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NOTES OF TWO TRIPS TO CALIFORNIA AND RETURN, TAKEN IN 1883 and 1886-7.
BY SOLOMON MEAD
Courtesy American Memory Collection, Library of Congress.
 

Daily Notes of a Tour of Eight Weeks, taken by Solomon Mead,
across the Continent in 1883.

[p. 38]

Saturday, June 2d.

The morning was pleasant, except for a strong, cool wind. [Madera, or Merced] is the termination of a flume, which is supported by timbers and extends fifty-five miles back into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The descent is gradual, so that lumber in clamps floats down unaided. It is here piled in a large lumber yard, with which a steam mill is connected, which stands on the line of the railroad. In this mill the lumber is manufactured for different building purposes, then it is transported by rail in different directions for great distances. We took a train from this place at 6.50 a.m. for San Francisco. We stopped at a place called El Capitan and also at Lathrop. We saw great fields of wheat. Crossed San Joaquin River and reached Oakland at 3 p.m. We passed from the cars into a beautiful waiting room of the Central Pacific Railroad Company's ferry, which crosses the bay to San Francisco. After a short delay we boarded the ferryboat, which landed us in San Francisco, where we found stages waiting to convey us to the Palace Hotel. Room No. 704 was assigned us. This hotel is said to be one of the finest and largest in the world. The total number of sleeping rooms is 1,025, more than one-half of which are double rooms, elegantly furnished. It surpasses all others that I have seen in elegance, convenience and comfort.

[pp.45-51]

Saturday, June 16th.

Visited the office of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, opposite the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. We were politely received and shown through the building and the various offices of different departments. The inquiries that I made were frankly answered. An agent of the Central Pacific Railroad called in the evening to arrange tickets for our return trip, to start next Monday.

Monday, June 18th.

In the morning went out and bought a breastpin for mother and Hannah and packed our trunk ready to start on our journey on the Central Pacific. Our way for a long time was by the Sacramento River. Many flags were floating on the breeze in San Francisco commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Observed many vessels plowing the waters of this noble river. The day was very fine. We soon passed fields of wheat, barley, oats, corn, potatoes, and vineyards. Reached Port Casta, which is a place of some shipping and business, at 4.45 p.m. Here our train was run on an immense ferryboat, which conveyed us across the river to a place called Benecia, which is quite a nice place. From here we resumed our journey by rail on the California Pacific, leased by the Central. Our way for a long time lay through marshy land, with tall coarse grass or flags on either side. After traveling for a time through this morass we emerged into a fine agricultural region, where the farmers were harvesting and threshing their grain in fields. Also observed great herds of cattle, sheep, horses and hogs. The hogs west of the Mississippi are black in color. They are said to be more healthy and thrifty in this climate than any other color. Passed a village called Elmira; also passed Dexter, which is quite a fine village, where we counted the spires of four churches. Arrived at Sacramento at 7.30. This is the capital of the State and a very fine city. We stopped twenty-five minutes for supper.

Tuesday, June 19th.

After a comfortable night's rest we arose to see a town of 2,000 inhabitants. Observed to the left of us a building of fine appearance, and on inquiry found it to be a college. This region is said to be well adapted to small fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries, cherries, etc., which are raised extensively. After breakfast at a hotel we resumed our journey, passing through some of the grandest mountain scenery that the eye ever looked upon. Took dinner 5,600 feet above the level of the sea. Here, as has been usual on our journey thus far, special pains had been taken to give us a fine repast. The name of this place is Blue Canyon. From here we soon ran into the snow sheds and continued in them for forty miles, with only occasional glimpses of the scenery through some opening, just enough to tantalize us. These sheds are built very strong and substantial with heavy timber. They are said to have cost $40,000 per mile. As a protection against extensive conflagration short sections are built of iron. They are also provided with tanks of water and watchmen. At a short distance before emerging from these we reached the summit, 7,500 feet above the sea. We shall pass over higher points on the Denver & Rio Grande later on. Here the train stopped for a short time, and our party got out from the cars and had a frolic at snowballing. Although it was the middle of Summer, large banks of snow were piled up just outside the sheds. Soon after leaving the snow sheds we commence on a down grade. Observed spurs from the main track to bring lumber from sawmills in the forest. Saw to our left a narrow lake, probably three miles long. After a winding course down the mountain we reached the lumbering village of Truckee at about 7.30 p.m. and took supper at the Truckee Hotel. After mailing a letter home we retired to our berths in the cars about 9.30 p.m. The cars were switched off to remain until about 4.30 in the morning, when they were to be attached to the San Francisco express train. Truckee seems to be a place of considerable importance. In the morning there was a slight frost.

Depot Hotel Advertisement, Elko, Nevada. Courtesy of James Barkely and the Northeastern Nevada Museum.
James Clark's Depot Hotel (Advertisement), Elko, Nevada.
From the McKenney's Business Directory 1882, H.S. Crocker & Co, San Francisco & Sacramento.
Courtesy of James Barkely and the Northeastern Nevada Museum.

Wednesday, June 20th.

At the appointed time our cars were attached to the express train and we were on our way before we got out of our berths and soon crossed the line into Nevada. Reached the village of Reno, where we took breakfast at the Depot Hotel, about 7 a.m. This is a place of considerable size, handsomely laid out. For some distance on our way in Nevada we passed through a valley where agriculture seems to flourish. There is plenty of water for irrigation, which produces fine crops. Saw at a stopping place a number of Indians. Among them were squaws with pappooses, who wanted two bits as a reward for showing the faces of the pappooses, which quite amused the passengers, who often gave them more. The pappooses appeared bright and cunning. Families of several children were frequently together. It is said that they made a practice of being at the depot for the purpose of getting presents. Their white neighbors represent them as being very indolent and lazy and depending for food and clothing upon the Government. They have a reservation at a short distance from where we were, and number about 6,000 souls. The name of this tribe is Pyates. The use of whisky is one of their greatest evils. Their indolent characteristic applies more to the males than to the females. We are now running over a desert in Nevada, which is about 200 miles long, where there is seldom much to attract the attention. There is not much animal life, excepting horned toads, which are similar to those in California. They look much like the tree toads of the East, only are larger, flatter and have horns. They move very slowly and are perfectly harmless.

Twelve o'clock. Still running on the desert. There is very little variety of scenery. We have just seen in the distance to our left what appeared to be a cone-shaped volume of steam, but some said it was simply mirage. A dinner ticket has just been handed me, from which I infer a hotel is not far distant. Just observed in the distance on the desert what appeared to be another geyser. To our delight and surprise we came upon an oasis in the desert. It contained an acre or more, beautifully laid out with trees, both fruit and ornamental, shrubbery and flowers. A fountain was playing in the yard. The grass was a beautiful green, a complete contrast to everything surrounding. Before our train fully stopped a man was seen ringing a bell on the veranda and summoning us to dinner, for which we had a half hour. After dinner we again proceeded on our journey through the desert. The altitude of this desert is said to be about 4,500 feet above the level of the sea. Indians were seen at every station. I have observed more Indians in the State of Nevada than in any other State or Territory through which we have passed. Saw a burly looking Indian, who I was told was the chief. In company with him was an Indian with painted face, tomahawk and sword swung at his side. Our total run for the day, from Reno to Elko, has been about 313 miles. We have now left the desert and are fairly in the mountains again. We took supper at Elko. We passed some vertical rocks of considerable height, from which large quantities of stones have fallen. Snow-capped mountains are almost constantly in view. Night coming on, during which we are to travel, no more of the landscape can be seen until the morning.

Thursday, June 21st.

Awoke early, as usual, and spent some time in my berth looking out of the car window before any of the passengers appeared to be astir. We left the State of Nevada and entered the Territory of Utah some time before daylight this morning. After running a time this morning we came in view of Salt Lake, lying to our right. This lake is much larger than I had supposed, being ninety miles long by ten to twenty miles wide. Salt Lake City is situated opposite the southern portion of the lake, at some distance to the east of it, but still in plain view. Observed before leaving the Central Pacific Railroad a roadbed graded for a narrow gauge road extending for a considerable distance. It now belongs to the Central Pacific road. The land, as we approach Ogden, looks better for agricultural purposes. It continues to improve as we pass into the Salt Lake Valley, where it appears to be very fertile and rich. Crossed a stream near the village of Cirenicie. Observed salt made by evaporation, and salt grass, similar to that which grows along the shores of salt water in the East. We reached Ogden some time in the morning. At this place three or four railroads connect, which makes quite a stirring business place. Here we left the Central Pacific road

[Entire text is available on-line from the Library of Congress.]


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