I found this in a collection of illustrations created during and about the Gold Rush, so am assuming (dangerous, I know) that it reflects the lodging enjoyed by some of the emigrants on their way to California.
Continued from this post
James Casebeer was a 33 year old from Ohio who, by May of 1860, was farming 160 acres of “The Island” located between the Eel and Salt Rivers (between Ferndale and the Loleta Bottoms) in Humboldt County. There was a house on the property and he had made some small improvements, but at the time of his death Casebeer had yet to make any real money from his enterprise. He lived alone and was, by newspaper accounts, a “peacable and unoffensive citizen”, the only living son of a poor and sickly widow living in Ohio. Casebeer wrote his mother letters, but didn’t do it often.
He seems to have kept to himself. Neighbors had noticed him missing, but supposed he’d gone away on business. No one investigated.
In September of 1860, William Johnson, a barber originally from New Jersey, was out walking when he discovered the body of his neighbor, James Casebeer. The body was lying a short distance from his house, and appeared to have been dragged from where it was hidden in the brush. Observers guessed that Casebeer had been dead about three weeks and the remains appeared to have been partially eaten by his dog. Johnson noticed a deep cut on the back of Casebeer’s skull and found a hatchet nearby.
Casebeer’s house was locked, but nearly empty of valuables. Even the bedding was gone.
To be continued…
The phone rang this morning about three minutes after my husband left the house. My son answered and shouted to me, “The elk.” Ok. I knew what he meant.
We live just west of Blue Lake and at least once a year the elk come down out of the hills to graze along side the road. There are at least forty of them, with more than a few big bulls grazing among the many cows. As I drive up, they lift their towering racks majestically, and watch me watch them. They don’t trust me, but aren’t afraid. It is an amazing thing to see.
According to many newspaper reports and letters written when the whites first arrived in Humboldt County, elk herds were a common sight. As were grizzlies and rivers so full of fish you could cross the water balanced on their backs.
No more. The Grizzlies are gone, silt clogs the rivers instead of salmon and the sight of an elk herd is a novelty.
From Humboldt Bay, written to San Francisco, May 19, 1850
To the Editors of the Alta California:
… Most of the country through which we passed was the most beautiful I ever beheld. Some parts are very heavily timbered with spruce and red wood. The whole country abounds in wild game of every description. On my expedition I saw five large fine elks and had a shot at two of them with my pistol. On yesterday a party of Sonorians killed six elk, the largest weighing 600 lbs. The more I see of this country the more thoroughly am I convinced that it is destined to become the seat of a large commercial city. It has every local advantage that a site for a city can possess. The only annoyances we now have are from the Indians.
As early as 1846, the powers that be in California were setting the stage for legal indenture, or enslavement, of Native Americans.
Captain John B. Montgomery was commander of the U.S.S. Portsmouth stationed at Yerba Buena, later known as San Francisco, when he received orders to claim the town for the United States. Montgomery placed an American flag at the Plaza on July 9, 1846 and worked with Lieutenant Washington Bartlett, a junior officer on the Portsmouth, over the next five months to organize a local government for San Francisco.
In September, 1846, Montgomery issued the following proclamation. On the surface, it appears to guard the Natives against illegal capture and enslavement, and in fact the title of the San Francisco history page where the proclamation is posted is called “End of Indian Slavery in San Francisco”. But if you read closer, the wording simply transferred control of those natives from non-Americans to Americans by requiring those wanting Indian servants to obtain a contract from an American Justice. It also requires that all natives “obtain service”, so they had to work for someone or risk “arrest and punishment by labor on the public works”.
I ran across this report last night and couldn’t resist sharing. Some communities in Humboldt County used a tree to contain their prisoners and San Francisco got creative and built a tunnel–not that it worked that well, apparently.
Elsewhere in the report, the San Francisco Sheriff laments that he has less than forty officers for a city of 80,000, making it impossible for him to keep order. Especially, he stressed , in a gold rush town where passions ran high and everyone was armed. You gotta feel for the guy.
After leaving Salt Lake, the Royces, with a few additions to their party, headed in to the desert and literally missed their turn. They ended up far into the wasteland, with little food and water. A situation, Royce remembered, “so new and unexpected, that it seemed for a while to confuse—almost to stupefy—most of the little party.” Their oxen were starving and they fed them the ticking from their mattresses… rationing what little water they had to make it last.
After much debate, the group turned back to search for a place where they could feed the livestock and get more water. They met a small wagon train on the way, and though those folks could spare no supplies, they did ensure Royce’s group made it back to the “Humboldt Sink” where water and grass were plentiful. It would be this chance meeting that Royce later credited with saving her family’s lives.
After finding the Sink and resting, the group headed back out into the desert. This time they found the right road, successfully crossed the desert and made it to the foot of the Sierra Mountain Range. By this stage of their journey, they were short of food and exhausted. Snow was already flying in the mountains, posing yet more danger.
I decided to take a short break from the topic of Reservations after I read a story that mentioned the Relief Companies formed in California to help the pioneers arrive here safely.
According to Wikipedia, the memory of the Donner disaster prompted Californians to fund relief teams during the gold rush. They sent men eastward along the trails to take food and water to overland emigrants. In her diary, Sarah Royce, a woman who began the journey with her husband and two-year old daughter, Mary, in 1849, credited such a Relief Party with saving the lives of herself and her family.
I think it is easy to overlook the fact that many, if not most, of the emigrants seeking their fortune in California didn’t know what they were doing. The Royces prepared for their journey across the country by reading the book Fremont’s Travels, and noting the often conflicting suggestions of other travelers, who, like the Royces, were “were utter strangers to camping life and were setting out for the ‘Golden Gate’ “.
Pioneers set out for the west and experienced floods, food shortages, broken wagons, hostile natives, and more. If they survived these challenges and reached Utah, the Great Salt Lake Desert and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range awaited them. The Royces got as far as Salt Lake City and then found “two small sheets of note paper, sewed together and bearing on the outside in writing the title, ‘Best Guide to the Gold Mines, 816 miles’, by Ira J. Willes, GSL City” to help them the rest of the way.
The “book” was handwritten by Willes, who had been to California and back the previous year. Royce said the description of directions, distances and good camping places seemed pretty clear until the author mentioned the Humboldt River [not connected to Humboldt county in any way], “when poor camping and scarcity of water was mentioned with discouraging frequency.” After that point, author Willes suggested they look for a new track the previous fall, which “might be better.”
As life and other work calls, I will continue this topic tomorrow…
Continued from yesterday’s post.
There were problems with the Klamath location for an Indian reservation, which were pointed out by those outside of Humboldt County.
New Klamath Reservation– We had the pleasure a few days since of perusing a private letter from one of the deputies of the Indian agent of the Northern part of the State, dated at the Indian Reserve, near the mouth of the Klamath River. He thinks the place is a bad selection, and wholly unfit for the purpose intended. This is [not] the first time this opinion has been expressed in relation to the Klamath Reserve. The valley, or rather valleys, are narrow, skirting along the river for several miles, separate by spurs of mountains, intersecting the river at various points. These valley are (unknown word, likely “not” ) adapted to cultivation and game is scarce. If the Indians have to obtain subsistence by fishing, the Government had better leave them… unmolested.–~Trinity Journal
Response from the Humboldt Times…
Continued from yesterday’s post…
As time went on, the settlers became “desperate”. Cattle were dying, after all. In the settlers’ minds, that was certainly enough cause to threaten mass murder.
Humboldt Times, June 16, 1855-Re: Incompetent Indian Agent –Henley -Col. Henly—to the San Francisco Herald, we acknowledge .. indebted for the aid.. in search of said officer, the Superintendent of Indians in California. Rumor has it that there is such an office… He has been written to, beseeched and entreated to take some steps to relieve our section of the troublesome Indians that infest it… Such a state of affairs cannot last, our citizens will be compelled to take up arms and exterminate every Indian against which suspicions are directed. To the “memorable seven” at Orleans Bar, we are more than half inclined to tender an apology for our castigation for their course, and in doing so divest ourselves of that sympathy and pity we once entertained for the Indian [author’s note, I so wish I knew what this refers to…]
In response, most likely, to the citizens’ cries for “help”, the Federal government chose an area at the mouth of the Klamath River for a new reservation. It was, put bluntly, the crappiest location around, and unlikely to be wanted to white settlers in the near future, if ever. At the Klamath, the natives would be “safe” and out of the way of encroaching whites.
I stole an apple today. Technically I guess I took two, but after I took a bite out of the not-even-close-to-ripe one, I threw it away. Then I picked another and took it with me.
I’d gone for a walk without water or food. It was warm and I was thirsty.
The apple trees were untended and old, with gnarled trunks and crowded limbs. It didn’t look like anyone cared, really. Or that anyone would notice a missing apple or two. And honestly I got so caught up in the fact that these three old apple trees were sitting in a row in the middle of a hay field that I didn’t think much about it before I picked them. It must have been part of an old homestead.
I spotted the trees after following the bends in the trail, anxious to see what was next. And maybe climbing a fence/gate (but there was no sign telling me not to). It was also after rounding a corner and seeing an big umbrella shaped t.v. antenna. That’s when I decided to turn around. I could fool myself that the fence was to keep cattle in, but couldn’t ignore someone’s home. Maybe I was on private property, after all.
Isaac Cullberg, a well known pioneer, wrote casually in his diary of taking material from an Indian house to start a fire. He was cold, I’m sure, just like I was thirsty today. Other settlers often lamented that the meadows surrounding them were just begging to be cattle pasture. If only those darn savages weren’t in the way. The invaders hunted deer and elk and bear for meat and hides and target practice.