This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 22, 1861
“in the early morning, we pushed on eleven miles to Rabbit Hole Springs, where the water was fair and there was some grass. Sunday night the teams and cattle drove all night and reached Hot Springs, a distance of twenty miles. The sheep stopped at ten miles and camped on the desert. At Hot Springs, the water came out from the flowing springs almost boiling hot, but many of the streams cooled so as to be useable but had a sulphur taste. A little coarse grass and other vegetation grew along this stream untill it was absorbed in the desert, but the grass furnished very little subsistence for the stock.” – Ira H. Butterfield, Jr. Ira’s diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/michigan-to-california-ira-h-butterfield-jr-1861. The photo of Black Rock Hot Spring (where Butterfield was camped) was taken by Aimee Scott and downloaded from Google Earth at https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/p/AF1QipOcVFxPEV8DsjR9uMrz5OQlcJ3Spt9_xREl7eH7=h1440.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 23, 1847
Chester Ingersoll, during his 1847 journey to California, sent nine letters regarding his trip back to the newspaper in Joliet, Illinois for publication. This date’s description was in the November 20 letter. “travelled 8 miles west, found grass and water, road bad; 10 miles further found good grass and water. From this 5 miles to bear valley, grass good, the road in many places looked impassible, still we got along. The timber here is large and thick, with large, rocky and steep hills. Game plenty, bear, deer and elk. From this to Johnson’s settlement, little grass, road middling. Before you come to the settlement you must guard your cattle night and day, to protect them from the Indians. When we arrived at Johnsons, which is in the great Sacrimento valley, on a small stream called Bear river, we found plenty of wheat, corn, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes and melons. We arrived here on the 2d day of October, and found every thing green as May except grass; but melons were in bloom that had been bearing three months, & we picked the fourth crop from the same vines. The land on this river is rich, but the hills looked barran. From this to Capt. Sutler’s is 40 miles, across dry ridges, to the American fork, which is a beautiful stream about the size of the Du Page. There I found Capt. Sutler harvesting and threshing his wheat. His crop was about 60,000 bushels this year; the average yield per acre this year, is 35 bushels. The wheat that was not cut stood up straight and had not shelled out, although it was ripe in June. On this stream the soil is sandy and easy to cultivate, and produces well; but not healthy.” – Chester Ingersoll. Chester’s compiled letters were published in a book that can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106017226140&view=1up&seq=76&skin=2021. The image of California produce was downloaded from https://fruitgrowers.com/the-ultimate-california-seasonal-produce-guide/.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 24, 1849
“Remained in camp to day a part of the time has been ocipied in collecting pea vine to supply our cattle with feed as there is no grass for a distance of 40 Miles In this distance considerable is being done in the way of washing gold The first washings 7 Miles below our present camping ground The gold excitement has raged high in camp to day and arrangements have been made in the Company to stop there and examin and if thought best will stop and send our cattle back here to grase in this valey Some messes have settled up there fairs and devided each taking his interist” – Elisha B. Lewis. Lewis’ diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded at https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-of-overland-trip-to-california-elisha-b-lewis-1849. The photo is of the mining diorama in the California Trail Interpretive Center.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 25, 1845
“Packed this morning at 8 o’clock. Our course the same as yesterday. Stopped early this evening on account of our horses having had but little feed last night. We are evidently approaching the Plains. The hills are decreasing in magnitude & every thing indicates that we have gotten through the most difficult part of the mountains. This mountain contains a great variety of berries and many species of timber & shrubs. This night we have very good grass & tolerable water. We have seen many Indian signs for several days but no Indians.” – Jacob Snyder. Jacob’s diary can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106005393043&view=1up&seq=277&skin=2021. This 1931 Quarterly of the Society of California Pioneers was largely dedicated to Snyder and has extensive biographical and anecdotal information about him, including this picture of his palatial home, El Cerrito, in Sonoma. He died in 1878.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 26, 1853
“Three miles from camp we reach the river again. One half of a mile from here is Gold Canyon. Here we camp. Four or five miners are here at work but in consequence of the scarcity of water though the mines are yielding but poorly.” – Isaiah William Bryant. Bryant’s diary is part of the OCTA collection and can be downloaded from https://www.octa-journals.org/merrill-mattes-collection/diary-isaiah-william-bryant-1853. The painting is from the Dayton, NV wayside exhibit located at the intersection of Pike Street and Logan Alley in that community. It illustrates prospecting at the entrance to Gold Canyon.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 27, 1850
“This day we traveled fourteen miles the roads beeing vary dusty all day we founde a good camp to night their is a wagon here that belonged to a nother train it seams they had a fight with the indians seven days ago their is plenty of good grass here camp ducks in a bundance here the river here lays in sloughs we are now in the vicinity of the sink I believe Elick killed a great hen and solde it all out” – Sarah Green Davis. Sarah’s handwritten diary can be viewed and downloaded at https://collections.library.yale.edu/catalog/10001144. Trails West T-Marker C-80, which marks the approximate end of the Big Meadows – where Sarah was camped – is located next to the Big Meadows Cemetery south of Lovelock, NV. The photo is from Google Maps.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 28, 1850
“Started at half-past six. The view around presents low mountains at a distance, whilst near at hand are numerous ranges of pyramidical hills, composed of white marl, giving the landscape a magnificent appearance. To-day the road makes a great curve. Myself and others, on foot, took a straight course across another alkaline desert, three or four miles in breadth. On this tract a strong effluvia rises from the ground, having a pungent smell, like holding one’s head over a chaldron of boiling salts of lye. The heat also was suffocating, so much so, that at one time we thought it would be impossible to proceed further in this direction, but we persevered, and safe from harm issued at length from these suffocating exhalations. The Humboldt is a singular stream; I think the longest river in the world, of so diminutive a size. Its length is three or four hundred miles, and general width about fifty feet. From here, back to where we first saw it, the quantity of water seems about the same. It rather diminishes in size as it proceeds. We met several Indians on horseback. They had bunches of angle-worms, tied up in handkerchiefs, and one of them, who could speak a little English, said they were going up the river to catch fish. Encamped in a miserable, barren place, subsisting the cattle upon willow browse. On the top of a conical hill, eighty rods distant, sat a wolf very deliberately watching our movements. Distance, fifteen miles.” – Franklin Langworthy. Langworthy’s book can be viewed and downloaded at https://archive.org/details/sceneryofplainsm00languoft/page/144/mode/2up. The image is the title page from Franklin’s book.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 29, 1841
“Traveled about twenty miles. Course of the stream was west-northwest; according to the map, Mary’s River ran west-northwest. Strong doubts were entertained about this being Mary’s River. The men who got directions at Fort Hall were cautioned that if we got too far south we would get into the great sandy desert; if too far north, we would wander and starve to death on the waters of the Columbia, there being no possibility of getting through that way. We had now been six days on this stream, and our course had averaged considerably north of west.” – John Bidwell. The Addresses, reminiscences, etc. of John Bidwell can be downloaded from the Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/item/10005282/. Bidwell, at this point, was approaching the present-day location of Winnemucca, NV where the Humboldt River turns back southwest after making a large loop toward the north. The painting is from the Winnemucca Wayside Exhibit located in Riverview Park on South Bridge Street.
This day in Trail history – A composite journey along the California Trail – September 30, 1849
“Camp in a bustle this morning – cooking, striking tents, and preparing for a start, but made a late start owing to the cattle being much scattered. Traveling 8 miles, we turned off to the river and nooned in sight of it, but could not drive the wagons to it, the level we are traveling on this morning being much higher than the bottom and a steep descent to it. The cattle were driven down to water and graze on scant grass. We dined ‘sumptuously’ on cold biscuit, slapjacks, & coffee. The Colonel was not with us at noon having gone on to look for grass. Driving about seven miles and a half, we followed a left hand road to a secluded valley in the bend of the river, which the Colonel had selected and where grass is plenty. The train coming in after dark, lighted by a bright shining moon, found wood gathered for each waggon by the usual ‘forerunners.’ One of the oxen belonging [to] the Dutch gave out and they did not quite make the camp.” – Hugh Brown Heiskell. You can preview a portion of Heiskell’s published journal at https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Forty_niner_from_Tennessee/K77Gl0Q7TsAC?q=&gbpv=1#f=false. The photo of Trails West T-Marker C-76, located near where Heiskell’s camp was, was captured from Google Maps at https://email@example.com,-118.3740768,3a,75y,134.03h,92.12t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipNqIHGRQNa0gqgVUttEkOTdjwyI2Ff0IPcNZ_pk!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipNqIHGRQNa0gqgVUttEkOTdjwyI2Ff0IPcNZ_pk%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-1.5823996-ya9.497041-ro1.7055022-fo100!7i7200!8i3600.
This concludes our daily “virtual journey” along the California Trail posts. We hope you’ve enjoyed them and we’ll be returning to our weekly Friday posts in October (which happens to be tomorrow!). Thank you for following us!