Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The Rush to California

In spite of dangers, suffering, and hardships of all kinds, men kept hurrying on to California, where many of them refused to do anything but dig for gold. It was in January, 1848, that the first gold was found in Captain Sutter's mill race. San Francisco was then but a tiny settlement. But before long ship after ship came into the harbor, laden with gold seekers. In 1849 the gold fever "attacked even the officers and crews of these vessels, which were forsaken in the harbor while the seamen went to seek their fortunes also.

So many people came thus to California that in less than a year San Francisco became a large and prosperous city. Many of the inhabitants were mere adventurers, some of them were criminals, but others were men who came there for love of excitement or in hopes of getting rich in an honest way. Seeing that the bad men thought they could do anything they pleased in a city where there was as yet only a weak government, the better class banded themselves together, and in 1851 formed what was known as the Vigilance Committee. This was a body of men who kept watch over the people, and who promptly punished all who did wrong.

Most of the men who came over to California in 1849 called themselves the "forty-niners." At first they kept order with their pistols, and executed justice by lynch law. But they soon saw that it would be better for California to have good laws, and the proper officers to see that they were carried out.

The most important forty-niners, therefore, assembled at Monterey to draw up a constitution; and then asked permission to join the Union as a free state. This was granted, and California, which had been for a short time the Great Bear Republic, became in 185o the "Golden State." During the next five years it grew rapidly, until its population increased fourfold. Besides, many interesting discoveries were made by men in search of gold, and before long several other metals and borax and asphalt were found in considerable quantities.

Yosemite Valley


In 1851, while tracking some Indian thieves, a band of white men came by accident into the Yosemite Valley, which is about one hundred and fifty miles from San Francisco. This is one of the most wonderful places in the world, for the narrow valley is hemmed in by huge straight cliffs two and three thousand feet high.

In one place the Yosemite Creek falls down over the face of a cliff twenty-six hundred feet high, forming three cascades, the highest of which falls more than fifteen hundred feet. Here, too, is the Bridal Veil Fall, whose waters are dashed into fine spray as they fall. Besides wonderful mountains, tall peaks, strange rocks, carpets of bright-hued flowers, and countless charming views, this region also has some of the California big trees, which are the largest in the world.

A few miles south of the Yosemite Valley there is a grove of about six hundred of these trees. A few have been cut down, and by patiently counting their rings people have found out that some of the giant trees are more than twenty-five hundred years old. One of them is so large that a four-horse stagecoach with all its passengers can drive through a hole cut in the trunk, and there is still so much wood left on either side that the tree grows on, and does not seem to have suffered in the least.

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


In 1864, thirteen years after the discovery of this grove and the Yosemite Valley, Congress decided that these wonderful curiosities should remain untouched. Since then the Yosemite has been a state park, and although every one is allowed to go, in it and admire its matchless scenery, no one is allowed to cut down trees, blast rocks, or build roads or houses there without the permission of those who keep guard over it for the benefit of the nation.