The Man Who Founded New Mecklenburg, Part 2

By 1847 everything at Theodore Cordua’s settlement of New Mecklenburg was prospering. He had thousands of head of cattle and hogs. Like the Mexican rancheros, he slaughtered his cattle for the hides and tallow, and sent them down the river for export to Boston. Much of the meat went to waste. In 1847 he decided to increase his profit by salting, curing and smoking the meat.

Cordua oversaw a vastly productive establishment. He and his workers grew wheat, barley, and peas. They raised chickens by the thousands, made butter and cheese, and salted salmon. They even made caviar from sturgeon eggs. His hunters brought in the pelts of otters and beavers. Deerskins were made into trousers, shirts and shoes.

He was beginning to wonder what to do with all this bounty. The local market for his products was small, and San Francisco (before the Gold Rush) could not absorb it all. Where could he send it?

schooner3In 1847 he made a contract with three English carpenters to build a sea-going schooner at New Mecklenburg. He planned to sail the schooner to Mazatlán, perhaps even Hawaii, and sell his produce. As the business grew, he planned add more ships to carry more goods. Prosperity beckoned.

He had plenty of timber available, and a blacksmith to fashion the needed ironwork. Still, there were items he would need to purchase to complete the ship:  ropes, sails, anchor, and chains. In order to raise the money to buy these items, he entered into a contract to supply hay to the U.S. cavalry. With the Mexican War just concluded, troops stationed in California needed supplies. It seemed like a deal he could count on.

And yet it all went wrong when gold was discovered.

Next: Cordua in the Gold Rush

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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