This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 8, 1849
“Started at 7. Drove through the mountains 14 miles and noond at Horse Shoe Creek, Drove 8 miles further to one of the dells of the Plat and campd late in the evening. This day we were convinced that it was snow we saw on Larimie Peak.” – Alexander Love. Alexander’s diary can be downloaded from the OCTA website at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/the-overland-journal-of-alexander-love. The sketch of Laramie Peak is from a sketchbook of William Minor “Cush” Quesenbury during his 1849 gold rush trip to California. The image was downloaded from https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/laramie-peak-landmark-oregon-trail.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 9, 1850
“this day we have [travelled] about 22 miles through poor country, here the Platt is about as wide as the Mississippi at New Orleans, but very shallow, by the Mormon guide we here expected to find the last timber but all had been used up by others ahead of us so we must go about 200 miles without any provisions cooked up yet all hands are cheerful” – Aaron W. Harland. Aaron’s diary can be viewed at https://archive.org/details/overlanddiarieso00deanrich/page/40/mode/2up. The 1865 painting “Encampment along the Platte” by Worthington Whittredge was downloaded from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Encampment-Along-The-Platte-1100×850.jpg.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 10, 1849
“A clear morning and fresh bracing wind made us feel pleasant & good after a rainy night. We had a full view of Court House Rock, which as we approached assumed more the appearance of some rude old structure. It but little resembles the dome of the Capitol at Washington. It represents somewhat an old fort, but struck me as resembling muchly the Bishop’s Palace at Monterey, Mexico. It is not of solid rock; it is a sand hill, or rather a sand bank, with an occasional layer of soft rock, rather soft, which has been shaped by the action of the rains upon it. It is a prominent object & easily distinguishable. Upon the south side there is a stream of clear water which winds around the Castle & then the bluffs & crosses near here. From it we have a view of Chimney Rock in the distance. Had yesterday been a clear day we should have seen Chimney Bock at a distance of thirty miles. It resembles at a distance a large hay stack with a pole running thru it, but upon a nearer approach looks more like the huge chimney of some old furnace. Its base occupies nearly half a mile and gradually tapers to the end. Some three years ago it was over 400 feet high, but the heavy rains have beaten it down and it is not now so high. The Chimney Rock is composed of the same material as that of the Castle. The Chimney stands solitary & alone upon a small eminence in the centre of a gap formed by two large bluffs. A great many names are cut, and at least 1000 more are painted upon the Chimney, & among the rest was found the name of Capt. Smith, cut there in 1845. We went into camp within four miles of Chimney Rock with good grass & pool water.” – Vincent E. Geiger. Vincent Geiger began the diary and Wakeman Bryarly finished it. Their diary can be viewed and downloaded at https://archive.org/details/trailtocaliforni000849mbp/page/n121/mode/2up. The painting “Chimney Rock” was downloaded from the William Henry Jackson collection of Scotts Bluff National Monument at http://www.whjcollection.com/default.htm.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 11, 1849
“Travelled 15 miles today. Sand the whole way from Ash hollow. Fear entertained about the cattle becoming foot-sore. None ot ours yet sore. The necks of a few of our cattle a little sore. No wood but what we hauled along, and that dry cedar. Grass good. Water from a well, not very well. Passed two fresh graves today. One person died of cholera, as the rude board at the head showed. The other from pulmonary consumption. Mosquitoes most horribly pesterous. The cattle becoming almost crazy and hard to guard. Rained again nearly all night.” – Amos Steck. Steck’s diary can be downloaded from the OCTA website at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-of-amos-steck-1849. The painting of Ash Hollow was downloaded from https://www.visitgardencounty.com/ash-hollow-state-historical-park.html.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 12, 1852
“Continued up the river bottom to the [North Platte] ferry [near present-day Casper, WY]. Crossed some small runs which make down from the mountains on the left. The water is very cold and much rilled. Arrived at the ferry about 10 A.M. Crossed over without delay. Three boats are constantly running at this point. Current very rapid. About 1/2 a mile below the ferry, swam our cattle. This is attended with some danger, besides much fatigue to the animals. A number of lives have been lost here by those who were engaged in driving over stock by their venturing too far out into the current which is very strong at this place. The boats carry over about 24 wagons per hour at $5.00 per wagon, men 50 cts per head, cattle $1.00, man & horse $1.00. About 1000 wagons have already passed this season up to this date. After crossing the river we drove up the river about 3 miles and camped. Short grass. Two roads leave the river at the ferry, one taking over Rattlesnake Hill, the other continuing up the river and connecting about 13 miles from the ferry. The river road is much the best on account of water and grass and some miles nearer.” – D. B. Andrews. Andrews’ partial diary can be downloaded from the OCTA website at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/the-overland-journal-d-b-andrews-1852. The painting of the platte ferry was downloaded from https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/trek/upper-platte-mormon-ferry?lang=eng.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 13, 1864
“The Platte is a shallow wide muddy stream 1 mile across with quicksand bottom and sluggish current, constantly changing its channel, and not navigable only for small boats, and has low banks, and often overflows them. In low water it is all sand bars and small rivulets. We had bathing in it every day, the Emigrant Road following it closely for hundreds of miles. There are the Plains, no timber now whatever, the only fuel being dried cattle dung or ‘Buffalo chips.’ The air is so dry those chips are very hard and burn quite well. The Valley is flat for hundreds of miles and low sand ranges on each side. We must cross the [South] Platte somewhere as our route is north of it up the North Platte, but the River is very high now and follow up its South Bank, the Denver Road, until we can find a crossing. The traffic is very large on this Road to and from Denver where gold and Silver have been mined several years, in the spring and early summer many have to go 400 miles up to within 50 miles of Denver before they can cross. Dead Buffalo carcasses are plenty along the Road where the Buffalo cross and are killed for mere wantoness. And Antelope are plenty and we have hunting and fresh venison every day.” – George Forman. George’s diary can be viewed and downloaded at https://archive.org/details/annalsofwyom40121968wyom/page/n9/mode/2up.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – June 14, 1847
“Crossed the La Bonte some distance beyond found a little water and camped among the wormwood. It seems very disagreeable. Passed over a very broken volcanic region. We saw some beautiful specimens of lava and large red butes where the earth seems filled with the red oxide of iron, thrown up by volcanic action. The road for a long distance has the appearance of an old brick yard and the dust that rises from it is almost suffocating.” – Joseph C. Buffom. Buffom was somewhere west of Fort Laramie at this point. His diary can be downloaded from the OCTA website at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-jos-c-buffum-1847. The painting “LaBonte Creek” by William Henry Jackson was downloaded from http://www.whjcollection.com/show_more.asp?ind=29.