This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 8, 1850
“Went 25 miles down the [Humboldt] river. Met a company going back from California. One of their company was shot in the breast with an arrow while on guard, and he died. Our provisions are nearly gone and we have at least three weeks travel to go before we get to where there is plenty of food, but we must trust to providence. We came across the remains of an ox that the packers had killed and divided what they could cut off. We found the bones here and made soup of them, thickened with a little flour, which made two or three good meals. Camped here.” – Robert Chalmers. Robert had traveled along the Hastings Cutoff and was now traveling on the south side of the Humboldt River, having crossed on August 7 at Gravelly Ford. Robert’s diary was published in the Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 20 (1952) and can be viewed at https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/volume_20_1952/s/92047. The picture is from the Elko Wayside Exhibit in City Park of Elko. The information from the wayside can be found in the California Trail Center app, available for free on the Apple and Google app stores. The online version is located at https://ctic.oncell.com/en/elko-278240.html.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 9, 1849
“As I was walking to-day in advance of my companions I discovered moving ahead of me a person sheltered by a huge umbrella. It was something of a novelty; I had not seen one in three months. There had hardly been a shower, except at night, during that period. All were so well tanned they cared not for shade, to preserve their complexions. Curiosity led me to quicken my steps so as to overtake and interview the strange individual. I was well repaid. I found it shadowed a dark, bilious-looking man, of large proportions, and middle age. He returned my salutation with a grunt and a growl. When l remarked that it must be pleasant for him to walk in the shade, he replied: ‘Not much; with such a heavy weight to carry.’ I asked him how he enjoyed the trip. ‘Oh, horrible,’ said he, ‘I have not had a moments peace or comfort since I started. Everything goes wrong; I’m lame, and can hardly crawl,’ and with an ‘oh ! oh!’ placed his hand upon his hip. ‘Why don’t you ride in your wagon?’ said I, ‘you could then have rest and shade.’ ‘Can’t do it,’ said he, ‘it jolts so it racks every bone in my body.’ I then suggested that he ride an easy going horse. ‘I can’t do that,’ he replied, ‘my feet swell when off the ground and pain me awfully.’ All my suggestions for his relief were met with objections, and were in vain. He didn’t even thank me for my gratuitous and kindly intended advice. He was a natural born grumbler, and grumble he would. It was undoubtedly one of his sources of enjoyment. Such unhappy, snarling fellows not only seem to make themselves miserable, but all who are compelled to associate with them. Their appropriate place is chief mourner at a funeral, or figure-head at an anxious meeting. In order to avoid as much as possible the midday heat we set out at dawn, and reached water in about ten miles, but it was poor and brackish – unfit for use. A short distance farther we found some wells or springs, of good water, and halted to let our horses feed and get our breakfast. About five miles beyond we found a fine spring of very cold water. Having made twenty-six miles we encamped. The grass was good but quite dry. The horses seemed to like it, and perhaps it was better for them than green food. We hear that the blacksmith died last night.” – Ansel J. McCall. McCall’s diary can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31158005904320&view=1up&seq=81. The nineteenth century umbrella photo was downloaded from https://www.antiques-delaval.com/en/various-objects-of-vertu/10754-umbrella-old-ivory-knob-sculpts-hand-roll-metal-xixeme-century.html.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 10, 1849
“All well. Continued on the same side of the river for two or three miles, and then crossed to the right bank. The fording was deep, Here we found a greet quantity of a very fine, red berry, resembling the currant. Its name we could not learn. Immediately before us rose a lofty mountain, with a valley opening to the southwest and another to the south-east. Mr. Shepherd the Daguerrean Artist, came up with us on packs. His company went ahead and he remained with us until noon the next day. In four miles, we came to the bluff up which the road went. A note was left here, for us, by Dr. McKenzie, of Cincinnati, informing us of the sand road ahead and there being neither grass nor water for fifteen miles, and but little grass for seventy-two miles. We called a counsel at 10 a. m. to decide upon the policy of commencing this journey to-day. Determined to wait, let our mules rest, and start to-night at the rising of the moon. Made 6 miles to-day.” – Benjamin Biddle. Biddle’s diary can be viewed online at https://donduncan.org/trails/biddle.htm. The photo of the high desert Red Lake Red Currant was downloaded at http://plants.moananursery.com/12170011/Plant/409/Red_Lake_Red_Currant/.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 11, 1850
“This day in the forenoon we came to the Salt-Lake and went in bathing, the water is so heavy that a man will float upon it without making any exertions and so strongly impregnated with salt that no living animal is found to exist in it. When we came out we found ourselves covered with an incrustation of salt which proved annoying as we could procure no fresh water to wash it off. The Lake is said to be from 80 to 100 miles long North and South and 60 or 70 miles wide. There are several Islands in it upon some of which are high Mountains. We Traveled 25 miles to day and Camped at the Willow-Springs, where we remained during the 12th to recruit our Horses and Procure a supply of Hay for the Desert being the last opportunity we shall have.” – William Edmundson. William’s diary was published in the Annals of Iowa, v. 8, no. 7 (1908) and can be viewed at https://archive.org/details/overlanddiarieso00deanrich/page/526/mode/2up. This reference also contains several other emigrant diaries from the 1850s. The engraving of Great Salt Lake was downloaded from https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/great-salt-lake-utah-historic-american-illustrations-gm171376556-21095605.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 12, 1853
“Pleasant & calm cool again probably 38⁰. Had the misfortune to break my thermometer Decamped at 6 ½ O. Passed several fine mountain streams during the first 2 hours Our road then bore off from the mountains over a rolling hilly sage plain entirely destitute of water but containing some grass Compelled to make our M. halt without water after which some 3 or 4 m. travel brought us to a most splendid mountain stream about 3 rods wide and 2 ft. deep. Water cold and perfectly transparent After leaving this we ascended a mountain on which was grown cedar about 1 m. on the other side of which we struck on to a sage plain which was a perfect barren except the sage I judged this plain to be about 12 or 15 miles in width about 8 or 10 miles after striking this plain discovered a very fine valley containing good grass and some spring water in a dry stream Encamped in this valley about 7 ½ o’clock having driven some 24 or 25 m. Weather warm dust exceedingly bad. Sage. Fell in company with a man from the Cherokee nation who presented me with a gun holder.” – Dr. J. R. Bradway. Dr. Bradway’s journal is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-j-r-bradway-1853. The image of a nineteenth century traveling thermometer was downloaded from https://jasonclarkeantiques.co.uk/products/nineteenth-century-leather-cased-travelling-thermometer-by-dollond-of-london.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 13, 1863
“We rolled out early this morning; one mile to the junction of a road going over the mountains to the right [the Greenhorn Cutoff], one more to the crossing of the river & head of river kanyon [Carlin Canyon]. We crossed & followed down the left hand side of kanyon & river one mile & crossed the river again One & a half miles farther & we crossed again A little rocky in places. Soon after crossing we had a little very rocky road & the kanyon become so narrow that our teams had to run out in to the river. We found a light wagon, belonging to Louises train which was ahead of us, broken down here. A couple of men were trying to fix it up Some of the spokes were broken out in fact one wheel was about cleared of spokes. One mile more & we crossed the river again. Here we had some deep gravel road the wheels making a great deal of noise going through it. The scenery in this vacinity was wild & romantic; then ledges of sand & rock, melted, standing on edge; broken shattered & jaged cliffs; beds of spalls that had crumbled from the exposed surface of the burnt rocks as the weather acted upon them & I suppose causeing them to crumble or slack like lime A great deal of melted & burnt sand & rock in this kanyon & some little on the rout back to Bear River. The rocks in this kanyon are of a brown yellow cast. One half mile more & we came to the mouth of the kanyon. The valley here, narrow and the bordering mountains low. One mile to the foot of a steep hill. One half mile more up this hill & over in to the Valley. Here the valley opened out to its usual width. One & a half miles more down the river & we camped for noon. After noon going four miles and we crossed a tributary of the Humbolt comeing down out of the right hand mountains One & a half miles more, crossing the river, we camped for the evening.” – James Pressley Yager. Yager’s diary was published in the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly in six parts from Spring, 1970 to Summer, 1971 and can be downloaded at http://epubs.nsla.nv.gov/statepubs/epubs/210777-index.html. The photograph was taken in Carlin Canyon west of Elko, NV.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – August 14, 1845
“Started this a. m. early & traveled about 20 miles & encamped on Cassia. This day was warm, but after a refreshing shower, it became very pleasant. Crossed the creek, found but very little good grass until we struck the creek again in the evening. The water of this creek has a peculiar taste not unlike cinnamon, from which it derives its name.” – Jacob Snyder. Jacob’s diary was published in the Quarterly of the Society of California Pioneers, vol. 8/9 (1931-32) and can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106005393043&view=1up&seq=267. The photo of Cassia Creek near Elba, ID was downloaded from https://www.landandfarm.com/property/Elba_Grazing_Ranch-4664604/.