Archive for April, 2009

News From the Gold Country: Josiah Roop Writes Home

April 8, 2009
Clear Creek

Clear Creek

The first part of Josiah’s correspondence is a bit wordy, but I do like how he passes on some of the “local” nomenclature to the folks back home. Further down, he relates an incident which shouldn’t be missed!

For the Huron Reflector
Interesting Letters from California.

We are permitted to publish the following letters from Josiah Roop, of Republic, Seneca county, now in California:

CALIFORNIA, May 5, 1850.

My Dear Friend:
Here way up in the very northern part of California, near the Oregon line, placers as rich as ever were discovered, are daily coming to light. — Less than a year ago, nought but the poor, miserable Indian and the wild beasts of the forests traversed these rugged mountains, some of whose peaks are covered with everlasting snow. Now the white man, by hundreds and by thousands, are following up every river, creek, streamlet and gulley (or “gulch” as the miners term it) to their very source amidst these snow-capped hills “prospecting,” which being interpreted signifies, “hunting for a good place to dig.” This “prospecting” is an exciting business.

A company varying in number from three to a dozen, start out with their knapsack of provisions sufficient for a week’s subsistence — their blankets, shovels, picks and pans, not forgetting that most faithful of mountain friends, the deadly rifle, without which no prospector ever thinks of going, with the necessary amunition and the sharp butcher or bowie knife belted to their side. Thus equipped, they leave some trading post on a prospecting tour — gulches and rivulets are passed by, by those who have the vanity to believe that they know the unerring characteristics of a rich placer, while those who take things more deliberately, halt and prospect the very spot thus passed over by their comrades, commence digging, and filling their pans and washing the soil or “dirt,” as it is universally called here, soon the “oro” (Spanish for gold) glitters most charmingly in the bottom of their pans. Those in advance being informed of the luck of their more tardy companions, return, and not unfrequently wash out several pans of dirt without scarcely getting a single particle.

Discouraged at their ill success compared with their more fortunate neighbor, whose every pan adds from twenty-five cents to a dollar to their pile, they damn the diggings and themselves, and try their luck somewhere else, frequently taking out more than a dollar to the pan full. Such is the luck of the prospector. Night with her sable mantle, eventually overtakes them. Their simple, rough and coarse fare is partaken of with a relish not known to your city gents; and soon under some large tree, with his blanket wrapped round him, and his rifle at his side, lies the prospector fast asleep, dreaming pleasantly about those near and dear whom we have all left behind us. The fiery, impatient seeker after fortune will wash but a pan or two, not more than three at most without getting a good pan, before they will abandon the prospect for another, and thus from spot to spot and from place to place they travel, until there is not a river in California which they have not prospected. I have known many who have been prospecting for more than a year, and have not yet found a good place to dig. — Others equally anxious to get gold, but not so persevering, will try prospecting a week or two, swear that the mines are worth nothing, abandon the mines, hire out, get money enough to return, and go home cursing the country, while the steady, persevering, untiring workman, is sure eventually, to strike a rich lead, and at the expiration of the month he will have averaged his ounce a day, and may have made his pile in the course of a single month, as is sometimes the case.

Three men left here for their homes in Richland county, Ohio, a few days ago, with over $3,000 apiece, having dug it out of a gulch close by. Mining, to ensure success, like all other business, requires steady, persevering, unremitting labor, and that of the severest and most toilsome sort too. True, some miners are more lucky than the rest, and indeed more so than the great majority of them, and have made big fortunes in a very short time. But as a general rule, the steady laborer will average his ounce a day, and this is about a safe estimate of the fruits of the labor of those who work hard and regularly all day. Many do not average even half an ounce, owing principally to their unsteady, roaming, restless, changing disposition.

And as regards the comparative quality of the different mines, I am decidedly of the opinion that one river in California is as rich as another, and as a general rule to ensure success, I advise the miner to stick to one placer until he makes his pile.

MUST READ! Below is Josiah’s personal account of what must have been a terribly heartbreaking (and wallet breaking) setback he and his friends and/or partners experienced.

Mining is emphatically hard work; I speak what I do know, having tested it myself. I have labored forty days (and forty nights I had almost added) upon a canal and dam on Rose’s Bar on Yuba River. Yes, my dear sir, fifty of us poor devils wrought, like men never wrought before, on that dam and upon that canal. Never did the southern slaves work half as hard. Long before the dawn of day, from the middle of September to the first of November, could be seen the camp-fires of the dam company blazing high around our camp-kettles, and at sunrise every man who failed to answer to his name at roll-call was fined three dollars, and if he were not on the ground within one hour after that time he was dockt one half a day. One hour was given us at noon, and the same rigid law applied to us at roll call, as in the morning, our daily labors ceased only when the sun had disappeared behind the western horizon, and by the time we returned to camp, built our fires, baked our pan-cakes, fried our pork and ate our luxurious supper, our soft, downy bed on the rocky ground was of all luxuries, I assure you the most luxuriant, and with one blanket wrapt around us we would soon be sleeping, and oh how sweetly! Verily, “sweet is the sleep of the laborer.”

On the Monday preceding the 1st of November, the drain being completed, and every thing ready for the setting of the machines, I concluded to hire a substitute, as I wished to go to Johnson’s Ranch on Bear river some fifteen miles distant to look after some cattle I had there. Previous to leaving, I was offered a thousand dollars cash down for my interest in the dam, but my expectations of a big raise were decidedly in the ascendant, caused no doubt by seeing Dr. Shelby (formerly of Maryland, but now of Louisiana?) wash seventeen dollars out of a single pan-full of the dirt procured in the bed of the old channel which had been drained.

Thursday, the 1st of November, came, and with it came rain, and it continued to rain day and night and beat upon that dam, and notwithstanding it was built upon a rock and built with rocks, it fell, and with it fell all our hopes of future greatness — and great was the fall thereof. Sufficient work was done with the machines previous to the breaking of the dame to test the extraordinary richness of the bed of the river — one single quicksilver machine having taken out over $1,000 on Wednesday. — But there was not enough taken out to liquidate the damages assessed against us by those whose claims on the bar we had injured in consequence of changing the channel.

Our company was therefore flat broke. Our whole stock, consisting of quicksilver, machines, quicksilver tools, &c., were sold at public auction. machines worth $500 sold for $100; quicksilver, which cost us $10 per pound, sold for $4 and $5. On receiving this direful intelligence, I swore vengeance against all dams — and especially against all hard work. — I have never been on Rose’s Bar* since, neither have I struck a lick in the mines since I left that dam.

*The site I linked to, South River Park Adventures, has wonderful pictures and maps of the area. There is one mention that I found of “Rose’s Bar,” and it says that it is “15 miles downstream from Bridgeport.”

I went to trading in provisions and miner’s tools, and have been thus engaged ever since, and have thus far been successful. You may recollect of my prediction about the speculation in cattle, made in a letter written you last Fall. I purchased six yoke of oxen, four yoke from our own mess, and the others from Sietz and his mess, for which I paid $50 a yoke. I succeeded in finding but four yoke, which I sold in December for $600, thus doubling the investment in about three months, after losing one-third of the stock. Next August, September and October will the same speculation be presented to those who choose to go into it.

Of the Republic boys who had a share in that celebrated dam, were my friends Amsden, Stickney, McClung, McArdle, Seitz, Cloud, Holmes, Hease, and this “hombre,” (Spanish for “man,” or “individual.”) Parks traded his interest to Cloud for his interest in his bakery, and by this transaction was the lucky hombre. — Stickney, Parks, Amsden, Sayre, Gardiner and Wagner are now at one of the richest bars on Yuba river, not doing much not it is true. on account of the high stage of water, but as soon as the waters subside, they are sure to make their fortunes by next Fall.


In a letter dated May 14th, Mr. Roop says:

Coming up the Sacramento not long since, the steamer which I was in accidentally upset a whale boat, in which were 4 men; one of whom drowned. Enquiry was made of his rescued comrades; who he was — they were unable even to give his name — they had employed him that morning to work his passage up to Marysville; he had told them that he wished to go to the mines. He had a family at home and was out of money, that was all they knew about him. They said he was a well dressed, resectable looking man. His body was recovered. Thus his family, like many others, will never know what has been the fate of those they hold most dear.

Taking them altogether; I am free to say that the Republicans will render as good an average account of themselves as any other company who have left the States. Their health has generally been good — no one died save old Mr. Kline, whose infirmities should have admonished him never to have started. They all got in, in good time and the prospects of all now are A. No. 1. I do not think that any of the Seneca Tribe will make a big fortune — that is fifty thousand — always excepting our mutual friend, Brewster, who is in a fair way to make his half million. He now is one-third proprietor of one of the largest houses in San Francisco, the firm of which is “Plummer, Keith, & Co.”

You need not to look for any one else of the Seneca tribe coming home very rich next winter. But then there will no one have less than three hundred ounces of he dust, unless disease, death, or some untoward event should transpire.

Marysville, California 1850

Marysville, California 1850

I have alluded to Marysville a couple of time in this communication. For your information I will just tell you where it is. Marysville is situated in the forks and at the junction of the Yuba, with Feather River. It is beautifully located; high above Sacramento city. It is the county seat of Yuba county, and contains some 2,000 inhabitants, although four months ago it was not even surveyed. Steam boats arrive and depart daily from Sacramento city. Sacramento city is the point where the largest class of steamers stop; and Marysville where the smaller steamers stop. Hitherto no steamers have gone up any further. But recently, both the Yuba and Feather, have been gone up several miles by steamers, and towns have been laid out on both rivers, and they will become settled too. But after all, Marysville is destined to be one of the largest towns of California. Its proximity to the richest mines, (being only some 10 miles to the first rich diggings,) and its situation at the confluence of those tow rich rivers, its high and dry site, must make it a large city. I went there in January, and if I had had sufficient nerve to have bought some 20 lots on credit of 60 and 120 days, as they were offered me, I should have been amongst you ere this letter reaches you, with my “pockets full of rocks.” But I was fearful — I was too cautious. I rented a lot at a hundred dollars a month, for twelve months. I soon sub-let it for $300 a month, payable in advance. Thus realizing a profit of $200 a month. This is small business, to be sure; but then it is an item, whereby you can judge of the increase of the value of property in Marysville.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Aug 13, 1850

In case you missed Josiah’s previous correspondence, you can find it HERE.

You can also click on my Gold Rush category for more from his friends.

Going Ahead on the Yankee Trail

April 7, 2009

Going Ahead.

I hear the far off voyager’s horn,
I see the Yankee’s trail —
His foot on every mountain pass,
On every stream his sail.

He’s whistling round St. Mary’s Falls,
Upon his loaded train;
He’s leaving on the Pictured Rocks
His fresh tobacco stains.

I hear the mattocks in the mines,
The axe-stroke in the dell,
The clamor from the Indian lodge,
The Jesuit’s chapel bell!

I see the swarthy trappers come
From Mississippi’s springs;
And war-chiefs with their painted bows,
And crests of eagle wings.

Behind the squaw’s birchen canoe,
The steamer smokes and raves;
And city lots are staked for sale
Above old Indian graves.

By forest-lake and water-fall,
I see the peddler’s show;
The mighty mingling with the mean,
The lofty with the low.

I hear the tread of pioneers
Of nation’s yet to be;
The first low wash of waves where soon
Shall roll a human sea.

The rudiments of empire here,
Are plastic yet and warm;
The chaos of a mighty world
Is rounding into form!

Each rude and jostling fragment soon
Its fitting place shall find —
The raw material of a state,
Its muscles and its mind!

A westering still the star which leads
The new world in its train,
Has tipped with fire the icy spears
Of many a mountain chain.

The snowy cones of Oregon
Are kindled on its way,
And California’s golden sands
Gleam brighter in its ray!

Mountain Democrat, The (Placerville, California) Feb 3, 1855

Buckeyes Prevail, Brook the Trail, Send Loved Ones Gold Dust in the Mail

April 7, 2009



A letter has been received in town from a member of the xenia company, dated June 7, which was brought to the settlements by a returned emigrant. It states that they expect to reach California in 40 days — that grass is abundant, and the country most beautiful. The Sanduskians are ahead, all doing well — no cholera — Indians friendly.
Sandusky Mirror, 7th.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jul 17, 1849


Latest from California.

By the politeness of C.L. Latimer, Esq., of this place, we are permitted to make some interesting extracts from a letter received by him from Mr. T.B. Sturges, written since his arrival at the Gold Region. It is postmarked San Francisco, Sept. 1. Respecting his passage over the plains, Mr. Sturges says:

“My journey has been a long, tedious, and somewhat dangerous one. Often have I felt that with the exhausted team that I have had, I could go no further; and once I turned my mules waiting for some one to come along and to see if I could not get assistance through.

40 Mile Desert

40 Mile Desert

“When I approached the Desert, it looked very discouraging indeed. There was a distance of 85 miles, composed of a barren sandy plain, with the sand 18 inches deep and scarcely a particle of wood, water, or feed of any kind. So too of the mountains. It required 6 or 7 span of mules and 20 men to force up the steep mountains, sometimes three miles in length, an empty wagon. A man who starts upon this journey in charge of a team, with the expectation of finding an easy time of it, will be greatly disappointed. I have, however, borne the journey very well, and my health is now better than it has been for the last ten years. All who see me are surprised at the change in appearance. It has not, however, been so fortunate with those who are behind. I am informed by Packers, who started late, that the emigrants are dying off by hundreds, and many are returning to the States. There must necessarily be much suffering on the route.

Sacramento 1850 (image from

Sacramento 1850 (image from

I arrived here (Sacramento city,) on yesterday, 25th of August. This place is two miles above Sutter’s Fort. It has sprung up within the last six months, and contains from 4 to 6,000 inhabitants. Most of the buildings are merely posts put in the ground, with rafters and covered with drilling or other cloth, to keep out the sun. Rain is a thing unknown here in the summer season.

“As to the prospects of the Gold Region, about 15 miles from here, opinions of course, vary much. There is, however, no doubt, that with industry, any man may acquire from sixteen to twenty-five dollars per day; and sometimes he will find a spot that will give him daily, one to two hundred dollars. No man who retains his health can fail to do well. The weather is very hot and requires great prudence in new comers. Provisions are high. Flour $9 per cwt.; pork, 25 cents per pound; — Sugar 20 cents, and other things in proportion. Common labor brings $10 per day. I found here, Mr. McKnight, (formerly of Sandusky City,) who pays his help at the rate of $3,500 a year. He keeps a boarding house. The state of society is much better than I anticipated. Formerly murders and thefts were frequent; but a number of executions have struck terror to the evil doers. — Upon the whole I do not regret my journey, and think I shall do well.”

We understand that a letter has been received by Mr. Chase, of Milan, from E.B. Atherton, of the Milan Company, who had passed on a day or two in advance of his company, to make arrangements, which states that they had arrived at Sacramento City, all well.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Oct 23, 1849

Letters from the Norwalk Californians.

By the kindness of Mr. S. Patrick of this place, we are permitted to publish the following letter received the past week from his son, Delano R. Patrick, who left here last April for the Gold Region. Letters have also been received from Messrs. T.B. Sturges, John S. Vredenburgh, S.C. Wickham and George Whyler, who are well; also one from Josiah Roop, of Republic, dated as late as the 18th of October.

Specimens of the California staple, consisting of small lumps and spangles of gold, in the condition in which they were found, were enclosed in the letters.

The intelligence received has served to augment the interest here, and we learn that some of our most respectable and esteemed citizens are preparing for a visit to the Pacific.

Cold Spring Valley, Sept. 11, 1849.

Dear Father: — We arrived in the Gold Region the 23d of last month, in good health. Coming the new Mormon road, we struck what are called the “dry diggings,” situated on Weaver’s Creek, about 50 miles from Sacramento City. From these diggings we proceeded to the City for the purpose of purchasing a supply of provisions, selling our teams, and selecting a location for winter quarters. Sparks‘ and my team, which was reduced to three mules and a half worn wagon, we sold for $500 before reaching the City. Our mules were said to be in the best condition of any that had crossed the plains during the season.

Sutter's Fort (image from

Sutter's Fort (image from

Sacramento is a City of mushroom growth — sixty days ago containing only two or three dwellings — now a population of 3000 people. It is situated on Sacramento river, about two miles from Sutter’s Fort. There are but 15 or 20 framed houses in the city; the majority of the dwellings consisting of tents, and canvas stretched over frames of house-like form. The business of the city is immense — provisions and goods are stacked up in large heaps throughout the city, there being no place to store them. Of thieves there is little fear, as trials are short, and sentences quickly executed; ropes are plenty, and oak trees convenient.

We purchased flour at $8 per hundred, bacon 40 cts. per lb., sugar 16, rice 8, coffee 16, molasses $1 per gal., pork $10 per bbl. Our provisions not having arrived, we purchased a supply sufficient for 3 or 4 months, and arrived at our present location the first of this month. We selected this place not from its being the best mining region, but because it is a pleasant and healthy location, and first rate water convenient. It is called Big Spring Valley, is situated 5 miles east from Sutter’s Mill and 5 west from Weaverville, in the dry diggings.

But I presume you are impatient to learn what amount per day can be made in the gold region. In this vicinity the gold is found in small scales or particles very equally distributed in the bed of the stream, or in fact any where in the valley, which is at this season nearly dry. Every man who is able and willing, can by hard labor dig and wash from $8 to $16 per day. In the Weaver dry diggings some have dug two or three hundred in one day, while others have worked days without obtaining  any amount. But here, when a man commences work in the morning, he is sure of from $8 to $16 by night, ready pay — no bank rags. Gold digging here is very much like stone quarrying with you — very much like work, you may be assured. I find that the wages of the gold digger here, as compared with the wages of the mechanic, are substantially the same as at home; that is, a mechanic here can earn more per day than the gold digger can possibly average, although there are some cases where a gold digger may by what we call good luck, make much more than a mechanic could possibly earn. We expect, if we continue healthy, to average the above mentioned amounts, viz. from $8 to $16 per day.

The extensive immigration has so completely crowded the best diggings, that many are obliged to carry their dirt a considerable distance for the purpose of washing it, although this difficulty will be obviated when the rainy season commences.

We have provisions sufficient for four months, mining tools, a tent, and clothing for one year, all of which I purchased here (with the exception of clothing,) at California prices. The tools with which we started, we were obliged to throw out by the way to lighten our load.

The majority at this place are Ohioans. The Findlay, Bellevue and Milan Companies, and a company from Southern Ohio are settled here. T.B. Sturges and son are here as well. Vredenburgh and son came into the gold region about one week since. I have not seen them. We passed them on the road near Green river and arrived here sixteen days in advance. We passed the Milan boys this side of Fort Hall. Direct letters to Sacramento City until you hear again. Enclosed you will find a small portion of gold dust, which I dug and washed.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio)Dec 18, 1849

Sacramento City 1849 (image from

Sacramento City 1849 (image from

From Our California Friends.

The Sanduskian publishes a letter from J.H. Drake, dated Sacramento City, February 17, 1850. He states that T.B. Sturges, Esq., and son, and Mr. Patrick’s sons, of this place, were well, and at the springs, on Weaver’s Creek. The mines there were not as good as in other places, and it was probable they would look for better mining. He had dug there himself until January 1st. and had averaged almost $16 per day. He then removed to Sacramento City, where, in partnership with E.B. Atherton, of the Milan Co., he was keeping a public house, known as the “Buckeye House” — board $21 per week, lodging $1, single meals $1, liquor from 2’s to 4’s per drink “according to quality.”

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Apr 16, 1850

Feather River (image from

Feather River (image from

Sacramento and Yuba Cities — The Great Freshet.

Mr. J.H. Drake, in his letter, from which we quoted in our last, Yuba city, &c., “On the 9th of January, the water rose and overflowed the banks of the river, so you could pass through the principal streets of the city with boats, with 6 and 8 feet of water. The rise was owing to the very warm weather and the snow melting in the mountains, and so sudden was the rise that within one hour after the water broke over the banks the city was one sea of water. Luckily for me I had just completed a boat 26 feet long, in company with some others, for a trip up Feather river, and luckily it launched itself. On the night I speak of a person not present, could hardly imagine the distress and confusion it created. Every house in the city was flooded to the first floor, and hundreds to the second story, and all was cry for help. Our boat soon got to work in transferring the inhabitants to places which they considered safe. 30 or 40 ships laid in the river, and very many went on board for safety. The city was full of stock of every description, and the greater part of it was drowned — say 2,000 head. The portion that was saved, swam to the higher bank about 2 miles distant, near Sutter’s Fort. The fort is built of doby bricks, and is a very pleasant place. I am of opinion that the City of Sacramento is the richest city of its size, in the whole world, lay coin and uncoined gold and property at its current rates.

This city is situated in the valley of the Sacramento, 190 miles above San Francisco, at the junction of the Sacramento and the American Fork rivers. Uber City, situated on the Uber river, near Feather river, about 100 miles above, has a population of about 4,000. It is situated in the vicinity of very rich mines in the mountains, and all the streams afford excellent mining facilities. Here miners have made their 50 and $100 per day. — The last season some of them have returned with wealth, and others poorer than when first in the mines. I saw a lump of gold from Uber river, that sold for $6,000 another piece found at the Georgetown cannon by Dr. Davis of Virginia, that weighed 49 pounds, another piece found on the McCallama weighed something over 93 pounds, however, this last piece contained some quartz, which does not hurt its value in the least, as undoubtedly it will be kept as a speciman; and a thousand smaller pieces which are an every day occurrence.”

Overland Route (image from

Overland Route (image from

The Overland Route. Mr. Drake gives the following sketch of the Overland Route to California:

“From the time I left Independence, Missouri, until I arrived at this city was 100 days — a very extraordinary short trip; and without any serious accidents, save having some mules and horses stolen by emigrant foot-pads. We crossed the deserts of sands with safety, mostly in the night time. All those emigrants that undertook to cross them in the day time lost their stock and necessarily all they had. —

We crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains in July and found plenty of snow. The boys took a frolic of snow balling — they were very steep, rocky, sideling and high, and in all instances the higher peaks were destitute of trees and plants, and exhibited to the traveler a vast pile of gray granite rocks, thrown together by some convulsion of the earth. At first view it appeared almost impassable for a footman, however, we surmounted all our difficulties by industry, prudence and patience.

One word for the emigrants that arrived last fall: The government officers employed men, purchased mules, horses and provisions and returned on the route and relieved all suffering emigrants. The mountains were deep with snow; and many, very many you could see forcing their way, men women and children packing their whole stock of provisions, (as for clothing they had none,) on an old broken down mule, horse, ox, or even a cow, and still a great many were found without any stock, and some got through on foot — doing pretty well at that.

I am of the opinion that not more than one quarter of the wagons that left the frontier last spring arrived in the gold district. Some were left from necessity by falling, by breaking, shrinking, and some abandoned for the want of teams, and thousands would abandon their wagons, goods and every thing except a small stock of provisions and their fire arms, and thus force their way through, worn out and miserable, and not having made better time than those who clung to their wagons, &c.; enough of that, it’s gone by.

The whole distance from Independence by Sublet’s Cutoff, and the southern route, i.e. “Carson’s river route,” to Sacramento City, by measurement, (roadometer,) is 2,188 3/4 miles.”

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Apr 16, 1850

**Click on the “Gold Rush” category for more California Gold Rush posts.

The first part of T.B. Sturges’ journal is HERE.

Buckeyes Catch the Gold Fever

April 5, 2009
Image from

Independence MO (Image from

From Independence.

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

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.

Nebraska (image from

Nebraska (image from

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

Fort Kearny (image from

Fort Kearny (image from

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.

Crossing Platte River, NE (image from

Crossing Platte River, NE (image from

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.

Bound for California Gold

April 5, 2009

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

*For other California Gold Rush posts, just click on the “Gold Rush” category.

A Miner Rhyme

April 4, 2009

From the Knickerbocker.
Song of Labor: The Miner.

The eastern sky is blushing red,
The distant hill-top glowing;
The brook is murmuring in its bed,
In idle frolics flowing;
‘Tis time the pickaxe and the spade
And iron “tom” were ringing;
And with ourselves, the mountain stream
A song of labor singing.

The mountain air is cool and fresh;
Unclouded skies been o’er us;
Broad placers, rich in hidden gold,
Lie temptingly before us
Then lightly ply the pick and spade
With sinews strong and lusty;
A golden “pile” is quickly made,
Wherever claims are “dusty.”

We ask no magic Midas’ wand,
Nor wizard-rod divining;
The pickaxe, spade and brawny hand
Are sorcerers in mining;
We toil for hard and yellow gold,
No bogus bank notes taking;
The bank, we trust, though growing old,
Will better pay by breaking.

There is no manlier life than ours,
A life amid the mountains,
Where from the hillsides, rich in gold,
Are willing sparkling fountains:
A mighty army of the hills,
Like some strong giant labors
To gather spoil by earnest toil,
And not by robbing neighbors!

When labor closes with the day,
To simple fare returning,
We gather in a merry group
Around the camp-fires burning;
The mountains sod our couch at night,
The stars shine bright above us;
We think of home, and fall asleep
To dream of those who love us.

Mountain Democrat, The (Placerville, California) May 13, 1854

Impelled by the Spirit of Adventure and the Temptations of Gain

April 3, 2009
St. Louis circa 1850 (image from /

St. Louis circa 1850 (image from /

Letter from a California Emigrant.
Correspondence of the Huron Reflector.

Indian Territory, April 28th, 1849.}

Mr. Editor: — Being one of the many thousands who, impelled by a spirit of adventure or the temptations of gain, have left their homes, their friends and acquaintances, all the blessing of civilization and the sweets of the domestic circle, for the distant shores of the Pacific, I propose through the columns of your paper to give our friends and your readers a brief account of what is passing before us from day to day, and what we have seen since leaving the Buckeye State.

With eleven of my travelling companions I left the village of Milan, March 29th. We reached Cincinnati Saturday of the same week; here we remained a few days to complete our outfits. Some 250 Californians from different parts of the country, chartered the steamer Albatross to take us direct to St. Joseph, and on Thursday, April 5th, at 6 P.M., amid the roar of cannon and the cheers of the multitude, we left the city.

Wm Henry Harrison Tomb (image from

Wm Henry Harrison Tomb (image from

We passed North Bend about two hours after leaving Cincinnati. It was a lovely evening. The moon seemed to shine with unusual splendor; the musicians of our company were on deck with their instruments. — What thoughts filled my mind as we passed this still, quiet, hallowed spot, under the soft rays of the full moon, and gazed upon the plantation and tomb of WM. HENRY HARRISON. His tomb is near the river, on the summit of a small hill, surrounded by a beautiful fence. The privilege of gazing upon this spot paid me well for my journey so far, and inspired me with an awe and reverence for all that is good and ennobling in man, that will last me to California at least. But to return to our boat.

Every soul on board was bound for California — not a female among us — and if this was a fair sample of what society is to be in California, we shall need no Revolvers or Bowie knives. There were a few noisy, lawless fellows, who, being away from the restraining influence of the ladies, were inclined to make a little too much noise at times; but we had, on the whole, a very quiet, gentlemanly, peacable set. Our passengers were mostly business men, of good information and principles, generally middle aged, but here and there the grey head might be seen, not yet satisfied with the riches of this world.

The passage down the Ohio was one of the pleasantest steamboat trips I ever experienced. The evening of the day after we left was particularly interesting. Not a cloud dimmed the sky. The moon was profuse with her soft pale light, as if conscious of her importance, and the effect she gave to the scene. The soft mild breeze from off the hills came over the waters laden with mixed odors from the blossoms of Spring. Our music is on deck, and what need we more? Nothing but a few of the fair sex, and hearts tuned in unison with all this that can offer acceptable praise to God the creator and giver.

We sometimes found ourselves pent up among the hills, seemingly in a small lake, with no apparent way of escape, but a passage soon opened for us and we found plenty of sailing ahead. Again we could trace the windings of the river until it disappeared far away among the hills which in the distance were hardly discernable from the dim, blue sky. Saturday P.M. we were nearing the mouth of the river; it is much broader than above, with here and there a small island which adds much to the beauty of the scenery. Viewed from a distance, these islands are really beautiful; they are conical shaped masses of green foliage, which seem to rest quietly upon the smooth surface of the waters. The scenery of the Ohio is the most fascinating I ever saw. But what gave zest and charm to all this, was the sudden transition from the cold, chilling embrace of the unyielding winter, to the opening, blooming Spring — the warmth and mildness of Summer. Everything was dressed in living green. The hills seemed to have put on their best uniform to cheer and gladden our descent upon the waters they seem appointed to guard, and deliver safe into the bosom of the great Mississippi. But I must hurry out of the Ohio. Saturday evening we reached Cairo. This place is in Illinois, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi; it is the most sunken, God-forsaken place I ever was in. Everything gave evidence of a recent inundation, which frequently occurs here. A very respectable house built for a Hotel with two or three disabled steamboats, used as wharf boats, complete the village. The idea of living in Cairo is revolting in the extreme. At 7 o’clock we bid adieu to the Ohio and entered the Mississippi. We reached St. Louis Monday, April 9th. We had barely time to go to the Post office. Here we unexpectedly met two of our company who had preceded us through Illinois to purchase mules for our journey. They had 16 mules, which added to our present stock made 172 mules on board.

With the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers I had not much sympathy, though some portions are very interesting; but their shores, except about here, are devoid of that soft, beautiful scenery of the Ohio. The ascension of the rapid, muddy Missouri was slow and tedious; its navigation is dangerous in the night — being full of drift and snags; we were frequently obliged to lay over all night. Safely and without accident we reached St. Joseph Monday, April 16th, seven days from St. Louis, 500 miles — and eleven days from Cincinnati, 1250 miles. The mules, after being closely confined upon the boat, were almost unmanageable when on shore, and they created much merriment in some and anger and impatience in others more particularly interested; but matters soon became settled, and we went into camp immediately, pitching our tent near the river. After securing our mules we adjourned to a Hotel for tea, and returned to our tent to lodge. The next morning we breakfasted in our tent. Never shall I forget our first meal; there were no dainty ones among us.

St. Joseph is a fine place of about 2,000 inhabitants. It is situated upon an elevation, and makes a fine appearance as approached from below; it is the center of trade for a large, populous and productive country.

There are about 2500 encamped here bound for California. The many estimates which have been made of the numbers that would pass over to California have all been too high; 6000 will probably include all emigrants from the different points on the Missouri. Saturday, April 20th, we struck our tent, packed our waggons, and prepared for crossing the river. We passed up the river 4 miles to a ferry; crossed, and passing down the river two miles encamped about 1 1/2 miles from the river at the foot of the bluffs which rise upon either side of the Missouri, where we now are. As we were to remain here until the grass would warrant our final departure for the west, we immediately commenced preparations for housekeeping. One of our number takes charge of the culinary department, some of the mules, and others of other matters. Our living is first rate: — Ham, Bacon, Potatoes, Bread, and Tea and Coffee, are the principal articles of food, which we devour with a relish and appetites which can only be enjoyed by persons in our situation. The potatoes and bread we obtain here, and must leave them here. When upon the plains it will be hard bread and bacon for breakfast, bacon and hard bread for dinner, and smoked pork and sea biscuit for tea; quite a variety. Beans are an article of food we take with us. We buy good beans in St. Joseph for 40 cents per bushel.

There are 12 of us, — (E.B. Atherton, Robert Smith, Samuel C. Wickham, John Norton, H. Allen, Snow Edison, M. Smith, Harry Page, G.C. Choate, Charles Goodrich, J. Gregory, and Wm. Jennings,) — 3 waggons and 16 mules.

Six lodge in the waggons, the remainder in the tent. We sleep upon mattrasses on the ground, with blankets for a covering. The weather is delightful — warm days but cool nights. Never did I enjoy the Spring season so much. I sleep so sound, rise early and feel invigorated by the fresh morning air. Oh, this is rural life in reality! There’s much of romance in all this. Leaving home and friends for a distant almost unknown country — dreams of wealth, of future ease and opulence — this camp life — these western wilds; — yes, this is full of beautiful romance, fascinating in the extreme; but for the stern realities, the coming results, the chagrin and disappointment, we need to nerve our hearts in preparation.

The flats of the Missouri and the bluffs nearest the river are covered with a stunted growth of timber, principally oak, standing very scattering, and the fire which the Indians are careful shall pass over their territory annually, sweeps the ground of leaves and everything like underbrush, and in this season springs up a luxuriant growth of grass. The land is very loose, rich and mellow. What a pity that land so rich and easily tilled, should remain uncultivated.

Last Tuesday two of my traveling companions with myself mounted our mules to reconnoiter for three or four miles, the road w were so soon to pass over. We passed along the foot of the bluffs by which we are encamped, and when we came to their termination, passing around we soon found ourselves ascending to the other side. We soon reached the summit, and such a view as lay spread out before us defies all description. I have read many accounts of these western plains and prairies, but never got a correct idea of them. We stood upon an eminence, and the whole world seemed spread out before us at one view. An almost endless succession of beautiful undulations, hill succeeding hill without limits, — bounded only by the walls of the clear blue sky. Such perfect uniformity of hill after hill which stretched far away in the distance until they seemed merged with the clear blue heavens. Oh what a scene! — it would challenge the admiration of the most unobserving. He that cannot love, admire and enjoy this, must be out with the world and himself. In the ravines a small shrub oak grows, but standing where we did, not a tree or a shrub marred the surface of this vast expanse. No plow ever disturbed this virgin soil — no harvest fields on these sunny slopes — no rolling of carriages — no hum and busy din of the city is to be heard here. The sun rises and sets upon these hills to cheer and gladden the savage as he follows his narrow winding trail from point to point in the peaceful possession of his princely domain, was well as upon the cities and haunts of civilization. What a pity that such a country should remain unenjoyed by civilized beings. I have seen much fine scenery in different mountainous portions of the United States, but this. There is such a uniformity in the hight of the hills, that the eye has an almost unbounded scope. Far, far away in the distance, might be seen here and there the curling column of smoke as it rose from the burning prairie beyond. After looking and looking and looking again, I returned to camp, reconciled only with the thought that this was but a foretaste of what I was soon to see and experience. Do you think, as some predicted before I left home, that I regret the step I have taken? Far otherwise. I long to be wending my way over this beautiful country which lays spread out so temptingly before me. How many there are, who, spending their lives in their village homes, know nothing of the beauties and glories of the west.

In our rambles about here, we have observed many Indian graves. These graves are covered with bits of wood about 2 feet long, one end resting upon the ground and meeting over the center of the grave, forming a steep roof. A grave we discovered yesterday is really an object of curiosity; it was covered as were all the others; at the head waved a white flag from a peeled pole about ten feet high. One foot from this pole is a round peeled post, six inches in diameter, 2 1/2 feet high. Upon this post are painted five figures of men — four without heads, arms extended, one of them holding a gun in one hand; these four figures probably represent the number of person the deceased has beheaded. The fifth figure, (probably representing the deceased person himself,) has a head, arms extended, bow and arrow in one hand, and a handful of scalps in the other. Behind the last figure are 18 straight lines, which we suppose represent the number of scalps the deceased has taken. Upon the flag is a cross. This is undoubtedly the resting place of some important personage. The grave is upon the summit of a hill under a fine oak tree; a circle of green sod about ten feet in diameter surrounds the grave; within this circle the ground is made smooth and hard; upon the covering of the grave was a tin can with fruit preserved in molasses. Some not enjoying these luxuries in a camp life, were inclined to pilfer this preserved fruit. — This I could not but rebuke. Ye passing strangers, touch not, disturb not the repose of the savage! let him rest quietly ‘neath the shade of the forest tree where his father placed him, that the roving mourners as they return annually to strew the flowers or spring over the graves of their loved ones, may not go away cursing the white man who had thus ruthlessly disturbed the resting place of their dead. Everything of this kind indicating the character, manners and customs of the Indian, is interesting to me, and I observe them closely. We shall soon see much more of the Indians. Their first village on our route is 14 miles from here. The Indians are now mostly off hunting the Buffalo.


The feed we think sufficiently good to warrant our departure, and we have determined to leave next Monday, (April 30th.) There will be about 50 waggons in our trail, and 200 persons. Some have preceded us, and others will follow for some time to come. But I will no longer trespass upon your patience, and the room which might be devoted to a better purpose. Should I be so fortunate as to reach the end of my journey, you may again hear from A CALIFORNIA GOLD HUNTER.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) May 22, 1849

The Overland Route to California

April 2, 2009
Emigrant Train (image from

Emigrant Train (image from

The California Trail — What Preparations to Make.

We find in the Fort Smith (Ark.) Herald, a number of circulars and communications from the agents of companies about to start from that place on the Overland Route to California via the Canadian Fork to the Rio Grande, and thence by the Gila or Colorado to the Pacific. The instructions with regard to preparations for the journey will be of advantage to those who design to emigrate. We have here selected and arranged the most important items:


The route via Independence or St. Josephs, Mo., to For Laramie, South Pass, Fort Hall, the sink of St. Mary’s River, &c., the old route — is the best. “Let no emigrant,” say the Arkansas Democrat, “carrying his family with him, deviate from it, or imagine to himself that he can find a better road. This road is the best that has yet been discovered, to the Bay of San Francisco and the Gold Region it is much the shortest. The Indians, moreover, on this route, have up to the present time, been so friendly as to commit no acts of hostility on the emigrants. The trail is plain and good where there are no physical obstructions, and the emigrant, by taking this route, will certainly reach his destination in good season and without disaster. From our information we would most earnestly advise all emigrants to take this trail, without deviation; if they would avoid the fatal calamities which almost invariably have attended those who have undertaken to explore new routes.”


From the head of steamboat navigation on the Arkansas to Santa Fe, is less by about three hundred miles, than from Independence to Santa Fe. In the first place in regard to the route:

According to the distance, as laid down by Lieut. Maury, of the United States Navy, a very scientific gentleman, it is only 1,500 miles from Memphis to Monterey, on the Pacific. — Memphis is accordingly 500 miles nearer to Monterey than Independence, Mo. The time, therefore, will be much shorter than was at first estimated; perhaps it will hardly exceed eighty days travel from this place (Fort Smith) to Monterey, and many confidently believe it will not exceed sixty days. The advantage of starting at this point by the 1st of April, and the difference in the distance, will throw nearly two months’ advantage to the emigrant going this route; and he will be about 800 miles nearer to the point of destination on the 15th day of May, than those who contemplate starting from Independence; and, as a gentleman who has traveled that road remarked, it would be vastly to the advantage of every one living in Missouri, desirous of removing to California, to go the Canadian trail; beside, after leaving this place, provisions and horse-feed can be purchased for 200 miles on this road, which is not the case on the Missouri route. The company will proceed from this place directly to Chapman’s trading-house, four miles above the North Fork of the Canadian, crossing the South Fork two or three hundred yards above the mouth of the North Fork, thence to Edwards’ trading-house on Little River, thence directly on between the North and South Forks of Canadian River, affording at nearly all seasons of the year excellent grazing for stock. These streams rise in the neighborhood of Santa Fe, and often run so close together that they can both be seen from the same point, and are an unerring natural guide to the emigrants on their route, being on the dividing ridge, which is as level as could be well desired, and abounds with springs the entire distance.

The whole distance is susceptible of being settled, and can easily be traveled in the Winter, as the river bottoms have an abundance of Winter grass, which we are assured is excellent for stock of any kind. Buffalo abound on this route, and in such quantities that they cannot be numbered. In addition to this, the Indians have extended their settlements westward to such a distance that emigrants can supply themselves with corn, beef, and other supplies, for eight or ten days’ travel on the route after leaving the point of rendezvous. This route is well defined, Lt. Buford having recently passed over it with a detachment of U.S. Dragoons. No danger need be apprehended from Indians, as there is, we believe, not a single instance where travelers on this route have been molested.


The lightest wagon that can be constructed of sufficient strength to carry 2,500 pounds weight, is the vehicle most desirable. No wagon should be loaded over this weight, or if it is it will be certain to stall in the muddy sloughs and crossings on the prairie in the first part of the journey. This wagon can be hauled by three or four yoke of oxen or six mules. Oxen are usually employed by emigrants for hauling their wagons. They travel about fifteen miles per day, and all things considered, are perhaps equal to mules for this service, although they cannot travel so fast. They are, however, less expensive, and there is not so much danger of their straying and being stolen by the Indians. Pack-mules can only be employed by parties of men. It would be very difficult to transport a party of women and children on pack-mules, with the provisions, clothing and other baggage necessary to their comfort. A party of men, however, with pack-mules, can make the journey in less time by one month than it can be done in wagons — carrying with them, however, nothing more than their provisions, clothing and ammunition. For parties of men going out, it would be well to haul their wagons, provisions, &c. as far as Ft. Laramie or Ft. Hall, by mules, carrying with them pack-saddles and alforjams, or larger saddle-bags, adapted to the pack-saddle, with ropes for packing, &c., when, if they saw proper, they could dispose of their wagons for Indian ponies, and pack into California, gaining perhaps two or three weeks time.


The provisions actually necessary are as follows: 150 lbs. of flour, 150 do. of bacon, 25 do. coffee, 30 do. sugar. Added to these, the main items, there should be a small quantity of rice, 50 or 75 lbs, of crackers, dried peaches, &c., and a keg of lard, with salt, pepper, &c. and such other luxuries of light weight as the person outfitting chooses to purchase. He will think of them before he starts.

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Every man should be provided with a good rifle, and if convenient with a pair of pistols, five lbs. of powder, and ten lbs. of lead. A revolving belt pistol may be found useful. With the wagon there should be carried such carpenter’s tools as a handsaw, auger, gimblet, chisel, shaving knife, &c., an axe, hammer and hatchet. This last weapon every man should have in his belt, with a hunter’s bowie-knife.


Emigrants should be at Independence, St. Joseph, (Mo.) or the point of starting, by the 20th of April, and start as soon thereafter as the grass on the prairies will permit. This is sometimes by the 1st of May, and sometimes then days later, according to the season. [Emigrants should be at Fort Smith (Ark.) on the 1st of April, as an expedition will start from that place at that date. The grass on the prairies over which the road lies will then be up sufficiently high to afford fine grazing. All caravans by this route can, if they choose, get a start of forty days of those who take the Independence route.]

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 6, 1849


California Items.

INTERESTING FROM CALIFORNIA.— From the California Star of December 2d, we take the following interesting items, which have not heretofore been published.

WINTER IN THE MOUNTAINS. — We are glad to learn that many of our citizens have abandoned the unwise project of wintering in the mountains, and returned, or are preparing to return to their homes. We are every day more convinced of the error of those already encamped in the several mountain diggins have committed, and our fears are for even life, in many places, as the forfeit of imprudence.

At the ‘dry diggins,’ where most are located, snow falls to the depth of two or three feet — The weather is extremely cold, and the various streams intersecting the mountains become swollen and rendered almost impassable. This will prevent traveling, and we hope no camp in that remote section is destitute of its Winter supply of provisions. Juba and Feather Rivers, whereon a number have collected, present similar disadvantages to the miner, and urge upon him strongly the better policy of keeping quiet until the return of Spring. To peril health in the manner proposed by many, is scarcely wisdom. The placer is ample to satisfy the grasping mind of the million, and plenty of unworked ground invites labor. Don’t be in a hurry, gents, ‘there’s a few more left of the same sort.’

LATEST FROM THE MINES. — About 800 souls it is calculated will winter at the ‘dry diggins’ alone. On Juba and Feather Rivers, preparations are being made to pass the winter by a great number. Houses are constructed and supplies stored, but a scarcity of provisions for the coming season prevails in every camp. At Juba a settlement has been formed near the upper ‘diggins’ — 150 houses have been erected, constructed chiefly of logs, and hopes are entertained of passing a comfortable winter.

Upon the Middle Fork, at the newly discovered ‘diggins,’ the worthy citizens of Dry-diggin-ville are almost to a man employed in mining, and with very fair success. The diggers are most of the Oregon emigration. From $5 to five ounces per day is the stated yield. The gold is large and extremely beautiful, quite free from sand and pebbles. The usual process of taking it is by throwing up dykes and turning the water from its channel, or draining portions of the river’s bed. In the eddies of the main stream it can be seen in great abundance, and at a depth of 25 to 30 feet in many places. At this aggravating distance it is quite harmless. Kanakas have dived with a desperation becoming pearl fishers, but ‘no go’ — the gold yet remains unfingered. Washing for gold has been generally given up for the season. The water is cold, and Jack Frost regular in his morning visits. As we have before stated, very little gold will be gathered after the commencement of the rains.


SCARCITY OF DWELLINGS. — HOUSES and shanties are so scarce that an occupant of a ten by twelve, who has the shanty on a lease of $10 per month, was offered $30 per month to move out, by a person newly arrived.

CALIFORNIA PISTOLS. — On the last night of the session of Congress $50,000 was appropriated for an additional purchase from the inventor of Colt’s improved repeating pistols, and a joint resolution was adopted instructing the Secretary of War to furnish these arms to emigrants going to California, at the government cost prices. They are thus advantageously supplied on a written application to the War Department..

EARTHQUAKES FOR GOLD FEVER.— An article in the Philadelphia American speaking of California, says:

After the gold mania shall have been abated a little, our emigrant friends will discover another peculiar quality in California, which will, probably, not be much to their liking, namely, that it is a great country for earthquakes. At Monterey, according to sir George Simpson, no less than one hundred and twenty shakes were noticed during two successive months in the summer of 1841. Most of these as may be supposed, were very slight ones; but in proof that they are not always so, Sir George speaks as having seen near the town, besides shattered churches, a ‘rent in the earth a mile or so in length, and thirty or forty feet in depth,’ the result of a recent earthquake.

VERY GOOD — as the Indian would say. It has been suggested by a wag that it would be well for some of those who talk of making a settlement in California, to begin by making a settlement at home before they go.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Mar 27, 1849

A few good links:

The National Oregon/California Trail Center

Trails West – Markers of the California Trail

Oregon California Trails Association has an interactive map; click on a location and it will take you to a page with pictures and more information, hit the back button and you are back to the map.

Along Your Way – Paths of Empire has two good maps of the Santa Fe trail. You can click on them for a larger view.

Sailing to California for GOLD

April 1, 2009
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The following news articles are all related to traveling by boat to California during the Gold Rush. Be sure to read the last account; the author gives a very good description of the hardships endured on his voyage.

The Journey to California.

We fear that hundreds are starting for California, without carefully counting the cost and danger, and that a consequent failure will be the result. The great danger of the route by the Isthmus of Darien, which is the one mostly followed, consists in the difficulties connected with crossing the Isthmus, and the detention at Panama for the want of shipping facilities. — The voyage from New York to Chagres, or from Panama to San Francisco, after once on ship board, presents nothing very alarming. — The difficulties at the Isthmus are, however, not small. The New York Herald has published a description of the route, written by a gentleman who has resided in Panama for some time, and has made frequent journeys across the Isthmus. We learn from this statement, that Chagres, the Atlantic port, is a small collection of huts, containing about 500 inhabitants, almost all colored people. The exceptions are a few officials at the custom house and the castle. It is situated in the midst of a swamp, and from the constant rains, the streets are impassable except on longs of wood. Its climate is said to be the most pestiferous for whites in the whole world.

The coast of Africa, which enjoys a dreaded reputation in this way, is not so deadly in its climate as is Chagres. The thermometer ranges from 78 to 85 deg. all the year and it rains every day. Many a traveller, who has incautiously remained there for a few days and nights, has had cause to remember Chagres; and many a gallant crew who have entered the harbor in full health, have, ere many days, found their final resting place on the dark and malarious banks of the river. Bilious, remitted and congestive fever, in their most malignant form, seem to hover over Chagres, ever ready to pounce down upon the stranger. Even the acclimated resident of the tropics runs a great risk in staying any time in Chagres; but the stranger, fresh from the North and its invigorating breezes, runs a most fearful one. Its accommodations for travellers are very limited, or about none at all, and no one thinks of staying there twenty-four hours, if he can possibly help it.

The first stage in the journey to Panama is made on the Chagres river, in canoes propelled by poles in the hands of the native boatmen. — The distance to Cruces, the end of the river travel, is 50 to 55 miles. The journey takes from twelve to thirty-six hours, according to the number of hands employed to propel the canoe. The passenger sits in the stern of the light craft, and his baggage is placed in the center, and he is obliged to remain perfectly quiet, to avoid upsetting. He must take his provisions with him, — to land is impossible without running great risks, as the river swarms with alligators, and the shores are marshy and clothed with exuberant vegetation down to the water’s edge. No village, or even a hut lines its banks the whole distance. It is the region of disease and venomous animals and reptiles. The lowest cost for a single passenger is a doubloon, ($16) and from that up to two, three, or four doubloons.

Arrived at Cruces; which is a small village, the traveller is within twenty one miles of the Pacific ocean, which have to performed on land. The usual method is on horse or on mule back, with another mule to carry the baggage, and a muleteer who acts as a guide. The road is a mere bridle path, and as the rains on the Isthmus are very heavy, and there is more or less of them all the year round, the mud holes and swampy places to be crossed are very numerous. He must carry his provisions with him. After about twelve hours toilsome ride, the beautiful Pacific appears in view and the city of Panama is reached. This city contains from 5000 to 7000 inhabitants, and is a quiet, dull place. The climate is warm, say from 80 to 85 degrees the whole year round, and the rains long and severe. It is a healthier place than Chagres. With due care, avoiding all excesses and the night air, a person can preserve his health; still the heavy rains and continued damp atmosphere, render it necessary to take every precaution; for though healthy when compared with Chagres, it is by no means a safe place for unacclimated strangers from the north.

Having arrived at Panama, the chief difficulties of the journey are over, and the traveller on ship board, on the bosom of the glorious Pacific, may revel in his day dreams of gold and riches to his heart’s content. But let us look somewhat more narrowly at the difficulties of the route at the present moment. Death has his seat at Chagres, and no time must be spent there — but, from the great numbers now taking that route, there is imminent danger of being delayed at that place for the want of conveyance. The canoes and boatmen are limited in number, and from the great demand they will be tempted to charge exorbitant rates. — Many will no doubt lay down their lives and their hopes together in a grave at Chagres, for want of conveyance or means to get away.

But say he has arrived at Panama. Has he then any assurance of speedy departure for California? All the steamers are full for months to come — Panama is a costly place to live, and the danger of sickness is imminent. Many will have to wait for weeks, possibly months for a passage to San Francisco, and when the long wished for opportunity occurs, they will find themselves unable to take it, as their expenses in Panama will have exhausted their means. Thus situated in a strange, unhealthy country, moneyless and friendless, their spirits depressed by their situation, it requires no prophet to predict a heart rending termination to their golden schemes.

We present these difficulties to put those who have determined to make this voyage on their guard, and prepare them for its dangers. Such an undertaking should not be entered upon rapidly; if it is, misfortune will be sure to follow. — Pitts. Gazette.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 2, 1849


THE ISTHMUS — Mr. Dominguez, Consul of New Grenada at the port of New York, states, in a letter dated a few days back, that at his last advices from Panama, no persons were in waiting at that port to proceed to San Francisco. This is a flat contradictions to the statement recently current, that there were certainly 2000, and probably 6000 persons waiting their chances for passage to California.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 2, 1849

By Panama:

PRICE: $300 to $420


TIME: 30 to 35 Days

By Cape Horn:

PRICE: $100 to $300

DISTANCE: 17,000

TIME: 130 to 150 Days

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 9, 1849


The excitement in regard to the California gold mines continues unabated. Thirty-six vessels have sailed from New York, Boston, &c., for California via Cape Horn, with 1,164 passengers, 530 have gone via Chagres. — These are in addition to the crews of the vessels.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jan 20, 1849

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Mr. Nicholas Rector, of this place, recently one of the proprietors of the City Mills, returned a few days since to his home and family, after having proceeded as far as Panama on his way to California and the Gold Placers. He was ill most of the time from the period of leaving New York until his return. He gives a gloomy account of the condition of things, on the Isthmus route. The statements he makes leave no doubt that an infamous game of fraud is being played at New York, to induce emigrants to take the Chagres route, with the expectation of fleecing from them in many instances, charges to that point and back again.

Mr. Rector left Akron on the last day of February. — He left New York, on the Cresent City, on the 15th of March, (ult.) and arrived at Chagres on the 24th ult. — He found there, on his arrival, two thousand persons waiting for a passage to San Francisco, and the harbor of Panama destitute of shipping. The passengers of the Cresent City had been led to suppose that they would find a vessel at Panama bound for San Francisco, with little difficulty. The steamer of Howland & Aspinwall, the owners of the Cresent City, they were told would reach Panama soon after they did; and they could get passage on her without difficulty. They found, however, that tickets calling for a passage on the California Steamer, could only be had at prices varying from $600 to $1200. At this enormous rate were tickets to be purchased, it at all; and then the purchaser must run the risk of the arrival of the steamer. Few of he multitude at Chagres and Panama could pay such prices. Many of them had been waiting for a passage until their money and provisions were gone, and they were begging for aid from camp to camp, like men frantic. The number in this situation was rapidly increasing. What they would do it was impossible to say. Thousands of miles from home and from their destination, among strangers in a strange land, in an inhospitable climate for northern men, and where labor is not in demand, their situation is lamentable in the extreme.

Mr. Rector remained on the Isthmus eight days. During that time the number in waiting was increased by new arrivals to 3,000. The distance across the Isthmus from Chagres to Panama, is about 54 miles. Three days is the time usually occupied in crossing.

[Summit Beacon.
MORE FROM THE ISTHMUS. — The Ohio State Journal publishes a letter from Mr. W.F. Legg of Columbus, dated at Panama, March 22, 1849, which confirms the statements of Mr. Rector. The letter says:

We found at Gorgona some 25 or 30 tents, filled with Americans, who had found it impossible at this time to get away from Panama, and concluded it was best to stay there and eat up their provisions rather than transport them to Panama at an expense of from $7 to $10 a hundred. We found at this point a number of gambling shops, kept by the Americans, and a number of emigrants had lost every cent they had. We met a man returning who had lost it is said $700! One gambler here had won with a roulette, $10,000, and left for Panama.

I would say to every man bound for California, “come any way but this,” for it is impossible for all those who are now here to get there; and many are returning; and some have stayed here until they have no means to go back nor forward; and I am afraid that a great many more of us will be in the same situation, if we do not proceed some way soon. Tickets have sold here on the steamer for $700 and $1,000; and one man offered to pay $200 and work as a deck hand, and was refused.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) May 8, 1849


Voyage To California.
The Akron Free Democrat publishes the following interesting letter from Mr. L.B. Raymond, formerly of that place:

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 12, 1849.

  • * * I have finally arrived in the land of gold and gold mines. I had for the first time the exquisite satisfaction of viewing the tent-clad hills of San Francisco on Thursday last, about 2 o’clock P.M. * *

When we were in Panama, Mr. Dow and five others of our company, bought tickets on the brig Two Friends, for which they paid $250 each, but myself and two others were unable to procure tickets on board of her, although we offered a heavy premium on the prices paid by others. I waited a week or so after they had bought, when I had an opportunity of buying second-hand tickets on the brig Solidad, which lay in the harbor, several miles from shore; and as it was very expensive to get on board, I had to take the word of others in relation to her.

I saw a number who had tickets on the same vessel, and learned from them that she was a good, substantial sea vessel, of 128 tons, with comfortable accommodations; so I and the two others of our company bought tickets on her, for which we had to pay $230. I went on board for the first time, April 28, and in five minutes after, she was under way for California. She was of but 90 tons burthen, with 92 passengers, and the deck so covered with trunks, boxes, and gold-washers, that the sailors could scarcely get about. But this was nothing to the scene presented in the hold, as I for the first time, on hands and knees, with bended neck, made my way to a vacant shelf, where I could nearly straighten myself, and if I could, sleep. —

For the first three nights, I put myself in this hole, but afterwards, when I slept at all, it was on deck, for about two months. We were 28 days going to Acapulco, a distance of 1,500 miles, in a succession of calms and squalls, thunder and rain, such as I wish to never to see again. We had a dead calm at least one-third of the time — and a calm under a tropical sun, is not very agreeable, especially where you are exposed to its direct rays. A thunder-storm at sea in this latitude is the most awfully grand and sublime spectacle it is possible to imagine. There is one continual peal of the most deafening thunder, while the forked and chain lightning fill the whole hevens with a vast sheet of flame. All these storms, during our passage, were in the night, and we had some eight or ten of them. It rains in the tropics as I never saw it rain before — seeming as if the very windows of heaven were opened, and from one to four hours during a shower. —

As there was no decent place to go below, I always stayed on deck, and there, holding on to a mast, rope, or something else. I viewed the war of elements, with feelings as calm as the circumstances would  permit. Such a scene of terror and confusion as a vessel presents during one of those storms, cannot well be imagined. Between Acapulco and Cape St. Lucas, we experienced some of the roughest sea on the whole passage, some of the waves being estimated by good judges over 30 feet from the summit to the hollow. * *

Our drinking-water, brackish as the best, had been put in whale-oil casks, making it a thousand times worse — the only way I could drink or keep it down, (after going without as long as possible,) was to take the strongest kind of peppermint in my mouth before and after drinking. Our provisions were on average better than the water, though a dog, in the States, would suffer some hunger, before he would venture to attack the jerked beef we had to eat. Our bread, up to Acapulco, was all wormy, but the rest, principally rice and beans, were passable, with the exception of a lot of beans which we had finally to come to, which as near as could be estimated, contained three bugs to two beans.

We stayed six days in Acapulco, where we got some good bread, &c. From Acapulco to St. Lucas we were twenty-two days. Here we could get no provisions but jerked beef, &c., and our number of passengers was increased to 97. After stopping at St. Lucas three days, we set sail at night, but the wind dying away we drifted towards the breakers, on which the waves were dashing with great fury — the cape at this point being a mass of solid rock, from 50 to 200 feet high, and nearly perpendicular. We drifted to within 10 or 12 rods of the rocks, when, providentially, a breeze sprung up and saved us from certain destruction. The officers said that had she gone on the rocks there was no probability of a single soul being saved.

From this place to Santa Barbara, we were 26 days. After coasting up to lat. 25 degrees with constant head winds, we struck off to the west, making about the longitude of San Francisco without gaining any latitude. — After being out 10 or 12 days, we were put on allowance of food and water. It was ascertained by a committee appointed to examine the provisions, that there was sufficient to last 10 days, and they of the poorest quality. * * *

I have taken an old sea biscuit, which had been saved from my rations when not so hard up, and after breaking it into small pieces, to get the worms and bugs out, eaten it with a greater relish than anything before in my life. We were allowed half a pint of coffee per day.

Just as our provisions were all gone we were fortunate enough to arrive at Santa Barbara. After what I had suffered from hunger and thirst, and fear of shipwreck, I thought it best to leave the old craft, and go by land. I succeeded in buying a mule, and with six other individuals, we started for this place, a distance of over four hundred miles. It took us sixteen days, including one day spent going on a wrong road. We traveled through a country mostly prairie, with very scanty timber and water; at one time we traveled three days without passing an inhabited house. We had to stand sentinel during the night, as we passed through where there were lots of Indians. On the whole I had a pleasant trip. I walked more than two-thirds of the way, owing to having to make a baggage mule of my animal. There are any quantity of Cattle and Horses in the country we traveled through. There were seventy thousand head on one Mission, which we traveled through — at one view I could see from ten to fifteen thousand; I also saw lots of deer, two panthers, and….**

  • *The last portion, maybe 3 sentences, left off; they were illegible.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Nov 27, 1849

April Fool: Courtesy of the Home Protectors

April 1, 2009


APRIL FOOL. — The subjoined account of an “April fool” sell perpetrated by parties in Virginia, cannot fail in these days of anti-chinese sentiment, of exciting regret on the part of some that it was not a veritable instead of a sham transaction. We clip from the Virginia Chronicle of April first.

Sierra Nevada Hoisting Works

Sierra Nevada Hoisting Works

At 6 o’clock this morning crowds of people were observed flocking towards the northern portion of town. It had been rumored that the Home Protectors had met last night and taken Charley Sing to the Sierra Nevada hoisting works, where they had hung him to a tramway crossing the road. The report spread little by little, and even as early as 7 o’clock over 200 people congregated at the Sierra Nevada works. As they neared the place, sure enough the body of a man  was seen hanging by the neck from the trestlework and swaying to and fro in the chill morning breeze. The face was covered with a white hankerchief and the body was draped in the regulation shroud. A courier was dispatched on horseback post-hasted into town for the Coroner and a number of the assembled men proceeded to cut the rope and lower the unfortunate Chinaman to the ground. when the body reached the earth a universal howl of disgust swelled forth from two hundred throats, and two hundred mouths ejaculated hot words. The man was nothing but a stuffed effigy, loaded with stones, so as not to make the deception too apparent. The handkerchief over his face was tied on for the same purpose. Two hundred disappointed sensation-hunters slowly wended their melancholy way back into town, fully convinced that to-day was the 1st of April.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Apr 3, 1876