During the “Gold Rush” we had two different family lines make the great migration to California. Joseph Putnam left Cambridge Massachusetts and traveled the sea route down the eastern seaboard past Cuba, into the gulf arriving in Chagris, Panama and making the journey across the isthmus and up the west coast to California. Once in San Francisco he bought a row boat and rowed up the delta to the Molkaleme river to what would become his mining claim. The other was George Washington Francis who left Zanesville, Ohio and traveled overland to the mining town of Hangtown (Placerville).
Just getting to the expected riches in the California foothills must have felt like traveling halfway around the world. If you had money and were in a hurry to get a prime mining site what route would you have chosen?
In the early 1850’s a trek across the isthmus of Panama was the preferred route for settlers headed to California from the Boston Area. The trip around the horn would have been 15,687 miles and taken an average of 6-9 months on a whaler. The trip that utilized the trek across the isthmus of Panama was about 6,000 miles and would have taken approximately four months utilizing a ship out off Boston or New York, mules and carts across the isthmus to Panama City, and then a ship from Panama City up to San Francisco. To have traveled the shortest route in miles would have been overland approx. 3,000 miles, from Massachusetts or Ohio to Council Bluffs Iowa then 6 to 9 months by wagon train to San Francisco.
Apparently one had the money for the sea route while the other was taking the cheapest route.