Over one hundred years ago a literary society was
formed by mountain citizens. They wrote and distributed among themselves
a newsletter called Mountain Echoes. Their first contributor was
Col. L. J. Burrell.
Our Octogenarian, Col. L. J. Burrell , has the
honor of being the first volunteer on the list of contributors to the
"Echoes." He proposes, life and health being given, to offer
from time to time autobiographical notes, which shall form a series of papers,
the first of which we herewith present, and which we have styled,
RECOLLECTIONS OF AN OCTOGENARIAN
L. J. Burrell
Compiled by Mountain Echos in 1881-1882
I was born in the year 1801, in the town of
Sheffield, Massachusetts. I was one of a family of eight children. We
were brought up as New England farmer's children generally were in those
days, with habits of industry, economy, and plain wholesome living.
I began to go to school at the age of two years and
nine months, and walked a mile and a quarter to our school house. I
learned easily and progressed so rapidly the first season, that I
gained the enviable reputation of being a child of great promise. With a
change of teachers the next season, I lost my interest in the lessons,
and became so fond of play that for several years I made but very little
progress in book learning. I believe I learned more during my first
school year than I did for several years after, because I had not then
learned to play.
The old-fashioned schoolmasters of New England were
generally good disciplinarians. Whatever other good qualifications they
might have had, they were considered as trifling compared to this. They believed,
with Solomon, that to "spare the rod would spoil the child."
Being a little, delicate, flaxen-haired boy, not able
to make any formidable resistance, they personally selected me as a good
subject to practice upon. They seemed to consider it a duty as well as a
pleasure to honor me in this way, and I soon became so accustomed to
such honors that I looked for them as a matter of course and as a
necessary part of my education. In those early days it was considered an
heinous offense to even smile in school.
I had an elder brother who used to enjoy seeing me in
trouble. Instead of kindly trying to hide my faults, and shield me, as a
brother should, he would sometimes make faces and do funny things to
make me laugh, that he might have the fun of seeing me whipped.
When I became old enough to be useful on the farm, I
was kept at work during the summers, and went to school only in Winter.
Thus passed the first fifteen years of my life. On the whole, my early
boyhood was a happy one, for I did not lay my little troubles
much to heart.
About this time our family moved to Ohio to make a
new home in that vast wilderness. Here my pioneering commenced. Here all
of my energies were put forth to fell and burn the forest trees, to dig
up the roots, to plow and to plant. I took real pleasure in subduing the
land. But I still went to school Winters for several years, and then my
father sent me away from home to attend a Seminary where I stayed three
terms, and finished my school education.
At this time of my life, I was uncommonly fond of all
kinds of sport, but fishing was my favorite. After a hard day';s work
with my axe, I have spent many a night in fishing; sometimes wading half
of a night in cold water and catching so many fish that a wagon had to
be sent in the morning to bring them home.
At the age of twenty one years my father gave me one
hundred acres of land. It was partly covered with beautiful black-walnut
trees. He fitted me out as well as he was able, and I started forth to
fight Life's battles alone. I was full of courage, strong, and hopeful.
He gave me a cow, a horse, a colt, a pair of oxen, a wagon, an axe, and
a good supply of provisions. My horse had one lame foot caused by the
bite of a rattlesnake, and he was not of much account. I depended
chiefly on my oxen for help, and used to drive them into town with my
wagon when necessary. I soon built a house, and brought home my young
Previous to my marriage, I had been quite ill with
chills and fever. I did not entirely recover from this for several
years; and sometimes did not feel strong enough for very hard work.
About this time I taught school one Winter.
I discovered too late, that, in cutting down my
black-walnut trees and burning them, I had made a great mistake. If I
had left them standing, and worked elsewhere for a few years, I should
have had a good fortune in them. But by industry and economy I
prospered. My farm was put under good cultivation, and produced well.
Then, when everything was complete and in good order,
I became tired of the monotonous round of farming. I was a natural
pioneer. I loved the excitement of it. I soon rented my farm, moved into
town, and went to work in a stone quarry. I enjoyed this for a time;
then turned my attention to buying cattle, and selling meat. I also
manufactured lard oil, tallow oil, soap and candles.
I served my County two years as Treasurer. During all
these years I had many ups and downs, many joys and sorrows. Altogether
I had failed to become rich. I was not very well satisfied with my
success in business.
In 1849, being then forty-eight years old, I was
taken with the California fever. I thought "Surely this is
my road to wealth." I left my wife and three young children in
Elyria, Ohio, where we had been living several years, joined a small
party, and came with them overland to California. We were six months on
the journey. It was a long and tiresome journey. We were not molested by
Indians or wild beasts.
Nothing of much consequence occurred to me on the way
except one accident which happened on the plains. Being tempted away
from my train by wild beasts, a premature shot of my gun took off one of
my fingers. As I had plenty of time to nurse it, I soon recovered; and,
as it came from my left hand, I did not consider it of so much
consequence. I was able to work as soon as we reached our destination. I
engaged in mining at once. It suited me. I became interested in it, and
really enjoyed it. I still think there is no work I ever did that I
liked as well.
After working about a year and a half, I returned
home, having been absent two years. I carried home over $2,000 which I
had saved. I went home by steamer. Unfortunately I took the Panama
fever, and was only just able to reach home. I was very sick for a long
time. Was able to do nothing for a year. I began to think that nothing
but the climate of California would cure me; and feeling a little
better, I once more left my family and came to California. I came this
time by steamer, and was only a month on the way. My lost health came
back to me at once. I settled down in Santa Clara Valley near Alviso,
with the intention of there making a permanent home for my family.
I commenced by taking land on shares; but an entire
failure of crops resulted. I then worked for wages on a farm for a short
My family joined me the next year. We soon learned
that the Valley climate did not suit my wife. Her health was not good
when she came; but instead of growing stronger as we had hoped, she
continued to grow weaker. I then, for the first time, came to the Santa
Cruz Mts. to look for a spot to make a "Mountain Home." I
selected this ridge where I now live, and where my three children are
settled around me. I then thought it was Government land. It seemed a
vast, solitary wilderness-- no houses, and no roads. I knew that bears
and lions dwelt here, but I feared them not.
About this time I had a very promising crop of
potatoes growing in the valley. Wild cattle broke into the enclosure,
and totally destroyed them. I considered this a great misfortune at the
time, but I afterward saw it was all for the best. Though I had paid 12
1/2 cents a pound for the potato seed, and had put in my time and labor,
the loss of the crop set me free to leave home and come to the
mountains. Other men in the valley whose crops were not injured by
cattle, had the satisfaction of harvesting, putting into sacks, and
carting their potatoes to the "embarcadero," where they lay,
for want of market, until they were dumped into the Bay.
I returned to my home, put up a supply of provisions
and tools, and with my son, then about thirteen years old, came back to
the mts. to build a house. We camped out-of-doors, in company with
another man who was building a house, about a mile from our location. We
commenced by cutting down redwood trees, cutting them into proper
lengths, and splitting them into bolts. We then hitched these bolts to
the horse, and dragged them up to the spot where our house was to
stand-- which was near the place where Mr. Sear's house now stands.
Here we split them into boards, and built the house.
Even weather window casings and sashes were made of split lumber. As
soon as the outside and the roof were on, we slept in the house, without
doors or windows.
A bear's trail ran near the house. Every morning we
could see their tracks as they had been passing back and forth in the
night. They might have looked in upon us as we slept, but they never
troubled us. For several years after, this seemed to be a favorite
resort for bears. When the house was finished, we returned to the valley
and made preparations for moving. I purchased enough flour to last a
year, and carried it to the house of a Mr. Forbes, who lived near where
Los Gatos now stands. This was the man who afterwards built the stone
mill now knows as "Roger's Mill." From there we were to pack
it on horseback, in small quantities, as we needed it.
I have heretofore given you a brief sketch of my
early life, my two trips to California, my selection of a home on the
Santa Cruz Mountains, and of building a house here for my family. At
that time there was no one living in this vicinity. It might truly have
been called a "howling wilderness:" for these beautiful hills
and valleys, now covered with orchards and vineyards, comfortable
houses, school houses, good roads, with all kinds of improvement going
on, and everywhere teeming with busy life, were then the abode of fierce
and dangerous animals. They made their homes in the tickets and hollow
trees, and went forth both day and night to seek food for themselves and
for their young. Wild cats and lions were often seen prowling about
while the sun was shining; and the night was often made hideous by the
howling of the coyotes. There were a few wild cattle here, also deer and
other game; but no roads or fences. The road from Los Gatos to Lexingotn
was tolerably fair. From there to the top of the hill now known as the
"Evans place," there was a very poor logging road; and from
this hill to Mountain Charly's cabin was a foot trail which led down the
southern slope of the mountains towards Santa Cruz. From Mountain
Charly's cabin to our home there was not even a foot trail. No man
had ever been known to drive over the Summit with a wagon. It was
considered not only a difficult, but a rather dangerous undertaking. In
those days, a man could not safely travel very far alone, unless he was
well armed, because bears were not unfrequently seen on the trails, and
they had not always the politeness to turn out for a man; but, on the
contrary, they would sometimes dispute his passage.
There was, however, a brave and fearless woman,
living in Santa Cruz, and having perhaps, more courage than discretion,
who resolved to go to San Jose by way of these mountains. For her to resolve
to do a thing was to do it. She took her horse and buggy and an
axe, and made her way alone, through thick and thin, over the hills, and
across the canyons, from Santa Cruz to San Jose without harm. This was
the notable Mrs. Farnham, a practical farmer and a natural pioneer,
whom, some of you will probably remember.
When we were ready to move up to our "Mountain
Home," my wife was in very delicate health. It was feared that the
journey would be too hard for her. A lady friend in Santa Clara kindly
drove with her in a buggy across the valley to where the town of Los
Gatos now stands. Here she rested in the house of a Spanish family. I
hired four yoke of oxen and two wagons.
An old friend, who had formerly been my partner in
business, kindly offered to accompany and assist us on the journey. We
packed our household goods on the wagons, also one little pig, whivh was
put into a box, and a few chickens. The three children went along with
us, riding or walking, as they chose. We also took a saddle horse with
us, on which my wife was to ride. Towards evening we reached the Los
Gatos, then known as "Jones's Creek," and here my wife joined
our company. We made a good fire, ate supper, spread our blankets on the
ground, and slept soundly,-- after which we felt as much refreshed as if
we had slept on feathers and in a palace.
After an early breakfast, we began our second day's
journey. The ascent of the mountains was not as easy in those days as it
is now. We had then no graded turnpike. The road we were to travel had
been made for the purpose of getting down logs. It was very rough and
steep, and sometimes very sideling. In some places we found it difficult
to keep the cattle from sliding off the lower side. We first went over
Jone's hill, a distance of about four miles, on the East side of the
Creek; then we crossed over and went to the top of another hill on the
north side of Moody's Gulch, now known as the "Evans Place."
We selected the top of this hill for our second camping ground. On
climbing these hills we had to double our team, and carry up only one
load at a time. Here we were all glad to rest. We made our fire, fed our
cattle, and laid our supper on a tablecloth which was spread on the
ground. I well remember a little incident that occurred here, which gave
us all a surprise.
As we sat around the table on the ground, eating our
supper, an inquisitive little snake, belonging to the Racer family, with
more curiosity than politeness, quietly crawled across the lap of one of
our little daughters, and then glided along the table cloth, gracefully
curving his body around and between the dishes, peeping into this and
that as he went along. Then suddenly he disappeared on the opposite
side, before we had time to recover ourselves, or to offer him any
hospitalities. This was our first introduction to the native
inhabitants. We began to get some idea of the kind of neighbors that
would be likely to call on us. We expected hardships, and had prepared
ourselves to meet them; but I fear that we had not brought with us
sufficient grace to take kindly to such company as this. We have since
met with many of the same family, but have never been able to feel any
great friendship for them.
We slept soundly the second night. We already began
to feel the benefit of the pure and envigorating mountain air. On the
third day we followed trails, or made our way as best we could to the
top of a hill near Mountain Charly's. It was so rough and steep that we
had to partly unload our wagons and take up only a part of a load at a
time, thus making several trips. After a hard day's work, and having
made but very little progress, we camped near a large rock. The next day
we had no trail at all to follow; but we finally reached our home in
safety. We unpacked our goods, and took supper in our own house. We all
were pleased with our new home and its surroundings. We enjoyed the fine
view of those magnificent old mountains on the North. We were delighted
to see the waters of the Pacific on the South, nearly fifteen hundred
feet below us; and it seemed as if we had never seen such gorgeous
sunsets as we then saw here. We laid many plans for beautifying and
improving our place; and we then christened it "Mountain
Even little piggie looked pleased when released from
his long confinement. He seemed to enjoy his pen as well as we did our
house, --at least he found no fault with it. The chickens also seemed to
appreciate their new home.
The next morning our friend started back to the
valley with the oxen and empty wagons. No other wagon, with one
exception, came to these hills for the next five years. Everything and
everybody went and came on horseback. We brought with us a supply of
flour and other groceries, but we brought no meat. I depend4ed on my
rifle for that. I made it a rule to go out every Saturday afternoon, and
hunt game for the ensuing week. I found plenty of ddder, ducks, quail,
and squirrels. I hunted, not for sport, but for support. The children
were fond of trapping quails, and were quite successful. In this way we
had a good variety of meat, and a p[lenty of it. Charles McKernan, known
by us as Mountain Charlie, lived alone in a cabin about three miles from
us. He was a famous hunter, especially among the bears. He killed a
great many, but at last he was almost filled by one of them.
The next year another family came. They lived in the
house that was built the summer previous, about a mile from us. My
family did not feel quite as lonesome after they came. In those days we
kept a large dog which was a protection against the ravages of the
smaller wild animals. He used to sleep on our doorstep. I recollect of
being awakened one night by screechings and strugglings near our door. I
sprang from my bed, seized my rifle and opened the door. It was too dark
to take aim. I could see nothing at all. I knew by the sounds I heard
that some animal had made an attack on the dog, and that he was fighting
for his life. I shouted, but did not fire. The god soon got the best of
the fight, and his enemy left. He was not badly wounded. He seemed
greatly pleased with his victory. He was so excited over it that he sat
on the steps and barked all the rest of the night. The next morning I
examined the spot and found plenty of lion's hair and tracks.
Soon after this I brought another pig from Santa
Clara, and put it in the pen with the first one. We fed them mostly on
wild oats. They thrived well, and soon gained a weight of 150 lbs. each.
One night a lion went into the pen, took one of them out, and carried it
off alive into the hills on the other side of the Creek. We could hear
it squeal for a long distance. In the morning we saw where its feel
bruched the dew from the grass as it was dragged along. We thought the
lion must have been uncommonly large to be able to take such a heavy pig
over a high fence and carry it so far. Such was the fate of poor piggie!
After a while, the other had a family of little ones. A hungry bear came
along and robbed her of very one. At last the poor mother herself met
with a sad fate. Like many of the human family, she fell into
temptation. She killed and ate a young lamb. As a penalty, she was
lynched and packed in a barrel of salt the next day.
The bears were quite neighborly about our house,
after coming in the evening or early morning, but never molesting the
family. One night, when I was absent from home, a large bear came into
the yard, examined everything about the place, licked the groughs where
the hogs had been fed, and then went away. He was closely watched
through the windows by the floks at home, but they thought it imprudent
to fire upon him.
I once put up a large gate tween the two oak trees
not standing in our school yard. There was a fence running North and
south connecting with this gate. There had formerly been a trail leading
between these trees, on which bears were accustomed to travel. We had
often seen their tracks here. One night a bear came along and found the
gate in his path. He could easily have jumped over the fence on either
side, but he scorned to do this. He turned not to right or lieft, but
took hold of it, wrenched it from its fastenings, and laid it on the
ground, -- thinking, no double, that he was lord of the forest,
and always should be.
A similar circumstance occurred near the Sulphur
Spring in my son's vineyard, where also we had put up a gate. A bear
unceremoniously removed it in the same manner. Sometime after this, I
had a very unfortunate experience with two bears, and came very near
losing my life by one of them.
I settled in the Santa Cruz Mts. in the fall of 1852.
I came as a pioneer, knowing nothing about the capabilities of the soil.
I had everything to learn by experience. I made many experiments and
several failures before I discovered that the land was better adapted to
fruit growing than to anything else. From a financial point of view, I
was a very poor man when I came, but was rich in health and strength,
rich in hope and courage, with a good will to work, and a determination
to bring order out of chaos and make a good living for my family. For
want of means I was obliged to commence in a small way, and to go on
step by step. I first broke up four acres of open land and sowed wheat.
It resulted in a small crop of only fifteen or twenty bushels to the
acre. I considered this a failure. Next, I took a stock of pigs to keep
on shares. The two little pigs that we first brought from the valley
grew so well on the wild oats, that I felt sure of good success. But I
was disappointed. As the oats became ripe and sunburnt, the pigs grew
poor and sick. The sharp, stiff beard of the oats injured them, and I
was obliged to remove them to the valley. I set out a few fruit trees
the first years, and added a few more every year, but not very many. It
was quite a long job to make the necessary pickets and fences for
enclosing lands for an orchard and vineyard, having no one to help me
excepting my son.
One day while the pigs were here, we had an encounter
with grizzly bears. We were at work making a fence near the spot where
neighbor Sears' house now stands, and the pigs were feeding on the hill
near by, when we heard an unusual noise among them, as if they were
frightened. I took an axe in my hand, got over the fence, and went up
the trail to see what troubled them. There was thick brush on one side
of the trail and a picket fence on the other. When about half way up, I
saw an old bear at the top, with a cub behind her, coming down at full
speed in the trail. I shouted and swung my axe, hoping to make her turn
back, but she paid no attention whatever to me. Seeing that a collision
was inevitable, and that she would be upon me before I could get over
the fence, or out of her way in the brush, I turned back and ran as fast
as possible, in the trail, with the bear and cub behind me. I soon came
to a short turn in the trail, where I stumbled and fell flat on the
ground, a little outside of he trail. The old bear instantly took one of
my limbs between her jaws. She gave me one good, strong bite. Meanwhile,
the cub, which was close behind, ran by us and turned down the trail.
The mother, seeing this, followed it a few steps, turned again and
looked at me, and then ran on after her cub. I sprang up and got over
the fence. My wife and daughters came running towards me, having been
alarmed by my shouting, and my son came running from another direction,
with his gun, to rescue me. But he was too late to shoot the bear. They
helped me into the house and took care of my wounds. This misfortune
disabled me for about six weeks. Until this happened I had never felt
any fear of wild animals, but after this, I never had the least desire
to meet a bear.
Another day, when I was alone, hunting for deer, I
came to a clump of Redwoods, where one large tree was surrounded by many
small ones. I was on the point of creeping through the brush, when I
heard the hoarse growl of a bear within. I took the hint at once, and
departed as rapidly as I could till I was out of sight and hearing,
thinking that, in this case, at least, "the better part of valor
was discretion." The bear did not follow me. I presume that she had
a nest of young bears concealed there.
I next tried the experiment of keeping cows. A Mr.
Wayland had brought up a stock of cattle from the Valley, and kept them
in our neighborhood through the Winter and Spring. At harvest time, he
took his family to the Valley, and left the cows in our care. My wife
and one of the daughters went over to their place every day to milk them
and make butter for our own use, until after harvest, when the family
returned. We then took about seventy cows on shares. We hired an
experienced man to help us for the first three months, at sixty-five
dollars per month and board. He helped milk the cows, took care of the
calves, and helped about fence making. I did the churning and corralled
the cows at night. When he left, we did all the work ourselves, and we
made it a paying business. When the feed dried up on the open land, the
cattle troubled us by straying away into the woods and scattering in
different directions. Two of us were generally obliged to go after them
towards night on horseback. It took us two or three hours to gather them
in, and then we did not always find them all. My two daughters, then
nine and eleven years of age, would sometimes milk twelve cows each,
while we were away hunting for a few stray ones. I remember of one cow
being lost for nearly a week. At last we found her quite near home, down
on her knees, with her head caught in a hole at the foot of a tree. I
suppose she was trying to get water, and in some way got fastened. Her
head had swelled so much that I had to chop away a part of the tree
before I could release her. She must have suffered dreadfully. She could
hardly walk, but after a long time she recovered. We kept these cows
only eight months, and we made enough in that time to buy twelve cows
with calves, and horse, besides our living, and paying one hired man. We
packed the butter to the Valley on horseback, and sold it in San Jose.
When we drove up from the Valley the twelve cows and calves that we had
bought, we brought with them thirteen heifers that we had contracted to
keep for three years on shares. I was to have the use of them and half
of the increase.
One of my best cows died on the journey, in
consequence of drinking too much water. Two of them proved so wild that
I fatted and sold them to a butcher. Our little daughters were very
active and courageous in those days. I well remember some things that
used to astonish us. One day when my son and I were very busy at some
work, the two girls went to gather in the cows. They met Mountain
Charlie, who informed them that he had seen the cows at some distance,
away, feeding with his wild cattle, and that they could not possibly
separate them. But they went on. They found ours by themselves, and had
no trouble in gathering them together, but they also found a young calf.
It followed on for a short distance, but soon tired out. The eldest girl
then dismounted, lifted the calf and placed it on the horse in front of
the youngest, who held it on and rode home with it, while the eldest
remounted her horse, and drove home the others.
Another time, we had a young cow that had been lost
two or three days. She came home one morning, but soon turned and went
away again. Our youngest daughter, seeing this, followed her some
distance into the woods, till she came to a dead calf, torn up by lions.
She came home and told us. I put a bottle of strychnine in my pocket,
and she led me to the place. I poisoned the calf and the next morning
had the satisfaction of finding a very large lion lying dead beside it.
We used to make traps for catching bears. One day
this daughter was riding horseback, when she took it into her head to
ride down to the trap and see if any were caught. She galloped home very
much excited, saying that one had been caught, and had just got away. We
went to the trap and found that the logs were still wet where he had
been gnawing his way out. We afterwards caught a bear in that trap which
we shot, and dressed for our table.
The lions used to trouble us a great deal about our
calves. We kept them in a pen. One night a lion took one of them over
the fence and carried it away. We had a spirited little Spanish cow
which was plucky and spiteful. The next night we put her into the pen
with the calves. The lion came again as we expected, but he found his
match. The cow pushed him against one of the fence boards with so much
force that it broke, and then she thrust him through this aperture to
the outside, leaving many locks of his hair to testify to his inglorious
defeat. He came no more. We lost no more calves from that pen.
All this time our few fruit trees and vines were
growing well. We had a good garden every year, and had plenty of
vegetables and melons. We also raised a little grain every year for
family use. Thus things went on without much change for about three
years, when a great sorrow came upon us. My beloved wife again grew
feeble, and gradually declined until I was left alone with the children.
I had found out that I was not on Government land as
I had supposed when I first settled here. The time at length came when I
must either buy or sacrifice all of my improvements. To do this, I sold
off nearly all of my stock to raise the money. I bought an undivided
twenty seventh part of the Soquel Augmentation Rancho, paying $1000
down, and giving my note for $500 more. This was a great set back to me,
but I had a little stock left. My children were now well grown. As we
had no school on the mountains, they had all been to school in San Jose,
and the youngest a part of the time in Soquel. My son and I now went to
work making shakes and pickets which we carried to San Jose and sold.
Fortunately for us, the turnpike road was made. It was so much better
than the old way of packing everything up and down the hills on
horseback, that we never felt like grumbling at the toll.
And now we began to put in more fruit trees and grape
vines. But our troubles were not at an end. There were many owners of
the Augmentation Rancho, some owning a much larger share than others,
and it was still undivided. Some of the larger owners wished to have it
all sold at public auction, and the money divided among the owners pro
rata. The smaller owners who had made themselves good homes, and made
many improvements, did not wish to be sold out in this way, but wanted
the land divided. They believed that some of the large owners had
designs upon the land, and as there was likely to be no competition, in
case of an auction sale, they would bid it in at very low figures. They
commenced a suit, and we had to defend ourselves at great trouble and
At last the Court decreed that all of the land should
be appraised and divided. Three Commissioners were appointed for this
purpose. When this had been done, and a map had been made, designating
the portion of each owner, they were called together at Santa Cruz, the
Court being then in Session.
As the Court had made a decree that all of the land
of the Soquel Augmentation should be divided, he appointed three
Commissioners to make this partition. When this had been done, and a map
which designated each owner's position had been made by them, the owners
were called together at Santa Cruz. They examined the map, and agreed to
accept of the partition as shown thereon. There upon they instructed the
Commissioners to present it to the Court which was then in session, and
they departed for their homes. One Commissioner departed also.
The other two Commissioners then altered the map,
taking off portions of one man's share, and adding it to that of
another. One thousand acres were thus taken from my share, and given to
another. The Court accepted the partition as revised by the two
Commissioners, and it was thus recorded. As this suit had lasted a
month, and our farms were suffering for want of cultivation, we had no
courage to engage in another law-suit to get back our rights.
No sooner had I reached home than the man from whom I
had purchased my share, for which I had paid him $1000 down, and given
my note for $500 more, sued me for the payment of that note. He put an
attachment on all of my land and my stock. Being under the influence of
some of those sharpers (F. A. Hihn) he refused me permission to sell
even a flock of sheep which I had fatted for market, and which would
have brought nearly enough money to pay the debt. He placed a keeper
over them to watch them. I began to feel as if people were always trying
to defraud me of my farm and of everything else that I had. It had taken
all that I had earned and saved for several years to defend it. But I
felt determined to persevere and to surmount every obstacle. My son went
to San Francisco, borrowed money of our friends, and paid the debt. We
then sold our sheep, and returned the money to our friends. When at last
everything was settled, I turned my whole attention to fruit-growing. I
set out a large number of grape-vines, and fruit trees in choice
varieties. My friends began to caution me, urging that there would never
be a market for so much fruit. But I have never seen that time yet.
Indications of petroleum were found here in those
days. It created quite an excitement. With several others, I leased my
land to a Company. A well was commenced, but never finished. I believe
there will yet be found plenty of oil in this vicinity.
Among so many misfortunes, one blessing came to us.
We now had a turnpike road to Los Gatos. We could carry pickets and
shakes to market as well as fruit. This was so great an improvement on
the old way of packing everything on horseback that we even felt like
grumbling at the toll. It soon became generally understood that the
Santa Cruz Mountains were especially adapted to fruit-growing. Families
came flocking in and settling in every direction. In a short time other
orchards and vineyards were set out. Sawmills commenced running here and
there, and houses and barns were built. When my orchards and vineyards
had reached maturity, I began to feel less interest in them, and gave
them into the care of others, that I might go farther into the
wilderness to clear up new land and to try new experiments. I bought a
flock of goats which I kept for several years. They were of some use in
clearing the brush land, but on the whole proved a failure. The lions
killed a great many of them. While taking care of my goats, I prospected
some for mineral. I found surface indications of silver and gold in
different locations, sometimes very rich but generally of low grade ore.
I think I have reason to believe that there is a rich ledge here, and I
hope it will yet be found.
I prophesy a noble future for these mountains, of
which the present prosperity is only a small beginning. It is pleasant
for me now in my advanced age to look abroad and see the many and
substantial improvements that have been made within the past few years.
I see with joy and pride the orchards and vineyards so beautiful and
thrifty. And the railroad which has taken the place of the long and
tedious turnpike. I can hardly realize that this beautiful neighborhood
was thirty years ago so wild and lonely. But I have really enjoyed the
excitement of a pioneer life. It has been a satisfaction to me to make
paths where no man has ever before trod-- to subdue the forest and to
scatter the wild animals.
I now think my pioneering work is done. I am becoming
more willing to rest and to lay aside all care. I have never been a very
good financier, but I have made a comfortable living. Though I have had
troubles and perplexities, my blessings have far outweighed them, and my
life has been a happy one. I believe I can truly say I have never
knowingly wronged anyone. If the world is no better, I sincerely hope
that it is no worse for my having lived in it.
Lyman J. Burrell