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BUOYANT SEAS AND SHOALS IN BUSINESS.
gantly high, and real estate commanding unheard-of prices. Many magnificent buildings had been erected for banking-houses, hotels, and gambling saloons, all occupied—their tenants reaping daily fortunes; gamblers seemed to be on the very top wave of prosperity, and they were about the only class of citizens who confined themselves strictly to their legitimate business. Their saloons were swarming with people, who seemed to patronize them for want of other amusement.
The scarcity of facilities for storing goods, had induced parties to purchase ships, which after cutting away the spars, they would head in shore, run aground, and scuttle; then connecting them to the shore by piers, and building a story on the upper deck, they were ready for occupation, being less exposed in case of fire, and more easy of access, than buildings on shore. The Niantic and Apollo, ships well known in this latitude, were thus converted, but have since, together with the city, been converted into ashes. The water-lots belonging to the city were sold at auction, and purchased by parties, who immediately commenced extensive docks, and were soon in a condition to invite vessels along side. Improvements were commenced, and matured as if by magic and no cloud was discernible in the business horizon, to dampen the ardor or cause the business man to look out for a cross sea. No one was fearful of shoals, as none were laid down in their charts; all forgetting, that, no matter how buoyant a sea, it always finds a shoal upon which to break.
Business was transacted on a gigantic scale, and with an indomitable energy, but with a recklessness unparalleled. It must have been apparent to every one who looked upon these transactions with an eye of experience, that the least check to ruling prices must cause a revulsion that would prostrate the entire commercial interest of the country. Being entirely dependent upon the Atlantic cities for supplies, the market was liable to be overstocked at any moment; but business men did not seem to take this into consideration, but operated as if an embargo had been laid upon all shipments, and they were about to secure all the supplies that were ever to reach the shores of California. This was the foundation upon which business transactions were predicated, and, to finish the structure, money was hired at from ten to twelve per cent. a month, and invested. A revulsion was inevitable, and when it came it was accompanied by a conflagration that devastated the entire city. Business was paralyzed, and firms that had been thought to be worth millions, were not only penniless, but with heavy debts hanging upon them from which there was no prospect of relief. All found themselves overwhelmed with liabilities, and with a very few exceptions, none could even make a fractional dividend in favor of their creditors. One of the most extensive firms in the city, a firm that within two short weeks had considered themselves worth five millions, now found themselves indebted to almost that amount, without a dollar in hand, and nothing in prospect by which they could even expect to make a comfortable living. The partner who established the firm, became a citizen before the gold excitement. He was in the prime of life, universally beloved for his courteous and gentlemanly bearing, and one of those chivalrous spirits who never turn their backs upon a friend or foe. He was a terror to the “hounds,” and other organizations of villainy, in San Francisco, and was the most effectual instrument in organizing the self-constituted police; this reverse of fortune, however, together with the loss of an accomplished and beloved wife, so preyed upon his spirits that he made an attempt upon
his own life. Miners were returning to town by scores, driven in by the scarcity of provisions, owing to the impassable condition of the country, and merchants of the interior were driven from their posts by the same cause. All could not get employment in town, and but few were able to remain in idleness; the consequence was that many sailed for the Sandwich and other Pacific islands in search of labor, or in hopes of finding a less expensive place to spend the winter. Others were preparing to return home. These causes, together with the arrival of large con
. signments of provisions, were soon most sensibly felt. Flour was offering in the market at $25 per sack; many having heavy stocks on hand for which they had paid $40, and with money for which they were then paying ten per cent. a month. Every steamer from the interior, as well as those clearing from the port, were crowded, and passage tickets selling at a premium. Every house in town was full; comfortable accommodations