California Gold Rush Experiences

Excerpts from The Way To My Golden Wedding by David R. Hindman, 1908
     The first year in the new home was one of great prosperity, but when we entered the second the interests of the family became divided.
     This however, did not mar the home pleasures, for one roof still sheltered all. We all sat around the same table and partook of God's
     bounty, and father was still priest in his own home. We went to the same house of God and joined with God's people in public worship; our
     church connection being with the Presbyterian Church of Rushville. Thus time passed pleasantly until the early part of the winter of
     Forty-nine. News of the discovery of gold in California had at that time reached all parts of our country, and many were making
     preparation to go to this land of untold wealth, by making a long and dangerous journey across the plains. My elder brothers and I were
     among the victims who were taken with this strange disease, which instead of causing pain, gave pleasure. But all could not go, and as I
     had devoted my entire services to my father up to this time, I had no means to use in preparing an outfit. This was provided by my
     brothers, Samuel and James, and I was taken in as a full partner to go with Samuel, James remaining at home to manage his own and his
     brother's business affairs.

     A large company was being formed of citizens of Rushville and vicinity, most of whom were young men. These formed themselves into
     messes of four or five, each bearing an equal share in securing the outfit, which consisted of a wagon, four yoke of oxen, enough
     provisions, to the man, to last six months, with what personal property each one wished to take, consisting principally of clothing, mining
     tools, guns and ammunition. Our mess mates were brothers, by the name of Taylor, one a doctor, the other a lawyer. Much time was
     spent securing an outfit, and most of the company had left Rushville before our preparations were completed, but on the second day of
     April all was ready, and on the morning of the third, goodbys were said to all the dear ones, and we entered on our long and dangerous
     journey. Little did we think that morning, that one of us would never again meet the dear ones on earth.

     Our first day's travel covered but a few miles. Rain fell during the afternoon, and being poor ox drivers--none of us having had any
     experience in the art--we stranded on a hill up which we had to carry part of our goods, and when this was accomplished evening had
     come. That night we slept in a reclining position and in our wet clothes. This was not much like sleeping in mother's feather bed, but we
     were on our way to the land of gold, and the recompense to be secured at the end of the journey would outweigh all the hardships to be
     met with by the way. We met with no more difficulty until we left Carthage, the County seat of Hancock County, where we spent Sabbath.
     There is a great deal of flat prairie between Carthage and Warsaw, and we encountered much bad road. Thinking it would be better to
     turn out on the prairie sod, we did so, and soon found ourselves located on a claim that we did not wish to hold, but could not vacate
     without carrying a large portion of our goods to the only dry ground in sight, which was about sixty yards distant. When this was done,
     night had come. The oxen were chained to the wagon wheels and fed, a cup of coffee made for each man, and with hard bread to match we
     made our supper. After a comfortable night's rest we partook of the same kind of fare for breakfast, and left our pleasant camping
     ground, which seemed to have been placed just where it was for our special benefit. We reached Warsaw without encountering any more
     difficulty, where we found the company encamped. At this point all our heavy goods were shipped by steamboat to St. Joseph by way of
     St. Louis, two responsible men being sent in charge of them. After waiting two or three days we were ferried over the Mississippi River,
     which at that time was very high, and encamped on the commons near the village of Alexander, Missouri. The next morning we made all
     needed preparation to reach the bluffs in safety. Our wagon beds were raised up by putting blocks under them to keep them above the
     water. A guide was employed to pilot us through the water, and after traveling six miles, dry land was reached, and when three more were
     added to the day's journey, we found a pleasant place to camp.

     From this point to the Missouri River, our journey was made with ease and enjoyment. Most of the country over which we passed was
     prairie, and the range of vision in some places almost unlimited. This, with the budding of nature into the beauties of spring, gave a charm
     to all upon which the eye rested. As we intended crossing the Missouri River at old Fort Kearney our course was due west, but lack of
     roads and bridges over the many streams we had to cross, caused us to vary our course, and part of the journey was made in Missouri
     and part in Iowa. We camped over Sabbath at Garden Grove, Iowa, then a Mormon village consisting of a few log cabins and a horse
     mill, but now a flourishing railroad town. A gentleman, whose name was Kellogg, had bought out the Mormons and was then on the
     ground, and spent the day among us. He seemed to be embittered against all Christian influence, and was ready to discuss his infidel
     views with anyone who would give him an opportunity. He was but a sample of many who would rather herd with the ungodly on the
     outskirts of civilization, than live in a community controlled by Christian influence. From this point we traveled southwest, and Tuesday
     afternoon passed through Bethany, the county seat of Harrison County, Missouri, then a village about one year old.

     A few days after this one of my mess mates and I left the train in the morning to spend the day in hunting. On this part of our journey the
     houses were few, but about noon one was sighted. This was our only chance to obtain dinner. The family consisted of father, mother and
     three daughters. Being from "Old Virginia," their hospitality prompted them to spread the table with a bountiful repast, consisting of
     corn dodgers, fat bacon and butter-milk. Remuneration for this bountiful dinner was refused. After saying good bye to the ladies we had
     to accompany the old gentleman to his private cemetery, where he had laid to rest some of his loved ones, of whom he spoke very
     tenderly. After parting from him we separated. During the afternoon my way led down a creek. Coming to a place where the grass was all
     killed out, I started to cross it, without for a moment stopping to ask the cause. I had not advanced many steps, however, until the cause
     was made plain by a rattle snake springing from its coil at my right leg, which it would have struck between the ankle and knee, if I had
     not made a good jump backward, to the great disappointment of his snakeship, who manifested a great deal of anger, but saved his life by
     gliding into his hole. Looking around I saw two or three others disappear in the same way. I at once realized that the ground I occupied
     was full of danger, and at once beat a hasty retreat. After reaching camp and telling my story, I was informed that the number killed
     along the road during the day was thirteen. From this statement and my own experience, I felt justified in the conclusion that it was a very
     snaky country.

     The following morning we left our pleasant camp on the Hundred and Two, and ascending a low bluff our eyes rested on a beautiful
     expanse of prairie, and about two miles away a pretty little village named Maryville, then only one year old. It is the county seat of
     Nodaway county, now a flourishing city of several thousand. About this time word reached us from those in charge of our goods that they
     could not be shipped to Old Ft. Kearney. St. Joseph then became our objective point, and our course southwest. We were now traveling
     over the best agricultural part of Northwest Missouri. As the lovely picture of these virgin prairies which were photographed on my
     memory comes up before me, I realize that every man in our train could have done much better in a worldly sense by locating on land in
     this section which had just come into market, than by continuing his journey to the land of gold; but such was the blind infatuation that had
     taken possession of us all, that we could not see the vast wealth which an all-wise Creator had stored away in these broad acres, only
     awaiting the skillful touch of the husbandman to call it forth.

     Passing through Nodaway and Holt Counties, we went into camp on the northern bank of the Nodaway River. Here we were met by a
     courier bringing the good news that our goods had been shipped to Old Fort Kearney. Having reached this point on Saturday evening, we
     remained in camp until Monday morning. (I will state here that this had been our invariable rule to the present and continued to be
     through our entire journey.) We then faced about and started for Old Ft. Kearney. This was the last stage of our journey within the
     bounds of civilization. In making it we traveled northwest, again passing over a portion of Holt County, and all of Atchison. We passed
     through Rockport, the County seat which, like all the others in what was known as the Platte Purchase, had only kept one birthday.

     We reached the eastern bank of the Missouri River about the 8th or 9th day of May, and encamped just over the state line in Iowa.
     Hundreds of men were congregated here waiting to be ferried over the river. We were taken over on the morning of the 14th, our goods
     loaded into our wagons in the afternoon, and all needed preparation made for our long and toilsome journey. Two officers were elected to
     have general oversight over the train, selecting the camping ground each evening and guiding it in all its movements. Mr. Manlove, a
     middle-aged man, was chosen captain, and a young man by the name of Boring, who had served in the Mexican war, was chosen wagon

     Our feelings on leaving our beautiful camping ground overlooking the turbulent waters of the Missouri, and giving a fine view of the
     south-western border of Iowa and northwestern border of Missouri, were much like those of the mariner who launches his barque on an
     unknown sea. The dangers he may meet with are only conceived in the mind, not revealed to the eye. So we know that we had passed
     beyond the bounds of civilization, and would pass over a region inhabited by wild Indians, with here and there a trapper, and infested with
     beasts of prey; but the result of meeting them was unknown to us, and could only be revealed to the eye by events yet in the future.

     Our first day's journey outside of civilization was made over rolling prairie, and our first camp was on Salt Creek. On the evening of the
     second day we camped at White Oak Point, and our next day's travel brought us into the Platte River Valley. There was so much
     sameness in the country over which we were passing that it afforded but little interest to the traveler. The principle thing that attracted
     our attention for several days was the large number of new-made graves. Many in their haste started too soon, and were delayed for
     want of sufficient grass for their oxen to subsist on and travel during the day. Cholera broke out among them and many died. Thus ended
     their golden dreams when far from the "land of gold." May we not hope that some of them were permitted to enter that City whose
     streets are paved with gold, and where sickness and death can never enter.

     One of the difficulties with which we had to contend was lack of fuel, another, bad water. Green cottonwood was our principal dependence
     for the former and Platte River for the latter. We tried buffalo chips for fuel, but decided that they were a failure. We also tried to
     improve the Platte water by putting meal into it, but the only thing that settled to the bottom was the corn meal. It had fallen to my lot to
     do the cooking for the mess. This caused me to be interested in these two indispensable articles, and my task was often accomplished
     with difficulty.

     Guard duty was taken up the first night after crossing the Missouri River. The wagons were so arranged as to form an enclosure, and the
     oxen, after grazing in the evening, were driven into it and guarded during the night. The guard consisted of four men, divided into two
     reliefs. There was much disappointment on the part of many who had anticipated much pleasure and some profit by hunting. We were
     about the middle of the emigration, and failed to secure any game worth naming, all having been driven off the range by those who
     preceded us. The only incident of a serious nature during our journey up the lower Platte occurred near the upper end of Grand Island.
     We had gone into camp on Saturday evening to remain over the Sabbath. In securing wood from the island on Saturday evening one of
     the company, whose name was Wolfe, came near drowning. He was a physician, the only one in the company in whom we had confidence.
     His death would have been a great loss to us. The only amusing incident during this part of the journey was a race between a large train
     from Missouri and our own. During the early part of the season, the first emigrants in passing over flat ground, made several roads that
     continued to be traveled just as the leader of a train elected. It occurred one evening that the Missouri train encamped on one branch of
     the road and ours on another, about one-quarter of a mile apart, and beyond, about the same distance, the two roads united. The race was
     made for this point. The driver of our lead team was a very poor one, and although we had the advantage in distance, the lead team of the
     Missouri train struck the junction one yoke of oxen in advance and a cheer went up along their entire line. The man just behind our lead
     team was a splendid driver and was driving the best team in the train. He drew them out of the line, had them on the trot in a few
     moments, and, driving them ahead of our lead team, cut off the Missouri train which thought they had secured the right of way. Then the
     cheer passed down our line. Our Missouri friends gracefully yielded, and the incident passed off pleasantly.

     The road over which we passed from the point where we entered the Platte Valley, to the crossing of the South Platte, was over
     undulating prairie, and the season so far advanced that the trail was in good condition. This enabled us to make good time. We reached
     the ford on the South Platte, which is some distance above the junction with the North Platte, between the first and middle of June. The
     crossing was effected without a mishap, but the task, to both drivers and teams, was a hard one. The bed of the river at this point, like the
     main branch, is nothing but shifting sand, and there was no such thing as stopping to rest. To have done so would have been fatal,
     resulting in the loss of both teams and wagons with all that they contained.

     Having effected the crossing of the river during the afternoon, we traveled but a few miles farther and then went into camp. The country
     at this point retained the characteristics of that over which we had passed; the only change was that the bluffs were on our right hand
     instead of our left, being a high ridge between the South and North Platte. We had passed over the territory occupied by the Pawnee
     Indians, who at that time were at war with the Sioux, by whom they had been almost exterminated. This no doubt accounted for their
     absence from the highway over which so many emigrants were passing. Our next day's travel brought us within a few miles of a large
     village of Sioux. In the evening we were honored by a visit from a chief, who was accompanied by a youth of some sixteen or seventeen
     years of age. The chief wore good clothes and had a fine silk hat on his head. He was of medium height and, although an Indian, might be
     called good looking. He could use enough of English to make himself understood, and his manners were such as to impress one in his
     favor. The youth who was with him made some amusement for us by carefully examining the faces of two lads who were in our company
     and showing much merriment over the fact that no beard could be found on their faces. We had not traveled far the next morning until we
     began to meet men and women who were very anxious we should supply their wants. The articles they desired were asked for by showing
     samples. In this way requests were made for hard bread, beans, rice, sugar, coffee, tea; in fact everything in the food line in our
     possession except bacon. One other article was desired by many of these importunate beggars, the name of which all could pronounce. It
     was "whiskey," but this, the most sought for article, was not furnished him by any of our company. Knowing the thirst the Red Men have
     for intoxicating drink, it does not seem strange that in the bygone days, when they roamed over the plains at will, they would secure it
     whenever it was possible and beastialize [sic] themselves by its use: but it does seem strange that in this Christian land, with a perfect
     knowledge of the terrible evil wrought by its use, there are many who use it and multitudes who directly or indirectly encourage its use.
     This is done by some through ignorance, by others for want of thought, but by the majority through selfishness. Love of money and desire
     for political preferment are the two great factors which are upholding this great evil. If the common people could see this, and allow
     themselves to be influenced by common sense and love for those who are suffering from its use, instead of by self and political party (my
     party) such a change would be wrought in our country as would wipe tears from mother's eyes, fill hungry children's mouths with bread,
     empty our prisons of two-fifths of their inmates, our alms-houses of nine-tenths of their inhabitants, and cause the strikes which are
     injuring us morally and financially to be a thing of the past.

     We passed through the village before noon, and in the evening went into camp some twelve miles beyond it. To all the company it was a
     day long to be remembered, not on account of the beauty of the village through which we had passed, or the wealth and intelligence of its
     inhabitants, but because we had passed through a village of Indian teepees, whose inhabitants were wild savages. There were some of
     our number who would remember it for special reasons, in which they as individuals were concerned. One of our number, to impress the
     company with a deep sense of his courage, took his gun and went through the hills. On his way he met two Indians. One had a gun, the
     lock of which needed repair. By signs he asked our friend for his knife, which he without hesitation loaned him. The other one kept him
     interested in conversing in the sign language, and by and by, when he turned to see how the first was succeeding with repairs, Indian, gun,
     and knife had vanished. When he returned to the company he had not lost any of his bravado, but he was minus a good knife. Another of
     the company, by what he considered a good trade, secured half of a buffalo robe which would make sleeping delightful, but one night's
     repose on it revealed to him the reason he had secured it for such a small price. It was inhabited by vermin. Another trade was made by a
     man who did not belong to our company, but who did want to cheat a poor Indian. It was a horse trade, and, exulting in his good fortune in
     securing a good horse for a poor one, he was in haste to place his saddle on its back and mount; but when the Indian removed the blanket
     from its back its removal revealed an old sore full of maggots, and the Indian was left in possession of two horses instead of one.

     The next day we crossed the plateau, and descended into the valley of the North Platte. A great change was apparent in the character of
     the country. It was more sandy than in the valley of the lower Platte. The valley was from one to six miles wide, and the scenery much
     more interesting. The grass, however, was not so abundant, and some difficulty was experienced in securing good camping ground with
     sufficient grass for the large number of oxen in our train.

     At about this point in our journey, we experienced one of the most terrific electrical storms I have ever witnessed. It came up from the
     northwest, just as night was shutting out the landscape from view, and for the space of an hour or more the heavens were filled with
     dazzling light, and one peal of thunder after another vibrated through the heavens and seemed to shake the ground. One of the
     company,--an old hunter,--had gone out into the bluffs in quest of game during the day, and had not returned. There was much anxiety for
     his safety, and in the morning arrangement was made to send out a searching party, but before they were on their way he came into
     camp. He was in the bluffs during the storm, and had difficulty in preventing the wolves from making a meal of him. His experience as an
     old hunter served him well on this trying occasion.

     Two noted landmarks were visited by a number of the company at this point in our journey. One was the Court House Rock, the other the
     Chimney Rock. They are about thirty miles apart and about three miles from the old Oregon trial [sic]. They stood disconnected from the
     bluff, and had been wrought into the shape they were when we passed up the valley by the action of the elements. Our encampment for
     the night being at the nearest point to the Court House Rock, we found it only a pleasant walk to its base. It is about one hundred and
     fifty feet to the summit, from which a fine view is obtained. The ascent is not difficult except at one point near the top. The substance of
     which it is composed is a soft marl, with veins of rock running through it. The top is about forty feet long, and about twenty wide, and hard
     as lime stone. The south side is cut into deep gullies by the rain and wind, and would be difficult to ascend. Hundreds of names were cut
     on places suitable for the purpose, with date of time when done, and place from which the inscriber came. After we had satisfied
     ourselves with the magnificent view from the summit we descended, carving our names in more than one place before we reached the
     plain below. What the condition of the strange rock is at the present, I have no knowledge, but I am satisfied that most of the names
     carved on it have been obliterated by the hand of time, and the eyes of a large portion of those who looked with pride on their handiwork
     are closed in death.

     The next day we passed Chimney Rock, which we also visited. At a distance it appears like a great chimney or funnel, rising from some
     vast structure. It was at that time about 500 feet in height, and 300 or 400 feet in diameter at the base, and a gradual ascent of one
     hundred and fifty feet to the point where it assumed the form of a chimney. About four days travel from Chimney Rock brought us to Ft.
     Laramie, which is located west of the Laramie River. The fort is built of clay or adobe brick. The walls are about fifteen feet high,
     surmounted with a wooden palisade, and form a portion of ranges of houses which entirely surround a yard about one hundred and fifty
     feet square. The fort at the time we passed it belonged to the American Fur Company and was built by them. They had also built a bridge
     across the Laramie River. No doubt much improvement has been made since it came into the hands of the government. Passing beyond
     the fort some distance, we went into our camp near one of the largest springs I have ever seen. The basin in which it rises is about fifteen
     feet in diameter, and the rivulet flowing from it is a pretty little stream. When we left camp the next morning we began to ascend the
     Black Hills. The ascent was gradual, and when we had reached the plateau we had a fine view of the surrounding country. The most
     prominent object upon which the eye rested was Laramie's Peak. It seemed to rise out of a plain, and one not accustomed to guessing
     distance in the pure atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains would place the distance at twenty or thirty miles, when seventy-five would be
     nearer the mark. Two of our company made an effort to reach it, but after traveling towards it for a half day returned, saying that they
     seemed no nearer to it than when they left camp in the morning. Our second day's travel over these hills brought us again into the valley
     of the North Platte, and three or four days more, to where we crossed to the north side of the river. As it was not fordable, we at once
     made preparations to ferry our wagons and goods to the opposite side of the river. We secured two canoes made of green cottonwood
     from the company which had just preceded us. These were fastened together, and would carry a small load safely. Two wagon beds were
     also fastened together, and with these unwieldy crafts the crossing was effected in less than two days. The oxen had been forced to swim,
     the morning of the first day, and were permitted to graze and rest safely guarded until the crossing was effected. Although our task was a
     difficult one and attended with some danger, all the members of the company rendered cheerful service and found much enjoyment in it.

     After two or three days travel from this point we passed over an alkali district of some thirty miles and entered the valley of the
     Sweetwater, some distance from where it empties into the Platte. This was a hard day's travel both on men and oxen, as all the springs
     along the way were alkali. We saw two yoke of oxen lying near a spring from which we supposed they had drunk, causing their death. We
     reached the Sweetwater about nine in the evening, and men and oxen were much refreshed by its pure waters. Our journey up this valley
     was very pleasant. On the evening of July 3rd we encamped near "Rock Independence." It is an isolated rock standing out in the valley.
     The name was given to it by a company of emigrants who were on their way to Oregon and celebrated the 4th at its base. Five miles from
     Rock Independence is another remarkable way mark, called the "Devil's Gate." Here the Sweetwater passes through a ridge of granite.
     Fremont "places the length of the passage at 300 yards, and the width at 35 yards. The walls of rock are vertical and about 400 feet high.
     The stream in the gate is almost entirely choked by masses of rock which have fallen from above."

     About this time a purpose which had been forming in the minds of some in the company was consummated. We had noticed many places
     where there were small plats of grass that would feed a small herd of cattle, but not sufficient for a large one. This led us to the
     conclusion that by a few teams withdrawing from the large train and forming a small one, our oxen would fare better and we could make
     better time. The separation having been effected, and the train of which we had been a part and our own being camped for a day near
     each other, we prepared a feast and invited the captain and a few of our friends to dine with us. Among the viands on our bill of fare was
     veal. Some of our men had found a calf which had been lost from a train that had preceded us. It was about two months old and in good
     order. Our feast was a success, and some of our friends were present and enjoyed it; but the captain failed to come, which we much
     regretted, for all respected him, and our withdrawing from the train of which he was in command was not on account of dissatisfaction with
     his management while we were under his guidance. Our oxen and ourselves were much refreshed by our day's rest, for it was an extra
     one; Sabbath having always been a day of rest from our first leaving home. Our journey up the Sweetwater was very pleasant. The roads
     were good, the weather fine, grass and wood abundant, and the scenery beautiful, filling each day with delight. On both sides of the valley
     were low mountains and among the rocks, in many places, scrubby cedars and pines were growing, while, along the river, groves of willow
     added their share of beauty to the landscape. It was while passing over a rising piece of ground in this valley that we had our first glimpse
     of the Wind River Mountains. They seemed to be only a dark range of successive ridges, rising up against the horizon, some thirty miles
     away, but in fact seventy-five, perhaps more.

     We made the journey from Rock Independence to Pacific Springs in six days. On the East side of the South Pass, as we were ascending
     the last rise, a few of us came to a bank of snow that had not been melted by the summer's sun, and for a few moments engaged in
     snowballing each other, that we could have it to say that snow balls were made and thrown by us in mid-summer. The South Pass is not
     what the name would indicate,--a narrow defile between two mountain peaks,--but a plain at least twenty miles from North to South at the
     extreme of which, on either side, rises a hill marking its limit. From East to West the distance is much greater.

     On the evening of the 10th of July we encamped at Pacific Springs. As the name implies, the waters of these springs flow into the Pacific
     through the channels of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It is said, however, that by the changing of a few pebbles their waters could be
     caused to flow to the Atlantic. And so it is with many human lives,--an incident, a sentence read, or spoken, a request made by a loved
     one, has changed their course, some into the straight and narrow path that leads to life, and others from the path of virtue into the broad
     road that leads to death.

     The ascent from the Missouri River to the Pass is so gradual that the traveler, all unconscious of the fact, stands at an altitude of 7800
     feet above the level of the sea. The distance from the Missouri River to the Pass is 900 miles, and from Ft. Laramie 300. The next point
     on the way was Little Sandy, but we found it only a bed of sand, and without halting continued our journey to Big Sandy, where we found
     enough water and grass to enable us to go into camp. We remained here the next day and part of the day following. This was done to give
     our oxen rest and an opportunity to graze on the sparse grass of that region, that they might be prepared for a hard drive over a desert
     district between Big Sandy and Green River. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon we left camp, and by five in the evening found ourselves,
     for the first time since leaving civilization, in a real desert. Not a spear of grass was to be seen, or the voice of a living thing to be heard;
     but as far as our vision extended to the east and south, all was barren and desolate. The only relief to the weariness of the eye was the
     Wind River mountains, off to our right, but they were so far away that only their rugged grandeur could be seen. Our journey across this
     desert was a hard one, but not attended with any great danger. The distance was about thirty-five miles. We reached Green River in the
     morning, having spent the entire night on the way.

     Just after the road enters the desert it divides, one branch going by the way of Granger to Salt Lake, the other, which is called
     Hudspath's cutoff, crosses the river up higher, and passes through a mountainous district to Bear River. We had taken the latter route.
     We had to remain here two or three days waiting our turn to be ferried over the river. My first night on guard, after separating from the
     large company, was spent with my mess mate, Henry Taylor, having taken his brother's place. This brother had the habit of being sick
     when any difficult duty had to be done, but always recovered very quickly after it had been accomplished. Some attributed it to a cause
     which was not to his credit, but I will not judge him harshly. I only know that he had a constitutional dislike to hard work or being exposed
     to danger, and avoided both on more than one occasion. After our separation from the company on Sweetwater, guard duty was more
     trying, as it consisted of only two men, each standing alone half the night, even when the cattle were taken some distance from camp.
     During the second day the oxen were forced to swim the river, and guarded on the west side, where better grass was secured for them.
     The ferry was in charge of two men who were Mormons. The boat would carry two wagons at a load. A strong rope was stretched across
     the river, which passed over two pulleys with a groove for the rope to run in. These were fastened to two upright posts which were firmly
     fastened to the boat. The propelling power was the current of the river. Two dollars were paid for taking over each wagon. Two days were
     spent in waiting, but on the morning of the third we were on our way.

     The country between Green and Bear Rivers is mountainous, but our journey over it was a pleasant one. The scenery was beautiful, and
     gave interest to each day's travel. Not being required to do any driving I was free to make little excursions to any point near the road
     that had any special attraction. In this way I found much enjoyment, and have retained in memory some of the beauties of the region over
     which we passed. There was no timber near the road, but here and there pine forests were seen at a distance. Water was abundant, and
     wood was obtained without difficulty. There was a sufficiency of grass for the oxen, and pleasant camping grounds by the way, which with
     a good tent to shelter us, and blankets for bedding were among our greatest luxuries. We looked into but two human faces while passing
     through this beautiful region, those of a French trapper and his wife, a half breed Indian. To what extent they were living isolated from
     others we had no means of knowing, but to us who were enjoying companionship with each other, their lives seemed to be robbed of much
     human joy. The length of time required by our journey from Green to Bear River I am not able to give, but it only covered a few days.
     Our journey down Bear River was made without any incident worthy of note, and but two places made a deep impression on my mind.
     The first on the way was a beautiful valley, several miles in length and two or three in width, covered with a luxuriant growth of grass.
     There was a drove of beautiful horses, about twenty-five in number, feeding in this valley, the property of an Indian woman, who seemed
     to be a person of more than ordinary note among her people. There was a trader also located here, but I did not visit his place of business
     and do not remember his name.

     The other point of interest was Soda Springs. As we did not tarry long at this point, giving time to examine them closely, I will quote at
     length from Capt. Fremont's Narrative: "The place in which they are situated is a basin of mineral waters enclosed by the mountains
     which sweep around a circular bend of Bear River, here at its most northern point, and which, from a northern, in the course of a few
     miles, acquires a southern direction toward the Great Salt Lake. A pretty little stream of clear water enters the upper part of the basin,
     from an open valley in the mountains, and passing through the bottom, discharges into Bear River. Crossing this stream, we descended a
     mile below, and made our encampment in a grove of cedar immediately at the Bear Springs, (now called Soda Springs) which on account
     of the effervescing gas and acid taste, have received their name from the voyagers and trappers who in the midst of their rude and hard
     lives, are fond of finding some fancied resemblance to the luxuries they rarely have the fortune to enjoy. Although somewhat
     disappointed in the expectations which various descriptions had lead [sic] me to form of unusual beauty of situation and scenery, I found
     it altogether a place of great interest; and a traveler for the first time in a volcanic region remains in a constant excitement, and at every
     step is arrested by something remarkable and new. There is a confusion of interesting objects gathered together in a small space. Around
     the place of encampment the Soda Springs were numerous, but as far as we could ascertain, we were confined entirely to that locality in
     the bottom. In the bed of the river, in front, for a space of several hundred yards, they were very abundant, the effervescing gas rising up
     and agitating the water in countless bubbling columns. In the vicinity round about were numerous springs of an entirely different and
     equally marked mineral character. In a rather picturesque spot, about 1300 yards below our encampment, and immediately on the river
     bank, is the most remarkable spring of the place. In an opening on the rock, a white column of scattered water is thrown up, to a variable
     height of about three feet, and though it is maintained in a constant supply, its greatest height is only attained at regular intervals,
     according to the action of the force below. It is accompanied by a subterranean noise, which together with the motion of the water, makes
     very much the impression of a steamboat in motion, and is called "The Steamboat Spring." The rock through which it is forced is slightly
     raised in a convex manner, and gathered at the opening in an urn-mouthed form, and is evidently formed by continued deposition from
     the water, and colored bright red by oxide of iron."

     Our last encampment on Bear River was but a short distance below these springs, at the point where the old Oregon trail turns northwest
     to Ft. Hall and the Bear River south and continues to flow in that direction until it empties into Salt Lake. Here a new cutoff has been
     made, by which much difficulty was avoided in travel, and many miles gained in distance. Our first day's travel on this cutoff was a very
     pleasant one. Beautiful scenery along the way, good water for men and oxen to drink, a pleasant place to go into camp in the evening,
     and good grass for the oxen to feed on during the night. At noon on the second day we camped on the bank of a beautiful brook, in a
     grove of quaking-asp [sic] trees. On leaving this lovely camping ground after noon tide we neglected to fill our vessels with water, and
     suffered for this neglect. We had gone but a few miles when we began to ascend a mountain. The ascent was gradual, being up a canon,
     on the left hand side of which were many small quaking-asp trees. On the smooth bark of one of these a notice had been written, with
     pencil, by one who had preceded us, consisting of only five words,--"No water for twenty-five miles." This important news was somewhat
     startling, but as we had passed over more than one district previous to this one which was destitute of water, we continued our journey
     without hesitation. We reached the summit of the mountains just as the king of day descended below the western horizon. As the descent
     was steep it was quickly made, and as the darkness of night settled over us we stood at its base, weary, hungry and thirsty, but neither
     food nor water was obtainable, and rest not to be thought of under these trying circumstances. We traveled until 12 o'clock, and then laid
     down and rested until morning. We were again on our way, just as the sun gilded the top of the mountain over which we had passed. The
     country around us was a barren waste; not a plant nor a blade of grass nor a living thing in sight. As the hours passed, the heat became
     intense, and our thirst increased every moment, but relief came at last. About 11 o'clock a. m. we came to a beautiful oasis, set like a
     gem in this barren desert; from the western border of which bubbled up a living fountain of water. Here we quenched our thirst, the oxen
     were freed from their yokes to drink, graze and rest for the remainder of the day, and each mess prepared a bountiful repast by which the
     hunger of all was satisfied.

     But one other point on this part of our journey is distinctly impressed on my memory. It was a stream of water about twenty feet wide and
     about four feet deep and at the place where we encamped for the night it had but little current. I heard no name for it, but no doubt it is a
     branch of the Snake River, which heads in the region over which we were then passing, and flowing northwest empties into the main
     branch below Ft. Hall.

     The next point distinctly remembered was where the road from Salt Lake City connected with the one on which we had traveled. Here a
     number of notices had been put up by those who had passed, giving name of the company, date when they passed, and signed by the one
     who had written the notice. All of these were read, but our comrades from whom we separated on the Sweetwater were not among them.
     We put up a notice, giving the day and date on which we passed, for their information, which was read by them eight days after it was

     Shortly after passing this point a serious difficulty arose between our messmates and the company. Much dissatisfaction had existed in
     the mind of my brother and myself on account of their neglect of duty, especially by the elder of the two. The burden thrown on my
     brother was very heavy, and my duties as cook had to be done at a time that prevented me from rendering him the assistance he needed.
     We talked the matter over, and decided to propose a separation on such terms as they could accede to with honor to themselves and also
     to us. Accordingly we had a conference with them and made our proposition, which was, an equal division of all the company property
     which the wagon contained and the payment of a surplus paid out by us of the mess expenses. Our half interest in the wagon we offered
     to give to them, and their choice of two out of the four yoke of oxen. Our offer was rejected in a very unkind spirit by the elder of the two,
     and we were compelled to continue our journey with them, without any promise of amends for the future. Some days after this a Mexican
     came into our camp and was taken into our mess, without asking our consent or that of the company. We bore with this patiently, as we
     had no desire to have trouble with men for whom, before joining our interests with theirs we had entertained a high regard. Trouble,
     however, did occur between their new found friend and one of the company, that came near ending in a serious difficulty. It was avoided,
     however, and the Mexican shortly afterward took his departure, but the trouble caused by him only increased the feeling existing in the
     company against them. This feeling was further increased by their shameful neglect of guard duty, which came near ending in blood-shed.
     It was prevented, however, and when peace was restored they were informed by the company that they must accept the offer made to
     them by the Hindman brothers, and withdraw from the company. Thus ended a partnership which at first promised to be very pleasant,
     but in the end was very bitter, especially to the Taylor brothers. They were compelled to make the remainder of the journey to the land of
     gold alone, and encountered much difficulty, not because our company cast them off, but by unwisely taking what was represented to be a
     cutoff, but which added over two hundred miles to the journey. It is with a feeling of pleasure that I am able to state that they returned to
     their former home much better off in a worldly sense than when they started. The youngest (Harry) became a very useful man. He was an
     elder in the Presbyterian church of Brooklyn, Illinois. His dust now sleeps in an honored grave, awaiting the summons of the Archangel's
     trumpet, to call it forth to a glorious resurrection. Of the elder brother I have no knowledge, but sincerely hope that he became a useful
     man, and that from his return to his home and friends he never shirked any duty that was required at his hands.

     By our generosity to the Taylor brothers we were left with two yoke of oxen, provision for the remainder of the journey, and our clothing
     and arms, but no means of conveyance. This, however was made good to us by two messes of the company giving us places with them.
     This, in fact, had been arranged before the separation took place. The only unpleasant thing cause by it was our separation at the mess
     hour. We, however, spent the evening and night together, having a tent of our own, the only one in the company; but members of the
     mess who had given my brother a place shared it with us. Our only chance for private intercourse was by joining each other during the
     day when no duty was required of us.

     The next point of interest was one of the most singular valleys we passed through during the entire journey. A number of great rocks had
     been thrown up from the bowels of the earth by some mighty upheaval, and appeared at the distance like old castles that were being
     dismantled by the hand of time. We did not have an opportunity to examine any of them closely, as they were some distance from the
     road. I do not remember hearing any name for this valley; but the name "Castle Valley" would be very appropriate. We were now
     drawing near a noted way mark, the only one of the kind we passed during our long journey,--the noted Hot Springs near the head of the
     Humboldt River. It was a beautiful morning on which we crossed the plateau on which this spring is situated. No difficulty was
     experienced in finding it, for the air was impregnated with the smell of sulphur by the fume that ascended from it. We had been told that
     the water would cook an egg if submerged in it, but our hens were not laying and we had to accept the statement as true and pass on to
     the next place of interest,--the head waters of the Humboldt River. This is a point which many of the forty-niners had good reason to
     remember. An enterprising ranch-man, living near the head of Feather River, succeeded in marking a road over which wagons could pass
     from the head of Humboldt to the Feather River, and by representing it to be much nearer, succeeded in drawing part of the emigration
     onto it. His object in doing this was to make money off those who were foolish enough to believe his statement. Instead of being much
     nearer, it added about two hundred miles, and was with good reason called "Greenhorn's Cut-off." That part of the company from which
     we separated on the Sweetwater took this route and had great difficulty getting through, part of their oxen being stolen by Indians. They
     did not reach Feather River until November.

     The head waters of the Humboldt had a great attraction for us, first, because they were pure and cool, and second, because we had
     reached the waters of a river, down the valley of which we would travel between three and four hundred miles. On our first day's travel
     we passed several pools of water which were warm enough on the surface to be pleasant to bathe in, and as they were five or six feet
     deep and very clear, they were were [sic] quite inviting. We did not, however, partake of the comfort we thought they might afford, but a
     man belonging to another company did, and tarried only a moment in the pool, as he found the water beneath the surface far too warm for
     comfort. Over three weeks were required in passing from the head waters of this river to the point where they were lost in the great
     desert, but they were among the most pleasant of our entire journey. The river was at a low stage when we passed down the valley, and
     could be forded at almost any point. The water and grass were good, and wood could be secured without difficulty. The mountains on
     either side of the valley are low and destitute of timber. The only thing in sight to remind one there were such things as trees, was the
     willows that grew along the river. These, however, were not found in great abundance on the lower part of the stream.

     The country through which the Humboldt flows is arid, and unlike other streams, there are no feeders flowing into it, hence when the
     snow has all melted off the low mountains on either side of the valley, and the ground is being parched by the hot summer's sun, it
     absorbs the water, and for the last hundred miles it gradually decreases until it is all taken up by the sands of the desert. We reached the
     meadows near the sink of the Humboldt about the third week in August. These meadows are comprised of a small level district of country
     which is thoroughly irrigated by the overflow of the river during the spring and early part of the summer, causing it to produce a luxuriant
     growth of grass. There is a lake east of the meadows into which part of the water flows, where some Indians were encamped. Two or
     three of them visited us, bringing some nice fish with them, which were bought by some of our company. We spent two or three days at
     these meadows resting our oxen and making preparation for our journey across the desert. Grass was cut, cured and bound into bundles
     to feed the oxen, food was prepared for ourselves, some wood secured, and, last but not least, every vessel filled with water. Our
     preparations being completed, we left the meadows about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and reached the sink about twenty minutes before
     the sun had shed its last rays on the most isolated scene on which our eyes had ever rested. The sink is a pool of black, stagnant water;
     and to the east, south and west, we beheld a barren waste upon which the stillness of death was resting. I cannot describe my feelings as
     we entered on this, the most trying and dangerous part of our journey. Not that I had fears of the ultimate result. I know there were fresh
     waters and green pastures beyond this barren waste, and there was that within me that said "you will reach them," but the desolation
     which surrounded us, the gloom in which the sun descended below the western horizon and the coming darkness of night, will never be
     obliterated from my memory.

     There were two roads across this desert, one to Truckee River, the other to Carson River. We took the latter, and, as the night was cool
     and the road good, we made about twenty miles by morning. We halted at sunrise, gave each ox a bucket of water and a bundle of hay,
     prepared and ate our breakfast, and in an hour were again on our way. The road was good for several miles farther, but at last it faded
     out, and we entered on the most difficult part of our journey. A large part of the distance is a white sand in which we sank at each step to
     our ankle joints. This was very trying on us, but much more so on our faithful oxen. They not only sank deeper in the sand than we, but
     had to draw the wagon through besides. By 10 o'clock the heat was intense and continued to increase until almost evening. About 2
     o'clock we came to some brackish wells that had been dug by some of those who had preceded us. We halted at these and rested our
     oxen for an hour, but derived but little benefit, as the tendency of the water was to increase thirst instead of allaying it. After leaving this
     point we traveled continuously until 11 o'clock p. m., when the Carson River was reached and men and oxen quickly quenched their
     thirst. Only those who have passed through such an experience can realize the thrill of joy that fills the breasts of those who have
     overcome such a difficulty and are permitted to drink refreshing water from the flowing stream, and lie down in green pastures to rest
     their bodies, that are exhausted with incessant toil. We were twenty-nine hours crossing this desert, twenty-seven of which were spent in
     continuous travel; (counting one and three-quarter miles per hour, it would make the distance across it forty-seven miles.)

     After a rest of thirty-two hours we resumed our journey. The country west of the desert was much like that along the Humboldt. The
     Carson River, however, is a much smaller stream, but the current is greater, and the mountains on the south side of the stream much
     higher; while on the north side there are none until near the head waters, which flow out of the first range of the Sierra Nevadas. Only
     two incidents are worthy of note during our journey up this beautiful stream. One was caused by failure to place a guard over the oxen
     after a hard day's travel, which did not end until about 9 o'clock in the evening. The oxen being very tired and the grazing good, the
     wagon master decided that we could pass the night safely without a guard. This was the only night from the Missouri River to
     Weaverville, when no guard was on duty, and we suffered loss for this neglect. When morning came arrows were found sticking in two of
     the oxen, one of which we had to kill. Another had been slaughtered about one-half mile from camp, half of it carried away, and the other
     half put up in a scrubby tree. We did not know whether the Indians were prompted by generosity, and concluded to divide with us, or did
     not have time enough to convey all to their camp before morning, but I suppose the latter. There was much indignation among us on
     account of the injury inflicted, and preparation was at once made to find and punish the thieves. Twelve of the company went forth from
     camp fully armed, and so imbued with the spirit of revenge that if we had succeeded in finding their camp more than one poor digger
     would have been killed (they were called diggers because they subsisted principally on roots), and some of our own number would more
     than likely have lost their lives.

     Two of our number, who became separated from the main body, ascended a mountain south of our camp. Near the summit they came to
     an Indian hut in which was an old man and a lad in his teens. Being very thirsty, they by signs inquired for water, and were directed to go
     around the point of the mountain and they would find a spring. While they were complying with the directions, the lad ran to the summit
     and gave a whoop to notify his friends that danger was near, and when our comrades rounded the point they not only found a spring, but
     an Indian camp which was constructed of pine boughs and contained thirty or forty Indians. The men put on their quivers, and, seizing
     their bows, stood ready to defend themselves. our friends, seeing the odds against them, did not stop long enough to get a drink of water,
     but, retiring in good order, returned to camp, and told a very interesting story. The following morning, when the train left camp, a few of
     our men ascended the mountain and about noon we saw the smoke rolling up from the Indian camp, which had been deserted by them and
     was set on fire by our men. How much better it would have been, and how much more consistent, if, on that day (for it was the Sabbath)
     we had remained in camp, and made it a day of thanksgiving instead of going out armed to take revenge on the poor degraded Indians. It
     was a great mercy to us that our oxen were not stampeded, and many of them lost (in place of two or three) which would not only have
     caused delay, but might have made the remainder of our journey very difficult.

     Another incident took place a few nights after the one just related, which only concerns myself. Our oxen had been taken about two miles
     from camp to graze during the night. A small company from Iowa had joined with us, and we had a double guard. I came on duty during
     the second watch (from 1 a. m. until morning.) The night was clear and the moon had almost completed the third quarter, but was giving
     enough of light to see distinctly. I had, however, slept very soundly, and when I was awakened my eyes were somewhat clouded. We
     inquired in what direction we would find the cattle, and as they were in two groups we went in opposite directions. I had gone but a short
     distance when I saw three or four oxen moving along leisurely, and just behind them an Indian in a crouching position, moving at the
     same pace. I at once set the hammer of my gun, but the thought of killing a human being overwhelmed me. After a moment's thought I
     resolved to give him a chance for his life,--realizing at the same time that more than one might be near, and that an arrow might at any
     moment pierce my own flesh,--I would, however, be merciful; so I fired one barrel over his head, intending to shoot him with the other as
     he ran. The moment I fired, cattle and Indian assumed their real characters,--that of sage brush. I felt very small when I discovered what
     a fool I had made of myself, and expected to hear very often about being so merciful to an Indian, but it was only mentioned to me once,
     and I came to the conclusion that others had had similar vision.

     The next point of interest was Carson Valley. It is a beautiful body of land, on the east side of the first range of Sierra Nevada
     mountains. It contains may thousands of acres of rich land, and, when we passed through it, it was clothed with a thick growth of grass
     from eighteen inches to two feet high, and was inhabited by many small snakes, about the color of the grass. The head waters of Carson
     River flows into this valley from the northwest, through a canon some twelve to fifteen miles long, but wide enough for a good wagon road
     on the east side. We went into camp at the head of the valley, close to the mouth of the canon. There were salmon trout in the stream,
     although it was so narrow that one could jump across in it many places. One of our company caught one that weighed three pounds. This
     catch lead [sic] two of us, the next morning, to go directly up the canon with hook and line, and fish along the way; but we succeeded in
     catching only two. Having no lunch with us and becoming very hungry, we ate some alder berries of a variety we had never seen before.
     They were purple in color and had an acid taste but were very palatable. We regarded the find at the time as quite fortunate, but had
     reason a few hours later to change our minds. After reaching camp and preparing the evening meal for the mess, I went on guard with my
     brother. The oxen being some distance from camp, we went prepared to spend the night. Just as darkness shut out the beautiful mountain
     scenery around us from view, I was taken with what I thought to be cholera morus, in a very violent form. Having suffered intensely for
     several hours, and becoming very weak, my brother got me on the only horse belonging to the company and took me to camp; where we
     found my companion of the day before suffering the same way, but his case was more serious than mine. Whether this difference was
     caused by his red hair, or, being under the doctor's care was a question I was not able to decide. When morning came and the train was
     ready to move, we were made comfortable in the wagons of our respective messes. By evening we were convalescent, and again took up
     the duties required of us. On leaving camp the next morning the strength of the oxen and the skill of drivers were taxed to the utmost. A
     very steep ascent had to be made, requiring from six to eight yoke of oxen to the wagon. This having been accomplished without mishap
     the rest of the day's journey was very pleasant, and at it's [sic] close we went into camp at the foot of the main range of the Sierra
     Nevada mountains. We had now reached the point to which we had been looking with glowing anticipation. We went into camp in a small
     valley at the base of the mountain, and passed the night in comfort, not withstanding the fact that it was cold enough to form ice on a
     small lake near our camp. Preparation was made during the morning hour for making the ascent, and by the time the sun had lighted up
     the eastern slope in all its grandeur, we were on our way. Pine timber skirted the base of the mountain, but as we ascended, it gradually
     diminished, and by noon we were above timber line. Ice had formed in places from melting snows. This melted with the forenoon sun, but
     by 2 o'clock in the afternoon the top of the mountain cast its shadows on the eastern slope, and it began to freeze. We reached the pass a
     few minutes before sundown, but as the peaks on the right and left were many hundred feet higher than the pass, the departing rays of
     the king of the day were shut off from us, and the magnificent scene from the pass was robbed of much of its grandeur. The altitude in the
     pass is 9000 feet. From the pass we descended into a small valley, called Rock Valley, and went into camp. The night was colder than
     that spent at the base of the eastern slope, but sheltered by our tent and snugly covered with our blankets, we spent a very pleasant
     night. We were on our way in the morning about our usual time, but had not gone far, when we found the road blocked by two teams of a
     Missouri train which camped some distance in advance of us. The rest of their train was not ready to move. The man in charge of our
     lead team drove out through the pine trees on the right, and all our wagons without difficulty entered the road beyond them. We supposed
     the parties who blocked the road were seeking a quarrel, but as we had quietly passed them, we were not prepared for the foolish display
     of anger which followed. Two of them, stripped to shirt and pantaloons, ran along the line of our train swearing they could whip any man in
     the company. One of them ran to the front of the train and jumping on a large rock repeated the challenge. One of our number stopped in
     front of him, and said: "You are in no condition to fight. Look at your knees," pointing to them with his finger--"You are so angry that
     they are smiting together." With an oath he answered, "I can soon whip you." "That may be true," was the answer, "but I am not going
     to make such a fool of myself as you are doing." "Well," said he, "it is not you I want to whip, but that red headed----," and leaving his
     perch on the rock he approached the man with the red head, who placed himself in such an attitude of defense, that he returned to his own
     company an humbler and we hope a wiser man. How often do men say and do things of which they are afterward ashamed. This man for
     some reason had become offended at one of my mess mates who had a red head, and took this way to pick a quarrel with him; and if that
     end could not be accomplished, he would fight with anyone who was quarrelsome enough to knock the chip off his shoulder.

     We crossed the main range of the Sierra Nevadas about the 13th of September, and as a result felt that the last difficulty in our long
     journey had been surmounted. In one week more we would reach the mines, and the members of the different messes began discussing
     plans for the future. My brother was with a mess of seven, beside himself One was a physician and another a carpenter. They were going
     to Sacramento. Another would engage in hauling goods to the mines. Four intended working in the mines, and wished my brother and I to
     go in partnership with them, to which he had given his consent. He then sought an interview with me and stated his plans. I could not
     enter heartily into them, and frankly gave my reasons, which were two. First, it would be more enjoyable for us to live by ourselves.
     Second, in case we secured claims that paid well, they would be all our own, in place of being divided among six. To these he presented
     counter objections. First, a cabin would have to be built in which to spend the winter, and we could not accomplish the task alone; and
     second, lack of means to secure a stock of provision sufficient to last through the winter. The last was based on the supposition that
     during the rainy season no hauling could be done. To the first, I answered, "We have a good tent, and if we can do not [sic] better, we can
     build a small cabin of poles and put the tent on top for a roof." As to the second, "We have twenty dollars in cash. You have an ox that
     will sell for twenty-five dollars, and I have a yoke that will sell for forty-five dollars. With this we can secure provision enough to last
     several months, and if we cannot dig out enough gold in that length of time to replenish the stock, then, the sooner we leave the country,
     the better." He, however, being the elder, his plan was adopted. The last night on guard was spent in Round Valley, some two miles from
     camp. The oxen belonging to several trains had been driven into it, and none of the guards kept very close watch over them. Camp fires
     and the frequent discharge of guns was considered sufficient to protect them from Indians. The thought that it was the last night I would
     be required to do guard duty, brought to me a deep sense of relief. Many weary hours had been spent in the discharge of this duty, and
     no doubt danger was often near; but under the sheltering wings of my heavenly Father I was protected from all harm.

     We reached Weaverville the 21st of September, and went into camp north of the village, on a beautiful slope overlooking the north
     branch of Weaver creek, and facing the mountain range between Weaverville and Placerville. Five months and eighteen days had been
     spent in travel, except on the Sabbath and a few other days made necessary by different causes. Two rivers had been crossed which unite
     and empty their waters into the gulf of Mexico, and the headwaters of another that empties its waters into the gulf of California. The
     Rocky Mountains and the mountains between Green River and Bear River had been crossed. We had traversed the Great Basin,
     traveling down one of its principal rivers from its head until its waters are lost in the desert. Crossing the desert we ascended another
     river (Carson, which is lost in the same desert) almost to its source in the Sierra Nevadas. The Sierra Nevada Mountains had been
     crossed, and a journey of one hundred miles made down one of the ranges of the western slope. This long journey of 2000 miles was
     made with ox teams; without the loss of a man and the loss of but two oxen.

     A few days were lost by the illness of one or two members of the mess, but preparation was soon made, and a cabin erected which did
     credit to the builders. The inside of the logs was hewed; it was covered with good split-board, a chimney was built of poles and mud, a
     puncheon floor laid, and a table and benches to match constituted the furniture. Provision sufficient to last several months was brought
     from Sacramento. Having made ample preparations for winter, we were ready to do some prospecting.

     Our first claim was a small plat of ground in a dry ravine, about one hundred yards from the creek. The dirt was dug and carried in sacks
     and run through the washer. This was a machine very much like the old fashioned cradle in which our mothers had rocked us to sleep
     during our infancy. On one end of the rocker a screen was placed made of boards about two feet long and six inches deep, with a bottom
     of perforated sheet iron, the holes being about one half inch in diameter. This screen was fitted into the head of the washer, being held in
     place by cleats. A bar, about two inches wide, was placed midway between the head and foot. Another was made at the foot by cutting out
     a space for the water and gravel to pass through. The head of the rocker was raised about two or three inches higher than the foot. A
     hole was bored in the bottom just above the bar, and the gravel, sand and gold was passed through it into a pan. The fine gravel and sand
     were separated from the gold by a motion of the arms; the edge of the pan being submerged in the water and by a quick motion raised to
     the surface.

     We took out of our first claim $600, just one hundred to the man. A season of prospecting followed, but before any success was achieved
     the rainy season began. We had not seen a drop of rain for four months and a half, and the first rain interested us greatly, although some
     of us were much inconvenienced by it. We had spent the day prospecting and were about seven miles from home when we went into camp
     for the night. A beautiful Indian summer day had just closed, and the stars looked down on us with their dim light, giving promise of quiet
     sleep and pleasant dreams; but about 3 o'clock in the morning it began to rain very gently. A hasty breakfast was prepared, and by the
     time it was light enough to see it was raining very hard. Our walk home was made with difficulty, as our clothes and blankets were soon
     saturated, and became very heavy. This was the beginning of the rainy season, (about the middle of November) and it continued until
     January. During this time rain fell almost every day, interspersed with short periods of sunshine. The temperature was like that of May
     in the Middle States, and during the short periods of sunshine the birds cheered us with their merry songs. Heavy snows drove the deer
     down into the foot hills, and many found pleasure and some profit in hunting. Among the number were two brothers, by the name of
     Johnston,--John and James. Their last day's hunt ended in a terrible conflict with a grizzly bear. They were several miles from home when
     the encounter took place. When they first discovered it, both, without hesitation, fired on it, being ignorant of the fact that grizzly bears
     were seldom killed wih [sic] ordinary rifles such as they were using. They only inflicted a slight wound, and the bear retreated and they
     followed. After going some distance it entered a thicket of chaparral, taking a path that had been made through it, and the brothers
     followed. It did not go far until it doubled on its track but before it met them they stepped out of the path, and as it passed them they
     placed the muzzle of their guns against its side and fired. Although they inflicted a severe wound it continued to retreat, and after going
     quite a distance it passed over a hill and was hid from view, but came in contact with other hunters,--five in number,--who fired upon it.
     Again it doubled on its track and came back on the path on which they were advancing. They stopped and stood side by side, and awaited
     its approach. When within fifteen steps of them, it turned diagonally off the path to pass them, giving them the only chance they had to
     make a fatal shot, but being ignorant of the fact that the eye is the only point in a grizzly's head that a ball fired from an ordinary rifle will
     penetrate and cause death, they simply aimed at its head and fired. The bear, now thoroughly angered, turned and rushed upon them.
     Knocking John down, it seized one of his thighs and commenced lacerating it with its teeth. James, whose gun barrel weighed twelve
     pounds, clubbed it, shivering the stock the first blow. Being a strong man, his blows fell so fast and heavy on its head that it released
     John and seized him. John regaining his feet, grasped the gun barrel that his brother had used so effectively in his behalf, and dealt blow
     after blow on the bear's head, which had now become very tender. It did not endure long until it released James and again seized him.
     Thus the unequal conflict continued until John was down four times and James three. The last time James was released from the
     monster's grasp, he was so exhausted that he could only make an effort to shove it off his brother. As he did so it released him, walked
     off a few steps, turned and gave a savage growl, and then shambled from the field of conflict, leaving them victors, but badly injured. The
     flesh of John's thigh was stripped from the bone, and he had received other injuries. James had one arm badly injured, but was able to
     assist his younger brother, David, in taking care of John. I do not know whether he fully recovered or remained a cripple for life. I write
     this sketch from personal knowledge, having visited them two days after the conflict occurred. The five men who fired on the grizzly on
     the opposite side of the hill, and turned it back to the Johnston brothers, came to the top of the hill and from it witnessed the noble fight
     made by them, but did not have the courage to come to their assistance. There are men today, looking on the conflicts that are being
     waged against the monster evils that are cursing our land, who, like these men, are either too cowardly or too selfish to render any

     About the first of January three of our mess, Bowring, Stevenson and Cady, went to other diggings, hoping to meet with better success
     than they had in Weaverville. William Loudon remained with us, and two others who had crossed with that part of the company which we
     separated from on the Sweetwater, came down from Feather River and found shelter with us. About this time a number of men were
     working at the mouth of a ravine that emptied into Weaver Creek some distance below our cabin. Hoping to share in the good fortune we
     had reason to believe they were enjoying, I went to the ravine, but found no unoccupied space except the high-ground between the ravine
     and the creek. Throwing down my shovel and retaining my pick, I commenced digging, remarking to John Lambert--one of the men who
     had taken shelter with us--that I was as likely to strike my fortune at that point as anywhere else. He threw down his tools about ten feet
     from me, saying, "I will dig here, I am as likely to strike it rich as you are." As they day was almost passed when I commenced work,
     little was done that evening. Returning the next morning I struck slate rock in one corner of the excavation which I had made. Taking a
     pan full of the soft rock and clay that was mixed with it and panning it out, I found it would pay for washing. Returning to our cabin, I got
     the washer and by the time I returned, Loudon and my brother had joined me. We had not washed out many buckets full until we struck it
     rich, and when we weighed the amount taken out during the forenoon, we found that we were three hundred dollars better off than when
     we commenced work in the morning. It rained very hard during the afternoon and we remained at home, feeling well satisfied with our
     good fortune. The next morning we took out about three hundred dollars more, but by noon our claim ceased to yield any more hidden
     treasure. It was just a small pocket which, by some freak of nature, had been deposited in that particular spot for our benefit, when that
     great volcanic upheaval took place, rending the granite rocks of that region and melting the gold from the veins of quartz which ran
     through them. Our friend Lambert and his partner made excavations on three sides of us, the result of which was one piece worth ten
     dollars. This is a good illustration of the uncertainty attending the efforts of many who sought their fortune in the gold mines of California
     in those early days.

     Our partners who left us in January returned after a month's absence, full of hope for the future. Rich mines had been discovered in
     Eldorado Canon, a tributary of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River. Friends had knowledge of its locality, and when
     the proper time came would notify them. Preparation was made for the journey, the notification was received, and we made a journey of
     three days, at the end of which we found ourselves in a pretty little valley about eighty-four miles from Sacramento. It was called Bird's
     Valley. The rich mines we hoped to reach were still a secret, but we knew they were not far away, and that in due time their locality would
     be known and we would be permitted to enter them.

     A heavy snow fell a few days after we reached the valley, which was soon followed by another, and communication with the outside world
     was cut off for a short time, but not long enough to exhaust the stock of provision kept in the small trading house located in the valley.
     Although the snow was two feet deep around our camp, which was near a swampy plat of ground, in the edge of which was a good spring,
     yet we did not suffer from cold. Some ice formed at night, but during the day frogs cheered us with their music.

     As soon as the trail was open new arrivals were coming into the valley daily. Gamblers were on hand with a large tent, and were soon
     doing a profitable business. These men were found where ever there were paying mines; spending their nights in swindling every man
     who was foolish enough to bet on their lay-outs. After spending four weeks in idleness, we, with many others, entered the new mines. Our
     acquaintance had been extended, and by the effort of one of the company with whom we were first associated, a company of nineteen was
     organized. Prospecting was done on a large scale. Two rich bank diggings were discovered. Out of one we took $2,200.00 in a few days;
     out of the other $1,500.00. The first one we had to give up, as the claim covering the stream covered the bank also, and the bed of the
     stream had been taken by another company. We held, with our other bank claim, seventy-five yards of the stream. Preparation was made
     to drain it. Two of our company were sent to Sacramento for sailcloth and crowbars: the sailcloth to make a flume, with which to drain the
     stream, and the crowbars for moving heavy rock. Three widths of sailcloth were sewed together. This required many stitches and
     consumed a week in its accomplishment. When it was finished, a dam was put in, a gangway laid, the flume laid upon it, and the stream
     nicely drained the full length of the claim. The bedrock was bare almost the entire length, and as there were no crevices in the rock, or
     sand and gravel in which the gold could find a lodgment, our enterprise upon we entered with such glowing anticipation proved a failure.
     Seventy-five dollars was the amount taken out, being about thirty-four cents per day to the man, for the time we were engaged in doing
     the work. This was a great disappointment to us all, and resulted in the dissolving of the company. It was solvent and by selling the flume
     paid all its debts, but there was no dividend recovered by the members of the company. Almost the entire amount accumulated by brother
     and myself at Weaverville was gone and five months wasted. At this juncture I met with the keenest disappointment in all my experience
     in the mines. A young man whose name was McNealy, and I, had planned to work out the bank diggings at the upper end of our claim in
     the bed of the stream. We felt satisfied that our men had left more gold in it than they had taken out, as at no point had they reached bed
     rock. Thinking that others in the company had taken the same view and would make the same effort, we, to accomplish our purpose, went
     to Bird's Valley with the company and remained over night. The next morning we returned to Eldorado Canon, and going on to the claim,
     we found eleven men engaged in doing what we had so carefully planned to do. Knowing the foreman of the company, we asked him how
     it was that they were there at work. his answer was, "When Dr. Wolfe, your treasurer, sold us the flume, he threw in the claim with it."
     This we doubted, but they had possession and were eleven to two, so our bright prospect for ready cash was dashed to the ground. We
     then saw how foolish we had acted. If, at the proper time, we had asked the company for the claim, it would have been given to us; by
     failing to do this we lost $2,200.00, the amount which these men took out in one day.

     Two incidents occurred while we were in Eldorado Canon worthy of notice. We had in our company a man whose name was Graves, for
     whom I had a high regard. He claimed to be a Universalist and took pleasure in airing his religious beliefs. I had many conversations with
     him. During one of these he have me a sketch of his Christian experience. When a young man serious impressions were made on his
     mind, and he felt it his duty to unite with the church. His relatives were Presbyterians and he united with that branch of the church. He
     soon fell into a period of doubt, and decided to withdraw from the church. "But," said he, "I did not wish to leave it at once, so I took a
     step down and joined the Methodist Church. After being connected with the Methodist Church for a year I was prepared to take another
     step down, so I joined the Campbellite Church. After remaining in that church for a year I was prepared to step out." I have given this
     statement in his own words. A few days after he made this statement, the water being too high for us to work on our claim, nine of our
     company started to new diggings that had been discovered on the south side of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American
     River. We went to a point on the river called Horse Shoe Bend, and engaged an old sea captain to ferry us over. Five of our men got into
     the canoe. There was deep water, causing an eddy at the foot of the Horse Shoe, but the down current was much the stronger. When the
     canoe reached the line between the down and up current, the captain failed to change his paddle at the right moment, and it was whirled
     into the down current. Below the eddy there was a great bend in the river, and the current was very swift. One of our men, who was a
     good waterman, and quick to see the only way of escaping the pending danger, seized a shovel, and, bidding his comrades sit in the
     bottom of the canoe, the two angled the current and reached a point of safety about two hundred yards below the starting point. Here the
     canoe came in contact with two small trees, about ten feet from the shore, and went down. The men saved themselves by climbing these
     trees and clinging to the limbs. Two of us, as we ran down the shore, secured from the side of a small tree a pole long enough to reach
     them. We took out Mr. Graves first, saying to him as we did so, "As you have a wife and children at home, and cannot swim, we will take
     you out first." After rescuing them all from their unpleasant position we went into camp and remained until the next morning.

     We had in the company a man whose name was Ferguson, who took delight in telling jokes on his comrades. He and Graves were
     intimate friends. The next morning being chilly, we were all standing round the camp fire. He, as was his custom when he had something
     interesting to impart, commenced laughing, "Ah," said he, "I have a good joke to tell on Graves; he says that his Universalism will do to
     live by, but it will not do to go over the rapids with. I came to the conclusion last evening that there was a hell and a devil, and I was going
     to see them very soon." Mr. Graves joined with us in the hearty laugh which we indulged in at his expense, but never again did I hear
     him discussing the doctrine he had formerly advocated.

     The other incident to which I have alluded was a sad tragedy, which occurred in Bird's Valley. Four men engaged in a game of poker. All
     went well until midnight, when a quarrel occurred among them. Two left the game, and two continued to play till morning. The name of
     one was Helms, the other White. They were playing in the Helms brothers' cabin. When they closed the game White was winner and
     demanded the money. Helms told him that his brother had their money and he would pay him when he came in. In the meantime the
     quarrel of the previous night was renewed, and the lie was passed. White drew his revolver and shot Helms through the neck, killing him
     instantly. As he was falling the brother stepped into the door, and seeing what was done, there was a flash of steel in the morning light,
     and White, pierced to the heart by the avenger's knife, died almost at the same moment as his victim; thus, two, who had degraded
     themselves by sin, passed into eternity together. They were buried side by side in the little cemetery in Bird's Valley, and their dust is
     sleeping far away from the home of their childhood.

     The question with my brother and myself now was: What shall we now do? We had failed in mining, not because it would not pay, but
     because we had joined our interest with too large a company which was controlled by men who were incompetent. We remained in Bird's
     Valley for several weeks. Securing a whip-saw, we sawed out several hundred feet of lumber, and engaged in making pumps and
     washers. This was profitable for a time, but the demand was not sufficient to give us constant employment. During this time one of the
     company with which we had been connected came to us. He was very much discouraged and did not have enough money to buy himself a
     good dinner. We kept him for a week at an expense of a dollar per day. His name was H. Clay Rainy. At the end of a week his brother
     William and Mr. Graves came into the valley. They had fared much better and were in good spirits. They spent a day or two with us, Mr.
     Graves paying a debt due us of sixteen dollars. They went into a small canon about two miles from the valley called Dutch Gulch. There
     was a flat in it that had never been thoroughly prospected. Coming to a place where other parties had made an excavation, they sank it
     deeper, striking a rich deposit of gold. Just at this time we accepted an offer of two shares in a claim on the North Fork of the Middle
     Fork of the American River, and knew nothing of their good fortune until some weeks after. They staked out claims and dug them out in
     six weeks, taking out of them about $10,000 and left for home. Whether others who secured claims in the flat were also successful, we
     never learned. We did not succeed in but one thing, that was, finding plenty of hard work to do. We took out enough to pay for our
     provisions, but by the first of October all were so discouraged that most of the company left for other mines. We could not reach bedrock
     on account of water and large rock. If this could have been accomplished the result would have been different. Brother and I, after
     spending a few days in the Valley, went to Sacramento. He was a good mechanic and could have secured work at good wages, while I,
     though not as good a mechanic as he, could have found employment also. There was some cholera in the city, and brother was not willing
     to remain. It was with a sad heart that I turned my face toward our mountain home, where we had met with so many disappointments, and
     our lives had been so destitute of any real joy. We had spent a Sabbath in the city; had been taken into the choir of the First Presbyterian
     Church by one of its members, and joined our voices with it in singing God's praise. We had listened to a good sermon, the first and only
     one we were permitted to hear for over two years.

     Precious brother! Why he was so fearful and so quickly turned his back on those budding joys that would for us have bloomed into
     beauty, I could not tell. Little did he think that bright morning on which we left the city, that he was going back to his mountain home to

     After returning to Bird's Valley, we did some prospecting and found where our labors could be made remunerative, but before we had
     made a thorough test our hopes were blighted by sickness and death. About the middle of December brother was taken down with
     mountain fever, and twenty-four hours after I was taken with the same disease, but in a much milder form. There was no physician in the
     Valley. The only one of whom we had any knowledge was twelve miles away, and we had no friend to go for him or render us any
     assistance. We left our own house and secured boarding with the only man that kept a house of entertainment in the Valley. It, however,
     was little better than our own, and all the care my brother had was given by my own hands. This was done with great difficulty, but
     necessity compelled me to do all that I could for his comfort. Once or twice, weak as I was, I had to cut and carry in wood to keep him
     warm. He lingered three or four weeks. During that time he suffered a great deal, but without complaining. The morning before he died
     he dressed himself, and sat up most of the day. Walking to the store in the afternoon he received kind greetings from all those whom he
     had the pleasure of meeting. I had almost despaired of his recovery, but now hope sprang up anew within me, only to be dashed from me
     in a moment. That evening when I lay down by him, he complained of not being able to get in any position in which he could rest easy.
     Thinking that it was caused by the efforts he had made during the day, I soon went to sleep. Waking in the latter part of the night I
     extended my arm over him to see if he was covered, and my hand rested on his arm, which was bare and cold. I felt for his pulse, but it
     had ceased to beat. I placed my hand on his heart, and found he was dead. I was overwhelmed with anguish too great for tears; but the
     struggle did not last long. Reason assumed the throne, and I saw that the rebellion against God in which I was indulging was wrong and
     although stricken with deepest grief, submission to my Heavenly Father's will brought relief. A kind German made a coffin out of lumber
     we had sawed out during the summer, and in the evening a few friends bore his precious body to a new-made grave, and committed it to
     the keeping of mother earth, there to sleep, until He who "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious
     body," shall on the great resurrection day raise it up to glory.

     No one, unless he has passed through the same experience, can realize my felings [sic] under this sad bereavement. No relative nearer
     than two thousand miles; and not even an intimate friend near me, to whom I could look for comfort. The board I had to pay, for little
     more than shelter, was fifty dollars, and when it was done my purse was empty. I had depended on my brother to decide every important
     matter that came up before us, but now, he was gone and I must use my own judgement and exercise my own will in every decision I was
     required to make. His Godly example had been to me a source of strength, but it came before me now only in memory. Not a line had
     been received from home to tell of the good or ill that had come to the loved ones. We had written to them frequently and all our letters
     were received and answered, but from some cause the answers never reached us. It was some two or three weeks before my health
     became normal, but during that time I was able to render the only merchant in the valley some assistance, making one or two trips to a
     trading house some forty miles down the divide and on the north side of the North Fork of the American River. One morning, while
     preparing to make one of these journeys, three men came into the Valley and inquired for me. Two of them were from my own county, the
     other was from St. Louis. They asked for direction to some point if I knew of such, where they could mine with profit. I gave them the
     desired information and the privilege of using a tent and mining tools which they would find some distance above the point to which I
     directed them.

     I was much distressed with homesickness during this period, and in my petitions to my Heavenly Father, asked Him to bless me with
     sufficient means to return to my home and friends in Illinois. Finding that I was wasting time working with the man with whom I had been
     associated since my brother's death, and desiring to look into the face of one I had known in childhood, I went from the mouth of
     Eldorado Canon down the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River to the place I had directed the strangers. It was a lonely
     walk of about six miles. The mountains on both sides of the river rose far above it, but I was too homesick to enjoy their rugged
     grandeur. Not only was I homesick, but penniless; and my object in going to my tent was to get a crowbar which I hoped to sell for enough
     to pay for my expenses to Bear River, where I hoped to find a friend by the name of Scott. Coming to the tent and finding that someone
     had taken possession of it, and that the tools were gone I was angry, and for a moment the homesickness was forgotten. Leaving the tent
     in which I had spent so many pleasant hours with my brother, and going down the river a short distance, I saw three men at work on a
     short strip of ground between a canal and the river. This increased my anger, for I had an interest there, but it was soon dissipated.
     Coming opposite to where they were at work, I recognized them as the men I had directed but a few days before to the place where they
     were working, and had given permission to use the tent and the mining tools. Recognition was mutual, and after asking the usual
     question, "Does it pay," and receiving and affirmative answer, I was invited to cross the canal and judge for myself, as it was almost
     night, and they were going to wash out what had been gathered that afternoon. Judging from what they panned out, they were making
     about eight dollars per day to the man. They gave me a very cordial invitation to spend the night with them, to which I gave cheerful
     consent. As I had told them that I had an interest in the claim to which I had directed them, and gave them the use of a tent and mining
     tools, they could not do less than offer to take me in as a partner. This offer being the brightest prospect that had presented itself since
     the death of my brother, I gave up my journey to Bear River, and accepting it, cast in my lot with these new-found friends. Our labors
     together were pleasant and profitable, and at the end of three or four weeks I realized that my prayer for means enough to take me home
     were answered. I had three shares in the claim above where we had been working, and as the dam and canal were in good condition,
     there was a prospect of doing successful mining during the summer. These shares I sold to the men with whom I had been working, for
     fifty dollars a share, twenty-five dollars down, the balance when worked out, providing they paid for working. This, added to what I had
     already secured, would be sufficient for the long journey. The two men from near my home intrusted me with small amounts to carry to
     their families, with the understanding that if by any mishap it became necessary for me to use a part of it, I had the privilege of doing so.

     At this point in my narrative it will not be out of place to refer to some of the causes of failure on the part of so many whom their friends
     had good reason to think should have succeeded. It was not because they were unwilling to work, neither was it because there was lack of
     gold in the mining districts, which had been sought out and quickly peopled with those who were anxious to secure a fortune in a few days.
     The first cause of failure was want of exercising good judgement, just as men must do in any calling in life in which they may engage. Too
     many seemed to think that by going from place to place and digging a hole here and there they would, by and by, strike it rich. This did
     occur in some instances, but it was not a wise rule to follow. A second cause of failure was neglect to follow up every indication that gave
     promise of success. I will never forget the first particles of gold upon which my eyes rested. I felt at the time that thorough work should
     be done to ascertain whether the plat of ground that could have been claimed would pay; but my messmates passed it by without even
     taking out a pan full of dirt and making a slight test, which would have required but a few moments of time. A few weeks after, passing
     the same plat of ground, I saw that thorough work had been done, and that it had paid, back quite a distance from the bank of the creek.
     No doubt hundreds of dollars had been taken out of the claim. A third cause of failure was unwillingness to be satisfied with reasonable
     wages. This led men to listen to the wonderful stories that were told, and make hard and expensive journeys without promise of sure
     success. The fourth and greatest cause of failure, was the forming of too large companies. The number that could work profitably
     together depended on the nature of the mines in which the work was being done. On bars and in dry or placer diggings, from two to three
     could work successfully, and in many places one man with a long tom could do well.  It was with a thankful heart I bid these kind friends
     goodbyand turned my face homeward.

Copyright 1999-2001 Robin Worth Petersen

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