THE SAGA OF PANAMA
THE GOLD SEEKERS from the East usually organized themselves into groups or companies both to travel together and to work together in the mines. This gave them, so they claimed, the advantages of agreeable companionship, assistance in cases of illness or emergency of any kind, and enabled them to take a large supply of provisions. There were 124 such mining companies from Massachusetts alone that left for the gold fields of California in 1849. This scheme, however, did not work successfully. It usually resulted in the few strong aggressive members having all the responsibilities while the weak and indolent idled away the time gambling and in much dissension. Almost invariably the company would break up upon arrival at San Francisco.1 When it became known in Oneonta that Huntington was really going to California, he was asked to organize and become the leader of a company or companies for the expedition. He declined, however, to assume responsibility for the welfare of others on such a long and difficult journey in a venture where success was so uncertain.
Three general routes of travel were open to California in those days: (1) the all-water route around Cape Horn or through the Magellan Strait; (2) the land and water route through the Isthmus of Panama or through Mexico; and,