This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 8, 1850
“When we set out on our journey this morning it was intended to make but a moderate days’ drive; but we found it impossible to select a place to graze our cattle till after sunset; having traveled seventeen or eighteen miles over a bad road. In passing along the side of a high rocky bluff, the spring wagon containing the lady passengers upset in a mud hole and we had considerable difficulty in placing it in an upright position again. Fortunately for the ladies no bones were broken and but little damage was done.” – James Bennett. Bennnett’s diary can be viewed here. The picture is from the inside cover of the diary.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 9, 1850
“Traveled about 25 miles to-day over a prairie country, passed several more graves made last year. We have not seen any fresh ones yet, but found more dead horses. This is the result of feeding too much corn with no hay or grass. The grass seems to be getting a little better as we get on. Have had a very hot day, and dry, and good roads with the exception of two or three mud holes. Some more teams came up and camped with us—we turned off from the road and camped on a small creek.” – Eleazer Stillman Ingalls. Ingalls’ diary can be viewed here. The 1903 painting is by Giovanni Fattori and was downloaded here.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 10, 1849
“8 o’c. broke camp & passed up the valley at 8 miles we crossed a fine small affluent with quite cold water. At noon halted on the river which has alternately been approached and receded from several times. Russel don’t know the distances. At 5 P.M. we filed from the river on a slight ridge between 2 [long?] valleys 2 miles came in sight of trees in a hollow. Watered at the pools and came three miles to a place called the Lake which consists 2 or 3 large pools with high banks & skirted at the brink with a few trees. Camped 7 o’c. P.M. Supper after dark. Pony lost. Rain during night fell quite sharply. Roused at 4 to picket.” – Delos R. Ashley. You can download Delos’ handwritten diary here.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 11, 1850
“We went 12 miles and Stoped to lay ove Sunday. We passed one grave to Day. It was of last year. Here are a great many Buffalo and a great many of them are Burned to Death, by the Burning of the Planes. Here Browning and I went out to a dog town to amuse ourselves with our guns. We could [see] a hundred at one Sight. At Sight of us they Set up a most hideous Barking. We Stormed the town, killed five of the inhabitance, enjoyed ourselves for about two hours, really f[o]rgetting our families & our homes, for the time. Those animals burrow in the ground. Rattle Snakes & owls live in the Same holes. Those owls are of a yellowish Coulor & are about as large as the Common Small owl. Those Dogs are about the Size of a muskrat, or a Small house Cat & are of reddish or Clay Colour. They Bark very mutch like a Small Fiste.” – William H. Kilgore. The Kilgore journal can be downloaded here. The picture of the “Prairie Dog” is by John James Audubon from 1846 and can be viewed here.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 12, 1849
“We made an early start, the morning fine, road dry & firm but broken. After travelling about 6 miles upon crossing a small rocky drain, one of the hind wheals of Tucker & Lamptons wagon bursted its tyre, & we encamped on an elevation in the prairie close by and hauled the broken wagon by hand into camp. During our stay at this camp the broken wagon with the aid of tugs and ropes was so far repaired that we were enabled to move a few miles further that evening and encamped.” – Bennett C. Clark. Clark’s diary can be viewed here. The image is from “Story of the Great American West” published by Reader’s Digest in 1977.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 13, 1848
“We encamped at night in an open prairie, without wood for fires; and with ill-tasting water, rendered impure by decayed vegetable matter. We had seen many flowers and strawberries during the previous day, but on this prairie we saw only a very few of either. The country over which we passed was alter- nately rolling and flat prairie, having a rich soil, with an occasional tree near at hand, and here and there a group of timber in the distance. No birds were seen except a few among isolated hazle thickets, where they seemed not to be fixed, but rather to be, like us, emigrants seeking a better country. I advised them all to go back, unless they had the bronchitis so as to prevent them from singing. A mocking-bird, especially, who seemed determined to emigrate, I recommended first to go back and get a wife, assigning as a reason, that I had been informed that there were no lady mocking-birds in Oregon; and concluded by expressing the opinion, that if he did not, he might have to pair with a blue-jay, or perhaps even with a sparrow-hawk.” – Jessy Quinn Thornton. Thornton’s book can be viewed and downloaded here. The painting “Encampment on the Plains” is by Thomas Worthington Whittredge and is displayed on one of the panels in the California Trail Interpretive Center.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – May 14, 1852
“Camped last night on the bank of the Nemaha river, and this morning were called upon to bury a man who had died of cholera during the night. There have been many cases of this disease, or something very much like it; whatever it may be it has killed many persons on this road already. Yesterday we met two persons out of a company of five who left St. Joe the day before we did; two had died, one left on the road, sick, and the two we met were returning. There are many camps on the banks of this river; many are sick, some dead and great numbers discouraged. I think a great many returned from this point; indeed, things look a little discouraging and those who are not determined may waver in their resolution to proceed. This afternoon we passed the graves of a man and woman; the former was marked for seventy-four years.” – John Hawkins Clark. Clark’s diary can be viewed here. The poster is a New York Sanitary Commission poster from 1865 and is displayed on the Lobby History Timeline in the California Trail Interpretive Center.
I’ll post the next set on May 15.