Scott Co, Iowa USGenWeb Project
GOLD RUSH 1849-1850
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
April 5, 1849
Alfred Sanders, Editor
DELIGHTS OF AN OVERLAND JOURNEY TO CALIFORNIA
We find in the St. Louis Republican the following rich communication, which
will afford considerable amusement if not instruction, to those about
migrating to the Pacific:-
TO CALIFORNIA MEN
Permit me to caution your over-zeal in going after gold. Remember, and take
warning before you engage in an enterprise beyond your age, and strength and
A long, dreary road, of upward 2,000 miles lies before you, without houses,
without meat or flour, and in many places, without wood, water or grass. You
that start across the plains, by the time you reach Santa Fe, N.M.- a
distance of not less than 1,200 miles from St. Louis- will find your
ambition and courage fail; and yet through Santa Fe is a paradise to what
you will see afterward. By the time you have been fifty days out, which will
be the time you will be in going there, (or kill all your oxen and mules)
you will wish yourselves back again at work in St. Louis- mark my words. You
must cook your own meals, which will be fun and sport for a few days, where
wood, water and grass are plenty, but after you get 100 miles beyond Council
Grove, you will hunt in vain for wood and often for water and grass.
Instead of wood, get your blanket and two of you go out, take a circle of
one mile, and pick up all the buffalo chips (manure) you can find which will
be scarce, make your fires and cook by the blaze. While two are hunting for
fuel, some will have to go for water, others picket out your mules or watch
your oxen, others attend to the cooking, some attend to fixing your tent. Be
sure nad cook enough at night to do the next day, leaving nothing to do in
the morning but boil your coffee, harness up and be off. Twenty miles is a
good day's travel.
Two men will use a barrel of flour before getting to Santa Fe, and 200 lbs.
good bacon, about 30 lbs. coffee. You can travel on foot better than be
troubled with a horse, for you certainly can keep up with an ox wagon, and
in a few days become used to it, which will harden you for the labor, when
called to use the pick, crowbar, spade or shovel.
You want a good axe, hatchet, pick-axe, crowbar, spade and shovel; an auger,
inch chisel or two. You will want tin or pewter plates, tin cups, a good
knife or two, coffee boiler, tea kettle, frying pan, spider, bake oven and
canteen; a little salt, pepper, saleratus, mustard, red pepper; plenty of
pickles, and a good supply of vinegar; molasses, as it is quite sweet on the
plains- get plenty of matches, both lucifer and wax; get two large blankets
as your bedding; a cap is better than a hat. It matters not about the sun,
you'll get used to it; your hat is blown by the wind into a "cocked hat,"
and then the sun has all advantages; wear shoes instead of boots for walking
(unless you are afraid of snakes; of which you will see plenty of the
biggest kind of rattle-snakes.) You can kill dogs enough for fresh meat as
you arrive in their cities and towns; they always it at the doors of their
houses, and are always either shot or caught. They are very palatable, and
in eating them, at first, one is apt to eat too much at a meal (especially
at supper time) which causes considerable noise in the lower regions, about
the time one wants to sleep, but cannot for the constant barking of the
dogs. To prevent this, take along some No. 6.; a few drops put all to rest
again. A good file would be useful when you arrive at the Buffalo Range, for
you can't help killing an old bull, and while the boys are skinning, you can
be filing your teeth, to be ready to enter on duty. As wild meat is of a
running breed, and you of a tame one, you needn't be surprised to find
yourself running the day after eating it. In case your run is more than you
are used to, take a few drops of No. 6, and all is quiet. Be careful not to
chase the wolves on foot- there are many, and are a sort of hyena; when they
turn upon you they destroy both soul and body, and then run off with the
bones. Some of them are old, with beards like Aaron's that hang down to the
ground- his only went to the skirt of his garments.
The wind blows all the time on the plains, and very hard; so much so as to
cause you to complain; but you will get used to it after three for four
month's blowing, and can't well live without it, for smothering (down in
the hollows.) You can see a great way ahead; in some places a week's march
in advance- mounds and the like. You will be apt to have rain and water
plenty if you start early, and consequently get your jackets and blankets
wet through day and night; then comes the trying time with the buffalo
chips. They will neither burn nor blaze- so make up your mind to eat a raw
dog, or any other raw meat, without hot or warm stuff, except No. 6. If the
weather continues rainy, so that you become tired of eating raw dogs or
buffalo bull, just turn up one of your wagons, and cook enough under it to
last several days and pack your load on your mules, or oxen, or your own
back. Don't back out; gold is ahead; and you are in- "go it boots"- "live or
die"- "a faint heart never won a fair lady." If you get sick on the road, or
your wagon burned up, don't give out as long as you can toddle along, and
when you cannot proceed any further, just lay down and rest, then up and
travel by the moon till you overtake your companions. And when if so be you
lay several days, an Indian may com along and examine your head; if bald, he
will respect your age and not scalp you, but hand you the squaws for a
plaything. If you have a good head of hair, he will only cut a little piece
out, just about the crown, as a token of remembrance, which will either cure
you, or make the wolves come to prayers. You may have to swim come creeks,
as Uncle Sam has not bridged the road yet, and there are a great many
creeks. You will be very apt to pass ten or twelve of these a day, so that
before your clothes get dry from one, you will be in another. This frequent
cold bath causes cold chills on a fellow without any heat, and often death;
when a little hole is dug, three or four feet deep, and the dead fellow
rolled in, clothes and all- the dirt thrown over him; the wolves hold a
council over his cold home, and soon tear him up and have a feast. It will
be all the same a thousand years hence. The psalm tunes these wolves keep up
for days and nights is quite interesting to a tired, sleeping traveller; but
their scratching and whispering in your ears soon becomes familiar
especially if a fellow gets one of his toes bit so hard as to make him cry
out. Yet great care should be taken not to give false alarms in the night,
or the stock become frightened and run off for miles, causing delay in
To guard against attacks from Indians, every tent should be pitched, mules
picketed before sun-down, sentinels detailed and placed out, as the Western
Indians always appear just at sundown or sunrise, or a little before. Great
care should be taken, and all arms should be in complete readiness for use
at a moments' warning, and every man should stand his ground, as he will be
sure to be scalped, and murdered if he shows ???ning or cowardice. Too much
cannot be said to men to be cautious not to give any of the savage tribes
cause of complaint, for a little insult becomes a great matter, and will end
in a battle or loss of property and life sooner or later. Almost every
Indian quarrel has arisen from some little overt act on the part of the
whites. Parties can pass and repass, time and again, so they behave
themselves and do not get any stray chaps of Indian animosity among them. If
there be any such, they will have to be given up, or a fight is sure to
follow, so summary is Indian justice.
In traveling to California by land, parties of Indians will frequently be
seen, more or less every week, and it is hard to tell whether they are
hostile or friendly, so cunning and artful are they in false appearances.
Therefore, be cautious.
Prudence would dictate the formation of companies. Select a Captain, one of
whom you feel willing to obey, and travel together in compact bodies- as
separation would be dangerous in the extreme to all.
After travelling ten days, a rest of two days to give your animals time to
graze, the men to wash their shirts, clean up their arms, and repair any
damages to wagons, &c., is recommended.
A physician would be of great benefit with a suitable supply of medicines
and surgical instruments, who ought to be paid liberally out of the company,
and a sufficient sum should be advanced in order to procure good and
sufficient medicine for all.
Paper, pens and ink, wafers- you will need take enough of these along, and a
supply of blank pocket memorandum books- they are of great value. Almanacs
will be found useful.
All men that attempt to go to California, with the expectation of realizing
anything, must be of good strong constitution, able bodied, insured to
hardship, acquainted with fasting, capable of suffering fatigue, and not
expect to have others do the hard work, and he look on; for every man works
for himself; and he that can do the most holds out the longest, is up late
and early, and continues at it, will receive the benefit. But you young
fellows, that never worked a day in your lives on the road, in the field or
woods, in the wet, heat and cold, depend on it, your case is gloomy. Your
bones will lie, to bleach Mother Earth, with the beasts that roam lords of
the soil. The march itself, will take the marrow out of your bones, and your
name go down to future ages as a fool hardy chap, grasping after those
things not within your reach. You young men who have good employment are
respected at home and beloved by all who know you, and unacquainted with
hard labor, drop the idle phantom and stay where you are, or move a peg. You
mechanics, who have families, and are well employed, keep at your work, and
be contented. Old gray headed men have no business in these troops. Stay at
home; you have more gold in your house than if you go to California and
back, unless some one gives it to you. I tell you, it is an easy matter to
talk tall tales. Aladdin's lamp would not suit some fellows, and make them
stay behind. Go they will, and continue so until there's no go in them. Like
the rolling stone, they gather no moss. "It is not all gold that glitters; "
it is not all men that are born lucky. The lucky planet was not out at your
birth- rather the unlucky. You might as well say because Jake drew $50,000
in the lottery, you can do the same. This is nonsense. Stay at home; don't
be catching at straws; you are well enough off if you only think so. Keep
moving along the even tenor of your way, steady and straight forward, and you
will be happy, but if you had all the gold in California, you would think
there was more somewhere else, and not be satisfied until you had beat your
brains out against a gold wall, then die an avaricious fool- kill yourself
for gold, and make everybody around you unhappy and miserable- and lost and
forgotten- lost his soul and gained nothing; so it is, and will be with
thousands. Before I would lay on the cold ground among the wolves, Indians,
snakes and lizards, half starved for something to eat, famished for water
three or four months, and dig, dig in the dirt and mud day after day, three
thousand miles from home, for three or four months more, for a few
glittering sands, away from domestic happiness, friends and earthly
comforts, with a competence for life; before I would quit father, mother,
brothers, sisters, wife, children and friends, and travel two thousand miles
over a dreary desert earth, among wild beasts and more than savage Indians
to get a handful of gold, suffer sickness, fevers, diseases, and all the
evils this life is heir to, I would turn into a white dog and hire somebody
to kill me. Fool!
Once more tell me how all have come out that went into the diggings. We hear
that 6,000 persons, are employed, and make from $8 to $32 per day. Who gets
the money? Not those who dig and toil, but the trader, speculator, and he
who hires hands and shows them where to dig, furnishes tools and the means
of living. The laborer, as in this coutnry, barely makes his living. You
hear a flaming account of how one of Mr .A or B had made in one week $1,500.
He might have gambled among the laborers, traded with them, and a thousand
other ways, to obtain the fruit of their labor, but the particulars are not
given that he stripped off coat and jacket, with spade and pick in hand,
waded into the earth hat-band deep, into a deep hole, and dug up the pure
stuff. How was it in Peru, one of the richest mining countries on the face
of the globe? In the lead mines, and every other mining operation
throughout the known world? Does every one come out rich- full of gold? Does
every tenth man, every fiftieth or hundredth man, better his condition, and
become wealthy after years of toil, fatigue and trouble?- Just look at the
Galena lead mines and surrounding country, in 1827, where there were 50,000
men at work. How many came out well? Not one half, not even the quarter or
hundredth man. So with the Potosi mines; and so with all others. This is no
humbuggery- an "air castle"- "great cry and little wool." Nevertheless, go
it boots, while you are young- try your luck; help the speculators and arch
knaves out; they are interested in your going; they have their end to
accomplish- sell you their goods, get your earnings, fairly if they can,
unfairly if ye will. Their motto is, "get money, get money still, and let
Virtue follow if she will." If you desire to know how you would test your
ability to perform the digging operation- jump into a coal wagon, go with it
to its diggings, there try a week's labor. You will come back saying, "I
can't come it; its no go." Neither is it " all gold that glitters."
By the time you reach the gold region in California, you have expended some
two hundred dollars, worn out all your clothes, become weary from the long
march, eat up all you carried with you, had all your tools stolen from you,
weak and sick and unable to work, without friends to administer to your
wants; without a comfortable house or home- thrown in among thousands of
idle, dissipated, unfeeling brutes, intent on gain; penniless, poor,and
without strength or means, or friends to assist you; surrounded by vulgar,
rough and uncouth rowdies, all engrossed in searching after gold- tattered,
ragged, and cross- without law, discipline or control- every one his own
master- stealing here and lying there- inventing schemes to deprive the
unsuspecting of their prospects and leads- laying hands on everything
palatable, wearable or useful; where might and strength determine right,
though wrong and "coward guilt to sheltering caverns fly," until sickness,
disease, and death close the scene. Then you may easily imagine worse than
this picture- human vultures preying upon your carcass like cannibals
gormandizing in their hoarse laugh over fallen victims! It is nevertheless,
truer than fiction- the pure and certain results of rash and premature
enterprise. With these naked truths staring each other in the face, if you
go, you must take a copy of these broken sentences along with you; and if
you live to come back, prove or disprove the sayings and warnings of
We left Panama March 18th, went up to Tobago Island to take in wood and water, weighed anchor the 20th and proceeded on our trip. We had fine breezes for several days, since which time we have met with some calms, gales, and storms which we were told were all very common in this latitude at this season. We are longing to get to Rialgo where we are bound to put in to do some repairs to the ship and take in some provisions, when I intend mailing my letter, after which place we will look for more regular winds. Our passengers number 76. So you know our accommodations are no where enviable, although we try to make ourselves as happy as possible under such circumstances. Our amusements are playing at chess, checkers, and backgammon, with occasionally a game of cards for a bottle of wine, or a little fruit. Others will be keeping time to a well played violin. You will see others sitting or standing in groups, some singing the well known theatrical song, "O carry me back to old Virginia shore." You will hear others telling in what way they intend investing their funds on their return home, building large castles in the air. I have noted the lat. and long., that by referring to your map you will readily see where this letter was written. A breeze begins to stir, so I close.
RIALGO, Nicaragua, April 8.
Since writing the above we experienced a heavy gale and will be obliged to remain here two weeks to repair damages. This is a beautiful Spanish City, containing about 10,000 inhabitants. I yesterday rode out to Chinendagua, distance of about ten miles,- a still larger and more beautiful place than this. The people are very civil and courteous, particularly the dear ladies, who follow you around the streets like so many boys to see an elephant. Tonight we attend a fandango got up for our (especial) benefit.
April 20th.- The Steamers have not stopped at this place, agreeably to contract, so I will carry my letter on until I can get a chance to send it. We sail to-morrow, great shedding of tears to-day between our lads and the Spanish lasses.
SAN FRANCISCO, July 12th, '49.
After the longest and most tedious and long suffering passage recorded in history, I arrived in this place, being within a few days of four months, after leaving Rialgo. We encountered a tremendous storm and got blown out to sea. Lost several of our most important sails and spars, consequently were so crippled that we could scarcely make any headway at all, but to help the matter we had a constant dead ahead wind. Our provisions began to grow short and the largest water tank sprang a leak by the working of the ship, and lost all its water, so we had to go upon close allowance of both water and provisions. We were forty days without bread and not a pound of flour on board. We lived thirty days on a pint of mush for breakfast, no dinner and a single slap-jack for supper made office and corn ground together in a coffee mill. We had both beef and pork but durst not touch either, on account of thirst. We had but a single pint of water per day that we could use in tea, coffee, or drink it clear, but of course we drank it clear to save evaporation. Some seemed to do much better without water than others. Some could save a gill of water per day out of a pint, whilst others would go raving about the decks perfectly crazy for drink. I have seen five dollars paid for a pint of water just as freely as I ever did for a barrel of flour. But on the morning of the 4th of July to our great joy we heard the cannon firing at Santa Cruz, and at 4 o'clock we dropped anchor. We sent ashore, killed a bullock and had a perfect jubilee. Next day we went on board and got our rifles, revolvers, and what few clothes we could carry, deserted the ship and took up our line of march on foot for San Francisco, distance about ninety miles, arriving in five days. I suppose there are at this time about fifty thousand people in this place mostly living in tents and on board of ships. It is said that there are double the number of ships now lying in this bay than ever were at one time in N. York harbor. Carpenter's wages are from 12 to 20 dollars per week. Blacksmiths get about the same wages as Carpenters. Common laborers from 8 to 12 dollars per day. To-morrow I start for Stockton, thence to the diggings, and as there is no steamer looked for under two weeks I'll defer mailing this until I can say something about gold digging.
TOWALANA RIVER, Aug. 12th.
I have been in the diggings just three weeks to-day. I have been sick eight days, had a severe attack of bilious fever, but to-morrow I shall again try work. These are not considered sickly diggings, but on the contrary are more healthy than others. Sickness is all the fear I have, although the people appear to be well disposed, but no one has time to take care of the sick or hardly to bury the dead, and as to a coffin, that's out of the question.
I suppose that the miners in this digging are averaging about one ounce per day. Gold sells here for 16 33-100 dollars per ounce, that is about one hundred dollars per week- this I mean clear. I had dug just ten days and had cleared one hundred and seventy dollars when I was taken sick. You can always exchange for gold coin at the above rate.
I would not recommend any one to come here who has a family. There have been a great many had their throats cut and gold taken. I never think of going to bed without first placing my gold under my pillow (that is to say my old coat) then examine my revolver, take my tooth-pick in my hand and then lay down. There was a man hung about five rods back of my tent last week and two nearly whipped to death. Served right- robbed a trading tent, and we have no other laws.
Provisions are plenty at the following prices, Pork 60 cts per lb., Flour 50, fresh beef 25.
We are raising a company of about 30 to go up the Mera Pada in about two weeks to explore that river. There is said to be lots of gold there, but the Indians are very hostile. But if there is gold plenty we are bound to have it or take a licking.
I have to close as the man by whom I send this letter to San Francisco is about to start. It is a rare chance to find anyone going down, as I am about two hundred miles from that place.
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
Jan 10, 1850
Alfred Sanders, Editor
FROM THE CALIFORNIA EMIGRANTS
Quite a number of letters, from those
who went overland from this county to California, were received in this place
last week. A letter from Mr. Thomas to Mr. Crossin, of Davenport, dated at
Sacramento City, the 18th of Sept., states that his party arrived there on the
5th of that month. Mr. Hires, of Princeton precinct, Scott county, preceded him
several days. Cheever & Fry of this county and Dr. Brackett of Rock Island,
had arrived previously.-- John Fisher, formerly of this place, who was reported
to have been shot, was at work on the American Fork.
Mr. Thomas speaks of the hardships of the route, of the quantity of gold in California, wages, provisions, etc., in the same strain of Mr. Lambert in the following extract which we are permitted to make from his letter, dated at Sacramento City, Oct. 2d, 1849:-
"We have all of us, who started from Davenport, got through safe, with our two wagons.- Dr. Brown, Daniel Hawley and R. Scroggins with one team; and David Rogers, S. Stockton and myself with the other. We six have messed together and traveled together, from Davenport to Sacramento City, at Sisters Fort. We have traveled over all kinds of roads, and mountains of the roughest kind; the dust of the roads in many places over our boot tops. But, thank God, we have all arrived safely in Sacramento.
We have not lost an ox or broke a wagon since we left home, or any of us had serious sickness on the route. But there are thousands who have died and been laid beneath the clods of the prairies, away from their wives and children, from father, mother, brothers, sisters all the heart holds dear. And there are thousands who left the States who have lost their teams- some died and some stolen by the Indians- and a great many have been obliged to pack through on their own backs. what is to become of those who are behind us, we are said to number eight thousand teams, some of them four or five weeks behind! God only knows what will be their fate. There is not feed on all the roads over the mountains for one-half of the cattle.- God save the families of women and children that are yet behind. Although the government has appropriated one hundred thousand dollars and sent over cattle and provisions to assist the back emigrants, yet many must perish.
We should have got through three weeks sooner only we took a new trail from Mary, on Humboldt river, and crossed the mountains up near the Oregon line, which made our road two or three hundred miles further than the old road; but we were obliged to take the new road on account of scarcity of food for our cattle in the old road. There is plenty of gold here if it will not all be got in fifty years. It has been very sickly in the mines this summer, but it is said to be now more healthy.
I cannot tell what I shall do at this time. Carpenter's wages in the city are from 15 to 20 dollars per day, and any kind of labor, from 8 to 10 dollars per day. Pork sells for 40 dollars per bbl; and flour 16 dollars per bbl; sugar and coffee 15 cents per lb; cheese 1 dollar per lb; butter the same; potatoes 50 cents per lb; onions one dollar per lb; fresh beef 25 cents per lb; dry goods are cheap.
It is now six months, within seven days, since I left home. There is the best opportunity here now to make money that I ever saw or heard of. Some make fifty thousand dollars in a few months, and some make nothing.
We have been very busy this day getting ready to go up to the mines. We start to-night at 12 o'clock. We are going on the south branch of the American Fork, about 50 miles from Sacramento City. There are four of us in company, David Rogers, Robert Scroggins, Daniel Hawley and myself. We are taking up a load of provisions with our team. I shall write again soon.
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
Sep 12, 1850
Alfred Sanders, Editor
LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA
A friend has furnished us with a letter
from Dr. C.C. Parry, of this place, dated in July at San Diego, California, from
which we make the following extract:-
My dear Friend: - A quiet Saturday evening, how could I spend it better than writing to you? You see according to my last I have brought up again in the old place, the same dry brown hills I saw when first landed; the same delightful climate; the same dull society. By the way San Diego has got antiquated since I left, two "new San Diegos" have sprung up within 3 miles of "old San Diego," as it is now called. Speculation has been here with her transforming wand and found out that the town has been put in the wrong place. But all towns old and new in this region are pretty much alike to me who care more for the weeds that grow about their streets, than town lots!! Finding on my return every thing in the vegetable line done brown, and longing to see something green besides human verdancy, I persuaded Maj. Emory to send me on a trip to the mountains, from which I returned some weeks since having had a most interesting time-being boss of the expedition which numbered two persons, armed only with the necessaries of bed and board. I struck directly into the heart of the mountains, two days brought me to the divide, here I stumbled upon the ranch of an old deserted sailor, well acquainted with the mountain passes, and under his guidance I searched many an old nook and vale, culling unnamed flowers, eating strange fruits, and sleeping with strange bedfellows. The Indians were quite friendly, and even hospitable, they fed us with pounded acorn bread and grass seed mush. We cracked pine nuts around their social hearths, and puffed the true Virginia under their bush wigwams. I found many strange trees, the pines were the most interesting.; imagine a stately tree with burrs more than a foot long hanging like overgrown caterpillars from the extremities of their spreading branches; or others with fruit like a large pineapple stock on their upper trunks; others covered with sparkling yellow lichen and all waiving their broad arms to the deep surges of the western breeze. One of the most singular things I noticed was to see trunks of trees stuck full of fresh acorns the work of industrious woodpeckers. They are driven in so tight that they are picked out with difficulty with the point of a knife-this looks like a new instinct of birds, but a wise provision where snows cover the ground-the Indians frequently avail themselves of the work of these little creatures to replenish their own larder.
Having pretty well explored the ridge, we descended on its eastern slope to the edge of the desert, here I was fortunate enough to fall in with several vegetable curiosities- one a new Cactus, with deliciously flavored fruit. A species of the Century plant grows about the desert hills, at this time in full flower, its root furnishes a staple article of diet to the Indians of that inhospitable region, by a process of cooking, under the name of Mezcal, it affords quite a dainty dish. I can compare it to nothing but molasses candy without its stickiness. Some of the lone canons present a scene of strange desolation. I should not know how to picture them, bristling with huge Cacti and scattered with dislocated rocks, run over by dusty lizards, they present a scene that belongs more properly to the pencil than to the pen, so I forbear.
We washed for gold in the dried up stream beds, and scraped over the gravel for precious gems, but without finding enough of either to make a finger ring or a nose jewel, and so forbore; content to say that the country ought to afford both gems and gold, for what else can it?
Returning home I explored a new and more direct route than I have yet travelled, leading in two days short journey to the vicinity of San Diego. We here found a ranch (as the Californian farms are termed) enlivened by the presence of some ladies and were easily persuaded to partake of their hospitality for a day. Our Spanish was called into serious request and before the flashing eyes of the Senoritas we had to extemporize some strange sounding compliments no doubt.
A description of an old fashioned ranch in California might interest you, so here goes. A mud house with a rush roof must be your dwelling in this a few rooms partitioned off with muslin or calico, the corners occupied with stick bed steads, and rude benches make up the furniture. The kitchen part is distinct, and under the auspices of Indian women, black as their own pots. You see conspicuous the stone corn grinder and tortilla baker-earthen pots and in strange contrast genuine China ware deck the rough table and you sit down to 5 or 6 courses in which you will find assistance to your appetite in a liberal allowance of red pepper seasoning.
But in the out door operations- you see ragged and nearly naked Indians under the true title of peons performing all the menial work about the premises. The overseer superintends on horseback. Is there a field of grain to be cut, some 40 Indians armed with knife and basket cut a wide swath proceeding onward to the music of a grunting chant; the grain is deposited in ox hid carts and conveyed to the threshing ground, this is a circular enclosure, the ground cleanly swept and when strewed with the grained ears a drove of wild mares are driven in and by shout and hallos, a great scamper is kept up till the grain is pretty well beat out, it is then winnowed in baskets by hand, and this is harvesting in California. A very important part of farming is in the distribution of the irrigating water and occupies many hands-then the cattle must be seen to and this is generally entrusted to a distinct class called vaqueros, you see them galloping over the fields trailing their long lassos, their monstrous spurs and streaming blankets making quite a figure-but I am using up my paper and must speak of other things.
Davenport, Scott, Iowa
Nov 25, 1850
NEWS FROM THE PLAINS
Twenty thousand Men Beyond the Desert--Cholera! Starvation!! Indian
The Sacramento Transcript of the 20th September, contains a letter
dated at the Great Meadows Humboldt River, September 12th from Capt. Waldo,
the philanthropic and energetic friend of the emigrants. He states that he
met many who had given up to die; others without food, save the worn-out
horses which had borne them thus far on the way to California. Some were
living on dead and putrid horse-flesh- some had died from starvation. He
sayd he has met very few who have any provisions, and nearly all were
traveling on foot, their horses and mules having given out. No one now
thinks of gold-the cry is for bread.
The Indians have stolen a great number of the emigrant stock, thereby
many families have been left from four to six hundred miles from the
settlements, without teams or means of conveyance, and the Indians are daily
growing more hostile and daring. There is scarcely a day passes, that there
are not more or less skirmishes between them and the whites.
"Many women are on the road with families of children, who have lost
their husbands by cholera, and who never will cross the mountain without
aid. I have met intelligent packers who left the Missouri river on the 1st
of July; they concur in the statement, that there are yet twenty thousand
back of the Desert. Fifteen thousand of this number are now destitute of all
kinds of provisions; yet the period of the greatest suffering has not yet
arrived, if the supposition is to be correct, that twenty-five thousand are
yet back of the Sink. It will be morally impossible for ten thousand of this
number to reach the mountains before the commencement of winter; and the
probability is, that they will then find these mountains covered with snow
from five to twenty feet deep. All remember the fate of the Donner party."
In another letter, dated Truckee River, September 15th, 1850, he states
other facts in relation to the prevalence of the cholera, deaths among the
immigrants, and the hostility of the Indians towards them. He closes his
letter with an earnest appeal for help to those unfortunate people. We
sincerely hope his appeal will not be in vain.
Movements for the relief of the suffering people are made in many
quarters. The benefit given by the managers of the Tehama theatre afforded
over $1,100 and Col Grant of Sacramento City, collected $350.50 for the same
Capt. Waldo has shown a most generous and praiseworthy disposition. He
gave $1,000 in cash, besides one hundred head of beef cattle, and his
services for the relief of the poor sufferers on the Plains, and is still
engaged on his errand of mercy. He is in active service, is an eye-witness
to the scenes of suffering and death from starvation, Indians, thirst, and
cholera, which are even now daily transpiring there.- What he says can be
believed; it comes from the scene itself.
From Boiling Springs to this place (Great Meadow) I have met with but
few who have any provisions at all, except the poor exhausted animals which
have worked from the States. Footmen, who comprise nearly one-fourth of the
number now on the road, not blessed even with such food as this, but are
reduced to the necessity of subsisting on the putrified flesh of such dead
animals as so abundantly line the road.- This has produced the most fatal
consequences. Disease and death are now mowing them down by hundreds.
Those emigrants that are yet back several hundred miles must receive
relief, or die by starvation; and to whom can they look but to the citizens
of California for their salvation. The land of their homes is too far
distant to render them aid in this hour of distress and danger. When I left
your city, the scarcity of money was plead as an excuse for not contributing
for the relief of the emigrants. If dust is scarce, finger-rings and
breastpins are not. There are enough of them in California to send bread to
every starving emigrant between Green river and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
And I would ask, is it possible for an American to wear a ring without
blushing with shame every time his eye falls upon it, when he knows that so
many of his countrymen-yes, in many instances his school mates, neighbors,
kindred- and once brother in Christ, are dying for bread?