Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00



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June 3, 1853

Letters from Home

June 3rd

Have been out shopping this morning. Mr. Sanford accompanied us. On our way a very fine bookstore presented itself and he proposed we should enter. It was as fine looking and handsome an establishment as any at home. We looked around and I then bought Willie who was with us a picture book. The little fellow was delighted at the sight of so many books of pictures. Mr. Sanford gave him the last number of Punch, of which Punch his little lordship is very fond. Then, or rather before going to the bookstore, we made Mr. Morgan a call, finding it very agreeable there. We stayed a long time; there we said diverse things and Mr. Morgan showed me his books and insisted upon my taking all I had not read which is quite a good pile. I accepted his offer with pleasure, but said I would send them to Mrs. Morgan on my return home. From thence we went to the shoe store and found very nice strong shoes. Got two pairs for Willie. Then we went to one or two hat stores to get a straw hat for Colin who was with us. Mr. Sanford then proposed we should go to the Chinese exhibition room but Willie and I were too tired – shall visit it another day.

On our return to the ship had a call from the captain of the “Star of the Union”. We found him quite pleasant. He said he wished to renew his ocean acquaintance. He paid a handsome compliment to our good ship and seemed quite pleased when Williams said that he thought the “Star” was a fine sailing ship – this Williams said to me the day we passed her.

Yesterday, the captain of the “Sword-fish” called. That vessel and ours left New York at the same time. We outstripped her, then left her behind, but she reached port two days before us. The captain acknowledged the fact that the “Serpent” was the fastest sailer. We even kept ahead of him, crossed the equator this side some three days ahead, but during those miserable calms we encountered he, more to the westward than we, shot on ahead. They encountered some calms but not at all to the extent we did.

Mr. Gillespie also made us quite a call. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Sanford dined with us. From them we heard of the death of Mr. Mugford of Manila, a brother of our Canton friend. He was killed by the natives – why or wherefore is not certainly known.

Our steward who has ever been with us on the “Sea Serpent” tells us today that he does not intend going to China. Not that he intends remaining in San Francisco but is going home to New York. I feel very sorry as he has served us faithfully and we like him. He tells me that he is not satisfied and is not doing as well as he wished. How he will do better at home I know not. I rather think if he remains here it is to stay and try his fortune.

I heard that Mrs. Macondray intended calling on me this morning but she made not her appearance. Williams and Mr. Morgan have gone to call there this evening. I cannot understand not hearing from Louise Van Wagenen. She saying she certainly should write. But one mail has brought us letters from New Bedford – our other friends have done far better. As for Frank, but one page of his sheet was covered. It was to his father and he does not mention either Willie or myself. I feel almost discouraged of ever winning his love. I have from my heart endeavored to do so but as far as I am concerned it seems to be “out of sight, out of mind”. I am very sorry for it, it pains me so much. I wish from my heart to have him look upon me as a mother and Willie as his brother. Thus far, I feel that I have been disappointed. With Horatia it is different. She is most loving and affectionate.

The news we heard from China is not at all favorable. Mr. Perkins of Canton was here during the earlier part of the evening. He says business there is at a standstill owing to the rebellion which will, without a doubt, end in a complete revolution. However we proceed to China hoping that by that time a change will have come over the state of affairs. Few ships, comparatively, go there this season so that if we are successful we shall probably be very successful. I trust from my heart that it may be so and that this will be our last voyage round the world. It will be the “Serpent’s” third and that I think is enough for us. Oh, how delightful it will be to have a home of our own and our children all with us. I have an intense longing for one.

Had precious little sleep last night, Willie waking up before four this morning and it was near twelve when I went to bed. That, with the long walk of today, and the excitement of seeing so many after our quiet life has fatigued me almost to death for the last three nights. I wish from my heart Willie would not wake so early. I cannot think of arousing Mary so early, and the little kittie will not let me sleep. I think his gums are troubling him again. I wish Williams would come back. I think his hour has been a very extensive one.

June 5, 1853

Mrs. Charles Gillespie and Her Gardens
Mission Dolores

June 5th

A beautiful sabbath day. We intend going to church today. Yesterday I did not find a moment’s time to write in my journal. The morning was spent in finishing off a number of letters for home, also in receiving calls – among others Mrs. Macondray and her son. I presume it is the first and last I shall see of the family this visit here, as they leave tomorrow morning for their country residence some twenty miles back – from all accounts it must be a beautiful place. I suppose if we intend remaining here longer we might have an invite to spend a day or two.

In the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. David Gillespie walked in the Cabin. She came to spend the afternoon with me. I was very glad to see her and we had passed a very pleasant half hour together when Mr. Morgan walked in and told us to get ready as a carriage was all ready to take us out to the “Mission”. We were soon ready, also little Willie boy and in the carriage, Williams also went. The drive out there, of some three miles, is over a plank road. We had a fine large carriage and two good horses and our ride proved a very pleasant and short one. We passed some very pleasant places, none however to compare to Mrs. Charles Gillespie’s which looks in that sandy, barren soil like a little garden of Eden. We did not stop though. I should like much to have seen the garden and its universally admired mistress – not admired for the beauty of face and person so much, but for the lovely, admirable traits of mind and character. I believe her gentleman friends think there is not another lady to be compared with her in San Francisco. I hear her spoken of in the same manner in China, where she lived for some time and among her friends in New York. During our first visit to San Francisco we called out there to see Mrs. David Gillespie who was staying there then. The garden was beautiful and its natural advantages great. These have all been very much improved. We also saw Mrs. Charles Gillespie at that time and were very much pleased with her.

This mission establishment that we visited was formed by the Spaniards in 1776 at which time the buildings were erected. The story goes that the priests used to go out and catch the Indians with the lassos, bring them into their establishment, baptize and then make them stay. For the truth of this story I do not vouch, nor anyone else I believe. The building is of adobe and consists of a church at one corner, attached to which is a long low building completely enclosing a large open square. The whole establishment looks old and quaint, particularly the very old fashioned tiles with which the roof is all covered. We were admitted at once to the church; one of the priests acting as showman. We found him very polite. The whole furniture and adornments of the church were brought from Spain at that early period. The appearance presented by the interior of the church reminded me more of heathen temples that I had visited than of a Romish church. The room was very narrow, but rather long. The roof was an old fashioned beam roof painted in one of the colors in a sort of uniform figure. The whole length and breadth of the church directly back of the altar was covered with a variety of tinsel ornaments and figures. On these was no painting but on either side a figure – one I suppose represented the Virgin; the other I could not make out. On the altar was a number of very long, slender tapering wax candles. Also a variety of little flower vases full of flowers. One pair of the vases particularly attracted my attention. They were of light greenish color covered with pretty little china flowers. At some little distance from the altar but beyond the part occupied by the congregation were six pretty large figures, three on either side, arranged side by side close to the wall. These had a very heathenish look. In front of these also were small vases of flowers. Then came the little pulpit on the one side and hanging over that the only large painting. It represented a woman, I suppose the Virgin, standing while by her side was a little angel, and another weeping one, up in the clouds. The part of the church devoted to the congregation was covered with matting, this being laid over the natural floor of earth, hardened down but by no means in an even manner. The congregation either bring their own seats, kneel or stand, for not the sight of a seat did I see. Around this part of the church were hung some very common, small old paintings or engravings. The walls of the church inside of the whole building were very thick – the windows were small and high. The front door quite large and painted at the top, the same that was put there at the first. It had a very old singular look and looked as if the rain would find no difficulty in making its way through. There were several very original chandeliers to light this curious antique old place. The middle ones, of which I think there were two, were in the shape of the upper part of an old fashioned wine glass, point downward They were formed entirely of the inner part of oyster shells cut in a flat round shape. These were tied one to the other at the four edges. On the top, and of course directly on the edge – for the shells were the sole fabric – were the places for the candles. I dare say they looked quite pretty when lit up in the evening. The side ones were the same only more of a bowl shape. Truly, the invention and ingenuity of those good old priests was exerted when these originals were made. They are the only furniture of the church that came not from Spain. As we saw it today, so it has been since 1776. As I stood and looked around me, my imagination carried me back to the time of the good old founders and their Indian congregation. I seemed almost to see their dusky forms as they knelt in worship. Willie enjoyed the ride and sight seeing very much, particularly the scene presented in the enclosure; there were hens with any quantity of little chickens, a number of very little dogs. Willie at once took possession of one, lifting it up in his arms. All the time of the ride home he was in a regular frolic, mostly with Mrs. Gillespie.

After tea Williams and Mr. Morgan went off somewhere. Willie and I to the deck, where we were soon joined by Mr. Sanford. We had a long pleasant chat there and in the Cabin, where, after awhile we were joined by the other two gentlemen. Williams and Mr. Sanford talked about oil, etc. till half past ten, while Mr. Morgan and myself on the settee, chatted away very pleasantly.

This morning, Williams, Mr. Morgan, Colin and self all went to church. The day having been an extremely warm one. One walk, which was most of the way uphill, and quite long, proved very fatiguing. Part of the way was through deep, loose sand, heated by the sun to such a degree I almost blistered my feet. It seemed good to me to go to church again and I enjoyed all I was able of the sermon. I could not judge as I heard but very little. The gentlemen did not at all like it.

We had Mr. Morgan, Mr. Sanford and Captain Haskill of the “Independence” (which arrived last night) to dine with us. A pleasant little party, the two former remained with us till after tea. A little while ago I received a call from Mr. Bryant, wife and daughter. The lady is a second cousin of Williams. They seemed pleasant, but I enjoyed such visits very little, hearing next to nothing of the conversation None can imagine how trying this is but those who experience it. I think my hearing becomes worse.

June 7, 1853

Chinese Exhibition Room
Catherine Hayes

June 7th

Another warm, beautiful day. We certainly have had charming weather since being here. Our ship is a busy scene, and so is this long wharf of which our ship lies at the end – goods discharging from vessels, lying in every direction – and crowds of men passing and repassing. On Sunday it was disagreeable to put my head out of the door such crowds of men were there on the deck of our vessel, and on the wharf. It proved rather annoying as many would look down the skylight to see what was passing below. There have been two pulleys constantly at work hoisting out the freight. I like to watch the goods as they are swinging up and over the side of the ship and down on the wharf. They are also very busy putting in the ballast and it makes a shocking dust. This morning finished off and sent away our letters from home. Really, I was glad to get rid of them, so long have many of them been in my desk.

This morning I went with Mr. Sanford (also Willie and his nurse) to the Chinese exhibition room. There were very many pretty things, though not so handsome generally as the display last year. The chief objects of attention however are the prizes from the Fourth of July raffle. There are to be 2400 prizes valued at $65,000. The first prize is an ingot of gold worth $5,000. There is a great deal of handsome jewelry also very beautiful watches and any quantity of Chinese prizes. The evening before we visited this room, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Sanford spent the evening here. This raffle was the chief subject of conversation, the result that I have now six chances and Williams one in the wonderful raffle. It will have the effect of keeping us a little excited when the subject is thought of, but as to its ending in anything, I am more than doubtful. We shall know on our arrival in New York, not before.

Willie was delighted with his visit to this store, so many things to please. Chinese boats, etc., but his particular favorite was a Chinese dragon made of some metal. There was a ridge along the back exactly like his wooden hyena. Willie recognized that at once and claimed it as a hyena. The mouth was large and open and it pleased him much to put his hand in and find the hyena would not bite. He was not satisfied until we had all put our hands in the mouth and were satisfied concerning the fact. Willie looked so beautiful, bright and intelligent, that he excited no little attention while there, particularly with the Chinese, of whom there were a great many. There was a fine painting there that attracted more of my attention than anything else. It was painted by Jacobs, Vice President of the Royal Academy, Dresden. It represented the scene where Samson betrayed Delilah and is bound by the Philistine. It struck me as being a very fine painting and his conception of Samson I thought excellent. The expression of his countenance such as you might fancy Samson’s when feeling himself for the first time bound beyond his strength of liberation. It is conveyed much of what we fancy his face showed but to me not all. It is a mighty subject. Who could fully depict it? I thought Delilah’s expression of countenance very good, very descriptive – the expression of the other countenance good, but not to me as satisfactory as they might be.

Mr. Morgan took tea and spent the evening with us. He told us much concerning Catherine Hayes. She was here for a long time last winter and spring and the upper classes of the community of San Francisco were perfectly carried away with her. Her concerts night after night crowded to overflowing at $5.00 a ticket. At the time for selling the tickets for her second concert there was so much excitement that they were sold at auction and the ticket for the first choice of rows sold for $12.00 and it was a butcher who bought it. His opponent who bid up to $10.50 was a tailor. At Sacramento the first choice went off for $12.50. Miss Hayes was accompanied by her mother. She is a woman about 28 years and was very much respected and liked here – visited by the first people in the place. Mr. Morgan described her as not at all pretty but very intelligent and extremely graceful, her voice very sweet and powerful and her acting the most graceful and natural he had every seen. According to his account, the gentlemen were just about infatuated with her. He, among the rest, attended thirty of her concerts, but Fred Billings well nigh lost his heart, particularly while defending her cause against the unjust claims of a coachman. This coachman or rather master of a livery stable, immediately on her arrival here, placed his carriage at her disposal and in such a way that she and all her friends thought it was done as a compliment expressive of his admiration of the lady and his great wish to do something to oblige her. This carriage was ever ready to convey her out, never to take her driving in the country. His apparent kindness and attention was so great that she went, when she would much rather have remained at home. In return she always sent him four or five tickets for every concert. When she was about leaving this place, he sent her a bill for $1,200. She and her friends were most indignant and they went to law about the matter, she engaging Mr. Billings as her lawyer. However, she soon got disgusted with the business and was glad to have done with the man by paying his bill. She carried away with her some $40,000.

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