The lure of gold brought Walter Crow of Pike County,
Missouri and two of his seven sons, Lewis J. and
Clinton P., along with negroes Sam and Marian to
California in 1849. Walter returned to Missouri
by way of the Isthmus of Panama in late 1849. In 1850, Walter,
along with sons William, Benjamin, James and Alfred M. drove over
700 head of cattle across the plains to California. On the return
trip to Missouri in 1849, Walter purchased land, adding to other
holdings he had (see Missouri page). He may have intended to
return to and stay in Missouri after the cattle drive.
It was not to be. Walter died 17 Oct 1850 near
Marysville, shortly after the drive entered California. He is
reportedly buried at Verona, California near the confluence of the
Sacramento and Feather Rivers
California Trail Herd written by
Cyrus Loveland and Richard Dillon gives a first-hand account of the
cattle drive taken from Loveland's diary. Talisman Press Los
Gatos, California. The book is out-of-print. It was limited to 750
copies. It is available at California State Library, Sacramento,
David Dary's book, Cowboy Culture also gives an accounting of the
by David Dary
As early as the spring of 1850, enterprising men began trailing cattle
from Missouri over this route to take advantage of the high prices being
paid for beef in the California gold region. Perhaps the first man
to take a large herd of more than five hundred cattle to California from
Missouri was Walter Crow, who first went to California in 1849, and
decided to settle in the rich San Joaquin Valley. But first he
returned to Missouri to obtain a herd of Durham cattle, a better grade
of stock than the Spanish cattle. The Durham is an English
breed of shorthorn cattle brought to American about 1817. By
1850, a few herds could be found west of Mississippi, most in Cooper
County around Boonville, in central Missouri.
Late in February of 1850 Walter Crow and his four sons--Ben, Alfred,
James, and Martin--along with Cyrus Loveland, bought Durhams in Cooper
Country. Like Crow, Cyrus Clark Loveland, had been to California.
He had gone there in 1848 and with two friends spent seven months in the
gold region. They took out $18,000 worth of the precious metal.
Loveland returned east and later joined Walter Crow's party in Missouri.
Everything was ready early in May 1850, and with 721 cattle and 64 head
of work steers, they crossed the western border of Missouri south of
modern Kansas City and made for the Oregon and Santa Fe trails.
Near today's Gardner, Kansas, the Oregon and Santa Fe trails split.
There they turned their cattle toward the northeast and followed the
Oregon or California trail, as it was then being called. South of
modern Lawrence, Kansas, within a mile of where this narrative is being
written, they herded the cattle across the shallow Wakarusa River and
struck a northwesterly direction. They crossed the Kansas River near
present-day Rossville, which in 1850 consisted of a handful of log
cabins on the north side of the river, and was then called Union
Village. Gentle inclines on both banks made the crossing easy for
the cattle, since the river was not high. A short distance
upstream a ferry took their wagons across.
Details of this cattle drive from Missouri to California are preserved
in the diary of Cyrus C. Loveland, which is now in the California State
Library at Sacramento. By May 23, 1850, Crow, Loveland, and the
other men had herded the cattle across the Big Blue River southeast of
modern Waterville, Kansas. Loveland noted in his diary: "Last
night we lost no cattle but have nearly every other night."
Once across the Big Blue, Loveland recorded that a member of the party
"found a human skeleton with a pair of shoes on it."
Three days later he wrote: "Began to see signs of buffalo."
These California-bound cattle herders were soon using buffalo chips to
fuel their evening campfires. By May 29 they reached the South
Platte in what is now south central Nebraska. They passed Fort
Kearny and learned that 4,500 teams and 21,287 emigrants were ahead of
them on the trail. They pushed their herd by Devil's Gate in early
July. On July 4 they rested and quietly celebrated Independence
Day. "We killed a beef and had a fine spot of soup, which was
the best of anything that we have had on the trip. We
also had a desert of peach pie which really reminded me of home,"
On the last day of July, Crow, Loveland, and the others reached Fort
Hall on the Snake River. "It consists of four or five
small buildings built of adobe, surrounded with a wall of the
same material built by the Hudson Bay Fur Company. At this time
there are but five or six men at this fort. This is a pretty
country and I think it would produce some things very well. Grass plenty,"
noted Loveland. Crossing the Port Neuf and Bannock rivers, they
drove their herd past American Falls on the Snake River, where a
boatload of American trappers had been lost several years earlier.
Travel was often difficult and grass was not always plentiful for the
cattle. The men drove the herd past Thousand Springs and on
August 13 reached the North Fork of the Humboldt River in what is now
north central Nevada. Eighteen days later they reached the area of the
Humboldt Sink and killed two beeves for emigrants who had run out of
provisions. The same day Loveland wrote in his diary: "Provisions
are very scarce. Our mess has just ate the last of our breadstuff
and fruit. We have one mess of beans and then beef is our
only show." Travel during the next three days was difficult,
since they passed through what was mostly desert, herding the cattle day
On September 5, 1850, they moved the cattle up along the Truckee River
and stopped. Loveland wrote:
"Never was this party so completely used up as when we came in
from the desert. We were so wore out with fatigue and for
want of sleep that like many of the old crows it might have been said of
us that we were give out, for we had been without sleep two days and
nearly all of two nights and on the go constantly. The last night
on the desert we were so overcome with sleep that we were obliged to get
off our horses and walk for fear of falling off. As we were
walking along after the cattle it certainly would have been very amusing
to anyone who could see us a staggering along against each other, first
on one side of the road, then the other, like a company of drunken men,
but no human eye was there to see, for all alike were sleeping while
walking. Thanks to the Almighty Ruler above, we overcame all
difficulty thus far on our long journey."
Three days later found the herd nearing the site of
modern Reno, Nevada, and five days later they had climbed more than
9,200 feet above sea level and were crossing Donner Pass. It was
there four years earlier that the late-crossing Donner party had been
trapped by winter weather, but Walter Crow's party was crossing in good
time. They made it safely over the mountains by late summer and
reached California, where the last entry in Loveland's diary is dated
September 30. On that day the herd was driven across the
Sacramento River and set to graze, while Loveland and some of the other
men made camp. It had taken Crow's party about five months to
travel from western Missouri to California, and their cattle losses were
Special thanks go to Tyke Antonopolus of Stockton, Missouri who
referred "Cowboy Culture".
Cowboy Culture, 1981 University Press of Kansas. Permission to print granted by David Dary
David Dary, author of Seeking Pleasure in the Old West,
Entrepreneurs of the Old West, The Buffalo Book, True Tales of Old-Time
Kansas, and More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas, is director of the H.H.
Herbert School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of
Letter from California
In the spring of 1850, fifty men under the leadership of WALTER CROW,
undertook a cattle drive from Pike County, Missouri to California.
The following letter, written by S.A. Colvin, a member of the 1850
Crow cattle drive, was written to his wife and was printed in the Monday Morning edition of the Louisiana, Missouri
DEMOCRATIC BANNER, on December 30, 1850.
NEVADA CITY, UPPER CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF YUBA, OCT. 6TH, 1850.
I found here a number of my old acquaintances who came out last year; to
wit: ROBERT SHAW, DUDLEY PHEARS, HARVEY WILSON, ISAAC and JOEL RIPERDAN,
MARCUS OCHELTREE and C. F. KIRTLEY, of Palmyra, Mo. I also saw GEORGE
OGLE, D. J. ALMOND, HENRY CROW AND DR. B. F. TODD, who came this year.
They were all in good health, except Ogle, who looked quite badly, but
he was able to work. George told me he had seen T. FORD a few days
before on the Yuba River, he was well, but had had bad luck; he bought
some cattle to sell again and had them driven off by Indians.
As there are many here who had relations and friends in Pike and
adjoining counties, who may be anxious about them, I wish you to send a
copy of this to THE BANNER and RECORD, at Louisiana, and have it
published, and keep the original yourself. I will tell you their names
and places of abode at present, so far as I know: Mr. Crow &
Co., are at the mouth of Feather River with their cattle. J. Z. & T.
H. JAMESON of Lincoln county, Mo. are on Yuba river, 25 miles distant,
Z. W. and ROBERT BROWN, all of the same county, are on Bear river, 15
miles; EPHRAIM CULLOP, DENNIS GRANDFIELE, B.A.WILLIAMS, H. C. REEDS,
JOHN F. MCNUTT, WM. COFFEE, GEORGE HAMMOCK AND J. T. MYERS, of Lincoln,
on the Yuba. I will now give the names from Pike; J. P. PATTERSON, of
Paynesville is here, JOHN WORTHLEY and WILLIAM F. JACOBS, are on Bear
River, 15 miles. LEONARD PECK went on with CROW to Mt.
Vernon at the mouth of Feather river, also JAMES T. EASTIN, T. C.
JOHNSON, WILLIAM DOAKE, and RICHARD FICKLIN. FRANCIS and WILLIAM
MCMANAMA, from Scotland county went with CROW. J. W. GILLUM of Lincoln
is at Steep Hollow.
I sent by express to Sacramento City for letters, but did not get any,
nor have I received a single line from anyone since I left home. I
concluded not to write till I got news from Sacramento, but being
disappointed in getting letters, thought proper not to wait any longer,
thinking you would be anxious to hear from me as soon as possible.
MARTIN CROW received a letter bearing the sad intelligence of our
afflictions in the death of our little babe, and SARAH A. CORKER. I did
not see the letter and could not learn the dates of their death. MARCUS
OCHELTREE got a letter from home dated in June which contained the news of Sarah's death, but he could not tell me the precise date.
wrote to you giving the names of all who died in our train, but for fear
you did not get those, I will inform you in this. We lost five out of
fifty. to-wit: --LEVI ARMSTEAD, JOHN MASIER, WM. D. CLARY, GEO. A.
GILLUM AND MARKWOOD MERITT. All died of cholera between the 18th and 22nd of June, on Platte River.
You and others no doubt, would be glad to know my opinions in relation
to California. As to the country at large, I have as yet, no opinion,
because I have seen but a very small portion of it myself. The part I
have seen is very mountainous, having a barren soil, with timber and
water of the best quality. The timber is mostly large pine and fir
trees, many of which are more than 250 feet high, the most majestic I
ever saw. There are oaks among the pine, and some trees I do not know.
As I become more acquainted with the country, I will give such views of
it as I think to be truth. As to a man's prospects to make money here, I
will inform you that they are dull at present: the season is so far
advanced, that soon the rains will set in, and then a man cannot do very
much at anything. A great many are very much disappointed and thousands
are daily leaving for the states, if the reports from Sacramento be
The vast emigration that came in this season, have found the whole
country explored by those here before them, and all the streams worked
out, and the best mines owned by claimants in advance of them, so that
there is "no show" in the old mining districts. You cannot
find a branch, creek, ravine or crevice, that has not been tried for
gold. Some made fortunes in a short time, and others, after toiling
hard, made nothing. On an average a man can get $5 per day. An old miner
can get double: in some cases they board a man, but in most instances, a
man has to board himself. Flour sells at 25 cents per lb., pork 35 to
40, beef 25 to 30, onions $1, potatoes 30 to 35, molasses $5 per gallon,
vinegar $1 per bottle, coffee 75 cents per lb., sugar 50 to 60, and
everything about ten times the prices at home. Board $3 per day. A man
can board himself for about $1.50 per day, cook it himself, and sleep on
the ground as he can. I expect to remain here till the rainy season sets
in and perhaps during the winter. I do not expect to be able to
accomplish much this fall. If I can get a supply of provisions for
winter, I shall continue to try my luck in California until next
December, when I will come home, whether I shall have made anything or
You will see that I have paged this letter, as I did not have room to
finish on one sheet. I would be very glad, if it were possible, to see
you, but as I cannot, I would like to hear from you at least once a
month. I have written home some 8 or 9 times, but do not know that you
received any of my letters, the facilities for getting them being very
uncertain. JOHN G. MOORE, CHRISTOPHER C. MOORE and myself, are in very
good health at this time. In fact I am heavier now than when I left
home. I had no sickness to lay me up on the whole trip. I bought a set
of mining tools for which I paid $20, consisting of a pickaxe, shovel
and cradle. Gold is obtained at these mines (Nevada), by digging down
from 12 to 150 feet under the ground, and then drifting in a horizontal
direction. The work is very hard and requires capital to operate to
advantage; - there are, however mines in ravines and crevice, and on bars in streams, that can be worked
easier, but they are not so profitable. The mining business is
overstocked this year--many are not able to procure money enough in this
land of gold to defray their necessary expenses, --others, by singular
good luck, make fortunes in a short time and spend them again in
speculation gambling, &c.
I now tell you something of this city. Early last spring, there was
only one store in the place, it was kept by A.C.STEWART of Danville,
Montgomery County, Mo., now there are more than a hundred. Business is
brisk --houses being put up in rapid succession. In fact, it looks like
some fairy work, or like Aladin and his magic lamp--you pass along today
and see a vacant lot, tomorrow you pass again, there is a house up and
goods in it, and men crowding in to buy what they want. Yet it is
sometimes very difficult to obtain word of any kind--John, Columbus and
myself, have been working for $6 per day, and board ourselves, though we
do not get constant employment. When not employed, we are
"prospecting", searching for gold. I have found a place where
I think I can make something next summer, if I should live and have my
health, but it cannot be worked now because it is under the water, and
before we could drain it, perhaps the rainy season might set in, and all
our labor be in vain. We had a heavy rain a few days ago, which swelled
the streams considerably, so much that they will not be apt to be very
low again this fall.
DR. B. F. TODD has located in this city, and intends to build a
hospital. There are a number of doctors here. When I arrived here it was
night, I went along the street till I came to a house that was
illuminated very brightly, and was the finest house I had seen. I concluded to go in and see what was going on. I went, and
behold! it was a gambling house on a large scale. - Here lay thousands
in heaps, piled on tables, and men sitting round betting, Sunday as it
was. I left it and went on my way out of the city, laid down on the
ground under a tree and staid till morning. When I awoke I heard the
crowing of chickens, the first for many months--it sounded like home, I
tho't of thee, of our children, of friends and of home, and no wonder I
should feel sad.
COLATINUS MOORE is here, though I have not seen him-John and Columbus
saw him. I am sorely grieved in not getting any letters from home, but I
do not believe it is your fault; I believe there is great negligence in
the postmasters somewhere. I hope you will write to me as soon as
you get this--write all the news you can, about crops, health, births,
deaths, marriages, &c. &c., and anything else of interest. We
received the news of General Taylor's death about the 12th of
September--of the admission of California, and elections in Missouri, Oct. 1st. There is
an election here for several state officers, but I know nothing as yet
on the rights of electors in the state, never having seen the
constitution of California. If we get anything to read here, say a
newspaper we have to pay 25 cents for it.
How I like California, I do not as yet feel able to say, situated as I
am; but for a man of capital, this is the country for him to operate in
to make money fast, but a man without means, labors under many
disadvantages. As to my advice in relation to this country, I will only
say that those having good, comfortable homes, and enough to live on,
had better stay at home, and especially men having families. Many no
doubt, are looking anxiously to this country for news from their
friends, and with high hopes of future prosperity, but many are doomed
to sad disappointment, and if I am even capable of giving advice, I
would say, listen to the voice of our old friends in preference to the
voice of the press. This is strongly illustrated by a circumstance that
took place in my presence at a store. The store keeper was weighing some gold
for a man to pay for some flour-- he remarked to the man,
"Now you can see what you came to California for. You bring me your
gold to buy provisions, I take it to the city to buy my supplies, they
send it to the states for provisions, and in this way perhaps, a million
of dollars is collected. It looks big, but nothing is said about the
hundreds of poor devils who are toiling in the mines for a bare
subsistance". Still for all this, there are yet chances to make something, if they do not
give up too soon and become discouraged and quit work. Some work a long
time without being successful, others keep trying, and finally succeed
and do well. But he who comes to this country with the expectation of
picking up a pile of gold in a moment, will, in almost all cases be
disappointed. I have walked over hills, hollows, creeks and ravines, and
dug in a thousand places, but without success. JOHN WORTHLY and WILLIAM F. JACOBS are doing better than any of us. They struck a prospect which
pays them about $12 each, per day.
I have now written all the news of interest I can think of, and must
bring my scattered remarks to a close, by requesting you to give my
respects to all your relations at home--to Mr. Corker, to Uncle
Merriman, Owens, and to my father's family, and to all inquiring
friends. John and Columbus join me in sending their love and respects to
you all. When you write, again direct to Nevada City, Yuba County, Upper
California. With every hope for your happiness and comfort, I now close.
Remember me, your devoted and affectionate husband.
S. A. COLVIN
Following the death of THOMAS MOORE, SR. in Pittsylvania County,
Virginia in 1816, his widow, NANCY ANN WHALEY MOORE and 11 of their 12 children
began their move to Montgomery and Pike Counties in Missouri territory.
Several of the people mentioned in this letter are members of that Thomas
and Nancy Moore family.
JOHN GAZAWAY MOORE and CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS MOORE, (grandsons) were the
sons of THOMAS MOORE, JR. and MARY BATY/BEATTY MOORE. COLATINUS MOORE
(grandson?) was the son of VINCENT MOORE and NANCY HATCHETT MOORE. Uncle
Merriman was REV. MERRIMAN MOORE (son). Owens was REV. RICHARD D. OWENS
who married MARY "POLLY" MOORE (daughter). The letter was
written by S.A. COLVIN who married PERMELIA S. HAYMES. Permelia was the
daughter of SARAH "SALLY" MOORE HAYMES (daughter) and DANIEL
HAYMES. SARAH A. CORKER whose death is mentioned in the letter was a
sister to Permelia Haymes Colvin.