The Comet has returned.
Actually, it’s the brass plaque marking the historic 1846 journey of the first known sail launch to journey from San Francisco up the San Joaquin River.
The plaque along with a second one that marked the final segment of the transcontinental railroad being completed had been mounted on a stone monument for years until each was stolen years apart. The plaque commemorating the Comet’s journey was found recently and re-installed on the monument along Matheny Road near the entrance to the Mossdale Park boat launch park on the San Joaquin River.
The Lathrop Rotary Club is conducting a rededication ceremony on Saturday, March 29, at 8:30 a.m. The plaque was originally dedicated on October 22, 1949 with the first rededication on July 27, 1989.
The Comet’s crew included Sam Brannan who was dubbed “the Paul Revere of the Gold Rush” when he appeared in San Francisco’s Portsmouth Square with a bottle of gold dust and small nuggets shouting about the discovery on the American River.
Prior to making his way to San Francisco, Brannan stocked his store at Sutter’s Fort so he could cash in on supplying those rushing to the mines. That is how he started accumulating the fortune that eventually made him the wealthiest man in San Francisco.
That was six years after Brannan left his job as publisher of the New York Messenger, joined the Mormon Church and headed out with 200 others under the leadership of Brigham Young to establish a colony on the West Coast.
They arrived by ship via Cape Horn in the fall of 1846 in present day San Francisco that was then known as Yerba Buena.
Brannan was part of a subgroup of 20 men who departed San Francisco for the San Joaquin Valley under the leadership of William Stout. They sailed on the Comet up the San Joaquin River and landed near what is now known as the Mossdale Crossing. They continued farther up the river and then headed 1.5 miles up the Stanislaus River where they established a settlement in the area that is now known as Caswell State Park. It was the first known American settlement in the San Joaquin Valley.
They built a log cabin complete with oak shingles. Wild game was so plentiful that their writings indicated one man with a rifle was able to get enough game from among the elk, bear and wild geese to feed the settlement for a week.
The settlement known as New Hope was up and running before the winter in 1846.
By January of 1847 they had 80 acres cultivated and fenced. In a matter of weeks their plans were turned upside down. The winter rains arrived causing the river to overflow its banks. One member of the party wrote how the river was three miles wide stretching to the base of Coral Hollow to the west. Shortly afterwards, the settlement was abandoned.
The plaque also references how John Doak and Jacob Bosnell operated the first ferry on the San Joaquin River at Mossdale starting in November 1848.
Mossdale is also where the final link of the Transcontinental Railroad connecting San Francisco with Sacramento was completed with the railroad bridge across the San Joaquin River. Promontory Point in Utah was where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific met up on May 10, 1869 but it wasn’t until several years later that the Central Pacific’s segment between Sacramento and San Francisco was completed to allow travel from New York City to San Francisco by rail.