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    Description

    California Trail Journal, ca. 1859. 78 pages, 4.25" x 7". Journal records the raw details of an overland pioneer journey along the California Trail to California beginning in Pacific City, Iowa. The author's name appears to be Arthur Gill, and he begins his account on May 29, ca. 1859, and ends it on September 24 of the same year in Placerville, California, over 1,500 miles away.

    According to the journal, Gill's original plans were to go to Pikes Peak, Colorado, but at Pacific City, he changed his mind after meeting four hundred returning Colorado wagons with disgruntled travelers "who told some very sick stories." He then decided instead to make for California. In the journal, the author notes the weather conditions, distances traveled, and trail conditions. He identifies graves, landmarks, and numerous towns, and fills his account with descriptions of the difficulties of moving cattle, unusual animals seen along the way, and the various illnesses among the travelers. Throughout, the author relies on phonetic spellings ("Pike Speaks" for Pikes Peak).

    When this journal begins, Gill had already travelled "four hundred miles from were we started." In Iowa, he saw "the first red Indians that I ever see. . . . We meet with lots of Indians and about as dirty looking a person as I ever see. They were even picking lice out of one another's heads and chew and smack their lips when they are lucky enough to a large one. It is sickening to watch them. . . . Pass today a place known by the name of Fort Kearny [Nebraska]. This is a place where soldiers are stationed in order to guard the immigrants while crossing the plains from the Indians. Here we meet with the wild buffaloes. . . . . We was successful in killing three so here we had our first feast of fresh meat which did not taste very bad but was a little courser in the grain than what our beef generally is. . . . Here is the first gold mining that I ever see. We stopped quite a while and watched them work [September 19]. . . . [September 22] Here we cross the line and are now in the State of California but something like seventy five miles from where we get into the mines." He concludes his journal, "this completes my rough journal while crossing the Plains from Illinois to California." The journal is written in bold, black ink on lined paper; below the last line is written in pencil, "Arthur Gill."

    Gill also fills his account with the names of the various Indian tribes he encountered (including Pawnee, Sioux, Cheyenne, Crowes, and Piute), as well as accounts of Mormons and land squatters. This account is easy to read, educational, and fascinating. The pages are toned and disbound with no cover. Page numbers occur in the top left corner of some pages.


    More Information:

      June 2.  Travel 25 miles. The roads been very good and the day delightful. We made a good day's drive having passed in sight of one of the Indian villages the first I ever see. Their buildings seem to be built principally on sods or otherwise buffalo hides.  They are built round in shape and seem to be very comfortable... Crossed a piece of overflowed bottom that had been overflowed by what is called Platte River something like 4 miles it was across which looked more like a sea than anything else. We had to raise our wagon bases as high as we possibly could for fear the water might run into our wagons and spoil our provisions... At this point we have a fight with two of our men that belong to my company. They had been quarreling for three days so we just stayed to one side and let them fight it out and it  cured them.  They agreed very well afterwards... June 8. Travel 23 miles. The valley getting larger and the land better. Here we meet with many Indians. At this point one of them wanted to run a race for money so they made a bet for me to run him as they thought I was about the quickest in the team.  We ran about 60 yards but sadly disappointed was the Indian . He had meant to run 200 yards instead of 60. Well I was fortunate enough to beat him by about 2 feet which made him very angry when I would not run him his race of 200 yards. I would not run for I know I had no chance with him. June 10th.  Pass today a place known by the name of Fort Kearny. This is a place where soldiers are stationed in order to guard the immigrants while crossing the plains from the Indians. Here we meet with the wild buffaloes...we was successful in killing three so here we had our first feast of fresh meat which did not taste very bad but was a little courser in the grain than what our beef generally is.June 21. We here meet with another tribe of Indians and right on the other side of the river is their town. This tribe is called the Sioux tribe and thought to be a very large and powerful nation. They are a little better looking a race than the Pawnees but not over and above clean. They are thought to be more quarrelsome than the Pawnees and are often at war with either one tribe or another... June 22. Large hills on our right hand. Travel 20 miles. Camped in sight of a large rock called Court House rock. This rocked took its name from a party of immigrants trying one of their number for murder. He had killed one of his party he was in company and so the rest of the train laid over at this rock and gave the man a fair and impartial trial and condemned him to swing for his crime.June 23. Travel 20 miles. Passed the grave of a man died August 10, 1852 by the name James Lickings. June 24. Here is something strange in the shape of a rock to look at it is at a distance one would think that he was not out of sight of the long chimneys yet all through we had traveled several hundreds of miles since we even see a house but this looks so much like a mill chimney that it was called Chimney Rock. We pass another grave , Rebecca Winters, who died 1853 aged 50 years... Thundering and lightening most of the day.  Here we meet with seven wagons that was on their way to some part of the states which had been living in Salt Lake Valley and are what we call Mormons. June 28. Travel 15 miles past 12 more wigwams or Indian huts. Went into most of them. Landed Fort Laramie at four o'clock... June 30. Traveled 16 miles and crossed what is commonly called black hills which are very rough and the roads are very bad...here there came a few Cheyenne's.  Those are another different tribe of Indians and very [?] looking men they were too.  They are dressed in furs which is beaded in a fine stile with all kinds of fancy beads..Here we come to another Fort and a regular trading post also a bridge across the Platte River.  Went over in the store.  Boots 15 dollars a pair. Flour 7 dollars per 100 weight.  See a great many Indians lurking round..Passed a place where there lay forty head of dead cattle..Camped along side of what is called the Independence Rock..July 13th.  Traveled two or three miles and slept at a place called Devil's Gate.Here we strike another tribe of Indians called the Crowes.  This tribe is not a very pleasant looking race to look at..July 14th.  Traveled 24 miles.  Ascending the summit of the Rocky Mountains.  Snow in sight all the year round here.While camped hear two companies of soldiers passed by.Come to a place called South Pass City.  Here is the forks of the roads.  One goes by the way of Salt Lake City and the other is called Landers Cutoff.   Landers Cutoff being a new route just open.  Our captain thought it advisable to take it..Hear is another tribe of Indians called Snakes.  Hear they seem to get bold.   several came to our tents and stayed till after supper..July 21st.  Traveled 22 miles.  Passed three hundred Indians that was going to war. .Aug. 10th.  Left Snake River..hear we find Mr. Landers and his men taking a rest and also a company of soldiers.This Mr. Landers is the gentleman I spoke of opening the new route called the northern route.Aug. 12th.Hear we find a grave that has been newly made and find by the description wrote on the head board that he was a young man by the name of Joseph Sellick who was executed on the 29th of July for the willful murder of one William Humble both from the State of Missouri and had travelled together in the same train.Aug. 18th.  Travelled on and past through what is commonly called Thousand Spring Valley.Passed a grave this afternoon of a young man by the mane of Dright of Missouri who was killed by the Indians August 5th aged 30 years who had traveled principally by himself.Aug. 30th .  See four Indians sculking around.  Seem to be afraid to show themselves.  This is the first we have seen on the Humbolt River.  They are called the Piute Indians.  They are thought to be very troublesome at times.Sept. 13th.starting across the desert.  Here we fill everything with water.Sept. 19th.  Travelled on and passed through a place called China Town.  Hear is the first gold mining that I ever see.  We stopped quite a while and watched them work.  This China Town is only nine miles from Virginia City.[they travel on to Carson City where he sells his one oxen and he, and a few others, separate from the train and start walking through the Sierra Nevadas to California].  Sept. 22nd. .here we cross the line and are now in the State of California but something like seventy five miles from where we get into the mines .[he again separates from the others and goes on his own and heads for mining country, concluding his journal].Sept. 24th.18 miles from Placerville which town we reached about dark.  This completes my rough journal while crossing the Plains from Illinois to California. 



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    September, 2011
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