Watertown Boys Head For California

“We’re bound for Californy,
Our pockets for to fill!”

Yesterday morning seven of our own citizens and two of neighboring towns, took up their line of march for California. They are to proceed by wagon to Galena, thence by steamboat to St. Louis and Independence, and thence as “circumstances” may dictate to the “diggings.” Their names are —

Stephen Stimpson,       Louis Meyer,
Henry Waldron,        James Stevens,
Martin P. Glines,         Luke Colburn,
Amos Steck,               Ole Hanson.
Nelson Whitney,

Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens. They leave in high spirits, hardly realizing, we fear, the hardships and privations before them. While we regret to part with them, we cannot but hope that their most extravagant expectations may be fully realized, and that within two years from this time, we may hail the return of each, with “all their pockets” well filled with the precious metal.

They intend celebrating the 4th of July at the South Pass, making those wild and distant hills and valleys re-echo, for the first time, the songs and the sentiments of liberty.

Watertown has contributed liberally to the mighty stream of emigration that is setting toward California. In addition to those given above, five others have left within a few weeks past, viz:

Francis McCluskey,        Henry Helman,
Philip Johnson,        Bernard Crangle.
Darius Gibbs,

There are others here who have caught the fever, and we should not wonder if they, too, should soon be “carried off.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 11, 1849

Image of the Pony Express Route – click to enlarge – Find the Forts etc. mentioned by the Watertown Boys.

A Californian’s Epistle.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle]

TRADING POINT, IOWA, }
May 10, 1849.}

FRIEND H. — According to your request, I drop you a hasty line, informing you of the whereabouts and success of the Watertown boys. We all reached St. Louis at dark on Monday evening, April 16th. I left the boys there and proceeded on my way up the Missouri river to this point. After leaving St. Louis the third day of our passage, a poston rod broke, and detained up six days. We reached St. Joseph on Monday the 30th of April, where I found all the Watertown boys except my mess, they having passed up the river while we were lying to below for repairs. They were all in fine spirits, and said the Elephant had not yet been discovered. Thursday or Friday following they intended to leave for the plains, crossing the river at Fort Kearney. But I had to leave them and find my mess. I reached here May 3d and found Mack and Phil in the tallest kind of clover, they having reached here two weeks before, and were “camped out” and going through the regular routine of camp duty in order to get “broke in” before leaving for the plains. They had a very hard time while on their way — all bridges through the country where they traveled were gone, the streams were high, and the water very cold. But they were in good health and spirits, and bound to go-ahead. They have seen harder times than they will again see on their route to California, at least so the old guides tell us.

The hardships and dangers of the trip have been greatly magnified by those who know nothing about it. We are told that the road for 500 or 600 miles on this end of the route is of the best description. There is very little danger to be apprehended from the Indians, if a vigilant watch is kept up. It is impossible to tell how many emigrants are intending to cross the plains this season. But from what I have seen and heard others say, I should think 15,000 to be a high estimate. Of these some 3,000 are Mormons destined for the Salt Lake. A few teams have already crossed the river and are on their way, but it is yet full early, on account of the grass, as it is not much grown, the spring having been backward. Our company are now ferrying some of their wagons and teams over, and on Saturday, I think, our team will cross, when we take up our march over the plains.

But this California life is a great one shirt and pants, hat and boots, knife and pistol — them’s your rig. No coat, no vest, no neck handkerchief, no suspenders, a belt round your waist — haven’t shaved for a month, eat like a trooper, sleep like a brick, don’t care a snap for any body, no body cares a fig for you. That is what you may call independence.

There is generally a very good feeling existing among the Californians, but now and then they have a brush among themselves. I hear this morning of a company who crossed at a point about 20 miles above this, after proceeding 15 miles on their way, fell out and had a regular fist-fight. Some of them were sadly bruised, and part of the company broke up, and turned back for home. The reason of this is, that a parcel of wagons combine and form a company, and before forming, the parties may have been acquainted for but two or three days, and they soon disagree. If possible, companies should be formed of teams who are from the same state or section of country. There are several teams from Dodge county in our company. Hillyer of Wapun and his company are here, and a man from Rubicon arrived here last night. I think his name is McCune. I have had no opportunity of seeing him. P.C. and B. Crangle were at St. Joseph. Thompson and boys of Waterloo will cross the river 20 miles above here. Fitzgerald of the same place, formerly of Johnson’s Creek, is in our company. Ingersoll, who left Watertown some time before we did, we saw in Galena on his way to California. These are all I can now think of who you may know, that are in this section. When an opportunity offers I shall write you again, which will be at Salt Lake probably.

Yours, &c.,
NELSON WHITNEY.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) May 30, 1849

Fort Laramie image from the Wyoming Photographs website.

Watertown Californians.

During the past week, letters have been received in this village from Messrs. GILMAN, STIMPSON, STECK and GLINES, dated June 19th, at Fort Laramie, the last fort they will pass before reaching California. These letters were more or less blackened and charred by fire, having been recovered, according to a printed endorsement of the Postmaster at St. Louis, “from the wreck of the steamer Algoma, burned at the wharf at St. Louis July 29th — said boat having a large California mail, a large portion of which was entirely consumed.”

From the letter of Mr. GLINES we learn that the Watertown boys still remain in good health and most of them in good spirits, and that their oxen are all in “better heart than when they started from St. Jo.” But other emigrants had been less fortunate, “You cannot imagine,” says Mr. G., “the suffering and distress on this road. Men, women, children and teams are giving out and dying every day. The road is lined with dead oxen and mules.”

For 75 or 80 miles before reaching Fort Laramie, Mr. G. says the roads were “very heavy and sandy, water scarce and bad, and no whisky!” He concludes his letter by saying: “I would never advise any one to take this route for California.”

Judging from the rate at which the company have traveled since leaving Fort Kearney, they will probably reach the ‘diggings,’ if no misfortune befals them, early in September. But the worst part of the route is yet before them, if we have anything like a correct knowledge of the country. The desert portions of it have still to be passed. — Heavy wheeling and scarcity of water, food and fuel, are in reserve for the company. — But stout nerves and a determined spirit can triumph over all these; and the next intelligence we receive from our “boys,” will doubtless be to the effect that they are “feeding in tall clover,” with both pockets rapidly filling with “the rock.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Aug 15, 1849

Image from the Fine Books & Collections website.

From California.

We have received from a friend at San Francisco, the Alta California of Aug 2d. It contains the very latest news that has been received in the states, from that point of attraction. We give below a bird’s-eye view of its contents:

Seventeen of the twenty columns of the paper, are devoted to the trial of the persons concerned in the riot mentioned in our last issue. Then follows half a column of placer intelligence, in which new and extensive discoveries of the precious metal are given. Next, a table of immigration during the month of July, the total number being 3,614, of whom 49 were females, and about 3,000 Americans. Next, an account of the arrival of the pioneer overland companies, with news of 5,000 or 6,000 wagons having nearly reached Pleasant Valley. [We hope the Watertown boys may be of the crowd.] — Then, an account of new gold discoveries on Trinity river, 500 miles above San Francisco; the announcement that the dedication of the new Baptist church, “on Washington street,”  will take place the following Sabbath; a journal of the arrival and departure of vessels, as well as a list of the vessels in port; winding up with the San Francisco Price Current for July. We quote the prices of a few articles: Flour $12,00a13,00, Oregon corn 1,50a2,00, mess pork, new, 18,00a22,00, old 14,00a16,00, Am. cheese 37 1/2a42c., Am. butter 75a80, sugar 9a12 1/2, coffee 5 1/2a8 1/2, young hyson tea 27 1/2a45, brandy per gallon 1,00a2,00, gin 1,00a1,10, champagne per doz. 15,00a18,00, whisky per gallon 60a1,00, am. brogans 1.23a1,35, pine lumber 300a350 per M., house frames 1,200a2,500.

A little paragraph at the bottom of a column, states, that “the average passage of vessels which have reached San Francisco from the various Atlantic ports, is 163 days.”

The Alta California is printed on very yellow paper — just for fashion’s sake, we suppose!

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin)Sep 26, 1849

Fort Bridger, Wyoming – 1873 from the Wyoming Photographs website.

FROM THE PLAINS. —

Our townsman, ROBERT CRANGLE, has just received a letter from his two brothers, dated at Fort Bridges[r], July 1st. They were in good health, and had no fears of being able to get through. They were about 100 miles from the Mormon city, and 800 from the diggings. They estimate the number of teams in advance of them at 400, and in read at 1200. Of the latter, they think many will not be able to get through, owing to the scarcity of feed.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 3, 1849

The Great Salt Lake Valley

From Salt Lake.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle.]

CITY OF THE GREAT SALT LAKE.}
July 12, 1849.}

FRIEND H. — When I wrote you last, our train did not expect to take the route to this place, and I placed a letter in the hands of a gentleman who was packing through, and intended to go by the way of the city. When we arrived at the junction of the Fort Hall and Salt Lake trails, our company had not decided which route should be taken, and after debating half an hour on the subject, a part took the Fort Hall road, the remainder taking the road to this place.

It is not known to emigrants that there is a waggon trail from Salt Lake to the gold region, nor were our company aware of it until we were within 80 miles of the lake and very few teams take this route, and those who take it do so with the intention of exchanging their oxen and wagons for pack mules; but we are told that there is a good road from here to Sutter’s Fort, and plenty of grass and water, the distance being about 850 miles through — 600 miles of the road of the best description, when we reach the California mountains, the road over these being hilly and rough for a portion of the distance. We again strike the great trail by Fort Hall 180 or 190 miles from this place.

We reached this place yesterday, at noon, and shall leave Saturday or Monday morning. The distance traveled is 1049 miles, over a very good road, with the exception of the last 40 or 50 miles, where we had to climb two high mountains, both the ascent and descent being very steep and rocky, and I think, rather harder than your Rock river woods’ road at its worse stage.

The “glourious fourth” was spent in a manner rather derogatory to Yankee character. Some of the boys felt like having a little glorification in the morning, and banged their rifles, and hurrahed a little. But it was “no go;” their enthusiasm soon vanished, all saying that the next fourth should have a double dose. We traveled 23 miles that day, a very warm day, and taking a new and different road from that laid down in our guide book, to avoid crossing several streams, were without water for 13 miles, and camped at night within three miles of Fort Bridger.

If there is a beautiful spot on the earth’s face, it is the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The best description of it I can give you is to tell you climb some high mountain and look upon a beautiful lake, and the valley will be pictured to you. It is about 40 miles long, with a width of 22 miles, and is surrounded by high mountains, with the exception of a small space at the north, many of whose summits are capped with snow the year round. The soil is very good, (I have seen much better in Wisconsin,) and the climate delightful; at least it has proved so the short time I have remained here, and I am told it is but a fair specimen of the summer season. The mountain breezes, cooled by the snowy banks which cap their sides and summits, temper the hot air to that deliciousness which makes existence an enjoyment which man can hardly be said to possess in any portion of the eastern world in which I have resided. And this breeze is never idle; its mighty fan is ever in motion. The winters are mild, and but little snow falls. The last winter snow fell to the depth of 20 inches in the valley, and the old trappers and traders say that it was the most severe winter season that has been experienced in this region for the last 16 years.

The great city is regularly laid out in blocks or squares, the streets being very wide, and is most beautifully located, 22 miles from the lake. As yet, nothing very extensive in the way of building has been done, and it presents rather a mean appearance. I do not recollect having seen a house higher than a single story, and very many of them are mere cabins, whose dimensions will not exceed 12 or 16 feet square. They are built of “adobes” (sun-baked, or Spanish brick) and logs. Some of the inhabitants are still living in tents and wagons. There is no timber in the valley, the inhabitants hauling it from the mountains, a distance of from five to twenty miles. They have not yet commenced their great temple, and how soon they will do so, is not yet determined.

It is estimated that there are from 17 to 20,000 people in the valley — Mormons — most of them handling the plough and hoe for a subsistence. Irrigation is resorted to to produce crops. Their crops look very well. Yesterday I saw a man threshing wheat grown this season, but the harvest season will not properly commence for 6 or 8 days yet. Corn does not appear to thrive very well, the nights being too cold and frosty, the air being cooled by the mountains. — Crops of other descriptions appear to do very well, and we are now regaling ourselves upon green peas, beans, turnips, onions, small cabbage, &c. Cattle are very plenty, and will make the fattest beef by merely feeding upon the grasses with which the valley abounds. Six run of stone for grinding purposes, and 7 or 8 saws are in operation in the valley very little can be learned of this singular people, and the most I have been able to learn is, that Brigham Young, their present leader, has 32 wives, and very many of the “sterner sex” having 2, 5 or 6 wives, and others divide their affections among a still greater number of the “gentler ones.”

But what interests the Californians the most, are the gold stories told us. There are a great number of Mormons here who have had practical experience in the mines, and are now shaking the “gold dust” in their pockets. They tell us that gold is plenty in the mountains of California, and is inexhaustible. When a digger could not procure his $100 per day, he was off for a new prospect, and many men would find $200, $500 and some $1000 per day. Then why did you not stay and dig for a while? we ask them. The reply is that, “the church called them home, and they must return.” — And why not get leave to go again? “We are in no hurry, the gold will hold out, many richer deposits will be found, a great number of our brethren have already gone out, and we are required to stay at home to attend the crops, &c.” So much for so much.

It is said that gold has been found on “Goose creek,” 200 miles from here, on our route to California. I have seen several specimens of the dust. It is in thin, flat, small scales, presenting a dark appearance. The Mormons have established a mint here, and will commence coining gold in a few days. A few pieces have already been struck off. The device is the “Masonic Grip,” the value of the piece, the words, “God and Liberty,” and date, and words, “City of the Great Salt Lake,” are found upon its sides. They will coin $20, $10, $5 and $2.50 pieces. They have sent a representative to Washington to advocate their interests. He left a few days since.

I have not heard from the other company of Watertown Californians, and do not expect to until I reach the golden world. I have made the acquaintance of Mr. Stephens, of Fort Atkinson. He tells me he traveled tow days in company with Charley Bristol, of Beaver Dam. Lieut. Wright was two or three hours ahead of us at the junction. He goes by the way of Fort Hall. Jacob Rapalje, of Milwaukee, died here about a week since, of mountain fever. He had good attention from the Mormons. Dr. Evans, also of Milwaukee, I think, will go no further. It is said he will join the Mormons, and be baptised next Sunday. My two Watertown companions, McClusky and Phil. Johnson, have both had mountain fever, but are now quite recovered. This is a queer disease. A man is taken with vomiting, followed by a terribly severe headache and high fever, which are not usually worked off under four or five days. It is not considered dangerous.

We expect to reach the end of our journey in 45 or 50 days. But there is one thing, the emigration on the Fort Hall route will suffer terribly. There were only 12 or 14 wagons ahead of us on the great trail, and we had hard times to get enough feed for our cattle, and there were 6000 wagons yet to get through.

Yours truly,
NELSON WHITNEY.
_____
A letter from Mr. P.C. CRANGLE, dated at Salt Lake city on the 8th July, was received by his brother ROBERT, of this village, last week. He speaks in high terms of the city, and says the temple was about to be commenced. An accompanying brother, BERNARD, was offered $5 per day and board, as a carpenter, but refused, preferring his chances at the mines.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Oct 10, 1849

Letter from the Gold Diggins.

[Correspondence of the Watertown Chronicle.]

SACRAMENTO CITY, California,}
September 7, 1859.}

FRIEND H. — The journey is ended. The goal(d) is won — for the gold stories are no humbug, though many of them are much exaggerated. August 31st we arrived at the first “diggings,” and September 3d, reached this city, which is situated at the junction of the American river with the Sacramento, 2 miles west of Sutter’s Fort, and 200 miles from San Francisco. Its streets are regularly laid out, crossing each other at right angles, and buildings of every description are now erected, though two thirds of them are nothing but a slight frame work, over which is stretched a covering of common cotton cloth. These buildings answer every required purpose during the dry season, but when the rains commence, something more substantial will be required. There are many buildings of wood erected or in the course of erection, but the scarcity and high price of lumber prevent many from building.

The population of the city, it would be hard to determine. It may be 5,000 or it may be 25,000. Hundreds arrive and leave daily. Provisions are plenty and cheap. I will give the prices of leading articles: Flour per 100lbs. $3a9; pork per bbl. $10; sugar per 100lbs. $14a18; coffee per 100lbs. $.14a18; mackerel and salmon, (salted,) per lb.25c.; beef, (fresh,) per lb. 25c.; hay $6 per 100.

These are the principal articles purchased and consequently very high. Potatoes $1 per pound, onions $1.50 per pound. A small squash is sold for $5. Green peas and a few other vegetables may be had, but at such prices that will stagger even a gold digger. Journeymen mechanics receive $10 per day and board. $32 is charged for setting a set of wagon tires, and $24 for new shoeing a horse. Common laborers receive $10 per day. Clothing may be bought at prices as low or lower than are paid in New York city. The immense quantities of provisions, clothing and other merchandise sent to this market have completely glutted it, and the only ones who will have cause to curse California will be speculators in your eastern cities.

Vessels arrive here almost daily from Atlantic ports and San Francisco, loaded with provisions and merchandise, and no fears need be entertained of a scarcity for a year hence.

A more stirring, go-ahead city than the one I write from, does not exist on the face of the globe. Business of every description is carried on, and with that celerity and despatch that could not fail to please the most driving. “Time is money;” but I never saw the adage carried out with its greatest force until I reached California.

The gold mines, if we may judge by the quantities brought in and the stories of the miners, are inexhaustible. $16 per day is paid to laborers at the mines, and the man who WORKS for himself will make much more. — Some days he may make nothing, others an ounce, or two, or three; and then he will strike a good “pocket,” and dig a thousand dollars or more in a month, and sometimes in a less time. The mines cover a large surface, extending as far as now discovered 300 miles north and south, and 50 or 60 miles east and west. The much boasted climate of California has not sustained its reputation very well. The nights are very cold, and so are the mornings and evenings, while between the hours of 9 A.M. and 4 P.M. the sun pours down with scorching intensity. Water which we use, is hardly fit the name, being warm and filled with filth. Very many are sick; the prevailing disease being a fever in most cases brought on by eating to excess and drinking intoxicating liquors. But I should think that if proper care is used by emigrants and unacclimated persons, that California may be called a healthy country.

I can hear nothing of the other Watertown boys. McClusky left us at Salt Lake, and packed through. I can learn nothing of him. I. and C.P. Crangle arrived on the 5th. — I saw them yesterday. The Fort Atkinson boys are all here and are well. I shall leave for the mines to-morrow, and intend to go up the Sacramento 160 or 200 miles, where the diggings are represented to be very rich. When I arrive there, I will endeavor to find time during the evenings to give you something of an account of our journey across the country, and California prospects and doings.

Truly yours,
NELSON WHITNEY.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Dec 5, 1849

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One Response to “Watertown Boys Head For California”

  1. Another Watertown Boy Writes Home « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] The Watertown Boys Head for California […]

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