Ye Olden Oakland Days


(Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 36)

By Robt. T. Donovan

During the early days of the "gold rush" of California, a number of miners from Boston and vicinity, during the long voyage around the Horn, became very well acquainted with each other and decided that it would be to their mutual advantage and protection to stick together on the gold fields. Their idea that numbers make protection failed in this case, for they were not long in California before they fell victims to highwaymen,

Nor was this all. In the fires of San Francisco and Nevada City, they lost many valuables. To add another blow to their misfortune, the "Yankee Blade," a vessel carrying gold from the Pacific Coast to the East, went down with much of their gold which they were sending to their relatives back home. The cause of the sinking of the Yankee Blade of Point Conception has never been fully ascertained, but there were rumors at that time to the effect that certain interested parties knew much about the cause of the sinking of the ship, and it was discovered years later that a large sum of gold had then been locked up in a warehouse on the corner of Lombard and Sansome streets in San Francisco. The gold that was supposed to have been sent by the Yankee Blade was never found by divers and doubtless never will be.

A short time after the sinking of the Yankee Blade, this sturdy group of miners arrived at diggings on the Tuolumne river, where, as the old saying runs, "they struck it rich," and in a short time had amassed a considerable amount of gold between them. They all felt that the gold would sooner or later give out, and that the best thing for them to do would be to buy some property and start farming. Accordingly they appointed a committee, of which my father was one, to inspect the land in the Pajaro valley, of which the present Watsonville is the business center. They left the gold in the sluice boxes, as that would be the last place a highwayman would be likely to look.

In the absence of this committee, two events of moment occurred, one was that "yours truly" made his appearance into this mundane sphere. Now the place of this event has always been deeply regretted by me; for if I had had my own way, I would have been born in Oakland. The other event was the overflowing of the Tuolumne river in March, 1858, due to a sudden warm spell in March which melted the heavy snow in the Sierras. Fortunately for me, my father had built his cabin on high ground, which was out of the way of the flood, so we were not harmed in the least.

The floods of the river prevented the men from working; and as there was not much amusement around the town, and especially at this particular time, about the only thing for them to do was to go up and "see the baby." In places such as the mines were at that time, men had their own peculiar ideas as to the right things to do. They thought it only right that everyone seeing the baby should give it a present; so accordingly, an oyster can was placed on a chair and everybody who went in to see the baby dropped a nugget of gold in the can. This amounted to a tidy amount of loose gold, which my mother sewed up in a canvas belt to save it for a rainy day. That day was to come sooner than she expected, for when the men returned from their trip to Pajaro Valley, they found that the gold in the sluice boxes had been washed away by the flood and that they were again practically bankrupt.

As soon as my mother could travel, my parents took their belongings and rode down to Stockton in a 16-mule team and then took the steamer Helen Hensley to San Francisco. After a short stay there, they came to Oakland to visit a Mrs. Lambert, who lived on Third near Broadway. My mother asked her if she knew of any desirable property, and was referred to a Mr. Joseph Black, who had some lots for sale - 25-foot lots, selling for $50 each, My father, being asked which lot he would prefer, mentioned a certain lot on Sixth street, because there was a fine oak tree upon it. This lot was also my mother's preference, for the reason that there was a little Catholic church just north of the square, nearly opposite the lot.

When the lot was finally decided upon, my father suggested that they go over to San Francisco for the money. My mother, ignoring this remark, asked Mr. Black where a house could be obtained to put on the lot, and also a couple of cows. Mr. Black answered "I can sell you such a house as you want from Dr. de Tavel and can get Mr. Curtis to move the house on the lot. As for the cows, they will be easy to obtain."

"But," said my father, "Who is going to pay for this? You know - the flood washed all my gold away."

"That's all right," said my mother, as she produced the gold nuggets, "this was Robert's gifts from the miners of Don Pedro's Bar."

My father was astounded, as well he might be. The nuggets proved to be ample in payment for the property, which I am pleased to say is still in the Donovan family.

(Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 36) By Robt. T. Donovan

HOW MOTHER PAID FOR THE HOUSE (Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 36) By Robt. T. Donovan Sun, Apr 3, 1921 – Page 8 · Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) ·