July 1849

July 1. Sunday.  At eight o'clock according to request, I repaired to a shade prepared for me to preach under and I addressed a very attentive and orderly audience from Proverb XXII: 4.            

This evening the Apishapa Creek on which we are encamped took a sudden rise from rains that have fallen on the mountains some thirty miles distant plainly seen from our encampment.  The creek is now booming along its narrow channel at places, pouring its muddy waters over rocks and precipices in others.  It is very muddy but it is all we have to drink and will not settle.             

July 2.  This morning we move our encampment two miles down the creek.  Nothing of interest occurred today.  Part of our train were not pleased with the site of our encampment and camped on an eminence about one hundred yards from us.               

3 July. This morning we move again about four miles up the creek.  When we had gone about half the way one of our wagon's wheels came out of dish and nearly came down. Captain Roberts and the teamsters took it off and soon righted it and came on to camp this afternoon as Mr. Ledford and myself were herding the cattle.  We had to cross the creek.  There was a small cottonwood tree on which, with difficulty, Mr. Ledford had crossed.  As soon as he got over and jumped from the tree, he discovered the footprints of a bear fresh and some of his wool on a shrub, and, looking up the bank which was about eight feet above the surface of the water, he saw a lair or bed where the bear had lain.  I wanted him to come back as the brush on the other side was so thick that it seemed impossible for us to get through.  There was a path but it was not more than three feet high.  The rest was completely grown over and entwined so that we must crawl on our hands and knees some fifty yards before we could reach open ground and if the bear had young cubs she would be sure to attack us and we could not be in a position to defend ourselves.  Mr. Ledford, however, could not get up on the log again to come back, and so, I went over and we crept through the narrow pass on our hands and knees, passing four large lairs but seeing no bears, and got safely out in open ground.  There are plenty of black and yellow currants growing here and we ate of them plentifully.              

4 July Wednesday.  This morning at eleven o'clock, to the request of the train, Mr. Howard of Wisconsin delivered us an oration and Mr. Steel of Henry County, Missouri, read the Declaration of Independence under the shade of a cluster of beautiful cedar trees.  We had hoisted our beautiful banner of stars and stripes and the general influence of Independence and Liberty animated our bosoms though  in a howling wilderness in the midst of a sage tribe of Indians.            

This is the rainy season here.  In July and August, it rains almost every day on the mountains.  We can see it fall on the mountains and it looks as though it would rain here every day but it seldom falls on this desert.  We had a refreshing shower today.            

5 July.  A cold morning but hot some part of the day.  We remove our encampment today about two miles down the creek which we have unanimously agreed to change from Apishapa Creek to Tattershall Creek.  Apishapa being an Indian name known scarcely to anybody, but the Indians.  As it has not been visited perhaps by any before us, and our friend Tatershall being buried here, we change its name and call it by his name.            

6 July Friday. The water we have to drink is almost thick with mud like paint.  It makes me and most of the men unwell. 

This evening at five o'clock our exploring party returned.  They report there is no gold of consequence at the Sangre de Cristo mines.  They brought a small quantity of dust.  In going to the mountain which is about fifty five miles from our camps they lost themselves and got into a canyon of a very deep and rugged nature and were obliged to tie their horses to the rock the first night having nothing for them to eat after traveling hard all day to get out of the canyon.  They report they were traveling in that canyon five days and a half.  They report that there had been a great deal of work done at these mines but apparently very little gold obtained.  They met a company of pack mule men who had been to Santa Fe with ox teams expecting to go to California by Cook's route but from information they received they think it impractical, sold their oxen for five dollars apiece and their wagons for fifteen dollars and bought mules and are going to pack by South Pass.  Several are selling out tonight by private and public sale and are preparing to return home tomorrow. Everything looks very gloomy ahead and it seems very doubtful whether we shall ever get to California.  While our men were talking with some of Captain Barbee's company, a gun went off accidentally and the bullet went through the rim of his hat passing up close to his face and forehead.  The man, at first, was very much alarmed, thinking he was shot and feeling about and examining himself but the best pleased man ever seen when he found only his hat had suffered.             

7 July Saturday.  More sales this morning.  Men selling out to go home.  About twelve o'clock we leave our old camping ground for Santa Fe and six of our train part from us and take the back track for the States.  Many of us have a longing desire for home but are willing to forego the pleasures of home and endure the hardships of a long and tedious journey for the sake of those we have left behind us.  I send a letter home by Mr. McKay.  We have traveled ten miles over a barren sandy waste, the ground giving way under our feet and the teams and wagons like ashes.  A little before sun down we arrive at a place called Hole In The Ground where there is water tolerably good.  It consists of a deep gully washed in the ground, which, in time of heavy rains such as we have in this country, overflows a little on each side of its banks and the grass grows along it in some places.  We are in sight of the Raton Mountains[1] which we have seen ten miles back.  They appear as though they were only a few hundred yards off.  One would suppose they could hollow to anyone standing on what is called Raton Peak and make him hear, and it is nineteen miles.  When it was twenty nine miles off, I supposed, as did many others unacquainted with the distance we can see here, that I could walk there and back to breakfast. 

8 July Sunday.  We travel on, many of us supposing an hours drive at most will bring us to Raton.  About noon we arrive at the Pecos Wash, a rapid stream that runs from the mountains and here we got good cold water that runs from the region of the snow.  For a while we are scorching in the valleys, but we have mountains covered with snow in our view.  We have to make a ford across the stream and raise our wagons and soon all are safe over.  We camp apparently close to Raton but it is much farther than it looks.            

9 July.  This day we stay in camp waiting for Captain Barbee's train which we expect to arrive today.  It is very hot here but we have plenty of grass and water.  Henry Stevens is sick.  The whole company with that exception are well.            

10 July Tuesday.  Our travel today has been through the valleys and over the hills of the Raton mountains.  A very romantic and wild looking scenery, the mountain precipices sometimes being hundreds of feet above our heads and passing sometimes through a narrow bed of a mountain stream, and at others, through a pleasant valley of excellent grass and water.  The hills and some of the valleys are covered with pine, willow and cottonwood.  Some small oaks we have seen today, which reminds me of home, having seen no oak before since we left Cottonwood Grove.  About midnight our cattle got scared by something.  We suppose it was a bear coming near the corral into the brush.  The cattle made a lunge and being tied to the wagons, shook them, and the horses and mules pulled up their picket pins and ran off with their lariats, but they were overtaken by some men that went after them and brought them back. 

We had to let down our wagons by ropes where the mountains were very steep.  The change from the dull monotony of the plains to the picturesque scenery of the mountains is very pleasant.  We camp tonight by a spring of the best water we have had since we left our home and plenty of good grass.            

11 July Wednesday.  We have crossed the Raton mountains and got into the plains and are camped on Red River.  Poor water and middling grass.  Our road has been very rugged today but not more so than I expected to find it.

12 July Thursday.  This morning the Henry County company that belongs to our train take an early start to leave us.  We have some little difficulty in crossing the stream.  Vail, refusing to do his duty, leaves the wagon as soon as we cross the River.  I have a sick ox in the team.  Cannot keep up with the wagons before me and there being no water or grass in this days travel, and I, forgetting to fill my canteen, am left all alone without water or dinner to drive twenty five miles in the hot sun and through a fine sandy plain, the wind keeping up a constant dust.  I had got up at daybreak this morning and guarded the cattle while they grazed until seven o'clock, took a very hasty breakfast and yoked up, then drove until nearly sundown which was about the most disagreeable and tiring days work I have had.  Camped on the Little Cimmaron.

13 July.  The Little Cimmaron on which we have camped is a bold mountain stream, cold and narrow but swift.  Plenty of currants grow on its banks.  We crossed another swift stream this evening which was difficult to cross on account of the swamp through which it ran.  Camped on the Rio Ravado    (lightning in Spanish).  Plenty of currants both red and black.                

14 July Saturday.  We traveled about two miles today and camp on a narrow mountain stream in a pleasant valley about two miles from the ranch of Kit Carson and Maxwell.[2]  They are building a fort and have a good deal of stock grazing here and about twenty Mexicans working for them and some Americans.  They have sown some wheat, have got corn growing and garden made but everything is very backward here.  The wheat is not more than an inch high and corn about the same height.  Some fifty soldiers are encamped here to protect them from Indian depredations.  They have been trying to form a settlement here for some years and were broke up twice last year.  Maxwell with about seventy head of stock cattle and mules with about fourteen Mexicans herding them, and the Indians came in on them and killed four, wounded six and the other four escaped leaving all the stock to the Indians.  This is a beautiful valley and very healthy, and the land, most of it, is good and is capable of being irrigated, a fine spring affording abundance of water gushing out of the mountain and rolling its refreshing stream for miles through the fertile valley.            

15 July Sunday.  We rested yesterday to wait for Barbee's train to come up but they did not come up.  This morning we start in good spirits having heard from Maxwell who is well acquainted with Cooke's route[3] to California that the road is quite practicable for oxen and wagons passing through.  Some pleasant valleys and over some little hills, we arrive at Salt Pond, which is a beautiful little lake of clear water but not pleasant to taste, and warm.  Here we stop to graze our oxen and dine on some bread, cold bacon and bread pudding.  Traveling ten miles farther through the most picturesque country I ever saw brings us to Ocate creek which runs through a canyon.  It is a clear stream like most of the mountain streams, swift and good water.              

William Fenner killed an antelope just before arriving at camp which is very acceptable as we so seldom get fresh meat.  The Sabbath has passed filled with the cares of a camp and caravan life but little of the enjoyment of a social nature which Christians love can be had.  But, religion being a personal thing, it affords greater satisfaction than ought the world bestows.  Camp on Ocate stream.            

16 July Monday.  Passed through a beautiful country to the eye but it seldom rains here and is not a farming country.  The grass is very scarce.  There is some on the banks of the stream and in spots about the prairie at this season but in some parts of the year it is entirely burnt up.  The rainy season is set in here and the grass is beginning to grow.  We hear that there has been no rain in the Santa Fe region about for one year.  We camped at the  Hole in The Prairie five miles northeast of Mora.            

17 July Tuesday. We came at noon to Ranchello, a new settlement in which there is a store, a blacksmith shop and perhaps thirty miserable looking dwellings and many miserable looking Mexicans mixing and carrying mud and laying up their mud walls.  Their houses consist of large unburnt bricks very rough built up about seven feet high and then poles laid across the top and corn shucks or grass or straw filling in the interspaces and mud and dirt laid over them forming a flat roof.  The clay covered walls, the lowpitch and flat roof makes very unsightly appearance for a town.  There is a fort, built with the expectations of the government's buying it.            

18 July. Wednesday.  The grass has been very short today in the prairie which we traveled over.  We hear very discouraging news as to the practicability of our getting to California by Cook's route with oxen.  Santa Fe is said to be crowded with immigrants and many families there in actual want having ate up all their provisions and have no way of getting back and cannot go forward.  Our way before us seems gloomy and many of us wish we were back in the States again.             

We follow the train of mules and about four o'clock it poured down rain and those who went on ahead had camped in a spot where what little grass had grown was all tramped and worn off and here we were  in mud and water, a very unpleasant predicament.  We had no wood but a few sticks of green pine and we could not raise a fire.  It turned very cold after the rain.  We made our supper with a hard cracker and some very muddy water.  I had been wet through twice before the last rain and went now to bed wet.  Camped on Vegas River.             

July 19 Thursday.  This morning we rise early at break of day; yoke up our cattle and move six or seven miles in search of grass.  Our cattle having had but very little in twenty four hours.  We passed through the town of Vegas and here are about fifty U.S. Regulars stationed.  The town consists of about a hundred dwellings such as those we passed yesterday and looks like a number of unburnt brick kilns (very low ones) built close together enclosing a yard of about one acre of ground and a number of scattering ones of the same description. They have no fences around their farms.  Their cultivating land is all irrigated.  They have wheat, corn, barley, English beans, peas and potatoes which look very green and thrifty but are very backward.  The wheat is just in the ear and the corn about one foot high.  Their furniture in their houses is a buffalo robe and perhaps a blanket and a sort of a bench for a table.  They are extremely poor and dirty.                

This is a beautiful looking country, hills and valleys all looking green (like a blue grass meadow in the spring) with pine trees scattering in some places and in other places in clumps.  The roads are made very good.  We stop in a valley beside a good spring and boil our coffee and cook our bread and meat.  Soon after starting we break our axle tree but manage to go about four miles more and camp at another settlement.             

Here we hear nothing favorable in regard to the possibility of our getting to California.  We have news from the United States which makes me feel very unhappy.  The cholera is raging fearfully all over the States and here I am not able to go home having no conveyance and being over a thousand miles off and cannot hear one word from my family but they are under the governance and protection of Divine Providence.  I confide in His goodness and hope for His mercy and goodness to spare them and me to see them once more.  Camp at a ranch.

20 July Friday.  We get along so very slowly that I am distressed about it and I want to get round to California so much that I may begin to get ready to go home and here I must wait in camp day after day and travel along slowly waiting for one and another and do not average more than nine or ten miles a day.  I have often wished myself home and so have many others of us.  The Mexican men and women and children came into our camp last night and again this morning, bringing eggs and milk.  Ten eggs for twenty five cents and about a gallon of milk for twenty five cents.            

About ten o'clock this morning eight of us were watering our cattle about three quarters of a mile from camp near a Mexican's house.  Not one of us had a gun although we almost always take our gun with us. We thought there was no danger and were unarmed when a Mexican man ran out with a bow and arrow crying Indian! Indian!  Three Indians were seen taking off a horse.  They stole one of the Mexican's horses and rode off.               

We soon got our cattle together and prepared ourselves for an assault but they did not come.  In the evening, the Mexican came into camp and told us that his little boy had been stolen by the Uintas and forty herd of cattle.  The little boy was herding them and they slipped up upon him early in the morning.   Camp same place as yesterday.             

Saturday July 21.  Colonel Jackson returned last evening, and this morning we took up our march and travel about twelve miles.  We passed through a town called Trujillo.  A considerable town something larger and better  than Vegas.  I visited several Mexican families on the road.  They are very civil and obliging.  This night several boys are gone to the Fandango in the neighborhood camp.             

22 July Sunday.  At eleven o'clock last night I went on guard.  It rained most of the time I stood, which was until half past two o'clock.  Went to bed wet.  Got up at break of day to turn the cattle loose, my clothes still wet, herded the cattle in the rain and wet brush and grass until near ten o'clock.  Took a hasty breakfast, drove up, yoked up and traveled seventeen miles, stopped at 4 o'clock, drove the cattle to a stream at a ranch to water about a mile and a half; unyoked and turned out and my Sabbath work was nearly done.  Thus, I have spent another Sabbath.  Passed through a town called San Miguel.                

23 July Monday.  Fine morning.  It rains here every day, this being the rainy season.  The grass is very short and thin on the ground.  The soil in the valley is sandy and gravelly and the valleys are but small and few of them afford any grass at all.  The whole country around is mountains, hills and rocks. The growth is all pine and cedar with a little brush of mountain oak.                 

The Mexicans brought into our camp chicken for which they ask two bits, but they are often bought for fifteen cents and ten cents.  They brought blankets full of grass for which they ask twenty five cents.               

This morning three of our oxen having strayed from the herdsmen unperceived, we were delayed until nine o'clock before we got started.  A very warm day and get no water until two, when we came to a fine spring where we ate our dinner and drank heartily of the cold clear water.  An ancient Indian Church in ruins, dedicated to the Sun, stands near this spring and the ruins of a large town and valley was once thickly populated.  Marks and ruins of old mud wall houses are still seen and said to have been built there hundreds of years ago by Montezuma.  Camped at a fine spring and grass.[4]                

25 July.  We stay in camp this morning and some of our company went to Santa Fe, it being but twenty five miles north.  The teams traveled twenty miles and we arrived at Galisteo a small town 25 miles south of Santa Fe at six o'clock.  Camped two miles beyond the town.  Water clear but brackish.  Grass tolerably good.               

26 July.  We stay in camp today to wait for our friends to return from Santa Fe.  We hear conflicting reports concerning the practicability of getting our ox teams to California.  Everything looks discouraging to me. Many say we cannot get to California with the oxen as there are deserts to pass.  Some say we can.  I am almost determined to return home.  We have been now from home one hundred days and are only one third of the way to California.  It is reported a letter has just arrived at Santa Fe bearing date from the States saying the rich placers and gold diggings in California are failing and that there is much distress there.  There are several men working in the mountains a few miles from our camp and in sight, mining for gold.  A train of wagons from Henry County, Missouri, commanded by Captain Allen went to the Placer Mountains yesterday.  It is about seventeen miles from here.  One man has two Spaniards hired and has made as high as one hundred dollars a day.  We travel today eight miles in search of grass.  Good grass and water.              

27 Friday. We remain in camp today and nothing occurs interesting but this is a most exciting life, such conflicting reports of the dangers and difficulties of the road to California.  Some will pretend to know and declare it is impossible to go there with oxen -- that our bones will lie bleaching on the sandy desert.  Others saying that we may be able to get through but they would not like to be there to see our sufferings.  Others pretending to know say we can get through very easily.  It keeps the mind continually in a state of suspense and we wish to know the worst of it.  I hope the Lord will direct us and bring us safe home should we get nothing.  I shall be a happy man if I can once more see my dear family.  I sent a letter to them today.             

July 28.  We remain in camp again today.  The grass is hard and not very good.  The water is good for stock but is wasting fast and is only in holes in the prairie and not too good to drink although it is all we have.             

29 Sunday.  This morning I wrote to Col. Culbertson.  Before I finished the letter, came a request from our own train and from a train a mile away, for me to preach.  At four o'clock, I addressed at our own tent door a pretty large congregation from Psalm 17:11.  Thou wilt show me the path of life, etc.             

Jul 30 Monday.  This day I finish my letter to Col. Culbertson[5] and request him to hand it to the editor of the Journal at Hannibal.             

Jul 31 Wednesday. I wrote another letter to Mrs. Stevens and send it with that to Culbertson to Santa Fe by Mr. Osbourn who has traveled with us from the States but now has left us and going to stay at Santa Fe fearing we shall not get through to California.  Many are talking of going back and some are selling out to go back and some selling their wagons for from twenty five to thirty five dollars which cost a hundred and oxen for ten and fifteen dollars a yoke that cost forty five or fifty dollars.  We have heard from the mines in the mountains among the Uinta Indians.  An old Frenchman came and told us that he had picked up pieces of gold as large as a partridge egg and says that we could fill a wagon but we do not place much confidence in what he says.  He wants to get one hundred men to go among the Indians who are very hostile and dig, but we shall start today to go about two hundred miles until we come to the crossing of the Rio del Norte where we shall be close to some range of mountains and intend on examining them.            

Two o'clock P. M. we yoke up and start to cross a desert (said to be) forty miles without grass or water.  We intend to travel until we get across, which will take us all night and till tomorrow near noon.  After passing some beautiful scenery of mountains that appeared to be turned side downwards showing the layers of rock in perpendicular order, and the prickly pear cactus growing forty feet above any earth out of the sides of the rock which in some places was like a stone wall built with stones laid edgeways -- at eleven o'clock we came to a fine pond of water and plenty of good grass.  We unyoked and turned our cattle loose, they having traveled about twenty five miles and they were tired.  They did not stray.  We laid down till daylight.            

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[1]Apparently Raton Pass.                                       

[2]Lucien Maxwell, from Kaskaskia,Ill.  On expeditions with Gen. Fremont.  Married daughter of Beaubien, who had a large Spanish grant.  Later bought out all heirs and owned 1,714,765 acres in N. Mex and Colo.  Was good horseman, owned large herds, many large homes, etc.  In 1849, he was just settling on the grant and getting a start.                                                      

[3]Cooke's route.  In 1846, Capt. Philip St. George Cooke, upon orders of Col. Stephen Kearney, had taken a group of wagons with a group of Mormons, from New Mexico to San Diego.  This was the first wagon train to succeed on this southern route.  In one place, Cooke wrote, he had to actually carve a road through rock, just the width of the wagons.  His journal of this trip was evidently what Rev. Stevens kept referring to.  For additional information, see Appendix A. 

[4]Probably the ruins of the Pecos Pueblo the strongest pueblo in the fourteenth century built about 1348.  Has been restored as Pecos Monument.                                        

[5]Lt. Cole James Culbertson -- earned that rank in early 1830's Black Hawk War.                                     

Cover    Preface
   May    June   July    August
     October    November
Final Note    Appendix