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Diaries

On May 24, 1849, Boon Fly, Wagon Master, led a wagon train out of Fayette, Missouri. Entries in the diary he kept, as the wagon train leader, trace some of the more vivid details of that four month journey to Salt Lake City, Utah, arriving there on September 12th. Eventually Boon Fly and his family made their way to San Francisco and instead of panning for gold; he made a modest fortune as a carpenter in the Santa Rosa and Napa area. Boon settled outside of Napa on property that would become known as the Fly District. The Fly District School was the first schoolhouse in the area and many of the current Napa population have ancestors who attended this one-room structure.

The Boon Fly Diary

This diary was typed from the original handwritten diary of Boon Fly, who left Missouri on May 24, 1849 and arrived in Salt Lake City on September 12, 1849. Wording and spelling have not been changed, only some punctuation (commas, periods) have been added for clarity.

May 1849
24 This day at 1 o'clock we started for California and traveled 11 miles and camped for the night.

25 Last night it rained or rather poured. This day we lay by till evening when we again resumed our journey and went 6 or 7 miles and camped.

26 This mourning we started in good season and after passing some dry ground and lots of mud holes we reached the Nodaway river and camped for the knight - - - -

27 This was a fine day, but we lost the use of it in consequence of 1 pair of our cows running back - - - -

28 Today we crossed the Nodaway and traveled some 10 miles, got a wagon mired in a mud hole and stoped for the day.

29 This has been a very fine day of weather and we have just crossed the little Tackeyo [Tarkio] and camped of the knight.

30 Today had been quite pleasant, some thunder and threatening for rain. We crossed the Big Tarckeyo [Tarkio] at noon and have camped tonight at the English Grove.

31 Today we lay by, cloudy with a little rain and one of our company G. Snyder sick with the cramp collick.

June 1 This day we moved on slowly, threatened rain and if fact, did rain some little.

2 Today we traveled without anything of interest happening and camped in sight of the Nishnebotany [Nishnabotna].

3 This was Sunday. We crossed the Nishnebotany, rolled on to camp creek some 12 or 14 miles and stoped for the night.

4 This morning about 9 o'clock we struck out and rolled off some 14 or 15 miles and camped on a branch in the Prairie which for the present I shall call Elem branch tho weather is and has been very fine for the last few days.

5 Nothing worth recording - - - -

6 Passed the Mormon villages called Centerville and _______ville. Had a tremendous storm of wind, thunder and rain in the evening.

7 Traveled some 5 miles and stoped.

8 Lay by today waiting for company to get up sufficient to venture across the river.

9 Crossed Missouri River and camped.

10 Moved from camp to the Elkhorn 27 miles and camped. Found one dead man of a company that was just before us.

11 Crossed the horn [Elkhorn] on a raft and moved on a short distance beyond the Mormon camp (which numbered 140 wagons) and camped for the night where we partially organized with another company for the purpose of mutually assisting each other on the trip.

12 Nothing of importance, only saw lots of Indians.

13 About the same as yesterday.

14 About the same as the last 2 days. All low flat bottom, roads very tough and hard pulling on the teams.

15 Today our partially organized company separated by a portion that we had come up and joined with, driving off, breaking orders and left us, so we hauled in and traveled by ourselves, only 6 wagons and 9 men strong.

16 Today we traveled moderately, came to Sedar creek and camped at noon. Today we came to a partly built fort consisting of one block house, one double house appearantly intended for a dwelling, one small cabin, with some picket fence which if finished would be Rifle Ball proof. Also passed some old Indian villages that have been owned by the Pawnee Indians and burned by the Sioux. Saw a small tract of beautiful country lying on the Pawnie fork of Big Platt.

17 This morning we crossed cedar creek before breakfast and lay by till noon. At noon, we started on but only went a short distance owing to one of our company being sick, I mean Robert Percival.

18 This morning about 9 o'clock, Robert Percival died. Some will say Cholera, but I say of Billious _______. We buryed him about 1 bast 11 o'clock and moved on to the Bank of the Pawnee fork of Platt and camped for the night. Today we traveled over some beautiful prairie as man could wish to see.

19 This day we lay by in consequence of the wind being too high to cross the river.

20 Today we crossed the river and camped for the night. This evening we had a most tremendous rain.

21 This day we traveled some 15 or 18 miles through mud, sand and open prairie, camped without wood or water.

22 Started without breakfast, traveled 2 miles, crossed a prairie branch, got breakfast and traveled on. Saw some antelopes. Tried to kill one, but could not, cause it out run a horse all hollow. Quintus fell off the wagon tongue. Wheel ran over him. Thought he was killed, but hope now that he is not seriously injured.

23 Today we had tolerable good road. Traveled some 15 miles and camped where the road first touches Grand Island.

24 Today we had some of the worst road to be level that I ever say, flat prairie bottom and muddy all the time. Traveled some 10 miles and stoped. Been hot enough to kill forty Negroes and all the oxen on the plains.

25 Nothing of note.

26         "     "     "

27 Lay by. Rested our teams and washed up.

28 This day we traveled 15 or 18 miles. Saw some buffalo.

29 Today we made a pretty fair day's drive - - no particulars worth noting.

30 Started this morning tolerably early. Had some sand hills that was most infernal tuff pulling.

Sunday
July 1 This morning before Sunrise, a Buffalo came in sight of our camp. No sooner was his arrival announced than some half dozen guns was on the march for the sean [scene] of action and in 25 minutes the poor fellow lay at our feet with some 5 or 6 Balls in his chest, shoulders and hips. We then got our breakfast, hitched up some steers and drawed him in to camp and butchered him. Took about a third of the meat and left the balance togeather with the hide for the wolves and resumed our journey. In the course of this day we passed 2 of the most splendid spring that ever boiled out of the Earth which was a great treat for us, for we had not had one drink of good water for 2 or 3 weeks and this was good for certain.

2 Today we started and went some 3 or 4 miles when we had to stop at a small creek that was swimming in consequence of a rain that fell last night which was the most tremendous rain that I ever saw or heard fall, about 2 o"clock. This evening we had another fall of rain that was never equaled only by last night. It is now clearing off for how long I cannot say.

3 It is clear this morning but the creek and the whole low bottoms are one sea of water. When we will get across this branch I cannot tell. We are drying our things today for nearly everything got wet during of yesterday and night before last.

4 This morning we rolled out traking up the creek to the Sand hills where we crossed the creek quite easy. Just as we came to the Bluffs we came in sight of a large herd of Buffalo. I gave them a chaise, slightly wounded one, severly wounded 3, and killed one dead. Lots of fun if I had of had any company, but all alone it was hard work and little fun, hard for certain on my horse.

5 Traveled moderately on. Nothing worth noticing happened.

6 Nothing of any note. Only plenty of Sand hills and Buffalo.

7 Do Do

8 Do Do

9 Today we passed a number of Dead Indians. I cannot say buryed for they were only wrapped in robes or skins and placed on top of the ground, the atomsphere about them was very offencive. Some of them were torn out and partly devoured by the wolves.

10 Today we came in sight of the Castle Bluffs.

11 Today we had a fair chance at the Castle Bluffs for we traveled all day along side and in sight of them.

12 This day brought us in sight of the court house or Church rock. Late this evening we saw the chimney Rock.

13 Today we have made a long drive of 20 miles but could not reach the chimney rock.

14 Lay by today to recruit one of my cows that was lame. Saw 10 waggons pass on the opposite side of the river in the evening.

15 This morning we renewed our journey. My cow traveled some 4 or 5 miles and gave out. I lefte [her] a short distance above chimney rock.

16 This morning we saw one waggon pass on the opposite side of the river. We nooned opposite Scott's Bluff. Traveled on till 4 o'clock and stoped in consequence of a storm and remained overnight.

17 Nothing of importance.

18 This evening after we stoped, a _____ company overtook us, reported themselves nearly starved having had nothing but bread without salt or shortening for 5 days.

19 The company that came to us last night had one severe case of Cholera, but the patient is convalescent. At noon they passed us again and _____ on for fort Laramie.

20 Today we moved on some 4 or 5 miles and stoped on the bank of the river at the fort.

21 Today we lay by.

22 Lay by. Martin Nagles crossed the river in contradiction of the balance of the company.

23 Crossed the river and traveled some 7 or 8 miles and camped. Nagles left our company and struck off by himself.

24 Nothing worth naming.

25 Passed the government train, camped on platt.

26 Had a tremendous rain last night. Had to move our waggons at daylight this morning to get out of the rise of the creek. Broke a waggon tongue, put in a new one. Put in a box on one wheel. Government train passed. Camped in sight of it at night.

27 Traveled near 30 miles and stoped without grass for our teams or supper for ourselves.

28 Started this morning at daybreak and came 1 mile and stoped. Sent our cattle over the hill for grass and got breakfast. At 11 o'clock we started again. Stoped at sunset and sent our cattle 2 miles for grass with a gard for the night.

29 Traveled all day without any grass for our cattle to refresh on. Stoped at sunset on Platt river, tolerable grass, only enough for one knight.

30 This morning we found a ford on the river and crossed over all safe and sound. Found the ruins of some waggon that had passed before us, a great waste of property.

31 Lay by this day and let our cattle rest.

Aug. 1     "     "     "     "     "     "     "     "     "

2 Today we started again, made some 12 miles and camped. Heavy road, sandy.

3 Reached upper Platt ferry. Camped a little short of the ferry and camped to recruit our cattle. The last 1/4 of this day was over one of the most infernal hills that I ever saw. Sand and hill both put togeather.

4 Lay by today to recruit our teams.

5 Moved 1-1/2 miles to grass and stoped.

6 Nothing of importance.

7             "     "     "

8 Met the mail from Salt Lake at noon. Camped at Sweetwater.

9 Lay by. Took a look at Independence rock.

10 Moved at daylight to Independence Rock and stoped for breakfast then traveled on some 3 or 4 miles beyond Devil's gate and stoped for the night.

11 This morning we held off starting till some 4 or 5 waggons of intruders into our train left. We then started on and about 11 o'clock Scott broke one of his wheels and we had to stop and set the tire. We also set 4 other tires and remained all night on the ground.

12 This morning we started on after early breakfast. Had heavy sand. Stoped early in the evening because there was no more grass in reach.

13 Nothing of importance this day.

14 Drove some 8 or 9 miles and stoped because we could go no farther without having to camp without grass.

15 This day we made 24 or 25 miles but had to travel till dark for it.

16 Traveled some 7 or 8 miles and drove our cattle 1-1/2 miles off the road to grass.

17 Reached the upper crossing of Sweetwater. Camped 3 miles below the ford. Had a very cold rain just at camping.

18 Lay by. Had another cold rain before breakfast. Blustry all day.

19 This day we drove through the South pass and camped at the Pacifick Springs.

20 This morning our cattle left us before day and caused us an eight mile trip back for them before we could start.

21 Last night we traveled some 10 miles after dark and stoped fearing that one of our company, G. Babcock, who had gone ahead to find grass for us, was lost, he having not returned. But this morning we found his mule track on the road. So we followed on. About 7 o'clock he returned having stayed over knight with a company just ahead of us.

22 Drove some 8 miles to big sandy and stoped for the balance of this day.

23 Nothing of interest.

24 Arrived at green river and crossed.

25 Lay by to recruit our teams.

26 Reached Hanes (?) Fork and stoped at 9 o'clock P.M.

27 Reached Black's Fork and went several miles up it and camped.

28 Moved on some 10 miles and stoped.

29 Today we Reached Fort Bridger and camped for the night.

30 Traveled some 12 miles and stoped on a small _____ at the foot of one of the Darndest hills that old Master ever made.

31 Drove up our cattle to start but one ox was too lame to travel so we lay by for the day.

Sept. 1 Our steer was still too lame to travel and we again lay by all except Dolyphus Babcock. He hitched up and left us.

2 Moved on some 12 miles and stoped for the night.

3 Nothing of interest.

4             "     "     "

5             "     "     "

6 Reached Weaver River and stoped.

7 Lay by, our cattle left us during the night previous and it took till 2 o'clock to get them back.

8 Crossed the Weaver and went some 10 miles.

9 Nothing of importance.

10 Crossed the 10 mile Mountain in safety.

11 Crossed the 3-1/2 miles Mountain an went a fue miles down the Kanyon and camped for the night with John H. Hale who was sick.

12 This morning we rolled out for the Mormon City [Salt Lake City], which we reached about Noon. Stoped an hour or two in the street and drove out some 3 miles, crossed over Joudan [Jordan River]and camped.

Boon Fly Route to Salt Lake City

Boon Fly Family Journey from Fayette, Missouri to Salt Lake City      May 1849 — September 1849

 

Ash Hollow, North Platt
Most emigrants had been following the south side of the Platte River for hundreds of miles--this was the best place to cross. Unlike many other crossings, this river crossing was not difficult most years. That’s because the Platte here was often no more than one or two feet deep--although it was typically more than a mile wide. Some years, the Platte River would actually be two miles wide at this point.

The reason for the crossing was simple: for hundreds of miles, the pioneers had followed the south side of the Platte River, but the river was about to split in two. If they stayed on the south side of the river (now the South Platte), the pioneers would have reached a dead end in Colorado. So they had to cross the river to connect with the north branch--called the North Platte.

Ancient Bluff Ruins - Broadwater, Nebraska 
This frequently mentioned landmark is the most dramatic and extensive bluff formation along the north side of the North Platte River. These three erosional remnant buttes were named by English Mormon converts who thought they resembled ancient towers, castles and ruins seen in their homeland.
On Sunday, May 23, 1847, Mormon leaders climbed the highest bluff, wrote their names on a buffalo skull, and placed it at the southwest corner.

Courthouse Rock
To an emigrant who had never seen a mountain, or even a bluff, Courthouse Rock and its companion, Jail Rock were quite stunning. Many pioneers were so enraptured by these bizarre geologic features, they took a side trip of several miles--on foot--just to get a closer look.

Chimney Rock
It was the most spectacular landmark on the entire trail. Many considered it the eighth wonder of the world. In their enthusiasm, some tried to climb the massive rock but none got higher than the base.

Scott's Bluff
Scotts Bluff County received its name from its rich history. A fur trapper by the name of Hiram Scott gained a certain immortality by dying, alone and deserted by his companions, at the base of a magnificent formation of bluffs along the North Platte River in 1828. The formation became known among western travelers as "Scotts Bluff" (now Scotts Bluff National Monument).

Fort Laramie
This military post was a welcome site for the pioneers--the first sign of civilization in six weeks. It was a unique respite from the endless wilderness.
Ft. Laramie marked the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Here, they rested and regrouped. Some would give up the dream, turn around and go home. But most made the decision to push ahead

Upper Platte (Mormon) Ferry
a few miles above present-day Casper, Wyoming, the Latter-day Saints established what was probably the first commercial ferry on the Platte River. With a view toward creating funds which could assist later pioneer companies, Brigham Young had nine men of the vanguard company remain behind and run the operation. Each year the Church sent men to run the ferry just before the beginning of the emigration season, monopolizing the traffic until the California goldrush began and competing ferries were established. The location of the Mormon ferry varied, and the 1847 site was abandoned for another location in 1849.

Sweetwater River
It was a high, dry, and difficult 50-mile overland journey from the North Platte to the Sweetwater. Emigrants traveling to Salt Lake followed the Sweetwater for some distance towards South Pass.

Independence Rock
On any summer evening in July hundreds of emigrants could be found swarming all over Independence Rock, chiseling messages to others following behind. Many of the emigrants arrived here on the fourth of July, and that was cause for celebration. Pies were baked and revelry was shared. After a day of festivities, the western trek continued following the Sweetwater River.

Devil's Gate
Devil's Gate is a natural rock formation, a gorge on the Sweetwater River a few miles southwest of Independence Rock. The site, significant in the history of western pioneers, was a major landmark on the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail although the actual routes of travel did not pass through the very narrow gorge. The pioneers bypassed the gorge to the south.

Upper Crossing of the Sweetwater
The trail made a final crossing of the Sweetwater River (one of the three mandatory crossings that could not be avoided by alternate routes) shortly before reaching South Pass. This crossing became an outpost known as Upper Sweetwater Station or South Pass Station. It was the site of a Pony Express station, and even housed a military guard unit (to protect emigrants against Indian attacks) between 1862 and 1868.

South Pass
South Pass was the most important landmark on the Oregon Trail; the key to westward migration. Without South Pass, wagon travel across the continent would have been impossible--and Oregon and California would probably not have become a part of the United States. Yet, there's no narrow gorge here--this gap in the Rockies is miles wide.

Green River Ferry
This was another ferry established by the Latter-Day Saints in 1847 as a commercial venture and to assist emigrating Saints.

Fort Bridger
Before arriving, many emigrants hoped that Ft. Bridger would be a civilized outpost; perhaps something similar to Ft. Laramie. Instead, Ft. Bridger was a crude collection of rough-hewn log buildings that greatly disappointed the travelers.


The fort was built in 1843 specifically to serve the emigrant traffic. Unlike Ft. Kearny and Ft. Laramie, this fort was privately owned and operated by the legendary Jim Bridger.

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