Wednesday, November 10, 2010

GQC: Mojave River - Barstow to Oro Grande

This is a continuation of George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey to California.

December 4, 1849 (Tuesday):

Rich Company (Mojave River: Barstow to point between Hodge and Helendale):

“Pr[o]visions [were] beginning to be scarce” for the Rich company. It was said that deer were “plentiful” on the Mojave, so “some of the men went ahead to try & kill some deer.”[1] Those that remained behind, including all of those writing journals, “s[e]t off about 8[:00 a.m.], still going up the river.” The mare that Henry Bigler and James Keeler had purchased from Bro. Flake on Cottonwood Creek “lost h[e]r colt” in the morning and had to be “help[ed] up…Bro. Rich advised [Bigler] to leave h[e]r[,] which [he] did at the first water and grass.” Bigler noted, “I real[l]y felt sorrow for the dum[b] br[u]t[e] to be left alone in the wilderness…Bro. Keeler and I have but one animal between us [now] to carry us through, our provisions [are] nearly exhausted!”[2] “It rained pret[t]y freely [during the day] making it very bad traveling.”[3] “At 8[:00] in the night[, they] made camp, tired and hungry and wet,” having traveled 20 miles.[4] Though “unsuccessful” in obtaining deer,[5] the men that “went ahead had made good large fires [which were waiting for them at camp,] for wood was plent[iful].”[6] The fires allowed the men to “dry [their] clothes.” It “ceased raining before [they] went to bed[,] but commenced again towards morning.”[7] “It was cold and disagreeable.”[8]

John C. Fremont noted that when they hooked into the Old Spanish Trail on the Mojave River, they were “careful to take the old camping places of the annual Santa Fe caravans.”[9] It appears that the Rich Company may have been camped at what was later known as “the Cottonwoods,” a place about two miles above (south of) the later Hodge station, which presumably was in the vicinity of present-day Hodge.[10] This is bolstered by George Q. Cannon’s entry for December 5th where he indicates he slept in the tent of an emigrant that did not belong to their company.

December 5, 1849 (Wednesday):

Rich Company (Mojave River: between Hodge and Helendale):

“The rain changed to snow…and the snow continued to fall steadily, [so] it was useless to think of moving.”[11] They “built a shanty of blankets over [their] beds to try to keep them dry.”[12] George Q. “Cannon was quite sick”[13] and stayed under the shanty “the greater part of the day.”[14] They must have shared their camp with some others, as George Q. Cannon states he spent “the night in a tent belonging to Mr. Neal[,] an emigrant.”[15] In the “morning one of the [men in] camp shot an owl and cooked it.” Henry Bigler described [the owl] as “first rate.”[16] George Cannon stated that “hunger gnawed at [their] vitals, and any kind of food would have tasted sweet…Being sick, the privilege of drinking some of the [owl] soup was accorded [to him] as a favor [and it] was the nicest dish of soup [he] had ever tasted.”[17] Cannon stated, “We had scarcely a mouthful of food, our clothing was very scanty and we had no tents to shelter us from the storm. My constant walking had worn out my boots, and for some time I had been compelled to use moccasins; but these were so badly worn that my feet were bare.”[18] Henry Bigler and some other men “went out to hunt deer…Several [deer were] wounded[,] but it snowed and rain[ed] so that they could not be tracked.” While hunting “a heavy snow storm [arose] late in the [e]vening and [Bigler] got lost.” Bigler was beginning to think he would have to spend the night “alone,…all wet and cold,” but “found camp and was in before dark.” Bigler noted, “I felt “gr[a]teful to the Lord for I believe he guided me by his spirit.” In the “evening a footman came in and brought [Bigler’s and Keeler’s] mare. She se[e]med so smart. [Bigler] gave the messenger a dollar for h[e]r” and indicated he would “try…to get h[e]r to the settlements.”[19] Due to their scarce provisions, Charles Rich felt it best to lay over another day and continue to hunt for deer. Thomas Whittle’s and Joseph Cain’s mess “joined together at evening prayers and asked the Lord to bless the hunters on the morrow.”[20] Their circumstances “gave a much greater degree of earnestness and fervor than usual to [their] prayers.”[21]

December 6, 1849 (Thursday):

Rich Company (Mojave River: between Hodge and Helendale):

It snowed throughout the night[22] and continued until mid-morning.[23] Following prayers in the morning, six hunters,[24] including Charles Rich, went out in search of deer. Charles Rich felt “led to go in a certain direction.” He soon found “a good-sized deer…lying dead in the bushes. It was one that had been shot the previous day.” He soon came back to camp carrying the deer on his shoulders.[25] Soon afterwards, other hunters brought in two more deer. The whole camp rejoiced and “felt to return thanks to [their] Heavenly Father for his goodness to [them] in [their time] of need,” as they “were almost out of every kind of provisions.”[26]

December 7, 1849 (Friday):

Rich Company (Mojave River: between Hodge and Helendale to Silver Mtn. Road vicinity):

Henry Bigler and James Keeler woke in the morning to find their mare, the one they had just paid a dollar for two days previous, dead. She had frozen to death. By 10:00 a.m. they had taken up their “line of march.” The snow was melting near the Mojave River and they found the traveling difficult through the soft sand.[27]
After traveling ten miles they “camped in the timber” near the Mojave River which was running on the surface there.
Captain James Flake killed a deer which helped them from a provision standpoint.[28] In the evening Charles Rich “called the company together to consult upon the propriety of part of the Company going ahead & the remainder travel[ing] more slowly & try[ing] to get the weak animals thro[ugh]…Those who went ahead would be able to leave what provisions they had to spare with those who remained.”[29] Rich felt they were within two days travel of the “settlement” and they were safe to travel in smaller groups as there was no sign of Indians. He “thought it was not more than 6 miles to the head of the Mo[j]ave wh[e]re [they] would turn off for the [Cajon] Pass and from th[e]re 20 m[iles] to the Ca[j]on Pass. This could be trav[e]led in one day by the strong animals and the rest” could do it in two days. Thomas Whittle’s mess (including Henry Bigler, and likely James Keeler, Joseph Peck and Peter Hoagland) and Joseph Cain’s mess (including William Farrer, Peter Fife, George Q. Cannon and two others), eleven in all, about half of the company, “volunteered to stay & travel slower[.] It was unanimously agreed that Bro. Rich should go ahead.”[30]

They may have been camping at what was known as "Point of Rocks" near Helendale. It is now in the community known as Silver Lakes.

December 8, 1849 (Saturday):

Rich Company – Forward Group (Mojave River, Silver Mtn. Road vicinity, to the Cajon Pass):

Charles Rich, with half of the company, started early. After six miles of travel, they crossed the Mojave River near the present town of Oro Grande. They then left the Mojave River and traveled toward the Cajon Pass.[31]

Rich Company – Rear Group (Mojave River, Silver Mtn. Road vicinity, to Oro Grande):

After a very cold night, the eleven that elected to continue at a slower pace set out, shortly after Charles Rich and the balance of the company. After traveling six miles they crossed the Mojave River below the present town of Oro Grande and camped “on the opposite side. Grass [was] scarce for [their] animals” but the Mojave was running and quite wide at this point.[32]
John Fremont, five years earlier, described the Mojave near this point as “a clear bold stream, 60 feet wide and several feet deep.” It has a “strange appearance, running between perfectly naked banks of sand. The eye, however, is somewhat relieved by willows, and the beautiful green of the sweet cottonwoods with which it is well wooded.
As we followed along its course, the river, instead of growing constantly larger, gradually dwindled away, as it was absorbed by the sand."[33] During the evening, the two Gruwell brothers that earlier left Mountain Springs to go to the “settlements for provisions,” passed through the camp on their way back to their wagons. It was their wives and families the Rich company encountered on their arrival at the Mojave River. The Gruwell brothers “would not part with any” of their provisions.[34]

The area where the Old Spanish Trail left the Mojave River later had a station owned by A.J. Lane, established in 1852. It was about 12 miles up the Mojave from Point of Rocks and was on the south side of the river. It was also known as the Upper Crossing. David Cheesman indicates that the crossing was “at a point of rock,” also known as the lower narrows.[35] The picture below was taken by David Thompson in 1917. (Photo and text credit )

December 10, 1849 (Monday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: Barstow to Hodge):

The Hunt company left the Mojave River, in the vicinity of present-day Barstow, and “started across the great bend.” After 15 miles they arrived at the Mojave River again, after dark, a little above the present site of Hodge. The weather was very cold in the evening and the water on the River was frozen several inches deep.[36]

December 11, 1849 (Tuesday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: Hodge vicinity to between Hodge and Helendale):

Francis Pomeroy decided to leave the Hunt company and go ahead to be with the Rich company. He left early with his three horses.[37] The Hunt company traveled five miles and camped with the Gruwell-Derr wagon train. Along the way, Addison Pratt “traveled through the bottom [of the Mojave] in p[u]rsuit of deer.” The water in the Mojave “sinks and rises several times.” The “bottoms are a mile or two wide [there] and is intermixed with willows and grass until it affords some of the finest range” he had ever seen. However, the deer “had been all routed by those that had gone ahead of [them].” At their campsite, they found a note from Charles Rich “that his company camped [there] two days and hunted,” and had killed 5 deer[38] during the snow storm that had trapped the Hunt company at Alvord Mountain. There was “no running water” in the Mojave, but there was water “in holes” covered with “ice…six inches thick.” Mr. Davis from Williams Ranch had traveled from the Cajon Pass where he had supplied the Rich company and met them there with his wagon “with provisions to sell to those that were in distress. Some fat fresh beef tasted good to” them and presumably “tasted better to those [of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train] that had been living on cattle that were so poor they couldn’t stand alone.”[39]

December 12, 1849 (Wednesday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: between Hodge and Helendale to Helendale vicinity):

Addison Pratt, Jefferson Hunt and James Brown traveled ahead of the wagons on horseback and Pratt shot a rabbit along the road. After about 8 miles, near the present town of Helendale, they overtook Francis Pomeroy. He had “camped on the other side of the river the night before and saw a number of deer, but killed none.” They had come to “where there was quite a large stream running” and decided to “pitch…camp on the side of it.” Pratt and Brown decided to go deer hunting. At Jefferson Hunt’s suggestion, Pratt left his “double barreled fowling piece” and took Hunt’s “little rifle.” They “crossed the river on old logs.” Pratt “saw a deer standing in an open space in a thicket of willows[,]…drew sight and fired, and the deer dropped in its tracks.” They returned to camp with the deer which “was considered a prize among [them] in these scarce times for provisions.”[40]

They may have been camped at an area later known as “Point of Rocks” which was ¾ mile below the present station of Helendale.[41]

December 13, 1849 (Thursday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: Helendale vicinity to Oro Grande vicinity):

“As the wagons were starting off,” Addison Pratt “crossed the river to hunt.” He had gone two or three miles when he found himself “in the fork of the river” and the river was rising fast. He decided to get back to the other side as soon as possible, but “found [his] way greatly obstructed by a dense thicket of brush closely interwoven by grapevines…hanging…blue with grapes.” With difficulty, Pratt “forced [his] way through…to the end of them.” The weather had warmed up so that the ice on the river would not always support his weight. So he “pulled off [his] shoes and stockings and went onto the ice bare-foot[,]…breaking through at every third or fourth step, and often scraping [his] shins against the ice.” The water was about 18 inches deep. Then he “came to another thicket of brush and grapevines which [he thought] to be the opposite shore.” However, he came to “a dense mass of tules, about ten feet high when they stood up, but they were bent down about half way and formed a complete mat. As these were impenetrable[, he] took [his] gun in one hand and a stick in the other [and] got upon them…By crawling upon [his] hands and knees with the help of the stick and gun[, he] could crawl along at a very slow rate[.] If [he] attempted to stand [he] immediately sank down among them and so there was no other alternative, but [it was] a tiresome job. When [he] got across [he] was…exhausted.” He “came into another thicket of grapes [and] stop[p]ed and ate some of them and…was much revived…After crossing one or two more thickets [he] came to the main channel of the river and had to pull off [his] pants to wade it and then got back onto the road again.” Pratt noted that there were “plenty of wolves” [coyotes] along the Mojave because the “wolves are fond of grapes.” He often shot at them and “saw traces of blood,” but because he was using “shot in [his] fowling piece,” he only wounded them and had not killed any. When Pratt found the company, about 9 miles from their previous camp, near the present site of Oro Grande, “to [his] great surprise [he] found the wagons camped on the other side” of the Mojave River. He noted that if he had only known they were going to cross the river, “it would have saved [him] all that trouble” of crossing the river earlier. Here the Mojave was “all in one channel” and “clear and pure running over a sand bottom.” From this point they intended to leave the Mojave River and travel to the Cajon Pass. Because it was a “long drive to the next grass” they decided to “lay by” there a day.

December 14, 1849 (Friday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: Oro Grande vicinity):

They traveled up the Mojave River in search of gold as it was “reported there had been some found there,” but none was found. They did see a “large buck deer,” which they did not get a shot at and lots of sign of rabbits.[42]

[1]  Farrer, p. 216

[2]  Bigler, p. 22; The mare was purchased jointly by Bigler and Keeler on October 12 for $20 down and a $100 note, with interest to be paid after returning (Bigler, p. 2); In this entry Bigler refers to “the mare of Bro. John Smiths.” This is because Father Smith’s deal with Bigler was “to [pay] all the expense of fitting me out for the gold mines, and after arriving there I am to be saving and prudent and after all the expenses was paid I am to have half the gold.” (Great Basin Kingdom, pp. 73-74 [citing Bigler Journal, Book A])
[3]  Farrer, p. 216
[4]  Bigler, p. 22; Farrer (p. 216) and Rich (p. 191) both confirm the 20 mile estimate.
[5]  Cannon, p. 37
[6]  Bigler, p. 22
[7]  Farrer, p. 216
[8]  Rich, p. 191
[9]  Hafen, LeRoy R. and Hafen, Ann W. Old Spanish Trail, Sante Fe to Los Angeles: With Extracts from Contemporary Records Including Diaries of Antonio Armijo and Orville Pratt, Vol. 1. Glendale: Arthur H. Clark. 1954 (Spanish Trail Extracts), p. 287-288
[10]  Mecham, G. Frank, “The Old Trail,” (Reprint from the Pioneer Cabin News, San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers, 1968) Once Upon A Desert, Barstow: Mojave River Valley Museum Association, 1976 (The Old Trail), p. 20; Hafen states that Fremont camped in the vicinity of the railroad station at Hodge, about 12 miles from Barstow. Fremont stated it was 20 miles from where they reached the Mojave at Oro Grande. (Spanish Trail Extracts, p. 288)
[11]  Cannon, p. 37-38
[12]  Farrer, p. 216
[13]  Bigler, p. 23
[14]  Cannon, pp. 37-38
[15]  Landon, Michael N. (editor), The Journals of George Q. Cannon, Volume 1, To California in ’49 (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah: 1999), p. 70 (Landon).
[16]  Bigler, p. 23
[17]  Cannon, pp. 37-38
[18]  Cannon, pp. 37-38; A year previously, Orville Pratt, also at the Mojave River, echoed similar sentiments: “Never until now have I really known what suffering is. My feet are blistered from walking full 30 miles yesterday over the burning sand and flint rocks. Boots are all worn out – coat and pants tattered from riding 2 miles through the mesquite – shirt filthy with five weeks constant wear in the dirt - and to complete the compliment of misery (as if a burning sun and hard riding by day, laying upon the ground between horse blankets at night, to say nothing of the food, not sufficient) in addition to all else, my body is literally alive with vermin! This would seem almost incredible at home, but it is too true that not only I am annoyed with body lice, but every man in my company is precisely in the same way!” Spanish Trail Extracts, p. 357.
[19]  Bigler, p. 23 (Bigler referred to the horse as “Bro. Smith’s mare,” which, as indicated previously, was because Father John Smith was responsible to outfit him and would apparently be paying for the horse.)
[20]  Bigler, p. 23; Thomas Whittle’s mess consisted of five individuals, including Henry Bigler and likely also James Keeler (who shared horses and a wagon with Bigler), Joseph Peck (who initially shared a wagon with Whittle) and Peter Hoagland (who also initially shared a wagon with Whittle). Joseph Cain’s mess consisted of six individuals, including William Farrer, Peter Fife and George Cannon.
[21]  Cannon, p. 38
[22]  Cannon, p. 38
[23]  Bigler states it quit snowing in the “morning” (p. 23) and Farrer stated it ceased “during forenoon.” (pp. 216-217)
[24]  Bigler, p. 23
[25]  Cannon, p. 38
[26]  Farrer, pp. 216-217
[27]  Bigler, pp. 23-24; Farrer states “the night was very cold.” (p. 217)
[28]  Rich, p. 191
[29]  Farrer, p. 217
[30]  Farrer, p. 217 (Farrer indicates that Bro. Whittle’s mess and his volunteered, thereby indicating Farrer was in Bro. Cain’s mess); Bigler states that his mess and Bro. Cain’s mess volunteered, thereby indicating Bigler was in Whittle’s mess (pp. 23-24); Bigler and Keeler initially shared a wagon and then shared horses, making it likely that they were in the same mess; Whittle initially shared a wagon with Joseph Peck and Peter Hoagland, making it likely they were in the same mess; Cannon indicated that 11 were in the slow group and on December 9 indicated that the other mess was five in number, thereby indicating he was in a mess with six people (p. 38-39); Farrer indicated on October 19 that Peter Fife was in his mess. Further, on that date, Farrer indicated that Capt. Flake went ahead with 8 other men leaving 11 men behind, likely the same 11. (pp. 195-197);
[31]  Rich, pp. 191-192 (Rich indicates it was 15 miles to the Cajon Pass, but the Mormon Way-Bill indicates it was 17 miles)
[32]  Bigler, p. 24
[33]  Spanish Trail Extracts, pp. 287-288
[34]  Farrer, p. 217 (Addison Pratt identifies them as the Gruwell brothers the next day when they met them near present day Barstow. Farrer refers to them as “some of the men who had been sent to the settlements for provisions by the wagons short of provisions”)
[35]  The Old Trail, p. 20; Hafen states it was opposite the site of Oro Grande, about six miles northwest of Victorville. (Spanish Trail Extracts, p. 287, n. 4); Cheesman, David W., “By Ox Team From Salt Lake to Los Angeles, 1850,” (a memoir edited by Foy, Mary E.) Historical Society of Southern California: Annual Publication (1930), p. 280 (Cheesman Memoir), p. 301; Marenczuk, Wesley "The Story of Oro Grande" found at the website of on November 10, 2010.
[37]  Pratt, p. 102
[38]  See entry for December 19 where Pomeroy arrives at Williams Ranch with 4 horses. He may have picked up another horse along the way, such as Henry Bigler’s horse left the day before near the Cajon Pass.
[39]  The number of deer killed by the Rich company was actually 3.
[40]  Pratt; Isaac Williams sent out Davis in response to the appeal taken by the advance party of the Gruwell – Derr wagon train. Hafen, LeRoy R. and Hafen, Ann W. 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, Glendale: Arthur H. Clark. 1954 (49ers), p. 102, n. 121.
[41]  Pratt, pp. 102-103; Pratt refers to Brown as Rowan., but as indicated earlier, it is likely a referance to Brown.
[42]  The Old Trail, p. 20
[43]  Pratt, pp. 104-105

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