THE FORTNIGHTLY CLUB
OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA - Founded 24 January 1895
THE GREAT CALIFORNIA FLOOD OF 1862
W. LEONARD TAYLOR M.D.
ROBERT W. TAYLOR Ph.D.
In 1860 California had been a state for 10 years. The state hired an excellent team of men from Yale, including Josiah Whitney and William Brewer, for a long term in-depth investigation of the state’s resources. They were just two years into their studies when the great flood of 1862 bankrupt the state, and soon thereafter terminated their lofty project. A fourth of the state’s economy was destroyed.
This flood transformed the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, covering the tops of telegraph poles with steamboats passing over the farmlands to deliver goods and rescue survivors. The Santa Ana River formed two large lakes – one in the Inland Empire and another in the flood plain of Orange County. Probably the only definite high water mark in Southern California is at the Aqua Mansa, just south of the present city of Colton. Hydrologic studies at Aqua Mansa, document a discharge in 1862, three times the magnitude of anything since. In Northern California, a high-water measurement on the American River in 1862, suggesting a very high flow, appears to be ignored.
Considering the massive encroachment of human habitation into the river basins and flood planes of California one can only hope that should such an event recur -- present remedial action will be adequate. Warnings, however, as recently as 2003 by Dr. Arndt Schimmelmann of Indiana University, and many investigators reporting at a February, 2006 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, suggests otherwise.
Water has always been a key issue in California. Oscillating cycles of flood and drought have characterized its climate. Our paper today is about a momentous flood. Considering its magnitude, it is hard to believe that it has been largely forgotten. Chances are, if you ask most anyone what they know about the great California flood of 1862, you will be met with a vacuous stare. You may recall William Fawcett’s 1999 Fortnightly Club presentation, on the Seven Oaks Dam. He pointed out that the Santa Ana River is rated as the greatest potential for disastrous flood damage west of the Mississippi. The huge Seven Oaks Dam was designed to help tame the flood waters of floods like that of 1862. The same is true for Prado Dam, and its current improvement. It remains to be seen to what extent such a wild animal can be domesticated. In any case let us examine the times and events of 1861 and 1862.
California had been a state for just 12 years at that time. The Gold Rush was 13 years old.
People were dreaming of constructing a railroad across the United States. The American Civil War was one year old, and the entire population of California, 500,000, was less than the number of troops fighting the Civil War. Telegraph poles marched from San Francisco to New York.
Two years before, despite all the distractions, the State appointed a forward thinking Supreme Court justice by the name of Stephen J. Field. He knew his state needed an official description of what its resources really were. He sought out the recommendations of major men of science in the east for a suitable director for such an enterprise. Josiah Dwight Whitney, a geology graduate from Yale was chosen. He was well known for his book, The Metallic Wealth of the United States. His appointment was in the form of a state Act dated April 21, 1860, appointing him State Geologist. His charge was "With the aid of such assistants as he may appoint, to make an accurate and complete Geological Survey of the State, and to furnish, in his report of the same, proper maps and diagrams thereof, with a full and scientific description of its rocks, fossils, soils, and minerals, and of its botanical and zoological productions, together with specimens of the same." Fortunately for us, he accepted. In remembrance of his efforts, the highest mountain in the continental United States located here in California was given his name. A second and most fortunate circumstance took place when he selected another Yale graduate to assist him. He was William H. Brewer, a botanist and an agriculturist. Brewer was also a compulsive diarist -- keeping detailed notes of his experience from 1860 to 1864. They were mostly letters to his brother, which were assembled into a book, Up and Down California. This book was printed by the Yale University Press in 1930. In 1966 this book, long out of print, was reprinted, and caught the eye of my brother, leading us eventually to this afternoon occasion. (As a footnote, the flood was so devastating to the state treasury that funding for Whitney's project sadly was not forthcoming, bringing it to an untimely end about 1864).
THE FLOOD IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
On Friday, January 31, 1862, near the close of the deluge, Brewer writes, “At Los Angeles it rained incessantly for 28 days -- immense damage was done -- one whole village was destroyed.” He does not identify the town, but it seems highly probable that the town was a very important community right in our own back yard – the Agua Mansa. It was a well known community located just a little south of present day Colton. It was at the intersection of two main trails. One, the Santa Fe Trail from New Mexico to Los Angeles, and the other from Mission San Gabriel to its outpost, in what is now Redlands. “Before the Mormons arrived in 1851 the Aqua Mansans could boast that they had the largest town between New Mexico and the West Coast. (Quart Vol 47, Number 3&4, 2000, p.61) –“there was every evidence of prosperity” (SBC flood control district publication …1968 p. 4.)
“The location . . . was apparently ideal. The Santa Ana flowed through it in a well-defined channel, the lands on either side being forested with alders, sycamores, willows and cottonwoods. No serious flood had interfered with their growth for centuries, as the rich bottom land testified, and the seepage from the river encouraged the growth of lush grass. Where irrigation was needed, water from the river was easily available. The settlers had the privilege of cutting firewood and fence material . . . and their sheep, cattle, and horses had free range in the river bottom for miles”. Additional evidence that Brewer was referring to Agua Mansa, is in a report from a San Bernardino correspondent which appeared in the Los Angeles Star. “The Agua Mansa, a beautiful and flourishing settlement, is destroyed and no vestige is left to denote that such a place even existed.” (SBC Museum Quart Vol 47, Number 34, 2000. p. 61) It is probably from this paper than Brewer obtained his information that a whole town in southern California was destroyed. Fortunately for us, the report was inaccurate in a very important detail – as we will immediately discover.
So making the logical assumption that Aqua Mansa was the town referred to in “Up and Down California”– what do we know about the destruction of this town? Actually, -- a fair amount is known. There is an important archeological site within the community that has been the focus of periodic excavations from 1937 to 1990. This site is a church, or more importantly a step in front of what was once a church. Also there are the bases of two marble pillars marking the exact height of the Santa Ana River at its maximum, on that dreadful night of January 22, 1862. This marks the only exact bench mark of high water in our area. This church which survived the flood, escaped the attention of the Los Angeles Star reporter. This is extremely important as the step has been the reference level of two major hydrological investigations used in computation of the volume of water that came through that village. These will be described later.
But getting back to the flood story itself we have the following combined accounts from
William and Helen Beattie taken from the “Heritage of the Valley” (1951), Crafts, “Pioneer Days of the San Bernardino County” (1906), and Hayes, B. I, “Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes”. (1929).. The accounts state that the fall of 1861 was sunny, dry, and warm until Christmas day which proved to be a rainy day. All through the holidays there continued what we should call a nice, pleasant rain. It then rained continuously for fifteen days and nights. This was followed by a down pour for twenty-four hours, or longer. From accounts in the Los Angeles Star this storm continued for some 25 days. (Engstrom p.121) The Santa Ana River rose to the Pine’s Hotel located at the corner of present Third Street and Arrowhead Avenue in San Bernardino, inundating the Valley for miles up and down the river. All this was made worse by Lytle Creek rushing down D Street and crossing to Third. This corresponds to a water level higher than Barton road to the south of the Santa Ana River in the region of the Montecito Cemetery. Then on that night of January 22, a great roar was heard in the valley by Father Borgotta of the little church. He rang the church bell frantically and the inhabitants of Agua Mansa ran or swam to high ground. “The gentle Santa Ana River became a raging torrent which washing, swirling and seething, swept everything from its path.” One writer says there were “billows fifty feet high”. Peter C. Peters of Colton states that “when morning came – (there was) a scene of desolation. The village of Aqua Mansa was completely washed away . . . he watched the adobe houses melt down in the flood and disappear. Trees were uprooted, and carried along bodily, the land was cut and washed, and the fertile fields were buried under deposits of coarse sand and gravel. Only the church and a house near it remained.” (Sidler, 1966) Referring to the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, Engstrom states that even after the Aqua Mansa disaster there was particularly heavy precipitation from the 25th to the 27th of January (Engstrom, 1966 p.145). To what degree the Santa Ann River was at flood stage in the Inland Empire during this later period apparently is not recorded.
So, it is the step of this church which established the high water mark of this flood. Using this information, Mr. Ward, commissioned in 1937 by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, along with a committee surveyed the cross section of the river bed and the slope of the river. He used established hydrological formulas (Appendix 1) and computed the flow. It was an astonishing 330, 000 cubic feet per second. He later recalculated it to be 314, 000 cubic feet per second. (Sidler
As you can well imagine these numbers became the subject of great controversy. The discussion raged for 30 years. To resolve the matter the United States Geological Survey made a compete reinvestigation! Their survey established a profile cross section of the river which was remarkably similar the profile Mr. Ward found in 1937. They then recomputed the flow with additional information provided by the March 2, 1938 flood. This calculation gave a flow of 320,000 cubic feet per second-- falling between Mr. Ward’s two determinations. (Sidler, 1966)
The storm of course, engulfed all of Southern California. Large lakes were formed on alluvial planes between Los Angeles and the ocean. They extended to the west and to the south. (Engstrom 1966, p.145) Lakes formed in the Mojave Desert. The Mojave River rose 20 feet above normal in present day Oro Grande. Planes were cut by gulches and arroyos from Ventura to San Luis Rey. (Engstom 1966, p.146) In San Diego during the month of January alone -- rain fall was 300% above normal. (Engstrom 1966, p.143) We do not have detailed precipitation figures for Los Angeles for this storm like we have for San Francisco. There is, however, a consensus among several individuals who “kept the rain fall” that over 66 inches fell during the 1861-1862 season. (Engstrom 1966, p.145) This number is interesting as compared to documented annual records kept in Los Angeles since 1878. (Los Angeles Times July 5, 2000, Metro News B8). Here, it is stated that the average rainfall in Los Angeles from 1878 to 1999 was 15.02 inches. We know that the flood created an inland sea in Orange County lasting about three weeks with water standing four feet deep up to four miles from the river. (Tracey Saltzman Sept, 1995 Saltzman. Tracey Planning Intern (1955) Huntington Beach Flood History.
To put things in perspective, the flood of 1938, which many of us can remember, resulted in the loss of 14 lives and $12,000,000 (1938 dollars) in San Bernardino County alone. One can only wonder what might be expected today with the increased population and the encroachment of building in river basins and flood planes since 1938, should an 1862 flood return. As can be seen in the bar graph below, the 1862 flood was more than 3 times the magnitude of the 1938 flood. (Sidler, 1968)
Moving ahead in time we find that the Orange county population increased from 516,000 in 1957 to 3,000,000 in 2005. Much of this was in the flood plane of the Santa Ana River. One can only hope that with the Prado Dam expansion and Seven Oaks Dam, the Santa Ana River can be controlled. Recently published investigations from sedimentary deposits in the Santa Barbara Basin, however, gives cause for alarm.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in their planning for Southern California could not have made use of palaeoclimatic and archaeological evidence recently published in the Journal Holocene. Here Dr. Arndt Schimmelmann, senior scientist of the Department of Geological Sciences at Indiana University along with his colleagues found evidence for cyclic simultaneous flooding not only in Southern California, but also in Mesoamerica and South America.
These findings, published in 2003, were based on sediment cores taken in the Santa Barbara Basin. These cores contain tell tale sedimentary deposits, called varves, and they date back 2000 years. Measuring the thickness of the varve gives an index of associated erosion during that particular year. These have occurred in approximate 200 year intervals centering during the following years: 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605. It is observed that bicentennial flooding in the Santa Barbara area was ‘skipped’ only three times and never twice in a row. The quasi-periodicity of approximately 200 years for Southern California floods matches the approximate 200 year periodicities found in a variety of high-resolution palaeoclimatic archives, and more importantly a 208 year cycle of solar activity and inferred associated changes in atmospheric circulation. The last skip was in the early 1800s leading the authors to conclude: “we foresee the possibility for a historically unprecedented flooding in southern California during the first half of the century.” (Schimmelmann, 2003 p.770)
In personal communication with Dr. Schimmelmann there is no varve corresponding to the flood of 1862! This finding and its implications is currently under discussion but raises serious concern regarding public safety and economic loss in the near future, should this data prove to be prognostic.
THE FLOOD IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, FOUR CONTRIBUTING FACTORS FOR THE DEVESTATION
The great California flood of 1862 devastated Northern California as well as Southern California. That is one of the most remarkable aspects of this flood; it was statewide.
Floods were occurring everywhere in the state at nearly the same time. Bridges were washed our as far north as Trinity and Shasta Counties (Secrest, 2006).
Four factors contributed to this greatest of California’s historic floods.
1) Record Rainfall
2) High Population based along streams and rivers
3) Melting of snow.
4) Hydraulic mining.
The rainfall in Northern California set records not yet matched.
The following graph shows the average rainfall for San Francisco. Also shown is the rainfall for the two wettest seasons, 1861-1862 and 1997-1998. The rainfall in January 1862 has never been equaled; it was an amazing 24.36 inches. The second wettest month was February 1998, with about 15 inches of rain.
Data from Nolte, 1998, California Dept of Water Resources, 1950, McArdis, 1912 and Golden Gate Weather Services.
Brewer was in San Francisco on January 19, 1862, and wrote:
“The amount of rain that has fallen is unprecedented in the history of the state. In this city accurate observations have been kept since July 1853. For the years since, ending with July 1 each year, the amount of rain is known . . . This year, since November 6, when the first shower came, to January 18, it is thirty-two and three-quarters inches and it is still raining! But this is not all, generally twice, sometimes three times, as much falls in the mining districts on the slopes of the Sierra. This year at Sonora, in Tuolumne County, between November 11, 1861 and January 14, 1862, seventy-two inches (six feet) of water had fallen, and in numbers of places over five feet! And that in a period of two months.”
The unseasonable melting of the snow pack set the stage for down-stream disaster.
Heavy rain caused damaging floods in Sacramento during December 1861 when nearly 10 inches of rain fell. However, a lot of the December rain in Northern California was stored in California’s greatest reservoir, the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The depth was 10-15 feet. January brought more rain and warm winds and John Muir (1900) describes very well what happened:
“The Sierra Rivers are flooded every spring by the melting of the snow as regularly as the famous old Nile. Strange to say, the greatest floods occur in winter, when one would suppose all the wild waters would be muffled and chained in frost and snow…But at rare intervals, warm rains and warm winds invade the mountains, and push back the snow line from 2000 to 8000, or even higher, and then come the big floods.”
In 1862 more people lived in Northern California than in Southern California.
More people mean more property and the potential for more damage. The total population of California in 1862 was about 500,000 people, of which 100,000 lived in San Francisco. People tended to live along streams and rivers because water was necessary for agriculture, transportation, and mining. Of course, the flood risk was greatest near the streams and rivers.
Mining aggravated flooding in Northern California.
The streams and rivers of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California were being filled with an enormous volume of debris from mining, particularly hydraulic mining (Bancroft, 1890, p647). Log dams had been erected to retain this debris. These dams failed in the onslaught releasing a great wave of debris that surged downstream into the rivers and delta. The channels of the Feather, Yuba, and American Rivers were choked with boulders, cobbles, gravels, sand, and mud progressively down stream. A wave of fine sand and mud boiled down into the delta and ocean. The bed of the Sacramento River at Sacramento was raised more than 7 feet; the 2-foot tides were no more (Brewer, 1966, and Bancroft, 1890). The rivers flooded at lower flows because the channels were filled in. Gilbert (1917) estimated the volume of mine debris reached more than 1.5 billion cubic feet, before the practice of hydraulic mining was stopped by law Bloomfield vs. Woodruff, 1882). (This was the first federal environmental case, and the ruling was in favor of farmers, who were losing agricultural land, and against the miners who were releasing debris into the watersheds.) “No single industry in the history of California has generated more long-term environmental damage for such a meager economic return” (Mount, 1955. p. 210).
WHAT THIS GREAT FLOOD DID.
There are hundreds of first-hand accounts of the great 1862 flood. We have read many of the newspaper accounts. Many other first-hand accounts are preserved in personal correspondence of the time, as well as in legal and government documents. More information appears every year through the eye of the Internet, fed with a growing interest in genealogy and local history. Some of the accounts stretch the imagination, others, such as Brewer‘s, are the masterful writings of a seasoned observer. Taken together a clear picture of this devastating storm emerges.
There are no reliable estimates of the total loss of life in this flood. “An intelligent Chinaman said that the number of countrymen destroyed in the state in the December flood was 500.” This newspaper quotation is one of the few estimates, and it was for the lesser flooding of December 1861. (The quotation certainly reflects attitudes of the time toward all but white immigrants.)
The Sacramento Daily Union reported that 1/3 of the taxable property in the state of
California was lost, and also estimated that ¼ of all cattle were drowned (200,000). One house in eight was destroyed and 7/8 of all houses were damaged. The loss of all property was between $50 and $100 million (Brewer, 1966, p246). This sum corresponds to an average loss of between $100 and $200 for every person in the state. (The loss of cattle by flood, and the record drought year that followed, ended the early California cattle industry, and the cattle-based ranchero society (Jelinek, 1998/1999).
Brewer writes, on January 19, 1862:
“The great central valley of the state is under water – the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys -- a region 250 to 300 miles long and an average of at least twenty miles wide, or probably three to three and a half millions of acres! Although much of it is not cultivated, yet a part of it is the garden of the state. Thousands of farms are entirely under water – cattle starving and drowning. All the roads in the middle of the state are impassable; so all mails are cut off. We have had no “‘Overland” for some weeks, so I can report no new arrivals... The telegraph also does not work clear through, but news has been coming for the last two days. In the Sacramento Valley for some distance the tops of the poles are under water. The entire valley was a lake extending from the mountains on one side to the coast range hills on the other. Steamers ran back over the ranches fourteen miles from the river, carrying stock, etc, to the hills.”
Remember Judge Field? He was responsible for support for Whitney and Brewer’s investigations. His home, although located on one of the higher areas of Sacramento, was filled with two feet of mud after the food waters subsided.
For a week the tides at the Golden Gate did not flood, rather there was continuous and forceful ebb of brown fresh water 18-20 feet deep pouring out above the salt water. A sea captain reported that his heavily laden ship foundered in the Gulf of the Farallons off of San Francisco, due to the layer of fresh water. Fresh-water fish were caught in San Francisco Bay for several months after the peaks of the flood. These events have not happened since. (Ellis 1936)
Bosque (1904) gives an account of flood damage to his farm in Moraga:
“During the winter of 1861-1862 a phenomenal rainfall flooded the country, involving great destruction of property in every direction. Our place, like others, suffered great damage. Some of our cattle and horses were drowned, and the center of the valley below our house, which had been a beautiful broad meadow before the flood, was washed away to a bed of sandstone forming its foundation. The valley was scarred by deep impassable bareness thirty to forty feet deep, and the face of the once beautiful place so changed that one could scarcely recognize it”.
Mats of tulles ½ mile of a side broke free of the delta islands and were carried out to sea in the flood. The mats moved down the coast in the prevailing southerly currents and were then driven on shore by wind, ending up on shores around Monterey Bay. Local farmers used pitchforks to kill the snakes, which came out of the grounded mats of tulles onto the beaches. (The Times of London, 1862)
The California State Capital was moved from Sacramento to San Francisco because of high water.
This great flood, almost certainly, was the inspiration for Bret Harte to write “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (see appendices 2 and 3) a short story, which made him (briefly) the best-paid author of his time.
We wonder why such a devastating flood is not better known, and taken into account in flood planning. For one reason there are few documented few high-water marks from which to estimate peak discharge rates from rivers. Another reason may be, as Ellis stated in 1920, this flood is not generally taken into account in flood planning simply because to have done so, the expense would have been prohibitive. A high-water mark of 183.0 feet above sea level was measured on January 10, 1862, on the Stockton and Coover’s stone stable on the American River near the town of Folsom. Walls of this stable remained during a flood in 1950 and were used to measure a high-water mark that year of 175.8-175.5 feet, corresponding to a flow of 180,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This information is tabulated in Geological Survey, 1953. Also tabulated are peak flows on the American River for 5 other floods back to 1907. It is not clear why an estimate was not made for peak flow for the 1862 flood on this river. Extrapolating the data given, we estimate the peak flow in 1862 to be no less than 250,000 cfs.
BLOW-BY-BLOW CHRONOLGY FROM NEWSPAPERS OF THE TIME
8th) Six inches of rain fell in Nevada City in 24 hours.
19th) Napa Reporter cites the start of rain.
San Francisco rainfall for December was 8.64 inches.
The month ended with a gale that blew barns down in Yolo County.
10-15 feet of snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevada.
1st) After the flooding of December, the weather turned cold, and the temperature in San Francisco fell to 23oF.
9th) Sacramento hit by water from broken levees on the American River. By noon J, K and I Streets were under water. During the afternoon, floodwater rose at a rate of 1-foot/hour. “Water visible for miles from Sacramento...no dry land in the Sacramento Valley to Red Bluff except old Indian Mounds. Every day there are more drowning in the Feather, Yuba, and American Rivers.”
The Myers and Schaffer families, of Yolo County, put two chests of choice possessions in a boat, already nearly full of goods. The boat was tied to a tree in the farmyard where it turned this way and that with the shifting wind and steep waves. The raging storm made it impossible for them to escape to high ground across the new inland sea. They returned to the house and went upstairs where a fire was lit in the stove. At 9 o’clock in the evening the house toppled over. They were not hurt, and safely reached their boat. In a few minutes the house caught fire from the stove. Between the fire, wind, and water the house was completely destroyed, but they lived to tell the tale.
Napa was suffering with 4 feet of water and at Alvarado, at the mouth of Alameda Creek, the floodwater was 6-feet deep, and marooned citizens fired a gun every minute as a distress signal.
In Niles Canyon, on Alameda Creek, the Peale mill was washed away. The flood carried off the house of Mr. S. Bonner also on Alameda Creek in Sonol Valley, and the occupants escaped by climbing a tree where they remained for 24 hours
10th) In Sacramento at 9:00 pm, high water was 24 feet above low water, and the water was waist deep in downtown. “Sacramento is a city transformed into sort of a frontier Venice.”
Sacramento is out of food.
Brewer writes on the 19th of the response of San Francisco, which will resonate with the spirit of Redlands:
“Benevolent societies are active, boats have been sent up, and thousands are fleeing to this city. There have been some of the most stupendous charities I have ever seen. An example will suffice. A week ago today news came down by steamer of a worse condition at Sacramento than was anticipated. The news came at nine o’clock at night. Men went to work, and before daylight tons of provisions were ready –eleven thousand pounds of ham were cooked. Before night two steamers, with over thirty tons of cooked and prepared provisions, twenty-two tons of clothing, several thousand dollars in money, and boats with crews, etc were under way for the devastated city.”
Thousands of people escaped the flood by steamer to Benicia, which was the first high land down stream.
At the town of Alamo, in Amador Valley near Mt. Diablo, a disastrous short flood occurred at 3:00 in the morning. Many of the people fled as fast as possible and took refuge in the Academy and at Wolf’s brick store. The barn of Van Wagner was floated off. Seeley’s house capsized and furniture lost. George Engelmeyer has 1500 sacks of wheat lost and damaged. George Stone’s Barn, containing 5 tons of hay and 30 or 40 sacks of grain, destroyed. The barn and stable of Hoffman and White washed off, with a fine buggy. John Schwartz’ house floated off with all its contents into field some 100 yards distant. Mr. Hemme lost a large barn, fine carriage and fences. Twelve horses were swept 3 miles down-stream, but only one was lost. Lost cattle were identified by brands published in the newspaper.
Standing water on flat-topped buildings was a problem; the roof of the Montgomery St. Armory in San Francisco collapsed.
11th) Red Dog, Nevada County, 11 inches of rain in 48 hours before midnight. (We mention Red Dog because it was a key place in the novel “Luck of Roaring Camp”. Rainfall in Red Dog during December was 45 inches. The total for the season was 109.5 inches or 9 feet 1 ½ inches!)
“San Ramon Valley, one sheet of water from hill to hill as far as we can see”. Eldridge Lovling, aged 20, drowned while trying to cross a stream in Tassajara Valley, near Alamo. Six inches of snow fell at the coalmines near Livermore (The Contra Costa Gazette, 1862).
12th) “Levees on Mormon Slough broke and by evening all Stockton streets on low ground were canals. Stockton loses all bridges, sewers caving in, and the water is a foot deep in Washington Square.”
The Mokelumne River at Big Bar Bridge was 44 feet above low water
The stern - wheel steamer Victor averaged 31 mph in the 25-mile down-river run between Red Bluff and Tehema.
Landslide at the town of Volcano, 7 people perished.
All of Napa under 4 feet of water, Rio Vista under 6 feet of water, and Big Oak Flat completely destroyed. In Knight’s Ferry and Mokelumne Hill “nearly every building was torn from its foundation and carried off by thundering landslides“.
“Water in Sacramento at such a depth that no one attempted to move about the city except by boat.”
The State Treasurers office in the Capital Building has 3 feet of water in it.
A piano in the parlor of the Chief Justice, though perched upon chairs was soaked, and the pictures in the parlor were spoiled.
“Important people suffer; less important people more so.” “Confusion and consternation filled the city.” River steamers brought the dispatches-it became clear that “from Tehema to Stockton, from the Coast range to the Sierra Foothills Californians were fighting for their lives and property against the greatest flood in the recorded history of the state“. “A great sheet of yellow rippling water spread from the Coast Range to the Sierra Nevada”.
It appears that the telegraph was down therefore no rapid news got north and south in California until Feb. 1.
13th) In the Capitol at Sacramento a political battle was raging. READ MORE: http://www.redlandsfortnightly.org/papers/Taylor06.htm