Carleton Watkins                           Canoa!--Canoa!

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they could negotiate a more favorable rate.  Two hundred sixty people joined the enterprise each paying ten dollars to be guaranteed transport to the head of navigation on the Rio Chagres near the village of Gorgona.[11]  The gross receipts were twenty-six hundred dollars, which could have been equivalent to over two hundred thousand dollars in present-day purchasing power.[12]

          Collis was elected town-hall style to negotiate with the native boatmen and handle the finances.  The canoe-like boats were about twenty-five feet long by about three feet wide and could accommodate four to six passengers with three or four boatmen to steer and propel.[13]  The same type of boats were in use well into the twentieth century.  The thirty-nine mile river journey to Gorgona took two or three nights and three days for each boat.  Counting the boatmen, almost three hundred people were involved in the operation, which would have required tack-sharp organization.   

          Based on the example for how Collis managed operation of the Sacramento hardware store a few months later, the Otsego County boys would have formed a team to get the work done--collect the money, keep records of who paid, sort the paid-up travelers into groups assigning them to specific boats, schedule departures, and more. It would require fifty to sixty trips over more than a week to get all the Crescent City subscribers transported by boat from the mouth of the Rio Chagres to Gorgona [Fig. 3a—in red] and another week or more to get the same people from Gorgona to the Pacific Ocean on mules or horses [Fig. 3a—in green].  Nineteen-year-old Carleton was one of the team that made all this happen and in the process won the respect of his comrades, especially George Murray who later became his roommate, first in Sacramento, then in San Francisco. 

          At the age of twenty-six, before he had even stepped off the boat at the mouth of the Rio Chagres, Collis Huntington found himself in the transportation logistics business, the calling for which he would eventually become a millionaire many times over.  His cost of hiring the native boats was seven dollars per person and he collected ten from each passenger.[14]  Whatever profits remained after expenses were divided equally between the


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[11] George Murray to Solon Huntington, ALS, March 24, 1849 (HEH).

[12] Payment was made in one dollar gold coins each consisting of .0484 oz. of gold.  At this writing the present-day melt-down value of each coin is USD 77.11.  Thus, one gold dollar in 1849 was worth in purchasing power at least 77.11 times what it is today.  The present-day melt-down value of  USD 2,600 in 1849 gold coins is a little over USD 200,000. 

[13]Minter, p. 202.

[14] Bancroft, p. 32, and others fail to explain adequately the possible role in collecting transit money played by Crescent City passenger George R. Parbert.