For the past few months I’ve been up to my eyeballs with the Daily Alta California, a newspaper started in San Francisco in 1849 and the state’s first daily. Using microfilm on loan from the state library down in California, it has been both a monotonous and rewarding experience as I search for the bark Ann Parry in her new digs on the West Coast after an illustrious (and not so) life as a merchant ship and whaler. (See earlier post).
Reading this newspaper from the Gold Rush’s first pangs to the downright dangerous and tumultuous times of San Francisco streets, I not only see the history of the city and state unfold, but that of Puget Sound in Washington State as well. Two terrible fires in May and June of 1851 pretty much sent ships north into Puget Sound to get lumber and pilings to rebuild the Gold Rush town.
The dangers of the bar at the Columbia River were well known. Local settlements such as Olympia and at Penn’s Cove in present day Washington encouraged ships to go further up the coast and into the sound. Their successful return to San Francisco helped to create Seattle, Port Washington, Steilacoom, Port Washington, Port Madison, Duwamps Bay and New York, some names now gone.
Further checking the timeline of this event, I discovered that only three days before a strong earthquake also hit the town. Fires and earthquakes seem to be the stuff of San Francisco history from its beginnings, but these fires stirred up the drive to develop resources in the region that would soon become Washington Territory.