Do you hear a cannon roar at the same time as you see smoke?

Brigantine firing a cannon

The Spanish built an adobe battery called Castillo de San Joaquin at the top of Fort Point to defend the bay with eight brass cannons. Cannon shots were fired from there as a warning or a greeting as ships entered the San Francisco Bay. When a cannon is fired at a distance, you would first see smoke, and seconds later you would hear the boom. If you remember your high school science and the rule about lightning and thunder, you’d say, of course, I knew that. I had the chance to experience live cannon fire as I watched two tall ships during a commemoration sail celebrating Captain George Vancouver’s explorations aboard the sloop Discovery.

How did early California settlers bake bread?

In early California, people often raised the wheat, stored it, ground the wheat grains every day that they wanted to make bread, and baked the loaves in outdoor ovens. What a lot of work! During this current pandemic, everyone started cooking and baking. Making bread became so popular that I heard the bread-making appliances were in short supply! Years ago, I made bread so I decided to try to bake bread again. With very few places to go to these days, being indoors and waiting for the bread dough to rise was no problem. A really good rise (without a bread machine) can take seven hours! Many people leave the dough to rise overnight, which I imagine many early pioneers did. In Alta California and other Spanish colonies, the bread was baked in adobe clay beehive-shaped ovens, built outside the main dwelling to avoid house fires.

What diseases caused epidemics in nineteenth-century California?

Highly contagious diseases such as smallpox, syphilis, mumps, influenza, and measles were prevalent in California during the 1800s. Europeans were learning to control outbreaks of the deadly disease smallpox by vaccinating. However, when the Spanish and Mexican soldiers mixed with the Native Americans in California, epidemics of smallpox and measles spread rapidly through the native population. The people had no immunity to these European diseases, and though some survived, many died within days after contracting them. Captain Richardson helped the Franciscan friars vaccinate for smallpox among many of the neophytes who had been at the California missions, but smallpox and other diseases returned, again and again, to cause havoc among the coastal people, resulting in severe suffering and death. In the Franciscan Mission Dolores (located in San Francisco), where on average 1,000 neophytes lived and worked, more than 300 might die in one year due to these diseases.