Escape From Lexington - Cover

Escape From Lexington

Copyright© 2024 by FantasyLover

Chapter 21: Epilogue

Tuesday February 18, 1873

Well, it’s obviously been a while since I last wrote on these pages, and it’s been thirty years since that fateful February morning in Kentucky.

I survived my brief stint as governor, although it was a contentious time. Even the federal government got upset, threatening to revoke our statehood for letting Indians and Negroes vote.

“Fine,” I told the representatives angrily. “I’m sure Great Britain will accept us as an extension of Canada, although that might make your claim to any of the Oregon Territory more tenuous. If you’re thinking about sending troops, you’d better plan to send more than forty thousand of them. Every Indian, Chinaman, Mexican, Negro, and Californio will fight you. I’m sure Mexico and Great Britain will send troops to help us, too,” I replied.

Even though I worried about their response, they never again said anything.

As for my personal life, everything is going well. Our children are healthy and happy. My oldest son has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and has been elected to the State Legislature. Other of my, Isum’s, and Jimmey’s children are now managing several of our numerous enterprises. The only real health issue I had was when a drunk who was upset off about the Indians being able to vote shot me in the left arm. Even as I tried to stop them, the two guards with me permanently made sure he wouldn’t try it again. My wound was a through and through in the fleshy part of the upper arm. It took a while to heal, but it healed completely with no ill effects.

Ranchero Uzumati has grown. I can only estimate, but I think there are now more than fifteen thousand people living and working here, not including the Mormon town. The Mormons bought more land from me and greatly expanded their town, which they have renamed Deseret. I think they said the word means honeybee. Currently, there are more than a thousand Mormon families living there and they still send a significant amount of gold to Great Salt Lake City each year. Many of the Mormons living in Deseret arrived initially on one of the missions they had told me about. The later missions that brought them here were to teach English to the Indian tribes in California, and hopefully to convert as many as possible.

The missionaries stayed here for three months and lived in one of the local Indian villages while they learned the languages of the different tribes. When the Indians throughout the state realized that the Mormon missionaries weren’t abusive like the Spanish missionaries had been, all the other tribes sent people here to teach the missionaries their language. They wanted to vote! Given how long it took me to learn the Indian languages I do speak, I’m amazed that the missionaries were reasonably fluent in only three months. At that point, someone took them to a village where they stayed and taught English, as well as basic math.

While teaching, the missionaries also learned about the tribe they stayed with.

The Chinese living on the ranchero managed to redirect the water of the Stanislaus River, one section at a time. Once we finish searching for gold in one of the trenches, they re-routed the river through that trench, and we searched for deep alluvial gold beneath the section of river they had just bypassed.

We finished mining the main part of the Stanislaus River from our east property line to the San Joaquin River about six years ago, over sixty miles of winding river. The re-routed river is now about twenty miles shorter. We’re still digging perpendicular trenches, searching for additional areas with alluvial gold. We made sure to add several wide, shallow places in the river where we and the Indians catch salmon every spring and autumn. With the deeper, straighter sections of river, it’s even possible to use nets in several places. The only reason we finished mining the river so quickly is that we had more than two thousand men working in the trenches. Many of them were former prospectors whose dreams of striking it rich were dashed by the reality of what they found when they got here. Even more of our workers were Chinese expatriates who heard from friends or family members working for me. Entire families, and in a few instances, entire villages left China and came here.

We also built several bridges across the Stanislaus River while it was diverted. Four of them were for the railroad, but I’ll get to that in a while.

The actual ranchero is a unique blend of agriculture and manufacturing. Each of our initial workshops has been replaced by a factory. All the factories are in the eastern part of the ranchero, where the ground is sloped enough or rocky enough that it doesn’t support agriculture as well as the flatter parts. The rest of our land north of the Stanislaus River is planted. Our orchards and vineyards are huge, and we supply fresh and dried fruit all over the state. Our grain harvest probably feeds one person in ten living in a California city.

Dad’s small distilling operation has grown into a full-fledged distillery. Each year, they fill more than two thousand barrels with whiskey, which we age in one of the caves or the large cellars we’ve built. Originally, we sold whiskey in the mining towns. Now, we ship barrels to dozens of large cities across the western half of the country.

Our experiment with growing cotton was successful. Originally, several men with experience growing cotton told us that our yield was below average. When we moved the cotton to the westernmost part of our property, the yield increased significantly. It provided us with enough cotton that we built two mills. One mill spun the cotton into thread. The second, larger mill, was where we wove the thread into cloth. Both mills were along trenched sections of the Stanislaus River and were powered by waterwheels. The mills were large enough to supply our needs and made enough extra cloth and thread that we sold two-thirds of what we produced.

As for the railroad, it started with the Governor and a group of legislators approaching me about two years after completing my sentence to finish the term of the governor that we removed from office. There had been rumors that the federal government wanted to build a railroad from the Missouri River to California. The Governor and legislators wanted California to be ready when the railroad arrived. They also hoped a railroad would help to better unify the state. Southern California had threatened several times to form a separate state. I was probably the only person in the state that the Governor and legislators knew well enough to ask and that had enough money. They asked me to build a railroad the length of the state, tying together all the cities and large towns. Thankfully, there weren’t many cities or large towns.

It seems that I’d no more agreed to look into the possibility than groups representing every city and large town in the state besieged me, all offering me free land if I built a railroad to their city or town. They included land in their city or town for the railroad and for a depot. The biggest deal I made was with the new city of Oakland. They not only offered me a large plot of land in the city, but a large plot of land along their nascent waterfront where I could build a large pier and warehouses.

Before I agreed to build the railroad, I sent Walter, our surveyor, and several men out to determine a route for the railroad. Of the men who offered their services to ramrod the railroad for me, I chose Geoffrey, the lone man who began his pitch by warning me about all the pitfalls we’d face. The rest of the applicants made it sound like all they had to do was lay tracks on the ground in a straight line down the valley.

Walter and Geoffrey made a formidable team. Four months later, they had agreed upon a proposed route from the northern gold field town of Yreka through Sacramento and Stockton to Uzumati. From Uzumati, one line ran west through Livermore’s Pass to the Bay Area, and one ran south to Los Angeles and San Diego. The route to the south followed the Stockton to Los Angeles Road through what was originally called the Grapevine Valley, but was now known as the Tejon Pass. They chose not to follow the older route through the original Tejon Pass, now called Walker’s Pass.

I was certain enough that we’d build the railroad that I sent word with several ships trading with China and Japan. Geoffrey had told me what we would need as far as rails, spikes, and other parts to hold the rails in place. I gave every captain that I spoke with a written list of what we wanted, warning them that we’d refuse delivery of, and payment for, any sub-standard or overpriced rails or parts.

We built two more sawmills and began cutting railroad ties from redwood trees that we cut down, cut to length, and hauled in from the coastal range of mountains.

The two things that took the most time were building the necessary bridges and elevating the rail bed in flood-prone locations that we couldn’t avoid.

Even before the main line was complete in January of 1854, we started to run branch lines to towns not serviced by the main line. We even blasted a route through the Pacheco pass and built a double line to Monterey, as well as an adjacent wagon road far enough away from the tracks to be safe. That line connected us to the ranchos in that area. Since the state, towns, and cities gave us all the land we needed, we were able to build a first-class railroad.

We imported steel rails from Japan since it was faster and cheaper than getting iron rails from the east coast. That, and Geoffrey warned that iron rails would quickly need to be replaced. We did have the engines and rail cars brought in from the east coast, however.

Word of a new railroad under construction brought first hundreds, and then thousands of Chinese immigrants looking for work. Fortunately, we had plenty of interpreters available by this time. We even had men arriving from east of the Mississippi River, especially a lot of free Negroes who had heard there was work here and that they would be allowed to vote in California.

As the number of workers grew, we began building the railroad from several different locations. One group worked from Uzumati northward. A second group worked southward. Eventually, a third group started running a line from Sacramento to Placerville. A fourth group worked from Stockton to Sonora, following the Stockton to Sonora Road through our ranchero. The final group worked from Uzumati westward to Monterey.

Alongside the railroad, we installed telegraph lines so every city and town with a railroad depot had a telegraph station in the depot. That helped to coordinate train schedules and made us some extra money for sending telegrams throughout the state. Small towns began to offer us land if we’d extend the telegraph to their town, and we accepted several of those offers, as long as the town wasn’t too far from existing lines. All the towns around San Francisco Bay and Monterey, as well as most of the gold mining towns around Placerville, Sonora, and Yreka were eventually connected. On June 28, 1854, eighteen months and eleven days after the first section of track was laid, our governor (I wasn’t governor! Yippee!) drove the final spike in the main line.

When the telegraph from the east reached California in 1860, we had already reached an agreement where the East Coast telegraph company got part of the profit from telegrams to and from California and we got part. Since we had an agreement in place, all they had to do was connect to our existing lines.

Since California had offered us a thousand acres of land for every mile of track we laid, not including the land the tracks were on, and a one hundred-foot wide right of way (a mile of double tracks still only counted as one mile), we were owed over two million acres of land, not counting what the various towns and cities had offered us. All I had to do now was determine what land to claim. Much of it was right around our current location. I claimed more land to the east of the ranchero, going higher into the foothills, including areas originally searched and eventually abandoned by most gold seekers.

We extended our southern boundary, getting a lot of land south of the Tuolumne River, but farther up into the foothills. This was an area where the Miwok preferred to live.

With our cotton doing so well that I added a large parcel of agricultural land on the west side of the San Joaquin River, south of where the Stanislaus River joined it.

Three of our men insisted that I claim about a thousand acres of land in the Sierra foothills near the southern end of the Central Valley. I shuddered when they exclaimed about the numerous tar pits there, remembering far too many trips to the tar pit near Fort Laramie. They assured me that we could sell barrels of the tar, and could even distill some of it to make fuel oil for lamps. The fuel oil burned brighter than alcohol which would allow us to sell all the alcohol we produced as whiskey. Grudgingly, I agreed, but only if they promised that I didn’t have to help fill the barrels with tar!

Months before we finished the railroad here, the civilian government of the Oregon Territory was clamoring for us to extend the railroad into Oregon. They even sent a delegation to plead their case. I explained that we couldn’t because many of our workers and key people were Negroes. Oregon’s law did not allow Negroes in the state. It took less than two months for them to rescind that law and send a delegation to ask again. Once they agreed to give us the land to build on, in addition to a thousand acres of forest or good farmland, our choice, for every mile of track, I agreed.

Using our now eight surveyors, we established a route from the northern terminus of our railroad in Yreka through Oregon to Portland, ending at the docks on the Columbia River. That route mostly followed the established Siskiyou Trail. Like the California Railroad, that line also took eighteen months to build, but only a third of our available men worked on it. The rest were busy working in our trenches, replenishing our rapidly dwindling gold reserves. We even started searching for gold along the Tuolumne River and found the same thing that we had found along the Stanislaus River. Half of the men we had digging for gold along the Stanislaus River started digging along the Tuolumne River.

We had learned while panning the Stanislaus River that the farther upriver we were, the heavier the deposits of gold were. Because of that, we started near the eastern border of our property when we began trenching along the Tuolumne River. On the Stanislaus River, the deposits had dropped by half for the last half mile up to our eastern property line. The rest of the gold appeared to have entered the river from what was now just a meandering stream, but when we panned the stream, we found no sign of gold.

However, between thirteen and eighteen feet below the current ground level we found the heaviest deposits of alluvial gold to date, even pulling out dozens of “nuggets” the size of Isum’s fist, and hundreds of nuggets the size of a woman’s fist. One nugget was almost the size of my head and required two men to lift it out of the trench.

The five-foot thick layer with the alluvial gold was in a band between twelve and twenty feet wide. The gold-bearing section ran for just over four miles north of the Stanislaus River, ending suddenly when the old streambed ran past a granite outcropping with lots of quartz veins in it. Despite careful scrutiny of the quartz, and even blasting several sections, we found no further evidence of gold in the outcropping. We pulled about a quarter as much gold from that four-mile section of stream as we did from entire Stanislaus River.

We had long ago stopped using buckets to lift the rock and sand out of the trenches. We built larger versions of the cranes we used to load things into our wagons. They could lift a thick canvas sling with two or three hundred pounds of sand and rock, depositing it into a wagon that already had canvas lining the wagon to keep small nuggets and flakes out of the cracks between the boards. The cranes and slings had been Jimmey’s idea, and he built and tested the first one.

Once the Oregon railroad was complete, our family made the trip to Portland. It was odd seeing Oregon for the first time, knowing that I had initially planned to settle there. In Portland, we took a steamboat across the Columbia River to Vancouver where we finally located Emma and Belle’s parents and the rest of their siblings.

Naturally, they were excited to see each other again. “Even though the girls write to us twice a year, we learned all about you by reading the newspaper,” their father laughed. They were fully aware of the battle against the state militia, the overthrow of the state government, my brief stint as governor, and even about us building railroads.

Their whole family decided to join us as soon as they could sell their properties. I told them to send a telegram when they were ready to leave and had reached the train station in Portland. We’d have someone meet them in Uzumati. When I asked if he knew anyone trustworthy, their father recommended a man to deal with the land that I intended to sell in Oregon. Some of it was just outside each of the cities and large towns the railroad stopped in. That property would sell for more than the farmland I intended to sell. I had no use for farmland in Oregon, being able to grow everything we needed in California. Despite the gold rush in California, the number of people moving to Oregon was still increasing each year, making it easy to sell the excess property.

Emma and Belle’s dad told me what farmland was going for in Washington, as well as the price decent lots near the city sold for. That was the price I set per acre for the land his friend sold. The man I hired to deal with the properties got three percent of the money he made selling the property.

Just after the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, a delegation from there arrived, asking me to consider extending the railroad from Placerville to Virginia City. They even promised four thousand acres of land for each mile of track, although what I remembered about the land just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains wasn’t very pleasant.

Remembering our initial trip through the rugged Sierras, I worried that a railroad might not be feasible and consulted with Walter and Geoffrey.

“Told you,” Walter said, smirking at Geoffrey. “I told him that you’d eventually decide to build the railroad through the mountains and we’ve already surveyed two routes,” he explained to me. The first route followed the Truckee Trail portion of the California Trail from Sacramento, not from Placerville. After reviewing their maps and listening to the pros and cons of each route, I agreed with that route. Many of our workers in the gold trenches along the two rivers were diverted to the mountains to start on that part of the railroad. The first project was building a road from Sacramento to Truckee Meadows to carry men and supplies.

Even before the railroad to Truckee Meadows was complete, Hal approached me, asking if I’d consider extending the railroad to Great Salt Lake City once it was through the mountains. I said that I’d consider it. A week later, Hal was back, this time with a map, letting me know that this had been discussed previously and wasn’t just a whim. He had the route of the California Trail marked from where we had joined it east of Great Salt Lake City until it reached Truckee Meadows.

“This route to Great Salt Lake City is about six hundred miles,” he began. “Brother Young has offered to build the roadbed for half that distance. Should you end up building more than three hundred miles of the roadbed, he will pay you what it cost to build the difference,” he offered.

Several days later, I met with Geoffrey, Walter, and Hal in my office.

“Hah!” Geoffrey exclaimed, playfully slapping Walter’s upper arm when I showed them the map. “I bet him that, when the Mormons learned about the railroad through the Sierras, they’d want it extended to Great Salt Lake City,” he explained.

“From there, someone will want it extended to Council Bluffs,” Walter warned. “Politicians have been making noises about doing just that since before we started building the California Railroad, and I think since 1838.”

The California Railroad was the name we had given the original railroad we built through California. Now we call the combined California and Oregon railroads the Pacific Railroad, but we’re still the California Railroad Company.

Right after that was when we started more men digging for gold. We started by expanding our diggings along the Tuolumne River. Our Chinese workers began digging our now well-known trenches along that river, straightening the river as they went. We still had hundreds of Chinese arriving each month looking for jobs, even though we hadn’t worked on any railroads for a few months. Before this, many of them had been helping to increase the number of acres we were farming and ranching. Several groups of men had also started exploring the area we just bought east of our original property, looking for potential sites to dig trenches along the streams panned by the first gold seekers. They found deep layers of alluvial gold in about every third stream, usually between ten and twenty feet deep.

Before we started work on the railroad route across the Sierras, the last railroad work we had done was to extend the Oregon Railroad by running a second north-south section of tracks east of the original lines, and then tying the ends of the two lines together. Rather than taking all farmland in Oregon for the land they promised, I chose several areas with heavy growths of timber we could cut and sell. While I didn’t tell the people in Oregon, transporting lumber and timber was part of the reason I had agreed to build the second line when they asked. It gave me a way to get timber and lumber from my new Oregon properties to markets in Oregon and California. Over half of the timber our people cut in Oregon was sold to sawmills we didn’t own, even though I built four sawmills of my own in Oregon.

I just laughed when one group of men searching our streams for gold returned almost a year later and exclaimed that they had discovered copper. Most of their men were still in the area searching for signs of additional copper deposits.

Despite the limited experience we had gained mining and smelting copper near Fort Laramie, Dad and my brother Daniel agreed to travel to the East Coast to find knowledgeable help before we started mining copper. Mom insisted on going, too. They took along twenty-five men as guards, both to guard my parents and for the fifty pounds of gold nuggets and dust each person carried. Even Mom insisted on taking fifty pounds of gold, although she had help carrying it. My friend, the judge who had been instrumental in saddling me with the governorship, went with them. They took a steamer to Panama and debarked in Panama City. From there, they boarded the recently completed Panama Railway for the sixteen-hour trip to Colón on the East Coast. They paid twenty-five dollars per person and one-quarter of one percent of the value of the gold they carried. In Colón, they caught a steamer to New Orleans.

The trip from San Francisco to New Orleans took only forty-four days, a vast improvement over the time spent by the initial gold-seekers choosing that route. In New Orleans, their first stop was the US Mint. There, they unburdened themselves of fourteen hundred fifty pounds of gold. It took two days for the Mint to complete the assays. Dad received just over a hundred thousand dollars in gold coins and the remainder in Federal Bank Drafts.

A lengthy train trip got them to Philadelphia where they placed newspaper ads for engineers to build railroad bridges and tunnels, men experienced with mining and smelting gold and copper, experienced glassblowers, men familiar with operating a sawmill, and someone familiar with refining tar from tar pits to make fuel oil for lamps. They also advertised for people with extensive bookkeeping experience. I knew we were making lots of money, but we were also spending lots of money, especially on payroll. I needed help to keep better track of how much we had and whether my bottom line was increasing or decreasing beyond how many pounds of gold we had. I also needed to separately keep track of each of our enterprises. There were too many for me to keep track of while doing everything else I was involved with.

We sold grain, vegetables, fruit, beef, ham, bacon, pork, chickens, eggs, milk, butter, glass, lumber, timber, rope, thread, cloth, leather goods, candles, Dad’s whiskey, and anything promising that we bought from the ships in San Francisco and Oakland. Our weekly trips to sell goods in the market in Sonora ended long ago, when the city got big enough, or maybe just organized and peaceful enough, to have mercantile stores. Now we sell to the merchants. The merchants are now able to sell goods for far less than what we had originally charged.

In addition to the factories and workshops we have turning out goods here, we have the gold we pull from the trenches, as well as what we earn from the railroad, telegraph, and our steamboats that ply the river from San Francisco and Oakland to Stockton, and from Stockton to Uzumati. In other words, we have way too many different businesses. Still, each business provides work for some of our people, allowing them to do what they know how to do.

In addition, someone needed to keep track of all the land I had for sale in Oregon until it was sold.

In Philadelphia, Dad interviewed applicants while the judge headed for Washington D.C. with my proposal.

Daniel and several men traveled to Boston and New York, searching for the items on Tara’s lengthy list of things we needed. Many of the things were heavy equipment for building a second cotton mill and for more sawmills. They were also looking for steam engines and other equipment for the copper mine.

Some of what they bought was equipment for a larger glassworks. Some was whatever we needed to refine the tar into fuel oil for lamps. They even managed to get the cases of rifles and revolvers we wanted, as well as another dozen cannons, along with the caisson and limber for each, and more shot, especially the canister shot. They found two more traveling forges since our current one was in such high demand at the ranchero.

They shipped the goods via rail to New Orleans, and then via ship to Panama where the goods followed the reverse route my family took to get there. They ended up at our eight hundred-foot long pier in Oakland and the Uzumati warehouses there. The goods were trans-shipped to Uzumati via our railroad.

After three weeks on the East Coast, they began the trip home, stopping in Lexington so Mom, Dad, and Daniel could visit old friends and neighbors, as well as the New Hope Plantation. All was not well there. The man who had bought the farms from Daniel and Tara’s parents had claimed that thirty of the freed slaves working at the New Hope Plantation were runaways from his plantation and he now had them working for him. He was also trying to say that the land the New Hope Plantation was on had been part of what he had bought.

Dad and Daniel sought out the sheriff and explained what was going on. He accompanied them to visit the man. “Are you calling me a liar?” the man asked Dad angrily.

“You lied about the thirty freed slaves that you claimed were runaways and you lied about the land of the New Hope Plantation being included in what you bought,” Dad retorted angrily. The man started to raise the rifle he carried when a shot rang out from off to the right, startling everyone. The man crumpled to the ground as the rifle fell from his hands.

Mom just smirked at everyone. “We California women are a tough bunch,” she commented, causing everyone to start laughing.

Dad ended up owning the man’s plantation, which he quickly sold. This time, he got to deal with the clerk in Lexington as he filed letters of manumission for all the slaves that had been on that plantation, as well as twenty-six actual runaway slaves hiding on the New Hope Plantation that he passed off as slaves from the plantation he had just acquired.

Given what had happened, the people from the New Hope Plantation wanted to join us in California. That plantation also sold quickly since it already had everything needed. One hundred sixty-three free Negroes joined the original twenty-nine members of the group as they headed for California. Once they were outfitted for the trip, they returned to New Orleans. Dad went to the Mint and cashed in the remaining Federal Bank Drafts that Daniel and Mom hadn’t used. They brought back much needed gold and silver coins, especially silver.

In New Orleans, they waited a week for the ten men Dad had hired. Six weeks later, we met the large group at the train depot in Uzumati. By then, we’d already received all of the freight they had sent.

The judge grinned at me when he stepped off the train. “They agreed,” he said, smirking, although he’d previously sent a telegraph with the same two words. He had negotiated with the Federal Government for us to start building the railroad to Council Bluffs. The government warned him that another company would probably start building westward from Council Bluffs and would meet us somewhere in between.

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