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New Orleans to San Francisco in '49

Panama City

This was the fourth day of our journey, and in the afternoon we came to quite a large stream of water. Mother made each of us little girls wade into it, one at a time, and stand there until she could wash some of the mud off our dresses. We then waded out, had some of the water wrung out of our skirts, and our toilet was made for entering the city of Panama.

As we went on we came to a wide road, which was being paved with cobble-stones by a chain-gang of natives, while officers stood guard over them. This paved road led to the gate of the city, so we did not have any more mud to travel through, though it was not very easy walking over those round cobbles with our wet shoes.

We entered the city a short time before sundown, and mother immediately began to inquire for a room to rent while we had to remain there. As we walked the streets we saw many Americans, who stared at us so that we were much ashamed of our woe-begone appearance. But having crossed the Isthmus as we had done was sufficient excuse for it.

After many inquiries, mother succeeded in renting a room about twenty feet square, on the second floor of a large house. The only articles in the room were a hammock, a water-jar, and a filter. The owner of the house was a pompous old Castilian widower, who with his daughter, a lovely girl, and their numerous servants, occupied the greater portion of the building. Brother went out and bought us some supper, and as the baggage was not due until the next day, mother put the two little ones in the hammock, one at either end, and the rest of us lay down on the floor to sleep.

The baggage-train arrived about noon the next day, and having changed all our clothes, mother and brother started out to see what chance of securing a passage to San Francisco. They learned that there were two vessels preparing to start in a few days, but that they were already overcrowded, and that hundreds of Americans were waiting, unable to get a berth, though they offered enormous prices.

We were all very much disheartened at the unfavorable prospect, but the following day met with better success, as mother saw the captains of the two vessels. One of the vessels was the old ship Humboldt, and the other an old Peruvian whaling bark, named the Callao. Captain Stevens was the owner of the bark, and Captain Pardee was master. Captain Stevens said that although his vessel was not a floating palace, and was already engaged to carry more than she ought, yet on account of our helpless condition he would agree to take us.

The time intervening between our arrival at Panama and our departure on the Callao was spent in observing the curious manners and customs of the inhabitants of this tropical city. There was much sickness in the city at this time, the measles having broken out among the native children in a very malignant form. There was much sickness and suffering among the emigrants who were detained in this unsanitary place, while waiting for an opportunity to leave for San Francisco. The hardships connected with our trip across the Isthmus had so reduced our strength that we were now unable to resist the attacks of disease. My elder brother, who up to this time had been of so much service to mother, was now barely able to walk to the landing.


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