The Chilean Crusade for
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Vicente Perez Rosales, Chilean 49er
Not content with having drunk
up our brandy, these scoundrels rifled our saddlebags where we had a
bottle of quimagogo. One of the damned gringos drank it all, thinking it
was port; the bottle held enough to kill three horses. When we saw they
had gulped down this medicine like wine, I assure you we would have been
terrified had we not been secretly enjoying a mood of vengeance.
-- Vicente Perez Rosales,
Gold Rush has no equal, Herbert Howe Bancroft said of the year 1849 that it
was an "era” in time that had passed in a single year. The events
which began with James Marshall’s discovery of gold in
Coloma induced an
aberration of time, space and humanity tantamount in global history.
The western slope of
California's Sierra Nevada range played host to
men from nearly every nation of the world, Brits, Mexican, Chinese,
Kanaka, Peruvian, Irish, French, Italian, all invaded the lands of the Miwok and Maidu. More came from Nicaragua, Spain, Australia, Yankees
from the States – white and black, Argentina and Chile. The California
Gold Rush was the largest migration of humanity since the Crusades.
American conquest began it’s history from this mixed bag of race,
religion and culture which has developed into California's unique
society and culture of today. Where else can one celebrate Cinco de
Mayo, Christmas, a
American Pow-Wow and the Chinese New Year
without leaving the state? The story of the Gold Rush therefore is
incomplete as told in text-book form, the true story of California's
Gold Rush is best told in the words of those 49er’s who manned these
Sierra foothills as world history unfolded.
Those from Chile
certainly left their mark on California, and in a much more profound
way then just leaving us with volumes of place names beginning with
Chile, or in its typically American version -- "Chili.” El Dorado
County’s own Chileno history can be found in the mining camps of Chile
Bar (inundated by Folsom Lake,) and Chili Bar north of Placerville, Yomet, Pekin, Spanish Flat, Kanaka Town, Johntown,
Garden Valley and Chile Hill. Chilenos played an important though
unintentional role in how Hangtown acquired it’s name, also resulting
in Hangtown's Main Street oak joining the ranks of two other famous
California hanging trees, one at Jackson the other at Second Garrote.
Likewise it was Chilean miners who sought
justice for the murder of one of their own resulting in the hanging of
Richard Crone, aka: "Irish Dick” who swung from Placerville's lesser
known hanging tree which sat in the vicinity of today’s
News Of Marshall’s Discovery Reaches Chile
Word of Marshall’s discovery first arrived in Valparaiso, Chile with the
arrival of the brig JRS on August 19, 1848. Captain G.L. Hobson, a
Valparaiso merchant himself, related the tale of his difficult voyage home
since half his crew had jumped ship at San
Francisco upon hearing the
news. He reported California's gold fields were so bountiful that all one
had to do to earn a fortune was to merely reach down and pick it up off
the ground. Folks paid little heed to his fabulous tales from California.
Ten days later with the arrival of the schooner Adelaida which carried
$2,500 in California gold Chile’s future was abruptly changed. First to
respond were foreign merchants, members of American and British colonies.
Less then two weeks after the Adelaida arrived at Valparaiso forty-five
English-speaking businessmen boarded the Virginian and sailed for
At this point Chile was
suffering an economic decline and many of her young men took note at the
sudden departure of the "gringos.” The rush from Chile was on. The
Chilean Foreign Office first issued passports for those experienced miners
whose passage could be paid, others worked as temporary ships crew and
soon each ship was filled to capacity. By June, 1849 the Foreign Office
had issued more then 6,000 passports.
No longer were Chileans
applying for passports, adventurers, prostitutes, and folks from every
walk of life departed Chile, all California bound. Those English-speaking
gringos who’d first left Chile were now opening shops in San Francisco and
importing goods from Chile including foods, mining supplies, explosives,
and prefabricated homes. By the end of 1849, 92 of 119 ships of Chilean
registry sat in various states of decay rotting in the San Francisco Bay
leaving Chile’s Merchant Marine fleet in ruins. How ever many skeptics
remained were soon convinced as every ship returning to Chile’s harbors
was greeted by crowds of people yelling for "News from California!” The
reply was the same. Gold! Gold in abundance! Nuggets the size of
Continued Next Page
Abandoned ships in the San Francisco Harbor, 1849.
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