ROUTES TO THE GOLD RUSH

HOW DID PEOPLE GET FROM THE EAST TO THE WEST COAST

DURING THE GOLD RUSH?

During the California Gold Rush days there was a great demand to move large groups of people

from New York to San Francisco as quickly as possible.

Nearly 20% died along the way.

THERE WERE 4 MAJOR ROUTES

Around the Horn

Overland

The Panama Route

The Nicaragua Route

WHICH WERE THE QUICKEST?

WHICH HAD THE LEAST AMOUNT OF DANGER?

AROUND THE HORN

This is the route that Sarah, Williams and Willie are taking.

The seas were rough,

large groups of passengers were not easily accommodated

and the trip could take 5-8 months…especially if you were not in a clipper ship!

OVERLAND

This trip was by covered wagon. It took about 100 days.

Men could bring their families along and it was more comfortable than the Around the Horn route,

but there were dangers along the way –

rivers, food shortages and Indian attacks to name a few.

THE PANAMA ROUTE

This route was significantly shorter,

but yellow fever, malaria, dysentery and cholera were serious health issues in Panama.

Passengers went by steamer from New York to Panama…

rode 30 miles in native canoes called “bungoes” up the Chagres River (3-4 days),

then walked or rode mules for 25 miles through hot, fever-infested jungles to Panama City,

and finally – waited (sometimes for months) for a steamer to San Francisco.

THE PACIFIC MAIL STEAMSHIP COMPANY

Pacific Mail started out as a means of transporting mail from east to west, but their business exploded when gold was discovered!

They ran steamers along the route from Panama to San Francisco.

The company was owned by wealthy merchants William H. Aspinwall, Edwin Bartlett, Henry Chauncey, Mr. Alsop, G.G. Howland and S.S. Howland…distant relatives of Williams!

THE PANAMA RAILROAD

Aspinwall and partners also built the Panama Railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the isthmus (47 miles) so that passengers could go from ship to rail to ship without the dangers of canoeing and riding mules through the jungle.

The building of the railroad was extremely difficult due to the climate, terrain and numerous health issues.

The cost was $8 million and 5,000-10,000 lives were lost. Completed in 1855, it was a great feat of engineering.

The Panama Canal would not be built for another 50 years.

Read What Happened to the S.S. Independence

THE NICARAGUA ROUTE

Since the Pacific Mail Steamship Company had a monopoly on the routes across the isthmus of Panama, another option was created to cross Nicaragua. This route was developed by Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Passengers went by steamer from New York to San Juan del Norte on the Caribbean (Mosquito Coast) of Nicaragua,

then up the Rio San Juan to Lake Nicaragua.

A stagecoach then crossed the narrow isthmus (only 12 miles) to San Juan del Sur,

where they boarded another steamer to San Francisco.

There were less health issues than with the Panama Route.

They were soon carrying 2,000 people a month.

Unfortunately, political issues forced Vanderbilt to abandon this option after a few years, but it was very popular in 1853.

Read What Happened to the S.S. Tennessee

WHICH ROUTE WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

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