In 1847, there were 459 people living in the Alta California settlement of San Francisco. Six trading vessels were anchored in the harbor when Caleb Landers arrived in his ship, The California, carrying many different kinds of goodscoffee, tea, cloth, iron goods, guns… everything the Mexican and American settlers needed.
Like others before him and thousands to follow, Caleb had sailed around Cape Horn, then along the coast of South America, trading as he went. Already an experienced trader with a prosperous business in the new Republic of Texas, Caleb could never have imagined how quickly his life would change when he decided to settle in San Francisco.
In January of 1848, gold was discovered in the American River northeast of Sacramento. By May, the news had spread and the rush to the gold fields began. San Francisco's harbor was soon cluttered with ships abandoned by their crews, workers left their jobs, and populations of coastal towns dwindled as prospectors headed to the gold fields. By August more than 4,000 men were washing $50,000 in gold from the American River every day!
Within a year more than 90,000 immigrants had come to San Francisco, half by land, half by sea at the rate of more than a 1,000 per week, all desperately needing food and supplies. Caleb's trading stationsboth in San Francisco and Sacramentobecame gold mines too. But where there's wealth and opportunity, trouble is not far behind. San Francisco soon became as lawless a place as the gold fieldstheft, murder, drinking, gamblingall manner of crime, with no laws or means to enforce them.
To protect his people and his properties, Caleb agrees to serve as U.S. Marshal and Federal Magistrate. Duly appointed by Commodore Sloat, Caleb is empowered to enforce the law, not only in San Francisco, but in the gold fields as well. His duties bring him face-to-face with his archenemy, Slip Fields, the son of the man who killed Caleb's father. Despite several opportunities, Caleb is unable to capture or kill him…and true to his name, Slip eludes him once again.