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38 fter three months of travel, Jessie and Lily arrived in San Francisco filled with various emotions: happy finally to be in California; excited to be reunited with John, husband and father; and perhaps, too, a bit dismayed at what they saw. In June of 1849, San Francisco was a town of tents ringing the bottom of the city’s foothills, with only a few actual houses built. The famed bay had numerous deserted ships anchored in it, abandoned by their owners and crew members, who had left them to find their fortunes in the gold fields. Getting ashore was problematic for travelers: ship captains had no control over their crews, who, after rowing passengers ashore, often left for the gold mines instead of returning to the boat to transport additional passengers into the city. Jessie was hopeful that she would see John in San Francisco, after learning in San Diego that he had not returned east. However , as rowboats from shore paddled out to meet the steamer, she soon realized that he was not in any of them. She had a choice to make: she could wait on board the steamer until John traveled up the California coast, or she could accept an offer from “[William] Howard, a wealthy merchant, who had brought out his boat to go ashore.” As she wrote in Year, she was tired of sea travel “and land was best for me,” so she accepted Howard’s offer. A prominent resident of the city, he found lodging for Jessie and Lily in one of San Francisco’s better houses. The home turned out to be the residence of a deceased Russian consul, with “luxuries of every kind . . . a beautiful garCHAPTER 5 California m A den . . . fine carpets and fine furniture and a fine Broadwood piano. . . . [T]he one room with a fireplace had been prepared for my sleeping room, and had French furniture and no end of mirrors .” Jessie received such favors because she was the daughter of a distinguished senator and the wife of a famous explorer. Jessie and Frémont often accepted the largesse extended to wellknown people according to the custom of the day. She was indeed fortunate, because the majority of dwellings in the city were “canvas and blanket tents.” However, it was in very comfortable lodgings that she and Lily waited for Frémont. Until her husband came, Jessie busied herself with San Francisco society, such as it was. The city was bustling: lively and frenetic with miners coming and going, and raucous with new 39 / CALIFORNIA San Francisco Bay in 1849. This is the sight that greeted Jessie when she arrived. Note the ships in the harbor, many abandoned by their crews because they left for the gold fields, leaving passengers to fend for themselves in getting ashore. (State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia) arrivals. Vendors sold their merchandise in tents because “there was no lumber there for building, and there were not even trees to be cut down nor would any man have diverted his attention from the mines” to build any structures. Once the news of Jessie’s arrival spread, she met with many people who took time out of their busy pursuits to welcome her to California. As Jessie waited, the dank climate of San Francisco began to take its toll on her and she became ill again with the lung problems that had plagued her in Panama. Ten days after Jessie arrived, Frémont finally made it to San Francisco, and he took charge of the situation. Jessie recalled that they traveled “by steamer to Monterey, where there was a very different climate.” The Frémont family finally arrived at their new home on June 20, 1849. Jessie had a difficult time adjusting to frontier life. Monterey was not San Francisco—“there was none of the stir and life here which made San Francisco so remarkable”—nor was it Virginia, Washington, or St. Louis. She confronted a different lifestyle, one that in no way resembled that of her previous upper-class existence. She coped. In Year, she described her new life: It was barely a year since the gold had been discovered, but in that time every eatable thing had been eaten off the face of the country, and nothing raised. I suppose there was not a fowl left in the northern part of the state, consequently not an egg. . . . There were no cows, consequently no milk. Housekeeping, deprived of milk, eggs, vegetables, and fresh...


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