San Francisco History

Care Free San Francisco
By Allan Dunn
(Images and transcriptions graciously supplied by Maggee Smith.)

Chapter 1

The Care-Free City

Ayala 1775

Sad sand dunes, treeless, desolate. About them wreathes
The fog that creeps before a wind that coldly breathes
In bagrom, sullen rhythm with the pulsing bay.
Then, dimly through the mist, a barque that holds its way
To drop an anchor in an unknown sea.

Latham 1911

Sky argosies triumphant in the blue,
Before the vibrant trade-winds steering true.
The sparkling bay, a city fair that rides
The hills with gallant mien, and one who glides
Along the air-trails 'twixt the sea and sky.

Mist-mantled, sun-kissed, wind-blown, wave-swept town
All elements combiny they course to crown.
With arms wide open to the Nation's quest
Fair San Francisco, Empress of the West.


Care Free in San Francisco, Allan Dunn, 1912 (cover of book)

Discovery of San Francisco Bay: In 1768 Portola glimpsed the Bay of San Francisco. In 1774 Lieutenant Fages found for Padre Serra the entrance to the harbor, and at Point Lobos, above the Cliff House site, set up a cross of commemoration. Christmas Eve (Bispham singing): On Christmas Eves, these latter years, more than a hundred thousand throng at Newspaper Corners, while Tetrazzini and Bispham sing or Kubelik plays. Less than seven score years link the pictures.

Not that they don't care. They do. It's because they meet Care in the open and conquer it, that they are free of it. When Bret Harte sang of San Francisco,

Serene, indifferent to fate,

he did not mean to emphasize any "dont-care-what-happens" attitude on the part of its citizens. Indifferent to the buffetings of Circumstance was the real spirit of that phrase. The bruises of Circumstance have ever urged San Franciscans on to greater effort, secure of their ultimate achievement. And as they work, they play. The Bohemian Club of San Francisco, afar renowned for the doings and sayings of its coterie of wits, artists, writers and musicians, has a yearly ceremony in its forest temple, where, at the foot of giant redwoods, Care is burned amid great rejoicing. What the Bohemians do annually and symbolically, the dwellers of San Francisco, fixed or casual, for the habit is contagious, do daily, automatically. Care, of the 'carking' or 'dull' variety, is tabu.

What else can you expect in a place where roses and geraniums bloom in December, where violets on Christmas Day are ten cents the generous, dewy, scented bunch, where Tetrazzini, Bispham and Kubelik charm their hundred thousand out-door auditors at Newspaper Corners on Christmas Eve, and the New Year is ushered in by dancers footing it on Market Street to the music of a dozen bands, while drifts of confetti take the place of Eastern snowstorms, and on New Year's morning the Olympic Club members jog out through the thousand verdant acres of Golden Gate Park to the ocean and make new resolutions in the splash of the surf, not for bravado, but because they like it!

San Francisco is a City of Romance and Destiny; a composite of the three P's of Progress,—the Past, the Present and the Prospective. Most distinctive city of the United States, although a junior, Romance, not merely of yesterday, but of today and of tomorrow, is the very kernel or the shell of it. To pass the portals of the Golden Gate is to cross the threshold of Adventure. Metropolitan as it is, San Francisco is still an outpost on the frontier line of the Grand Army of Progress, with its citizens of today as redblooded , as full of the joy of living and the triumph of achieving as their forebears and forerunners, the Argonauts of "49."

There is a contagion of "something doing" in San Francisco to which every visitor is susceptible, and no citizen becomes immune. No one wants to find a cure for it, and its diagnosis is difficult and unnecessary. Climate and cosmopolitanism have much to do with the cause of it undoubtedly—a topsy-turvy, bewildering, exhilarating climate and a cosmopolitanism that is actual, not merged in the dress and customs of its foster country. This bacillus of business, born of the Pacific atmosphere, affects both the gayer and more serious sides of life, making San Francisco equally excellent workshop and perfect playroom.

The great hearts that reared this metropolis, in less than the allotted span of man's years, from a huddled hamlet of the sand dunes are the light hearts who so cheerfully rebuilt their city on the ashes of a great disaster, and, accomplishing it in record time, promptly forgot for all time there had ever been a fire at all and invited the world to a great exposition that celebrates the joining of two oceans, the hyphening of two continents, a romance of modern engineering intimately connected with the future of San Francisco.

For the future, save that it looms rosy as the dawn of a fair day, big with promise, this chronicle cares not, but a backward, albeit casual, glance into the romantic bygone years, should prove worth while.

The particular god upon whose knees rested the book of Fate that governed San Francisco, kept the page unturned through many flutterings of the leaves by the breezes of Chance. Only fifty years after Columbus discovered America, in 1542, Cabrillo, sailing up the long Pacific Coast line as far as Cape Mendocino, never dreamed of the mighty harbor whose entrance he twice passed, guarded by a kindly belt of fog against the coming of the right man and hour. In 1579 Drake, foraging hawklike for the homing pigeon of a galleon that every year brought treasure from the Phillippines to Acapulco, anchored the "Golden Hind" for overhauling in Drake's Bay, only a few miles beyond the entrance to the bay, a near enough hit for the erection of a stone cross upon a San Francisco hill that today celebrates the holding of the first Protestant service on the Pacific shore, or New Albion, as Drake, annexing the country in the name of his sovereign mistress Elizabeth, so called it. Cabrillo had already charted it for Philip of Spain, and the voyages of the two adventurers marked the struggle for supremacy between the Latin and the Saxon that, after Mexico's secession from Spain and California's brief gleam of sovereignty, culminated when Fremont, descendant of Saxon squires, hauled up the American flag on the old custom house at Monterey in 1846, two hundred and forty-three years after Vizcaino had raised there the royal standard of Spain. In the same year Captain Montgomery of the sloop "Portsmouth" sent up the Stars and Stripes to the tradewinds in the plaza of San Francisco, now called Portsmouth Square.

After Vizcaino's report to his patron, Count of Monte Rey and Viceroy of Mexico under Philip III, of Spain, history languished for awhile on the Pacific Coast. Attempts to find the Bay of Monterey failed, perhaps through weather conditions, perhaps from Vizcaino's indifferent cartography. Following Drake, the sailor adventurer had raised a cross and held religious service on his landing, and the servants of the Cross once more took up the quest. In 1768 the Franciscans started the settlement of Alta and Upper California, and with Padre Junipero Serra as the spiritual, Gaspar de Portola, governor of the province, as the temporal, leader, expeditions sent by sea and land to discover Monterey resulted in the sighting on November third the southern arm of the Bay of San Francisco.

To Portola, returning weary and disconsolate to San Diego, the march was a failure. To Padre Serra, fervid enthusiast, the vision of the new harbor was divine enlightenment for the establishment of a new mission, one to be dedicated to the founder of their order, Saint Francis d'Assisi. When Governor General Galvez gave out the original plans for three missions, at San Diego, at Monterey and, midway between the two, at San Buena Ventura, he had answered somewhat sardonically the good padre's request on behalf of Saint Francis that if the holy saint needed a mission he would doubtless show them the port where it should be located.

And now things marched for the establishment of San Francisco. In 1774 a party under Lieutenant Fages found for Father Serra the entrance to the harbor, and at Point Lobos, on a hill overlooking the Golden Gate, close to where Sutro's Gardens now stand above the Cliff House and Seal Rocks, set up a cross to commemorate their work.

Next year, on the fifth of August, Commander Ayala sailed the "San Carlos" through the straits, over waters never ridden before, save by the rude crafts of natives, certainly never by a navigator. One hundred and thirty-three years later the stately war fleet of the United States steamed in proud line where Ayala's clumsy barque had led, and four years later still the monoplane of Latham soared like some great seabird above the waters and over the hills of San Francisco.

The presidio was established in 1776 by emigrants—soldiers and settlers with their families—from Sinaloa and Sonora in Mexico. As our forebears were formulating the Declaration of Independence, these two hundred subjects of King Charles III, of Spain set up their presidio at what is known now as Fort Point, and in a sheltered valley three miles inland established the Mission Dolores, celebrating the frist mass there on September the seventeenth, while five thousand miles away the sturdy colonists made ready for defense of their principles, nor even dreamed of ultimate possession of the far-away verge of the country they sought to hold for themselves. Today United States troops hold the presidio reservation. Keeping its Spanish title, the Mission Dolores, bereft of its prosperity, its lands, its cattle, stores and cash gained in the first fifty years of its existence, still stands in that section of suburban San Francisco know as the "Mission." The old tiles and hidebound timbers are intact, as are the crude decorations of the Indian neophytes. Masses are still celebrated there, and, sheltered close beneath its walls, huddle the graves of a multitude of those pre-pioneers.

In 1835, Richard Henry Dana, in "Two Years Before the Mast," tells of the Russian brig from Asitka (Sitka) in Russian America, wintering off San Francisco—then Yerba Buena—and loading with tallow and grain. But the Russians, ever under the jealous surveillance of the Mexicans, sold out their California possessions to the Swiss Captain John A. Sutter, and passed, save for some reminiscent nomenclatures, from the history of the state. Next came the invasion of the American whalers and strained relations between Mexico and the immigants who persistently came across the plains fired by Fremont's glowing descriptions. Came the war between the United States and Mexico, the conquest of the latter, the wresting from them in January, 1848, of California and the discovery by James Marshall, employee of the same Sutter who bought out the Russian interests, of "Gold!" Then came the "forty-niners," the quiet harbors thronged with ships, soon deserted, fortune hunters from the wide world round—from South America, from the South Seas and Australia, from New England,—a Babel of tongues and dialects.

Rough days those, with adventurers of doubtful honesty and conscience living free; fire after fire amid the wooden and canvas shacks; riot, theft, murder and salutary hangings from the Vigilantes. Gradually the gold discovery proved a key to the marvelous back country and a herald to the geographical advantages of San Francisco. Leading spirits could see with prophetic eye the City-to-Be rising from the sand dunes. In '62 and yet again in '72, the Comstock Lode with its silver treasures made San Francisco again the maelstrom of mineral hunters. Millionaires were made overnight, and many of these bonanza kings applied their fortunes to the upbuilding of the place where fortune smiled upon them. The railroad was projected and built, the Atlantic and Pacific were bonded with steel. The trancontinental telegraph was completed, the destiny of the city linked with the progress of the world.

Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII

Source: Dunn, Allan. Care Free San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.


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