Chasing a Golden Dream: The Story of the California Trail

Michael N. Landon, Archivist, Church Archives
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

search indicates a link to an image of a journal. [1]

What distinguished the California trail from all other overland emigrant trails can be summed up in a single word -- gold. The January 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter's mill on the American River would firmly establish the California trail and also directly impact all other trails that led emigrants to the great American West. Although emigrant companies had arrived in California prior to the great gold rush, the full story of the California Trail occurred after 1848, as the allure of wealth caused hundreds of thousands to surmount incredible obstacles while following routes to the Golden State. [2]

The Establishment of the California Trail

As early as 1841 the Bidwell-Bartleson company arrived in California after abandoning wagons in present-day northeastern Nevada and after an almost desperate crossing of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. [3] After arriving in California, one company member, Joseph C. Chiles, returned east in 1842, organized another company, and set out for California in 1843. Near Fort Bridger the Chiles company enlisted mountain man Joseph Walker as a guide. As they continued west, the shortage of provisions became a critical problem, causing Chiles and Walker to split the company into two groups. Chiles led one group of packers along the Oregon Trail to Fort Boise then turned southwest, crossed into present-day California, and eventually reached Sutter's Fort. Walker led the remainder of the company with the wagons, west toward California. With provisions almost exhausted and their draft animals failing, they abandoned the wagons near Owens Lake, made a December crossing of the Sierra Nevada, and descended into the San Joaquin Valley. [4] Less than two months later, and farther north on the Carson River, Colonel John C. Frémont led his exploring company in a winter crossing of the Sierra Nevada. [5] To this point, no one had successfully brought wagons over the seemingly insurmountable obstacle to wagon traffic -- the towering Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The Stevens-Murphy party of 1844 finally proved that wagons could successfully negotiate the Sierra Nevada, although the company barely averted disaster after almost becoming snowbound before reaching the safety of the San Joaquin Valley. [6] These early companies demonstrated the feasibility of overland travel to California and by 1845 the route of the main California trail was known, although some published guides, such as Lansford W. Hastings' Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California proved less than reliable. Hastings, the promoter, convinced the Donner-Reed party to attempt his cutoff on the California trail, a decision that ended in tragedy and unimaginable human suffering when they became trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846. [7] In 1847, acting under orders from General Stephen Watts Kearney, Mormon Battalion veterans traveled east as part of a contingent of escorts for John C. Frémont, who was to be court-martialed. In their eastbound trek over the Sierra Nevada, they found and interred the remains of many who perished in the Donner Party. [8]

Until recently, contributions of the Mormon Battalion in establishing portions of the California Trail have been overlooked. In 1847 and 1848 Mormon Battalion veterans, after being discharged in California from their U. S. military service in the Mexican War, helped establish important sections of the California Trail including the Carson route, sometimes called the Mormon-Carson Emigrant Trail; Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff; and the southern route from the Salt Lake Valley to the Spanish Trail. [9]

The Impact of the Gold Rush on the California Trail

Although many emigrants helped blaze the California Trail during the 1840s, it is important to note that the total emigration on the California, Mormon, and Oregon trails for the entire period from 1841 to 1848 did not equal the number that would flood just the California trail in the single year of 1849, estimated to be at least 25,000. Emigrant totals for subsequent years, such as 1850 and 1852 would even eclipse the impressive numbers of 1849. From 1849 and continuing for two decades, the California Trail carried hundreds of thousands to the Golden state. It is estimated that the number of emigrants traveling the trail in 1849 and 1850 numbered nearly 75,000, completely overwhelming all available resources. The numbers dropped dramatically in 1851 no doubt partly caused by reports of overland trail difficulties that became known to those still in the east. In 1852 the numbers swelled again, with more than 50,000 emigrants headed west, most for California although an estimated five to ten thousand were Latter-day Saints traveling only as far as the Great Salt Lake Valley. Although subsequent years saw fewer numbers of emigrants, the California Trail continued to serve as an important transportation route to California, serving increasingly diverse economic interests that included mail and stage service, freighting operations, and cattle drives. [10]

The California Trail and its Variants

As all California-bound emigrants wanted to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible, it did not take long before cutoffs and alternate routes began to appear. By 1855 almost all the variants to the California Trail were established, each with its own compelling story. What constituted the actual California Trail? For many emigrants the California Trail started at the Missouri, followed the Platte River, and continued on to South Pass, essentially the same route as the Oregon and Mormon trails. After leaving South Pass, the trail headed toward Fort Bridger, where the emigrant faced the choice of continuing to Salt Lake City or traveling to Fort Hall. Many southern emigrants followed the Cherokee Trail along the Arkansas River, north up the front range of the Rockies, then west connecting with the main California Trail at Hams Fork or Fort Bridger.

Of those who left from the Missouri River and followed the Platte, at least two thirds chose the Fort Hall route. It was apparent that travelers could turn toward Fort Hall long before reaching Fort Bridger, thus saving valuable time. Soon the Sublette Cutoff became the route of choice saving the emigrant five days travel compared to those who continued on to Salt Lake City. [11] Also, with the establishment of the Hudspeth Cutoff in 1849, those traveling the Sublette Cutoff did not need to travel as far as Fort Hall. The 1859 opening of the Lander Road gave emigrants an additional route option if they did not want to take the Sublette Cutoff.

Many of those who chose to continue to Salt Lake City, did so because they needed to re-provision, replace their stock, or because they were so far behind they could not traverse the Sierra Nevada before winter's onset. Once emigrants arrived in Salt Lake City, they could choose one of three routes out of the city, the discredited Hastings Cutoff around the south end of the Great Salt Lake and across the salt flats; the southern route to the Spanish Trail and on to southern California, and from there north to the gold fields; or the most popular of the three, Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff. [12]

In 1848, returning eastbound Mormon Battalion veterans learned about the Salt Lake Cutoff from those who blazed it, mountain man Samuel J. Hensley and his company of packers. Heavily used during the gold rush years, it headed north from Salt Lake City, roughly followed the bench along the Wasatch Mountains, rounded the north end of the Great Salt Lake, and finally connected near the City of Rocks with the main California Trail in present-day southern Idaho.

From the City of Rocks, the California Trail continued to Goose Creek and Thousand Springs Valley, eventually reaching and following the Humboldt River until it crossed the forty mile desert of the Carson Sink in what is today Nevada. After crossing the sink, emigrants still had to traverse the Sierra Nevada mountains. The difficulty of the mountain crossing created a number of variants to the California Trail and at least five significant routes eventually were blazed over the Sierra Nevada. Most took the Carson or Donner-Truckee routes, but the Lassen, Noble, and Beckworth routes were also used. Variants to many of these mountain crossings also existed, such as the Georgetown trail and Big Trees Road on the Carson route.

It is important to recognize the difficulties of the last stretch from either Fort Hall or Salt Lake City to California. Alkali water, burning deserts, the seemingly insurmountable Sierra Nevada, worries about Indian hostilities, provisions, and ever-weakening draft animals, made this portion of the California Trail a true gauntlet.

The California Trail Experience

After surviving the long and arduous journey on the California Trail, the emigrant finally and gratefully arrived in California's San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. Fortunately, much knowledge about the trail experience has been preserved in the journals, letters, and reminiscences of those who traveled it. For many it was the only time in their lives that they kept a record of their daily activities. In doing so, they appeared to understand that they were participating in an extraordinary event that required them to leave some record of their participation.

The fear, excitement, frustration, tragedy, monotony, sense of accomplishment, and even joyful moments of these hopeful California-bound emigrants are found in their writings. Along with their descriptions of departing for and arriving in California, the diarists described disease, major landmarks, decisions about which route to take, company dissensions, their provisions or lack of them, condition of their stock and wagons, accidents, and countless other adventures. Hostile encounters with Indian tribes, a fear often expressed in journal entries, did not occur frequently. Actually, many encounters proved beneficial to the westbound emigrant, who often received assistance from the various tribes encountered on the trail.

A sampling of these journal entries illustrates the importance of these surviving accounts to our understanding of the California Trail experience. For example, Gordon Cone and another unknown diarist recorded their feelings just as they were about to depart for the goldfields.

May 25th at noon we found that all things were ready, and we took up our line of march for the far off Country, feeling to some extent the magnitude of our undertakeing -- Altho the distance is great, the privations perhaps numerous, and dangers of the way, (for our journey lies through the Indian Country, and they are hostile to the whites) which no doubt are also numerous, present a barrier to the reflections; still, throwing ourselves on the mercy, an reflections; and protection of God, we are willing to meet these difuculties, and hope to overcome them, and accomplish our object -- [13]search

We left Pittsburgh on the 15h March 1849 on board the Steamer Consignee bound for St Josephs our intended starting point which we reached on the 31st of the same month in high spirits and full of expectations. we found a thriving and business young town full of strangers from every part of the Union destined on the same Journey as ourselves, we consequently found accomodations difficult to obtain and then of inferior quality. [14]search

Once the decision to make the trip was cast, the trials of the journey began. One major difficulty facing those on the California trail was the scourge of cholera, which stalked the trail from 1849 through at least the mid-1850s. Diarists invariably wrote about its impact on everyone who traveled west.  Alphonse B. Day's description of a company member's death and Ezekial B. Headley's grave-counting are representative of what the gold rush emigrants experienced during the cholera epidemic.

Sunday 26 travelled 2 miles & was compelled to stop ^ as william Fisher was sick of Cholera Notice he he was verry sik & bout one oclock the same day died this was

the trying time on us as it was unexpected to all. [15]search

W 11 seen 3 graves

T 12 seen 6 graves

F 13 Passed the big Simahaw and Seen 5 graves

S 14 Seen 11 graves And came in the[- - - - - ]Territory

S 15 Crosseed big 150[- - - ]Blue and so Seen 7 graves joes

S 16 Seen no graves crossed Cotton wood


M 17 Seen 2 graves and had to he[- - - ]frost[- -]s m[- - - - ] [16]search

The magnitude of the Cholera scourge had a sobering effect on California bound emigrants. After seeing so many graves in the early part of his journey to California, Edward Jackson wrote:

O do not leave my bones here. If possible let them lay at home, if not here, let it be California. The idea of the plains is horrible! I now see my journey in its true light & if I am permitted to record, the pages of my journal will tell a fearful tale. [17]search

Surviving the ravages of disease was, of course, a greater concern than many trail challenges. However, even the choice of route could have serious consequences for those on the California Trail. Due to the experience of the Donner Party, cutoffs were viewed with some suspicion. For example, on 27 June 1852 after reaching the Sublette Cutoff, Cyrus Phillips and his traveling companions decided against taking it, opting instead to continue toward the Salt Lake Valley.


Sunday June 27th Having a poor place to Lay up we concluded to travel to day -- started @ 3-OC. & Took the Old road knowing more about it than the cut off -- Travelled 9 miles to the Dry Sandy this stream is usually dry -- but we found plenty to day -- stoped for dinner without grass -- There is nothing but barren sandy sage Plains -- no grass but in this country only on the small streams -- Turned to the right before reaching the little Sandy & camped about 2 miles above the ford. Sage &willows on this stream & very little Grass -- Some Mexicans came to our camp. We supposed they were thievs & that they would try to steal our stock but we saw them no more -- The streams on this side of the mountains are much warmer and mudier than on the other The best of roads to day [18] search p44 p45

Serious discussions about the choice of a route often indicated growing divisions within companies traveling west, with some emigrants finding the pace of travel too slow. In the race to make it to the gold fields, companies often dissolved as the monotony of the journey began to take its toll. Cyrus Phillips described such difficulties as his company approached the Salt Lake Valley. Many other companies had dissolved long before they made it that far. On 3 July 1852 Phillips recorded:

-- For the last 10 days there has been a great deel of dissatisfaction in our company & some private talk about a division @ Salt Lake which I have no doubt will be done from the fact of some having a severe quarrel this evening immediately after arriving in camp -- Some wished a division here but did not get it -- I am as anxious as any for a division thinking it will benefit all -- In fact some are so disagreeable & insulting that I will go no[-]farther with them [19]p 53 p54

Many diarists commented on the religious and social culture they encountered in Salt Lake, often colored by the prevailing opinions of the time regarding the Latter-day Saints. Diarist Edward Jackson who stayed in Salt Lake City from July 24-31 wrote, "Both the prophets & elders speeches were rantings malignant & hostile to our government & administration & the people in the West. . . . They are the most ignorant class of people I ever met with." Later, in a somewhat contradictory entry he noted, "In the evening they had a dance, but I was prevented from going by fatigue; but altogether this has been one of the happiest days of my journey." [20]search p62 p63

Like emigrant relations with Mormons, emigrant-Indian relations were equally varied. Emigrant F.F. Keith wrote of his encounter with Pawnee along the Platte:

Tues May 21 frs
left the bottom and traveled on the bluffs saw a number of the Pawnee Indians they are at war with the Sioux are friendly with us [21]search

There was tremendous complexity in white-Indian interaction, with the most hostile encounters found in the Great Basin. [22] Emigrants opinions of Great Basin tribes helped fuel the difficulties that only became more severe throughout the 1850s and early 1860s, finally resulting in the Pyramid Lake War in 1860 and the Bear River Massacre in 1863.

An example of the difficulties encountered by emigrants and Great Basin tribes is noted in the diary of F.F. Keith in an entry much different than the one he earlier recorded about the Pawnee.

[11]"Mon morning the Indians stole more horses from a train just below us and killed one man and scalped him their chief came riding near the camp when they fired upon him putting three balls through him before he fell about 40 men then pursued them to the mountains but could do nothing with them as the horses of the Indians are fresh while the emigrants are nearly worn out" [23] search

These Great Basin Indians were often encountered along the brackish waters of the Humboldt River. The river vanished into the Humboldt Sink, making the desert crossing the next obstacle. Of the experience David Wooster wrote:

July 1st[1850]
We took a supply of water for about ten miles only, and thirty of us started across what we found to be a second desert. We found it twenty-eight miles. Our horses lay down several times; some of the men could get no farther, but waited six miles back, till water could be brought. . .my canteen was empty the first seven miles, and never did human being suffer more than myself; but I got through without stopping, half dead. [24]

After the desert the emigrant faced that final hurdle, the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Regarding the experience of crossing the Sierra Nevada, semi-literate Anson Clark perhaps summarized it best:

We travlid up the montin on snow and that didnt feall well to a fellow that was barfootid. It felt rather Cold and my feat aked with the Cold. When we got on top of the mountain it was the potis[prettiest]seanry that I ever saw in my lif. Hear we struk the south fork of the american river. The very head of it hear was a little lak and it was very Clar and Cold. Thar was fish but I had lost my hooks and lines so I Codent ketch any of them. Hear was timbor of all kinds of the fir kind and whar I was I cod[could]sea wone montan below a nother and Coverd with timber and it was the purtis[prettiest]seanry I Ever saw. This sit[sight]pad[paid]me for my hardship. Hear I was 15 mills from hangton and nothin to eat and 25 sents in Cash. [25]

The sum of these experiences were often described by the gold-seeking emigrant as "seeing the elephant." Noted trail historian Merrill J. Mattes wrote that the "emigrants weren't talking about woolly mammoths or genuine circus-type elephants. They were talking about one particular elephant, the Elephant, an imaginary beast of fearsome dimensions which, according to Niles Searls, was 'but another name for going to California." [26] The image of the Elephant appeared in many aspects of trail life as recorded by emigrant diarists.

Regarding his sleeping arrangements, Cyrus E. Phillips wrote "I expect to see part of the Elephant to night when I wrap myself in blankets for the first time and sleep on the floor." [27] search James Tolles used the unique gold rush image about the elephant when faced with a river ford. "I drove our team and while wading through it appeared to me much like seeing the Elephant." [28] search He later noted "seeing the elephant" under difficult travel conditions. "The man and cattle have been almost suffocated with dust to day. It begins to look a little Elephantish along these digins." [29]search

All of these California Trail experiences of course ended when the emigrants finally arrived in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Their arrival in California's gold fields meant they had truly "seen the elephant." Many expressed their feelings about the safe completion of their long journey. Regarding the long-awaited arrival in California, a tired but grateful Stillman Churchill wrote:

I will not attempt to picture to you my feelings when once on the Sacramento after being on the road 6 months from Boston & 2 weeks from Branville to Missouri Since[-]nearly 42 months from there to Mr Lawsons on the river Mr Davises coming first which are called Ranchero usually Ranch [30] search

Stillman Churchill, like thousands of others, had his own motivations for making the great trek on the California Trail. The story of their experiences, which many of them fortunately recorded, continues as a rich literary legacy.

The Legacy of the California Trail

The California Trail ended with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, but its impact continued long after wagon travel ceased. The late historian John D. Unruh, Jr. pointed out that, "The emigration experience was ever changing; each travel year evidenced distinctive patterns, unique dramas of triumph and tragedy, new contributions to the mosaic of western development." [31]   This western development was tied to the unique American concept of Manifest Destiny, a vision that dictated the boundaries of the American nation should extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The discovery of gold not only reinforced the nation's belief in Manifest Destiny, it had an immediate and long-term impact on those who headed for California to mine the precious metal.

The process of leaving families and homes, passing through countless experiences on the California Trail, and struggling to make good in the gamble of the gold fields, forever changed the hundreds of thousands who trailed west to California. For many, a return to a pre-gold rush lifestyle seemed far too tame and constraining. Historian J. S. Holiday noted

Like soldiers home from far places, the goldseekers came back with new ideas and changed values. Remembering the pace of life in California, the ease of obtaining credit from merchants, the anonymity which assured freedom to act as one wished, they resented old-fashioned rules of business and hometown curiosity and gossip. In California cities and mining camps they had learned to accept what once they would have judged unacceptable, and some had behaved in ways they knew would be judged harshly by relatives and neighbors. [32]

For many, that transformation of values, the entertaining of new ideas and possibilities, began on the California Trail. Traveling to California, by whatever means, was certainly part of the gold rush experience. That historic gold rush helped fuel the rapid economic development of the nation and increased the sectional tensions between the northern and southern states that eventually resulted in the tragedy of the Civil War. So many came west on the California Trail that California's entry as a state in the Union became a national issue within two years of the gold discovery. The Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to enter as a free state, delayed but did not ultimately prevent the onset of that great conflict.

The sheer number who traveled the California Trail also increased the desire to make the dream of a transcontinental railroad a reality. Two decades after the great California gold rush began, the railroad was finally completed. The monumental engineering feat of the transcontinental railroad completed a process that the California Trail and other western trails began -- the integration of the west into the American nation.

While the railroad effectively ended the era of covered wagon travel, the California Trail continues to live through the words of those who traveled it. By reliving their experiences, we gain a perspective that gives us a greater understanding of ourselves and our own challenges. Because so many Americans view the covered wagon pioneer as part of their national heritage, the California, as well as other historic trails will continue to serve as symbols of American culture and will always form part of the mystique of the great American West.


  • 1. Most of the journal texts quoted in this introductory overview of the California Trail are taken from documents on this website. Some minimal changes to the text were made for the sake of clarity. Simplified bibliographic entries are given in the endnotes from the journals. The pages are actual diary pages, found in brackets in the upper left or right corner of each transcript page, although in some instances the page number will not be bracketed. Whenever the diarist entered a specific date or day of the week, that is included.
  • 2. For a thorough examination of the impact of the California gold rush on American society see Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).
  • 3. The best documentation about the Bidwell-Bartelson company is Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., ed., The Bidwell-Bartleson Party: 1841 California Emigrant Adventure: The Documents and Memoirs of the Overland Pioneers (Santa Cruz, CA: Western Tanager Press, 1991).
  • 4. The experiences of the Chiles-Walker company are outlined briefly in Ardis M. Walker's sketch of Joseph R. Walker in volume 5 of LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West: Biographical Sketches of the Participants by Scholars of the Subject with Introductions by the Editor, 10 v.(Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1965-1972). More detail is provided in George R. Stewart, The California Trail: An Epic with Many Heros (New York: McGraw Hill, 1962; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983).
  • 5. John Charles Frémont, The Expedition of John C. Frémont: Travels from 1838-1844, ed. Don Jackson and Mary Lee Spence, v. 1 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970), 589-640.
  • 6. Trapper, Pathfinder, and Early Pioneer, Dale L. Morgan. rev. ed. (Georgetown, CA: Talisman Press, 1965) and Stewart, The California Trail, 68-78.
  • 7. The classic works on the Donner Party are Charles F. McGlashan, History of the Donner Party: A Tragedy of the Sierra (San Francisco: A. L Bancroft, 1880;reprint, Fresno, CA: California History Books, 1973) and George R. Stewart, Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party (New York: H. Holt, 1936; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986). Recent additions to Donner Party scholarship include Bruce R. Hawkins and David B. Madsen, Excavation of the Donner-Reed Wagons: Historic Archaeology Along the Hastings Cutoff (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990); Kristin Johnson, ed., Unfortunate Emigrants: Narratives of the Donner Party (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996); Donald L. Hardesty, The Archaeology of the Donner Party (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1997); and Frank Mullen Jr.,The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-1847 (Reno: Nevada Humanities Committee, 1997).
  • 8. See Norma Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army and the West, 1846-1848 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996), 161-168.
  • 9. Many works discussing the Battalion and its role in trail blazing began to appear in the 1990s including David L. Bigler, ed., The Gold Discovery Journal of Addison Pratt (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990); William G. Bagley, ed., A Road From Eldorado: The 1848 Trail Journal of  Ephraim Green (Salt Lake City: Prairie Dog Press, 1991) and Frontiersman: Abner Blackburn's Narrative (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992); Dan Talbot, A Historical Guide to the Mormon Battalion and Butterfield Trail (Tucson, AZ: Westernlore Press, 1992); Norma B. Ricketts, Melissa's Journey with the Mormon Battalion: The Western Odyssey of Melissa Burton Coray (Salt Lake City: International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1994) and The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army and the West, 1846-1848 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996). The trend is continuing as evidenced by the recent publication of William G. Bagley and Dave L. Bigler, eds., Army of Israel: Mormon Battalion Narratives. Kingdom in the West: Mormons and the American Frontier, v. 4 (Spokane, WA: Arthur H. Clark, 2000) An additional work that will discuss not only the Mormon Battalion but also the activities of other Latter-day Saints in gold rush California is Dr. Kenneth N. Owen's forthcoming volume, West of Zion, in the Arthur H. Clark series, Kingdom in the West: Mormons and the American Frontier.
  • 10. Numbers of emigrants on the trail is a topic of high interest among trail scholars. For yearly estimates see John D. Unruh, The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 119-120.
  • 11. The cutoff was apparently first used by William Sublette and called Sublette's Cutoff in Joseph Ware's overland emigrant guide. From the mid-1840s until the gold rush it was also known as the Greenwood Cutoff after mountain man Caleb Green. While it did save time, the Sublette Cutoff was not without drawbacks. See Stewart, The California Trail, 245-248, and Joseph E. Ware, The Emigrants Guide to California (reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1932).
  • 12. For gold rush accounts about the route from Salt Lake City to the Spanish Trail see LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Journals of Forty-Niners, Salt Lake to Los Angeles: With Diaries and Contemporary Records of Sheldon Young, James S. Brown, Jacob Y. Stover, Charles C. Rich, Addison Pratt, Howard Egan, Henry W. Bigler and Others, The Far West and the Rockies Historical Series, 1820-1875, v. 2 (Glendale, CA.: Arthur H. Clark, 1954; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998) and Michael N. Landon, ed., The Journals of George Q. Cannon, Volume 1: To California in >49 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999). For more on the Hastings route and the Salt Lake Cutoff see Dale L. Morgan, The Humboldt: Highroad of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985) and J. Roderic Korns and Dale L. Morgan, West From Fort Bridger: The Pioneering of Immigrant Trails Across Utah, 1846-1850 rev. Will Bagley and Harold Schindler (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1994).
  • 13. Gordon C. Cone, 25 May 1849, p. 12.
  • 14. Tour to California, p. 3.
  • 15. Alphonse B. Day, Sunday, May 26, 1849, p. 7.
  • 16. Ezekial W. Headley, April 11-17, 1849, p. 7.
  • 17. Edward Jackson, Sunday, May 20, 1849, p. 17.
  • 18. Cyrus E. Phillips, Sunday June 27, 1852, pp. 44-45.
  • 19. Ibid., Saturday, July 3, 1852, p. 53-54.
  • 20. Edward Jackson, Sunday, July 24, 1849, p. 62-63.
  • 21. Fleury F. Keith, Tuesday, May 21, 1850, p. 2.
  • 22. Unruh notes that "an analysis of the geographic regions where nearly 400 overlanders were killed between 1840 and 1860 indicates that approximately 90 percent of all emigrant killings took place west of South Pass, principally along the Snake and Humboldt rivers and on the Applegate Trail. Clearly the first half of the overland journey was by far the safest, as well as the easiest. Moreover, in terms of actual deaths as well as percentages of the total numbers involved, it was much safer to travel overland to California -- the Digger Indians along the Humboldt River notwithstanding -- than to go overland to Oregon." Unruh, The Plains Across, 185.
  • 23. Fluery F. Keith, Monday, August 18, 1850, p. 11.
  • 24. Letter, "Hoyts' Rancho on Bear River, July 1850 in David Wooster, The Gold Rush: letters of David Wooster from California to the Adrian, Michigan, Expositor 1850-1855 ed. John Cumming (Mount Pleasant, MI: The Cumming Press, 1972).
  • 25. Anson Clark, "Recollections of his Journey from Maumee City, Ohio, to California in 1850 and his Experiences in the Mines." as quoted in Kenneth N. Owens, ed., Archaeological and Historical Investigation of the Mormon-Carson Emigrant Trail, Eldorado and Toiyabe National Forests v. 2 (Placerville, CA: United States Department of Agriculture, U. S. Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest, 1989), 347. Original manuscript located at Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 26. Merrill J. Mattes, The Great Platte River Road (Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1969), p. 61.
  • 27. Cyrus Phillips, Monday, April 27, 1852, p. 6.
  • 28. James Tolles, April 11, 1849, p. 4.
  • 29. Ibid., June 23, 1849, p. 34.
  • 30. Stillman Churchill, vol. 2, September 25, 1850, p. 143.
  • 31. Unruh, The Plains Across, 379-380.
  • 32. J. S. Holiday, ed., The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience, An Eyewitness Account of a Nation Heading West (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981), 446.