The Man who Escaped from the Sandwich Islands

The Grizzly Bears

One warm afternoon my friend Me and myself thought we would take a walk over to Pesedeo; that was about three miles to the Pacific ocean. The seal rocks is where the sea lions or seals can always be seen. It was the entrance to the Golden Gates, where the roar of the Pacific ocean is twice that of the Atlantic, it being six thousand miles broad, twice that of the Atlantic. On our way we stopped into a tent to get a drink of water. We found it occupied by three miners, one of whom was quite lame. I inquired of him what was the matter. He said his hip had been dislocated by the grizzlies. I asked him how it happened. He said they went up to the Trinity river to dig for gold. I knew that was the most remote gold river. He said they were lucky and found rich diggings, but after awhile their provisions gave out and they could not procure any unless they returned to the settlements. On their way, returning on horseback, they came to three grizzly bears grazing in a field. It was very dangerous to attack them, but they were very hungry. They thought if they could kill one of them it would supply them with meat, so they finally decided they would take their chances and fire on them, which they did, and wounded one. The other two took after the man whose hip was dislocated. He fled and came to a buckeye tree, the body of which slants, and he got up in it, the bears came on under it. After awhile they found they could not reach him. It being a low tree one of them commenced climbing it after him. He thought his last hour had come; all the events of his life seemed to rush on his mind, and a picture of the old-fashioned spelling book, where the man plays dead on the bear, came before him, which I distinctly recollected. He thought his only chance was to drop from the tree and hold his breath, and play dead on the bear, which he did, and fell on his face. One bear grabbed him by the shoulders and the other by the ankle, and in pulling, dislocated his hip. He had a thick overcoat on which they tore to pieces. He held his breath. After awhile they went off and left him. After a little while he raised his head to see if they were gone, and they came trotting back and smelt him all over again, and went away again, he holding his breath. Then he laid a long time, fearing to move, and his companions came up

“Each fainter trace that memory holds So darkly of departed years, In one broad glance, the soul beholds, And all that was at once appears”

In the cases of imminent danger such is said to be the case. It is evident that is what saved this man’s life. Truth is stranger than fiction.

The State seal of California is Minerva, with a spear and shield and the grizzly bear at her feet. Before the discovery of gold they were quite numerous. They roamed in full possession, apparently, of the country–no one to molest them or make them afraid. It was a very formidable animal, weighing from seven to eight hundred pounds. When the rainy season set in, late in the fall, and the winter months, during which the grass commenced to grow, he fed on it in the valleys and fields, and became fat and powerful. In the spring, when the dry season set in and no rain for seven months, and fields dried up with a dusty brown, he fled to the tops of the mountains to browse on the leaves of the trees to support life until the next rainy season commenced. It is said he is not a ferocious animal if unmolested, and will not attack you if you let him alone, unless it is a she bear with cubs, or you shoot at them and wound them. They are very hard to kill. To be hit by a bullet has very little effect on them, unless hit in a vital spot. An acquaintance of mine was walking on a road in the interior and saw a big grizzly coming down the road in the opposite direction toward him. He knew it would not do to undertake to run. He had been posted on their natures, so he kept walking right on, as if he was undisturbed and had no fear, the bear coming nearer to him all the time, with his gait unchanged, or he his, until they passed each other, he looking the grizzly in the eye and treating each other with due respect and consideration as friends. As an illustration of their strength, an old Californian informed me that he knew of an instance where a grizzly came into a pack of live mules and took one off and carried it to his den and ate it. In corroboration of that fact, another man informed me that he saw a bear chasing a mule and fired on the bear and hit him, and the bear turned toward him, and the mule escaped.

There was a Mr. W., who opened a fashionable hotel on the east side of the plaza. I was invited to be one of a party of twenty to give a complimentary dinner to a friend, who was about to return East. The bill was just $400, which was $20 apiece, the most I ever paid for a California dinner. The landlord became quite popular and was thought to be a very responsible person. A great many persons from the long voyages around Cape Horn arrived, sick with the scurvy, owing to want of vegetables at sea, most of whose systems underwent a change to become acclimated to the country; some seriously and others more mildly. It was thought it would be a good thing to do to erect a hospital for the benefit of the public and those arriving sick. There was $30,000 raised at the first meeting called, and Mr. W., the landlord, was elected treasurer.

One night he got betting against the game of Faro, lost, and I suppose got over excited, and in trying to recover his losses, lost every thing, including $30,000. Of course it was not known that he ever gambled or he would not have been trusted with the money. As soon as it was known it created great excitement and indignation, that so sacred a fund should have been wasted in that way. He fled, and the Mayor offered $3,000 reward for his apprehension. It seems he had escaped on a vessel to the Sandwich Islands, and had no money, and got in debt there and could not leave there as long as he owed any thing, according to their laws, and he was in despair, until one day fortune smiled upon him. Accidentally he came across a California paper in which was the $3,000 reward offered by the Mayor of San Francisco for his arrest, and this was his opportunity and he seized it at once. Then hope dawned upon him. He found a vessel about to sail for San Francisco. He took the paper and showed it to the captain and told him if he would advance the money so he could pay his debts, he would return with him to San Francisco and he could surrender him and they would divide the reward. The captain accepted his offer and delivered him up upon his arrival at San Francisco, and got the reward. Two or three months had elapsed since his departure, and that was more time than so many years in any other country, and all excitement about it had subsided, and I think it was called a breach of trust, and I have no recollection that he was punished in any other way.

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