Resources of La Baja California

On the eastern side of the peninsula are copper mines so promising that the Rothschilds have purchased them at high figures; and there is recently reported the discovery of a new and valuable mine of this metal at San Fernando, on the west side of the mountain range. The silver mines near San Antonio were worked in 1784, and by simple processes of working metal was obtained that amounted to almost $1,000,000. Between 1861 and 1864 some twenty companies were incorporated in San Francisco to work the silver and copper mines, especially those at Triunfo and San Antonio Real, near La Paz. Much money was spent and in three or four instances with successful progress.

There are said to be guano deposits of a quantity and quality profitable to work on several of the rocky headlands and islets of the upper gulf sections, and companies have at different times been formed for their working.

It is said that here exist two distinct species of pearl oysters, with a possible third. They are found between the Magdalena, southward to and around the cape, and northward to above the Guardian Angel Island, covering over 1,000 miles of shoreline. Ordinary pearls abound every year, but very rare are those extraordinary in size and color. A first class pearl from these fisheries brings $5,000 to $6,000, or even a higher figure. The most splendid pearls in the Spanish regalia were taken from the Gulf of California before Napoleon’s invasion, and they had been in great demand in Spain. Since the days of Cortez California pearls of good quality have been in demand in Mexico and Peru at profitable prices for the last 300 years. Between 1700 and 1710 the king’s share of all the pearls taken in California amounted to $12,000 annually. In 1857 there was obtained $22,000 in pearls and $30,000 in pearl shells. The largest pearl taken from the district was one discovered at La Paz in 1882, which weighed seventy-five carats. A pear-shaped pearl found several years since in the crust of a pearl-shell oyster brought $150.

There is said to be an abundance of coral in Magdalena Bay and the gulf waters.

In 1860-’62 Professor John Xantus, collecting for the Smithsonian Institute, in the lower portion alone of the peninsula, leaving unworked two-thirds of its territory, gathered over 100,000 specimens of animals, plants and minerals, of which 30,000 were fish, shells, sponges, etc., and over one-half of his species were new to science.

The true tortoise-shell turtle abounds on both coasts, as well as all the known species of edible turtles.

The indigenous quadrupeds, insects, birds and reptiles of Lower California are almost identical with those of Arizona, and that portion of California lying south of Point Concepcion. Nearly every species and variety of edible fish found on the coasts of Europe, the West Indies, Chili or Atlantic North America, are found in Lower California in abundance.

La Baja is by no means deficient in the elements needful for agricultural greatness. The average yearly rainfall over the northern section for the past ten years has been 22.69 inches.

Valleys of frequent occurrence in the northern half of Lower California are deep, and also by the configuration of the mountains they are assured a large amount of moisture. Springs are by no means rare. The soil in the valleys is re-ported as extremely fertile, and as admirably adapted to fruits of all kinds, notably the grape. In the valleys near Ensenada, grapes of all kinds are raised without irrigation. On the mesas more or less irrigation is requisite, except for citrus fruits. Among the possible products are corn, wheat, barley and all the other cereals, sugar-cane, tobacco, cotton, apples, pears, grapes, apricots, peaches, oranges, lemons, figs, pomegranates, limes, bananas and pineapples, besides other varieties of fruits, citrus and deciduous, tropical and semi-tropical. The aim of the concessionaires and of the colonists alike, seems to he to repeat here the history of Alta California, in making agricultural, rather than mining pursuits, the chief industry of La Baja California. Careful surveys have been made to determine the feasibility of bringing water from the canons, and for the sinking of artesian wells, to secure for agricultural purposes an ample supply of water. As an illustration of the resources of this section in the respect of farming, it may be well to cite at least one in-stance. A certain New Hampshire man who had come to California nearly thirty years since, going to Ensenada in 1887, has become possessed of a ranch or farm, whose orange trees planted from the seed nine years since are in good bearing. So, also, bearing good fruit, are his bananas, eight years old. Some of the stalks of these trees have reached a diameter of ten inches. One olive tree, nine years old, yielded sixteen gallons of oil, which sold for an average price of seventy-five cents per gallon. A single grape vine, nine years old, produced last season 900 pounds of grapes. During no season within the past twelve years has there, failed to be an abundant grape crop. The lemons, peaches and apricots on this possession yield well, and the fig trees produce a great weight of fruit.

All the republic of Mexico offers a great market for the products of all manufacturing industries established by American or European enterprise, as the native industrial manufactures are very crude and limited as well, and very heavy duties are imposed on imports from the United States and other countries. The peninsula might readily become a great manufacturing district and source of supply for the whole of Mexico, being, as it is, very accessible both by sea and by rail, and becoming populated by an influx of people more inclined to industrial ventures than are those entering the more southern States of the Republic. Late reports announce the discovery of coal in paying quantities, add the development of this most important mineral element would be a potent factor in promoting the establishment of manufacturing institutions. Coal in small veins has long been known in lower California, both on the coast and in the desert district. A good coal mine would prove of more actual practical worth than a rich gold mine.

Mineral springs, both warm and cold, of properties highly medicinal, are found in nearly every district. On the gulf shore above San Felipe de Jesus harbor are several boiling-hot springs.

As far back as 1857 La Baja exported, according to Mexican official statistics, wine, salt, cheese, sugar, dried meats, figs, raisins, dates, oranges, salt fish, Brazil-wood, hides, gold, silver and copper ores, gold and silver in mark and ounces, pearls, mother-of-pearl, etc., amounting in all to $155,000. The item of animal oils to be derived from seal, sea lion, sea elephant, whale, etc., is one of importance, as also that of peltries.

The parasite plant, orchilla, used for dyeing purposes, was first discovered on this peninsula, by a Nantucket sailor. For seventy-five years this industry has been increasing and it is now conducted on a very extensive scale. The most important field of gathering this valuable plant is around Magdalena Bay, on the west coast. It is marketed chiefly in Europe.

There are, in various portions of the peninsula, good timber regions, producing limited quantities of red cedar, choice white oak, and black, sugar and yellow (also known as bull “) pine. It is estimated that in the Tableta section alone there is at least 400,000,000 feet of lumber and timber, and active preparations are in hand for the exploiting of this interest.

La Paz has one of the finest and safest harbors in the two Californias. This bay has been known for 350 years to navigation and history, and has been all the while celebrated for its rich pearl fisheries, from which have come some of the rarest gems in royal regalia. La Paz has been since 1830 the capital of Lower California, and the center of all local government operations. The Ensenada, or Bay, of Todos Santos, is a fine harbor for vessels under 400 tons.

Directly ahead, as the vessel enters the Bay of All Saints, lies the town of Ensenada, where the rocky shore meets the beach curving in crescent shape around a reach of seventy-eight miles, the land sloping upward to the mountains, ten miles distant.
The personnel of the Mexican official corps of Lower California are pleasing. These are mostly men of enlightened and progressive ideas, entirely in touch with the policy of developing Mexico’s great resources through the instrumentality of foreign capital and foreign immigration. It is not probable that they, any more than the mass of educated Mexican citizens, would consent to the scheme of annexation; but they thoroughly concur in the idea of mutual assistance and support between the United States and Mexico.

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