FROM THE PLAINS
109 Miles West of St. Joseph,
May 13, 1849.
We are now on the great prairie—nothing to relieve the monotony of the view but a few small groves, indicating watering places. The prairies of Illinois are mere garden spots in magnitude compared to this great plain. This would be a beautiful county if timber was plenty. We have seen but few Indians. They have stolen some cattle, but they were all recovered. We keep a strong guard at night. No accident has yet happened to us, and we get along with as little difficulty as any other 20 men on the road.
We expect in a few days to intersect the Independence road, when there will be a great rush. It is represented that there are great numbers ahead of us; but we suppose that the great body is behind. When we lay by,—as we have to-day— many companies pass us—a hundred have gone by to-day. They all seem to be in a hurry, and it is thought they drive too fast. The grass is not very good generally; but the mules do well. Some of our men complain that our loads are too heavy, and probably we shall throw away our ovens and lids and surplus iron. As we advance we find a great many articles thrown away by emigrants.
We expected to find it lonesome on the plains, but it is not so; we have plenty of society, and that of the best men. We are either passing or in sight of teams the whole day, and we generally find out where each other are from, &c. Our encampment is near others, and time passes swiftly. I will resume my journal: [We make brief extracts from it.]
Monday, May 7, 1849.—Received a delegation from a company from Dayton, Ohio, which desired to join us, and organize as one company— which was agreed to, and they were to come up with us on the march. We left camp at 10 A. M. at the sound of the bugle, and this day passed 128 ox teams—encamped on the prairie, having traveled 12 miles.
Tuesday, 8th.—Passed an Indian Mission; some improvements,—horse mill, blacksmith shop, and farm, carried on by government, and a school, in which there were between 30 and 40 Indian children. It was evident the natives were making but slow progress in civilization, growing out of their repugnance to labor. Traveled 16 miles and encamped.
Wednesday, 9th.—Some rain; traveled 8 miles and encamped on a branch; had to pack our wood nearly a mile; 85 oxen and six mule teams passed us.
Thursday, 10th.—Some dark clouds hanging about the horizon. Started at 7 A. M.; groves of timber near, indicating water; camped at 5 P. M., on a fine creek; made 28 miles. The Ohio company having joined us, J. B. Watson was elected general superintendent, and an advisory committee appointed to assist him. We passed a very fine dog, which had given out.
Friday, 11th.—Signs of rain; started at 7 A. M.; showers of rain; crossed Nimehaw, a beautiful stream, with rocky bottom and timber on its margin. This is a great place for emigrants. Here we saw a fresh grave—of a man from St. Louis, who had been long in ill health. Every tree about had bits of paper fastened to them, written upon, informing emigrants and friends that the writers were well and had passed this point;— traveled 23 miles and encamped.
Saturday, 12th. Some clouds, cold; started at 7 A. M.; passed a dead ox partly skinned; came to an encampment where many things had been left, and a wagon burnt up. We crossed three tributaries to-day. Our Ohio friends broke a wagon tongue by the running away of the cattle; no farther damage done. Timber on the creek elm, and had bad fires. Traveled 21 miles.
Sunday, 13th. The morning bright and beautiful. 28 wagons encamped with us last night.— The day has passed very pleasantly. 130 wagons have passed us to-day. We find that a majority of the teams travel on the Sabbath, what the result will be on their teams, the end will prove. There is a family of children in camp tonight; the little creatures are playful and happy.
There were a train of 34 wagons passed today in which were Mr. Leviston and lady and two children (formerly Miss Woodson of Springfield.) Their wagon was beautifully arranged, and as neat as a parlor. The lady looks well and appears as if at home. B. R. B.
P. S. Tuesday 15th. All well, and moving on well, we are eight miles above where the Independence road strikes ours, and 140 miles from St. Joseph.
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HEAD WATERS, LITTLE BLUE,
May 30, 1849.
Another week has passed since I wrote you. Nothing strange has occurred to our company since then. We all enjoy excellent health. The road is most excellent, and the country most beautiful. The streams have rapid currents, and the waters are as clear as crystal, with pebbly bottoms. Springs of great beauty are breaking out constantly; the air is pure, and there seems nothing wanting to make this country most desirable for the agriculturalist but timber. When the autumnal fires are kept out, timber will spring up and grow with rapidity. This may soon be;— for game is becoming scarce, and the natives will have to leave the country.
We have seen a few buffalo and antelopes, but none of them have been shot. We are now in the Indian country. They are very shy of us,—few of them having come into the camps. We keep a strong guard at night.
We are constantly passing notices from those who have preceded us,—written upon paper, elk horns and boards;—so that we are apprised of all that is going on ahead of us. The number of deaths known to me I have given in my journal.
The season is so backward that Flora has not put on her beautiful vestments here. I have seen but few flowers that I have not seen before. I send you a specimen of the wild pea, in the midst of a field of which is our encampment. The air is filled with its perfume. We have encamped to spend the Sabbath. Some of our company are now out hunting, while others, like myself, are engaged writing to friends far away. I have dated this on Sunday, though in fact written on Saturday. We have an opportunity of sending letters by private express—which brings letters to us at 25 cents, and deposits ours in the nearest post office at one dollar.
Time passes away swiftly on these plains. We have an abundance of society—interesting, well educated persons,—but we are absent from many we love.
I have given you the general features of the week, and now resume my journal:
Monday, May 14.—Rained hard, with a high wind. Resumed our journey—came to the Big Blue, a rapid stream—passed a wagon which had broken down, and partly burnt. Here was a fresh grave, of a young man who had died of inflammation of the bowels. Traveled 23 miles to day, and passed 113 wagons.
Tuesday, 15th—Cloudy and cold; started at 7 A. M.; passed three new graves—one of the persons died of fever, one of a bowel complaint, and the other was killed by being run over by a wagon. Made 22 miles to-day.
Wednesday, 16th.—Cloudy and cool; started early; came to Walnut Creek, took in wood,— crossed over the creek, and crossed Sandy, a pretty stream; saw some antelope, but failed to secure any. B. A. Watson shot at one, but at too great distance to take effect. Made 23 miles—rained hard at sun-down.
Thursday, 17th.—Cloudy morning; started early; some excitement in consequence of two drivers mistreating a mule, but it ended in smoke; struck the Little Blue again, and 'nooned'—encamped at night upon its bank; caught some fine fish; passed 95 teams to day; saw some abandoned Indian lodges; made 25 miles.
Friday, 18th.—Sun rose clear, caught fish and a turtle; traveled up the river all day; passed 59 wagons; road sandy and gravelly; made 23 miles.
Saturday, 19th.—There was a thunder storm last night; it frightened our mules; morning very windy; passed the Louisville Company, which had just buried one of their number, shot by accident. We made our camp at 11 A. M. Mules want rest, grass good and fine water.
Yours, B. R. B.
JOURNEY TO CALIFORNIA.
We have been favored with the Journal of Mr. B. R. BIDDLE, our townsman, written while on his route to California, and which abounds with interesting descriptions of the country, and incidents which occurred on the route. We shall copy from this Journal, from time to time, all matters which shall appear to possess a general interest. We have no doubt this Journal will be found as interesting to our readers as if has been to us. The first date is
"Sunday, June 17th, 1849—633 miles from St. Joseph, 96 miles from Fort Laramie, and 1026 miles west of Springfield, Illinois."
I again embrace the opportunity which this day of rest affords, to continue my journal. The incidents of the last week have been of the most interesting character. Our road has led over hill and dale. The scenery was grand, the country sterile and barren, with, now and then, a mountain stream rushing on to mingle with the waters of the Platte—affording to the emigrant a cooling draught, amid the flying sand, which almost produces blindness. We have, to-day, encamped on the bank of the Platte, near a grove of large cotton wood, where there is a sufficiency of grass for our mules. We have been very lucky in getting good encampments on the Sabbath. While others are moving on—pleading necessity as a justification—wee stop all day.
We reached this encampment on yesterday, at 3 p. m., which gave us an opportunity of doing some washing; as usual, it was done up in good style. Sattly and Doran went out with their guns and soon announced they had killed a buffalo, and asked for men and mules to bring it into camp. Volunteers turned out and, by 10 p. m., they came in, loaded with choice meat. The party pronounced buffalo plenty on the hills. Others went out fishing and caught some fish. The cooks were busily engaged preparing supper, which made the camp present a busy scene. Thus, you see, the hills furnish us meat, the streams afford us fish, and, to-day, the grove is vocal with the music of birds. The magpie, a bird not found at home, yields us considerable amusement by its tameness, eating out of our hands and chattering all the while. This bird can be learned to talk and is of considerable value.
This day finds us all well and in fine spirits. Our teams, I think, will take us through. We have nothing to fear, except the want of grass for our mules. The country here is very dry; but little rain has fallen; vegetation looks parched and dry. Some of those who are trying to get to the Promised Land, and think themselves endowed with the spirit of foretelling events, anticipate distress among the mountains; but we have no such forebodings. Our trip, thus far, has been of the most favorable character; and, by paying strict regard to the welfare of our mules, and taking our time, we shall succeed in getting over safe. There is a great rush, and some have injured their teams by traveling them too far. This part of the road is very gravelly and hard—a superior road to travel on with animals that are shod; but the oxen are getting sore feet; some have already been left.— The ferry across the Platte is between twenty and thirty miles from here, and they say is past fording. There is a great rush to make this point. There are twelve or fourteen hundred teams ahead of us. This will appear large to you. But admitting so many to be ahead of us, we are still in the first fourth of the whole number, as we thought, from the statement of others. The Platte, here, is a very insignificant stream, compared with what it appeared below; it has changed from a river of the plains to a mountain stream, rushing along with the sprightliness of an arrow. It is not more than a hundred feet wide at this point. We have seen some small deposits of gold in its sands; but not enough to tempt us to stop short of the great prize ahead. There is a rumor that gold, in quantities, has been discovered on Laramie's Peak—a very high spur of the Rocky Mountains, and that some wagons from Illinois had turned aside to go to it.
It is said, a man went to see the mountain, was several days from his train, and brought of what he saw there, which was pronounced gold. This Peak is covered with perpetual snow. Fort Laramie is 4,470 feet above the level of the sea, and this mountain is 2000 feet higher. We are getting up quite high; we are rising near a thousand feet a week.
I sent you a long letter from Fort Laramie, but doubt whether you will receive it. I have no confidence in the men. They have established themselves to make money; and from the way they swindle emigrants, I am disposed to believe, when they have got their twenty-five cents from us for each letter, that they don't care much whether they go or not, after we are gone.
I will now commence my daily journal, and continue it until I have a chance of sending it to you.
Monday, June 11th.—Pleasant morning. We moved off at five and a half o'clock, in advance of some sixty ox-teams. The road was fine indeed. To-day, the timber was a little more abundant than we have seen it before on the Platte.— We saw nothing of Fort Bernard, as set down in the books, eight miles from Fort Laramie. About 5 p. m. we came to the Laramie Fork of the Platte and in sight of Fort John, which is now deserted —nothing remains but its mud walls. This branch of the Platte river is about 50 feet wide, with a very deep and rapid current. Encamped 7 p. m. Distance 22 miles.
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Tuesday, June 12th.—This morning is cool. Started at half past five. Drew up to the fort I have described in a former letter. We found a great many encamped in the vicinity, all anxious to sell provisions and exchange heavy wagons for light ones. Some would sell a wagon at $5; others, in preference to taking so low a price, burnt theirs or left them by the road-side. Bacon, beans, powder, lead, trunks, &c., were left upon the plains.— It seems very wrong to throw to the wolves what the poor Indians might use to advantage, but for the cupidity of the fur-traders—men who give them scarce a tithe of what their furs and skins are worth,—we have seen but few Indians on this part of the route. It is said the traders have told them they must keep away from the emigrants else they will give the cholera, small-pox and the like. After leaving the Fort, we commenced ascending the Black Hills. They have not appeared to us half so bad to get over as they have been described by writers. We passed the Warm Spring—a most delightful spot in the midst of desolation. The water is clear as crystal, and not so warm but that man and beast can drink freely of it as it flows in great abundance. The thermometer was thrust into the water, by which it was ascertained to be 10 deg. warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. We filled our casks; and encamped at 5 p. m. where there was good grass. Distance 15 miles.
Wednesday, 13th.—Morning cloudy. Started after an early breakfast. Passed over an undulating country. Crossed Butter creek, a very beautiful and limpid stream, dancing down from a mountain on our left, whose summit is covered with perpetual snow. The grass is getting scarce, and the timber gradually becoming more abundant. The wood is mostly pine, and has a fine appearance at a distance, on the hills around. This afternoon the road has been very rough. The snow-peak is still in view. Encamped at 5 p. m. Distance 23 miles.
Thursday, 14th.—Clear morning. Sold a little wagon we had bought at St. Joseph, so as to be able to rest two of our mules, in turn. After traveling one mile, we came to Heber spring and a creek; from which we began the ascent of a very steep bluff; traveled over a rough, hilly road; crossed La Bonte, a small but rapid river. Encamped at 6 p. m.—grass very poor. Distance 20 miles.
Friday, 15th.—The sun rose this morning with a threatening look, but cleared up without rain, so we had a pleasant day of it. Forded a creek and traveled along a valley, and entered a region bearing traces of volcanic eruption. The valley and hills looked red like brick. There was no vegetation except immense fields of wild sage. Amid these ruins arises a lonely pyramid, composed of loose fragments of rock, to an altitude of several hundred feet. I clambered to the summit. The alabaster, and red, grey and white sandstone, give to the whole of this picturesque country a singular appearance. The timber is small yellow-pine. There is but little grass. The road has been very crooked, to-day—following the winding of the ridges; but it is, certainly, the best natural road in the world. Crossed La Prele, said to be the largest tributary of the Platte above Laramie's Fork. Passed the dry bed of a creek. Encamped, at 6, on a hill—grass so scarce the mules did not have enough to eat—plenty of good water. Distance 21 miles.
Saturday, 16th—Some appearance of rain— Moved off at 5. Roads broken and irregular.— Crossed Fouche Bois—too small to be called a river. Four miles from that, we came to the Platte, after having been away from it for eighty miles. Five miles further, we came to a fine fish-stream called Deer creek. The lack of an abundance of grass prevented us encamping there over Sunday. The wood and water were abundant, and some had stopped and commenced washing. We came on, however, some five miles from the creek to the spot we occupy.
Sunday, 17th.—The sun rose in smiles. Nothing has occurred to distinguish this day particularly from the Sundays which have preceded it, save a little excitement, in camp, in consequence of three buffaloes descending the hills and threatening to take our fortress by storm; they, however, turned their course a little. Game is very plenty. This afternoon closes rain-like.
I have written this under the shade of a tree on the river-bank, surrounded by clusters of roses, while the birds are discoursing melody among the adjacent hills.
Monday, June 18th.—The sun rose clear. We started at the usual time. All well. Our mules are lively and look well. We traveled up the river a few miles from our encampment. In descending a bad hill, we broke the 'hounds' of a wagon; but the united wisdom of the camp soon repaired it. The road is crowded with teams, all anxious to make the ferry so as to have their turn; but the ferry not being able to accommodate them in time, they have had recourse to rafting. We spent the noon near the lower ferry. The number of those waiting to cross is increasing very fast. It is five miles from this to the Mormon ferry— We found over a hundred teams before us. The ferry-boat consists of two rough canoes, lashed together, and a few rough pieces of timber laid across them for the wagons to run on. They take but one wagon at a time. They swim all the horses and cattle. Several men and horses were drowned in attempting to swim over, as the current is very swift. They are able to take over from fifty to sixty wagons per day, at the charge of $3 per wagon. Six hands have charge of the ferry.— They have also a temporary black-smith shop, and charge $4 for shoeing a horse, $8 for an ox, and other work in that proportion. They have ferried over, in the three weeks preceding our arrival, seven hundred wagons; and, it is supposed, as many have crossed at other points—making the number, in advance some fourteen or fifteen hundred wagons; and, we suppose, we are in the first third of the emigration. Any one has the right to keep a ferry, or raft, and charge what he pleases. We encamped near the ferry at 5 p. m.— Distance, to-day, 16 miles.
Tuesday, 19th.—Cloudy morning. There being no grass in the vicinity, we had to take our mules some four miles, to the hills, to graze. Doran killed a mountain-goat—a very remarkable animal, with horns like our sheep, only a great deal larger. It is very strong, muscular and active. The flesh tastes like mutton. This day has been taken up pretty much in washing and cooking— Expect to cross the river, to-morrow. Our men are all well.
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Wednesday, 20th.—Clear. Our wagons were moved up to the ferry, this morning, and our mules taken out to graze; we remained with them until 1 p. m., and then brought them in and swam them over without any accident. Our wagons were all got over safe, by 3 p. m.; when the government troops came up and took possession of the ferry, cutting off two wagons that had been in our company from St. Jo. This act, on the part of the commanding officer, was looked upon with indignation, and would have given rise to a conflict if our better judgment had not prevailed. Dividing a company by an officer of the government sent out to protect the emigrants, is an act too mean and contemptible for the meanest ox-driver on the plains to be guilty of. The Mormons, knowing how we had been treated by this government dignitary, determined to bring the two wagons over after night, and did so. By their kindness, we were re-united, about 10 o'clock at night. Preferring not to be in the neighborhood of the officers whose duty it was to protect us, we encamped, at 6 p. m., 3 miles from the ferry.
Thursday, 21st.—Very fine morning. Started early. At 9 a. m. we bade farewell to the Platte. We all felt glad upon leaving it, though we had derived much pleasure from the contemplation of its wild and romantic scenery. It is a remarkable stream, carrying, in its course to the Father of Waters, the great volume of water from the vast expanse of plain, and the melting of the snows of the Rocky Mountains, yet it is a perfect nullity as to all the purposes of navigation. We ascended the bluff, passed several lakes of bad, poisonous water, and, at 3 p. m., came to a mineral spring and a filthy looking pond near by. We drank cautiously of the spring, though men and mules were very thirsty. The waters of this whole region are so strongly impregnated with salt, alkali and sulphur that most of it is undrinkable. The cattle seem to suffer most from its effects. The road is sandy and pulls very heavy. Encamped, at 5 p. m., between ranges of high hills, and opposite, on the left, to what is called the Buttes, composed of red sand stone; they look very pretty — Distance 21 miles.
Friday, 22d.—This morning is beautiful and bright. The mornings now are cool, but the days very warm. There has been but little rain here, and it is surprising how the vegetation has reached the maturity it has. Grass is scarce only in spots. Wild sage and a plant they call greasewood, dispute with each other the occupancy of the soil. They both burn freely, green or dry.— Water is scarce. Our course, this morning, lay between two ledges of rough, elevated piles of dirty looking rock; and, when we least expected it, we came to a spring of cold water, but not enough for our mules. Two and a half miles from that, we came to the celebrated Willow Spring—a feeble spring, but of good water, free from impurities. You can imagine how this beverage, given by a bountiful Providence to the weary traveler, was relished by us. We then ascended a long hill, from which we had a fine view of the surrounding country. At 4 p. m., we came to a pretty running brook, glittering like a serpent in the grass. At 5, we come to a creek of swift, pure water. Encamped 2 miles beyond it, at 7.— Gnats and mosquitoes very troublesome. Took our mules to the creek bottom to graze; and the guard took a tent down so as to watch them—Distance 24 miles.
Saturday, 23d.— Fine morning. The atmosphere of this mountain region is of the most invigorating kind. All of us are in the enjoyment of excellent health. I have increased some eight or ten pounds. All the company have increased in weight. There are few instances of fifty men being associated together, and taking their chances of camp life, who have enjoyed such perfect health. The road is very sandy, this morning, which makes it hard work for men and mules. About 9, we arrived at Independence Rock on the Sweet Water— a tributary of the Platte. It is thirty yards wide, and good but not cold. Independence Rock is a conspicuous land-mark. It derived its name from some of the first emigrants having celebrated the 4th of July upon it. It is a pile of granite, and resembles a ship turned bottom up. It is about one hundred and twenty feet high, and near three quarters of a mile around the base. Upon the summit, I found written thousands of names; ranging in date from the first to the last party of emigrants. We crossed the Sweet Water, about two miles from the rock, at a ford twenty yards wide. Here we found the carcasses of four oxen which had died from having drank poisonous water. Five miles from the rock is the Devil's Gate —a mountain gorge, between whose perpendicular walls of granite, four hundred feet high, the river, circumscribed in width to a few yards, dashes and foams over the rocks; having a fall of fifteen feet in three hundred yards. After traveling four miles, we encamped on the river-bank surrounded by the best grass and near one of the best springs we have found in this territory; the water is cold as ice. There is an abundance of wood on the bluff half a mile off. Distance, to-day, only 16 miles.
Sunday, 24th.—Morning bright and cheerful, promising a warm day. Our mules, in sight under the mountain, having gratified their appetite, are resting to the left. On the summit of a lofty peak, to the east, the snow is glistening in the brilliant sunshine. The Devil's Gate is full in view, while, to the west, the still higher points of the Rocky Mountains are inviting us onward — Surrounded by such scenery, and in the enjoyment of the bounties of nature in this wild region, we are thankful that no accident or misfortune has happened us since we started from home. These mountains deserve their name of Rocky. The primitive rock, piled in grand profusion, with a few straggling, stinted pines and cedars struggling for a hold, cause them to present a rugged and singular aspect. The hills and mountains we are accustomed to see, are pigmies compared to them. We are six thousand feet above Springfield and are yet to ascend four thousand more before we get to the Valley of the Sacramento. Next Sabbath, we expect to be on the Pacific side of the South Pass. There is nothing to mar our expectations of procuring the full reward of our toil. There will, however, be a great deal of suffering, in many companies, before they reach their destination. There are many families among the emigrants—I pity them. There is a disposition to press on with the current—each one trying to get ahead of others, frequently urging the teams beyond their strength, all traveling farther, each day, than any emigration before them. Many press on regardless of the Sabbath, fearful, if they stop, that others will pass them; but we expect to be able to overtake them, by encamping over Sunday. The season has been favorable to emigrants; cool and rainy, affording abundance of water for the oxen.
Monday, 25th.—The morning clear. All reported well. Started at the usual time, and followed up the river. The road is of deep sand, which causes the wagons to run heavy. The scenery, along our route to-day, is very imposing. The Wind River Mountains, on our right, lift their hoary summits to the clouds, with a chain of granite hills between them and us. Several notches in the hills gave us fine views to the north. The snow lay in the valleys and hollows, on our left; which indicates that we are at a very great elevation. The boys engaged in snow-balling, this morning. The nights now are quite cold, and the days hot. The health of many emigrants has been injured by the water, the rarity of the atmosphere and the constant fatigue they undergo; but the general health is good. Though some of us have been affected, to some extent, by some of these causes, we are getting along very well. The animals seem to be more affected than the men. We passed five dead oxen and one mule, to-day. Encamped on the Sweet Water, at 5 p. m —but little grass. Distance 25 miles.
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Tuesday, 26th.—The morning pleasant. We started at sun-rise. From some high ridges, we had magnificent views of the snow-capped mountains. We left the river, and traveled ten miles on a very sandy road, when we came to the river again. We took the mules two miles up the river to graze at noon. Saw the carcasses, to-day, of six oxen and one mule. Here we took in water, as it is sixteen miles to the next watering place. Encamped, at 5 p. m., ten miles from the river. Distance 20 miles.
Wednesday, 27th.—Very pleasant morning. Had a fine rain last evening, which laid the dust and made it more pleasant traveling. A full view of splendid mountain scenery. After going six miles we came to the river where we spent the noon. Then left the river and ascended a long, high hill; traveled over a very barren and rocky piece of road, where there scarcely seemed to be any life in anything around. We descended from this scene of desolation among hollows, the hills surrounding us like walls. We stopped, for the night, near a hollow where there was ice three feet thick, the constant melting of which made a rivulet which afforded us good water. There was plenty of fine grass and the wild sage answered as fuel. We saw nine dead oxen to-day. Distance 23 miles.
Thursday, 28th.—Morning pleasant. Started at 5 a. m. Ascended a very gently sloping ridge, with beautiful little groves of willow, on the left, that seemed to receive their nourishment from a spring. Crossed a small creek and a short distance beyond came to a large one, and, beyond that, a few miles, came to the river, where the sparkling volume of water and gently sloping hills, on all sides, made a beautiful landscape. Here we left the Sweet Water for the last time. We were all sorry to part with it. We had often been benefitted by its refreshing waters, which had endeared the mountain stream to us. We had traveled upon its banks for more than a hundred miles— had followed it to its source in the mountains of snow. The snow is now lying in the hollows around us, notwithstanding the days are very warm. We now ascended an easily rising slope, which brought us to the far-famed South Pass— 7470 feet above the level of the sea. We passed the summit about a mile before we were aware that we had arrived at the dividing point. There is nothing to distinguish the spot. The ascent and descent is so slight that few would think they had attained that lofty elevation which divides the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Immediately after passing this point, we entered the Oregon Territory, and, traveling two miles, arrived at the Pacific Spring, the water of which is very cold. We encamped near it, with many others who had arrived before. The grass is cropped very short. Stopped at 6 p. m., and took our mules to graze on the hills near by. Distance 26 miles.
Friday, 29th.—Morning cold—thermometer, at sun-rise, standing at 52 deg. We have had other mornings colder. Started at the usual time; the road leading over an undulating country, resembling our northern prairies more than the rugged wildness of the Rocky Mountains. We found the distance between streams of water, along here, rather far for the comfort of our animals. Crossed the Dry Sandy; it had but little water in the bed of the stream; we did not give any of it to our animals, fearing that it might not be good. The water, in all this neighborhood, is strongly impregnated with alkali; and many who have lost their oxen attribute it to the poisonous quality of the water they have drank. Notices are placed on boards, all along the road, cautioning the emigrant against the use of the water in the lakes and ponds. We next came to Little Sandy—a swift-running stream, about forty feet wide and almost too deep to ford. Passed twenty dead oxen. The valley we are now in stretches far off to the south, and presents a delightful appearance. Passed, today, the forks of the road where the Mormon trail leaves for Salt Lake, by the way of Fort Bridger. Many have taken this route, but the majority have taken the right hand road. Encamped, at 6 p. m,, three miles from Big Sandy. Distance 20 miles.
Saturday, 30th.—Clear, fine morning. Started early and reached the Big Sandy at 8. It is thirty yards wide—swift and deep. Here we held a meeting of the companies to decide whether we should go across the cut-off, which extends from this point to a distance of forty miles without water, or lay over until after 12 o'clock on Sunday night, and then starting make the drive in one day. It was decided we should lay over. This is Sublette's Cut-off. Encamped three miles above the ford, where we found good grass. There are many resting here to prepare their animals for the hard drive. Came only 6 miles, to-day. Sunday, July 1st.—The morning fine. This has been a refreshing day. Had preaching, at 9 a. m., by a Baptist minister, and at 4 p. m. by the Rev. Mr. Blakely, a gentleman who has traveled with us several hundred miles, and preached several times at our camp. A fine shower came down at 3 p. m. The crack of the ox-driver's whip is heard, at this hour, starting out on the long drive, taking the cool of the evening and night to make it in; calculating to arrive at the Green River by 10 a. m. We had another rain near night-fall. We have filled our casks with water to do us through the long drive.
Monday, 2d.—The night has been clear and bright, favoring our starting out early. The moon shone all night, so that we had everything ready for hitching up at 20 min. before 1 o'clock. Started quietly and in good order. At 6 a. m., we stopped to breakfast and gave grass to our mules. The road so far has been quite good. The landscape is undulating and presents a very barren appearance. We are traveling between ranges of mountains whose tops are covered with snow. We next came to several very steep hills; but our ascent or descent was attended with no accident. Halted again, at 12 m., to let our mules graze. Stopped two hours, and started afresh to complete the remainder of our journey to the river. Just before arriving at the river, we had a very steep bill to descend; we got down safe although it was in the dark. Encamped at 10 p. m. two miles this side of the river. But little grass. Distance 38 miles.
Tuesday, 3d.—Clear but cold. Ice formed in the vessels of water. Started at the usual hour, and went down to the lower ferry, kept by several emigrants who bought the boat of some Mormons for five hundred dollars, and are now making two hundred dollars a day by the use of it. This Green River is three hundred feet wide, with a very rapid current, and flows directly from the mountains that surround us. To give you some idea how rapid it is, our mules when started in to swim had to go almost downstream, and came out on the opposite bank, three hundred yards below. Found several hundred wagons were waiting to cross, notwithstanding there are two other ferries—some charging ten dollars per wagon; we pay four at this one. We found no grass along the river, and were obliged to take our mules four miles out to the hills to graze. The government troops have came up with us again—a thing we did not desire, owing to the manner in which we had been treated by them on the Platte. Some of the men have been sick from diarrhoea, but are now better. I had a slight attack myself, but am convalescing. The distance from our last night's encampment is six miles. Encamped on the bank of the river, near the ferry, amid more dust and dirt than I ever saw before in my life. It gets into everything, and is so light that a breath will put it in motion. The sun beaming down upon us at the rate of 80 and 90 deg, accompanied by nights that freeze three quarters of an inch in still water, is rather a strange sort of climate.— Our elevation is between six and seven thousand feet above Springfield.
Wednesday, 4th.—Over-coats were in great demand this morning. The sick are all reported to be better; and, although there have been severe cases of diarrhoea, we entertain no fears of their not getting well. The atmosphere is much rarified from the elevation—the sun pouring such heat that it parches everything in a little while; a wet shirt will dry in 10 min. It also affects our breathing. It is impossible for a man to exert himself very much, particularly to run fast, without getting out of breath.
This is the glorious Fourth of July. We intended to have had a fine time of it, but the heat and dust are so annoying, and the bustle is so great that we do not enjoy it so well as we would otherwise. However, we had a good dinner. Among the dainties on the table was what the cooks called a black dog,—which needs an explanation — It consisted of dough rolled out thin and some stewed apples spread over it and then rolled up. Another was rolled out longer than the other and some dried cherries spread over it and rolled over the first roll; and so on. This was boiled and served up with sauce. All partook freely.
Many banners were floating in the breeze. The evening concluded with one of the greatest farces I ever witnessed. A murderer was arrested by the troop, and the emigrants were called upon to try him upon evidence. I was selected as one of the jury. We repaired to the Major's quarters and found him ready to receive us, but as drunk as Bacchus, together with his suite of officers.—
A man was appointed by the emigrants to preside; the troops being present to preserve order.— The prisoner chose, as counsel, a young Virginia lawyer; was brought in and the case opened by his denying that the emigrants had the right to try him. The Major and officers and men, being drunk, had a good deal to say. The Major insulted the lawyer, the officers insulted the Major. Each party swearing and calling the others hard names, and each threatening the other, with an arrest. One little moustached fellow struck the Major; the emigrants looking on and laughing. The whole thing broke up in a row. The prisoner escaped and thus ended the whole affair. Thus it is that these officers and men protect the interests of the emigrant by getting drunk.
There is now a great stir on the river made by swimming over the cattle.
Another murder was committed yesterday. The troops went out in pursuit. but did not succeed in taking the murderer. We had the pleasure of meeting our Springfield friends, Eli Cook, Joseph Condell, Cook Matheny and others, all well and hardy, but dirty as any of us. They brought me a letter dated the 7th of April. We are told that Mr. and Mrs. Maltby will arrive here this evening. My health is better to-day. The sun shines very hot.
Thursday, 5th,—The morning cool. The dust becoming almost intolerable. The sick are all safe we think; I am a great deal better. We expect, by a tight squeeze, to get our wagons over the river to-night. The moon shines and we prefer it to the hot sun. We may have to lay here tomorrow. The mules are doing very well—so we shall be able to go ahead.
Friday, 6th.—Rose at 2 in the morning for the purpose of trying to cross over before the government troops moved up from their encampment to give us trouble, as they did on the occasion of our crossing the Platte. But this time they were more polite and did not interfere with us. The moon shone brightly and gave us much aid in our operations. We assisted others and they, in turn assisted us—for, be it remembered, that we had to do all the work and pay four dollars beside for the use of the ferry to pass over every wagon. We were all over by 8 o'clock. The mules swam like so many rats. We left the river at ten o'clock, and went over some rough road, 17 miles, to a creek, where was a mound. The creek was very rapid and we were obliged to cross it at two different points. After passing over some hills, we encamped, at sun-down, near a branch. The wild sage here was the largest I had ever seen, measuring, in height, from six to eight feet, and in diameter six to nine inches, near the root. The hills around look barren and dreary beyond description. Distance 18 miles.
Saturday, 7th.—Clear and dry. Started early. Passed several little streams which had their rise in the snow-banks in sight. Crossed a very high ridge, the gorges of which are filled with snow. Fir and aspen grow there, nurtured by the melting of snows. Here we crossed the dividing ridge between Green and Bear rivers. We had a fine view of the white-capped mountains near the Salt Lake. Snow is seen around us, dotting the hill-sides in a very pretty and fantastic manner. Among them, gush fine, cold springs of pure water. We here took a near cut which saved us several miles and enabled us to encamp on the bank of Ham's Fork of Green River—a beautiful, rapid stream, lined with excellent grass. Road quite rough all day. Traveled 20 miles. Distance from St. Joseph 968 miles. The distance has been calculated by ourselves, without any reference to books, or the estimated distances of traders.
Sunday, 8th.—This morning dawned brightly as that of an Italian sky. Our favorable location as to grass, sage and water promises a pleasant Sabbath. Those who were on our sick list are all nearly well. There are companies encamped near us who have preachers of the Gospel with them, pledged to preach for them every Sunday, yet they will have a sermon on Saturday night, so as to give them an opportunity to start early on Sunday morning. We are invariably left alone on the Sabbath. How it will be, as we advance, is past conjecture; we are resolved, however, to continue our observance of the rest-day.
Monday, 9th.—Started early. Men all well.— A heavy dew this morning; the first we have had for a considerable time. We ascended a long and steep hill—the road firm and good—grass very fine. The hollows of the mountains still contain snow; which nourishes handsome little groves of aspen and willow that were musical with the warbling of birds. Here we pass many springs, cold as ice and of crystal purity. On our left, were the far-off snow-covered ridges of Black's Fork of Green River. To-day's drive carried us over the steepest hills we have met with in our journey. We drove eleven hours—which is more than usual. The grass has been fine all day. Encamped at a fine spring. The dust is almost beyond endurance—blowing and covering us so we look like an army of millers. Distance 20 miles.
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Tuesday, 10th.—Got off at the regular hour.— We are now traveling down the bottom of Bear River, and have crossed what is called Thomas Fork—very rapid and rocky. We have found a few lodges of friendly Snake Indians, from whom we purchased some moccasins, at a dollar a pair. They are quite handsome and take great pains to adorn their persons. They are small in stature with short square features. In the start, the road was rough for half a mile, and then smooth until noon. We were obliged to make a great bend in our course so as to avoid marshy ground and sloughs in the vicinity. The hills are high and of red appearance. Wild rye and blue grass are found here. In one of the hollows, we found a grave, said to be that of a squaw who was thrown from her horse and killed, near this spot. There was a cross at the head of the grave. Encamped at 6 p. m. Distance 24 miles.
Wednesday, 11th.—Had an early start. Ascended a very steep hill, a mile long. Very rough and hilly for four or five miles, and descended the steepest hill we have had yet, more than a mile long. All got down safe, and then looked back and wondered how. Next came to the river at a trading point, kept by a man they called Peg-leg Smith. Fine river bottom land—covered with luxuriant grass. In the afternoon, we crossed a number of streamlets, bearing their tribute from the masses of snow to Bear River. Encamped, to the right of the road, on a branch. Fine grass—willows for fuel. Distance of to-day s travel, 24 miles.
Thursday, 12th—Started early. Continued down the river bottom, crossing many ravines, which made our road very rough. The dust was almost suffocating. Nooned at as fine and as cold a spring, bubbling out of the side of a hill, as I have ever seen. This is in the vicinity of the celebrated Soda and Mineral Springs. We occupied our noon-time in visiting a few of them. We went about a mile, to our right, to two white-looking mounds, which, on our approach, we found to be formations from these springs. They rise to an elevation of thirty or forty feet above the plain. On their summits, I counted twelve of these warm, sparkling fountains, boiling up and flowing down the sides of the mounds. I tasted the water, and found it to be very like our soda without the addition of any flavor. It was too warm, however, to be pleasant. We returned to camp, and traveled down the river. After crossing a small stream, we came to a very pretty cedar grove, where we found many encamped, enjoying the luxury of the shade. Not far from this, we visited what is called the Beer Spring; the water of a similar quality with the others, but much more limpid and abundant. I used some sugar with this and found it very good. Most of the company drank of it and pronounced it excellent soda. This spring throws out nearly ten barrels per minute. It effervesces and throws off so much gas that it is dangerous for a person to hold his head near it for even a minute, as it produces giddiness. A little below this is the greatest wonder of all— another spring denominated the Steamboat Spring. I am without words to describe justly this wonder of nature. In boiling up it produces a noise which has given it the name it bears. Very little water runs over the sides of a mound that has been formed by its overflow, but is thrown up in a jet, two or three feet, and falls back into the basin. Handkerchiefs were thrown into it and washed clean in a few moments. This whole country is volcanic, and presents all the remarkable characteristics of such regions in other countries. The quality of these springs is derived from mineral deposits in the surrounding hills. Bear River flows immediately by them; and, a few miles beyond, turns its course southward, leaving the trail and flowing toward the Great Salt Lake.— We have passed, this evening, many interesting vestiges of volcanic action, There were many chasms and huge openings in the earth, of frightful depth, lined with iron and cinder. This is the point, on the route to Oregon, where the United States intend establishing a military post. If invalids could get from the States to this point and back again in the fall, it would, no doubt, become a place of great resort. The climate, altitude and scenery all would combine to render a residence here beneficial to the afflicted—especially to the consumptive. I regretted to leave the fine grassy bottoms of Bear River, for I never before saw such pasture, and our books gave us no account of grass, on our after route, that was encouraging. Distance 28 miles.
Friday, 13th.—Left camp at 5 a. m. Fifteen minutes after starting, we came to a good cold spring, crossed several boggy places, and, at 11, came to a sluggish stream, narrow and deep. We saw from thirty to forty Indians of the Snake tribe. In the afternoon, we traveled up the stream and, at 3 p. m., crossed it. The crossing was bad and the road bad from that until we encamped.— Passed several groves of dead cedar. Encamped at 6 p. m., on the left side of the road, where there was good grass, fuel and water. We are in the midst of high hills—the spurs of the dividing ridge between the waters of the Salt Lake and those of the Columbia river. Distance, today, 23 miles.
Saturday, 14th.—This morning, all is well. We passed the dividing ridge and came to the head waters of the Panack River. The road quite rough, with some steep places and fine springs.—
We then descended into the valley of the Pont Neuf—a tributary of Lewis' Fork of the Columbia. Encamped on the bank of a stream. Have had a down hill road most of the day. The mosquitoes have tormented us very much, and, I am afraid, will interfere with our enjoyment of tomorrow. Distance, to-day, 20 miles. This place is 1107 miles from St. Joseph, and 1450 from Springfield.
Sunday, 15th.—Had a visit from a number of Indian families, this morning. Our men got a buffalo robe from them in exchange for a string of beads that cost seventy-five cents at home. We gave them something to eat, and they soon packed up and were on the move to some other point.— They are very homely, and always hungry. When the craving of their appetite is temporarily satisfied, they leave, without further trouble. They are a roving people, and seldom remain long in one place, and never have any provision on hand. Their villages are off among the mountains, but how they manage to subsist is a mystery. Thermometer stood 94 deg. at noon, and, at 2 o'clock, at 100—the warmest day we have had. The mosquitoes were so bad, we had to build fires before the doors of our tents, towards the close of day. We retired, at night, with a perfect understanding that we desired nothing better than to leave this place in the undisturbed possession of the natives.
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Monday, 16th,—All hands up early. There were a few scattering clouds, which served to render the morning pleasant. The insects still keep nibbling, so we have to carry a brush, or tie up our faces to keep them off. We stopped, occasionally, and, setting fire to a sage bush, stood in the smoke; which was the only hint to leave the insects would take. Six mules from camp, crossed a branch of the Panack. Four miles further, we came to Fort Hall; passing, on our way, over low, boggy ground, in which we were nearly swamped. The Fort is on Lewis' Fork of the Columbia. I was somewhat disappointed in the location of this post. It is situated in a broad valley, having all the advantages of a trade from the waters of three rivers which flow near it—the Panack, a tributary of the Pont Neuf, and Lewis' Fork or Snake River, into which the Pont Neuf empties, a few miles below the Fort. Lewis' Fork runs immediately by the Fort, and is a bold, rapid river, containing nearly or quite as much water as the Illinois, hut not navigable on account of the numerous rapids. It is, however, an important branch of the great river of Oregon. The Fort is built, as are all the forts along the line, of mud on sun-dried brick. There is no farm attached to any of the forts. There is a store belonging to this one, and a trade is kept up with the Indians for their furs. There are a few Indians encamped around the Fort; but they have little to sell.— It is seldom a horse can be bought from them, and for a good one, they ask from sixty to eighty and sometimes as high as a hundred and fifty dollars. Some of their horses are very fine. They manufacture fur moccasins and a raw-hide rope they call a lariat—which they throw with a great deal of skill. The proprietors of this Fort treated us kindly. A Mormon had rented a room in the Fort, where he kept a sort of tavern, in which some of our men procured a meal of bread, butter and milk, for which they paid three bits. It was said here that all the men have left Oregon and gone to the mines. Towards evening, we crossed the Panack river—a swift and pretty streamy and three miles further crossed the Pont Neuf, which we found deep enough to run into our wagon-beds, and about one handled yards in width. We ascended the bluff, and encamped nine miles from the Fort. Distance 19 miles.
Tuesday, 17th.—Atmosphere dry. Very dusty. Traveled down the river. Nooned at a spring near the junction of the three rivers. Passed the American Falls, on Lewis' River. The descent of the cataract, to a depth of thirty feet, is attended with a stunning noise, and presents a grand and impressive scene. From the boiling basin beneath, the spray ascends like a cloud. The road along here is very bad, and, in places, broken by precipices which we were obliged to descend by means of ropes. Encamped near a rapid. The men caught some fish. Here we saw, for the first time, a very fine yellow currant, and the cane-grass, which resembles the cane. Distance, to-day, 21 miles.
Wednesday, 18th.—Well, but rather tired. The journey has been a long one, and the weather is hot and the road dusty. The most of our men walk the greater part of the way—their feet get sore—and, now and then, they get to thinking of the distance they have yet to travel and grow somewhat despondent; but it soon wears off. Could we hear some encouraging news from the Gold Region, it would cure their lameness, and all would be right, once more. But we apprehend no difficulty in getting through—for, as our loads get lighter, our men can ride the more. We expect soon to stop, a few days, and, take a good rest.— We continue our way down the river, and find it rough, rocky and hilly. Have been obliged to use the ropes, occasionally, in going up and down some of the steeps. At noon, we crossed Fall creek. Here we discovered we had left a mule at last night's encampment; and I was selected to go back and bring him. I found him, and caught up with the train before dusk. The train left Lewis' River, four miles beyond where we had nooned —ascended the bluff, and traveled five miles, to Raft River, and encamped near the forks of the Oregon road. Distance 18 miles.
Friday, 20th.—Pleasant morning. Passed up a gorge of the mountain, along the same stream, to its head spring. Road pretty good. We now begin to see signs of packing. Wagons are left along the road, without any respect to quality or cost— the best wagons only selling to those who desire to use them, for fifteen dollars apiece. Hundreds have been burnt and otherwise destroyed. Pack trains are passing us every day; but that has no influence upon us. We intend taking our wagons through, if we can. Crossed several marshy places; otherwise, the bottom is fine—with rugged and stupendous ranges of granite hills, on either side, towering up to the clouds, and assuming every possible form of the grand and wildly picturesque. In the midst of such scenery, and after passing over half a mile of very rocky road, that endangered our wagons, we encamped where there was an abundance of good grass and water. Here the rocks, jutting up in high peaks, are of a kind of marble, susceptible of a fine polish. Distance, to-day, 21 miles.
Saturday, 21st.—This morning, we enjoy the luxury of a cloudy sky and a few drops of rain. Were I at home, I would be sure, from appearance we were about to have a fine rain; but, here, it is doubtful. We continued our route between ranges of hills. I clambered to the summit of one, from which a beautiful and extensive prospect spread around. Six miles beyond that, we came to the intersection of the Salt Lake road, and met some wagons having come that way. We suppose it to be about fifty miles farther than by Fort Hall. We wish we had come that way.— The road is described as being better, and extending, forty miles, through a settlement where we might have obtained plenty of milk, butter and cheese. We have lived on dry provisions so long that we often think of our tables at home covered, at this season, with every kind of vegetables, cherries and early apples. We all need a change of diet. Ascended a ridge, along the bank of a rivulet. Very rough road, with some steep pitches, where we had to use our ropes again. Descended to a branch, one and a half miles from Goose creek. Encamped near a spring. Grass tolerably good. Fixed one of our wheels that had given way coming over the hills. Dr. McKenzie encamped near us. Distance 16 miles.
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Sunday, 22d—Pleasant morning; some clouds. We had a little conference meeting last evening— Mr. Blakeslee, Mr. J. B. Watson, Mr. Weber, myself, Mr. Eastman and Dr. McKenzie, ( the latter gentlemen is from Ohio, and seems desirous of spending his Sabbaths with us,) for the purpose of having a religious conversation with Mr. Hodge, who has applied to Mr. Blakeslee to baptize him. We all enjoyed the meeting, and became satisfied that Mr. Hodge is a hopeful convert to the truth. We had preaching at 11 A. M. on the subject of the new birth; after which the ordinance of baptism was administered to Mr. Hodge by immersion. It was a scene that drew tears from many eyes,—an occurrence that seldom happens on these plains. It was a solemn appeal to the emigrant, showing that even here, away from the advantages of churches, the heart can be reached by religious truth. Mr. Hodge has endeared himself to us by this act, and we will stand by him, sustaining him as best we can; and what a thrill of joy will it send through the hearts of his family and friends? We have seen and know enough of the man to state that he is no hypocrite in any thing he resolves upon doing. We believe in his honor, his integrity, his purity; and we can assure his family of his usefulness and gentlemanly deportment, by which he has secured for himself the kindness and respect of the company. The story should be told, and it has taken wings with the wind, informing the emigrant that even in the swift pursuit of gold, the mind can be influenced to think of another state of the heart— as gold will not save the soul.—Thus ends another Sabbath,—one that many of us will long remember.
Monday, 23d,—The morning bright and beautiful. Soon after starting, we came to Goose creek —a small tributary of Lewis' Fork of the Columbia. Its water is rather warm to be palatable— being supplied from warm springs. We passed twenty miles up this stream, along which we found several hot springs—some hot enough to scald a hand plunged in the water. The road was good. The scenery more of the romantic and pleasing, than the abrupt and grand. The bottom furnishing good grass, we followed up a branch, through a gorge of the hills. Encamped in this gorge, between precipitous hills. Distance 23 miles.
Tuesday, 24th—Morning cool. Started early, and followed up the branch between high hills, covered with a kind of cinder—evidence of this whole region having been heated intensely. Passed over to another valley, and followed down it five miles to some cold springs impregnated with sulphur—passed round the point of a hill—crossed over a sand-ridge to another valley having good grass but no water, where we encamped—six miles from the springs at which we had filled our casks. During the afternoon, we passed lat. 42° north—the line dividing Oregon from California. We have traveled, in the Territory of Oregon, 414 miles—most of the way close to its southern line. Except on Bear River, and the neigborhood of Fort Hall, the country is not at all inviting to an Illinoian, and passing over into California does not place you among olive groves and vineyards. Neither does it afford a genial atmosphere of Italian warmth. But the good is beyond this, as you will see by following me to the region of the dust. That will make the country everything desirable. Without this dust (which I hope may not prove as detrimental to our souls as this we now inhale is to our bodies,) the country, though it be an Eden, will seem a barren waste, and the adventurer will return from it sick with disappointment. Distance 25 miles.
Wednesday, 25th.—Cool morning. Cold nights and hot days seems to be the order of the weather in this region. Started at 7 a. m. Traveled down the valley. Water scarce and impregnated with salt and alkali—some pools being of strong sulphur, of course not very good to drink. The day is sultry and dusty. Passed several pools which, if they run at all, soon lose themselves in the bottom. They are perfectly clear and pure, and look inviting, but are not pleasant to the taste— some hot and some cold. Encamped, at an early hour, on the bank of a small stream of warm water, which invited Mr. Weber and myself to do up our washing. The water being of the right temperature, we got through in half of the usual time. Distance 16 miles.
Thursday, 26th.—Breakfasted before sun-rise. Soon after starting, we came to the source of the warm stream, where were a great number of boiling hot springs, smoking and throwing off clouds of vapor. We could not endure our hands in the water. It boiled and bubbled like a pot, which proved that the furnace which heated it could not be far beneath. Continued up the valley six miles. Then ascended a ridge and nooned; after which we descended a gentle declivity into another valley—passed several pools of water. Encamped. Water and grass very good. Distance, to-day, 20 miles.
Friday, 27th.—This morning we called to mind that we had been absent from home four months, and that still it would require another month to finish our journey, if good fortune continued with us. Last night, one of our best mules died, from the bite of a rattle-snake. This is our first bad luck. We passed up the valley—came to some pools of sulphur water, and others which contained quantities of alkali. Our animals drank freely, which made some, for awhile, quite sick.— Passed through a "kenyon." The ground around the springs, and in the bottom, showed strong signs of salaratus [baking soda, Ed.]. Crossed a ridge that opened into a fine large valley, that had a pleasant look after traveling among the hills so long. This valley is irrigated by numerous streams which take their rise from springs in it. Encamped. Grass and water tolerably good. Distance 20 miles.
Saturday, 28th.—Started at the usual time. All fair. Three miles from camp, we came to what we supposed to be one of the sources of Mary's River. It was four or five yards wide where we came upon it, and increased in volume as we followed it down—receiving the tribute of many springs and branches. We stopped where there was abundance of good grass, as well as small willows, which answered admirably for cooking purposes. Being on what we called the river which here is eight or ten yards wide, we concluded to remain until Monday, so as to afford our men a chance to repair and tighten up our wagons. The water is rather too warm to drink, so we fill our casks with it and let it cool. Our men are ail well at this time. Our mules have done their part so faithfully that we would like to give them a little more rest than usual; but, I think, by Monday, they will be recruited. We have but three or four mules that are not as good as when we started. Distance, to-day, only 12 miles.
We are now 1339 miles from St. Jo., and 1682 from Springfield.
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Sunday, 29th.—Morning quite frosty. Ice three-fourths of an inch thick, in our vessels. To-day has been rendered memorable by a feast of frogs. The men having, on Saturday afternoon, observed large numbers of this interesting quadruped hopping about in the vicinity of the camp, took it into their heads, to go a frogging. Accordingly, they turned out, caught a great many, tore off their hides, and, when served up, they were, unanimously, pronounced excellent—quite a delicacy in the desert. Pharaoh knew nothing about turning one of his plagues to so good an account.
Thus another week of toil is ended, and we enjoy the rest of the Sabbath. During the last week we have had but little cause to complain. Water has been abundant, which is, indeed, a luxury in this dusty country. On Sunday mornings, we perform our weekly round of shaving—which circumstance has gained for us some notoriety, as the greater part of the emigration permit their beards to grow, which makes it difficult to determine to which of the races they belong.
Monday, 30th.—Cool morning. Thermometer 26 deg. at sun-rise—noon 88 deg. There was some show of white frost, and ice was formed in our vessels. Made an early start. Men all well. Mules well rested. Our road led around the slope of a hill, along the river. Passed the confluence of Mary's with a stream, from the north, of equal size. Crossed a ridge. Encamped in the bottom on the river-bank. No. 1 Wagon, to which I belong, got some little out of repair, and prevented our going two or three miles further. Distance 22 miles.
Tuesday, 31st,—This morning was mild and pleasant. I rose with a bad head-ache which lasted all day, so that I was obliged to ride in the wagon. Passed the grave of a young man, from Finley, O., who is said to have died of consumption. Continued our course down the river.— Toward noon, we were delayed, a few hours, by the breaking of one of our wagons. Several of the men complain of costiveness—the cold nights and hot days do not agree well with them. Passed some very hot springs. Encamped, at the foot of a ridge, near the river. Distance 15 miles.— Stopped early, as, we are told, it is now eighteen miles to the next water.
Wednesday, August 1st. —Started as the first sun-rays gilded the hill-tops around. Commenced the ascent of a hill, passing through a "kenyon", and leaving the river to the left. Crossed the trail of the first emigrants three times, and saved about one-half their distance, they having been probably compelled, by high water, to take the route they did. About half way, we had the good fortune to discover three tolerably good springs, a short distance apart, from which we got a supply of water sufficient for mules and men. The road is very crooked, in consequence of its leading through the gorges of the hills. Encamped a short distance below where we came to the river. Distance 18 miles.
Thursday, 2d. —Rose very early; three o'clock a. m. being our usual time for a cook and teamster to rise, and that is early rising for men who are tired at night. This time, we had breakfast before it was fairly light. At this point, we left the river again, and climbing over a hill, passed along the windings of the hollows. Came to the river, in the afternoon, but found no grass; so we continued down the river and crossed it at a very pretty ford, water warm and gravel bottom. Encamped three mules beyond where we came to the river. Grass poor; the mules seemed to prefer the young willows. Fears are entertained that grass will be poor along this river. Distance, to-day, 22 miles.
Friday, 3d.—Moved off at 5 a. m. down the river, in a north-west course. Crossed at 10 a. m. Grass very poor. Mules still seem fond of young willow, which is abundant. Scorching sun, and a stifling amount of dust. Very thirsty and the river water too warm to quench it entirety. We turned, in the afternoon, a south-west course, down a large, broad valley, which had, early in the season, afforded excellent pasture, but was now parched and sere; yet we managed to hit upon tolerable grass for the night—using the willow for wood. The hills, along here, present the most barren and sterile appearance of any we have yet seen. Nothing, on them, seems able to survive long. They are composed of volcanic rocks rising in a solid facade on either side of the valley. We are cautioned to beware of Indians along this route; but none, as yet, have made their appearance to molest us. Some few clouds are floating near the horizon; but rain cannot be expected, at this season of the year, in this climate. The men here went into the river to wash, and B. D. Reeves came near being drowned, but he was relieved soon and brought to consciousness by rubbing. This may operate as a caution to those who cannot swim well. After the alarm had subsided, everything moved on as before—the incident, as no harm was done, served to give an impulse to the conversation which all enjoyed. Distance 20 miles.
Saturday, 4th.—Our course still lay down the river, about sixteen miles, to the point of a mountain, around which we turned a north-westerly direction—leaving the river to make a great bend to the left. Had no grass or water for eight miles. Our fears were excited by seeing most of the vegetation dried up; but we succeeded in finding a grassy spot for our encampment. The sage predominates in this bottom and is of every stinted form and appearance. Two other valleys diverge into this—one coming in from the south-east, the other from the north. Encamped at 1 p. m. Distance 18 miles.
We are now on the north bank of Mary's River (or Humboldt's,) 1454 miles from St. Jo.—1797 from Springfield.
------------------------------ August 1849 ------------------------------
Sunday, 5th.—The good Sabbath has come once more and another week of toil is ended. This day we enjoy very much. Contrary to expectation, we found a fine pasture in the bend of the river— discovered as it were by accident. Since we have started, we have never lacked good grazing, for our mules, on Sunday—enabling us to observe, scrupulously, that provision of our Constitution which has set this apart as a rest day.
This day is one to be remembered from the appearance among us of Cook Matheny, Reuben McDaniel and his nephew, each on a mule and leading one packed with a few necessaries. It gladdened our hearts to see them; but we were surprised they should be traveling in that mode and alone. There was a general burst of admiration for their daring. They acceded to our invitation to sojourn with us during the day, and their perils and troubles were related. Their adventures were of the kind encountered by most persons who get separated, voluntarily or otherwise, from their mess-mates. We learned from them that Gormley is alone, packing, and E. Cook, Johnson McDaniel the hatter, and J. Condell are together with a wagon. Several of our Springfield folks have got scared and taken the shoot to Oregon. What a history of a great movement, by our American people, will be written when, upon the record of the next two years, shall be revealed the signet, and all for? gold? For your gratification, I will collect some of the incidents that have befallen others, when I can command the leisure to do so, and the heat has somewhat abated so everything does not fizz when it is touched.
Monday, 6th.—All bright. We started early, and moved down the river until noon, which was very warm, thermometer standing at 98 deg. After which, we crossed a small hill, upon which we saw the grave of E. A. Bryson, aged 34, of Louisville, Ky., one of Bryant's company, who died July 15th, 1849. Traveled a north-west course. Encamped on the river. I am suffering from a bad cold. Distance 24 miles.
Tuesday, 7th.—This morning our road led to the north; then around a bend of the river, inclining southward, forming a half circle. In the afternoon, we crossed a sand-ridge, leaving the river and the old trail which is but little traveled this season. This road across the ridge was made by the advance portion of the emigration to avoid crossing the river which I presume was high. Encamped on the river. Distance 21 miles.
Wednesday, 8th.—Breakfasted before daylight. Left the encampment at sun-rise. Continued near the river during the forenoon. The afternoon, our road run south-westerly. There are indications of the grass having been good during the early part of the season, but it is now all withered. Passed a grave sacred to the memory of A. C. Baldwin. Size of the willow is diminishing. It is not here more than an inch in diameter, yet we depend upon it, principally, for fuel. The river has not increased in volume, perceptibly, but has a muddier tinge and moves more sluggishly. The bottom is full of sloughs in which the bulrush is apparently the sole tenant. Distance 22 miles.
Thursday, 9th.—Took up our line of march early. Wm. Broadwell bought a horse, saddle and bridle for $45. We came on a sand-bluff, which wearied our mules very much. We crossed the river, leaving this abominable sand for a bottom road. Saw several wagons that had been left by the owners on the road-side after having packed what they most desired. Small parties of packers are coming up with us constantly, all of them wanting some article of provision. Continued on the same side of the river, the road being good.— Encamped on the bottom. Grass poor and only growing among the willows. Distance, to-day, 15 miles.
Friday, 10th.—All well. Continued on the same side of the river for two or three miles, and then crossed to the right bank. The fording was deep, Here we found a greet quantity of a very fine, red berry, resembling the currant. Its name we could not learn. Immediately before us rose a lofty mountain, with a valley opening to the southwest and another to the south-east. Mr. Shepherd the Daguerrean Artist, came up with us on packs. His company went ahead and he remained with us until noon the next day. In four miles, we came to the bluff up which the road went. A note was left here, for us, by Dr. McKenzie, of Cincinnati, informing us of the sand road ahead and there being neither grass nor water for fifteen miles, and but little grass for seventy-two miles. We called a counsel at 10 a. m. to decide upon the policy of commencing this journey to-day. Determined to wait, let our mules rest, and start to-night at the rising of the moon. Made 6 miles to-day.
Saturday, 11th. —In compliance with our resolution of yesterday, we started a little before 1 o'clock this morning. Ascended the bluff, which was very hard pulling; after which we found some sand but the road generally proved better than we had expected. Got across the fifteen miles by 7 a. m. Took breakfast and grazed our mules— resting three hours. Then followed the river, which makes a considerable bend, turning first to the north and then inclining to the south. The bottom gradually enlarges. The first or low bottom, along which the road runs, is walled in by a bench or range of sand—the whirlwinds raising columns of dust in every direction, the mountains entirely bare of vegetation—the only thing to attract the attention being the smoke that rises from the camp or the signal fires of the Digger Indians. These Indians manage to keep at a respectful distance. Encamped on the river-bank—making 25 miles, to-day.
Near this point, is the fork of the Oregon road which was explored by Mr. Applegate, who conducted his emigration successfully along it to Oregon—making the head of the Willamette Valley in 1845. As l am writing this, I hear little else discussed around me but the merits and demerits of this new route. It leads into Oregon at or near the Willamette Valley, avoiding the Cascade Mts. near to Lewis' Fork of the Columbia—crossing the Sierra Nevada at a very favorable pass. Bryant speaks, in his book, of having had a very unexpected though pleasant and cordial meeting on this river, with the Messrs. Applegates, who had been three months exploring this route. A portion of the emigration, this season, propose going this way, on account of there being more water and grass along it than on the usual route to Sutter's Fort, and not increasing the distance to that point—a point in which we all feel a deep interest because of its furnishing us with provisions for the winter. This cut-off, as it is called, will take us from this, (nearly sixty miles from the "sink" of the river) almost due west to the head waters of Feather River, in the vicinity of the Gold Region (that was,) or to the head waters of the Sacramento which are not far from Feather River. It will not require more than seven or eight days to accomplish the journey. The Oregon route will be left, a few days after taking it, and a trail taken to the left which was traveled, last season, with thirteen wagons, by a man named Clareson, who has since settled on Feather River, and has given Messrs. McGee and Myers, two mountain traders, a description of the road, which induced them to take it, this morning, with eleven teams. Others are following them during the day. We are laying over and will take a vote, on Monday, as to whether we will take it or not. We have discouraging news about the grass on the old route; and our mules, to take us through, must have grass.— The cut-off is supposed to have plenty, as it has not been traveled this season. It also places us in what was last year the Gold Region, and, we presume that the operators still there will have facilities for procuring provisions.
We are on the west bank of Mary's River, 1567 miles from St. Jo.—1910 miles from Springfield.
------------------------------ August 1849 ------------------------------
Sunday, 12th.—Another Sabbath has smiled upon us, and, under the protection of Providence, we have reached this point of our journey in health and peace, with nothing to alarm or make us afraid that in three weeks, or less, we shall not be in the settlement of Sutter's Fort.
Monday, 13th.—This morning a council was called and a vote taken upon what course we should take, which resulted in our selecting the new route—Ayes 14, Nays 6. Those opposing were R. Hodge, E. T. Cabanis, B. F. Taylor, B. A. Watson, E. Fuller and T. Bilison. The remaining companies all following in our wake; but none of them agreeing unanimously to do so. In twelve miles, we came to a feeble spring and some grass. We dug holes and got nearly enough water for our mules. To this spring, we came nearly due west. Here we stayed three hours. At half past three, we started, and ascended and descended a mountain by gentle slopes. Passed through a bottom and up a gentle acclivity. Then descended into a "kenyon" and the road, which heretofore had been good, became rocky. The walls on either side were high, and it was night. Mr. J. B. Watson, and others, went forward in search of water and grass, until half past 10 o'clock at night, when, having met with no success, we encamped, tied our tired mules to the wagons, halted two hours for the moon to rise; and then, determined to find grass and water, all hands were called up at near one o'clock. We hitched up and were off in half an hour. Distance 28 miles.
Tuesday, 14th.—"O, Yes— all hands get up!" was heard as the moon rose above the hills surrounding our camp. All was stir, and in a little while, we were wheeled into the line of match. Our poor mules were hungry and thirsty, and remaining would not supply their wants. Our road soon took a north-westerly direction and continued so nearly all day. Sterility and volcanic desolation everywhere prevailed. The day was fine, but the warmth unfavorable to our thirsty mules. For fourteen miles, we traveled over the bed of a lake which is now dry. In the spring-time, it had been covered water. To our right, rose the black rocky point of a mountain, in the vicinity of which were several old craters. As we progressed, our mules began to show signs of fatigue. Passed several horses and cattle which had given out, and wagons that had been left in the desert while the owners went abroad, with the teams, in quest of water. At 2 p. m., when men and mules were almost exhausted, we found some water that was warm and hardly drinkable; and, some distance below, we discovered one of the largest and most remarkable boiling springs we had seen. Grass plenty. Traveled 13 hours. Distance 24 miles.
During the last two days, we have come fifty-two miles, and our teams are now more weary than they have been at any previous time. This is a hard place for stock to cross unless they be strong and in good order.
Wednesday, 15th.—Our mules had faired well, but we were obliged to move cautiously. The water being warm did not quench thirst as well as if it had been cold; and, here, all the water, both warm and cold, is strongly impregnated with salt, which renders it unpalatable. The men suffer from thirst. Nearly everything we eat or drink has salt in it, and nearly everything is hot. We put some boiling water into buckets at night, which cooled by morning so we could drink it, but it did not quench our thirst. The emigrants began to crowd in upon us with tired teams—many having come ahead, who returned to their trains with canteens filled with water. Mules and oxen were brought to drink, and taken back to the wagons at night. In justice to those who were behind us, we determined to leave this place and go to some springs that were a few miles ahead. In about three miles, we came to other springs so hot that some oxen, in their eagerness for water, rushed in and were badly scalded. Here there was grass, and some who were with us encamped.— Our company passed on three miles further and came to some water that was not so hot where there was fine grass. Close to our encampment, is a boiling spring, in which we boiled a large piece of bacon finely. For supper, we had peaches, rice, bacon and a pot of tea. Cut grass to take with us, determined our mules should not suffer again. We learn that we have to cross another desert of twenty miles, to-morrow. Distance, to-day, 6 miles.
Thursday, 16th.—Everything ready—grass for our mules and casks filled with water. All rose at one o'clock and moved off at half past two to cross what is called the Salt Plain. We found the road to be very sandy in spots; sage was abundant and the ground covered with an incrustation of salt. Made a halt at seven; breakfasted and gave our mules grass. We then had a very heavy sandy road for five miles, when we descended a bank into a bottom, at the head of which, after traveling a north-westerly course, we came to fine grass and water in great abundance. We next turned the point of a mountain, inclining our course westerly, the prospect of having food for the mules became encouraging. After crossing a desert of seventy-five miles, our mules seemed brisk and lively. We stopped to give them water and allow them to feed several times during the day. There are only fourteen teams ahead of us, on this new route, and they serve to break the road and make it plain. Distance 23 miles.
Friday, 17th.— Two horses were reported to have been shot, last night. One of them was killed by a wound in the neck, caused by an arrow with a flint point. Missed one of our mules, this morning, and left a note requesting those behind to bring him up, if found. We started from camp with our road in full view, winding up a gentle acclivity, in a westerly direction. Near the summit, we came to an abrupt pitch where we had to use our big ropes to let down the wagons. This introduced us into a "kenyon" that opened into a pretty valley. After which, our road turned to the right and entered a very narrow defile, with walls rising, on either side, to the height of several hundred feet. Here we found grass and water. This place of gloom and shadows is a favorite resort of the Indians. A cavern yawned in the bold facade of high-piled rocks; and, from the indications, the savages had made it an asylum from the bleak winds and storms of winter. We passed beyond, about a mile, and encamped in a fine "kenyon," where there was excellent water and a rich variety of clover. We have prepared ourselves against the Indians by having our guns put in order and loaded. There is no place, since we have been among the mountains, where we have had so much occasion to be in dread of an attack. Stopped at 2 p. m. Distance, to-day, 12 miles.
Saturday, 18th.—Morning is quite cool—ice made—overcoats in use. During the night, the encampment was roused from slumber by the report of a gun, which was understood to be the signal for others to give the alarm. The denouement was rather laughable. It turned out that Mr. J. B. Weber being on the watch, and a horse having passed the line without being seen by him, he heard the noise, hailed three times, and the horse not answering, he fired but missed. The fellows laughed and said that he fired so as to hit if it were an Indian and miss if it were a horse. So it passed off as a good joke, and, the remainder of the night, our rest was uninterrupted.
Our road led, this morning, through a narrow and exceedingly rocky defile. Here we broke an axle-tree, but, having a few on hand, our mechanics soon put in another. We next came to a beautiful meadow of fine grass and well watered. It was, indeed, a cheering sight. Here the hills began to assume a gentler form, and we could, once more, see daylight, which was pleasant after being shut up so long in dark defiles and mountain gorges piled with frowning rocks, There are striking features in the scenery of this country to be noted by every traveler. The last "kenyon" was so narrow as scarcely to admit a wagon; and this the only pass through these interminable hills towering everywhere far above us. To our surprise, in the midst of these rugged places, we found good grass and fountains of cold, sparkling water. A knowledge of this, to those who are behind us, would be priceless—such is the anxiety felt about it. The road, this evening, is smooth. Encamped at 4 p. m., in a fine patch of grass, surrounding an excellent spring. Distance 15 miles.
------------------------------ August 1849 ------------------------------
Sunday, 19th.—Once more, we look back upon another week of our journey ended—a week that will long be remembered by our company. For a time, our lives and the lives of our poor animals hung suspended in doubt. I hope, from this forward, we shall not lack grass or water. Our men are generally well, and, in their rustic teamster's garb, it would be difficult for their old friends to recognize some of them.
During the last week, we made 103 miles. We are now in High Rock "Kenyon," on Applegate's route to Oregon—1675 miles from St. Jo., and 2018 from home.
Such has been our experience on the new route we have taken—a route of which we had but little knowledge, but which was preferred because a majority of us were convinced this would lead us to the Gold Region on the Sacramento or Feather River sooner than the route up Salmon Trout River, and across the Sierra Nevada at what is usually called the Bear River Pass, and thence down to Sutter's Fort. The tide of emigration will, doubtless, flow in that channel; but the ultimate result alone can determine which is the better route.— We have had no reason to induce us to believe that we have come the wrong way. We had arrived near enough to the sink of Mary's River and the fearful dangers of crossing the widely extended desert beyond, to warn us from that way if we could get grass and water on another route. In taking this course, we followed the lead of an experienced mountaineer, who by risking his own property gave us the best assurance that plenty could be found after two day's travel. The road had been gone over by Oregon emigrants, but the grass had not been touched this season.
We have traveled through the wildest region the imagination can depict. Volcanic desolation covers everything; and, but for the green little meadows appearing in the midst of wildness and sterility, one might think a civilized being had never trodden these deserts. Solitude claims this region as its dominion; and rarely is it interrupted save by the degraded, half-starved Digger Indian, whose characteristic is stealth, and who would scorn to possess himself of anything save by theft. Never before have I been in a region so wild and drear and desolate, with not a tree to break the monotony of the view. We are now approaching the mountains, and, by the middle of next week, we hope to stand on the summit of the Great Sierra—from which we shall have a first glimpse of the Promised Land, whose tall trees, pure water, green valleys, and the consummation of our "golden hopes" will inspire our tired bodies and spirits with the vigor of new life. Our mules, too, will then have rest and food to recruit them after five long months of constant toil. You can hardly imagine with what interest we watch over them. When one shows any symptoms of fatigue, or sickness, the attention of the whole company is directed to his recovery. They have been our dependence to bring us through, and every mule has endeared himself to us until we feel towards them as friends.
During the last week, I have thought much of Springfield. As
"Distance lends enchantment to the view,"
so absence brings to mind, more vividly, the endearments of home. Few men would wander from family and friends, if they did but take a philosophic view of things. The partner in our joys and sorrows, the children of our love—the affection of the one, the innocence of the others, would keep us all at home, if we would but take things as they are and accommodate ourselves to the circumstances of our condition. But, as the world is, there is a necessity for gold. There are a thousand and one ways in which money may be used, and society compels us all to have it. Very many have sacrificed every ennobling quality upon the altar of Mammon. There are many men, on these plains, who have adopted a coarseness of manners and language, and who violate the common courtesies of life with an impunity that would indicate their birth and education to have been in a less favored land than the United States. The gold obtained is but a small portion of the history of such an expedition. There is much to be learned of the manner in which the characters of some men are developed by peculiar circumstances, and all may learn lessons of wisdom by the study of themselves.
Monday, 20th.—All reported well. Soon after starting out, we passed through a very rough, narrow "kenyon." Doran and Hodge killed a fine antelope, which was welcome enough, for we were sadly in want of fresh meat. Soon after, Eastman and Moffat killed another, and others brought in some sage hens. After passing over a hill we saw, for the first time, proudly glittering afar, the snowy peaks of the Nevada. We now entered a valley whose principal vegetation is the sage—a shrub of whose sight we have grown weary; but, without it, in all probability, this vast extent of country could never be crossed. It has been our only fuel for hundreds of miles. At the end, a lake of salt water, we came upon very unexpectedly, as none of our guide-books mention it. We entered a mountain pass, and did not find a suitable place to encamp until after 8 p. m. The distance across the sage desert was sixteen miles, without water. We suffered some, in consequence of not having taken in a supply. Distance, to-day, 24 miles.
Tuesday, 21st.—Morning cool. Breakfasted on antelope steak. Continued up the pass until, once more, the Sierra Nevada burst upon our view.— Descended into a narrow grassy valley. The surrounding hills were decked with a few scattering cedars. Crossed a few rocky hills, and came to a hot spring where, as the grass was good, we encamped for the night. It is invariably the case, that the warmth of these springs cause them to be surrounded with luxuriant vegetation. We are in a large valley at the foot of a great mountain whose brow is veiled in clouds. Distance 14 miles.
Wednesday, 22d.—Our course is nearly north, this morning. Passed a smoking hot spring, from which issues a pretty stream. Crossed the bed of a lake, from which we had a good road to the base of the mountain—up which we traveled during the afternoon, passing some majestic pines and streams of pure, cold water. We nooned under a tree and enjoyed the shade. The first part of the mountain the ascent was moderate; but, the earth being mellow, it was hard pulling. Half a mile brought us to a pine grove, with grass and water in a gorge. Here the men built a big wood fire, which did up things brown. At this spot, we concluded to halt, and take the steepest of the ascent, in the morning, when all were well rested. On this mountain, we found the first large timber we have seen for many weary miles. It was refreshing to the vision to see the tall shafts rising proudly into the air, crowned with thick foliage which flung broad, grateful shadows along the steep mountain-side. Distance 17 miles.
------------------------------ August 1849 ------------------------------
Thursday, 23d.—Cloudy and every sign of rain. Course west. At 7 a. m., we doubled teams and commenced the ascent. A mile and a half from camp, we reached the summit; but the atmosphere was so smoky as to completely obstruct the grand view we had anticipated. By the time we had brought up arriere, the mules were much fatigued. When we got beyond the summit, the smoke cleared away and revealed the shaggy spurs covered with lofty pine and cedar, and a fertile bottom spreading beneath. An involuntary shout went up that made the welkin ring. We unanimously agreed that Hannibal and Napoleon—the regal conquerors of other times who scaled the Alps— might have boasted of such an achievement as that of scaling these American Alps. The descent was easy; and, at half past one, we encamped.— The hunters broke for tall timber and spent the evening in an unsuccessful search for game. We are all delighted with this side of the mountain. The air is softer, the climate milder, the vegetation of a deeper, brighter green. Distance 3 miles.
Friday; 24th.—Course north-west. Sprinkle of rain, last night. Air, this morning, pleasant. Traveled five miles down the valley. Crossed some low rocky hills, and again entered the forest, and descended a hill Io Goose Lake. Encamped on a branch which pours its waters into the lake. The Oregon trail leaves this at the south end of the lake. Distance 18 miles.
Saturday, 25th—Morning cool and autumnal.— Piercing east wind made it necessary to put on overcoats. Rose at dawn, and traveled down the valley, along the base of the mountain from which flows many pretty rivulets of the purest crystal. These little streams all take a southerly course, and we suppose them to be head springs of the Sacramento. At the lower end of the valley, we crossed over some low, rocky hills. Nooned on the bank of a stream. Then crossed over some low hills and descended into a narrow valley with a brook into which the rivulets empty. This evening, we had some rough road. Timber rather scarce. Encamped in a bottom where there was good water. Distance 21 miles.
We are now 1773 miles from St. Jo., and 2116 from Springfield—on the western side of the Great Sierra Nevada.
Sunday, 26th.—This is the 22d Sabbath we have been from home. On the morrow, at 2 p. m. we will have been five months from home. Nor do we know how far we have yet to travel. We are wending our way south, and trust we shall arrive during the coming week to where we can hear something about gold. The distance has been greater than we supposed—consequently, it has taken longer to perform the journey; but, we are told, we shall get to the "diggins" early enough as it has been very sickly at the mines during the present season. We have met, on this route, some men with teams, in the employ of government, who have kindly given us considerable information.— Some of them knew Hamilton Campbell /*/ and said he was down among the mines and had not yet left for home. These men commended our having come this route, and were pushing on to bring the Oregon troops this way. This encouraged us.— They thought there was no doubt of our succeeding in our enterprise, if we would manage properly and save what we got. Mr. Weber and myself have repaired to the shade to enjoy the quiet and write our letters; but I have been attacked with a severe head-ache which prevents my saying more.
/*/ Hamilton Campbell is brother-in-law to Mr. Biddle, and long a resident of Oregon.
Monday, 27th.—Morning quite cold. Rose before day-break—got our breakfast and were on the line of march by sun-rise. I was still afflicted with a head-ache, which became so violent that I was obliged to ride in the wagon, and that did not afford me much relief, for the road was very rough. Crossed some points of hills, continuing our way down the stream. Distance 21 miles.
Tuesday 28th.—Very foggy morning—were unable to get anything like a satisfactory view of surrounding things. Our little brook is enlarging and now yields us some fine fish. Cooks were up by half past three, and we had an early start. Went over some very stony road. Saw several well constructed fish-dams, which put the men in a great way about fishing. The Indians have dug a number of deep pits near their watering places to entrap the game. Crossed the river eight times to-day. My head is better, but the excessive pain of yesterday has made me quite stupid. Distance 15 miles.
Wednesday, 29th.—Ice in the vessels, this morning. Something different this from the climate of Illinois. The high altitude at which we have traveled has made it necessary for us to wear overcoats, at night, during summer, and sleep under blankets. A dog that we brought from Naples, Illinois, was shot, last night, by the guard, in mistake for a wolf. The accident occasioned a general regret, for he was a good dog and we had hauled him a great deal in our wagons, to get him through to guard the camp. Our road during the forenoon was rough. Half past ten, we came to the much-desired Oregon road—the main trail leading from the head of the Willamette Valley to the Lower Valley of the Sacramento. Nooned two miles beyond, and caught a fine mess of fish. During the afternoon, we had a smooth road.— Encamped at the head of what Fremont calls the Round Valley. From this point, we have a view of Mt. Shasta and the tallest of the Sisters, both covered with snow. Mt. Shasta is 14000 feet high and is the highest peak on the Pacific coast. The Sisters are also high, and derive their names from standing near each other and, in a line, one above the other. The atmosphere is so filled with smoke that we can see but little that surrounds us. Distance 15 miles. Thursday, 30th—This morning, fire felt comfortable. All well. Traveled down the valley, following the bend of the river. This valley seems to be very fertile and only wanting rain to develop its richness. Nooned 16 miles from our last encampment and near the lower end of the valley, in view of a steep acclivity, descending which we observed some packers who proved to be, as we had suspected, citizens of Oregon direct from the "diggins". They gave us a great deal of information about the gold, the price of provisions, etc., and showed us some large lumps of gold. They assured us we could make $30 per day, but gave us to understand that we were further from the Gold Region than we had supposed. Most of them knew Campbell—said he had been down in the mines, but was taken sick and had gone home by water about the time they were starting for home. They said it was twelve miles to the next water, so we concluded to wait until to-morrow. Distance 16 miles.
------------------------------ August 1849 ------------------------------
Friday, 31st.—Round Valley is seventeen miles long from north to south. In view of the road ahead being rocky, all the men of our company we could spare, with men from other companies which had encamped with us, went ahead to clear some of the worst stones from the road. The road led from the river across a great many hills. At 4 p. m. we came to a stream of refreshing water—the first we had since morning. Went about a mile farther and encamped where there was an abundance of good grass and water. About 35 wagons were encamped here for the night.
To-day, a species of the oak has made its appearance among the pine, for the first time. We seem now to be fairly among the mountains, where it is more rocky than any place we have yet seen. Distance only 10 miles.
Saturday, September 1st.—Rose before daylight. Started as the sun was rising, and began to ascend a mountain, some of our force having gone before to clear away obstructions. Some fine, scattering cedars were observed on the surrounding hill-sides. Atmosphere very smoky. Nooned in a narrow bottom, which afforded us but a scanty supply of grass for our mules. We next crossed a steep hill; and after passing a spring our road entered a forest of large pines mixed with spruce, cedar and fir. This was a kind of timber I had not been accustomed to see, and seeing it in its loftiest pride of growth excited my wonder.— Some of these trees measure six and eight feet in diameter. The bark being covered with a long yellow moss, gave to it a very beautiful appearance. Just at dusk, we encamped in a small bottom, with but little grass and no water, and went to bed supperless and weary. Distance 20 miles.
Sunday, 2d.—To-day, for the first time since we left home, we have been compelled to travel on the Sabbath. We started early in search of grass and water. Traveled over some exceedingly bad road in descending the mountain where we had passed the night. In five miles we came to a large bottom, where there was an abundance of good grass and pure, cold water. Cheered and animated by this good luck, we encamped for the day.
We are now 1870 miles from St. Jo. and 2213 from Springfield.
This Sabbath finds us in a place that I cannot better designate than by the name of the Camp among the Mountains. We are surrounded by mountains that seem to defy our escape. We have been struggling, for days, past, to escape from their rocky sides and summits without success, and now we are in the midst of them. Since we crossed the Sierra Nevada, the road is more rocky, and our wagons have been more endangered and injured than in all our previous progress. Our way has been impeded, and seemed to increase as we continued to advance. We have yet to travel eight or ten days before we arrive at the settlements. Yet we do not feel we have anything to regret in having selected this route; every body we meet confirms the wisdom of our choice.
Monday, 3d—All reported well. This morning was the coldest since we left home, decidedly. Thermometer stood at 22 at sun-rise. Over-coats all on, and the cooks were crowded away from the fire by the men standing around. Started early. Road rough. Atmosphere smoky. Traveled thirteen miles before we came to water. Nooned on the borders of a small lake, on whose banks flourished a new species of pine. This afternoon, we had a very rough road, but were obliged to travel fifteen miles and, to our disappointment, found little grass and no water. After a scant supper, we retired, intending to rise early and go in quest of grass and water. These long drives over bad roads with scant allowance for our mules, operates very hard upon them, but they are capable of great endurance. Distance 28 miles.
Tuesday, 4th.—Rose, breakfasted and were on our way before sun-rise. In five miles, we came to an excellent spring gushing from the hill-side, which forms, of itself, a considerable stream below, fretting itself into a fury and then rushing with a loud noise along its rocky bed. There being some grass here we concluded to stop for dinner. During the afternoon, we passed through the finest forest of pine, cedar and fir I ever beheld.— Many of the trees are one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet in height. We descended a long hill and came to a fine, large, grassy bottom well watered. This is six miles from where we nooned, and, finding everything favorable, we encamped at 3 p. m. Distance 12 miles.
Wednesday, 5th.—Fine morning. Caught a great number of small fish, last evening, which made us a capital breakfast. Followed the road down the bottom and beneath the shadow of the hills, upon whose sides grew lofty trees from among whose roots spouted many cooling springs. Came suddenly upon a precipice, down which we were obliged to lower our wagons with ropes. This introduced us to another valley; and, after fording a creek we came to the head of Feather River —a beautiful stream of the purest, clearest water I ever saw. The river is fed by large springs, and where we crossed, it was fifty yards wide and so deep that it came near running into our wagon beds. We crossed the bottom, and nooned at the foot of a ridge. During the afternoon, we scaled the ridge. Seven miles brought us to a tributary of Feather River, up which we traveled two miles and encamped in a small bottom of fine grass. The scenery here is picturesque and beautiful indeed. There is a wild loveliness in the view, environed as we are by snowy peaks, that I never saw exceeded. Game appeared to be abundant. Our hunters went out; but it was too near nightfall for them to be successful. Distance, to-day, 18 miles.
Thursday, 6th.—Had an early start. Doran killed a deer, which was a treat, for we all wanted a taste of fresh meat. Grisly bears are numerous about here, and all hands desire to have a chance at one, but they are too shy for that. Their footprints are, however, plenty along the road. We traveled up this branch until we arrived at a point that divided the waters, and immediately we were traveling down a stream that flowed directly the other way, bearing the tribute of its waters to Deer creek. Our road next led us round the point of a high mountain, changing our course from nearly north to due west. Road rocky. In about eight miles, we came to where a stream flowed in from the north-east, which we learned to be Deer creek, forming by its junction with the one down which we had come, a fine, large bottom, furnishing an abundance of nutritious grass. Here we nooned, and found a large company of troops encamped—being an exploring expedition commanded by Capt. Warner, sent out to the Sierra Nevada to find a practicable route from the Sacramento to some pass in the Nevada Range. They had, for pilot, Peter Lawson, who claims to have brought the first wagons through this route. It savors rather of a wild speculation to talk of rail road through this part of the world; but they may do it. Uncle Sam can accomplish much.— The officers we found to be gentlemen, and they gave us much useful information. They had also shown their liberality and sympathy in furnishing provisions to many that were in distress. An expedition fitted out by the government with no other object, would have redounded more to her honor and credit, than all other exploring expeditions. Here I sold my little pony for $100, and you would say that he was well sold; but the little fellow had grown and got fat, notwithstanding he had had some man on his back all the way out.—From this point, we came over a very hilly and rocky road. At our noon encampment we cut grass for our mules for one day,—as we had been told by Mr. Lawson that we were now entering upon the most difficult and scarcest part of our route. We reached a spring, but found very little grass. Encamped. Distance 18 miles.
------------------------------ September 1849 ------------------------------
Friday, 7th.—We rose early, and had our breakfast over by the time it was light. Our road this morning was any thing but good, very hilly and much rock; about five miles to a spring, but no grass. Here we filled our cask, and then proceeded on. The timber continues to be very large. To-day we discovered a very fine kind of raspberry, which grew on low bushes.— The fruit was just ripe, and we ate abundantly.— Our road lead us to the verge of a very deep "kenyon"—the deepest and wildest we have seen—We nooned in the timber. The cones of the pine were very large, some measuring from 15 to 18 inches in length. In the afternoon we traveled on this ridge, which narrowed in places to near the width of our wagon track;—the breaks in the ridge made steep hills to pull up and descend.— Between seven and eight miles from our place of nooning, we left the large timber and came to a barren ridge, with but a few trees to interrupt the desolate appearance of every thing around. This is strictly, in the language of the country, a "thrown up country"—and presents nothing but sterility and wildness,—a fit haunt for the grisly bear and mountain goat. We had not got more than a mile into this region before we upset one of our wagons, which prevented us from reaching the place we designed for our encampment, called "Deep Hollow." We encamped in the brush until morning. Giving our mules the last of the grass we cut on Deer Creek, tying them up all night, and without water; we now felt that our troubles had come. Our road increased in roughness. Our wagons were dry and we had no water to put on them. Our mules were, of necessity, growing weaker from the scantiness of their allowance. The men were wearied, being obliged to hold on to the wagons with ropes to keep them from upsetting and jolting to pieces. This of all others is the place to try men. But, let to-morrow tell its tale. Night when we encamped. Distance 19 miles.
Saturday, 8th.—Foggy morning. Rose early, and, before we breakfasted, the upset wagon was righted, and we started for the deep hollow where we expected to find water for our thirsty mules. In a mile and a half, we got to the top of the hill. The descent was very steep, but we reached the bottom in safety; and had to take our mules more than a mile for water. Here there was no grass. Breakfasted and hitched up, having to put fifteen mules to a wagon to pull it out of this bottom.— The ascent occupied nearly three hours, and was the hardest pull we have had anywhere since we left home. We all arrived at the top safe. Half a mile further, we found a bunch of dry grass, with which we fed the mules. From that, we came three miles over a road that exceeds any description that can be given of a rough road—therefore I must leave it to your imagination. We succeeded in getting over it without any material damage and encamped on the ridge, with no more room than is sufficient for our wagons to stand upon.— We found water, a mile to the left, in a deep gorge. The labor is great for the mules to get at it, or the men to bring it to camp. The grass market is decidedly inadequate to the demand. With all our toil and perplexity we only succeeded in making five miles to-day.
Sunday, 9th.—Pleasant morning this; and, if we could have been where we would have had what was necessary for us, we could have enjoyed the day even amidst the desolation around. But our mules were too much in want of grass for us to stay much as our men needed rest. It would have been our choice to have remained, but necessity compelled us to go on the doubtful quest of a better place. Such was the difficulty of obtaining water, at the encampment, that we did without our coffee at breakfast. Reluctantly, we started on our way, and had not proceeded far until one of the wheels of No. 1 wagon showed signs of giving away and we had to stop and fix it. Here we came to another body of troops under command of Col. Carey. They had stopped here to leave their wagons, intending to pack through. Not far from this, another wheel of No. 1 had to be repaired before going any further—the rest of the train being all in advance, except Mr. Walter's wagon, which had also broken down. The team was taken to camp, three miles ahead, and the wagon left in my charge. Mr. Weber came back very timely to my relief with some water. After this, Mr. Broadwell came with more water, and remained with the wagons—Mr. Weber, and myself, going to the camp for supper; after which we returned to B. with something to eat, and remained with him all night.
The encampment is in a hollow, within one mile of grass and water. This has been, with us, a day of troubles. On to-morrow, we hope to get through and make our escape from these everlasting hills and rocks. Distance 9 miles.
We are now 1970 miles from St. Jo.—2313 m. from Springfield.
Monday, Sept. 10. At 8 A. M. after some repairs of our wagons, we proceeded onward. Weather warm. At 10 1-2 we entered the great and beautiful valley of the Sacramento. We stopped a moment and unfurled the Star Spangled Banner from wagon No. 1. At 12 we nooned at Deer Creek, where there was plenty of grass. Afternoon proceeded and at 3 p. m. halted within a mile of Mr. Lawson's settlement. This is the first settlement we have seen in California. He is a German—speaks English well—and is rapidly accumulating a fortune here. His stock are worth $60,000.
We have some gentlemen from the mines in our camp. They speak encouragingly of the prospects for obtaining gold. We are now sixty miles from the mines.
Wm. B. Ide lives 25 miles from here. He is well known as a successful miner and is said to be worth $100,000. To-day we saw Indians. Mercury 61 at sun rise—92 at noon—70 at sun set.
Tuesday, 11th.—Left camp at 8 o clock, and moved to the mouth of Deer Creek—a beautiful stream—a mile below the residence of Mr. Lawson. We find excellent wild grapes here. The country around is thickly timbered with heavy oaks of low growth. We exchanged a poor mule for a fat beef, on which we dined,—after which the company which was formed on the Nebraska, by unanimous vote was dissolved—the object for remaining together no longer existing; previous to which a vote of thanks was tendered to Mr. J. B. Watson for the able and impartial manner in which he had discharged the duties of Superintendent during the journey. Our company subsequently decided to locate at Redding's diggins, near the Sacramento; and that two wagons be despatched for Sacramento City—under the direction of Messrs. Biddle, Smith and Sattley.
The Indians here are friendly—wash our clothes, bring us grapes, and execute other jobs—and are delighted with the old clothes we give them for their services.
Thursday morning, 4 o'clock, Sept. 13th.— Messrs. Biddle and his company leave this morning for Sacramento City, to purchase provisions.
A few general remarks will now close this journal.
After traveling between five and six months, and passing over twenty two hundred and eighty nine miles, according to the time kept by our own company, which is one hundred miles shorter than some other companies make it, we reached this point in perfect health and fine spirits; having every reason to believe that our anticipations on leaving Springfield will be fully realised. No one of our company has been dangerously ill since leaving home, except Benjamin Taylor, who was soon restored to health and strength. The only loss we have sustained on the route is one mule, and that, we suppose, died from the bite of a rattle-snake. The kind treatment we have received from emigrants all along the road, prove that our company have acquired the respect and esteem of all that knew us; and we feel certain that no train has been more successful in getting through than ours. We would rejoice if we were certain that all would get through as safely as ourselves.
------------------------------- September 1849 ------------------------------
BIDDLE'S CALIFORNIA JOURNAL.
[Received by the last arrival from San Francisco.]
Monday, September 10th, 1849.—If you have read the date corresponding with this, which I enclosed in another envelope, you will remember you left us in trouble—our wagon broke and almost without water and grass; and myself, Messrs. Weber and Broadwell with the broken wagon, three miles from camp. In the morning, we had some assistance to repair the wagon, and, a little after breakfast, we were in camp and all hands ready for a start. The train was soon on its winding way. We commenced the ascent of a steep hill, and, after traveling four miles along a rocky road, we came into the Valley of the Sacramento. The joy felt by all, I cannot describe.
After we got fairly into the Valley, we formed a line, hoisted our little flag and gave three cheers for the victory we had achieved. It was evident we had not conquered without scars and broken bones. The men, with their long beards and dirty and ragged appearance, would have elicited the sympathy of our friends could they have taken a look at us. But we were all together—men, mules and wagons.
We regretted the smoky state of the atmosphere which obstructed our view of the surrounding scenery. After traveling four miles over a stony road, we came to Deer creek—which is here a fine, clear and beautiful stream. Crossed over, and two miles below encamped, at the distance of half a mile from Lawson's house. This is our first glimpse of civilization since we left Fort Hall. Distance 9 miles.
Tuesday, 11th.—This morning, at an early hour, we hitched up our teams and moved two miles lower down the creek, to where the grass was better. Here we resolved to stay, a few days, to get some fresh meat, do up washing, &c. We negotiated for a beef by giving a broken down mule in exchange. At this place, we were amused by the manner in which the Indians caught the cattle they desired to butcher. They would start after them, on horse-back, and, in a few minutes, bring them in, with a lasso wound around their horns and hind legs. In that condition, they would throw them and drag them in alive. The horses are well trained and draw by the horn of the saddle. The sport of lassoing is very exciting. We killed a beef and had a feast; after which a meeting was held and the union, which had, until then, subsisted among the different companies, was declared to be dissolved. A vote of thanks was tendered Mr. J. B. Watson for the impartial manner in which he had discharged the duties of Superintendent.
A meeting of our company was then called to determine which was our best course to pursue —when it was resolved that we should start two wagons down to Sacramento City, for provisions, forthwith, while the other wagons would pursue their course, up the Sacramento, to what is known as "Redding's Diggins;" and a committee was appointed to make out a report of what we wanted. At night, the report was handed in and accepted, and Messrs. Smith, Sattly and myself, were commissioned to accompany the wagons. It was determined we should start on Thursday morning. Accordingly, we set about making preparations.— I was glad to be one of the men chosen to go to the City, as I hoped it would be the means of enabling me, the sooner, to get letters from home. The distance to the City of Sacramento, which is at Sutter's Fort, is estimated at 130 miles. The point to which the other wagons are going is 65 m. distant.
Wednesday, 12th.—This morning it was announced that all who desired to write letters home must have them ready during the day. After breakfast, all retired, and most of the day was spent in writing letters. Our wagons were put in trim, the teams selected, &c.
Eastman's company started up to the mines, to- day. They were not ready to send below, at this time. A great many Indians have visited us, and some have been employed to do our washing—which they do badly. Around this rancho, there are some of the most degraded Indians we have seen since we left St. Jo. They are perfectly naked, without shame, and lazy and filthy—although they are large, muscular men and every way adapted to some useful employment. All these ranchos have a hundred or more Indians attached who lead lives as servile as the most abject slave.
The buildings of this country are composed of sun-dried brick and covered with boards, and are kept by men who have no families, who are principally engaged in raising horses and cattle—the prices of which have raised considerably since the discovery of gold.
------------------------------ September 1849 ------------------------------
Thursday, 13th —We had the luxury of a cloudy morning. Looking around camp, at an early hour, it was discovered that two of our men were missing. They had absconded, during the night, taking with them all their valuables. Their names are Odenheimer and Jacob Uhler. They were sent out by Mr. Thomas Campbell, with Mr Weber as agent. They may come back, but we think not. When the thing is fully ascertained, I will say more about it.
At 8 a. m., the wagons were ready to start—so we bade farewell, and were soon on the road.— Traveled eight miles and nooned. In the afternoon, we followed the bottom—crossed the dry beds of several creeks—came to Potter's creek, upon the bank of which Mr. Potter and his family reside. The interior of the house presented a much better appearance than any we had seen, for a long time. Near this dwelling is an Indian village, called a Rancho-ree, comprising a population of one hundred. I saw here some very fine hogs. Encamped one mile from the house, under an ample oak, where there was an abundance of good grass.— Distance 21 miles.
Friday, 14th.—Still cloudy. Started a little after sun-rise. Passed through a belt of sparse, scattering timber. In five miles, we came to a brook, where were many vines filled with rich clusters of grapes. Five miles further, we crossed Butter creek—a stream forty feet wide, and rushing on its course with arrowy swiftness. Down this, we traveled two miles and came to Neal's rancho, where were five main buildings, in the midst of a thick grove. Mr. Neal has a fine looking family, and a great many Indians about him. We then emerged from the timber, and passed along a fertile prairie. Nooned ten miles from Neal's. Then traversed an undulating prairie with soil of a reddish cast; and next entered a forest, extending two miles to Feather River, and encamped beneath the branches of a large oak. These trees are not very tall, but many of them spread out so as to cover a surface of more than a hundred feet, some of the branches reaching to the ground. Grass good. The noise of the water aided us in making a good night's rest. Distance 30 miles.
Saturday, 15th.—Remains cloudy. Our road led us down the river six miles, when we came to two rancho-rees. The tenements consisted of holes dug in the ground and covered with dirt, in the same manner as our vegetable houses. The door is so small that a person is obliged to get on his knees to enter; and a hole in the clay roof permits the smoke to escape in winter. They had in store cribs of acorns for their sustenance in winter.— Most of these Indians were naked. Two miles from this, we came to the crossing of the river, which is hereabout three hundred yards wide.— Two miles down the river, we came to Rother's rancho—a rather poor thing, attached to which is a rancho-ree. Five miles beyond, we came to Burch's house. Here there is a bend in the river, and the road leaves it, for some distance, making towards Juba River, [pronounced Uba.] Passed two miles through timber, then eight miles over prairie, with, here and there a tree and no grass. This brought us to the Juba—a pretty stream, one hundred yards wide. Crossed over and encamped, where we found excellent grass. Within view is a rancho of good appearance, where provisions are kept for sale. Distance 25 miles.
Sunday, 16th. We lay over here, to-day, and our mules are faring well. The wolves disturbed our rest, last night, by their barking and prowling about the camp. This morning, when we came to look, we found no meat for breakfast— the wolves had walked off with it, bag and all.— We breakfasted on coffee and crackers, and devoted most of the day to writing.
I am now fairly in the Valley of the Sacramento, and bound for Sacramento City—though not with my wash-bowl on my knee.
We are now 2067 miles from St. Jo., and 2410 m. from Springfield.
Monday, 17th.—Cool morning. Traveled down the bottom until we came to Feather River, which seems to have increased in size since we left it.— After traveling sixteen miles, we came to Bear River, which might, more properly, be called a branch, it being only six feet wide at the ford.— The banks are, however, very steep and it may contain a great deal of water in the spring-time. Four miles further, we came to Nichol's rancho. Mr. N. is putting up a very good two story house. Here we struck an extensive prairie; over which we went four miles to a pool of water. Two miles beyond this, we came to water again. We left the main road and encamped, about three-quarters of a mile to the right, near a pool. Distance, to-day, 26 miles.
The grass being far from good, we started early and proceeded across the prairie, finding no grass until we reached the timber bordering along the American Fork, at which we arrived at 2 p. m. This being but three miles from the City, and the pasture good, we concluded to encamp and stay here while we went in to make purchases. Very many are encamped around us.
------------------------------ September 1849 ------------------------------
BIDDLE'S CALIFORNIA JOURNAL, CONCLUDED.
Wednesday, 19th.—After breakfast, Mr. Smith and myself started, for the City, on foot. Two miles from camp, we came to the American Fork, pulled our boots off and waded it. It is a limpid, pretty stream, one hundred yards wide at this point, which is a mile above its confluence with the Sacramento, and but a little distance above where the business of the place is now done.
In the Sacramento bottom, we came to the City. It is perfectly new and presents a singular appearance. There are but few frame houses put up as yet, except the light frames brought from Yankee Land. Many are, however, in the course of rapid construction. Large business establishments, selling their thousands monthly, are built of a few posts set in the ground and covered, sides and roof, with common muslin. These white tent-houses, scattered among green, over-hanging trees, make up a scene beautiful and romantic. There are some tolerably good houses, but none over a story and a half high. Lumber is scarce and commands a heavy price. Mills in the neighboring pineries are much needed. The Sacramento, at this point, is broad and deep, the tide running several miles above. Frigates, schooners and barques are lying here. Property is very high. Everything is selling at the top of the market. We learned the prices of some articles; and, to give you a general idea of the state of affairs, I will mention them— Bread 50c. per loaf, pickled pork 25c. per lb., fresh beef 30c. per lb., bacon hams 60c., sides 45 to 50c., cheese 60 to 65c., butter $1 per lb. when sold by the keg; flour $16 per bbl., pork $40 per bbl., molasses 75c. per gal., sugar 16c. per lb., tea $1 to 1,50 per lb., black tea ditto, crackers 20c. per lb., two-gallon tin pans $3,50 to 4 apiece, canteens $2, picks $4 to 6, shovels $ 2,50, small crow-bars $4, hay $45 to $60 per ton. Mules are worth from $100 to 200—accordingly as they are fat or poor; oxen are selling from $50 to 100 per yoke; wagons are in little demand, as the emigrants ate selling off a great amount of their stuff; horse-hire comes to $10 per day. A common laboring man commands $10 per day—mechanics something more, but how much I did not learn. Boarding can be had for $3 or 4 per day.
The companies have nearly all dissolved and sold whatever they owned as common stock— Those big companies from the East, with large capital, which brought everything with them, have had the most to sell; but the prices have made the transportation of their articles a handsome business. Experience demonstrates that large companies do not hang well together. Very many, when they arrive here, do not feel disposed to go into the mines and dig, but there are so many ways of making money out of those who do go, that many are tempted to remain here. In preference to working in the mines, some resort to keeping eating houses, others open coffee houses, gambling hells, livery stables, &c., &c.
To-day, I saw Wm. Todd, the Doctor's son, who has been here some time. He looks well and tells me he has enjoyed good health; and, from what I see and hear of him, he has done well.— He tells me that James F. Reed is living and doing well. Key's brother is in Monterey, working at his trade. Cook Matheny and Reuben McDaniel are here, and are not engaged at anything now, but have a prospect of business in a few days. Capt. Roberts is here and making money by buying and selling mules. Young Swizler is with him. Mr. Cook and David Eaton are here. They have been trading and have done well. Mr. E. is spending this evening with us at the camp. Mr. Nourse is here, engaged in buying and selling. John S. Bradford is fifty miles below this, in company with Mr. Semple. Henry Spotswood started down to the Bay, to-day. I sent my Journal up to the 10th instanter, by him, to be mailed.
I find no letters here for myself or any of our company, and have requested Mr. S. to have our letters forwarded to this point. Not receiving any intelligence from home, after so long an absence, was, you may be sure, a severe disappointment. I feel encouraged, and, I think, with ordinary luck, we will have something to send home, in the spring. The mines are averaging, to every digger, an ounce a day—which is $16.
The prices of the articles I have given you, are those of the City, and are doubled in the mines. Bacon, flour, coffee and sugar are often $1 per lb. tobacco $2,50 per lb., and boots, shoes and implements to work with, are put at an extravagant rate. Driving team is good business. I asked some teamsters what they would charge to haul goods to where we are going, which is two hundred miles, and learned they would not go for less than fifty dollars per hundred miles. Wages are regulated by what a man can make in the mines. Time, here, is more emphatically money, than any other place I ever saw.
I bought a newspaper, to-day, for 25c., in the hope that it might contain some news from the States. For five long months, we are entirely ignorant of everything which has transpired at home.
[ At this date, the Journal closes, for the present. A bird's-eye glimpse of the movements of Mr. B. is given in the following letter. ]
------------------------------ October 1849 ------------------------------
City of SAN FRANCISCO , U. C.,
October 29th, 1849.
In company with David Logan, who stood in Irwin's store, I find myself in the Alcalde's office, scribbling this letter, with the utmost possible expedition. I came down, yesterday morning, in a sloop, for no other purpose than to get messages from home, for myself and the other members of the company. We have been treated very badly. There has not been a mail here, from the States, for four months. We have no intelligence from Illinois, whatever, save that contained in a letter to Augustus Eastman. The mail steamer, with the back mails, is expected, daily; but it is impossible for me to wait, as two of our teams are now awaiting my return to Sacramento City, to load on provisions to take to the mines. This, you will observe, is my second trip. When I returned to the company, from Sacramento, in September, I found that most of the men had been sick—so it devolved upon me lo return, to the City, for two more loads. When I arrived at Sacramento, finding neither letters nor papers had been forwarded, I judged it would be acting for the best interests of the company to come to this post-office—accordingly, I am here. Mr. Hodge and B. F. Taylor are with the wagons. I find here David Logan, Mr. Grey, John Clifton and Mr. Hickox; and, I am told John Dermody is in town.
This is a place full of novelty, where everything is done on a large scale. Grey has made a fortune. If I had had the capital to operate, during the last ten days, I could have made thousands on pork and flour. Pork is worth $45, flour $24 per bbl., and sugar from 20 to 22c, per lb.— There is great scarcity of boots and shoes. Flour, pork, molasses and blankets are in demand. I am of opinion that every article will be run up to the highest figure, before the people of the mines will be entirely supplied. We have enough to do us, during the winter and spring; and, if winter does not come too hard upon us, there is no danger of harm to us. But we will be shut out from any news from home until spring.
Fortunes are being made here fast, by the lucky ones. A city is being built up, in a few months. There are people here from almost every clime— but the most curious are the Chinese. There are a great many Chileans mixed in with this floating population. The streets are crowded with people and there is a great show of business. The harbor is crowded with the vessels of every nation, with their national colors flying from the masthead. From the circumjacent hills, the view of the shipping, lying at rest in the harbor, is surpassingly beautiful. * * * *
I see but few ladies—and those, I think, had better remained at home.
There is but one church in the city—and that Baptist. Other denominations preach, but they do it in tents. * * * * * *
Weber, Taylor and myself, are the only persons who have escaped being sick, in our company. We have not done much yet but hope we may during the winter. I think, we are not discouraged. The gold is in the streams and hills—and we mean to get it out. If I find it is going to be sickly in the mines, during next summer, I shall go to Oregon, and come down again in the fall, so as to operate a few months before starting for home. I must say, in short, that I hope and believe our expedition will not prove unsuccessful.
Odenheimer and Uhler did not come back. * *
B. R. BIDDLE.
N. B. —Sold a lump of gold, to-day, for the company, for $300. It weighed twenty-seven ounces but contained some rock. It was bought as a specimen. Mr. Fuller found it. B. R. B.
BIDDLE'S JOURNAL, WINTER QUARTERS.
December 20th, 1849.
I address you from a point with which I have but little acquaintance—having arrived here but a fortnight ago.
Since we have reached the Valley of the Sacramento—having surmounted the difficulties and perils of the Plains and Mountains, and attained that goal in our journey where we could look around, and rest a few days from our weariness, and contemplate, with something of exultation, the distance we had come and the thousand things that rose in the mind as we reviewed the route— since then, I have not noted every thing which transpired, day by day, but only such events as I thought would be most interesting.
I have been to Sacramento City twice, and to San Francisco once. When at the Bay, I obtained letters for myself, the Webers and Watsons, and one for Henry Doran; but no papers for any of us. I purchased two Tribunes at a dollar a number, and a few California papers, the columns of which comprise the sum total of our information concerning the affairs of the world in general.
The bleak winter is now upon us with all its vigor and fierceness—whistling its shrilly music along the tops of the lofty pines, and howling hoarsely among the gorges of the jagged hills— while many trees that were the pride of the forest are bowed and broken beneath their burden of snow, and the mountain-torrents are sweeping impetuously to the valleys.
The course of trade being stopped, I will have leisure to devote to that other more pleasing department of duty—the retrieving myself from any charge that might be made against me of negligence to the claims of friendship.
I will now give you some items in relation to my return from the Bay to the Sacramento city and from thence to our camp at this place. On the morning of the date of my last letter to you I purchased some few articles for the company and got on board a schooner at 11 o clock A. M. bound for "New York of the Pacific," [Pittsburg, Ed.] a new place at the mouths of the San Joaquin river and the Sacramento, at the head of Suisun bay, distance from San Francisco 60 or 70 miles. Great efforts are making to bring this place into note.— Its natural advantages I have not made myself acquainted with. There are but three or four houses there at present.
Fifty miles from the city of San Francisco, is the flourishing little town of Benicia, which lies on the strait of that name, and at the foot of Suisun Bay. These straits are four or five miles long, and introduce you into the Pueblo Bay, a sheet of water equal to that of the Suisun. Benicia was laid out by Dr. Semple, brother-in-law to Mr. J. S. Bradford, of Springfield, Ill.; but who is now at this place, in partnership with Dr. S. in the forwarding end commission business. The place is rapidly improving, and will continue to grow. They are making strong efforts to have it made a port of entry. Two or three miles above the town, at a very commanding point, the U. S. have established a navy yard, with the advantages of a harbor, superior to that of San Francisco. The government is erecting suitable buildings, with all possible dispatch practicable. Crossing in my downward passage the bay of Pueblo [San Pablo, Ed.], we entered the bay of St. Francisco. Thus we cross three bays in going from Sacramento city to the city of San Francisco.
Arriving at New York, after a very pleasant sail of about six hours, with a fair wind, we exchanged our schooner for a pretension of a steam boat, making our way up the Sacramento to the city. Traveling all night, we reached the city at 8 A. M. It had rained all night, and the boat was so crowded that we got no sleep. On my arrival, I found Philip Weber, Eastman, Parkinson, and all the members of No. 2 Company, having left the mines above, to winter in a more hospitable clime at the mines South. They were all well. They have since gone up the American Fork of the Sacramento river. Since then I have heard nothing from them. I here learned that Hodge and Taylor had not got back from their trip up to Weavertown. On Thursday, however they returned—having been gone nine days. We lay by on Friday, and bought articles to complete our loads for the company. I will now proceed to give you a history of the troubles and mishaps which afterwards befell us.
------------------------------ November 1849 ------------------------------
That night it rained steadily, the wind blew wildly, and it remained quite cold and chilly. In the morning, we put in our loads and left the City for the upper mines. We crossed the American Fork, which was deep fording, and encamped 4m. on our way.
On Sunday morning, we rose early, and went in quest of our mules. One lay helpless on the ground; in the course of the day it died. The rain setting in, the loss of this mule, and the straying away of the others, were the beginnings of a series of troubles, disappointments, and exposures, to which we had, until then been strangers. We searched all day for the mules, without seeing or hearing of them.
On Monday it rained most of the time; we were nevertheless abroad in hunt of our mules; but returned fatigued, and without them. Search enough had been made to convince us our animals had been stolen or had strayed beyond our ability to walk after them.
On Tuesday it still rained. It was then resolved Hodge and Taylor should go to town and buy a mule with which to hunt our mules; and that, if we were then unsuccessful, Taylor should be sent to the company to inform them of our situation and bring other mules to our relief; and that I should then write a letter to the company giving the history of our affairs. Next day, the letter was written; and the mule bought for $100. Mr. Hodge went out in search of, and some ten or fifteen miles from the wagons, found five of them. We now had mules to ride; so the following morning Taylor started to the camp with the news.— The mud is now so deep that to haul our full loads would be impossible; accordingly we sent forward what provisions and other necessaries we could by H.
Along with Hodge, I started after more of the mules. We rode all day, found none, and returned to camp late at night. Next morning, ( Friday, ) I took a fresh mule, went out alone, and found two more of them; when I brought them in, I found Taylor had come back; the Sacramento was high, and he was afraid to swim his mule alongside the boat. I felt much disappointed at his return.
On Saturday, it rained hard all day; we could do nothing, and so we determined to sell the heavy articles of our loads, and try to make our way back with only about 7 cwt. to the wagon. Another of our mules died to-day—and we know not to what cause to attribute it, unless it be to the chilling rains that have fallen during the last week. On the next forenoon the rain continued; in the afternoon Taylor was dispatched to a herding rancho some miles ahead, so as to be prepared for an early start, on Monday morning, in quest of the remainder of our mules. He brought in three more; but one remained to be found. I sold our flour to-day at $32 per bbl., pork at $45 per bbl., and one hundred pounds of hard bread at 18c. per lb. On the sale of these articles I made a clear profit of S150. We delivered the property, and arranged to leave in the morning. Tuesday came, and with it rain all day. We learned that we could not get along on this side of the river—so we had of necessity to cross the American Fork, which now had to be ferried, go again through the City, cross the Sacramento, and try to get up on the other side. We had to wait our turn to cross the American Fork in the rain, and did not succeed in getting over, and reaching the City, until long after nightfall. When we arrived, we were wet to the skin and cold as we could be. We put our mules to hay for the night; then took supper with Mrs. Maltby.
The streets of Sacramento are covered with water. I repaired to my bed in the wagon; but, together with wet clothes and cold feet, you may be assured I slept but little; and the next morning I arose with a violent cold. The day was spent in crossing the Sacramento, at a cost of $8 per wagon for ferriage. Eight miles from the city we encamped, where there was but little grass.
The next day we moved about ten miles through great difficulty, the mud being deep, and the mules being unable to draw the wagons.— We encamped, and had good grass for our mules. The next morning I was taken with a violent head-ache, and remained in bed in the wagon for the whole day, Mr. Hodge driving the team, in an incessant soaking rain, to Fremont, a small place at the junction of the Sacramento and Feather rivers. This was on Friday; and we came to the conclusion, on consultation, that it would be folly to attempt to get up to camp, even with empty wagons. Whereupon we sold out the remaining portions of our load at this place, left one wagon in the care of a resident, branded our mules, and turned them out to grass till spring, reserving two of them to pack a few things and ride up to the camp. Here Hodge and Taylor determined to go back to the city, in order to obtain work for the winter. I was resolved to reach the camp of the company, and make my report to them of the whole affair. I gave them some money, and on Tuesday we parted.
I came 12 miles and camped alone. It rained all night and until noon the next day. This was my first trial alone, with two mules, and the rain had set in, rendering the traveling very laborious and difficult. Next day I only went six miles through the rain, came to a rancho, and was permitted to store my baggage under shelter.— Turning out my mules, and furnishing my own bedding, which is the custom of the country, I lay on the floor before a large log fire. These were comfortable accommodations compared with those I had the night before. Here I met with persons from the up-country, who used every possible argument to dissuade me from undertaking so perilous, toilsome and difficult a journey; but I could not give it up until I had made a trial. The difficulty consisted in high waters and bottoms or low lands bordering the streams, "whose bottoms ( as they expressed it ) had dropped out—a horse or an ox miring down."
I shall not attempt to take you through every mud-hole where I mired and had to unpack my mules, even to their saddles. I crossed creeks, sloughs and swamps with great difficulty, and a the risk of life and the property I had with me. As the details of all these trials and disasters would fill several sheets, I will sum all up to my arrival within twelve miles from camp, by saying, that so far as regards myself, I had better taken the advice of those persons who came from above. I exposed my person very much; was taken sick with a chill; lay by one day, when I very promptly broke it up with medicine; and in two weeks from my starting from Fremont, reached camp. The sufferings and toils I underwent in these two weeks, and indeed, during the whole trip, will be indelibly stamped upon my memory.
Twelve miles from this place, I met with B. A. Watson, F. S. Dean, Thomas Bilson, and Thomas Whitehurst, on their way to Sacramento City, and from them I learned that the company had separated; that the property in their possession had been sold and the avails distributed among the members, and that a spirit of dissatisfaction prevailed among them. I encamped with them that night, and the next morning made my way up to camp on foot, having left my two mules at the herding post, to be kept for us.
When I arrived I found no one at home but Mr. Rodham, who was not well. The others were out mining. They came in about dark—J. B. Watson, Fuller, Weber and Johnson. These compose one mess, and occupy one end of a double cabin two messes had built for the winter. Sattly, Doran, Broadwell, Smith and Reeves, had built a cabin to themselves about 200 yards off. The other end of this double cabin had been occupied by those who had gone away. I had been set apart with that mess, and had the control of the room alone. They all appeared glad to see me. I made a report of my trip; and although those who could work had done tolerably well, Fuller determined to go below for the winter. I then proposed to take his place in the mess, bought out his interest in the mess things, and in this way was enabled to avoid the necessity of keeping Bachelor's Hall. E. T. Cabinis had associated himself with some Oregon men, for the purpose of operating, leaving his connection with the Springfield Company entirely. Mr. Fuller started to go below on the 6th of December. From this point I will resume my journal.
Thursday, December 6th—This morning I went over to Olney's creek, some six miles from the cabin, in company with Watson, Johnson and Weber. Mr. Weber and myself operated together. This is my first day in the mines;—and, of course, I could not reasonably expect to be very successful. We breakfasted before day-break, walked six miles before sunrise, and made but little by our labor.
Sunday, 9th—This is our 37th Sabbath; and as serene and beautiful as any that have preceded it. The mess are all well, and seemingly cheerful in each other's society. I am now recovering from the effects of my upward trip . . . I was, indeed, almost entirely broken down. This morning, we resolved to have prayers at night, and to hold religious exercises every Sunday morning. This will be to us an additional bond of brotherhood. * * *
Thursday, 13th—It is raining and snowing alternately. Some of us were employed making buck-skin purses to hold our gold. It would make you laugh to see how large we have made those intended for use next summer.
We intend going next Spring to Trinity—a river west of us some fifty miles, across the Coast Range, as the chain of mountains bordering the Pacific is called. This river empties into Trinidad Bay; the region through which it flows is but little known, but is rumored to be rich in gold.— It is a wild country to adventure in, but every obstacle must yield to the search for the yellow metal. We intend finding a passage along the Trinity to the Bay, and from the Bay to the Ocean before we leave California; and, it may so happen, we will secure to ourselves a favorable location for future speculation.
Friday, 14th—Still it rains. Nothing can be done out of doors in the way of digging. We find amusement in darning socks.
Saturday, 15th—Ceased raining this morning. Went to work, though it was cloudy and threatening. About noon it commenced snowing, which made our labor decidedly unpleasant.
Sunday, 16th—This is our 38th Sunday from home. It rained and then snowed all night. The snow is now eleven inches deep around the cabins, and much deeper on the adjacent hills. Every thing looks bleak and desolate; but the cold is nothing like so intense as the winters of Illinois. We have spent the day pretty much in reading and writing; our little library affords ample food for the mind. Some of the back-logs in the fireplace measure two feet in diameter. As we look upon the merry blaze, and feel the generous warmth, we can not help spending a thought upon those of our company who have gone to the Lower Country. If they did not reach the City before this weather set in, I apprehend they will encounter serious hardships.
Wednesday, 19th—The committee appointed to settle the business of the company sold the remainder of the mules I had left below, all the wagons and harness, and all the surplus property of the company. Weber and myself bought three of the finest mules in the lot, and two wagons and the harness. The sales amount to two thousand dollars.
The snow is from twelve to sixteen inches deep. Been snowing and raining all day; and the streams, from the mountain-side, dash onward in their pride of foam, as though wild with savage joy.
Thursday, 20th—The Genii of the Snow and Rain, among these mountains, seem to be twin spirits, forever holding alternate or blended control of the weather, as the shifting winds decide. Operations in the mines are almost entirely suspended.
Mr. W. has begun making a cradle in which to rock our favorite. He has studied the science of cradles until he can make one that will nearly rock itself. This cradle rocking we will be perfect adepts in—for it's rock rock-a-way, from morning until night.
Doran and Sattley intend going down to the City. The young men seem all to be taken with a fever for going below, to live cheap during the winter. In the Spring, before going over to Trinity, I will probably go to the City myself to purchase provisions.
Friday, 21st—Still stormy. We have completed what work we could in-doors; and have now only to turn to the enjoyment of our books and fire. I speak of these the more, because these hills never, until now, witnessed a scene like that presented by the interior of our cabin. Many of the most ancient ranches of the neighborhood are not so well provided; and the Indians, in their squalor and nakedness, never dreamed of such a thing as comfort. —
------------------------------ December 1849 ------------------------------
Saturday, 22d—This morning was misty, and had the appearance of a spring-thaw in Illinois. In the evening it commenced raining. The snow inflow melting away very rapidly.
Sunday, 23d—After being veiled from our view so many days, the sun shone out brilliant as ever.
Sattley, Doran and Reeves are preparing to go to the City in a big canoe. Their departure will leave John B. Watson, Lewis Johnson, John B. Weber, John Rodham and myself in a mess by ourselves: and we intend operating together during the next season. The other members of the company will be scattered to all points of the compass; and we cannot hope all to meet together in this world. The next summer may work sadly upon some; but upon whom the deeper shades of destiny will settle is with the months that are to come to decide. I trust many of those who have endured so much to get here, will be compensated ( so far as wealth can compensate) for the toil and privations to which they have, in this voluntary exile from home, subjected themselves. In regard to the abundance of gold there is—there can be—but one opinion.
Monday, 24th—This morning was ushered in with smiles, with scarce a cloud to dim its clearness. Spring seems to have come to cheer us after the gloomy hours of the rainy season.
Mr. Johnson, in the capacity of cook, is now actively engaged in preparing a good dinner. It is true, we do not have here all the nice things at home, but we have quite enough to get up a tolerable entertainment, considering all the circumstances. Our bill of fare comprises the best quality of light bread, sweet-cake, beans, rice, coffee, venison, peach-pie and dried peaches.
I wish I could be with you all to-day. I know I shall be remembered when you gather around the Christmas board, and the wish expressed that I could be with you, and the desire to know where I am and how I am faring so far away.
I sometimes wonder at the swiftness with which time passes. It seems but a little while since I left home, yet a full year will soon have circled away—leaving only the memory of the past, its varied scenes and strange events. Many who started in this pilgrimage for gold have sickened and died; others who have reached this country will return poorer than they came; and some will go back to those they love blest with fortune. But these last will be few in number, and their story will be as sunny spots on the dark canvass that will picture forth this epoch in the history of our nation.
B. R. BIDDLE.