Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

Early Times in California

The land taken from Mexico included, as we have seen, our present state of California. This new section was still little known, although more than three hundred years had passed since the Spaniards first visited it. They named it California because a fabulous story of the time claimed that there was a rich province of that name near India. As people then fancied that India could not be very far away from this part of America, the Spaniards considered this name most appropriate for the newly discovered region.

Some time later California was visited by Sir Francis Drake in the course of his famous journey around the world. He renamed it New Albion, and is said to have discovered San Francisco Bay and the one bearing his name, near by. We are even told that he landed on the shores of Drake Bay to refit his vessel, and that he made such friends with the Indians that they begged him to stay with them and be their king.

Drake was followed, early in the seventeenth century, by a Spaniard who not only discovered the bays of San Diego and Monterey, but claimed the whole region for his sovereign. Nevertheless, for nearly a century, and a half after that no lasting settlement was made in California. But at the end of that time some Franciscan friars came from Mexico to preach the gospel to the Indians.

These good men built churches and a score of mission stations in some of the most charming "garden spots" in California. Here they preached to such good purpose that at the end of about fifty years—in 1820—there were nearly thirty thousand Christian Indians. Indeed, the natives felt such awe for the priests that they obeyed them at a word, and worked so hard that the missions soon became very rich.

Spanish Mission


The Spanish had hitherto been the only white men in California, with the exception of a few trappers and traders. The trappers roamed about the pathless woods and wild mountains, while the traders, who were mainly New Englanders, sailed up and down the coast, landing from time to time to exchange calicoes and groceries for the hides which the herders had to sell.

Sometimes these traders carried the hides to China and exchanged them for tea, but as a rule they went home again and sold their cargoes in Boston or New York. The two-year journey around the Horn was not only long, but often very tedious, for ships were often becalmed, or driven out of their course by unfavorable winds.

Still, both traders and trappers told such wonderful stories of the land they had visited in the far West, that a number of adventurers longed to go there. But the journey across the plains, through the deserts, and over the mountains, was so long and painful that only the bravest and strongest dared undertake it.

These men generally followed the road pointed out by the trappers, who often served as guides for the travelers, and beguiled the way by their many stories. Some of these were quite true, but others were told in fun to see if people would really believe them.

For instance, James Bridges, a famous trapper, used to tell of an awful snowstorm in the Great Salt Lake valley which lasted seventy days and stopped only when there were seventy feet of snow on the ground. He said that vast herds of buffaloes perished from the cold, and that their meat was kept fresh by the snow in which they were buried. When spring came, and the snow melted, he tumbled the frozen buffaloes into Great Salt Lake, where the water was so briny that it pickled all the meat perfectly. Thus, he had food enough to last several years for himself and for a whole tribe of Ute Indians. Of course this story was pure nonsense, but it shows what kind of stories some of these backwoodsmen told.