August 1849

August 1. Took a cup of coffee and some cold bread and meat and traveled on through a fine grassy meadow on the plains.  The great desert we had been told of, proved to be quite a fertile plain.  At noon we came to a fine large spring boiling out of the ground in the plains forming with its waters a beautiful lake of several acres.  Here we halted.  The grass was short but very good.  We did not know how far we should have to travel until we found another watering place and have already traveled in twenty two hours, forty or forty five miles.  Camped at the Blue Springs (are Salt lakes in which plenty of salt).  Near this place Mexicans live.        

Thursday Aug 2. Early this morning we left the Blue Springs expecting to find water in about fourteen miles but we traveled twenty five miles before we found any.  Turning off the main road about two miles, we camp on a creek near a ranch.         

3 August Friday.  We hear today of two mountains of silver ore about nine miles distant but on trying them they prove to be something else of no value.  We are camped near an ancient pueblo Quarai[1] which was once a large place and must have contained a large number of inhabitants.  The ruins of many large stone houses fallen down are to be seen amid many adobe houses and a very large stone church is still standing.  Some of its outbuildings have fallen but the main walls are still standing and there is to be seen the ancient water course which they cut to bring the water to the city.  The water still runs there and there are a few poor Mexicans still living around the ruins of the wall of the church.  They raise a little corn and a little wheat.  I visited this place this day.         

4 August Saturday.  This morning I visited a village called in English Appletown, in Spanish, Manzano[2].  This is a considerable town that I have seen, containing some five or six hundred souls.  The people are very kind and hospitable and some of them well fixed in their way.  Yesterday, a company of men started from another train which is encamped seven miles from our camp, to explore for some gold about one hundred twenty five miles across the desert which is ninety miles across.  Two Spaniards agreed to conduct them to the White Mountains where they could pick up one pound of gold to one man in a day.  They are to give the Spaniards seven hundred dollars to pilot them to the place and if they do not show them where they can get a double handful in a day, they say the Americans are to shoot them.  I have but little confidence in the expedition.  We wait here until their return which will be some twelve or fifteen days.            

5 August Sunday.  Divine service is attended to this day in the camp west of us by Brother Ricketts, a Baptist minister.  It being about eight miles, I did not go.  Many of the Mexicans attended.       

Monday August 6. Moved three miles to a camping ground two and a half miles beyond the old Quarai Church.  Travel 3 miles.            

Tuesday August 7. Today some Mexicans stole and run off about sixteen head of oxen from a small train three miles east of us.  They followed and two men of the train found them in the timber dressing one and another tied up to a tree.  They fired on the Mexicans, who were gathered together to have a feast.  They wounded one man.  The other American's gun would not go off and the Mexicans gathered their wounded man and ran off.         

Wednesday August 8. Tried today to get some blacksmithing done by a train above a few miles but they have so much work of their own they cannot do any for us. They have promised to lend us the tools and the temporary fireplace they have built up, tomorrow night, so we shall have to do our own work in the night.    

9 August Thursday.  We had a severe storm last night.  The loudest thunder I have heard since I left home.  The lightning killed three oxen of Mr. Turner's train and they have had one mule killed by lightning before they came off the plain, while crossing the plain.           

Aug 10 Friday.  We are still in the same place.  Waiting very impatiently for the return of the company that went to the gold mine.  This day they are expected back and then we can expect to move on as fast as we can for California--that is, should they not find plenty of gold which we expect they will not.           

August 11 Saturday.  Early this morning the gold hunters return and inform us they could find scarcely any gold.  The two Mexicans that went with them could not find a large spring from which they said they wished to take a course and find the gold mountain.  They represent the White Mountains as being the wildest and most desolate place ever seen.  The poor Mexicans got scared and bewildered and could not find the place.  But they satisfied the men that they knew the mountain and that they had been there before.  The men returned very much fatigued having to travel twenty four hours without water or grass for their mules and then a small supply, and to travel twenty four hours more without grass or water.          

We move on this day two miles, having got the use of the blacksmith tools to work through the night to make ox shoes, etc.  This evening wrote a letter home, but find no way of sending it.          

12 August Sunday.  We had supposed that as soon as the miners returned we should have pushed on for California but instead of that we find the Captain and the majority of the train for waiting longer and delaying time.  This is Sunday and we move about six or eight miles and go considerably off the road unnecessarily to find grass and water.  We have laid by for ten or eleven days and just move on Sunday to lay still for five or six days more. Many of us are getting much dissatisfied with these delays and some are disposed to go on but others hold back and there is not enough willing to go on to travel in safety from the Indians.  We are told that the mountains are full of Apache Indians which are very  hostile and war like.  This is one day of my journey in which I feel very much tired of this manner of life.  Camp in or near a canyon.            

August 13, Monday morning.  Nothing but the dull monotony of Camp.  I am quite tired of it.  No moving today.  We have every reason to believe there is plenty of grass and water, as least as much as there will be at any future time of this season, for the rains have been abundant here and this has been an unusual wet season.  The grass was abundant where we were told there was none and by waiting we let all the other trains get there before.  They will eat up the grass and we shall not, in all probability, do as well by our own stock as we should by moving on now.  Those of us who are for proceeding on our journey are over ruled by others and we are delaying our time unnecessarily.  We move about two miles.           

August 14.  Tuesday.  Another day lost.  Camp same place.

August 15. Wednesday.  We move today to the next water which is about two or three miles just to gratify a few.  We stop unnecessarily.  We shall move again tomorrow, I suppose, to go two miles farther.  Camp and Salt Grass and salty water.           

August 16. Thursday.  We camp at Dripping Springs about two miles from our last encampment.  The water is very indifferent having a disagreeable sweet taste and the grass is coarse, and not good. These Dripping Springs fall from high rocks in a canyon.  The scenery here is very grand.  The mountains are of such a variety of form and size.  This country is beautiful to look at and it is healthy but with some few exceptions on the little water courses.  It is a barren waste.           

August 17.  Friday.  We rise just as the day peeps and turn our cattle out to graze with a strong guard to be ready for starting by sun rise.  We have a long tedious journey of thirty miles before us on a sandy desert without grass or water. 

At dark we arrive on the Rio del Norte[3], a muddy stream at this point, and it is dark and we have to herd our cattle in a swamp.  The herders stay out with the cattle until ten o'clock.  We have no wood here but a few sticks we brought in our wagons Sufficient to boil our coffee.  The Mexicans on the road sell us onions at five cents apiece.  They are large but not larger than we raise them in the States.  They ask for roasting ears of corn two-bits, twenty pr twenty five cents, for ten ears.             

Mr. Fuller and Mr. Dedricks and Mr. Parent got their wagon stalled coming up a sand hill this evening and it was not known by the train until they had got a mile or more from them.  It has rained very hard and the road in many places was covered with water.  It was getting dark, indeed was dark, and the oxen were very tired and they were left there all night.  There was another corral about a mile from them.  We pass a pueblo called Oyah[4] with many adobe houses.            

18 August Saturday.  We pass today over a very bad road.  About ten o'clock come to a village called Oueto[5].  Camp in the River.            

19 August, Sunday.  There are many wagons.  Several trains just above and below us.  We start early this morning to go down the river two miles and cross.  We partly bargained with the ferry man to cross our baggage for eight dollars, but finding we could ford, we soon adjusted our loads by raising loads a little from the bottom of the wagon beds and crossed very easily.  I waded the River.  It was not more than four feet deep.  A Mr. Bird, formerly of Mr. Howard's company made arrangements with Mr. Hubbard to travel with him to California.  We camp at good grass and rio water which is very muddy of a red color but is sweet.  It still rains every day but sometimes it does not fall on us.  Rained much last night.          

20 August Monday.  We pass through Socorro today. A considerable town on the Rio del Norte.  Here we have to get flour.  Mexican flour is selling at six dollars per hundred pounds, sugar twenty cents a pound, coffee twenty cents a pound, bacon twenty cents a pound and everything in proportion--high. Onions, although they sell high, I got six for one tobacco pipe. We camped about four miles from Socorro.   We have to wait four days for our flour as there is not enough ground to supply the train.  Camp near Socorro and San Antonio.             

Tuesday August 21[6]. We are encamped where two of the soldiers in the Mexican War got killed by the Apaches while going over some of the hills but a little way from the camp to drive back some sheep that had wondered off.  The Indians killed the men and scalped them and stole the sheep before the men and officers knew anything about it.  Camp near San Antonio. 

August 22 Wednesday. I walked to Socorro Mission[7] with T. Settles[8], P. Atkinson[9] and J. Peyton.[10]  We called to see a priest.  He is a fine looking man and very polite and affable but cannot speak English.  We went to his vineyard and bought of the gardener as many grapes as we could eat for fifteen cents.  There are some dragoons stationed in this town.  The inhabitants are the neatest we have seen.            

23 August Thursday.  We have excellent grass and plenty of stock water here.  We might as well have been here six weeks before as now our cattle are getting fat on this grass.            

24 August Friday.  We were to get our flour today at twelve o'clock and then move on but we could not get as much as we wanted and so we remain here.  The mill is simply constructed but grinds miserably slow and badly.  The flour does not make as white bread as some midlings we brought along with us to feed our cattle.  It is all sifted with common sieves by the women.              

25 August Saturday.  This morning we make move for the Gila.  Our cattle are in good order, our spirits are fine.  The company seems all in good spirits and good health.  The pass through the valley of the Rio del Norte which is a narrow strip of a mile and sometimes less wide, produces good corn, wheat, peas, beans, onions, red pepper and fine grapes.  The Mexicans are a lazy set of people, live very rough and dress very cheap. A pair of wide cotton pantaloons with a white cotton shirt and a high crowned broad-brimmed hat constitutes the apparel of most of them, though some have jackets.  They are very kind and hospitable.  Camped on the River bank--good grass and water.  6 miles.             

26 August Sunday. Fine morning. Cool Breeze.     25 miles.             

27 August Monday. We travel along the bank of the River until about noon then leave it as the road is impassable along the bluff, which here comes close to the River.  We travel until sunset before we strike the River again.  Over a very rugged road, crossing ravines and stony hills, large rocks, boulders which are numerous on the road and at other places, gravel which is very hard on the oxen's feet.

This is perhaps the roughest road I ever saw anywhere.  It looks almost impassable.  Cooke described it as the worst road we have to travel all the way to California.  We came to a stream of clear water which ran a little way then sank into the gravel where we watered our cattle and refreshed ourselves for we were all thirsty and tired not having stopped for dinner and had four miles left to travel.  Mr. Fuller broke an axle tree coming over the stones today.  Camped on River Bank.  Fine grass and water.  30 miles.            

August 28.  Tuesday.  This morning we wait in camp while Mr. Fuller puts a new axletree to his wagon.  The horn blows at ten o'clock.  We yoke up and drive over a very rugged and sandy road sometimes going over the bluffs of sand and large stones and sometimes crossing deep gullies.  Finding no water for our stock, we do not stop to noon.           

But about twelve o'clock, we were informed by one of a returning party of hunters that Col.  Jackson and three other men riding mules had startled up a large grizzly bear in the cane brake in the del Norte bottom.  At first the Col. heard a crackling in the cane and thought it was a deer and called for the others to look out but the noise seemed to be advancing and presently a large grizzly bear, said to be as heavy as a large ox, raised up on his hind feet not more than thirty yards from him and growled.  He took aim and just as he was going to shoot, the bear went down on her four feet.  He fired but could not see the bear when down, for the cane break, but he did wound her.  She maddened and ran after the nearest object she could see which was Mr. J. Wickersham's mule.[11]  The mule scared, and jumping, threw Mr. Wickersham off among the brake.  He lying low, the bear did not discover him (although he was pretty close) but continued after the mule.  Wickersham, not knowing but the bear was close upon him, and seeing two young cubs running close by him, he got up and ran to the first tree, which he began to climb failing in his haste to make progress.  But the bear kept on after the mule -- which saved Wickersham's life.  They had to leave without the mule thinking that he perhaps would get out of the bottom and find the road and follow the train which was but a few miles distant in advance.                         

That evening our oxen were very tired.  The road has been very heavy on the oxen all day.  About four o'clock one of Mr. Merrill's oxen fell down dead in the yoke from fatigue.            

We strike the River after leaving it about ten miles.  At nearly dark, grass tolerably good -- good river water.  15 miles.            

29 August Wednesday.  This morning our camp being near another, they having a dispensation a lodge of free and accepted Masons, a tent is pitched at a convenient place and the Lodge met and several took the degree of an entered apprentice.  Mr. Atkinson was there and acted as warden.  Circumstances prevented me from being present.  Captain Roberts, E.A. Lockwood[12], J. Richmond[13] and J. Wickersham go this morning in search of the mule.  They find the place and the tracks and hear the young cubs.  The bear had followed the mule over the River and had returned as they  discovered from the tracks. They saw no prospects of getting the  mule and this was dangerous ground as the mules on which they rode sunk deep in the swampy ground and if the bear was still alive and  should take after them it would be certain to kill some of them and  they had but poor chance of shooting her as the brake was above their heads when they sat on the mules.  They returned to camp after night.            

Our road has been very bad again today, deep sand and hills and dales.  Just before we got to camp two oxen of Mr. Sterrett gave out and laid down to rest, but after resting a little while they traveled into camp.  On the River.  15 miles.            

August 30. Today a train commanded by Captain Gully, good group, is encamped near us. They start early in the morning before us. We start at eight o'clock.  After traveling a few miles we have a severe hill to ascend somewhat sideling.  Here Mr. Shackleford's[14] axletree broke.  His team being mules we go on and camp at excellent gama grass and river water, waiting for the mule team.  At about nine o'clock they came into camp.  6 miles.           

31 August.  We started early this morning.  Had some difficulty in watering the cattle as the banks of the del Norte are perpendicular from four to six feet and deep water so that we cannot drive the cattle in without digging down the bank and we often have to water them with a bucket. After traveling about six miles we passed a train.  They were waiting for a sick man who was taken yesterday with diarrhea and vomiting and they could not travel on his account.  At noon we passed another train commanded by  Captain Gully. They also were waiting on account of having a sick man,  diarrhea and vomiting. We pass over a very hilly road again. This day we  had thought we should leave the River and strike out for the Gila but we  have not yet arrived at the turning off place. Our Mexican flour that we  bought is very indifferent and not fit to eat but we are obliged to use  it or it would spoil.  We suppose we may   want it before we can get any more.  Camp on the River.     18 miles.           

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[1]Quarai Ruins: ruins of Spanish Mission built l629 -- Immaculate Conception Monastery and church.  There was a large spring in a cotton wood grove.  The mission ruins surrounded by ruins of a town of 600.  Tewa Indians abandoned it in 1674.  It was once a walled city.        

[2]Manzano settled in 1829 by Spanish descent. An old apple orchard was planted there about 1800.

[3]The Rio Grande River.

[4]Probably La Joya. 

[5]Possibly Onate.  At least Oueto is not likely the correct spelling.                                          

[6]A letter dated August 21, 1849, to Mrs. Stevens has been preserved. The substance of it was that he was now in better spirits, having his situation better in hand; and that they had heard good word about gold ahead from reliable people -- and felt assured that they should have no fears for the journey ahead, as there would be a way to have grass and water for the oxen.          

[7]Socorro Mission -- probably the Church of San Miguel at Socorro.          

[8]Wm. Settles listed in Story of Hannibal in gold Rush story.

[9]P. Atkinson was Peter Atkinson, son of J.A. Atkinson, apparently whole Atkinson family made the trip.

[10]Joseph Peyton, listed in Story of Hannibal, 1850 census age 27, bricklayer.

[11]James Wickersham of Hannibal.                                 

[12]E.A. Lockwood, from Hannibal. 

[13]Joshua Richmond from Hannibal. 

[14]Probably George Shackleford from Hannibal.       

Cover    Preface
   May    June    July   August
     October    November
Final Note    Appendix