University of Rochester Library Bulletin: From California by Sea in 1852

Volume XVIII · Autumn 1962 · Number 1
From California by Sea in 1852


Horatio Gates Warner was born at Canaan, Columbia County, New York on March 12, 1801. He grew up in Livingston County, and was admitted to the bar in Madison County in 1826, the same year in which he was graduated from Union College. He was married to Sarah Warner in 1831 and in 1835 he was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas by Governor Marcy. The Warner family moved to Rochester in 1840, where Judge Warner practiced law in partnership with Delos Wentworth. He received an LL.D. degree from Union College in 1860. He died February 11, 1876 in Georgia.

Judge Warner's varied interests are apparent in his service to the community as editor of The Rochester Courier, which was published during the presidential campaign in 1848. He was also publisher, for a time, of the Daily Advertiser before its consolidation with the Union. For several years he was president of the old Bank of Rochester and a trustee of the East Side Savings Bank. At the time of his death he was a regent of the University of the State of New York.

During the early 1850's Judge Warner built the large stone mansion on Mount Hope Avenue which is now known as "Warner Castle." This building was purchased by the city of Rochester in the 1950's for use as an herbarium.

The following diary was recently presented to the University of Rochester Library by Judge Warner's granddaughters: Mrs. Wesley M. Angle, Mrs. William H. Gorsline, and Mrs. Eugene Brown. It relates the events of his voyage from California to New York in 1852. He had gone to San Francisco in 1850 to administer the estate of his brother, Lieutenant William H. Warner, Topographical Engineer, United States Army, who had been killed by Indians.

The gift to the Library also included the last diary of Lieutenant William H. Warner and a few autographs of local interest.—Joan Cockcroft Tinkler]


1852    San Francisco-
May 18- At 6 1/2 P.M The Steamer Pacific of the Vanderbilt Line, hauled out into the stream- We had been impatiently waiting from 4 o'clock- I was happy to turn my face homeward, after more than 27 months absence- Looking, perhaps for the last time, on the City of  San Francisco, that has arisen, almost entirely from desolation & waste, since my arrival on the 14th of Ap. 1850. I turned with some regret, & sighed- "Farewell, & if forever, Fare thee well"‚-

We passed outward round the point towards the "Gate," & when opposite the N. Beach, came to anchor for the night, to our great annoyance

19th About 9 A.M. raised anchor & swung round into the Stream, & with full steam struck out of the Golden Gate into the Pacific-

The Heads were as bold & majestic as ever, & the Walrus as thick upon the rocks as if unobserved by the thousands that pass & gaze at them in the distance- We sailed all day in sight of the coast, & I often turned to gaze at the familiar objects,-the Redwoods, & Mt Washington on the East side of the Bay, till the coast mountains intervened & we passed from their view-

Near sundown, we passed the Bay of Monterey, but so far at sea that nothing but the dim outline of the shore could be discerned

I had felt a little sick, & had a dull headache all day- After tea, & about 9 o'clock, I went on deck, & relieved myself by a turn of vomiting- Went to bed, & slept well till daylight

20th Awoke & looked out of the Port to see the sun arise, as if out of the depth of the Ocean- We were so far from land that, far & wide, was nothing to be discerned but the "deep blue sea" -

After breakfast, & while all the passengers were sitting quietly on the Quarter deck, the Cry of "Fish" was heard, & all rushed to the bulworks to gaze-thousands & thousands of Porpoises, or some other fish of similar kind, appeared, & as far as the eye would reach, almost blackened the sea-they continued along with & near the Ship for half an hour-

In the midst of this school of fish, appeared a Monstrous Whale, plunging & spouting-The first time I had indeedseen a "whale among small fish"- This often happens, as I learn, but the sight was very gratifying- He was a monster, probably 30 or 40 feet in length & appeared to be 10 or 12 feet thick- After a few spouts & turns, he turned his head downwards, throwing his tail up, & diving straight down, went out of sight- I think the tail was Eight feet across it-

May 21- Arose at 6-weather rather dull- Fair breezes, & with sails & steam running about 10 Knots-  The Ship rolls some, but as yet no sea-sickness since the 19th  On every side is one apparently interminable waste-& the ocean is of the deepest blue-as deep perhaps as that described by Byron-where-in "the Clime of the East, "The purple of Ocean is deepest in dye' - *

22- A clear day, but with a bracing air- No land yet in sight, & the Ship running about 9 knots- Time begins to hang rather heavily, since there is nothing new to amuse us- I do not fancy much this-

"Life on the ocean wave,
 A home on the rolling deep, 
Where the waters round me rave
And the winds they never sleep," *

Perhaps active service would reconcile me to it, but as a passenger it becomes rather irksome- Not half the way to Acapulco, the only stopping place on this voyage-& which is expected to be reached in 9 days from S. Francisco-

2 P.M. Land in the East,-which must lie on the peninsula of Lower Cala The ranges appear much like those along the Coast of Alta Cala, & high bluffs, as the descending sun strikes upon them present a like appearance to those in the upper country-

23d Sunday-nothing to indicate the day- The ship moves on as usual, & the passengers are whiling away the time as on other days-

Early this morning, a Steamer was seen in the east, bound up the coast-supposed to be the Northerner- No land is in sight, & the same monotonous splash of the water & the wide circle of purple waves greets the ears & eyes at every turn. A few wandering sea-birds follow in our wake, & the dreary expanse of ocean, having lost its charm of novelty, presents few attractions-

4 P.M. A glimpse at the coast is once more seen- Another Shoal of Black fish, & a whale, but not among them-

24th The ship is steering nearly east, & we expect to make Cape St. Lucas to day-the Southern point of Lower California- 12 oclock- The Sharks are playing around the ship, & on her bounding way she moves-Far in the east the dim outlines of mountains loom up, & we evidently approach the Cape- 3 P.M. Dinner is over, & the mountains are distinct-about 25 miles distant- Nearer & nearer we come to the Cape, & now as the 8 bells strike, we are exactly opposite the rocky point- The last we are to see of California- For several miles to the northward of the Cape, a high sandy beach appears, but the Cape seems broken & rocky, though not high- The mountains resemble all in Cala being steep & bold- Now, farewell to the land of gold!

25th The morning is bright, & the weather beginning to be excessively warm- We are in the midst of the gulf crossing- The Gulf of Cala is about 180 or 200 miles wide here as we take a diagonal course from Cape St Lucas & 200 to Cape Corierites- At the Cape commences the tropical air, & now we begin to feel the force of it- The Cape is in Lat. 22, or thereabouts-so that it is 10 degrees to San Diego & a little over- Expect to reach Acapulco tomorrow or next day- No land yet in sight-

26- Passed the night as comfortably as could be expected in this tropical region- Yesterday we found the sun above our latitude, so that we are obliged to look to the north for the sun- It is therefore rather warm here- To day it is calm & smooth water, & the Ship moves steadily on- A sail, over the larbord bows-which proves to be a top sail schooner bound up- She passed about 10 miles to the East & held on her way beautifully- The first sail seen since we were fairly outside the heads of San F.-

4 P.M.  A Bark in sight, bound upwards-  It is so calm she has few sails set- A noble sight, though fast being left behind us- It is excessively hot-

27th   Another hot morning, & another sail to the Eastward, The mighty Cordilleras loom up, & the mist that covers them renders them beautiful & sublime- We are nearing the shore, & have run in so far that the shrubbery is distinctly seen- The scenery is splendid-high rocks & grades of hills in the rear, make the view fine- Cactus seems abundant upon the rocks, interspersed among the bushes-    It appears to be the tree Cactus-   A long sandy beach stretches to the Southeast-

4 P.M.   We are running nearly east, & drawing towards Acapulco- The plains on the coast seem wide, & extensive Cocoanut groves are interspersed upon the Shore, among other timber-   The mountains are Majestic in the rear-

28th Arrived at Acapulco at 12 midnight-   The old Fort & the town seem not to have changed a shade in two years-   Everything looks natural-  We are hauled up to a coal ship for coaling-  No accident thus far, & the wheels of the Steamer have not stopped during the passage here, until we entered the port-  A Storm is rising, & it begins to rain- Must go on shore, however, to look for curiosities- This seems to be the first rain of the season, for the ground is little wet- Strolled on to the top of one of the mountains northwest, in search of an old ruin, of which I had heard- Passed over the top, & taking a plain path northward, found in the forest the ruin sought, It seemed to have been a prison of 100 feet by 25, or thereabouts- built of thick walls 2 feet thick & 12 high- Surrounding it is another wall 2 feet thick & 16 high-& about 12 feet from the building! At each of the corners of the wall, & near thereto, are small towers, for sentries, with proper posts-  This outer wall & some of the towers are in a pretty good state of preservation- I found no one to give any account of the building, but concluded it must have been a prison- No covering is on the building, & the coping has fallen off to great extent-

[Follows a drawing in which is the following note:] 
Trees are climbing up the walls, & are as large as in the surrounding forest-

It has rained nearly all the day, & I went on board the Ship soon after my return from the mountain-carrying a few Shells & a small plant of the Agave Americana, found on the mountain-

29th We expected to leave the port last night, but it blew a gale, & although well moored, the Ship was very uneasy- Land locked as Acapulco is, the storm was terrible- About 6 this morning, the steam began to snort, & we moved out, the wind raging, & the rain pouring down in torrents- & now we are fairly outside pitching at an awful rate- Everything rushing from side to side of the ship- Fine times at Breakfast with coffee, salt, cups & plates sliding about-dashing on the floor-The heaviest sea I ever saw- Ate two boiled eggs for breakfast the first cooked thus, since I left the Christian States- Hope to eat eggs once more to my satisfaction at home- The rain yet pours down in torrents, & the waves are running like mountains- There was much lightening during the night, & some heavy thunder-

30th  It rained hard again this morning, & cleared of afternoon- SeaBirds called the "Booby" have several times lighted upon the Ship, today, & been sentoff labelled- One returned twice with the label, & lit on the ship

It is Sunday again, but nothing to indicate the day-

31st   The morning was blustering & rainy-quite a gale-  The Ship heaves & pitches- The breeze is however quite grateful, for the night was excessively hot- We are probably now on the South side of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, & shall have smoother weather during the remainder of the voyage this side-

I should have remarked, that we had chickens yesterday at dinner, the first I have tasted since I left home- Got them at Acapulco- Good living thus far- The best, on the whole, since I left N. York-

June 1' Another warm night, & stormey morning- The day is rainy & sunny by turns, but excessively hot- Tedious are the hours-

2d Another squall this morning & appearances seem to indicate the commencement of the rainy season in this latitude- Hope for better weather on the transit route-

11 oclock we are opposite the town of Realejo-& there is a sail emerging from the harbor- The place seems to be situated back upon a Bay, & buildings appear in the back ground- A monstrous high mountain in the rear-

3d Long & impatiently we sailed through the day & seemed to move slower than ever- We had another squall in the morning, & it rained more or less through the day- We arrived at San Juan, at 11 at night & rested till morning- As soon as light all were moving, & we had much difficulty in getting on shore- The harbor is miserable, & the landing poor- The Town is a mere cluster of Shanties-mostly rude cane cabins, with an awful set of inhabitants, made much worse by the American villains that congregate there- Rowdies, gamblers &c, &c. Took two horses, one on presentation of my ticket, to ride, & hired a mule to take my baggage,- D. K. Miner, who accompanies me, did the same, & we set out from the Pacific side about 9. A.M- It soon began to rain, & poured down about one half the way- Indeed it appeared like the rainy season- Country much like Panama Isthmus- Met a good many laborers at their work grading the road for the laying of plank- Arrived about 4. P.M. on the shore of lake Nicaragua, sick with headache, not having eaten any thing except 2 eggs & an orange since leaving the ship-& the[y] gave us no breakfast on board- A mean maneuvre, which is the first injustice received from the Company- Saw many curiosities in coming over, & among others, an abundance of Mahogony wood, also Rose wood, plenty of which was cut & lay by the road to get it out of the way- Thousands of calabashes-orcow fruit as the natives call it, growing on trees much like our thorn trees-

4th We are rambling about at Virgin Bay- A small cane town of perhaps 200 natives, & a few Americanos- The Lake is splendid, & the Mountain Island opposite is a sight worth seeing- The principal point is about 5300 in height-over a mile- I have already a good sketch of it the Isd is 40 miles long-but seems from the shore, to be two Islands-The trees are all strange & curious- Insects, reptiles &c. in abundance The Banyan tree & theSensitive shrub are worth notice- Have a specimen of the wood of each- We wait impatiently for the Lake boat, with slim prospect- There are here some 500 passengers, mostly going east-

5th About seven in the morning, the cry of " Steamboat" was heard, & far in the east could be seen something that proved to be the "Central America"- All eyes were opened-& in the space of an hour the Boat arrived- We all got on board with our baggage, & at about 12 M. started down the lake- Arrived at the mouth of the Lake,San Carlos, about 9 1/2  -& anchored-  Early in the evening the mosquitos began to devour us- Why? That place is in the Mosquito Kingdom, or very near it- The Lake is a beautiful one, & nearly as large as Lake Ontario-

6th Sunday.   Down the river we go-  This River San Juan, the outlet of Lake Nicaragua, is about the size of the Mohawk at Schenectady. About 25 miles from the Lake we hauled up at the shore, at the head of Toro Rapids, & much to our annoyance, after waiting a large portion of the day, we had to walk round in a horrible path 1 1/2  miles- this was not in the bill, but we stood it ex necessitate The lame & lazy, went down in the Bungo with the baggage, but I could not get into this crowd-

7th Came down to Castillo Rapids in the S. Boat "Director," -a large crowd for a little boat, & here we are tied up, waiting for another tramp round the Rapids, & another smaller boat to take us to the next Rapids- A hard night again, Sleeping as we could catch it just as on the other boat-& eating as we could get a cup of Coffee & a craker, or piece of pie- I brought from S. Francisco a can of Crackers & another of Cheese, in anticipation of such fare-with a few bottles of good wine, & a little Brandy    San Carlos is a pretty little reed place of 20 houses, on the N. side [of] the River, & situated on a fine high point with a single gun mounted for defence-   Three revolvers would take the place, if handled by good men-

8th   Slept on our baggage upon the Director-   During the day, spent in anxiety to move on, we rambled over the ground adjacent to the Town- Visited the Fort, at the Rapids-a splendid work, erected high on a projecting point, & at great expense- About 250 front & 110 wide-  Immensely strong & commanding-supposed to have been built near 200 years ago-now in ruins-   The rapids here are fine, & at 10 miles below the last-the Toro rapids- The Castillo Rapids are the finest on the River- Some blunder in the Transit Co. has caused our detention here all day- Only a few of the passengers went down a few miles on the Steamboat "Sir Henry Bulwer"  -& here we are to spend another night-

9th Here we yet remain-though there seems to be a prospect of going down the River soon-  About 12 M. the last batch of our party tumbled into a large Bateau, with the great bulk of baggage belonging to the crowd, & left the Castillo depot-   A majority of the party had gone on in a Steamer-   Ten or 12 miles brought us to the smooth water, & a Steamboat lying ready to receive us, & that brought up a portion of the passengers arrived by the Prometheus from N. York- Some of the rapids passed are rather beautiful, though in all of them there is not very remarkable-    The scenery is that of the Chagres River, or nearly like it-   Flowering trees & vines stud the Banks of the Colorado, & the impervious & continual forest gives the whole rather a grand appearance-   We passed the steamboat "Orus" lying on the rocks where she was wrecked two years since, & is now wasting by the elements-

10th We stayed upon the Steamboat "Snow," but what a night- The rain poured down in torrents, & nothing was over us but a thin cotton canvass-that leaked nearly all through- I took advantage of my Rubber blanket & holding my umbrella over my head, laid down, & "let it rain"- What a Transit Route this is! The labor & difficulties are such that those who pass over it must possess good constitutions or break down under it- Some of the passengers, have walked, at least 10 miles, through the most terrible forests & in most torrid heat- I was among the lucky ones, & walked but about 1 1/2  miles- quite enough –

11th   The Snow started about 7 o'clock A.M. with the balance of the passengers, (some having gone on by another Boat) & made very slow progress, having some 70 miles to go down the River to Greytown- The whole route is a succession of shoals & rapids, making the navigation of the River very difficult-  The River is full of fish & Alligators the weather & water always warm- About twenty miles from Greytown, the river divides itself, & a small portion, sticking more easterly from this point, is called the "San Juan" - Upon this stands Greytown, & the main River, Colorado, runs into the Atlantic 10 or 12 miles farther down the Coast forming a Delta, cut up, as I understand, into many Islands & low Thules in abundance- Arrived at Greytown at 7 P.M. slow steaming down a rapid current-

Put up with a Darkey, with poor fare & no bed-just to gratify the meanness of the Steam Company, who refused to take us on to the Prometheus, probably to save a meal or two, no matter what the expense or trouble of the passengers-   Eight days from Ocean to Ocean-  A poor recommendation of the Line-   Greytown is a tolerable place, in comparison [to] others in Cen. America- Somewhat Yankeeised, though many of the houses are thatched as in all the tropical region-

Got on board the Prometheus in the rain, about 12-& at about 2 P.M. moved off towards the sea- Took my dinner at table & went on deck to heave it overboard- Sea sick, Sea Sick! Oh. Oh!     

12th Yet sea sick, not eating anything-lying uneasy-retching & groaning-

13th Not a particle of nourishment taken up to this time, since my dinner the 11th not even a drop of water-

My friend Miner brought me a cup of tea, & a bowl of gruel, & repeated it in the course of the day- Not an officer, physician, Steward, waiter or other soul belonging to the ship, though they knew I was sick, offered me anything or enquired if I desired it-

14th Took a light breakfast, feeling better- Improved, somewhat, all day-& ate rather spareingly- Sea sickness gone- There are perhaps fifty on board, of 450, that are sick-many with fever-some bad- A man by the name ofRoop from Baltimore, going home after his family- a wife & 4 children is dangerous- I think he was imprudent on the transit route, & also much fatigued in crossing  He is growing worse- Dysentary- He is a respectable man in appearance & is said to have $10,000, or 15-

15th Roop died last night at sundown, & in about two hours we witnessed the solemn ceremony of burying him in the sea- A similar occurence happened when crossing the gulf downward in March 1850-Roop has been in Cal. about 3 years, & accumulated a handsome fortune, & was in great expectation of success in future-such is life in going to Cala

The sea is calm this morning, & the air is fine, & refreshing-

16 Steered along the N. Coast of Cuba all day yesterday, in sight of land- Do not go into Havana- The sea is rough to day & the ship pitches-but is running well in the Gulf Stream-

4 P.M. the coast of Florida is in sight for a long distance, & we hail with delight, the first Yankee land-

There are about 100 passengers on the sick list-

17th  The sea is calmer to day-& we begin to talk about arriving at N. York in three days- The air is becoming cooler, & the comforts, otherwise, on board the ship, are decreasing- Hard, hard life this-

Dined on gruel, that relished tolerably well-

18th Run well to-day & the sea is smooth & beautiful-calm & soft as the summer skies- Many are growing sick, though some are gaining-

19th   The night has been cool & comfortable-  Slept on the Quarter Deck, upon my baggage, as I have every night from Greytown-   The villains begin to commit depredations, as we approach N. York- I Keep good watch-   Another burial in the sea-a young man died this morning, from Missouri-   Some more, it is feared, must go before we arrive- We are now about 300 miles from N. York  just past Cape Hatteras, & it is near noon-

20th At 6. A.M. another burial- A sad time for the living, & a watery grave for the dead-

12.  o’clock- Still another death & burial-this is the fourth, & we hope the last- Now within about 60 miles of N.Y -

The Sea is smooth & the weather charming- The Jersey shore down towards the Delaware, is in sight- 3. P.M. Barnegat Light House appears, & the houses all along shore are plainly visible-vessels are seen on all sides-


* Editor's note: The following are corrections of quotations used by Warner in his diary.

"And the purple of Ocean is deepest in dye;" comes from Canto the First, of Lord Byron's poem, "The Bride of Abydos."

The following poem, also quoted by Warner, is the first stanza of "A Life on the Ocean Wave" by Epes Sargent, and reads:

A life on the ocean wave, 
A home on the rolling deep;
Where the scattered waters rave,
And the winds their revels keep!
Like an eagle caged I pine
On this dull, unchanging shore.'
Oh, give me the flashing brine,
The spray and the tempest's roar!]