Summer Reading: The Easton’s Honeymoon (6)

The horrible thought of helplessly falling into the cruel sea led the men to unbuckle and abandone their gold dust-stuffed belts. The women who had hid bags of gold in their staterooms now threw the $20 gold pieces on the floor. Captain Badger of San Francisco–he of the very heavy, gold-stuffed carpet bag–discarded it in Captain Herndon’s stateroom.

The gold had lost its value and become a burden.

The most anyone could carry were two of the precious $20 gold pieces.

Tens of thousands of dollars of gold were strewn on the deck–and nobody wanted it. Surviving came first.

Despair reigned aboard the Central America. The most useful thing the crew could do to save all was to shoot off flares with the hope that some passing vessel would come to their aid.

On Saturday morning, their fear and despair was lifted when someone pointed to the old brig, the SS Marine, and shouted: “A sail! A sal!”

She, too, was a victim of the storm, disabled and short of provisions, but her Captain Burt was prepared to help as much as he could. That meant rescuing women and children only.

From a steamer trunk Ansel Easton took out a coat, put $900 and valuable papers into the pockets and rolled it into a bundle. He assisted Addie to the deck just as the second boatload was completed.

“With my husband’s kiss upon my lips,” said Addie, “and breathing a prayer for his safety, I found myself swinging from the deck.”

The newlywed was dropped into the bottom of the rescue boat and the world grew dark as the Central America faded from view.

Addie Easton’s heart ached, and she wondered if she would ever see Ansel again.

And what about the Central America and her precious cargo of gold?

(Next Part 7)

Summer Reading: The Easton’s Honeymoon (5)

The storm raged through Thursday night–Friday brought no relief. A defining moment occurred when the Central America “suddenly careened to one side.” It was no longer possible to walk on the deck, and the sails used as back-up for these steam-powered ships were torn to shreds.

According to the San Francisco newspapers, the passengers were startled to learn that the hsip had sprung a leak. The Central America was rapidly taking on water, they were told. The water had flooded the engine room, and the coal-fueled engines had ceased operating.

As sea water flooded the ship, the pumps proved to be defective. The passengers, many of them gold hunters, proposed the construction of box pumps such as those that were used in the California mines–but they lacked the tools and materials needed to fashion the pumps.

Late Friday, Addie heard Captain Herndon’s order: “All men prepare for bailing the ship. The engines have stopped but we hope to reduce the water and start them again. She’s a sturdy vessel, and if we can keep up steam we shall weather the gale.”

Ansel Easton joined the other passengers who grabbed buckets and anything that would hold water. Everybody pitched in, even the women, but the men gallantly rebuffed their offers.

“One touch of shipwreck makes the whole world kin,” observed Addie.

But more water was flooding the engine room than the weary men could bail. Spirits were sagging when Addie Easton, “with great difficulty,” reached her stateroom, and brought back boxes of biscuits and bottles of wine, remnants from her wedding party. She was later praised for refreshing the exhausted men and supporting their waning courage and vigor.

But it was hopeless, and the time to abandon the ship was coming near. The love of gold was forgotten, replaced by the much stronger instinct of self-preservation.

(Next Part 6)

Summer Reading: The Easton’s Honeymoon (4)

A string of unfavorable international events and over-speculation in railroad securities led to stocks tumbling on the New York Exchange.

Stories circulated of investors who made and lost fortunes during a single trading session.

Savvy foreign investors withdrew funds form New York banks, followed by nervous depositors. Some banks were near collapse and newspapers began to print lists of businesses that had declared bankruptcy.

The Eastern banks relied heavily on regular shipments of California gold, and they awaited the large cargo aboard the Central America. Had they the slightest suspicion that the Central America’s gold shipment could wind up on the floor of the Atlantic, their troubles could become much worse.

As the economic situation turned dismal in New York, so did the weather around the Central America. When the steamer left Havana on Tuesday, Sept. 8, there was a strong breeze, and within hours, sheets of deafening rain spattered the ship.

They were on the edge of a whirlwind, known today as a hurricane. This marked the beginning of a tense struggle between the old wooden ship and the wild natural forces of a tropical storm.

By Thursday, the creaking steamer was losing the battle as the winds reached gale force, and the seas grew mountainous.

The passengers, said Addie Easton, became anxious but Captain Herndon remained cheerful and encouraging.

(Next Part 5)

Summer Reading: The Easton’s Honeymoon (3)

Addie and Ansel Easton were privileged passengers aboard the Central America, paying $300 a day for their stateroom. They were regularly invited to the captain’s table, and they found the 44-year-old Captain William Lewis Herndon a magnificent host. He fascinated all with vivid descriptions of his 11-month expedition of the 4000-mile-long Amazon River in South America.

It seemed inevitable that the conversation would ultimately turn to the frightening thought of shipwreck. That was on every passenger’s mind.

There had been a shipwreck recently and this was the season of heavy storms. Captain Herndon confirmed that the captain of that particular ill-fated vessel had survived.

But he shocked listeners with a dose of brutal honesty: “Well,” Captain Herndon, the traditionalist said, “I’ll never survive my ship. If she goes down, I go under her keel. But let us talk of something more cheerful.”

One wonders how much more the passengers would have worried if they had known that some believed the Central America was “unseaworthy”–a rotten old hulk as unstable as a “loaf of gingerbread.”

And while the passengers enjoyed the voyage and good weather, there were disturbing financial rumblings in New York City. The failure of a life insurance company branch had set the scene for the financial Panic of 1857, one of the most severe economic crises in U.S. history.

(next, Part 4)

Summer Reading: The Easton’s Honeymoon (2)

The story of Adeline and Ansel Easton

At Panama, the Eastons crossed the Isthmus in new open-air rail cars–enjoying the short and uneventful 48-mile trip to the Caribben port city of Aspinwall. They they boarded the 272-foot wooden-hulled Atlantic steamer SS Central America bound for New York–a 9-day journey with a one day stopover at Havana.

The trip aboard the Central America was the last leg of the Easton’s voyage. Of the more thaqn 581 passengers aboard the steamer, many were California miners going to their homes back east–gold hunters who had searched for the yellow metal for years.

Many carried great personal wealth. Some women tucked $20 gold pieces in bags they guarded at all times. Men wore belts stuffed with gold dust while one fellow, Captain Badger of San Francisco, concealed $20,000 in gold in a carpet bag that became very heavy.

There was also a commercial gold cargo aboard, plus a secret shipment, together totaling about 21 tons–gold bars ranging from 5 ounces to 80 pounds, including the largest Gold Rush relic, weighing 1,100 troy ounces–and gold coins struck on Montgomery Street at the new San Francisco Mint.

The Central America was truly a “Ship of Gold,”

the title of author Gary Kinder’s 1998 best-selling book.

(Next: Part 3)

Summer Reading: A Honeymoon, A Disaster at Sea & 21 Tons of Gold (1)

Wedding Journey: The Story of Adeline Mills and Ansel Easton***

By June Morrall

(From my “Over the hill stories” series)


Through the decades family and friends of Adeline Mills Easton were so captivated by her account of surviving a harrowing sea disaster in 1857 that the Burlingame grande dame privately published a 38-page book called: The Story of Our Wedding Journey.

But the misleading title masks the horror of the sweet shipboard honeymoon turned ocean nightmare, the kind of sea journey every traveler dreads.

A joyful, romantic future must have been all that was on the mind of 28-year-old Adeline “Addie” Mills when she wed Ansel Ives Easton in a San Francisco ceremony on August 20, 1857.

Both bride and groom came from accomplished, successful families. She was the sister of the conservative financier, Darius Ogden Mills, a New Yorker who had founded a bank in Sacramento and later established the famous Bank of California with the legendary William Ralston.

Ansel had made his fortune selling furnishings to the steamship lines servicing the booming city of San Francisco.

A perfectly matched couple, every detail of their honeymoon itinerary had been meticulously planned. Immediately after the nuptials, the newlyweds boarded the SS Sonora, settling into their first-class cabin as the steamer sailed out the Golden Gate, bound for Panama–a two week voyage.

It was “one long delight,” a continuation of their wedding party, remembered Addie.


(Next Part 2)

***Note: I am one of many “local” writers who has written about this fascinating story. If you can, check out all the versions!

From our friends near the Big Sur fire….Sam Varela Reports

Dear Friends and Relatives,

Our Evacuation Orders were lifted Friday night, thankfully. Although this is not a guarantee, it’s still really smoky here with some ash still falling; it is a big step toward saving our home and property.

There is no way to fully express our appreciation for the incredible offers to us of your manpower, trucks, temporary quarters and storage space that we have received during this crises—but mostly the incredible power of your prayers and support in unison that built the wall of protection to stop the fire one parcel away from us.

Although we are still under a cloud of smoke and the fire burned 12,000 acres near us in just 1 day– 3 days ago, the mighty heroes that have taken on the fight know what they are doing and allow certain areas to burn, hence the large burn is still on. ( only happens when you need  them ). Total containment is predicted for the 30th of the month. You won’t find much in the press anymore but its still burning. It is presently at 150,000+ acres and will burn until the rainy season begins. They will allow it to burn in the Ventana Wilderness next to us, which is a part of the Los Padres National Forest because that is the natural order of things in this ecology.

The amazing people who make up the manpower core of firefighters cannot be praised enough for the honorable dedicated proud human beings that they are. God Bless Them All!

This type of fire in the Wilderness is a recurring event, the second one for us, and is God’s way of keeping the forest healthy and vibrant. Folks that live within these areas understand that the forest is not the problem, its human encroachment that creates the threat. I think we can agree that fire has happened A Few Times in the past!

We have taken many things into consideration and have decided that it is time for a new owner to take this beautiful piece of land and log home to its next level, and will be selling, and moving on to the next chapter of our lives. The challenges at this time are still unknown. But for us the VALUE in this fire event is how blessed we are to have so very many true sincere friends and relatives who are there when the Gettin’ Gets Tough.

Please stay in contact as it has been great to hear from all of you. We are all well and safe here and hope you and yours are well too.

The chickens, doves and our things remain evacuated until the smoke clears however, no point in moving them again, in case the fire jumps the line. We will keep you informed if this unlikely event occurs. But we are keeping the faith!

Thanks and we love you all, from the bottom of our hearts. Take good care until we meet again!
All the best from,
and Jocelyn

Up Close…but please, not too personal…Story & Photos by John Vonderlin

John Vonderlin asks: Is this a good idea?

Story & Photos by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

When I visited my daughter and her family, who were vacationing in Santa Cruz yesterday, we made the obligatory trip to the Municipal Wharf, from her nearby hotel.. Though when I got lost cutting across town while driving to the hotel, I found you get less blank stares if you ask for directions to the Santa Cruz Pier instead of the Municipal Wharf, no matter what the tourist signs say..
Having walked to the end of the pier, surveying the endless varieties of proffered geedunks and tourist geegaws  as we strolled along, we stopped to enjoy  the expansive views of the Boardwalk, beach and waterfront and the resident slacker sea lions hoisted up on the network of timbers connecting the pilings like giant browned bratwursts on a grille. .
The pelican walking placidly along the wharf amongst the crowd, even while being swarmed by endless excited tourists armed with digital cameras, was the only thing different from previous visits.  I was able to resist capturing this decidedly unnatural scene, by summoning up the kind of will-power necessary to not become a “Looky-Loo-er” when passing the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the freeway.
Continuing our stroll landward, I noticed a small group of people clustered at the landing above a stairwell down to the water level. Peering over them, I saw there was a small platform, just inches out of the water, at the bottom of the stairs. Peacefully lounging on that platform was a horde of sea lion pups, thirteen I think, with one adult babysitter,
just a few feet from the bolder kids gawking at them. In fact several children, seemingly without parental supervision, ventured out on the platform, talking about touching the pups, but chickened out when the adult babysitter gave them a baleful look.  I mentally added this to my “Insane Tourist Behavior” memory file, but muscled by the little wharf-rats, and got myself the best set of “up close and personal” photos of sea lions I’ve ever taken. (Unless I count my large collection of photos of dead sea lions in my ISeeDeadThings file)
I must admit after shooting dozens of shots of the sea lions lounging, stretching and scratching, I thought how great it would be to have a shot of the faces of the caution-less kids when the adult sea lion babysitter unleashed an explosive bark and made a faux charge at them for foolishly approaching too close. It’s probably just as well, as I would have had sneaker tracks across my face and trampled body when the stampede was over. Of course that would have made a great photo too. Especially at the civil  trial suing the city for promoting interaction between children and wild animals. Enjoy. John

Just In From Southern Oregon: “The Girls Got Their Haircut”

Molly and Dolly: Before & After

Says They are the “Fattest Sheep in the Known World”

Story & Photos by Katie Dryden

Katie says: Our shearer – a nice man named Charlie Mattica, comes up from Ferndale, CA. He has a sheep shearing route. He’s an old guy and shearing a sheep is hard work. They were kicking him in his “privates” at one point. He used to charge $5 a sheep. What? Five dollars wouldn’t cover the “privates” pain. I think he charges more now because of gas. We always give him more than what he asks.