Incidents of 1849. The Schooner Constellation and her passengers Interesting Reminisscences
By Miss Labriskie
During the latter part of January 1849 the Cal Union Association organized in the old Tamanny Hall in New York City and elected Capt. J. C. Labriskie Surgeon and Cap. C. B. Labriskie Surgeon and C. B. Lane Treasurer. The names of members leaving NJ are as follows – J. G. and C. B. Labriskie, J. Walker, J. Pollie, F. M. Calla, W. Fisher, J. dimpson, J. Hiward, J M. Hancock, H. Arnold, J. Apgar, E. Woodward, J. R. Manning, E. B. Labraskie, J. Orchard, H. Solomon, P. W. Livingstone, R. Rohan, P. Randall, E. M. Van Medl, C. Lane, C. Parker, G. Buckley, D. Gross, D. Swinton, S. Furman, C. Richmond. The company left N. J. Feb. 16th 1849 Steamer Crescent City en route to Cal. Aspinwall furnished the company with an order to furnish them a passage to S.F. in the ship Philadelphia. In 8½ days the steamer arrived at [illegible]. Much differently was experienced in crossing the Isthmus owing to the large number of passengers. The company to-gether with 1,000 pounds of baggage arrived safely at Panama. The agent at Aspinwall declared the Ship Philadelphia had been pressed into service by people waiting at Panama. There was then 2500 on the Isthmus awaiting transportation to S. F. After waiting about 20 days the Constellation a schooner of 45 tons was purchased for $16,000 by the company. It was in a miserable condition. The vessel was very filthy, and the hull rotten and unfit for use. However the company boarded her and departed after having received as passenger J. Green, M. Brown, G. Nichols, W. Gregory, G. Gregory, and John Duff. They left on March 6th 1849. Besides the 39 persons the Constellation carried mining machinery and supplies for six months together which all the personal baggage and all the ship supplies they could stow away. Our first stop was Point Arena. We were refused permission to land although we were short on water and provisions. A British packet lying in the steamer supplied them with some coffee and they sailed away. They suffered all night at the next port for want of water. The American authorities were loath to let them land. About eight o’clock the next morning a canoe appeared with the Captain of the Port. He left a letter directing them to proceed to an Island in the river and remain there as they were quarantined and a boat would be sent in six hours with water and supplies. They remained eight hours and nothing appeared. They then returned to their former position in the Harbor and sent a boat ashore unto men armed with muskets. They were warned not to proceed as the authorities were prepared to resist. After a short parley the Natives allowed us to land. There were 25 men in the boat. They made the Collector and Captain of the port prisoners and marched them to the Custom House where they were held as hostages. We [illegible] there four days while they were there. The British back [illegible] Captain Livingstone arrived with 250 passengers and another company came in overland. Our next port was Acapulco. Before they had landed an officer came on board and inquired for a physician saying that the Collector of the Port was very ill. Our surgeon Dr. Labriskie was sent and took charge of the case. This treatment was so successful that he recovered before they left. No charge was made for services or medicine. Dr. L. also treated numerous citizens who were ill and without compensation. They remained about two weeks. At the end of that period the Collector sent for Dr. L. and presented him with an elegant bouquet not of natural flowers but composed of [illegible] which constituted the base from which extended in different directions silver wire each terminating in a circle of wire and in each circle was fastened this and a half gold piece. Its form resembled a hand which the fingers separated and extended. It was enclosed in a beautifully [illegible]. Its value was about one hundred dollars. The citizens the Dr. treated sent large quantities of fruit delivered shortly before sailing. Before our departure from Acapulco we were informed that a small craft named the Napoleon was in distress. We kept a good look out and towards evening we saw her. She was about 15 tons burden and carried and carried [illegible] passengers. The craft was commanded by Capt. Williams. Among the passengers was Henry Sparks. They had been out of water for several days. They had obtained a small supply by distillation. As the [illegible] required heat and they had no wood they were obliged to use such parts of the ship as could be most conveniently spared. They were supplied with water and fruit and directed to proceed to San Blas. She was never again heard from by the Constellation. We arrived safely at San Blas procured supplies and left for S – Lucas. We arrived there safely and laid in another lot of supplies. Everything we could stow away. We then headed for the open sea hoping to catch the trade winds that would carry us to our destination. They found the wind and it was strong enough to tear away the bulwarks and came near sending them all to the bottom of the sea. But they weathered the gale and struck the outer entrance of the Golden Gate July 4th 1849. Shortly after the morning gun was fired we heard the salute in San Francisco. We hoisted the flag fired all our muskets gave three cheers and all joined in singing the Star Spangled Banner. We ate our Fourth of July dinner on board our ship. It was not a very [illegible] repast but we were thankful that our peril and suffering were ended and we believed our glorious anticipations were to be realized in the land of gold and no repast was ever more enjoyed with a more grateful zeal than that of the founts of July 1849.