The Tiffin Standard publishes a letter from Mr. J. Roop of Republic Seneca county, dated May 2d, 12 miles West of Independence, Mo., containing a few interesting items, in addition to what we have published. The number of emigrants who had left, or were encamped in that vicinity, he states, were variously estimated at from 10 to 12,000 persons. Many were going out with their families, among whom, was Dr. Bascom of Kentucky, brother to the celebrated divine of that name. Independence is the seat of justice of Jackson county, and contains about 2,000 inhabitants. All its citizens, Mr. Roop says, are now coining money, merchants, mechanics and laborers. There are Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Lodges in the place and a flourishing Division of the Sons of Temperance. Cholera, he says, “has made its appearance among the topers and rummies of Independence.” The country is “well improved and well fenced by stakes and riders, Pennsylvania fashion, to about 10 miles west of Independence; but the farms are large, containing from 300 to 800 acres, and the fields are from 30 to 100 acres each. Almost everything needed for the emigrant, is cheaper there than in Seneca county. He gives a statement of the cost, at Independence, of the outfit of his company, (provisions calculated for 6 months,) consisting of 6 persons, (among whom are T.B. Sturges, and Son, of this place,) which presents a total of $825.50, or $137.58 each. He thinks $200 each will cover all expenses, except clothing. Their stock weighs about 4,000 lbs., making one ton to a wagon, which is a light load as the roads are excellent for the first 800 miles, at which distance the loads would be partially consumed. Encamped about 2 miles from town was a company of 12, including the two Sons of Mr. Patrick, of this place, John H. M’Ardle, &c., who would probably unite with the Seneca company, which would then number 45 men, 14 wagons, 4 tents, 32 yokes of oxen, 16 mules and 6 ponies. They expected to start from that place on the 4th of May. Mules are worth from $50 to $75 each; oxen about $50 a yoke. Money is abundant there. A few days previous he saw several buffalo robes full of Mexican dollars, landed at some of the stores at Independence, direct from Santa Fe. There had been no sickness in the camp at that time, and all were in “perfect health and fine spirits.”
The St. Louis Republican publishes letters from Independence to the 13th.
The emigrants who had congregated there had nearly all gone on, being hastily driven off by the fear of the cholera, which had appeared among them. A letter of the 13th says:
During the week I have heard of 54 deaths, the larger portion of which occurred in camp, and some as far as 80 miles out. Information from the camps beyond that distance report them in good health; such as were affected with cholera, when nearer the settlements, have recovered entirely.
The roads in every direction are lined with teams of emigrants. Up to this period, at least 14,000 persons have arrived at their various places of rendezvous, and are ready or have moved to the plains.
The first train of the pioneer line, comprising 20 passenger carriages, 18 wagons for baggage and supplies, with 125 passengers, left Independence for Upper California, on the 9th inst.
Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jun 5, 1849
Letters From the Plains.
By the courtesy of Mrs. T.B. STURGES, of this place, we have been favored with a letter which she has just received from her husband, dated 21st ult. 260 miles west from Independence, comprising a journal of his tour, to that time. We have culled from it such items as we think will be of interest to our readers. It was sent to St. Joseph’s by a gentleman who left the camp of the emigrants on the 22d ult.
Mr. STURGES and his company left Independence on the 29th of April, but camped a few miles beyond, and did not commence their journey over the Plains until the 4th ult. The following are the notes selected from that time:
May 4. — We stopped to-day at the last house in the States, (about 20 miles from Independence,) where was a small grocery. We passed Mr. Drake, Parks and Mr. Patrick’s boys this evening, who had started ahead of us. They were well.
May 5. — We to-day passed two monuments erected by the first emigrants to Oregon, who reared them in commemoration of their starting. They consist simply of flat stones placed one above another in mason shape but with no mortar. The country through which we have passed is undulating Prairie, with as beautiful prospect as ever was seen. It is nothing like the flat prairies of Ohio, but consists of hills and dales, and in such a variety as cannot but be admired by every lover of scenery. Companies are constantly passing us, while others are camped with their cattle feeding. To-night we camped upon what is called Indian Creek. Came to-day about 15 miles. To-night for the first time, we stand guard for fear of the Shawneese Indians stealing our cattle. Four are selected who watch until 1 o’clock, and then 4 until daylight. No one can conceive how grand, and still how desolate, these Prairies look. As far as the eye can reach, not a tree or even a shrub can be seen. Where we are camped to-night, there is a single Elm tree of great size, which has always been spared by the passing emigrant. It stands alone, without even a twig to bear it company. It has always been called “The Solitary Elm.” You will find it described in Bryant’s work on California.
Incident. — While Lewis, (son of Mr. Sturges,) and some others were in search of the cattle, as they were walking, a rattlesnake 6 feet long and 8 years old was discovered coiled up within 6 inches of Lewis’s leg, prepared to spring at him; a well directed blow from one of his associates, killed the snake on the spot. He had 8 rattles. To-day news came that the captain of the Zanesville, Ohio, Co. died this morning of cholera this side of Independence.
Monday, May 7. — To-day we have not seen wood or water. Yesterday and to-day we have passed the skeletons of 21 oxen. Last winter the Santa Fe traders lost a number of hundred yoke of oxen by cold; they froze to death. The Indian tribes also suffered severely, losing their horses and cattle. Snow was 6 to 10 feet deep here, and they could not hunt. At 1 o’clock to-day we reached the turning-off trail to Oregon, and took the California road. A few rods distant was lately a large Indian encampment. An emigrant was taken sick of cholera and was taken to an Indian house. With the exception of two or three, the Indians became alarmed and fled in the utmost consternation. Every instance of cholera that I have heard of, can be traced to imprudence and exposure. Heaven has favored us; we have had no sickness and all are well. We made 18 miles to-day. Our eyes were gladdened by the sight of 500 acres of timbered land on a stream called “Bull Creek.” Within 30 rods of us is an Indian house with enclosed fielded, good feners and good garden; but the Indians are absent.
May 11. — We are now 110 miles from Independence. To-day we crossed the Kansas River. The ferry is kept by a Frenchman who has intermarried with the Indians. They gave him a mile square on the River, and he is making money. He charges $1 on each wagon, and takes over in one day from 50 to 60, employing 6 hands to push over the boats. A short distance from the Ferry is an Indian and French camp. The Indian houses are mostly built of bark. Poles are bent so as to form an arch and circle; barks are then placed on the outside so as to lap like shingles — some of these barks are 4 feet wide and 6 feet long. These houses are some of them 24 feet across; the fire is made in the center and there is no floor.
May 12. — To-day passed numerous Indian houses of the Pottawottamies; most of the inmates were packing up to move. They had heard of the existence of cholera among the whites and were frightened. One of our men went up to one of their cabins, when an Indian chief came out with a pistol in his hand, and said in broken English — “White man sick. Go away — no want to see you.”
8 o’clock, P.M. — Five or six companies are in sight, and numerous camp fires give the appearance of a village. There is an Indian Trading Post 4 miles from here, where there are 6 stores and quite a village.
May 13. – To-day passed over beautiful prairie, well timbered, every now and then covered with beautiful flowers. Nothing can surpass the beauty of the scenery, formed of gentle hills and lovely vallies. It seems as if nature had exerted her power to make his the most beautiful landscape in the world. Language cannot describe it. The Indians here are many of them wealthy, and it is no uncommon thing to see them riding along dressed in the richest style with silk-velvet leggins, splendid blankets, and the harness to their ponies decorated in the highest manner.
Yesterday at the Trading Post, I saw a young squaw purchase a red Canton crape shawl at $10, with as much unconcern as any of our Yankees.
May 14. — We passed abundance of wild peas to-day, which are not sufficiently advanced to use. We also saw plenty of wild onions, which taste very much like our garden onion. They are now small, but grow during the season to a considerable size. We made 20 miles before camping.
May 15. — I walked to-day 18 miles, and we made 24 before camping. We have as usual passed over beautiful prairies interspersed with timber. Sometimes we can look in any direction and discover nothing but prairie; now ascending hill and then descending; at other times in every direction, we see handsome groves; and what is peculiar, we never find timber, without at the same time finding abundance of water.
We have encamped within 3 miles of the Vermillion River, and are in the vicinity of the Pawnee Indians, who are hostile. We are informed by scouts, who have been sent as spies ahead, that the Pawnees have had a council, and have determined to make war upon the emigrants and attack every small company. We have no fears unless we are careless.
May 16. – Passed the Vermillion and Blue rivers to-day, and had to let down our wagons by ropes on both. We saw the grave of A. Fuller, (supposed to be from Sandusky City,) who was killed last month by the accidental discharge of a rifle while unloading a wagon — Saw plenty of wild peas in blossom.
May 17. — Passed the spot where the St. Joseph road intersects with ours. I is 110 miles from St. Joseph to the junction. We found the St. Joseph road filled with wagons as far as we could see. It is said 1,500 wagons have passed the junction from St. Joseph, and 450 from Independence. There are more behind us than before. No Indians have appeared the last two days.
May 18. — Drake and the Patrick boys have at length come up. As we supposed, one of their number has been sick. Delano Patrick has had the cholera in its worst form, as he says from drinking bad water. They supposed he would die for 12 hours. He is now well. They also broke down and were compelled to exchange wagons. They will now remain in our company. They give doleful accounts of the cholera at Independence and on the Missouri River. Where we now are we feel there is but little danger. A company of U.S. soldiers passed us to-day. They are under the command of Major Sanderson and are of Noah Newton’s Regiment. — He is at Fort Laramie, 400 miles west of this. I shall see him.
May 19. — We passed the last two days on the same description of country as before described. There are now 19 wagons in our company. We have seen no deer or other wild animals. The emigration drives them from the road. We are now encamped at Sandy Creek, 45 miles east of Platte River.
Fort Laramie 1868
Monday, May 21. — This morning we came across a place where the Columbus company had camped and had proved very unfortunate. In the night the Indians stampeded their cattle, which is done thus: Two or three Indians dress themselves in bear or goat skins, and creep up to the horses, mules or oxen, and remove their fastenings in the night; 50 to 100 Indians then on horseback, rush by the camp, hallowing, yelling, and making the greatest noise possible. The cattle become frightened and run in every direction; another company of Indians are then ready to drive them off. The Columbus company lost in this manner 70 head; they have recovered about 30 head, and were searching for the balance. The Indians will sometimes return the cattle, on paying a large reward. You will see how this company is situated; 250 miles away from the settlements and with only a part of their teams to draw their loads. The camp where they staid the night when they lost their cattle, was covered with boxes, pork, flour, utensils and everything else, which they had been compelled to throw away to lighten their loads. I saw 200 lbs. of bacon and lots of flour, thus cast upon the ground. This company came with us in the same boat from Cincinnati, and are fine men. We passed to-day U.S. Soldiers in pursuit of a deserter. I have omitted to mention that a short time since, Newton Leonard from Norwalk, deserted from Fort Laramie; $30 is offered for his apprehension. He attempted to desert from the Fort, and was put in the guard-house, awaiting his trial; the guard got to playing cards, when he secretly clothed himself in their clothes, obtained their arms and silently left the guard-house and passed the sentinels without suspicion. He had for misconduct been degraded from Sergeant to private, and this was the cause of his desertion. It taken, he will be publicly whipped.
We came to-night to a creek called Little Blue, where we camped, having made 20 miles. We now number 21 wagons, and are in perfect health and spirits. Should we succeed in the balance of our journey as well as we have thus far, we shall have no reason to regret or complain. Everything has gone well and we have no disposition to return without accomplishing the object of our journey.
LATEST FROM THE PLAINS — Letters have been received during the past week, from several of the California emigrants who left this vicinity, written at different points on the Plains. Mr. S.C. Wickham of the Milan company, writes under date of 17th ult. on this side of the river Platte, and Mr. J.V. Vredenburgh who is with the same company, writes four days later, on the 21st ult. at the Platte. They report the company in excellent health and spirits.
** James Patrick was the cousin of the Patrick boys mentioned in these articles. His father, Spicer Patrick, was the brother of Sheppard Patrick, who lived in Norwalk, Ohio.
Death of Dr. James B. Patrick.
The melancholy intelligence of the sudden death of Dr. Jas. B. Patrick, son of Dr. Spicer Patrick of Charlestown, Va., reached here on Tuesday of last week. He died of Cholera, after a few hours of illness, at Independence, Mo., on the 18th ult. This unexpected, but certain intelligence, so peculiarly afflicting to the family, numerous relatives and friends, as it spread among our citizens, cast a gloom over the whole village.
The deceased was truly a young gentleman of no ordinary promise; no pains had been spared in his educations. In 1845, he graduated with great credit, at Centre College, Danville, Ky., and in the Spring of ’48 received the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of Louisville.
After visiting a large portion of the Western country he selected the flourishing city of Chicago, as the place to enter upon the practice of the profession of his choice. He had but just opened his office there last Fall, when the mania for emigration to California seized so many of the enterprising, bold and adventurous young men of our country; and, he with a few chosen companions determined to try his fortune in that newly acquired territory. He had been a short time at Independence, the place of rendezvous for the emigrants on that route, and when on the point of moving forward, was suddenly arrested by the fell destroyer. He has descended, in the morning of life, to the grave, among strangers, far from his family & friends. On the 2d inst., he would have been 26 years old. He was of a vigorous constitution, and of commanding form, possessed of an active and discriminating mind, generous and honorable in his bearing, all who knew him had predicted for him a career honorable and useful distinction in his profession and in society. This sad event should teach us all the uncertainty of life, and, “what shadows we are and what shadows we pursue.” — Charlestown (Va.) Republican.
Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jun 19, 1849
From the Plains.
We published the journal of T.B. Sturges, Esq. up to May 21st. During the past week his lady has received a continuation of it to May 26th which she has kindly furnished us, but too late for insertion this week.
He writes from Fort Kearney, May 26th — “All well, and none discouraged.” May 23d, he says that he found in the road a card signed John V. Vredenburgh, (with the Milan company,) which stated that they passed that place on the 18th of May, and “all well.” We will continue the journal in our next.
Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jul 2, 1849
From the Plains.
The St. Louis Republican publishes a letter dated June 6th, from Fort Kearney, which states that up to the previous night, 4, 804 wagons had passed that place. — Several hundred wagons were still behind, but the number of those passing was daily diminishing. The buffaloes have been driven off by the emigrants so that not one was to be seen in the whole valley of the Platte.
We continue below, the journal of T.B. Sturges, Esq., noticed in our last.
May 23, 1849. This morning we came across another company whose oxen had been stampeded. The Indians got into their camp, notwithstanding they had a guard set, and frightened their cattle, which, in spite of all their efforts, broke from their fastenings and fled in every direction. Some of the company will be compelled to return. When we passed, the company had recovered thirty head only our of one hundred. Some of our oxen to-day exhibit symptoms of giving out, and we shall be compelled, for a few days, to go slower, until we come to better feed. We have lately travelled from 6 to 12 o’clock, making about twelve miles, — then halt an hour, and go on till five P.M., making about 8 miles further, each day. We were passed to-day by a company of U.S. Dragoons, who had one man very sick with Small Pox, which he undoubtedly took at St. Joseph. — This is a disease which has hitherto proved very fatal among the Indians, sometimes carrying off more than half of a large tribe in a single season, they knowing nothing about vaccination. The weather this morning was very cold indeed, with a high and cutting wind, rendering it almost impossible to build a fire. To-day found in the road a card signed by John V. Vredenburgh, stating that they passed this place on the 18th inst., — all well. They are, therefore, five days ahead of us, but when we take into consideration that they started from St. Joseph three days before we left Independence, and had 60 miles less to travel, and that they are with mules, while we have oxen, we have no reason to complain of our speed. We are camped to-night upon a small stream, with plenty of wood and water, although as a precaution, we carried water in buckets a mile and a half.
May 24. — This morning did not turn out till 6 o’clock, as we had determined not to start so early in order to let our oxen recruit. Although last night was very comfortable, yet this morning we found the weather so cold as to require all our extra clothing. Indeed, it is seldom these prairies are without high wind. It is like the ocean in this respect. We camped to-night, as informed, within three miles of the Platte river. About sundown the wind commenced blowing a perfect hurricane, with a storm gathering, and thundering loudly. We pitched our tent, and I dug a ditch quite round it, and banked up the sides with dirt. I had just finished when the rain descended in torrents, and continued till midnight. By this precaution we kept dry and comfortable, whilst many of those who neglected it were forced to take refuge in their wagons. Had to send a mile and a half for wood and such water as would answer to drink. Feed to-day very poor. One ox of Mr. Holmes sick and will probably die, which will be a great loss in this stage of our journey. Made 18 miles to-day.
May 25. — We were awakened this morning by our Captain, stating that some of the company were preparing to go to the Platte river before breakfast, or feeding our cattle. Accordingly we got under way about five o’clock, and after travelling four miles, came up with Mr. Hodgpett‘s train of one hundred wagons, from whom we ascertained that it was still six miles to the river. The roads are horrible, (being the river bottoms.) We turned out our oxen, and by sending two miles, obtained water for breakfast. Broke up one of our boxes for wood. After remaining an hour and a half we again started, and about 11 o’clock came to the river. We found the water very high, and should it not go down before we reach the crossing place (about 60 miles,) we shall be compelled to wait. The Platte river is a very wide and rapid stream, but as it is much swollen, it is difficult to tell what would be its appearance when the water is low. –
The roads, to-day, have been horrible, beyond description. We got stalled once, and it was as much as six yoke of oxen could do to draw us out. We had heard previously of this bad piece of road, and it has always been discouraging to emigrants. We passed up the river about six miles and concluded to camp. The government teams came up while we were consulting. The man sick with the small pox is dead, and three more of the soldiers have taken the same disease. It is to be feared that it will spread among the soldiers rapidly. — We are now in sight of Fort Kearney (formerly called Fort Childs,) about a mile distant. I shall visit it in the morning. It is said that a number of emigrants have here sold their wagons and taken pack mules. They also sold most of their provisions, which have rendered them very cheap. Flour can be bought for one cent per pound, and bacon for one and a half! The last twenty miles of the road has discouraged them. We shall endeavor to buy another yoke of oxen at the fort. We have passed, to-day, places covered with the bones of the buffalo, but do not expect to meet any alive for three or four hundred miles yet. It is said we shall find very bad feed for the next forty miles. We made sixteen miles to-day. We have not seen an Indian since we left Kansas, at the trading post. We don’t know but we shall yet be compelled to leave a part of our loading behind. However, we shall first throw away all our boxes and pack our provisions in bags. We have now on hand about 700 lbs. of Bacon and Hams, 600 lbs. crackers, 400 lbs. meal and flour, 50 lbs. dried meat, besides butter, sausages, dried fruit, &c. Thus I have continued my journal up to 10 o’clock, P.M., of May 25th. We have now made 325 miles, yet see nothing to discourage.
May 26, 8 o’clock. — I this morning visited the fort, and was somewhat astonished at its appearance. The fort and houses are built of turf. The turf is cut about 6 inches thick and 14 inches long 12 wide, and placed one above another, and then filled with mud. Although it presents, on the outside, a very dirty appearance, yet the inside is comfortable. There is a store here with a small stock of goods, which are not unreasonably high. The garrison have fenced in a number of fields, with mud walls, which the soldiers cultivate. All the lumber used is sawed by the soldiers, with a circular saw. It is a very unpleasant place, cold and dreary. There are three or four companies of soldiers in the fort. It is three hundred and forty miles from here to Fort Laramie.
Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jul 3, 1849
**For other California Gold Rush posts, click on the “Gold Rush” category to the right.
I accidently hit “publish” when I was only adding tags, so I had to do several updates to finish the post.