The few clusters of Americans scattered in the bureaucratically named “Department of California” felt threatened on the brink of the U.S. “war” with Mexico in 1846.
The settlers smelled invasion in the air.
But from whom? They weren’t certain. They feared the Indians who could set fire to their homes and crops; they feared the Mexicans who could take away their livelihood…but for a time these isolated Americans whipped themselves into a frenzy against their old enemy, England.
And why not fear England?
At that very moment Admiral Seymour of the British Fleet were rumored to be sailing for the Pacific Coast. The settlers wondered if his orders were to take California. The editors of English publications gleefully took pen in hand to support the efforts of any country (except the U.S.) in a takeover of California. The nerves of Americans weren’t soothed by the fact that until 1846 England and the U.S. jointly held Oregon. That rainy territory was just too close for comfort…so it was understandable that the thought of the old Union Jack fluttering in the wind gave settlers the jitters.
The jitters were unnecessary. The English either decided California was not a plum worth fighting over or the British agents weren’t on the ball when the time came to strike. After all, it was the U.S. that went to “war” with Mexico and won handily in 1848.
Josiah Parker Ames was an Englishman who did not alarm the settlers when he appeared in Half Moon Bay about 1858.
…To be continued…