See my previous post with the journal from “The California Gold Hunter,” that is mentioned in the first line of this article.
Letters from the Californians.
On our first page we publish an interesting journal of the tour to St. Joseph, Mo., which has been sent to us by a member of the Milan company. Letters have been received at this place from several of the adventurers who left our vicinity, giving, in substance, the same views of the country and the way, as our correspondent.
The emigrants at St. Joseph and Fort Independence, were in fine health and spirits, and eager to press their journey over the plains. A letter from one of the Tiffin company, at Fort Independence, (April 25th,) which we have read, written in a humorous vein, describes the emigrants there as all “well and fat as bears,” but rather “red,” from the effect of Sol. He says, “The Sandusky boys are in quite a scrape. 100 miles from here the Indians stole all their mules and horses.” The passage up the Missouri he describes as slow but enlivened by frequent hunts for game along the banks, where geese, ducks, brants, and pelicans abounded. He says, “We passed a couple of boats coming up loaded with Californians. One of them was at the mouth of the Gaspinade River, with her shaft broken, and the other with boilers bursted. There was quite a number of girls with their fathers and mothers, all bound for California!
There are about 3,000 Californians in and around Independence, St. Joseph, and other places on the River, and about twice that number between here and Cincinnati on their way up. I expected from what I had heard coming up, that there were at least 10,000 here, but it turns out, like all other reports, to be very much exaggerated.” By way of testifying his advance in knowledge, as well as distance, he subscribes himself with the learned title of “M.D.” (Mule Driver.)
Mr. S.C. Wickam, who is a member of the Milan Company, writes from the Encampment opposite St. Joseph, April 28th, to his brother, Judge Wickham of this place, thus:
“Our boys are all in good spirits and anxious to go ahead. I don’t think there will be any back out from among us. You could not hire any of them to go back at any price — how they will feel by and by, is another thing.
“The season here is more backward than with you, I imagine. The trees are not in leaf yet, although the weather is very warm. It is also very dry; we have had no rain since we arrived here. Our mules live on the grass that is in the river bottom; it is quite thin but of a good height; we take them out before sunrise and tie them two and two, watch them till about eleven o’clock A.M., when they seem to be satisfied; we then bring them in, let them stand till about two o’clock P.M., when we take them out and let them stay till sun-down.
“Encamped with us there are about 30 wagons and 150 persons; about one mile ahead of us there is a still larger encampment; and people are arriving daily, from up the river. There are not as many to cross the plains as I expected. How many there are at Independence I do not know; but I think there will not be over 1,000 to 1,500 from here, and this is considered the best point from which to start; I believe on account, principally, of the advantage we have here, in being across the Kansas, which is considered one of the worst on the whole route.
E. Atherton killed a rattlesnake which measured four feet and two inches in length; there are a great many of these snakes about here, one person said he saw six, four of which he killed. It is reported that they have the cholera in St. Joseph, and it is said that six died the other day, when some of our company were over; but you can’t tell any thing about it by what you hear. — When we landed at St. Joseph we could hardly get any one to do our washing for us, for fear of the cholera or small-pox, it being reported in town that we had several cases of those diseases on board our boat.
We are now in the Indian Territory, and if all their country is equal to this they have the best country in the world; it is a splendid country; the soil along the river bottom is very deep, consisting of sandy loam, and looks as if all you would need to do to raise crops, would be to drop the seed on the ground. It is very lightly timbered, probably on account of the Indians burning it over every year for hunting grounds. Directly back of us is a rolling prairie, with hardly a tree in sight, with the exception of now and then on the banks of some small stream.
There are several Indian burying grounds in this vicinity, but there are very few Indians; they have probably gone to some other hunting grounds, as game seems to be very scarce here, at present, although there are deer tracks on the hill side, in abundance.
While watching the mules the other day, Harry Page found a belt, pouch, powder horn, and charger; the belt was partially eaten up by the moles or mice, and in the pouch were a dozen or more balls of a large size; the horn was half full of fine rifle powder. How long they had been there, or who lost them, is a mystery. The charger was made of deer’s horn, the tip of one I should think; it was carved off in fine order, probably the work of some Indian.
We expect to start from this place on Monday the last day of April, and pursue our journey to a mission, about twenty miles from here, where we talk of stopping for a short time — whether we shall or not will be determined on the road there, and by the feed — if we find plenty of grass we shall go right ahead, if not we shall stop for it to grow.”
Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) May 22, 1849
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