Posts Tagged ‘The California Trail’

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.

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.

image from

image from


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.