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Full text of ""A pretty fair view of the eliphent"; or, Tell letters by Charles G. Hinman written during his trip overland from Groveland, Illinois, to California in 1849 and his adventures in the gold fields in 1849 and 1850"

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Hellen was born in ISJ^U 
Hannah was born in 18 US 







1849 AND 1850 

Edited by 

Printed for 
by Gordon Martin, Chicago 



In 1954, 1 published a narrative of Daniel McLaughlin's 
trip from Omaha to the Salmon River and the gold fields 
of Eastern Oregon. A number of my friends who re- 
ceived the little book expressed their interest in such 
material and, consequently, this year I am sending 
them this series of letters by a "Forty-Niner." The 
original letters were acquired some years ago from my 
friend Miss Louise Stegner of Omaha. In her years of 
experience. Miss Stegner has searched for and dis- 
covered many interesting documents relating to the 
history of the Transmississippi West. I am grateful to 
her for sharing with me her historically valuable finds. 

Mr. Storm and I are also grateful for the enthusiastic 
cooperation of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Biggs of Clarinda, 
Iowa; Clyde C. Walton of the Illinois State Historical 
Society; and Joseph C. Wolf of the Newberry Library 
in preparing these letters for publication. 

I hope my friends who receive this little volume at 
Christmas time will think they, too, have enjoyed "a 
pretty fair view of the Eliphent." 

Everett D. Graff 
December, 1960 


"To see the elephant" was a common expression in the 
United States from the eighteen-forties through the 
-seventies. At first, it meant to see the world and gain 
worldly experience; later it was applied specifically to 
a trip to the California gold fields. The phrase was 
occasionally used during the Civil War, in the past 
tense, when one had been in battle. The overland mi- 
gration of 1849 from the Mississippi River to California 
was, in every sense of the phrase, a great experience, 
and nearly all of those thousands of men, women, and 
children who took part in it had "a pretty fair view of 
the Eliphent." 

Dale L. Morgan, in commenting on the quantity of 
material in print about the Gold Rush, concluded that 
although the mass of information is large, "much pains- 
taking investigation will have to be undertaken, and 
many fortunate finds made, before we can feel that at 
any point we are approaching the limits of the subject." 
The present publication is a record of a "fortunate 
find" of a series of ten letters written on the trail to 
California and from the gold fields by an Illinoisan in 
1849 and 1850. We hope the scholar who writes the 
definitive story of the 1849 Gold Rush will find some- 
thing of value here. 

Charles G. Hinman, the writer of this series of letters, 
was born in Connecticut on November 2, 1808, 1810, or 

1811 (he gives all these dates at various times). Very 
little is known about him for any other period than the 
time he traveled from his home at Groveland, Tazewell 
County, Illinois, to California. During his trip he kept 
a Journal* and sent this series of ten letters to his 
family in Illinois. He may have been the Charles Hin- 
man who operated a horse-powered sawmill in Tazewell 
County in 1830 although, since his elder son was born 
in New York in 1835, this is unlikely. His wife, Sarah H. 
was his junior by five years. At the time Charles went 
to California, there were five children in the family, 
Charles S., Josephine, Charlotte, Hellen[5ic], and Han- 
nah. They lived at Groveland, a post hamlet seven and 
one-half miles south-south-east of Peoria. Mrs. Hinman 
and four of the children probably did not remain in 
Groveland, for they are unlisted in the 1850 Census for 
Tazewell County; Charles S. is listed as a laborer in the 
household of the West family. That Charles G. Hinman 
was a man of some substance in his community in 1849 
becomes obvious from both his letters and his journal. 
He apparently built his own wagon for the overland 
journey (he named it the "Groveland Belle"), yet he 
was able to buy supplies and oxen for cash before he 
set out and on the road, to buy out one of his partners, 
and to pay all necessary ferry costs without complaint. 
His journal was started a few miles west of Peoria on 
April 2, 1849, and the last entry in California is dated 
March 24, 1850. The first letter was written to his wife 

♦The original diary is in the Western History Department, 
The Public Library, Denver, Colorado. We are grateful to 
the head of the department, Mrs. Alys Freeze, for a chance 
to consult it. 

from St. Joseph on May 3, 1849, and the last from 
Cahfornia on February 17, 1850. Through February 
and March, 1850, Hinman and his associates had made 
no great fortune and they may never have "struck it 
rich." Some time before September 1853, Hinman re- 
turned from Cahfornia to Groveland, for on May 27, 
1854, a second son was born to Sarah and Charles and 
named Edward B. Hinman. The family continued to 
live in Groveland for awhile and the senior Hinman 
was Supervisor of the Township of Groveland in Taze- 
well County in 1855. Four years later he had estab- 
lished the first carriage and wagon factory in Hawley- 
ville, Page County, Iowa. Hawleyville, one of the 
earliest towns established in the county, is located seven 
miles northeast of Clarinda. It was then a flourishing 
town, but the railroad passed it by and it dwindled. 

Charles G. Hinman lived in Hawleyville until his 
death on August 27, 1868. He is listed with his family 
in the 1860 Census, in which his occupation is given as 
carriage maker. His factory is not mentioned in the 
Iowa State Gazetteer for 1865. Sarah H. Hinman died at 
Clarinda in 1877. In 1865, at Hawleyville, Edwin Hen- 
shaw of Clarinda married Hannah Hinman, one of the 
two little girls whose portraits appear as a frontispiece 
to this volume. In 1872, after Hannah's death, Edwin 
Henshaw married Hellen Hinman, the other little girl 
in the frontispiece, and they lived in Des Moines. 
Josephine had married Joseph Lyford in 1855 and re- 
mained in Illinois. Charlotte probably died young. 
Charles S. Hinman, to whom one of the letters in the 
series was written is listed in both the 1860 and 1870 
Censuses as a farmer at Hawleyville; later he lived in 

Clarinda. His son, Roj^al G. Hinman, to whom the 
letters were given, moved to Omaha, where he lived 
from 1897 to 1936. 

Only the years of Hinman's "view of the Eliphent" 
interest us, however, and the records of his great ad- 
venture are adequate. The journal, a manuscript of 
fifty pages, comprises a day-by-day account of miles 
traveled, scenery observed, the character of the water 
and grass available, the weather, etc. It is, for the most 
part, an impersonal record. The series of ten letters 
printed here is a good, personal record of an 1849 over- 
land trip. The record is one of neither insuperable ob- 
stacles nor thrilling moments of danger; it is simply an 
account of how most of the thirty thousand emigrants 
traveled from the Mississippi to California during the 
summer of 1849. The tale is well told, even though 
Hinman's spelling and punctuation are erratic. I have 
retained both the original spellings and the strange 
capitalizations of words, but because the punctuation is 
so baflfling in many places, I have re-punctuated the 
entire series of letters. A few duplicated words have 
been omitted; several words or parts of words (those 
which appear between square brackets) have been sup- 
plied. They are missing from the letters either because 
the writer neglected to write them out or because they 
were torn from the paper when the wax wafer which 
sealed the letter was broken. Footnotes have been kept 
to a minimum, since almost everything in the letters 
is self explanatory. 

All of the letters except the third are addressed to 
Mrs. Sarah G. Hinman, Groveland, Tazewell County, 
Illinois. The address leaf with postal markings is present 

in each case except one. The third letter is addressed to 
the writer's son, Charles S. Hinman. 

Mr. Graff's advice and encouragement were invalu- 
able in the preparation of this introduction and the 
notes for the text. To all those generous friends who 
found answers to questions go the warmest thanks of 
the editor, 

CoLTON Storm 

St Joseph, May S**!, 1849. 

Dear Sarah: 

I received yours yesterday, by Hughs,^ and was much 
Gratifyed to learn that you all are in so Good Health. 
I commence a letter to day because I have a little spare 
Time. Yesterday we was verry Buisey packing Flour, 
Cleaning up &c. Our Bacon has not come yet. It will 
in a day or two; then we shall have a muss^ again, and 
get across the River as soon as posable as the Feed for 
Oxen is better and we are less liable to sickness on the 
other side. There is some colera^ and Small Pox here. 
I do not Fear it however. I go wherever duty or Buisness 
calls me. Hughes had an Attack of Cholera on the Boat, 
but has almost recovered. Our mode of Life will make 
him Hearty. Crandall of Peoria lost one of his men of 
Cholera by the name of Kingsley. Another Boat that 
came in to this port at the same time they did lost 
Eleven men from St Louis up with the same dissease. 

You wish to know how I enjoy myself. Just imagine 
yourself in my situation and under the same circum- 
stances, and your Immagination will answer [the] Ques- 
tion. We have had some disagreeable wether, some bad 
Roads and Weary Limbs since we left, but not any 
thing to what we expect too. I have been into but 3 
Houses except Burtons^ since I left. I am getting used 
to the Lin^ Boards for Fethers. My shoulders and hip 

Bones complained a little at first, but I have slept on 
nothing but the Ground or boards with one Blanket 
under me since I left. I should be glad to see you all, 
but my stakes are set for Two Years. I think I fully 
realize my situation. I know that my path is, and will 
be, surrounded with dangers, But I do not fear to Die, 
and if it is the will of Providence that I shall not return, 
I hope I shall cheerfully submit. 

Chum^ is Quite a Favorite. I heard the Sunday I went 
to Peoria that a Capias' was out for me, but I staid til 
Monday 10 oclock and heard no more of it and saw no 
more of Chums Claimants. I Concluded that Barns had 
turned his attention to Hughes and since Hughes ar- 
rival I find it was the case. But I was a little fearful I 
should meet Him at Canton. I got to Canton just at 
Night and staid til next morning. 

It has just commenced Raining (9 oclock) I think for 
all day. If it continues I may fill this sheet; if I do I will 
write again before I leave. A few Lines from Mr 
Breden in yours was verry acceptable, but I am sorry 
if my comeing away on Sunday Causes Him diffculty. 
And as for Walker and others of his stamp, I care as 
little for them as I do for Barns, and although I firmly 
believe the Prayers of the Righteous availeth much, I 
as firmly believe the Five dollars H. Hancock gave me 
will avail me more in going throug my Journey than 
the Prayers of Walker and the whole Cabinet on Dea- 
con St would for two Years. Give my Respects to 
Breden and Wife and all others that you know I do 

Hughes sayes my second Girl expects a Pony. I shall 
bring them all something Fine if they are Good and 


try to help their Mother. I will leave it to your discre- 
tion to send to school or not, if you think it right under 
the circumstances and feel Able to send I have no ob- 
jection. Your Letter by Hughes is all I have received 
since I left Home, but I thought some others would 
write. Gay promised He would. 

Jackman^ and Horrace^ are in good Health and have 
got another Partner. The OBrien^° Boys stand the Trip 
so far well. Jackman and I will subscribe for the St 
Joseph Gazette for six months. One of the Editors is 
going across the Plains this Spring and will Report back 
and we think that we can not spend 50*=** each that will 
gratify our Families more than by sending them the 
Paper. We will send it to Sam but you will be Entitleed 
to one half of it. 

As near as I can Judge from the information I can 
get there will be about 50,000^^ People attempt to cross 
the Plains this season. There is 12 crossing places on 
the Missouri. I think about 1400 Teams will cross at 
this Place; about 500 have crossed allredy. I think 
about one M of those who start to go through will back 
out. A great many are doing so now, and about \i will 
Die. They deserve too before they start and some of 
them are dying. A large majority of the Californians 
are desperate Fellows and they practice most all kinds 
of crime, and of course they will, in many instances, pay 
the Penalty before they get through. 

We have been as regular in our Habits as circum- 
stances would allow. [We] are generly in Bed about 8 
oclock. I weighed the day I left Peoria 135 lbs. I stept 
on the scales when I got here and weighed almost 141 
making a gain of nearly 6 lbs in 4 weeks. I lay it to the 


good cakes my Female Friends furnished me with. 
Shall not forget them when I get to the Gold dust. The 
cakes lasted nearly 3 weeks. We had just got out of 
Flour and Hams as Hughes come. You can judge of our 
Appetite when you think of 3 of us Eating in 4 weeks 
100 lbs Flour, 100 lbs Hams, Bacon, and Beef, with 
what Eggs and Potatoes we wanted, the cakes you saw, 
and a Bag full Mrs OBrien sent. But our Labor and 
Fatigue have been some. We missed it in sending by 
Water. There is 3 steam mills here. Flour four dollars 
the Barrel, Bacon smoked four dollars pr-hundred 
cheaper than we bought at Home, and more things than 
we had Dreamed of, and as cheap as Hughs bought in 
St Louis. 

We shall try to get across the river this week, but 
shall not make a final start short of a week or 10 days. 
It is about 60 miles of Timber and Prairie to the Plains 
and they are 13 or 1400 miles across, and then about 7 or 
800 miles through the Mountains. The 357 miles we 
have come we consider but a small beginning. I shall 
continue my Travels to Charly, evry opertunity, and 
if I should not Live to return, He may not be sorry if 
He keeps them. Tel Damy I shall not forget Her Kind- 
ness. I hope your Letter will come before I start. I 
think if you write by the 1^* July, if I get through at all, 
it will be as soon as the Letter will. 

I[t] is about clearing off though & we will have a 
shower towards Night. It is now about Noon. I am 
writing on one of Crandalls stoves [which] we brought 
to our camp for Him Yesterday. His Teams have not 
come in yet; [he] is looking for them to day. About 100 
Teams at the Ferry all the time. As soon as one is gone 


his place is filled. 2 Boats running take across 40 Teams 
in 12 hours and they run all Night. I have to close. Will 
write again. Promised Charley^ ^ to give a description 
of a chiefs dress but [not] now. 

I shall go or send to Town to day and will have this 
on the way. Have not Time to look it over. Guess, 
when you find a mistake. 

I am much gratifyed with the Childrens Gifts. Shall 
keep them. Ben sayes he is going down Town. I tel him 
hold on and I will send this by him, and he is waiting. 

Your's only 

C. G. Hinman 

The most that Troubled me on the Road was the 
Fear of Bad news from Home, when I would get here. 
I Feared for Your Health. 

Think every Night of a thousand things to write, but 
forget them now. But may you be Blessed and pre- 
served til I return is the Wish of Your affectionate 

C. G. Hinman 

St. Joseph, May 8*^ 1849. 

Dear Wife: 

I learned from Mr Hains last night that you was well 
the 25*^ April. He received a Letter from his Wife. 
Haines and Crandall and all my acquaintance are 
receiving Letters from their friends and Families, but 
the one Hughes brought is all I have received since I 
left Home. As St Joseph is the last place that I can 


receive Letters for many months I did think some of my 
Friends (if not my Family) would write to me, but I 
have been to the office every other day and as often 
am disapointed and I can not but co[n]clude where 
there is so much indifference about writing there must 
be as much about hearing from me. 

Where I shall be, or on what Route, when you receive 
this God only knows. The Pioneers^^ are holding a meet- 
ing now at 2 oclock on a mound near the River. Some 
are for going the Santa Fe Route (and I am convinced, 
in view of the Great numbers that have gone the Route 
we are on) that the Santa Fe is the route we ought to 
take, but Hughes sayes he will not go that route. He 
wants to back out but wants us to pay him the money 
down. We have offered him our Notes with Interest, 
but he will not take them. He pours down cholera 
drops, camphor, Laudnum, Brandy, or something all 
the time, which would make any of us sick, and my 
opinion is he will not Live to get through if he attempts 
it, but he will not attempt it. He only wants an excuse, 
and if we go the Santa Fe route it will be an excuse. 
He was so Frigtened he staid in St Louis only long 
enough to buy our Sugar, Coffee, and Rice. He left 
the Bacon with one man, gave money to another to buy 
Sea Bread, to another to buy soap and candles, and 
what little Freight he brought with him is all we have 
received. We shall wait one day more and if they dont 
come we shall buy here and go on and loose them. From 
what Garrett and Crandall of Peoria told me he has 
not the Nerve to stand the Journey and perils. [He] 
cried all one day on the Boat for Fear he should die. 

We are about the 20*^ Team from the Ferry; yester- 


day morning the 70*^. We crowd up as fast as [we] can. 
300 Teams [are] waiting to get over. 

A Boat was to leave for St Louis about sun down and 
as Holland of Washington^" had Freight below, he said 
he would go down and see about it and ours. But just 
as the Boat was leaving, he came and told me he could 
not go and I must go. I had but just time to snatch up 
my coat and get on board before she left. 65 miles to 
Weston^^ by Water, 30 by Land. Got in there the next 
morning at 8 oclock and found our Bacon and Sea 
Bread was shipt the night before. And now to get back. 
The Stage had left and but one Boat in, and she had 
lost over 40 passengers with the cholera since she left 
St Louis. She was crowded full and I thought I would 
take the Land Route. Started on foot at 9 oclock and 
got to St Joes at Vi past 5 with confident expectation 
of finding a Letter as it was the day for the mail, but 
I was doomed to be dissapointed, and I will not 
attempt to paint to You my feelings or how much I 
felt hurt that I must go from here and not be noticeed 
by a single one that I left behind. 

I found my mess across the River and 6 miles out, a 
good dayes walk for me. Crandall, Hains and others in 
No 32 have withdrawn from the pioneers and started 
for Santa Fe. Was sorry to part with Hains. Not likely 
I see him again unless it be in Illinois. Hughes has laid 
in the Tent all day while we have been packing our 
Loading. He has mixed the Bread for us once only, and 
when we travel rides in the waggon. What we shall do 
with him I dont know. 

It [is] now nearly Night. Ben^^ is going to St Joes for 
a few thing[s] and I can send this in by him. To morrow 




Address leaf of Hinman's letter 
dated from Fort Childs, May 27, 
18U9, showing postal markings. 


we start again, and before another Eastern mail gets 
[here] I shall be far beyond the reach of it. The ballan[ce] 
of the pioneers are here and will Travel to gether. I am 
writing on a Barrel head and it [is] rough and uneaven. 
Dont know as you [will] be able to make out what I 
write. I think I shall occasionally write to Charley, but 
when I write with the expectation of getting an answer 
it will be to some one that I think will answer it. We 
have had a hard dayes work and I cant write as much 
as I would be glad to. Ben is ready to go and I must 
stop, and it may be I have censured you to much 
allready for not writing, but you should immagine 
yourself in my circumstances and think whether you 
would like to hear from your family. I send my respects 
to all and Love to Yourself and Children. 

Cha^. G. Hinman 

Fort Childs,!' May 27*^ 1849. 

Dear Son: 

I have had opertunities to send Letters but no time 
to write them. Until we left St Joes we was verry buisey 
prepareing to leave and settleing with Hughes &c. We 
gave Hughes our Notes with Interest payable when we 
return, allowed him for all he said he had paid, though 
he had no receipts to show that he had paid any thing, 
5 dollars he said he gave to Philips^ ^ to buy candles and 
soap with, but we have not seen Philips, candles, nor 
soap, but we allowed it, and then we gave 3 dollars to 
have him carried back to St Joes and glad to get him 
ofiF our hands so. I get along with Ben and Jesse first 


rate. They are willing to bear their proportion of all 
the burthens and that is all I ask. 

We have had good health the most of the time since 
I wrote, but there has been many Deaths in some of 
the Companies, mostly of cholery. Some 6 or 8 have 
shot them selves pulling their Guns from their waggons. 
Our Company dont allow of Guns or Pistols to be 
carried in the waggons with the caps on. We have 20 
Waggons and 60 men in our company. We generly 
start in the morning at 6 oclock, travel til 11, stop 13^ 
hours, then travel til from 5 to 6. We drive our waggons 
at night in a circle leaving a hollow of about 5 rods 
in diametar. The forward team drives up, then the next 
with the team in side the forward waggon, and far 
enough ahead to fasten the tung to the hind wheel, 
and so on with the train, which leaves the Oxen en- 
closed, and in case of an attack from the Indians, we 
can soon form an enclosure for our Oxen, and all we 
will have to do will be to defend our selves. As soon as 
the CurrilP^ is formed we on yoke the oxen and 4 men 
drive them out of an opening (left for the purpose) 
between the forward and hind waggons. They herd 
them out til dark, when they are drove in and tied to 
stakes drove in the ground. The stakes commence 8 
feet from each waggon and run towards the centre of 
the ring. By haveing the oxen a little distance from 
the waggons, it gives us room to Fight with our waggons 
between us and the enemy. Arfter the oxen are secureed 
4 men stand guard out side til 12 oclock, then 4 more 
are called who stand til 3, then they call for the Oxen 
to be loosed and each mess have to get up and untie 
their oxen. Then 4 men drive them out to feed til 6, 


when they are drove in and yoked. It takes 16 to herd 
and guard each day, and we drive about 20 miles, 
leaving but little time to play. If I had a good Horse 
and owned the whole outfit and was released from the 
burthens of the Journey, I should enjoy it much, and 
as it is I enjoy it. There is something exciting all the 
time. The first 2 dayes arfter we left the missourie 
River we saw a few Indians. There is a Govonment 
Agent lives 30 miles from St Joes, also a Catholic mis- 
sion, about M dozen houses in all. 2° There we saw the 
last Indians selling moccasins to Emigrants. They 
looked filthy, had on Blankets that were fastened tight 
round their throat an[d] come down to their ancles 
and moccasins. 

The most Beautiful country I ever saw is up the 
little Blue River. It is nearly level, dry, and the soil 
good. The stream is about 60 ft wide and 6 deep, runs 
swift, and has a small strip of timber, Gotten wood, 
willow and occasionally a small cluster of ^Miite Oak. 
I saw no place where it over flows, and it is full of 
Gatfish. We [cjrossed the wright fork of it. We got to 
the Piatt River Friday noon and to where we now are 
yesterday noon and shall not leave til to morrow 
[(]monday). We struck the Piatt 20 miles below the 
head of Grand Island and 12 below the Fort. The 
Island is 52 miles long and about 2 wide and the most 
of it is timbered with Gottenwood and Elm. The Fort 
is about 1 mile from our camp in plain sight. I Ha[ve] 
not been to it, but am told there is 8 or 10 Houses, 
Store, sm[all] Shop &c. The mail is carried from here 
to the States every month. 

We are in the Pawnee Gountry but most of them 


have gone south a Hunting, as it is too early for the 
Buffalo to come north. We occasionally see an Antelope 
and am told when we get a week further ahead wee 
will find Buffalo. There is no Timber this side the Piatt 
for 90 miles above. We are cooking anough to last us 
and shall take along anough [wood] to boil our coffee 
with. By driving a little from the road we have found 
wood anough for [our] purposes. It is 280 miles from 
here to St Joes and we have not passed through 5 rods 
of timber in all since we left the timber on the missourie 
River. Last 2 weeks have been so cold, we have worn 
over coats. We have been running North a good deal 
and up hill which accounts, I suppose, for the cold 
wether. The Piatt is the Swiftest running stream I have 
seen and is thick with sand. It is high now, runs over 
in many places, but the water runs in again soon and 
makes little Island [s]. The Banks in the highest places 
I have seen is not above 2M ft above the water. The 
bottom as far as we have come is about 6 miles wide, 
and so level you can see a man anywhere on it. Should 
the River rise 3 ft higher it would overflow the whole 
Bottom. The Bluff is nothing, round sand Hills and 
but little higher than the bottom. The River above the 
Island is said to be /^ of a mile wide, and from what I 
hear I should judge it runs about as swift as Roes 

About 3000 Teams have passed the Fort.^^ About 500 
are a few miles above, recruiting their Teams which 
have run down from hard driving and poor feed. Our 
Team and Waggon is as good as the best we see and 
the Team is improoving, but we bought meal and have 
fed them nearly all the way. The Quarter marster— at 


the Fort saves if we dont hurry too fast our Teams 
will go through, and 5 Teams is anought to protect 
themselves against the Indians. 

I shall keep the Presents you and the rest sent me. 
Should be glad to here from you. I have received but 
one Letter since I left home and that one Hughes 
brought. Give my Love to your Mother and Sisters, be 
a good Boy and write by the first of July to your 

Affectionate Father 
C. G. Hinman 

There is an Eterrnal wind in this country so strong 
we had to pack away our Hats and wear our caps. If a 
Hat blows off it [is] useless to go arfter it unless you 
are on a fleet Horse. 

The next Fort is about 340 miles from here and is 
Fort Laramie. I shall write from there and perhaps 

The mule Teams find they cant get through with 
their large waggons and are selling out and packing 
their mules. Waggons that cost 125 dollars are selling 
for 20 and 30 dollars, Bacon one cent a pound, Lead 
one cent a bar, other things in proportion. 

June 7*^ 1849. 

Dear Wife: 

A Mail carrier from the Salt Lake has just stopt at 
our camp, and offers to wait half an hour for one dollar 
and fifty cents and six of us have agreeed to pay it. He 
will take this as far as St Josephs Mo. Our folks are 


all well. Jackman is well. We are within 170 miles of 
Fort Laramie, It is a Beautiful day and we have stopt 
to clean up, air our loading, &c. We are a few rods from 
the right fork of Grand River on the south side and 
50 miles above the Junction with the South fork. We 
have got along verry well [and] stand the hardships of 
the Trip about as well as I expected to. The Wether 
has been verry cold especially at nights. My time is 
nearly up but I will keep on til hee sayes stop. I hope 
you and the children will not forget the Relationship 
we bear each other, and that you may prosper til I 
return is my Prayer. 

I suppose we are behind about 3000 Teams. How we 
will get through the mountains we cant Guess, and 
how soon I will have another opertunity of writing I 
dont know but will improve the first. Our Team looks 
well. The Gnats have troubleed us some. They bit 
Jesse so his Face and head was much swolen and he 
could not do any thing for a day or two, but he [is] 
nearly well. 

We have a pleanty of Buffalo, Dear, and Antelope 
and some exciting races after them. Tuesday last, while 
eating dinner, we saw 4 Buffalo crossing the River 
2 miles below. We gave chase and killed them all. No 
timber in this country except a few cottenwoods and 
Willows on the Island, which we have to wade for. 
Some of our company have used Buffalo chips for fuel 
but we have not been compelled to and I dont think 
we will. The valley of the Piatt is Beautiful, from 4 to 8 
miles wide, and the atmosphere is so clear a man 10 
miles off looks almost as large as life. 

I should be glad to see you all, but would not return 


with out going through for the value of Groveland. 
The carrier is waiting. Yours with Affection. Hope you 

C. G. Hinman 

Fort Laramie, June 17^^, 1849. 

Dear Wife: 

I have an opertunity of sending you a Letter by 
paying 25*^** if the fellow dont lie. I sent you one on 
the 7^^ but you may not get it. We have got along as 
well as I expected to. Have turned our Waggon over 
once and broke 3 bows, 2 stakes and my Rifle. It was 
close by an Indian Traders and Black smith shop, and 
it hapened one of our company was taken with the 
cholera at the same time, which caused us to camp, 
and during the arfternoon we had every thing in repair. 
The man Died about 10 oclock the same night (last 
Thursday). W^e buried him at 8 oclock the next morning 
with as much decency as if he had been in the States, 
put a sand stone up with his name. Age, &c cut on it, 
and left him. He was a young man and left a Wife and 
one child in Indian Tow^n, 111. His name was Dunn. 
You will probbably hear exagerated accounts of cholera 
on our route. It is true it is sweeping off many, but I 
think not any more than it would from the same 
number if they were at home. Benj™., Jesse, Horrace, 
Jackman, and all of us are a little unwell occasionally, 
but we are as prudent as we well can be. We are 
alwayes up at 3 oclock in the morning and generly go 


to Bed from 9 to 10, which leaves us but 6 hours rest, 
and out of that we have to stand our proportion of 

7 Teams have withdrawn from our Company leaving 
but 15 Teams and 46 men, and I wish one half of them 
would withdraw as the larger the Train, the more time 
it consumes in starting, stopping, crossing Streams, &c. 
Fort Laramie is Ij^ miles above the junction of the 
Laramie and Platte Rivers. We are camped just below 
the Fort. Forded Laramie River, a swift stream 200 ft 
wide and SH deep, had to put blocks under the Bodies 
and on the Bowlsters 6 inches to raise the Bodies above 
the water. Got across at 12 oclk and shall stay here til 
morning when we shall moove on a few miles. We dont 
camp two nights on the same ground. I shall write 
again as soon as I have an opertunity of sending it. 

Our company have not decided whether they will go 
by Fort Hall or through the Mormon settlement at 
Salt Lake. The largest crowd go the latter route, but 
we fear we shall sufiFer for Grass on that route. It is said 
there never was such [a] Grass season here before, nor 
such a cold, wet one. Our cattle are in good condition. 
WTien the sun shines in the middle of the day, we are 
more comfortable with our coats off, but we need them 
on at night and often two. We sleep in our clothes, 
except our Hats, Coats, and Boots, and under two 
quilts. The water up the Platte is not good. We occa- 
sionally find a good spring, but usually use the water 
from the Platte or dig a hole from 2 to 4 ft deep and 
water will run in shortly. Our Roads have been the best 
(for the length), I suppose, that can be found in the 
United States, but we are told we will pay for it ahead. 


Chum keeps fat. I have seen a great many dead Dogs 
by the way, and am told that but few live to travel over 
600 miles, but I dont allow Chum to run about. [I] tie 
him under the Waggon every night, and I think he will 
stand it through. We Washed last night, thinking we 
might want to write to day. Brought our Clothes along 
wet, and have them out drying, and I must attend to 
them soon. Cannot write as much as I would for lack of 
time. I keep a Journal of each dayes travel, the wether 
andc, but cant write to Charley on account of my time 
being ocupied and I dont know whether he was pleased 
with what I did write. I should like to hear from you 
all, but do not expect to in a good while, if ever, but 
dont see why I may not and have good Luck in every 
thing, for I have seen all the new Moons over my right 
shoulder, but my mind is made up to take what comes 
with the best grace I can. 

One of our men (a Universal minister) has just 
returned from the Fort. Saw a Trader there who sayes 
if we keep mooving and loose no time, we can get 
throug[h] without diflSculty, but the last of the Emi- 
grants must suffer for want of Grass and Water, and 
I fear the last end of the Train will suffer much from 
sickness. Our man that died walked 8 miles and had 
15 operations of the Bowels before he took medicine, 
and then it was too late and he Liveed but 12 hours 
after he made his situation known. He has a Brother 
and Uncle in our company. 

I dont fear for any of You except from the cholera, 
but I fear that will thin the ranks of Illinoians more 
than the Gold Fever has. It is a satisfaction to me to 
know that You have Phvsitions convenient. We have 


one in our company. I have no more time now. Tel 
my Friends [they are in] my thoughts dayly. 

Ever Yours 

C. G. Hinman 

City of the Lakes, July 20*^, 1849. 

Dear Sarah: 

I got to this place yesterday at 4 oclock, found the 
mail is to start for the States at 12 to day, and I will 
write you as much as [I] can get time to. You will 
wonder why we took this route, if I dont tel you. When 
we commenced crossing the Black hills we found the 
Grass verry scarce and our Oxen began to fail. Up the 
Platte and the Sweet water, the Bottoms are narrow 
and the Grass was ate off close to the ground. Then, 
over the South pass, 4 dayes travel to Paciffic Spring 
3 miles over, there was scarcely any Grass at all, thence 
to little Sandy River 23 miles no water and but little 
Grass. Here we saw a man just from Big Sandy 12 
miles. He said there was no Grass there. From Big 
Sandy to Green River is 35 miles without water or 

We had ascertained that the Mormons had sent out 
100 teams to the mines this Spring and was told that 
the Grass was good on this route, and as the Roads 
forke here (at little Sandy) we determined to take this 
route, but could not prevail on the whole Company to 
do so. Some were afraid the Mormons were not teling 
the truth. Some thought there would be more danger 


from the Indians, and they all reminded me of a man 
in Iowa, when teling us of a better and shorter road, 
"I dont suppose" (sayes he) **you will take it, for where 
the first Californian went, they will all follow [even] 
if he went to the Devil." And so it is, the great crowd 
all follow each other up and try to get ahead, and in so 
doing they are killing their Oxen by hundreds. 

Some of our company that started with 4 good Yoke 
of Oxen have but two yoke left, and some have left 
their waggons and hiched their teams together. We 
have taken all the care of our teams we could and have 
not lost any of them yet, [but we] have sold some Bacon 
and thrown off our Side Boxes, Partitions, extra bolts, 
&c. We have seen a great deal of Provision thrown 
away, a great many dead Oxen, and a good deal of 
sickness. Our health has been good generly. Jesse was 
sick 8 or 10 dayes over the Black hills and up the 
Platte. We thought for 2 or 3 dayes we would loose 
him but we kept the cholera off and he is well now. 

There was a couple of men from neare Chicago with 
one team, Holland Wood, Tucker and Collins from 
Washington with another, Jackman and Horrace, and 
our Team, making 4 Teams is all that withdrew from 
the Company, and we left 19 Teams with the Boat. 
They agreed to sell the Boat at Green River and save 
our proportion of the avails of it. A man and Son from 
Missourie by the name of Abbot (Brother in Law to 
Elder Phelps) has joined us on the Road. 

We have got just about two thirds of the way to the 
Diggings from home, have come 16 hundred miles and 
750 to go. We strike the Fort Hall road 120 miles beyond 
the Fort. By taking this route we get along 400 miles. 


go no further and get good Grass. We think we shall 
get on to the Big road with our Teams so well recruited 
that we can get through without much loss. But the 
roads are some. Some Hills 12 miles up and 18 down. 
Day before yesterday, we had to lock both hind wheels 
and hich 3 Yoke of Oxen to the hind Axletree to hold 
the waggon back for M of a mile, and yester we was 
over an hour comeing one mile up a Hill. Chum keeps 
fat but cant stand it long without water, but I shall 
provide for him. We see Indians only about every 400 
miles; they dare not show themselves. 

The 4th we was in the South Pass, spent half the day 
in burning Powder, getting the best dinner we could, 
drinking Ice and snow water, and some mixed some- 
thing else with it. In the morning we found Ice in our 
Buckets nearly ^ inch thick, and the 5th (the day we 
went over the Pass) we went over snow banks 12 feet 
deep. Have seen large quantities of snow on the moun- 
tains every day for a month and often have it to mix 
with our water at Noon. I keep on two shirts, drawers, 
vest, and pants all the time, but take off my coat in the 
middle of the day and at Night when I go to bed. 
Change shirts every week and once in 2 or 3 weeks have 
on now the drawers Mrs Hancock gave me. Shall give 
Her a good dayes work if I live to get to the mines. 
Boots and Pants dont last long on this route, but the 
rest of our clothing wear out slow. 

Cant give you a Journal of our Travels now but I 
keep one for every day.^^ Will read it to You in the 
long winter evenings when I get back. I think we have 
had a pretty fair view of the Eliphent, but from ac- 
counts expect to get a much nearer sight when we climb 


the Serra Nevada Mountains, but we shall then be near 
the end of our Journey. 

I want you to write all the particulars about how you 
get along, about Aunt Ruths Family, about Hughes, 
and all the changes that have and are taking place 
among the Neighbours. I dont expect to go to the City 
of San Francisco this fall. The mines are from 2 to 3 
hundred miles this side. But direct your Letters there 
and I can have them forwarded to the Office nearest 
to us. I have not heard from Home since I left St Joes. 
I would like to verry much and yet I dread to on 
account of the cholera and other sickness. I shall not 
have another opertunity that [I] know of writing til I 
get through. 

This City is at the South end of Salt Lake, is laid 
off verry Pretty, about 4 miles square, and has about 
7000 Inhabitants. Houses mostly small, some built of 
mud, some of Logs, and some of unburnt Brick. They 
are building a verry nice Council House of stone. I 
went directly to the Post Office where I enquired for. 
and was directed to, the old Man Riches. He knew me 
but had forgot my name. Staid with him an hour and 
agreed to call again before I leave Town which will be 
to morrow morning. We are now at the uper end of 
Town and have got 2 Boys to herd our cattle at 2 
cents a head. 

This is a Beautiful vally surrounded with mountains, 
some of them covered with snow, and yet it [is] verry 
warm here. Snow falls from 6 to 18 inches here. The 
Lake has two large mountains in it. The Mormons have 
large herds of cattle on the neares[t]. The water is not 
swimming deep to the first, but [it] is many miles. No 


Fish, but in the Utah Lake and the out let (or River 
Jordan the Mormons call it) is a pleanty of Fish. The 
out let is a large stream and runs 13^ miles West of the 
city. Many large streams empty their waters with a 
perfect rush into Salt Lake which has no out let. 

Tel Rulandus I have within a few dayes caught lots 
of Trout. 

Tel John Thomas Dobson is at Council Bluffs, Mo. 

Our Labours are not so hard as they are constant. 
A good place for a lazy man without a Horse. He must 
root. Pig, or die. 

Readings Diggins,^^ Oct 7'\ 1849. 

Dear Wife: 

I take the first opertunity to let you know of my safe 
arrival here and all the pioneer company (since I last 
wrote) except Mr Jackman who Died August 3P* of 
what He supposed to be Irrecipalis, but I have learned 
since that it was the Scurvy. His feet and legs com- 
menced swelling and turning purple til they got so 
large and sore that (for the last four weeks) he was 
oblieged to ride in the Waggon, and the last week we 
had such poor water and [it] so affected his Bowels that 
he could not recover. Doct Greenman of Indian Town, 
111.25 attended on him. A short time before he Died he 
was walking about. I had been out nearly all day a 
Hunting, had killed an Antelope, and stept to his 
waggon to see if he would have a piece. He said he did 
not know whether [he] could eat any or not. He felt 


faint. I gave Horrace some and told him to make some 
Broth. Soon after I heard Jackman call Horrace and I 
stept to him. He said he felt cold and thought he should 
have a chill. Horrace got into the Waggon and covered 
him up. In about ten minutes Horrace called to me and 
said he believed Jackman was Dead. I told him to run 
for the Doctor (who was but a few rods off) and we 
took him from the waggon immediately but could not 
save him. This was about a half hour before the sun 
went down. 

We pitched our Tent over him, Shaved, washed, and 
Dressed him for the Grave the same night. The next 
day we lay by, made a Box of his and our waggon decks 
and partitions and Buried him in it in the middle of the 
Road at one oclock.^^We put all his Old Clothes on top 
of the Box. Every thing else belonging to him Horrace 
brought through and we shall see that they are dis- 
posed of to the best advantage, and Horrace will be- 
come accountable for the amount they bring. I made 
a little sketch of the road in my Journal while others 
were digging the Grave and took the distances from the 
Spring and ledge of Rock and sutch notes that I can 
describe the place so a stranger can find it.^^ 

We come on to the main road from Salt Lake behind 
every pioneer Team, but our Teams had so well re- 
cruited that we soon passed them and but one of the 
company got to the mines in advance of us, and he 
came by Salt Lake. Only about one half the Oxen and 
Waggons of our Company got through. Some left their 
waggons and doubleed Teams. Others were oblieged to 
leave their all except what they could pack on their 
backs. And yet ours is considered a fortunate company 


in comparrison to the most of them. We traded two 
Yoke of Oxen for one at the Lake. AYe got a splendid 
Yoke of cattle, but the dust and heat killed one of them 
in three weeks. We bought another for $20 and got 
through with 4 Yoke in verry good condition. 

We left Marys River 230 miles down and took the 
California and Oregon road which is further but has 
less travel on it. We got to Lawsons^^ Settlement on the 
Sacrimento River Sept 25 and to Readings Diggins 
Sunday the 30^^, 70 miles above and 4 miles west of 
the River in a perfect Mountainous country. We are 
200 miles above Sacrimento City whis[ch] is at the 
head of navigation and tide water and is 200 miles 
above San Francisco. Last Spring it had but one house 
in it; now it has 10 thouson Inhabitants. 

We have nine of us in Company at present, Tucker. 
Holland Wood, and Cullen of Washington, Jackmans 
partner that he took in at St Joes, Benj and Jesse 
OBrien, Horrace and myself from Groveland.'^ We 
left Holland at Lawsons with 4 Yoke of ox[en] and 
2 waggons, put our provision in one waggon, and with 
the other 5 Yoke come here. Got here last Sunday [(]a 
week today). Monday morning 5 of us went 13^ miles 
down one of the 5 creeks in theese diggins and worked 
hard all day and got nothing. Tuesday we went again 
and got 6 dollars worth. Wednesday 7 of us went and 
left one at the camp and [got] $70, Thursday we raised 
$134, Friday 117, and yesterday 162 making in the 
first week near $500. It is verry hard work, and there 
is but few average an ounce a day. How long we shall 
stay here or where we shall go when we do leave, I 
know as little as you do. But you will direct your 


Letters to Sacrimento City, I sent an order to the P.M. 
by J. Hittle^" to forward all that is there up. Cullen 
and I start tomorrow for the City for a load of pro- 
vision. Shall not seal this til I get there. 

Chum had a hard time on a desert of 70 miles. He 
lay down to Die one night and howled for some time. 
I tried to coax him along but he would not get up. We 
had but l"^ miles further to go til we would find Water. 
I took about a pint (the last we had) and carried it 
back \}4 miles to him, which so revived him that he 
got along 7 miles further, when he lay down again. 
Howled and whined, but would not come along. I 
beged a pint of Water of Jackman for him which gave 
him strength to get through and he is now with Holland. 

Have just received an invitation to a Funeral at half 
past 4 oclock. They are of dayly occurrence. But the 
greatest distress is back on the road. We got through in 
advance of most of it. I dont think over 1000 Teams 
beat us through. The settleers of this Country are send- 
ing out two hundred thousand dolls worth of provision 
and cattle to the Emigrants on the Road. 

But few regard the Sabbath. Our company of 9 
Persons that I have named have agreed to not go into 
the mines to work on the Sabbath. Death for the 2d 
offence of Stealing here. 

Hope you will write often. I will answer anyone that 
will write. Have not heard from Home since I left 
St Joes. Uncertain how soon I can send another Letter 
down to the City. Here, Pork, Flour, Beans, and Sugar 
is one dollar pr Pound. 

Sacrimento City, Oct 18, '49. 
Dear Sarah: 

I got into this City of Tents and Canvass Houses this 
morning and the first man I met that I knew was our 
old Friend Thorp. He is here with his Family, Teaming 
and keeping a Boarding House. Told me where I could 
find his Tent and if I would stop with him my Fare 
should be verry cheap, but I have been running about 
all day to find where I can do the best in buying our 
provisions. Cullen is with me. We went to the post 
Office the first place arfter getting in but found nothing 
for us. There has been no mail here for two months 
and may not [be] for two to come. There is but little 
attention paid to the mails. I shall not, in all probbabil- 
ity, be here again til Spring, and I was in hopes of find- 
ing some Letters and papers here, but it seems if I am 
to know any thing that is transpireing at Home I will 
have to go there. 

I saw Thomas Briggs three dayes ago. He is going to 
the diggins with us. Rob* Briggs is here and sick. He 
will leave in a day or two for Home and kindly offers 
to deliver this to you. I wish I had earned something 
that I could spare to send You, but our load of 30 
Hundred will cost us over four Hundred dollars which 
is about all we have. We have found all we want to 
buy. Shall be able to get our load and leave here to 

A number of Pioneers have Died lately. Col May of 
Peoria Died here about 3 weekes ago. 

I would like very much to be in Groveland unob- 
served a few dayes to see how people manage things 
and what is said and done. I would like to know, too. 


how Our Children spend their time, especially Charley 
and Josephine. They are able to help their Mother a 
great deal and I hope they do. Charlotte, I suppose, 
learns as fast as any of her age, and beats them climbing 
fences. Trees, Houses, and wearing out clothes. Hellens 
black eyes, I hope, sparkle as bright as ever. I suppose 
she goes to school, and I suppose Hannah gets lone- 
some and wants to go to school too. I hope they will all 
be good Chillren and remember that it [is] for them that 
I stay in this unproductive, unhealthy and un Christian 

Briggs will (if you ask him) give you a better de- 
scription of the City, country, people, &c than I can in 
a Letter, and all I will say about it is that I would not 
give Tazewell County for all the Land I have seen this 
side the Missouri River, except the Gold region, and I 
will never recommend the over Land route to get here, 
for it is Death to many and the next thing to Death 
to all that come this route. I am told that the road from 
the Sink of Marys^^ over the mountains is blocked up 
with Snow, and that all the ballance of the Emigration 
will have to come the road that I come. If this be true, 
hundreds must perish. 

It is about 10 oclock at night. [We] are in the Waggon. 
Cullen has just finished his Letter and I must mine. 
Give my respects to all, and especially to my Cores- 
pondents. I intend to dig a little for each of the children 
if they are good and I have not forgot who else I 
promised to dig for. I have slept out many nights with 
but one Blanket and only my Boots for a pillow. 

Ever Yours 
C. G. Hinman 


I should like to receive a Letter from Doct Alexander 
Dodge, John, Walter, or any one that would take the 
trouble to write. 

California, Jan 16^^ 1850. 

Dear Sarah: 

Not haveing heard from Home since I left the States, 
I hardly know what to write, but a man from Napier- 
ville. 111. starts for Home to morrow, goes through 
Peoria, and takes Letters for fifty cents a piece, and I 
think it my duty to write. When I wrote last, CuUen 
and I was at Sacrimento City for a load of provision. 
We had got about one half the way back to the mines, 
when we received notice from our Company to wait til 
they come along as they had concluded to winter further 
South. W^e waited two weeks for them. At the same 
time the fall Rains came on and raised Sacrimento 
River so high they could neither cross it or get down 
with an Ox team. We, not expecting to see them again 
this winter, thought we would act for ourselves. We 
sold the Load for double the cost, returned to the City, 
bought a load, and went to the mines 50 miles east, 
borrowed a Tent to store them in, cut and hauled Logs 
for a cabin, and returned to [the] City for another load 
of provision, where we found the rest of our company. 
They had sold the Oxen, left the Waggon and dug out 
canoes, lashed them together, and brought our clothes 
and tools down in them. 


[Two] of them (Wood and McMahill[)] concluded to 
winter in the city, the rest (seven of us) bought another 
load of provision, took what clothes and Tools we need 
for the Winter, and started again for the Mines. 

We have built a cabin 50 mis from City within two 
miles of the South fork of the American River. ^^ Seven 
of us are in company in the provisions and all Live 
together. One brings the Water, three cut the wood, and 
three do the cooking. I am one of the cooks. Ben and 
Jesse OBrien are all the partners I have in digging. We 
have been to work here about a month and have dug 
about two hundred dollars worth a piece. We shall 
probbably stay here two or three months longer, when 
I think we shall go far into the mountains, where we 
hope (if the mountain Fever and Indians spare us) to 
make our pile and get Home in two years. But we have 
not decided for certain where we will go in the Spring. 
We can everage in the Summer about here and on the 
River only about one Oz of Gold per day which is worth 
here but sixteen dollars. We think it insufficient to pay, 
when we take every thing into account. Gold is being 
dug in this country all along from North to the South 
for nine hundred miles and where the richest portion is 
is not known. We may find a rich deposit and we may 
only make our liveing. We can make but little at 
present on account of the Rain which falls nearly 
every day. 

I suppose that within five miles of us are five thousand 
Inhabitants. I see many men every day, but form no 
acquaintances. I have not spoken with a Woman since 
I have been in the Country. I saw H. Kneeland in 
S. City. Said he expected his Daughter would spend 


the winter in Groveland. H. Tarbell sold the most of 
Jackmans things at the first mines we went to and 
while I was gone to the City. He sold them w^ithout 
leting any of our company know of it, and what there 
was or what they brought I dont know. 

I can give you no advice with regard to things at 
Home as I know not the state they are in. There is an 
indipendant mail line from here to Sanfrico.^^ I sent by 
it six weeks ago and it was to return in three weeks, 
but it has not come yet. I agreed to give 50 cents for 
each paper and 2[.00] for each Letter. News papers sell 
here at 1 dollar a piece. The water courses here have 
been verry high. The whole of Sacrimento City is 15 
feet under water. It is now nearly noon. It has been 
snowing all the morning but melts as fast as it falls. 
It has froze water a few nights 3^ inch thick. My health 
has been verry good the most of the time, but mining 
is the hardest and dirtiest work I have ever done, and 
yet it is pleasant in some respects and verry exciting. 
The Gold is found from the size of the smallest dust to 
pieces that weigh a number of pounds. Six and seven 
dollars is the largest I have found. I send you anough to 
show the color. 

Ever Yours 

C. G. Hinman 

It would be verry gratifying to me to get a Letter 
[from] you, but I see but little prospect of it. 

I hope Charly and the Girls will be good to their 
Mother til I get back. I would send them some gold 
if I had any way to do it. Give my respects to all and 
write me all the changes that have taken place. C.G.H. 


California, Feb 17'\ 1850. 
Dear Wife: 

Haveing an opertunity of sending a Letter to Peoria 
by a man going to Chicago, I think it my duty to write, 
although I get no Letters from you and have but little 
to write that will interest you. I have sent two and 
three times a week to Sacrimento and San Francisco 
for Letters and Papers, but am disapointed every time. 
Week before last, about thirty of us gave a man five 
dollars a piece to go expressly for our Letters and 
papers, but he brought no news from Groveland, and 
all the news we do get is from the Tribune and Herald 
of New York, and we have to pay one dollar a piece 
for them. The price of bringing Letters from the Bay up 
here is two dollars, papers fifty cents. 

We have had no Rain this month and I think we 
shall have no more til next fall. The snow fell to the 
depth of nine inches in January, but all was gone in 
three dayes. There has been none a few miles west of 
us and five miles East it stayes til June. About one half 
the Trees shed their leaves the forepart of Winter, but 
they are Budding out again. Wild Goose berries are in 
the Blow. This is a Beautiful pleasant Sabbath. We all 
have our Coats and Vests ofiF and it seems like Summer. 
People are leavenig [leaving] their Winter quarters, and 
are scattering all over the Country. 

We have not determined what we will do or where go. 
The snow will keep the streams up til June as it melts 
gradually on the mountains. I am in favor of going 
into the mountains til the strams get low, but it is 
considered unsafe to go in small companies and I do 
not know as we can get a company large anough to 


ensure success. That there is abundance of Gold in the 
mountains I have no doubt, but to find it and dig it is 
attended with much fatigue and some danger. We can 
average only from 8 to 12 dollars per day here, not 
anough to pay for the privations and fatigue we have 
to endure to obtain it. The most Ben, Jesse and I have 
dug in one day is 125 dolls. ^Ye may continue to make 
our Cabin our head quarters and work in the neighbour- 
hood a year longer. I am confident we would be more 
likely to enjoy good health to do so, but not so likely 
to make so much money, but I shall let you know as 
often as I can what we are doing. 

I give the man 50 cents to carry this to Peoria pre- 
fering to trust it with him to the mail. I lay the blame 
of my getting no Letters all to the mail. I can account 
for it in no other way, for I can hardly believe there 
is not one in Groveland that is willing to spend an hour 
in ^Titing to me. I would cheerfully pay 100 dolls for 
a Letter from Home. A mail will be here this week, but 
will it bring me any thing? I have been disapointed so 
much that I hardly dare hope. If I have an opertunity 
of sending by an acquaintance, I shall send you some 
money. I could spare 500 dolls now, but hardly dare 
send it by a stranger. I fear you will need some before 
I get Home. If you do, I would prefer to have you 
apply to Squire OBrien^^ than any one else as I am in 
company with his sons and if any thing should hapen 
to prevent my return, they will have charge of my 
Effects which, I hope, may be suflScient to pay all debts 
and help you some. 

I shall have abundance of clothing to last as long as 
I expect to stay here except Boots. I have had to buy 


two pair already (coarse ones) at 8 dolls a pair. We 
have liveed verry cheap this winter (in comparrison to 
Board) as we bought our provision in the City and 
hauled them with our own Team, except some fresh 
Beef which we pay 50 cents [a] pound for. Fresh Pork 
is 75 cents a pound. I think our provisions have not 
cost us more than one dollar and fifty cents a piece 
per-day, and we have liveed as well as they generly do 
at the boarding Houses in the mines. It is soon told 
what we live on, for it is only Flour, Pork and Beef, 
Beens, Rice, Sugar, Molasses, Vinegar, Coflfee and Tea, 
and dried Apples. We have had no greater Luxuries 
than theese for 10 months. There is more in the market, 
however. Eggs 8 dolls a dozen, Butter 1 doll & 50 cents 
a pound. Potatoes 50 cents a pound, Apples 25 cents 
a piece, milk 1 dollar per quart, all little dainties pro- 
portionably high in price, which will not allow of our 
indulging in them. 

I have lost Chum. I loaned him to Holland the first 
time I went to the City and when he went to the City, 
he lost him. I was verry sorry. He was so good a Guard 
he would not let any one come round in the night, nor 
an Indian in the day time. I still hope to find him. Give 
my respects to my Friends, if you know that I have 
any, and tel them they would confer a great favor by 
writing to me and direct to Sacrimento City. 

Love to yourself 

C. G. H. 

Tel the Children I should like to see them all verry 
much. I expect they will be much altered in appearance 
by the time I return. I hope you will be able to tel me 


they have been first rate Children. I keep all the 
presents they sent me, but find no market for their 
Jewelry or my Watches. How is Charlies Colt and 
old Ned.? 

I wish you to send the Children to School as much as 
you posably can. Write me about the Schools and 
every thing. 


Cha^ G. Hinman 



1 Hughes was a neighbor of Hinman's in Groveland. He 
later withdrew from the company. Neither the Journal nor 
the letters give Hughes' first name, nor, indeed, the first 
names of most of Hinman's associates. Where they are 
known, they will be mentioned. 

2 Mess. 

3 Cholera was widespread on the Plains during the summer 
of 1849 and was probably the cause of most deaths en 
route. Small pox appears to have been infrequent on the 

4 The only place Hinman mentions where he might have 
stayed overnight in a house was his brother's home near 
Canton, Illinois. Possibly his brother's name was Burton. 

5 Linden. 

6 Chum was a dog whose further adventures are described 
in later letters. 

7 A writ to arrest a named person. 

8 Jesse Jackman, also called Uncle Jesse, of Groveland. 

9 Horace Tarbell, of Groveland. 

10 Benjamin and Jesse O'Brien, sons of a Groveland neighbor 
later referred to as Squire O'Brien. 

11 Current estimates are that about 30,000 persons crossed 
the Plains to California in 1849. Another 500 went to 
Oregon. See Dale L, Morgan, Ed.: The Overland Diary of 
James L. Priichard . . . ([Denver] The Old West Publish- 
ing Company,' 1959), page 17. 

12 Charles S. Hinman, then aged fifteen, the Hinmans' eldest 


13 The emigrants who came from Groveland and the vicinity 
of Peoria called themselves the "Pioneers." Hinman had 
named his wagon the "Groveland Belle," while two other 
wagon names were "Star of Groveland" and "Grey Eagle 
of Peoria." 

14 Probably the town of Washington, Tazewell County, Illi- 
nois. Holland remained with Hinman all the way through 
to California. 

15 A village on the Missouri River downstream from St. 

16 Benjamin O'Brien. 

17 Fort Childs was the original name of the "new" Fort 
Kearny. "Old" Fort Kearny is now Nebraska City. The 
site of Fort Childs had been selected in the fall of the 
preceding year and when Hinman' s party passed it the 
fort was being constructed slowly. 

18 A merchant in St. Louis. 

19 Corral. 

20 This was the Kickapoo Agency near the present town of 
Powhattan, Brown County, Kansas. The mission had been 
established by Father Van Quickenborne in 1836 nearer 
Fort Leavenworth, but moved farther west with the Kick- 

21 According to a count kept at Fort Kearny and reported by 
Morgan (op.cit, pages 21-22), 300 wagons had passed by 
May 17 and 6,116 by June 24. 

22 Captain Stewart Van Vliet. 

23 This is the Journal in the Western History Department, 
The Public Library, Denver, Colorado. 

24 Reading's Diggings (which has now vanished) was near 
the present Douglas City, Trinity County, California. It 


was there that Major Pierson B. Reading, formerly an 
associate of John A. Sutter, made the first discovery of 
gold in the county on Clear Creek. 

25 Now Tiskilwa, Bureau County, Illinois. 

26 Burial in the road was a common practice of overland 
pioneers. It usually prevented discovery of the grave by 
either Indians or wolves. 

27 Hinman measured the distances, as he states, but there is 
no accompanying sketch in his Journal. 

28 A common contemporary spelling of Lassen. The settle- 
ment was in the Honey Lake Valley and was a popular 
halt on the trail. 

29 In his letter of January 16, 1850, Hinman mentions the 
name of the ninth associate, McMahill. Cullen, incidentally 
appears elsewhere as Collins. 

30 John Shertzer Hittell, journalist and author, was born in 
Pennsylvania, graduated from Miami University, and while 
living in Ottawa, Illinois, decided to join the 1849 gold 
rush. He spent the winter of 1849-50 at Reading's Diggings. 
By 1852 he was in California where his connection with the 
Alta California started him on a writing career. 

31 Sink of the Humboldt. Fremont named the river in 1848; 
previously it had been called Ogden's, Mary's, or St. 
Mary's River. 

32 Hinman was then camped between the present city of 
Folsom and Mormon Island on the South Fork of the 
American River. 

33 San Francisco. 

34 John O'Brien, one of the first settlers of Groveland. O'Brien's 
sons Jesse and Benjamin were among Hinman's com- 


Two hundred copies 
printed for private distribution 


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