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In writing and presenting this book for the entertainment of the public, I am carrying out a long cherished desire. During my eventful trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco, I wrote a diary, in which I noted all my experiences and all events that passed under my observation. When I refer to my log, as the sea diary is called, my memory is refreshed to such a degree as to make that which took place more than forty years ago seem as though it were but yesterday.
The reason why I have delayed this long contemplated wish is because of the necessary daily battle of life to win the wherewith to buy the bread and the butter to sustain the body in a working condition. Now that I have retired, like the "little bee,” into winter quarters, I have taken great pleasure in recounting the stirring events of the days of '49 and '50. With this explanation I submit this, my humble volume, to the indulgent consideration of the reading public.
To begin: From a voyage to Ireland with a load of corn for the famine-stricken people of that country, and from thence to Palermo, Sicily, where we took in a cargo of lemons, oranges and almonds, and from thence to Boston, where we arrived on the last day of February, 1849. After we had anchored in the lower harbor, the wind chopped around to the northwest and the air became so cold that by eight o'clock the following morning our vessel was inclosed in a sheet of ice, thereby cutting off all communication with the city. There we lay embargoed for eight days. At last, on the ninth day, the ice boat “R. B. Forbes,” that had been under repairs for damage caused by ice, was again able to resume ice breaking, and she opened the channel, which enabled us to reach the wharf and discharge our cargo.
When we reached the wharf the first news we heard was that General Zachary Taylor had been elected President of the United States, and that gold had been discovered in California. We were informed that several vessels had already sailed for California, among them the ship “Edward Everett,” on board of which vessel several of my young friends had taken passage.
"And now," said my informant, “I suppose you will leave on the very next ship.”
Well, when the cargo was discharged, all hands were paid off, and I took board with a Mr. Brodhead, who entertained a few seafaring men. There I met a man who had arrived in the ship “Remittance,” on board of which ship he had been engaged for the two years previous collecting hides and tallow on the coast of California. He told me that ten days before they weighed anchor to leave Monterey a party of Americans had arrived from Coloma and brought with them a large quantity of gold dust, a specimen of which he had bought from them, and which he showed me in a tin box like a snuff box. I, in my utter ignorance about gold mining, asked him why he had not gone up to Coloma and gathered up two or three sacks of the precious dust and brought it home with him. He answered that he could not leave the ship, even if he had so desired; therefore he had come home in the ship, had been discharged and paid off, and now that he was free he was going to buy an outfit for gold mining, and take passage on board the first ship that was to leave for California. This person seemed to be so sincere and so sanguine that it caused me to reflect on the possibility of my going to California, and, in one grand swoop, digging up a big fortune.
The city of Boston, as well as all the adjacent towns, were alive on the subject of the California gold mines. The wharves were lined with ships, brigs, schooners, and even sloops, with big signs which bore the legend: “The first vessel for California. For freight or passage apply to So and So, Commercial street," or Broad street. Lumber already framed for houses, barrels of beef and pork, flour, and boxes of boots, shoes, and long rubber leggings for working in the water, shovels, picks and axes, in a heterogeneous mass, were being hauled by drays alongside the vessels, and all for California.
I saw two men meet and salute. Said one: "Well, Swift, are you going to California ?" “No; but I am fitting out my brother Josiah with everything necessary for a trip of two years, as well as to pay his passage to San Francisco and also to furnish the money to pay his expenses to the