Posts Tagged ‘Ebenezer B. Atherton’

Gold Rush: Milan’s California Exodus of 1849

December 8, 2009

Milan, Ohio - 1846 (Image from linked Milan website below)

Milan’s California Exodus of 1849.

The death of Hiram Allen, at Lower Lake, Lake county, California, November 13, 1889, has already been announced, he dying at the age of 67 years and 10 months. He was of the vast army of adventurous fortune-seekers, who, in 1849, led the way in search for wealth in the mines of California.

The party of which he was a member left Milan in March, 1850 (1849), and consisted of Ebenezer B. Atherton, (Captain), Martin Smith, Harvey C. Page, Robert Smith, Samuel Wickham, Jno. G. Norton, Hiram Allen, Snow Edison, Geo. C. Choate, Chas. Goodrich, J. Gregory and Wm. Jennings.

The Milan Tribune had a letter from Martin Smith, written opposite St. Joseph, Mo., April 26th, 1849, where there then were about 300 wagons, in thirty camps, awaiting preparation for the start across the plains. In the train embracing the Milan company were about thirty wagons and 175 men. The party were in excellent spirits. Their train included companies from Monroeville, Bellevue, Columbus, Marion, Lorain county Cleveland, Delaware and Cincinnati.

A letter from Wm. Jennings, dated Pawnee (Indian Territory), May 18, said the party was all well and making 15 miles per day.

A letter from E.B. Atherton, dated Sacramento, August 25th, announced his arrival there, leaving the Milan company at Carson river.

It will not be practicable here to follow the adventures through their varied experiences including both disappointment and success. Most of them returned to “the States.” The only ones now living are Mr. Norton, of Toledo, Mr. Jennings, of California, and Mr. Edison, of Canada. The latter is an uncle of Thos. A. Edison, of world fame. Mr. Norton for some time past has been in California superintending stamp mills belonging to himself and Toledo associates, a notable feature of the business consisting of utilizing quartz thrown aside in the primitive operations of the Milan “49-ers.”

Mr. Allen was a son of Seneca Allen one of the most prominent of the pioneers of the Maumee Valley, having gone there from Detroit in 1816, and opened a small store at Roche du Point, now Waterville, Lucas county. In 1818 he removed to “Orleans of the North,” an embryo town on the Maumee river, below Fort Meigs and opposite Maumee. He there was justice of the peace, that locality then being in Logan county.

In 1824 he purchased, for $480, 160 acres of land, now in the heart of Toledo, on which are located the court house and the high school building, but was unable to hold it. He was a civil engineer, and laid out a large portion of the original plat of Toledo. In 1824 25, he taught the first school in Toledo. With his family he removed to Monroe, Mich., in 1827, where he died of cholera in 1834. He was a man of high character. His wife, Mrs. Fannie L. Allen, a woman of remarkable worth, died in Cleveland in 1875, aged 82. They had twelve children, including beside Hiram, Mrs. Hamilton Colton, of Milan, O.; Mrs. J.W. Keith and Mrs. Geo. B. Traux, of Detroit, and Mrs. Geo. Standart and Mrs. J.H. Blinn of Cleveland. Mrs. Allen was the elder sister of Mrs. Carlos Colton, of Toledo.

Sandusky Daily Register (Sandusky, Ohio) Jan 2, 1890

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**Click on the “Gold Rush” category to the right for earlier accounts mentioning these forty-niners.

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.

gold-rush-emigrant-train-color

“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.

Impelled by the Spirit of Adventure and the Temptations of Gain

April 3, 2009
St. Louis circa 1850 (image from /www.usgennet.org)

St. Louis circa 1850 (image from /www.usgennet.org)

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

CALIFORNIA ENCAMPMENT,}
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 www.ohiohistorycentral.org)

Wm Henry Harrison Tomb (image from http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org)

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.

gold-rush-camp

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