Imatges de pàgina

simple title to it would be conferring a blessing not only upon the people of California and the United States generally, but upon the rest of mankind," and especially those who have to travel across the Colorado desert." I am, very respectfully, yours, &c.,


Letter of A. B. Gray, Esq., commissioner to run the boundary line

between the United States and Mexico.

WASHINGTON, April 11, 1860. DEAR SIR : In reply to your request to give my views in regard to the district of country lying between the Colorado river and San Diego range of mountains, of California, I would state that my knowledge of it personally is confined to the part from Fort Yuma to Carriso creek, some ninety-odd miles, by way of the present emigrant or wagon road.

This section I have been over some four times. It is called the Jornado, or Desert, and except in one or two places, where wells exist, no water is seen, no timber, but stunted mesquite in places, and the ground generally dry, sandy, with the appearance of a vast waste.

As it now stands, this desert is unavailable for productive purposes; but your plan, if I comprehend it rightly, will, if practicable, I believe, conduce to the public good, and be of great benefit to the United States government, to California, and to the trade and travel generally of that part of our continent. I remain, respectfully, yours,


Of California, &c.

Letter of A. D. Campbell, Esq.

WASHINGTON, D. C., April 6, 1860. MY DEAR SIR : In reply to your communication of this date, requesting my opinion upon the physical geography of the Colorado desert, the character of the lands there, and the best disposition of these lands, I have to state, that I regard the whole country east of California to the Colorado river, from 36° north to the Mexican line, essentially a desert. A large portion of it, particularly about the thirty-fifth parallel, is sandy, waterless, and woodless. Except on the Mohave river at one or two spots, I do not believe there exists a compact township capable of supporting 200 people and their ne

cessary stock. As a general thing, the soil is intrinsically good, but requires water. The only portion of the above region which can be extensively irrigated is the Colorado desert. I should not like to venture an opinion as to the disposition to be made of these lands by the United States, but I should be loth to accept this whole region as a gift with an obligation to reclaim it. I am yours, &c.,


Letter of John Rains, Esq.

WASHINGTON, D. C., April 14, 1860. SIR : In answer to your interrogatories relative to the Colorado desert, "Whether or no any portion from the San Bernardino mountains to the eastern and southern boundary line can be occupied or sold for any consideration, and such other information as you may possess in relation to that region of country," I would state that I have crossed and recrossed the above described section of country some fifteen times, and have explored it in all parts where it was possible to go, consequently may claim to have a peculiar knowledge of it, and, from that knowledge, am free to say that there is no portion of it, with the exception of the location of the Indian rancheria, at the opening of the San Gorgonio Pass, on which man or animal could subsist, or any portion of it that could be sold for any consideration, as there is neither water or vegetation, and the excessive heat and drifting sands make it extremely difficult to cross over it, owing to which there has been great suffering, loss of life and property:

It would be difficult to estimate the amount of property and stock lost on this desert of death, (as called by the Mexicans.) I lost my. self at one time some thirty thousand dollars' worth of sheep, that I had driven thus far from New Mexico.

I consider the entire section (named by you) not only valueless, but a great barrier to the prosperity of the State of California and to the general government; and if water could be introduced on it, (which would appear difficult from the repeated failures in digging wells,) it would be a blessing to mankind, as there are portions of it that would be fertile were that element introduced.

I witnessed, in 1849, (after the overflow of New river,) luxuriant growth of grass and other vegetation along and adjacent to the course taken by the water. Yours, respectfully,


Letter of W. W. McCoy, Esq., late major in the United States army.

At the request of Dr. O. M. Wozencraft, of California, I take great pleasure in stating what I recollect in reference to the desert situated in the southern part of California.

I crossed and recrossed it, I think, in June, 1854, from Carriso creek to Fort Yuma, travelling each way by the same road. The weather was intensely hot, so hot as to render it necessary to travel altogether by night, for the comfort of ourselves and animals. I found water at 'remote distances, and then only in wells containing a very scanty supply for those who accompanied me and our animals. Indeed, in several places it required those in charge of the animals to be constantly busy raising the water as it accumulated to furnish a sufficient supply to enable them to make the trip.

My impressions relative to the country are less distinct, having travelled during the night. My recollection, however, is, that a portion (the greater portion) of it is an immense plain, covered with shifting sand, with here and there dwarf shrubs peculiar to the arid plains of that region.

The other portion is a rich alluvium, with mesquite growing along the indentations made by the receding of the waters of the Colorado, when that stream, during great freshets, forces it back over the alluvial districts. The entire country, in its present condition, is totally valueless, owing to its excessive dryness, for I am informed it rarely rains in that region.

The heat is intense, beyond anything I have ever felt in any tropi. cal region through which I have travelled.

My opinion is, that the interest of the United States and the inter. est of the State of California would be greatly promoted if the entire country (so far as I could observe) was donated to any person or persons who could supply water for stock travelling over it, and also water in sufficient quantities for irrigating the alluvial portions by drawing it from the Colorado above. Indeed, it is questionable whether a bonus might not be given to any one who would obligate himself to supply water for irrigation and stock, promoting thereby the interest of the country, rendering valuable that which, under other circumstances, must always remain valueless.

I was informed during my stay at the Colorado by those who have resided there long, that immense losses have been sustained by those driving stock across the desert for want of water; and a young man who accompanied me across the desert, by the name of McCoy, afterwards joined a surveying party, wandered off from camp, became bewildered, it is supposed, and perished no doubt for want of water. He was never heard from afterwards.

W. W. McCOY,

Of San José, California.

Letter of E. F. Beale, Esq., superintendent of wagon road.

WASHINGTON, April 5, 1860. Sir: In reply to your letter requesting me to state what I thought of the value of the lands on the great desert lying between the settlements of California and the Colorado river, I have to reply that it is utterly barren of vegetation, and a great barrier to emigration on the southern road for want of water.

As to the money value of the land it has none in my opinion, there being only a few wells of brackish water on the whole road from the Carriso to the Colorado, a distance of nearly a hundred miles. Respectfully, &c.


Letter of Captain E. W. Stone, late of the United States army.

WASHINGTON, D. C., March 30, 1860. SIR: I have your note of the 21st instant, asking me to give you a "statement in writing in reference to the physical geography of the Colorado desert, and your (my) opinion as to what the general government can do with it; that is, whether or no any portion of it could be sold for the expense of a survey of it.

I visited the region alluded to during the year 1852 while on official duty at Fort Yuma, and since that time in 1857) have sent an exploring party through it, in connexion with the survey of Sonora and Lower California.

The principal features of the country are volcanic rock, drifting sand, and good soil baked by continual drought into perfect barrenness.

I can see no use to which the United States government can put these lands, without first, at her own expense, constructing costly means of irrigation from the river Colorado.

In my opinion, the lands could not be sold to individuals for any sum nearly approaching the cost of a regular survey of them.

The soil in many places, as above stated, is good, but utterly worthless for the want of water. Very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant,


Late Captain United States Army. Dr. O. M. WOZENCRAFT.

Letter of Colonel J. J. Abert, Chief Topographical Engineers, in reply

to the Secretary of War.

Washington, May 17, 1860. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the reference to this bureau of the letter of the Hon. W. S. Latham, of the 11th instant, with your direction to report " whether the Colorado desert, from the many surveys, &c., of army officers, is not looked upon as a serious barrier to the government service ?''

The country embraced between the one hundredth meridian and the coast range of mountains of the Pacific, between the thirty-second and forty-ninth degree of latitude, may be pronounced to be a desert, with occasional valleys, susceptible of cultivation.

The Colorado desert, however, has been regarded as one of the most serious obstacles to the overland journey.

Major Emory, in his report of the reconnoissance of 1846 and 1847, represents the journey across it as one of extreme hardship.

In case the reports of the officers who made surveys of this desert should not be easy for reference, I append herewith some extracts therefrom.

Lieutenant Williamson, topographical engineers, reports “the distance from Carriso creek to the Algodones, the first point where the road strikes the Colorado river, is eighty and a half miles. The main difficulty is the barren nature of the country and want of water. It is believed that the latter may be obtained in any desired quantity by digging. Not an inconsiderable portion of this divide is below the level of the Colorado river. In 1849 this river broke through its banks and the water flowed inland for some two hundred miles, forming what is known as New river. In many places it formed lagoons, while in others it confined itself to a narrow channel. The water in the connecting channels having dried up, the lagoons still remain, and are of great benefit to the emigrants. Carriso creek is dry, except at occasional points where the water is forced to the surface by rocks. There is a constant supply of water where it emerges from the hill to loose itself in the desert."

Dr. Blake, geologist, &c., to Lieutenant Williamson's party, reports as follows:

Extent and boundaries of the desert. "The Colorado desert extends from the base of Mount San Ber. nardino to the Gulf of California, and is bounded on the north by a range of rocky ridges reaching from San Bernardino to the junction of the Gila with the Colorado; on the south and west it is bounded by the Sierra of the Peninsula, and on the east by the Colorado river and Gulf of California. The area thus enclosed is a long, nearly level plain, extending in a northwest and southeast direction, from latitude thirty-four degrees in the north, to the parallel of thirty-two degrees in the south. Its greatest length in the above direction

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