This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 8, 1849
“Without breakfast we pushed on until we came to Steep hollow (rightly named) where we took
breakfast and looked round a little among the miners for we had reached the Diggings. We
beheld for the first time people washing gold. Went of Six miles when we came to a Store.
Wood, Baldwin and myself took Some whiskey and Brandy for which I paid 1.50$ for being the
first thing which I bought from a store in California. We went five miles further to another valiy
here we found another Store where whiskey was Sold for 25¢ pr drink Sugar and
Flour Each 50¢ pr lb also pork at the Same price. Being Saturday we camped Early.” – James S. Abell. Abell’s diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-of-james-s-abell. The ca. 1852 daguerrotype of a commercial building near Nevada City, CA (which is close to where James Abell was on September 8, 1849) was downloaded from the California State Library collection at https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/tf096n9716/.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 9, 1857
“Passed another trading shanty. They charge $1.00 a pint for vinegar and the same for molasses, coffee and dried apples 50 cts. a pound. They had a small stock on hands, either had sold out or knew they could sell but little, for not many immigrants can afford such delicacies at such prices. Here we crossed the river (water hub deep), and did not come to it again for 12 miles. Very deep dust all the way. I wonder what is expected to happen to a fellow who swallows twice his alloted amount of dirt, (one peck). We are under no apprehension as this outdoor life seems to render us impervious to what would kill ordinary mortals. Only the other day, I saw some rice being warmed over, that had been cooked and left standing in the kettle which was brass. There was a rim of verdegris all around the edge, – the cook stirred it in, and nobody was even sick from it. ‘All is well that ends well’. Camped by the river at the upper end of Lawson Meadows. Raining and very cold.” – Helen Carpenter. Helen was camped near present-day Rye Patch Reservoir. Her diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/a-trip-across-the-plains-in-an-ox-wagon-helen-carpenter-1857. The picture of a copper pot with a verdigris patina in the bottom was downloaded from https://www.chairish.com/product/2764424/antique-copper-pot-with-handles-and-green-verdigris-patina-inside.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 10, 1850
“We traveled eighteen miles today and encamped on a shallow lake around the border of which our road had been winding for half the day. While passing through some tall, rank grass this morning we came upon an encampment of four hundred Indians. They were occupied in making hay which they traded to the emigrants. They appeared friendly, but we collected our train together and kept near our wagons to be ready for any emergency that might happen.” – James Bennett. Bennett’s diary can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015012997295&view=1up&seq=80&skin=2021. The photo of the Humboldt Sink was downloaded from http://www.donnerpartydiary.com/oct46.html.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 11, 1853
“We rolled out at 3 oc in the morning, we traveled 4 miles and came to heavy sand. We traveled twelve miles over heavy sand and came to Carson River. Here is a small town made of tents and called Rag Town. Here you can be accomodated with all kinds of refreshments. one of our teams gave out on the sand and just before we got off the desert we had to put in one of the ponyes and Mr. Meeks riding horse and succeeded in getting over. Mr. Kelly hauled most of our heavy articles in the flour waggons. George Atheys team also gave out on the desert and he had to bring his horses over to water and go back for his waggon. We traveled 4 miles to Carson River and camped. Bought hay for our horses for which we paid 7 ½ cents per lb. Grass none. The traders have cut it all to sell. Large cottonwood trees along the river and make a good shade. Weather clear and warm. Water good. Distance traveled 20 miles.” – William Richard Brown. Brown’s diary (odd pages only) is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded from https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/an-authentic-wagon-train-journal-william-richard-brown-1852. The painting is from the Ragtown Wayside exhibit in Fallon, NV.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 12, 1849
“It appears that we are to lay by another day. Robert Harper is sick and several others in the train and a black boy died last night in Campbell’s train; also they have some sick and our cattle need rest very much. I noticed, some days since, that this was an unknown route to any person on it, and the reports that we hear annoy us greatly. At one time we hear the distance to the mines is not more than twenty miles and perhaps in an hour we will hear it is between two and three hundred. The one will encourage, while the latter will greatly discourage and not a day passes but what we hear similar reports to the above. Myers, the pilot of Hudspeth’s train, is the only man that has been in this part of the country before. But this road was not made at that time, consequently he knows nothing of the route of the road, but he says he once encamped across the hill from our camp and in one day and a half rode to the settlement and says unless the road runs very crooked we can reach the settlement in from three to five days. The road was made by Lawson [Lassen], whose settlement we will probably strike first. It is also the main road leading from Oregon to California and from the appearance of the road has been traveled early in the season or when the ground was very wet as it has the appearance of the wheels going to hub in mud. I would think this road impassable very early in the spring for those deserts I have spoken of are undoubtedly lakes of water, also many of the valleys through which we have passed have every appearance of a yearly inundation. In passing through them we see the ground all cracked open for miles and some of the cracks are wide and deep.” – Israel Hale. Hale had been following the Applegate Trail and then had taken Lassen’s cutoff. His diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-of-trip-to-california-israel-f-hale-1849. The photo of Said Valley Reservoir (probably near where Hale wrote this diary entry) was downloaded from Google Earth at https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipNNWQ5ZmO0Yx5A9mrVVsaHzamMI9Ot-ZkE4GozQ=h1440.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 13, 1864
“Continued our journey, that is, we commenced ascending the canyon in all its romantic beauty, and found ourselves at a toll gate. At this gate we were called upon for $5.00 toll. We plead poverty, agreed to call on the president of Turn-Pike Co. and passed on. We found the road very well graded and passable, with high mountains of rock looming up like great castles into the clear cold heavens. Pines of various sizes are scattered at different intervales along the mountains sunny side and base, The thundering cateract of Carson goes bounding down the gloomy gorge at a speed and without noise that is terrific. 6 mi. from Woodford’s we entered Hog Valley, a romantic valley or flat in the mountains extending about 3 mi. and offering excellent feed the water also is excellent. We passed through or over this valley, and left It taking the abandoned wagon road. To the right and in advance of us are immense patches of snow which the warmest summer sun has failed to dislodge. 4 mi. from Green’s in Hog Valley we entered a lovely valley, which seemed too inviting to be so easily passed through but 3 o’clock, we yielded to temptation and turned loose in a rich pasture at 10¢ per head. We find the natives very kind and obliging indeed, they are so much so, as to sell us boiling beef at 10¢ lb. How fine it is to have friends especially if you have money. Traveled 10 miles.” – George Edwin Bushnell. George’s diary is available for view at http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~steelquist/genealogy/GeoBushnell.html. Bushnell may have been in the vicinity of Hope Valley when he wrote this. The picture of Hope Valley was downloaded from Google Earth at https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipMnvkX_FixpOj02c97NyoDuzh5ydQ24WLD2k359=h1440.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 14, 1849
“Still cloudy. Started a little after sun-rise. Passed through a belt of sparse, scattering timber. In five miles, we came to a brook, where were many vines filled with rich clusters of grapes. Five miles further, we crossed Butter creek—a stream forty feet wide, and rushing on its course with arrowy swiftness. Down this, we traveled two miles and came to Neal’s rancho, where were five main buildings, in the midst of a thick grove. Mr. Neal has a fine looking family, and a great many Indians about him. We then emerged from the timber, and passed along a fertile prairie. Nooned ten miles from Neal’s. Then traversed an undulating prairie with soil of a reddish cast; and next entered a forest, extending two miles to Feather River, and encamped beneath the branches of a large oak. These trees are not very tall, but many of them spread out so as to cover a surface of more than a hundred feet, some of the branches reaching to the ground. Grass good. The noise of the water aided us in making a good night’s rest. Distance 30 miles.” – Benjamin Biddle. Biddle’s diary can be viewed at https://donduncan.org/trails/biddle.htm. The photo of California Wild Grapes was downloaded from https://www.putahcreekcouncil.org/plant-month-california-wild-grape.