-station, you feel as if you were in the very heart of nature
—and so you are. Winding along the banks of a sparkling stream, the
mountains—great masses of leafy green—rise abruptly on either hand;
the road bends this way and that until a sudden turn brings you to a
little valley hemmed in all around by the giant hills. A bold, rocky
projection just above the main hotel gives a touch of ruggedness and
grandeur to the scene. How delicious the feeling of rest that comes over
you at once!—the world shut out, the hills around, and the sky above.
It was in 1863, when the civil war was at its white heat. Circumstances
had given me undesired notoriety in that connection. I had been thrust
into the very vortex of its passion, and my name made the rallying-cry
of opposing elements in California. The guns of Manassas, Cedar
Mountain, and the Chickahominy, were echoed in the foothills of the
Sierras, and in the peaceful valleys of the far-away Pacific Coast. The
good sense of a practical, people prevented any flagrant outbreak on a
large scale, but here and there a too ardent Southerner said or did
something that gave him a few weeks' or months' duress at Fort Alcatraz,
and the honors of a bloodless martyrdom. I was then living at North
Beach, in full sight of that fortress. It was kindly suggested by
several of my brother editors that it would be a good place for me.
When, as my eye swept over the bay in the early morning, the first sight
that met my gaze was its rocky ramparts and bristling guns, the poet's
line would come to mind: "'T is distance lends enchantment to the view."
I was just as close as I wanted to be. "I have good quarters for you,"
said the brave and courteous Captain McDougall, who was in command at
the fort; "and knowing your penchant, I will let you have the freedom of
a sunny corner of the island for fishing in good weather." The true
soldier is sometimes a true gentleman.
The name and image of another Federal officer rise before me as I write.
It is that of the heroic soldier, General Wright, who went down with the
"Brother Jonathan," on the Oregon coast, in 1865. He was in command of
the Department of the Pacific during this stormy period of which I am
speaking. I had never seen him, and I had no special desire to make his
acquaintance. Somehow Fort Alcatraz had become associated with his name
for reasons already intimated. But, though unsought by me, an interview
did take place.
"It has come at last!" was my exclamation as I read the note left by an
orderly in uniform notifying me that I was expected to report at the
quarters of the commanding-general the next day at ten o'clock.
Conscious of my innocence of treason or any other crime against the
Government or society, my pugnacity was roused by this summons. Before
the hour set for my appearance at the military headquarters, I was ready
for martyrdom or any thing else except Alcatraz. I didn't like that. The
island was too small, and too foggy and windy, for my taste. I thought
it best to obey the order I had received, and so, punctually at the
hour, I repaired to the headquarters on Washington Street, and ascending
the steps with a firm tread and defiant feeling, I entered the room.
General Mason, provost-marshal, a scholar and polished gentleman,
politely offered me a seat.
"No; I prefer to stand," I said stiffly.
"The General will see you in a few minutes," said he, resuming his work,
while I stood nursing my indignation and sense of wrong.
In a little while General Wright entered—a tall and striking figure,
silver-haired, blue-eyed, ruddy faced, with a mixture of the dash of the
soldier and the benignity of a bishop.
Declining also his cordial invitation to be seated, I stood and looked
at him, still nursing defiance, and getting ready to wear a martyr's
crown. The General spoke:
"Did you know, sir, that I am perhaps the most attentive reader of your
paper to be found in California?"
"No; I was not aware that I had the honor of numbering the
commanding-general of this department among my readers." (This was
spoken with severe dignity.)
"A lot of hotheads have for sometime been urging me to have you arrested
on the ground that you are editing and publishing a disloyal newspaper.
Not wishing to do any injustice to a fellowman, I have taken means every
week to obtain a copy of your paper, the Pacific Methodist; and allow me
to say, sir, that no paper has ever come into my family which is such a
favorite with all of us."
I bowed, feeling that the spirit of martyrdom was cooling within me. The
"I have sent for you, sir, that I might say to you, Go on in your
present prudent and manly course, and while I command this department
you are as safe as I am."
There I stood, a whipped man, my pugnacity all gone, and the martyr's
crown away out of my reach. I walked softly downstairs, after bidding
the General an adieu in a manner in marked contrast to that in which I
had greeted him at the beginning of the interview. Now that it is all
over, and the ocean winds have wailed their dirges for him so many long
years, I would pay a humble tribute to the memory of as brave and
knightly a man as ever wore epaulettes or fought under the stars and
stripes. He was of the type of Sidney Johnston, who fell at Shiloh, and
of McPherson, who fell at Kennesaw—all Californians; all Americans,
true soldiers, who had a sword for the foe in fair fight in the open
field, and a shield for woman, and for the noncombatant, the aged, the
defenseless. They fought on different sides to settle forever a quarrel
that was bequeathed to their generation, but their fame is the common
inheritance of the American people. The reader is beginning to think I
am digressing, but he will better understand what is to come after
getting this glimpse of those stormy days in the sixties.
The guests at the Springs were about equally divided in their sectional
sympathies. The gentlemen were inclined to avoid all exciting
discussions, but the ladies kept up a fire of small arms. When the mails
came in, and the latest news was read, comments were made with flashing
eyes and flushed cheeks.
The Sabbath morning dawned without a cloud. I awoke with the earliest
song of the birds, and was out before the first rays of the sun had
touched the mountaintops. The coolness was delicious, and the air was
filled with the sweet odors of aromatic shrubs and flowers, with a hint
of the pine-forests and balsam-thickets from the higher altitudes.
Taking a breakfast solus, pocket-bible in hand I bent my steps up the
gorge, often crossing the brook that wound its way among the thickets or
sung its song at the foot of the great overhanging cliffs. A shining
trout would now and then flash like a silver bar for a moment above the
shaded pools. With light step a doe descending the mountain came upon
me, and, gazing at me a moment or two with its soft eyes, tripped away.
In a narrow pass where the stream rippled over the pebbles between two
great walls of rock, a spotted snake crossed my path, hurrying its
movement in fright. Fear not, humble ophidian. The war declared between
thee and me in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis is
suspended for this one day. Let no creature die today but by the act of
God. Here is the lake. How beautiful! how still! A landslide had dammed
the stream where it flowed between steep, lofty banks, backing the
waters over a little valley three or four acres in extent, shut in on
all sides by the wooded hills, the highest of which rose from its
northern margin. Here is my sanctuary, pulpit, choir, and altar. A
gigantic pine had fallen into the lake, and its larger branches served
to keep the trunk above the water as it lay parallel with the shore.
Seated on its trunk, and shaded by some friendly willows that stretch
their graceful branches above, the hours pass in a sort of subdued
ecstasy of enjoyment. It is peace, the peace of God. No echo of the
world's discords reaches me. The only sound I hear is the cooing of a
turtledove away off in a distant gorge of the mountain. It floats down
to me on the Sabbath air with a pathos as if it voiced the pity of
Heaven for the sorrows of a world of sin, and pain, and death. The
shadows of the pines are reflected in the pellucid depths, and ever and
anon the faintest hint of a breeze sighs among their branches overhead.
The lake lies without a ripple below, except when from time to time a
gleaming trout throws himself out of the water, and, falling with a
splash, disturbs the glassy surface, the concentric circles showing
where he went down. Sport on, ye shiny denizens of the deep; no angler
shall cast his deceitful hook into your quiet haunts this day. Through
the foliage of the overhanging boughs the blue sky is spread, a thin,
fleecy cloud at times floating slowly along like a watching angel, and
casting a momentary shadow upon the watery mirror below. That sky, so
deep and so solemn, woos me—lifts my thought till it touches the
Eternal. What mysteries of being lie beyond that sapphire sea? What
wonders shall burst upon the vision when this mortal shall put on
immortality? I open the Book and read. Isaiah's burning song makes new
music to my soul attuned. David's harp sounds a sweeter note. The words
of Jesus stir to diviner depths. And when I read in the twenty-first
chapter of Revelation the Apocalyptic promise of the new heavens and the
new earth, and of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven,
a new glory seems to rest upon sky, mountain forest, and lake, and my
soul is flooded with a mighty joy. I am swimming in the Infinite Ocean.
Not beyond that vast blue canopy is heaven; it is within my own ravished
heart! Thus the hours pass, but I keep no note of their flight, and the
evening shadows are on the water before I come back to myself and the
world. O hallowed day! O hallowed spot! foretaste and prophecy to the
weary and burden-bowed soul of the new heavens and the new earth where
its blessed ideal shall be a more blessed reality!
It is nearly dark when I get back to the hotel. Supper is over, but I am
not hungry—I have feasted on the bread of angels.
"Did you know there was quite a quarrel about you this morning?" asks
one of the guests.
The words jar. In answer to my look of inquiry, he proceeds:
"There was a dispute about your holding a religious service at the
picnic grounds. They made it a political matter—one party threatened
to leave if you did preach, the other threatened to leave if you did not
preach. There was quite an excitement about it until it was found that
you were gone, and then everybody quieted down."
There is a silence. I break it by telling them how I spent the day, and
then they are very quiet.
The next Sabbath every soul at the place united in a request for a
religious service, the list headed by a high-spirited and brilliant
Pennsylvania lady who had led the opposing forces the previous Sunday.
I think I saw him the first Sunday I preached in San Jose, in 1856. He
was a notable-looking man. I felt attracted toward him by that
indefinable sympathy that draws together two souls born to be friends. I
believe in friendship at first sight. Who that ever had a real friend
does not? Love at first sight is a different thing—it may be divine
and eternal, or it may be a whim or a passing fancy. Passion blurs and
blinds in the region of sexual love: friendship is revealed in its own
I was introduced after the service to the stranger who had attracted my
attention, and who had given the youthful preacher such a kind and
"This is Major McCoy."
He was a full head higher than anybody else as he stood in the aisle. He
bowed with courtly grace as he took my hand, and his face lighted with a
smile that had in it something more than a conventional civility. I felt
that there was a soul beneath that dignified and courtly exterior. His
head displayed great elevation of the cranium, and unusual breadth of
forehead. It was what is called an intellectual head; and the lines
around the eyes showed the traces of thought, and, as it seemed to me, a
tinge of that sadness that nearly always lends its charm to the best
"I have met a man that I know I shall like," was my gratified
exclamation to the mistress of the parsonage, as I entered.
And so it turned out. He became one of the select circle to whom I
applied the word friend in the sacredest sense. This inner circle can
never be large. If you unduly enlarge it you dilute the quality of this
wine of life. We are limited. There is only One Heart large enough to
hold all humanity in its inmost depths.
My new friend lived out among the sycamores on the New Almaden Road, a
mile from the city, and the cottage in which he lived with his cultured
and loving household was one of the social paradises of that beautiful
valley in which the breezes are always cool, and the flowers never fade.
My friend interested me more and more. He had been a soldier, and in the
Mexican war won distinction by his skill and valor. He was with Joe Lane
and his gallant Indianians at Juamantla, and his name was specially
mentioned among those whose fiery onsets had broken the lines of the
swarthy foe, and won against such heavy odds the bloody field. He was
seldom absent from church on Sunday morning, and now and then his
inquiring, thoughtful face would be seen in my smaller audience at
night. One unwelcome fact about him pained me, while it deepened my
interest in him.
He was a skeptic. Bred to the profession of medicine and surgery, he
became bogged in the depths of materialistic doubt. The microscope drew
his thoughts downward until he could not see beyond second causes. The
soul, the seat of which the scalpel could not find, he feared did not
exist. The action of the brain, like that of the heart and lungs, seemed
to him to be functional; and when the organ perished did not its
function cease forever? He doubted the fact of immortality, but did not
deny it. This doubt clouded his life. He wanted to believe. His heart
rebelled against the negations of materialism, but his intellect was
entangled in its meshes. The Great Question was ever in his thought, and
the shadow was ever on his path. He read much on both sides, and was
always ready to talk with any from whom he had reason to hope for new
light or a helpful suggestion. Did he also pray? We took many long rides
and had many long talks together. Pausing under the shade of a tree on
the highway, the hours would slip away while we talked of life and
death, and weighed the pros and cons of the mighty hope that we might
live again, until the sun would be sinking into the sea behind the Santa
Cruz Mountains, whose shadows were creeping over the valley. He believed
in a First Cause. The marks of design in Nature left in his mind no room
to doubt that there was a Designer.
"The structure and adaptations of the horse harnessed to the buggy in
which we sit, exhibit the infinite skill of a Creator."
On this basis I reasoned with him in behalf of all that is precious to
Christian faith and hope, trying to show (what I earnestly believe)
that, admitting the existence of God, it is illogical to stop short of a
belief in revelation and immortality.
The rudest workman would not fling The fragments of his work away, If
every useless bit of clay He trod on were a sentient thing.
And does the Wisest Worker take Quick human hearts, instead of stone,
And hew and carve them one by one, Nor heed the pangs with which they
And more: if but creation's waste, Would he have given us sense to yearn
For the perfection none can earn, And hope the fuller life to taste?
I think, if we most cease to be, It is cruelty refined To make the
instincts of our mind Stretch out toward eternity.
Wherefore I welcome Nature's cry, As earnest of a life again, Where
thought shall never be in vain, And doubt before the light shall fly.
My talks with him were helpful to me if not to him. In trying to remove
his doubts my own faith was confirmed, and my range of thought enlarged.
His reverent spirit left its impress upon mine.
"McCoy is a more religious man than either you or I, Doctor," said Tod
Robinson to me one day in reply to a remark in which I had given
expression to my solicitude for my doubting friend.
Yes, strange as it may seem, this man who wrestled with doubts that
wrung his soul with intense agony, and walked in darkness under the veil
of unbelief; had a healthful influence upon me because the attitude of
his soul was that of a reverent inquirer, not that of a scoffer.
The admirable little treatise of Bishop McIlvaine, on the "Evidences of
Christianity," cleared away some of his difficulties. A sermon of Bishop
Kavanaugh, preached at his request, was a help to him. (That wonderful
discourse is spoken of elsewhere in this volume.)
A friend of his lay dying at Redwood City. This friend, like himself;
was a skeptic, and his doubts darkened his way as he neared the border
of the undiscovered country. McCoy went to see him. The sick man, in the
freedom of long friendship, opened his mind to him. The arguments of the
good Bishop were yet fresh in McCoy's mind, and the echoes of his mighty
appeals were still sounding in his heart. Seated by the dying man, he
forgot his own misgivings, and with intense earnestness pointed the
struggling soul to the Saviour of sinners.
"I did not intend it, but I was impelled by a feeling I could not
resist. I was surprised and strangely thrilled at my own words as I
unfolded to my friend the proofs of the truth of Christianity,
culminating in the incarnation, death, and resurrection, of Jesus
Christ. He seemed to have grasped the truths as presented, a great calm
came over him, and he died a believer. No incident of my life has given
me a purer pleasure than this; but it was a strange thing! Nobody could
have had access to him as I had—I, a doubter and a stumbler all my
life; it looks like the hand of God!"
His voice was low, and his eyes were wet as he finished the narration.
Yes, the hand of God was in it—it is in every good thing that takes
place on earth. By the bedside of a dying friend, the undercurrent of
faith in his warily and noble heart swept away for the time the
obstructions that were in his thought, and bore him to the feet of the
blessed, pitying Christ, who never breaks a bruised reed. I think he had
more light, and felt stronger ever after.
Death twice entered his home-circle—once to convey a budding flower
from the earth-home to the skies, and again like a lightning-stroke
laying young manhood low in a moment. The instinct within him, stronger
than doubt, turned his thought in those dark hours toward God. The ashes
of the earthly hopes that had perished in the fire of fierce calamity,
and the tears of a grief unspeakable, fertilized and watered the seed of
faith which was surely in his heart. The hot furnace-fire did not harden
this finely-tempered soul. But still he walked in darkness, doubting,
doubting, doubting all he most wished to believe. It was the infirmity
of his constitution, and the result of his surroundings. He went into
large business enterprises with mingled success and disappointment. He
went into politics, and though he bore himself nobly and gallantly, it
need not be said that that vortex does not usually draw those who are
within its whirl heavenward. He won some of the prizes that were fought
for in that arena where the noblest are in danger of being soiled, and
where the baser metal sinks surely to the bottom by the inevitable force
of moral gravitation.
From time to time we were thrown together, and I was glad to know that
the Great Question was still in his thought, and the hunger for truth
was still in his heart. Ill health sometimes made him irritable and
morbid, but the drift of his inner nature was unchanged. His mind was
enveloped in mists, and sometimes tempests of despair raged within him;
but his heart still thirsted for the water of life.
A painful and almost fatal railway accident befell him. He was taken to
his ranch among the quiet hills of Shasta County. This was the final
crisis in his life. Shut out from the world, and shut in with his own
thoughts and with God, he reviewed his life and the argument that had so
long been going on in his mind. He was now quiet enough to hear
distinctly the Still Small Voice whose tones he could only half discern
amid the clamors of the world when he was a busy actor on its stage.
Nature spoke to him among the hills, and her voice is God's. The great
primal instincts of the soul, repressed in the crowd or driven into the
background by the mob of petty cares and wants, now had free play in the
nature of this man whose soul had so long cried out of the depths for
the living God. He prayed the simple prayer of trust at which the gate
flies open for the believing soul to enter into the peace of God. He was
born into the new life. The flower that had put forth its abortive buds
for so many seasons, burst into full bloom at last. With the mighty joy
in his heart, and the light of the immortal hope beaming upon him, he
passed into the World of Certainties.
A Virginian in California.
"Hard at it, are you, uncle?"
"No, sah—I's workin' by de day, an' I an't a-hurtin' myself."
This answer was given with a jolly laugh as the old man leaned on his
pick and looked at me.
"You looked so much like home-folks that I felt like speaking to you.
Where are you from?"
"From Virginny, sah!" (pulling himself up to his full height as he
spoke). "Where's you from, Massa?"
"I was brought up partly in Virginia too?"
"Wbar'bouts, in Virginny?"
"Mostly in Lynchburg."
"Lynchburg! dat's whar I was fotched up. I belonged to de Widder Tate,
dat lived on de New London Road. Gib me yer han', Massa!"
He rushed up to the buggy, and taking my extended hand in his huge fist
he shook it heartily, grinning with delight.
This was Uncle Joe, a perfect specimen of the old Virginia "Uncle," who
had found his way to California in the early days. Yes, he was a perfect
specimen—black as night, his lower limbs crooked, arms long, hands and
feet very large. His mouth was his most striking feature. It was the
orator's mouth in size, being larger than that of Henry Clay—in fact,
it ran almost literally from ear to ear. When he opened it fully, it was
like lifting the lid of a box.
Uncle Joe and I became good friends at once. He honored my ministry with
his presence on Sundays. There was a touch of dandyism in him that then
and there came out. Clad in a blue broadcloth dress-coat of the olden
cut, vest to match, tight-fitting pantaloons, stove-pipe hat, and yellow
kid gloves, he was a gorgeous object to behold. He knew it, and there
was a pleasant self-consciousness in the way he bore himself in the
Uncle Joe was the heartiest laugher I ever knew. He was always as full
of happy life as a frisky colt or a plump pig. When he entered a knot of
idlers on the streets, it was the signal or a humorous uproar. His
quaint sayings, witty repartee, and contagious laughter, never failed.
He was as agile as a monkey, and his dancing was a marvel. For a dime he
would "cut the pigeon wing," or give a "double-shuffle" or "breakdown"
in a way that made the beholder dizzy.
What was Uncle Joe's age nobody could guess—he had passed the line of
probable surmising. His own version of the matter on a certain occasion
was curious. We had a colored female servant—an old-fashioned aunty
from Mississippi—who, with a bandanna handkerchief on her head, went
about the house singing the old Methodist choruses so naturally that it
gave us a home-feeling to have her about us. Uncle Joe and Aunt Tishy
became good friends, and he got into the habit of dropping in at the
parsonage on Sunday evenings to escort her to church. On this particular
occasion I was in the little study adjoining the dining-room where Aunt
Tishy was engaged in cleaning away the dishes after tea. I was not
eavesdropping, but could not help hearing what they said. My name was
"O yes," said Uncle Joe; "I knowed Massa Fitchjarals back dar in
Virginny. I use ter hear 'im preach dar when I was a boy."
There was a silence. Aunt Tishy couldn't swallow that. Uncle Joe's
statement, if true, would have made me more than a hundred years old, or
brought him down to less than forty. The latter was his object; he
wanted to impress Aunt Tishy with the idea that he was young-enough to
be an eligible gallant to any lady. But it failed. That unfortunate
remark ruined Uncle Joe's prospects: Aunt Tishy positively refused to go
with him to church, and just as soon as he had left she went into the
sitting-room in high disgust, saying:
"What made dat nigger tell me a lie like dat? Tut, tut, tut!"
She cut him ever after, saying she would n't keep company with a liar,
"even if he was from de Souf." Aunt Tishy was a good woman, and had some
old-time notions. As a cook, she was discounted a little by the fact
that she used tobacco, and when it got into the gravy it was not
improving to its flavor.
Uncle Joe was in his glory at a dinner-party, where he could wait on the
guests, give droll answers to the remarks made to call him out, and
enliven the feast by his inimitable and "catching" laugh. In a certain
circle no occasion of the sort was considered complete without his
presence There was no such thing as dullness when he was about. His
peculiar wit or his simplicity was brought out at a dinner-party one day
at Dr. Bascom's. There was a large gathering of the leading families of
San Jose and vicinity, and Uncle Joe was there in his jolliest mood.
Mrs. Bascom, whose wit was then the quickest and keenest in all
California, presided, and enough good things were said to have made a
reputation for Sidney Smith or Douglas Jerrold. Mrs. Bascom, herself a
Virginian by extraction, had engaged in a laughing colloquy with Uncle
Joe, who stood near the head of the table waving a bunch of peacock's
feathers to keep off the flies.
"Missus, who is yer kinfolks back dar in Virginny, any way?"
The names of several were mentioned.
"Why, dem's big folks," said Uncle Joe.
"Yes," said she, laughingly; "I belong to the first families of
"I don't know 'bout dat, Missus. I was dar 'fore you was, an' I don't
'long to de fus' families!"
He looked at it from a chronological rather than a genealogical
standpoint, and, strange to say, the familiar phrase had never been
heard by him before.
Uncle Joe joined the Church. He was sincere in his profession. The proof
was found in the fact that he quit dancing. No more "pigeon wings,"
"double-shuffles," or "breakdowns," for him—he was a "perfessor." He
was often tempted by the offer of coin, but he stood firm.
"No, sah; I's done dancin', an' don't want to be discommunicated from de
Church," he would say, good-naturedly, as he shied off, taking himself
away from temptation.
A very high degree of spirituality could hardly be expected from Uncle
Joe at that late day; but he was a Christian after a pattern of his own
—kind-hearted, grateful, simple-minded, and full of good humor. His
strength gradually declined, and he was taken to the county hospital,
where his patience and cheerfulness conciliated and elicited kind
treatment from everybody. His memories went back to old Virginia, and
his hopes looked up to the heaven of which his notions were as simple as
those of a little child. In the simplicity of a child's faith he had
come to Jesus, and I doubt not was numbered among his little ones. Among
the innumerable company that shall be gathered on Mount Zion from every
kindred, tribe, and tongue, I hope to meet my humble friend, Uncle Joe.
At the End.
Among my acquaintances at San Jose, in 1863, was a young Kentuckian who
had come down from the mines in bad health. The exposure of mining-life
had been too severe for him. It took iron constitutions to stand all day
in almost ice-cold water up to the waist with a hot sun pouring down its
burning rays upon the head and upper part of the body. Many a poor
fellow sunk under it at once, and after a few days of fever and delirium
was taken to the top of an adjacent hill and laid to rest by the hands
of strangers. Others, crippled by rheumatic and neuralgic troubles,
drifted into the hospitals of San Francisco, or turned their faces sadly
toward the old homes which they had left with buoyant hopes and elastic
footsteps. Others still, like this young Kentuckian, came down into the
valleys with the hacking cough and hectic flush to make a vain struggle
against the destroyer that had fastened upon their vitals, nursing often
a vain hope of recovery to the very last. Ah, remorseless flatterer! as
I write these lines, the images of your victims crowd before my vision:
the strong men that grew weak, and pale, and thin, but fought to the
last inch for life; the noble youths who were blighted just as they
began to bloom; the beautiful maidens etherealized into almost more than
mortal beauty by the breath of the death-angel, as autumn leaves,
touched by the breath of winter, blush with the beauty of decay. My
young friend indulged no false hopes. He knew he was doomed to early
death, and did not shrink from the thought. One day, as we were
conversing in a store uptown, he said:
"I know that I have at most but a few months to live, and I want to
spend them in making preparation to die. You will oblige me by advising
me what books to read. I want to get clear views of what I am to do, and
then do it."
It need scarcely be said that I most readily complied with his request,
and that first and chiefly I advised him to consult the Bible, as the
light to his path and the lamp to his feet. Other books were suggested,
and a word with regard to prayerful reading was given, and kindly
One day I went over to see my friend. Entering his room, I found him
sitting by the fire with it table by his side, on which was lying a
Bible. There was an unusual flush in his face, and his eye burned with
"How are you today?" I asked.
"I am annoyed, sir—I am indignant," he said.
"What is the matter?"
"Mr. ——, the—preacher, has just left me. He told me that my soul cannot
be saved unless I perform two miracles: I must, he said, think of
nothing but religion, and be baptized by immersion. I am very weak, and
cannot fully control my mental action—my thoughts will wander in spite
of myself. As to being put under the water, that would be immediate
death; it would bring on a hemorrhage of the lungs, and kill me."
He leaned his head on the table and panted for breath, his thin chest
heaving. I answered:
"Mr.—is a good man, but narrow. He meant kindly in the foolish words
he spoke to you. No man, sick or well, can so control the action of his
mind as to force his thoughts wholly into one channel. I cannot do it,
neither can any other man. God requires no such absurdity of you or
anybody else. As to being immersed, that seems to be a physical
impossibility, and he surely does not demand what is impossible. My
friend, it really makes little difference what Mr.—says,or what I say,
concerning this matter. What does God say? Let us see."
I took up the Bible, and he turned a face upon me expressing the most
eager interest. The blessed Book seemed to open of itself to the very
words that were wanted. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the
Lord pitieth them that fear him." "He knoweth our frame, and remembereth
that we are dust." "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come to the waters."
Glancing at him as I read, I was struck with the intensity of his look
as he drank in every word. A traveler dying of thirst in the desert
could not clutch a cup of cold water more eagerly than he grasped these
tender words of the pitying Father in heaven.
I read the words of Jesus: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." "Him that cometh unto me I will
in no wise east out."
"This is what God says to you, and these are the only conditions of
acceptance. Nothing is said about any thing but the desire of your heart
and the purpose of your soul. O my friend, these words are for you!"
The great truth flashed upon his mind, and flooded it with light. He
bent his head and wept. We knelt and prayed together, and when we rose
from our knees he said softly, as the tears stole, down his face:
"It is all right now—I see it clearly; I see it clearly!"
We quietly clasped hands, and sat in silent sympathy. There was no need
for any words from me; God had spoken, and that was enough. Our hearts
were singing together the song without words.
"You have found peace at the cross—let nothing disturb it," I said, as
he pressed my hand at the door as we left.
It never was disturbed. The days that had dragged so wearily and
anxiously during the long, long months, were now full of brightness. A
subdued joy shone in his face, and his voice was low and tender as he
spoke of the blessed change that had passed upon him. The Book whose
words had been light and life to him was often in his hand, or lay open
on the little table in his room. He never lost his hold upon the great
truth he had grasped, nor abated in the fullness of his joy. I was with
him the night he died. He knew the end was at hand, and the thought
filled him with solemn joy. His eyes kindled, and his wasted features
fairly blazed with rapture as he said, holding my hand with both of his:
"I am glad it will all soon, be over. My peace has been unbroken since
that morning when God sent you to me. I feel a strange, solemn joy a the
thought that I shall soon know all."
Before daybreak the great mystery was disclosed to him, and as he lay in
his coffin next day, the smile that lingered on his lips suggested the
thought that he had caught a hint of the secret while yet in the body.
Among the casual hearers that now and then dropped in to hear a sermon
in Sonora, in the early days of my ministry there, was a man who
interested me particularly. He was at that time editing one of the
papers of the town, which sparkled with the flashes of his versatile
genius. He was a true Bohemian, who had seen many countries, and knew
life in almost all its phases. He had written a book of adventure which
found many readers and admirers. An avowed skeptic, he was yet
respectful in his allusions to sacred things, and I am sure his
editorial notices of the pulpit efforts of a certain young preacher who
had much to learn were more than just. He was a brilliant talker, with a
vein of enthusiasm that was very delightful. His spirit was generous and
frank, and I never heard from his lips an unkind word concerning any
human being. Even his partisan editorials were free from the least tinge
of asperity—and this is a supreme test of a sweet and courteous
nature. In our talks he studiously evaded the one subject most
interesting to me. With gentle and delicate skill he parried all my
attempts to introduce the subject of religion in our conversations.
"I can't agree with you on that subject, and we will let it pass" he
would say, with a smile, and then he would start some other topic, and
rattle on delightfully in his easy, rapid way.
He could not stay long at a place, being a confirmed wanderer. He left
Sonora, and I lost sight of him. Retaining. a very kindly feeling for
this gentle-spirited and pleasant adventurer, I was loth thus to lose
all trace of him. Meeting a friend one day, on J Street, in the city of
Sacramento, he said:
"Your old friend D—is at the Golden Eagle hotel. You ought to go and
I went at once. Ascending to the third story, I found his room, and,
knocking at the door, a feeble voice bade me enter. I was shocked at the
spectacle that met my gaze. Propped in an armchair in the middle of the
room, wasted to a skeleton, and of a ghastly pallor, sat the unhappy
man. His eyes gleamed with an unnatural brightness, and his features
wore a look of intense suffering.
"You have come too late, sir," he said, before I had time to say a word.
"You can do me no good now. I have been sitting in this chair three
weeks. I could not live a minute in any other position, Hell could not
be worse than the tortures I have suffered! I thank you for coming to
see me, but you can do me no good—none, none!"
He paused, panting for breath; and then he continued, in a soliloquizing
"I played the fool, making a joke of what was no joking matter. It is
too late. I can neither think nor pray, if praying would do any good. I
can only suffer, suffer, suffer!"
The painful interview soon ended. To every cheerful or hopeful
suggestion which I made he gave but the one reply:
The unspeakable anguish of his look, as his eyes followed me to the
door, haunted me for many a day, and the echo of his words, "Too late!"
lingered sadly upon my ear. When I saw the announcement of his death, a
few days afterward, I asked myself the solemn question, Whether I had
dealt faithfully with this lighthearted, gifted man when he was within
my reach. His last rook is before me now, as I pencil these lines.
"John A—is dying over on the Portrero, and his family wants you to go
over and see him."
It was while I was pastor in San Francisco. A—was a member of my
Church, and lived on what was called the Portrero, in the southern part
of the city, beyond the Long Bridge. It was after night when I reached
the little cottage on the slope above the bay.
"He is dying and delirious," said a member of the family, as I entered
the room where the sick man lay. His wife, a woman of peculiar traits
and great religious fervor, and a large number of children and
grandchildren, were gathered in the dying man's chamber and the
adjoining rooms. The sick man—a man of large and powerful frame—was
restlessly tossing and roving his limbs, muttering incoherent words,
with now and then a burst of uncanny laughter. When shaken, he would
open his eyes for an instant, make some meaningless ejaculation, and
then they would close again. The wife was very anxious that he should
have a lucid interval while I was there.
"O I cannot bear to have him die without a word of farewell and
comfort!" she said, weeping.
The hours wore on, and the dying man's pulse showed that he was sinking
steadily. Still he lay unconscious, moaning and gibbering, tossing from
side to side as far as his failing strength permitted. His wife would
stand and gaze at him a few moments, and then walk the floor in agony.
"He can't last much longer," said a visitor, who felt his pulse and
found it almost gone, while his breathing became more labored. We waited
in silence. A thought seemed to strike the wife. Without saying a word,
she climbed upon the bed, took her dying husband's head upon her lap,
and, bending close above his face, began to sing. It was a melody I had
never heard before—low, and sweet, and quaint. The effect was weird
and thrilling as the notes fell tremulous from the singer's lips in the
hush of that dead hour of the night. Presently the dying man became more
quiet, and before the song was finished he opened his eyes as a smile
swept over his face, and as his glance fell on me I saw that he knew me.
He called my name, and looked up in the face that bent above his own,
and kissed it.
"Thank God!" his wife exclaimed, her hot tears falling on his face, that
wore a look of strange serenity. Then she half whispered to me, her face
beaming with a softened light:
"That old song was one we used to sing together when we were first
married in Baltimore."
On the stream of music and memory he had floated back to consciousness,
called by the love whose instinct is deeper and truer than all the
science and philosophy in the world.
At dawn he died, his mind clear, and the voice of prayer in his ears,
and a look of rapture in his face.
Dan W—, whom I had known in the mines in the early days, had come to
San Jose about the time my pastorate in the place began. He kept a
meat-market, and was a most genial, accommodating, and good-natured
fellow. Everybody liked him, and he seemed to like everybody. His animal
spirits were unfailing, and his face never revealed the least trace of
worry or care. He "took things easy," and never quarreled with his luck.
Such men are always popular, and Dan was a general favorite, as the
generous and honest fellow deserved to be. Hearing that he was very
sick, I went to see him. I found him very low, but he greeted me with a
"How are you today, Dan?" I asked, in the offhand way of the old times.
"It is all up with me, I guess," he replied, pausing to get breath
between the words; "the doctor says I can't get out of this—I must
leave in a day or two."
He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, indicating that he intended to take
death, as he had taken life, easy.
"How do you feel about changing worlds, my old friend?"
"I have no say in the matter. I have got to go, and that is all there is
That was all I ever got out of him. He told me he had not been to church
for ten years, as "it was not in his line." He did not understand
matters of that sort, he said, as his business was running a
meat-market. He intended no disrespect to me or to sacred things—this
was his way of putting the matter in his simple-heartedness.
"Shall I kneel here and pray with you?" I asked.
"No; you needn't take the trouble, parson," he said, gently; "you see
I've got to go, and that's all there is of it. I don't understand that
sort of thing—it's not in my, line, you see. I've been in the meat
"Excuse me, my old friend, if I ask if you do not, as a dying man, have
some thoughts about God and eternity?"
"That's not in my line, and I couldn't do much thinking now any way.
It's all right, parson—I've got to go, and Old Master will do right
Thus he died without a prayer, and without a fear, and his case is left
to the theologians who can understand it, and to the "Old Master" who
will do right.
I was called to see a lady who was dying at North Beach, San Francisco.
Her history was a singularly sad one, illustrating the ups and downs of
California life in a startling manner. From opulence to poverty, and
from poverty to sorrow, and from sorrow to death—these were the acts
in the drama, and the curtain was about to fall on the last. On a
previous visit I had pointed the poor sufferer to the Lamb of God, and
prayed at her bedside, leaving her calm and tearful. Her only daughter,
a sweet, fresh girl of eighteen, had two years ago betrothed herself to
a young man from Oregon, who had come to San Francisco to study a
profession. The dying mother had expressed a desire to see them married
before her death, and I had been sent for to perform the ceremony.
"She is unconscious, poor thing!" said a lady who was in attendance,
"and she will fail of her dearest wish."
The dying mother lay with a flushed face, breathing painfully, with
closed eyes, and moaning piteously. Suddenly her eyes opened, and she
glanced inquiringly around the room. They understood her. The daughter
and her betrothed were sent for. The mother's face brightened as they
entered, and she turned to me and said, in a faint voice:
"Go on with the ceremony, or it will be too late for me. God bless you,
darling!" she added as the daughter bent down sobbing, and kissed her.
The bridal couple kneeled together by the bed of death, and the
assembled friends stood around in solemn silence, while the beautiful
formula of the Church was repeated, the dying mother's eyes resting upon
the kneeling daughter with an expression of unutterable tenderness. When
the vows were taken that made them one, and their hands were clasped in
token of plighted faith, she drew them both to her in a long embrace,
and then almost instantly closed her eyes with a look of infinite
restfulness, and never opened them again.
Of the notable men I met in the mines in the early days, there was one
who piqued and puzzled my curiosity. He had the face of a saint with the
habits of a debauchee. His pale and student-like features were of the
most classic mold, and their expression singularly winning, save when at
times a cynical sneer would suddenly flash over them like a cloud-shadow
over a quiet landscape. He was a lawyer, and stood at the head of the
bar. He was an orator whose silver voice and magnetic qualities often
kindled the largest audiences into the wildest enthusiasm. Nature had
denied him no gift of body or mind requisite to success in life; but
there was a fatal weakness in his moral constitution. He was an
inveterate gambler, his large professional earnings going into the
coffers of the faro and monte dealers. His violations of good morals in
other respects were flagrant. He worked hard by day, and gave himself up
to his vices at night. Public opinion was not very exacting in those
days, and his failings were condoned by a people who respected force and
pluck, and made no close inquiries into a man's private life, because it
would have been no easy thing to find one who, on the score of
innocence, was entitled to cast the first stone. Thus he lived from year
to year, increasing his reputation as a lawyer of marked ability, and as
a politician whose eloquence in every campaign was a tower of strength
to his party. His fame spread until it filled the State, and his money
still fed his vices. He never drank, and that cool, keen intellect never
lost its balance, or failed him in any encounter on the hustings on at
the bar. I often met him in public, but he never was known to go inside
a church. Once, when in a street conversation I casually made some
reference to religion, a look of displeasure passed over his face, and
he abruptly left me. I was agreeably surprised when, on more than one
occasion, he sent me a substantial token of goodwill, but I was never
able to analyze the motive that prompted him to do so. This remembrance
softens the feelings with which these lines are penciled. He went to San
Francisco, but there was no change in his life.
"It is the old story," said an acquaintance of whom I made inquiry
concerning him: "he has a large and lucrative practice, and the gamblers
get all he makes. He is getting gray, and he is failing a little. He is
a strange being."
It happened afterward that his office and mine were in the same building
and on the same floor. As we met on the stairs, he would nod to me and
pass on. I noticed that he was indeed "failing." He looked-weary and
sad, and the cold or defiant gleam in his steel-gray eyes, was changed
into a wistful and painful expression that was very pathetic. I did not
dare to invade his reserve with any tender of sympathy. Joyless and
hopeless as he might be, I felt instinctively that he would play out his
drama alone. Perhaps this was a mistake on my part: he may have been
hungry for the word I did not speak. God knows. I was not lacking in
proper interest in his well-being, but I have since thought in such
cases it is safest to speak.
"What has become of B—?" said my landlord one day as we met in the
hall. "I have been here to see him several times, and found his door
locked, and his letters and newspapers have not been touched. There is
something the matter, I fear."
Instantly I felt somehow that there was a tragedy in the air, and I had
a strange feeling of awe as I passed the door of B—'s room.,
A policeman was brought, the lock forced, and we went in. A sickening
odor of chloroform filled the room. The sight that met our gaze made us
shudder. Across the bed was lying the form of a man partly dressed, his
head thrown back, his eyes staring upward, his limbs hanging loosely
over the bedside.
"Is he dead?" was asked in a whisper.
"No," said the officer, with his finger on B—'s wrist; "he is not dead
yet, but he will never wake out of this. He has been lying thus two or
A physician was sent for, and all possible efforts made to rouse him,
but in vain. About sunset the pulse ceased to beat, and it was only a
lump of lifeless clay that lay there so still and stark. This was his
death—the mystery of his life went back beyond my knowledge of him,
and will only be known at the judgment-day.
One of the gayest and brightest of all the young people gathered at a
May-day picnic, just across the bay from San Francisco, was Ada D—.
The only daughter of a wealthy citizen, living in one of the lovely
valleys beyond the coast-range of mountains, beautiful in person and
sunny in temper, she was a favorite in all the circle of her
associations. Though a petted child of fortune, she was not spoiled,
Envy itself was changed into affection in the presence of a spirit so
gentle, unassuming, and loving. She had recently been graduated from one
of the best schools, and her graces of character matched the brilliance
of her pecuniary fortune.
A few days after the May-day festival, as I was sitting in my office, a
little before sunset, there was a knock at the door, and before I could
answer the messenger entered hastily, saying:
"I want you to go with me at once to Amador Valley. Ada D—is dying,
and wishes to be baptized. We just have time for the six o'clock boat to
take us across the bay, where the carriage and horses are waiting for
us. The distance is thirty miles, and we must run a race against death."
We started at once: no minister of Jesus Christ hesitates to obey a
summons like that. We reached the boat while the last taps of the last
bell were being given, and were soon at the landing on the opposite side
of the bay. Springing ashore, we entered the vehicle which was in
readiness. Grasping the reins, my companion touched up the spirited
team, and we struck across the valley. My driver was an old Californian,
skilled in all horse craft and road-craft. He spoke no word, putting his
soul and body into his work, determined, as he had said, to make the
thirty miles by nine o'clock. There was no abatement of speed after we
struck the hills: what was lost in going up was regained in going down.
The mettle of those California-bred horses was wonderful; the quick
beating of their hoofs upon the graveled road was as regular as the
motion of machinery, steam-driven. It was an exciting ride, and there
was a weirdness in the sound of the night-breeze floating by us, and
ghostly, shapes seemed looking at us from above and below, as we wound
our way through the hills, while the bright stars shone like
funeral-tapers over a world of death. Death! how vivid and awful was its
reality to me as I looked up at those shining worlds on high, and then
upon the earth wrapped in darkness below! Death! his sable coursers are
swift, and we may be too late! The driver shared my thoughts, and lashed
the panting horses to yet greater speed. My pulses beat rapidly as I
counted the moments.
"Here we are!" he exclaimed, as we dashed down the hill and brought up
at the gate. "It is eight minutes to nine," he added, glancing at his
watch by the light of a lamp shining through the window.
"She is alive, but speechless, and going fast," said the father, in a
broken voice, as I entered the house.
He led me to the chamber of the dying girl; The seal of death was upon
her. I bent above her, and a look of recognition came into her eyes. Not
a moment was to be lost.
"If you know me, my child, and can enter the meaning of what I say,
indicate the fact if you can."
There was a faint smile and a slight but significant inclination of the
fair head as it lay enveloped with its wealth of chestnut curls. With
her hands folded on her breast, and her eyes turned upward, the dying
girl lay in listening attitude, while in a few words I explained the
meaning of the sacred rite and pointed her to the Lamb of God as the one
sacrifice for sin. The family stood round the bed in awed and tearful
silence. As the crystal sacramental drops fell upon her brow a smile
flashed quickly over the pale face, there was a slight movement of the
head—and she was gone! The upward look continued, and the smile never
left the fair, sweet face. We fell upon our knees, and the prayer that
followed was not for her, but for the bleeding hearts around the couch
where she lay smiling in death.
Dave Douglass was one of that circle of Tennesseans who took prominent
parts in the early history of California. He belonged to the Sumner
County Douglasses, of Tennessee, and had the family warmth of heart,
impulsiveness, and courage, that nothing could daunt. In all the
political contests of the early days he took an active part, and was
regarded as an unflinching and unselfish partisan by his own party, and
as an openhearted and generous antagonist by the other. He was elected
Secretary of State, and served the people with fidelity and efficiency.
He was a man of a powerful physical frame, deep-chested, ruddy-, faced,
blue-eyed, with just enough shagginess of eyebrows and heaviness of the
under-jaw to indicate the indomitable pluck which was so strong an
element in his character. He was a true Douglass, as brave and true as
any of the name that ever wore the kilt or swung a claymore in the land
of Bruce. His was a famous Methodist family in Tennessee, and though he
knew more of politics than piety, he was a good friend to the Church,
and had regular preaching in the schoolhouse near his farm on the
Calaveras River. All the itinerants that traveled that circuit knew
"Douglass's Schoolhouse" as an appointment, and shared liberally in the
hospitality and purse of the General—(that was his title).
"Never give up the fight!" he said to me, with flashing eye, the last
time I met him in Stockton, pressing my hand with a warm clasp. It was
while I was engaged in the effort to build a church in that place, and I
had been telling him of the difficulties I had met in the work. That
word and handclasp helped me.
He was taken sick soon after. The disease had taken too strong a grasp
upon him to be broken. He fought bravely a losing battle for several
days. Sunday morning came, a bright, balmy day. It was in the early
summer. The cloudless sky was deep-blue, the sunbeams sparkled on the
bosom of the Calaveras, the birds were singing in the trees, and the
perfume of the flowers filled the air and floated in through the open
window to where the strong man lay dying. He had been affected with the
delirium of fever during most of his sickness, but that was past, and he
was facing death with an unclouded mind.
"I think I am dying," he said, half inquiringly.
"Yes—is there any thing we can do for you?"
His eyes closed for a few moments, and his lips moved as if in mental
prayer. Opening his eyes, he said:
"Sing one of the old camp-meeting songs."
A preacher present struck up the hymn, "Show pity, Lord, O Lord
The dying man, composed to rest, lay with folded hands and listened with
shortening breath and a rapt face, and thus he died, the words and the
melody that had touched his boyish heart among the far-off hills of
Tennessee being the last sounds that fell upon his dying ear. We may
hope that on that old camp-meeting song was wafted the prayer and trust
of a penitent soul receiving the kingdom of heaven as a little child.
During my pastorate at Santa Rosa, one of my occasional hearers was John
I—. He was deputy-sheriff of Sonoma County, and was noted for his
quiet and determined courage. He was a man of few words, but the most
reckless desperado knew that he could not be trifled with. When there
was an arrest to be made that involved special peril, this reticent,
low-voiced man was usually intrusted with the undertaking. He was of the
good old Primitive Baptist stock from Caswell County, North Carolina,
and had a lingering fondness for the peculiar views of that people. He
had a weakness for strong drink that gave him trouble at times, but
nobody doubted his integrity any more than they doubted his courage. His
wife was an earnest Methodist, one of a family of sisters remarkable for
their excellent sense and strong religious characters. Meeting him one
day, just before my return to San Francisco, he said, with a warmth of
manner not common with him:
"I am sorry you are going to leave Santa Rosa. You understand me, and if
anybody can do me any good, you are the man."
There was a tremor in his voice as he spoke, and he held my hand in a
Yes, I knew him. I had seen him at church on more than one occasion with
compressed lips struggling to conceal the strong emotion he felt,
sometimes hastily wiping away an unbidden tear. The preacher, when his
own soul is aglow and his sympathies all awakened and drawn out toward
his hearers, is almost clairvoyant at times in his perception of their
inner thoughts. I understood this man, though no disclosure had been
made to me in words. I read his eye, and marked the wishful and anxious
look that came over his face when his conscience was touched and his
heart moved. Yes, I knew him, for my sympathy had made me responsive,
and his words, spoken sadly, thrilled me, and rolled upon my spirit the
burden of a soul. His health, which had been broken by hardships and
careless living, began to decline more rapidly. I heard that he had
expressed a desire to see me, and made no delay in going to see him. I
found him in bed, and much wasted.
"I am glad you have come. I have been wanting to see you," he said,
taking my hand. "I have been thinking of my duty to God for a good
while, and have felt more than anybody has suspected. I want to do
what I can and ought to do. You have made this matter a study, and
you ought to understand it. I want you to help me."
We had many interviews, and I did what I could to guide a penitent
sinner to the sinner's Friend. He was indeed a penitent sinner—shut
out from the world and shut in with God, the merciful Father was
speaking to his soul, and all its depths were stirred. The patient,
praying wife had a wishful look in her eyes as I came out of his room,
and I knew her thought. God was leading him, and he was receptive of the
truth that saves. He had one difficulty.
"I hate meanness, or any thing that looks like it. It does look mean for
me to turn to religion now that I am sick, after being so neglectful and
wicked when I was well."
"That thought is natural to a manly soul, but there is a snare in it.
You are thinking what others may say, and your pride is touched. You are
dealing with God only. Ask only what will please him. The time for a man
to do his duty is when he sees it and feels the obligation. Let the past
go—you cannot undo it, but it may be forgiven. The present and an
eternal future are yours, my friend.
"Do what will please God, and all will be right."
The still waters were reached, and his soul lay at rest in the arms of
God. O sweet, sweet rest! infinitely sweet to the spirit long tossed
upon the stormy sea of sin and remorse. O peace of God, the inflow into
a human heart of the very life of the Lord! It is the hidden mystery of
love divine whispered to the listening ear of faith. It had come to him
by its own law when he was ready to receive it. The great change had
come to him—it looked out from his eyes and beamed from his face.
He was baptized at night. The family had gathered in the room. In the
solemn hush of the occasion the whispers of the night-breeze could be
heard among the vines and flowers outside, and the rippling of the
sparkling waters of Santa Rosa Creek was audible. The sick man's face
was luminous with the light that was from within. The solemn rite was
finished, a tender and holy awe filled the room; it was the house of God
and the gate of heaven. The wife, who was sitting near a window, rose,
and noiselessly stepped to the bed, and without a word printed a kiss on
her husband's forehead, while the joy that flushed her features told
that the prayer of thirty years had been answered, We sung a hymn and
parted with tears of silent joy. In a little while he crossed the river
where we may mingle our voices again by and by. There is not money
enough in the California hills to buy the memory of that visit to Santa