Introducing Sam Flint
California’s gold rush was the most significant event in the settling of California. Gold miners, called 49ers because of the date gold was discovered (1849), rushed to the new state by the thousands. Many traveled from America’s east coast, either by land, via covered wagons, or by sea, around the horn or through the isthmus of Panama.
This is the story of a fictional miner named Sam Flint, who pulled up stakes in New York and headed for the gold fields by sea. His story is typical of many who made a similar trek. It will be told in a series of adventures. This is the first chapter in his trip
Sam Flint Travels to California to Mine Gold
Gold was discovered in California in 1849 and Sam Flint was just the man to travel there to mine for it. He was single (never been married), young (22 years old), strong (could carry a barrel of beer on each shoulder), and prosperous enough to get to the gold fields (nice little bank account). Furthermore, he was ready for adventure.
Sam’s trouble was that he lived in New York, about as far away as he could get from California and still be in the U.S.A. He had several ways to get there. He could go across land, over three-thousand miles, a lot of it untamed wilderness. He could take a ship around the horn of South America, a treacherous stretch of storm-driven water. Or he could travel through the isthmus of Panama.
He boarded a ship from New York to Panama. When the ship reached the isthmus, he took the unfinished railroad as far as it went. At the end of that trip, he switched to a dugout canoe up the Chagres River, paddled by native Indian boys. The scenery was beautiful, but he had to fight mosquitoes all the way.
After finally reaching the west coast, he boarded another sailing ship and traveled the rest of the way to San Francisco. This entire journey from New York took over three months. Nevertheless, he’d made it to San Francisco. Next he would find a way to the gold fields farther north.
Sam Flint on the Barbary Coast
After Sam reached what is now San Francisco, he was exhausted. It was so good to feel solid earth beneath his feet after his long journey over various water ways. He knelt and kissed the ground.
In doing so, he was nearly run over by the disembarking passengers, eager to get their bearings in the strange city.
Tens of thousands of residents (mostly men) filled San Francisco by this time. Most were either on their way to the gold fields, or trying to find employment after giving up on their useless attempts at mining. The predominant buildings were drinking and gambling establishments. Gold miners, prostitutes, gangs of criminals, Chinese opium sellers, fugitives from the law, adventurers, and sailors who had jumped ship roamed the streets and alleys.
The harbor was jammed with abandoned ships, while wharf rats scuttled about at night, hustling for food. The best anyone could say about the city was that it had high energy, and it was already beginning to replace Portland, Oregon as the major west coast seaport.
The San Francisco waterfront was especially bustling. Because of the influx of miners, California had become almost a classless society. Men of different nationalities and professions had flocked to the state to search for gold and had stayed.
Sam was impressed, but didn’t want to succumb to the lure of the city before he had a chance to dig for gold. He soon found a steamboat that would take him up river to Sacramento. From there he could reach the gold fields.