R H O [A] D [E] S W E S T...July, 2001
Publication of Descendants of Thomas Foster Rhoads(Rhoades), Elizabeth
Forster Rhoads, His Father Daniel Rhoads and his Father Henry Rhoads Senr and
affiliated Forster, Newman, Patterson, Grimshaw, Daylor, Sheldon, Esery,
House, Elder, Fanning, Powell, & Weimer (Wimmer) families
NOTICE......2001 "Cousin's Luncheon"... Dry Creek Golf and Country Club
...Galt, Calif, Sept 22, 2001....
9am-3pm...Special Guest Speaker...the renowned David Bigler..."The 1846-49
...details from Ellen Rosa
Early California Family History
by Ellen Cothran Rosa ....(sorry, but shortened by editor)
The first white men to come near this area were Fremont and members of his
entourage. Kit Carson was among the men. Carson creek, which empties into
Deer creek a few miles east of Slough House was named for Kit Carson.
The first white men to see this valley of the Cosumnes and settle here were
Jared Dixon Sheldon and William Daylor. I will try to tell you their story.
Jared Dixon Sheldon was a Vermonter who came to California in 1832 or 1840.
He was an early Sutter neighbor. At one time, under threat of jail for
debts, Sheldon lived with Indians and led raids against the Mexicans, who
offered him amnesty if he quit, and even granted him a rancho. Jared and
William Daylor married sisters, Sarah and Catherine Rhoads. William Dayors
wife Sarah Rhoads was Jared Sheldons sister-in-law. William Daylor was an
Englishman who worked for Sutter at the fort in 1840.
Most of the Sheldons in America today are decended from three brothers,
Isaac, John, and William Sheldon who came to America from England in 1634.
Jared Dixon Sheldon and Ellen Rosa are decended from Isaac. Jared was born
in Underhill Center, Vermont in 1813. He was the second of six or seven
children of Truman and Mary Dixon Sheldon. The Sheldon museum at Underhill
Center is still an active tourist center. Jared was educated to be a school
teacher, stone mason, carpenter, griste and sawmill maker, back when the cogs
in the wheels were all carved by hand.
Truman Sheldon was one of the leaders in his community. It was to Truman
Sheldon that the local church pastor came for a co-signer when he decided to
build a new church.
The church was built on credit; the money was not forthcoming from the
parisheners at the appointed time, and Truman Sheldon was served with the
debt. Truman's two older sons, Jared and Orvil, became indentured servants
of all the businesses until the debts to all were paid. It was hard work for
the teenage boys, but they learned many trades in the process, and learned to
never co-sign for anything the rest of their lives. The church collected
the money over the next 40 to 50 years, and in 1873, paid the Sheldon heirs
in full, but Jared and Orvil were already dead.
Jared left home when he was 20 or 21, traveling westward, stopping for short
periods in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. He taught school for a term or two in
Iowa, and bought land there. He married "Miss Edwards" in Iowa. She lived
only 6 months after their marriage.
Jared left Iowa in 1836, soon after the death of his wife, joining a group of
surveyors who were traveling the Santa Fe Trail toward what is now
California. Jared became very sick, probably with what was called "trail
fever". and was abondoned to die in what is now southern Nevada or Arizona.
He learned to converse with Indians at this time of his life. I think he may
have been saved from death by local Indians. He traveled the rest of the way
to Los Angeles with white trappers, and shared at least one camp-fire with
Jared Sheldon reached the Los Angeles area and found work building the first
water run sawmill on the Pacific Coast. The saw and gristemills were run by
arastras with animal power, like those in Spain before Sheldon came to
California. Sheldons employer died just as they were finishing the
sawmill, leaving many debts. The creditors came to the widow and demanded
their money. The Mexican police were called in. The police went to Sheldon
and gave him the ultimatum: "marry the widow, run the sawmill and pay off the
creditors or go to jail".
Jared Sheldon remembered the identured situation in Vermont; he did not want
to marry the widow, so he saddled his mule and rode out of town and camped
with the Indians in the nereby hills.
The Mexican sawmill owner owed Sheldon as much as he did any of the other
creditors-threatening Sheldon with jail added insult to injury. A Los
Angeles newspaper described the following incident.
" The Indians wanted Mexican horses, Jared Sheldon taught them how to raid
the village safely and get all the horses they wished. The Indians sneaked
into Los Angeles in cover of darkness and helped themselves to all the horses
they wanted. The Indians next wanted saddles for the horses. Jared Sheldon
told them to steal the saddles from the Mexicans. The Mexicans soon decided
that some mastermind must be among the Indians. They had never been this
much trouble before. They suspected that Jared Sheldon was that mastermind.
A Mexican man dressed in white, riding a white horse, carrying a white flag,
rode into the Indian camp and asked to speak to Sheldon. He promised that
the Mexican government would give him full pardon for his debts if Sheldon
would leave the Indians and not "help" them anymore.
Jared Sheldon accepted the offer, knowing that it was the best offer he would
receive from the Mexicans. He rode out toward the North the next day, and
traveled until he reached Monterey. This was the "debt" Mr. Severson read
about, but the debt was never Sheldon's. Death cheated Sheldon out of many
months of income from the Mexican sawmill owners."
There had been a fire at the Presidio at Monterey which destroyed several of
the Presidio buildings, including part of the Custom House. The center
section of the customs house was wooden before the fire. Sheldon offered to
rebuild the Custom House with stone and adobe, as it is today, and put tile
on the roof, instead of shingles. The Mexican government told Sheldon that
he would have to take his wages in land as a land grant as they had no money.
Jared agreed to this. Sheldon worked at Monterey for at least 2 years. He
felt that as long as he had food and shelter, and his mule had food, he would
be all right, and the future secure.
One day in 1839. Jared Sheldon was looking out over Monterey Bay and saw a
man floundering in the water not far from shore. The man was exhausted and
was calling for help. Jared dove into the water, swam to the man, and pulled
him to shore. As soon as the man was rested Sheldon took him to his quarters
and shared his dry clothing and food with him. The man was William Daylor.
William Daylor was born in England, circa 1810, and went to sea on a British
sailing ship when a teenager. During his years at sea he learned to be a
cabinet maker and cook, besides all the other "sailor jobs". It was as cook
that his sailing days ended. Daylor quarrelled with the ship's captain over
the weevils in the flour and the rancid meat. Daylor refused to go to sea
again without fresh provisions. The captain told Daylor to "jump if you
don't like the conditions, if you make it, fine, if not, tough luck:" This
is the true story of Daylor's leaving the ship. He was not a deserter, he
was a man with principles.
William Daylor worked with Jared Sheldon at the Presidio until early in 1840,
when Daylor went to Sutter's Fort and Sheldon went to Mexico to take out his
passport and citizenship and become a Catholic as specified by the Mexican
law so that Jared Sheldon would be able to collect his land grant. Sheldon
and Daylor promised to meet each other later in the year at Sutter's Fort.
Jared Sheldon earned every acre of the land in his grant by working for it.
It took Sheldon 4 years of Mexican red tape to secure his grant after he
earned it. The grant was not given to him as was intimated by Thor Severson
author of "SACRAMENTO, AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY, 1838 TO 1874". Published by
the California Historical Society.
William Daylor worked for Sutter as a cook and cabinet maker. Jared Sheldon
reached Sutter's Fort later in the year, and went to work as a carpenter.
Sutter allowed his horses to "run wild" In the open countryside around the
fort. Whenever he wanted a horse, he would send out a workman to bring in
the horses. The grass always dries up in the late summer around Sutter's
Fort, and the horses strayed farther and farther away to find pasture. One
day the horses could not be found at all, and all hands and the cook, were
called out to look for them. It was thus that Daylor, the cook. found their
tracks and tracked them 18 miles to the south from the Fort to the hills
overlooking the Cosumnes River Valley.
William Daylor saw smoke from an Indian campfire across the valley. The
hoofprints of the horses lead straight to the smoke. The Indian encampment
was on the shelf-like area below steeply cut banks on the South side of the
Cosumnes River, the horses were tethered on top of the little hills above the
Daylor sneaked through the valley until he was close enough to identify the
horses and their captors. William Daylor quietly returned the way he came,
returned to the Fort and reported what he had seen to Sheldon.
William Daylor was certain that the beautiful valley was exactly what Jared
Sheldon was looking for.
Daylor and Sheldon went to Sutter and told him what Daylor had seen, they
were sure that Sheldon could barter the horses back with a few trinkets or
kill an elk or deer for them, and with Sheldon's expertise with Indians a
skirmish could be avoided. Sutter agreed, and Daylor and Sheldon rode to the
Cosumnes River Valley for the first time the next day. After taking a good
look at the valley , they visited the Indians and bartered the horses back
for Sutter and brought them home to the fort.
Jared Sheldon quit Sutter's employ and rode to Monterey to apply for his
grant on the Cosumnes River Valley soon after he saw it.
Jared Sheldon applied for the grant with the Mexican government and was
ready to leave for the Cosumnes River Valley when a group of Sutter's men
rode in to Monterey, bringing William Daylor in chains; Daylor told the
Mexican officials that he had become friendly with an Indian girl who came to
the kitchen to get John Sutter's meals and Sutter had become jealous and had
Daylor arrested on a "trumped-up" charge and brought to Monterey in chains.
It took all of Sutter's Kanakas to subdue Daylor and chain him according to
one of Sutter's Fort history chroniclers. Daylor was a very powerful man,
and Sutter didn't trust an ordinary man to take him all the way to Monterey.
Sutter imagined himself to be quite a ladies man until his wife arrived on
the scene. He kept the prettiest Indian girls at the fort as servants, and
thought that he owned them all. Daylor never liked Sutter after this
incident, but it was Daylor who loaned Sutter $6,000.00 so Sutter could send
Leinhardt to Switzerland to get Mrs. Sutter and the children and bring them
to Sacramento. Daylor may have thought that bringing Sutter's wife to
Sutter's Fort was the best way to get even with John Sutter.
As soon as Daylor told the Mexican officials his story, Daylor was released,
The Mexican officials were familiar with Sutter and his temperament. Sheldon
vouched for Daylor's integrity, and all was well.
Sheldon and Daylor once again made big plans. This time Sheldon asked Daylor
to go back to the Cosumnes River Valley with him, build a living quarters,
clear some land, make corrals, etc. to fulfill the conditions about
establishing ownership for the grant, and he (Sheldon) would give Daylor 1/2
of the land in the grant, approx. 9,331 acres) The grant stated the complete
grant was five sistos de grand mayor. The total in English was 18,662 acres.
Daylor and Sheldon talked to W.P. Hartnell about taking his land grant across
the river from Sheldon's and made a deal with Hartnell in which Daylor would
make corrals on Hartnell's land and care for Hartnell's cattle in return for
"one half the increase". (this meant that every second calf born would be
Daylor's and Sheldon's).
Daylor may have ridden with Sheldon and William T. Sherman when they came to
the Cosumnes River Valley to survey it for the grant. Sherman may have
surveyed Hartnell's grant at the same time he surveyed Sheldon's. Hartnell
took his grant across the river from Sheldon, plus a 300 acre piece on the
south side of the Cosumnes River at the present site of Bridge House.
(Rancho Murietta south) Hartnell had cattle driven to his grant, and Daylor
took care of them, after building corrals for them, and Daylor and Sheldon
received a nice herd of young stock in the 6 years of their agreement.
William T. Sherman also took out a sizeable grant nearby, but sold it for
nearly nothing when he went back east to fight in the civil war. (General
William Tecumseh Sherman)
Daylor built an adobe house for himself, corrals for himself and Sheldon,
corrals for Hartnell, cleared a garden spot and a small grain field and grew
the first crop of wheat in this Valley. He took care of Hartnell's cattle
and ran a store and post office out of his front room from 1841 to 1850.
Daylor's adobe was beneath the present levee, south of Grimshaw Eaton's and
Francis Ruman Grimshaw's homes, where highway 16 curves to the left a few
hundred yards north of the spot where Mr. Davis now sells "Slough House corn"
This small area was called "Cosumne" after the death of William Daylor in
1850. From 1841 to 1850 this location was known as Daylor's. "Daylor's" was
the first "store" outside of Sutter's Fort in California, owned by Americans.
(He was actually a citizen of England)
During the timespan 1841 to 1845, Sheldon worked for Dr. Marsh at Antioch,
Jose Amador, and several others doing carpenter work. From his labor he
bought cattle and drove them to the grant. He then built the first
waterdriven grist mill at the Mission San Jose on Mill creek, and a grist
mill near Fort Ross for a Russian family who lived on Bodega Creek. This
Russian family did not return to Russia with the Royality when the main group
left. From Sheldon's labors from these jobs he was able to pay for his own
grist mill stones for his mill on the Cosumnes River immediately west of the
present "Wire Bridge" on Meiss Rd. Sheldon ordered all of his mill stones
from a special quarry in Mexico. He had the stones shipped to Sacramento, he
hauled them to the griest mill site in a horse drawn wagon, for the Cosumnes
Sheldon began work on his own mill in 1845, and began milling wheat in 1846.
He milled wheat for John Sutter from 1846 to 1852 approximately. Sutter's
own mill was never completed on the American River.
Imagine the beauty of the Cosumnes River Valley in 1841 to 1846. The river
had no levees, the land from hills on the north to the hills on the south of
the river was a tangle of blackberry vines, wild grapes, willows, driftwood
and valley oak trees, all wild and untamed. Deer, Elk, Bear, wild cats of
all sizes, coyotes, racoons, foxes, etc. were all here. It belonged to God,
the Indians and Sheldon and Daylor. It was into a valley like this that the
first wagons rolled when they reached the Johnson-Keyser Ranch near
Wheatland, California about 75 to 80 miles north of here.
The family of the two young ladies who became Mrs. Sheldon and Mrs. Daylor
was among the wagons that reached the Johnson Ranch October 1,1846, leading
the great influx of weary travelers that fall. John & Daniel Rhoads and
their wives and families ( mother Elizabeth Forster and father Thomas Foster
Rhoads) and their sister, Sarah Pierce Rhoads, who became Mrs. Daylor were
among the first wagons along with Joseph Aram, Capt. Charles Imus, Adna
Hecox, Gallent Duncan Dickinson, Gordon and the others you will find listed
in our California history. Catherine Foster Rhoads, their younger sister who
became Mrs. Jared Sheldon, was in the second half of our family group who
reached the Johnson Ranch between the 20th of October and November 1,1846.
History tells us that John and Daniel waited nearly two weeks for their
parents and the rest of the company before riding back up the trail and found
them running out of provisions.
The Forster & Rhoads families' ancestors came to America from Palatinate
Germany in 1737, settling first in ( Maryland) then Pennsylvania. My branch
of the families moved to Kentucky in circa 1810, moved to Illonois in 1820,
and to California in 1846. My greatgrandfather,Thomas Foster Rhoads, did not
stay in California, moving back to Utah in 1849; & died there in 1869. His
daughter Catherine Foster Rhoads, married Jared Dixon Sheldon, and raised her
family here in the Sloughhouse area and is buried here in the Sloughhouse
Pioneer Cemetery. Sarah also stayed in this area.
This family group was made of the husbands and children and family members of
the husbands, wives, etc. of four Forster sisters; Elizabeth Forster Rhoads
(Mrs. Thomas F. Rhoads), Hannah Forster Esrey (Mrs. Jesse Esrey-who stayed in
Missouri but had five children in the wagon train), Margaret Forster House
(Mrs. Jonathan House) and Christina Forster Patterson (Mrs. Jonathan
I have no record of how many of the family were with John and Daniel in the
Thomas F. Rhoads, his wife Elizabeth, their single children except Sarah,
William and Thomas Jr., two grand daughters belonging to their son Arthur
Forster Rhoads who stayed in Missouri, were accompanied by daughter "Polly"
Rhoads Elder and her husband, Turner Elder and four children, Christina and
Jonathan Patterson and nine children, the youngest a baby-in-arms, were in
the second half of the family, who reached the Johnson ranch during the
second half of October 1846. Note: Margaret Forster House and her husband
did not come to California; their son, Joseph and Ezekiel came with the
Jonathan Patterson caught cold while chasing horses that the Indians tried to
steal in Nevada. He became increasingly ill as he came into the cold
mountains of California. He collapsed and died of pneumonia while carrying
one of his small children up the hill at Emigrant Gap, California. The
Rhoads-Patterson family buried him the night of October 14, 1846 where they
camped in the Bear River Canyon at the base or near the base of Emigrant Gap.
They built a bonfire on Jonathan's grave, and all the wagons passed over the
grave when they left the next morning, to hide the grave from marauding
bears and indians. This incident was recorded in the diary of Jonathan's
son, George Washington Patterson. George Patterson was 7 years old in 1846;
the sight of the bonfire and the wagons passing over his beloved father's
grave was indelibily etched in the memory of the little seven year old boy.
The entire group of 51 or 52 family members traveled together until Father
Thomas and his group split from the others west of Ft.Bridger and traveled
with the Thomas Grover company through Weber Canyon to the south end of the
Great Salt Lake. The Grovers and the Rhoads group cut the trees necessary
and widened the trail for the Morman immigrants who came to the Salt Lake by
way of the Weber Canyon in 1847. Thomas and Elizabeth were Mormans at this
time. Thomas and Elizabeth's youngest daughter, Lucinda, told of seeing the
black rock and the Great Salt Lake in an interview in her later years. She
was 11 years old in 1846 and remembered that the group stopped at the springs
at the south end of the Great Salt Lake and rested the animals and people for
10 days or two weeks. This accounts for their being two weeks behind the
others in California.
My grandmother, Catherine Rhoads Sheldon, didn't say which way she came. She
refused to talk about the trip other than to say that she and her younger
brother Caleb Baldwin Rhoades had to herd and follow the oxen and horses all
the way from Missouri to California. The dust was unbearable, her feet hurt
from stumbling over the rocks chasing the animals. When she became so tired
she couldn't walk another step, she would climb on an oxen or horse bareback.
The grit and sweat on the animals back ground into her tender legs. She
never felt clean until the family finally stopped for the winter at the end
of their trail near Galt, California. She never said which way she came; the
places were not named as they are today, and all the roads looked the same to
her through the dust clouds looking at the rear end of a cow.
John Rhoads and his family, including two sons of Arthur Forster Rhoads,
stayed on or near the Johnson and Keyser ranches the fall of 1846. (the wife
of Arthur Forster Rhoads died the first part of April 1846. (April 6,1846)
The Rhoads family gathered the four younger children of Arthur "Forster" and
Mary Rhoads and brought them along on the trip to California. The oldest
child, a girl named Lucinda Amelia Rhoads, like her Aunt Lucinda, went to
live with the Petre or Pettit family and was in Sacramento, California in
1850 with them according to the 1850 census.
John's sister, Elizabeth Rhoads, married Sebastian Keyser Dec. 12,1846. The
Keyser adobe was near the Johnson adobe, on the east side. The emigrants all
stopped first at the Keyser home, near present Wheatland, California.
Daniel and his wife Amanda Esrey Rhoads, and her 3 brothers, the Esrey boys,
came farther south and worked on the Grimes ranch the fall of 1846. The
Grimes ranch was where "the north area" of Sacramento, Calif. is today.
Thomas and his wife Elizabeth, and all the single children, Christina
Patterson and her 9 children, Polly and Turner Elder and their 4 children,
and the Powell family came to a piece of land owned by John Sutter on the
eastern edge of Galt, Calif. (there was no Galt then) A little town was
later established near there called "Live Oak". The families camped on the
south side of "Dry Creek" where the road to Stockton crossed "Dry Creek".
The San Joaquin CO. history states that the Elders first camped on the north
side of the creek. They moved into a newly finished cabin where Live Oak,
was later, just before their twin, John and Nancy were born. These twins
were the first set of white twins born to white emigrants in Calif. Several
white single babies were born the fall of 1846.
John Rhoads, was one of the first white men to learn of the stranded Donner
party. It was he who waded and rode through the rain and swollen rivers to
Sutter's Fort to summon help from John Sutter.
Father Thomas Rhoads and all of his single sons except little Caleb (5 sons)
went immediately to Sutter's Fort and on north to Johnson's ranch and helped
prepare the food for the Rescuers to take to the Donner party, John and
Daniel Rhoads were 2 of the 7 men on the first rescue party. John went also
on the 3rd and 4th rescue parties. Daniel was able to go on only the first
rescue party due to an injured hand which had become infected on the trip
from Missouri to California earlier in the year. Daniel told Bancroft that
he was in as bad shape as the Donners when he reached the lake, and was no
help at all, but he said that he felt he must try to help or die trying.
John weakened himself so much on the three trips that he caught pneumonia on
one of he rescues, and caught pneumonia every year of the rest of his life,
dying of pneumonia the winter of 1866, when he was only 48 years old.
Thomas Rhoads, Jr., Joe House and Robert and Mathew Fanning left the Johnson
Ranch almost immediately to fight with the "Californians" in the war with
Mexico to make California a state. Joe House helped raise the bear flag at
Sonoma according to his younger brother, Ezekiel. All the boys were together
at the time, so they must all have helped raise the Bear Flag at Sonoma.
Robert Fanning died. His brother Mathew became very sick. These two boys
were brothers of Matilda Fanning Rhoads, John P. Rhoad's wife. Joe and
Ezekiel House were sons of Margaret Forster House, 1st cousins to John P.
Rhoads. Thomas Rhoads, Jr. returned from the war. He went back to Missouri
in 1850 or 1851, and married Mary Mathews. He stayed in Missouri until 1853,
after the birth of his daugher Sarah Josephine Rhoads. Thomas F. Rhoads Jr.,
drowned in the Humbolt River while hunting ducks for the Pioneers' evening
meal, and was buried in Nevada beside the river. Mary's sister, Sarah Ma
thews, came with the Rhoads on the trip in 1853, and came on to Calif. to
Gilroy with Mary and Sarah J. and stayed with Daniel and Amanda for a few
years. Sarah later married George Rhoads, another brother of Thomas, John,
The trip west proved to be too much for mother Elizabeth Rhoads. She died in
September of 1847 while being transported to San Francisco on Sutter's launch
to see a specialist. She suffered from "liver trouble" and the local doctors
could not help her. The trip down river took two weeks in severe heat.
Elizabeth was too ill to make the trip, and died when the launch reached the
vicinity of the present town of Benicia. The men tied the boat to the
riverbank and Mother Rhoads was hurriedly buried. A storm erased all signs
of her grave and it was never found again.
Catherine and Sarah took care of their younger siblings until Father Thomas
Rhoads took his two granddaughters and his children Lucinda and Caleb back to
Utah and Missouri in1849. The other single young Rhoads boys worked for
Catherine and Jared herding cattle until 1852 or 1853, when they accompanied
Daniel and Amanda to Gilroy.
The Rhoads women found gold in Dry Creek near Galt, Ca. when they were doing
their laundry in the creek, almost immediately after arriving in Calif. in
1846. Thomas showed the gold to John Sutter, as they found it on Sutter's
land. John Sutter told Thomas to sell the gold in San Francisco and not tell
where he found it. Thomas and his sons mined gold until Thomas left for Utah
in 1849, taking the famous 60 pound sack of gold to the Mormans. Daniel
mined enough to buy a ranch of 2400 acres near Gilroy and stock it with
cattle in 1852 or 1853. The Rhoads men mined at "Rhoads Diggins" which is
south/east of the town of Folsom, Calif. - most of their gold came from
Sheldon and Daylor wooed the two Rhoads girls the winter and spring of 1846
and 1847. William Daylor married Sarah Rhoads March 4, 1847. William and
Sarah made their home at Daylor's adobe.
Jared Dixon Sheldon married Catherine F. Rhoads March 14, 1847. Both couples
were married at John Sinclair's office of Alcalde at the confluence of the
American and Sacramento rivers. Sinclair's record of marriages later moved
to Sutter's Fort; the first marriages performed by Sinclair were listed in
this record book, and the Sheldon and Mahone marriages were later assumed to
have been performed at the Fort. But they were not. Jared and Catherine
made their home in a new house Jared had built beside his grist mill on the
Three children were born to Jared and Catherine during the next four years.
William and Sarah had no children. The Sheldons named their first two
children William and Sarah for the Daylors. The third little Sheldon was
named Catherine Dixon Sheldon.
John and Matilda Rhoads had 3 children during the same time; twins, Andrew
Jackson Rhoads and James K. Polk Rhoads, named for presidents, and William
Baldwin Rhoads, named for the Mormon preacher who introduced the Thomas
Rhoads family to Mormonism back in Illinois in 1835. John's brothers William
Baldwin Rhoads and Caleb Baldwin Rhoads were named for this same gentleman.
Caleb Baldwin was Norma Baldwin Ricketts Great Grandfather.
Daniel and Amanda had two baby boys during this time: Jesse Esrey Rhoads and
Alexander Rhoads. Sebastian Keyser and Elizabeth had a little girl.
Christina Patterson married Ned Robinson within a few years. Christina's
daughter Penelope married a miner named Charles Cummings. Christina's
daughter Susanah married William Hicks of Hicksville. Christina's daughter
Caroline married Ezekiel House and moved to Gilroy.
The Rhoads and Patterson families were off to a good start in the new
TO BE CONTINUED........
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I don't believe I ever informed you of where I placed the headstones of your
ancestor, Thomas Forster, and others--in the Lavelock Cemetery. I have
placed them in a row just south of the Mauseleum which you can easily see in
the small cemetery. However his actual burial place is still on hillside
"Forster Cemetary" you saw last year.
This cemetery is located on Route A that goes North of Hardin about 2.75
miles--just before you come to the first hill on that road. The cemetery is
off the road to the Northeast. There is a gate and you drive a short
distance to a 2nd gate to the cemetery entrance. A permanent sign "Lavelock
Cemetery" is along the Route A.
If you have any questions, let me know. I apologize for the delay in letting
you know about the location of the markers inside the
cemetery.=====AMckemy@aol.com... from Ray County Missouri:Al McKemy
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Donner/Reed......There are MANY descriptions of the troubles and misforture
of the Donner-Reeds, but what was our Families envolvement ? One isolated
party member Mary Murphy was a Mormon, and for that and many other reasons,
each by itself justification enough to go back and help. Thomas Rhoads' in
the Harlin Party ( Hastings Route) half, had preceeded the D/R's at times by
as little as days and as much as two weeks. The older Rhoads brother's
(Fort Hall Route) half of the family arrived at Johnson's Ranch October 6
1846. Eventually Thomas arrived but had no idea the D/R's were snowed in
until William Eddy arrived with only 6 out of fifteen surviving the "run for
help" on January 18, 1847. Relief efforts and preparations then, were well
under way when Brannan's new Yerba Buena (San Francisco) publication the
California Star announced on February 13 1847 the horrible news.
The McGlashan papers in the Berkeley Bancroft Library quote George Tucker: "
as soon as we got these Seven [Snowshoers] in and got them made as
Comfortable as Circumstances would admit and learned the Condition of the
rest of the Company they had left behind we then commenced to devise Some
plan to releave them but at Johnsons Ranch there was onely 3or 4 families of
poor Emigrants beside Johnsons and nothing Could be done without help from
other Setlements Sutters fort was the nearest point and it had been raining
nearly all winter and the Country was all Covered with water Bear River was
banks full so it could not be forded and if it could the Sacramento plains
was one vast quag mire from there to Sutters fort 40 miles."
® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ®
" John Rhodes one of our neighbors an Emigrant that had crost the plains that
Season Said if there was no other way he would go on foot we had no means of
crossing the river So we made a boat by lashing 2 pine loggs togather with
Strips of rawhide the next morning we set John Rhodes a crost the river on
our raft he took his Shoes in his hand Roled his pants up above the knees
and Started for Sutters fort through water from one foot to 4 foot deep a
good part of the way. he reached Sutter's Sometime that nite, and informed
Captan Sutter and the setlers of what had hapened and what was wanted--,
Captan Sutter and Alcalda St Clair (Sinclair) whoo lived on what is now
Called Norrises Ranch 2 1/2 miles from Sutter's fort on the American
River--and one of the welthiest men in the Counrty, furnished Some provisions
Such as flour Sugar Coffe &c and five or Six men that was liveing in the
Settlement Volenterrd to go with the suplies in the corse of Six or Eight
days Six men Came up with the Suplies mean while we had butchered five of
six fat beaves, furnished by Johnson and was drying and jirking the meat we
Scowered the country far and near to get horses and mules to ride and pack--&
Sadles and pack Sadles It was ten or 12 days before we could get every thing
ready--the day before we Started Alcalda St. Clair Came up to assist us in
getting Started--in the morning we got all animals Sadled and packed when St
Clair took out his pencil and paper and took down all the names of those that
were to go.--then he got up and made us a Speech he said we wer about
Starting on a very hazardous Journey--that nothing would Jusify us in
undertaking what we wer about to do onley the obligation we owed to our
fellow man--urged us to da all that was in our power without Sacrificing our
own lives to Save our Suffering Brothers from Starvation and death. he then
appointed my Father R.P.Tucker Captan of the Company."
(Now let's let our own family members speak for themselves. Thomas's son,
Daniel Rhoads, Caleb and Lucinda's brother gave this account of the same
event to Historian Bancroft in 1873.
PARENTS NOTICE...THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTION IS NOT FOR THE YOUNG OR THE
SQUEMISH, BUT IT IS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE.)
" The day after the arrival of Eddy at Johnsons a party started from the
latter place to bring in [William] Foster and the four women, which they
accomplished in two of three days."
( CONTRARY TO ACCEPTED CALIFORNIA HISTORY, this pre-rescue was, IN FACT the
FIRST Donner/Reed successful rescue.....The 7 man "First Relief" would not
come until almost a month later...Bernie)
" On the receipt of the news at the Fort letters were at once sent
....to Yerba Bueana and the Settlements around the Bay of San Francisco."
"Captain Sutter made a call for vonunteers, to proceed to the assistance of
the emigrants. A party of fourteen, of which I was one, was made up and at
once started for Johnsons Ranch. Here we prepared for our expedition. We
killed some beef cattle and dried the meat over fires. We pounded some wheat
in Indian stone mortars and ground some in coffee-mills ( no grist mills nor
flour nor meal of any kind in those days ). We cut the hides of the animals
we killed into strips for the future construction of the snow-shoes.
"Although we worked night & day with out intermission except short intervals
for sleep these preparations occupied us three days. The provisions were then
packed on mules aand we started on our journey, without a guide, and trusting
to the judgement of our leaders, John Pierce Rhoads (my brother) and --
Tucker to find our way. Until we 'struck' the snow we took the emigrant
"Our road was in very bad condition and a frequent intervals we had to unpack
the mules and drag them out of the mire. In about five of six miles a day we
reached the snow which we found 3 feet deep. Through this we worried along
some five miles when it became too deep for the mules to go any further it bei
ng eight feet deep and falling all the time; a regular storm having set oin.
Our encountering the snow so deep and so much sooner than we had been led to
anticipate utterly diheartened some of the partry and six turned back."
" We made a camp and left the mules in charge of Sutter's men a German who
went by the soubriquet of 'Greasy Jim' [i.e., James Weinberg, otherwise known
as Adolph Bruheim?] Jim was to take care of the animals and to pasture them
on hill sides with a Southern exposure and such other bare spots as he could
find, until our return."
"Our party now consisted of seven. John P. Rhoads,--Tucker (now in Napa
Valley), Sept. Mootry (now in Santa Clara), --Glover (dead), a sailor named
George [Joseph] Foster [othewise known as Joseph Sels], a sailor Mike
[i.e.,Edward Coffeemeyer], and myself.
Each man made a pair of shoeshoes. These were constructed by cutting pine
boughs, stripping off the bark, heating them over a fire and bending them in
the shape of a ox-bow about two feet long and 1 wide with a lattice work of
raw hide, for soles. We attached them to our feet by means of the rawhide
strips with which we were provided. On these we had to travel continuously
except at brief intervals on hill-ssides and bare spots where we took them
"Each man also took a single blanket an tin cup, a hatchet and aas nears as
the captains could estimate 75 pounds of dried meat. Thus equipped we
started. [William] Foster had told us that we should find the emigrants at or
near Truckee Lake, (Since called Donner Lake)and in the direction of this we
journeyed. Of course we had no guide and most of our journey was through a
dense pine forest but the lofty peak which overlooks the lake was in sight at
intervals and this and the judgement of our two leaders were our sole means
of direction....When we first started from the fort Capt Sutter assured us
that we should be followed by other parties as soon as the necessary
preparations could be made. For the guidance of those who might follow us
annnd as a signal to any of the emigrants who might be struggling about in
the mountains as well as for our own direction on our return trip; we set
fire to every dead pine tree on or near our trail At the end of every three
days journey (15 or 20 miles) we made up a small bundle of dried meat and
hung it to the bough of a tree to lighten the burden we carried and for
subsistence on our return."
"The first day we made 7 or 8 miles. At Sunset we 'made Camp' by felling
pine saplings 6 inches in diameter and cutting them off about 12 feet long, &
placing them on the snow making a platform 6 or 8 feet wide. On this platform
we kindled our fire, roasting some meaat for supper and then throwing our
blankets over our shoulders sat, close together, around the fire and dozed
through the night the best way we could. If we had made the fire on top of
the snow without the intervention of any protecting substance we should have
found our fire, in the morning 8 or 10 feet below the surface on which we
encamped. In this manner we passed every night of our journey both to and
from the lake on the part of the road Covered by snow."
"We went on making from four to six miles per day leaving a very sinuous
trail by reason of the impossibility of pursuing a straight course through
the dense forest and of our having to wind around the sides of hills and
mountains instyead of going over them. The snow increased as we proceeded
until it amounted to a depth of eighteen feet as was afterwards discovered
by the stumps of the pine trees we burned."
"We traveled in Indian file. At each step taken by the man in front he would
sink in the snow to his knees and of course had to lift his foot
correspondingly high for his next step. Each succeding man would follow in
the tracks of the leader.--The latter soon became tired fell to the rear and
the second man took the head of the file. When he became fatigued by
breaking the track he would fall back & so on each by his own turn."
"At sunset of the 16th day we crossed Truckee lake on the ice and came to the
spot where we had been told we should find the emigrants. We looked all
around but no living thing except ourselves was in sight and we thought that
all must have perished. We raised a loud halloo and then we saw a woman
emerge from a hole in the snow. As we approached her several others made
their appearance in like manner coming out of the snow. They were gaunt with
famine and I never can forget the horrible, ghastly sight they presented.
The first woman spoke in a hollow voice very much agitated & said 'are you
men from California or do you come from heaven'."
"They had been without food except for a few work oxen since the first fall
of snow, about 3 weeks [sic] They had gathered up the bones of the
slaughtered cattle and boiled them to extract the grease and had roasted some
of the hides which formed the roofs of their cabins. We gave them food very
sparingly and retired for the night having some one guard until morning to
keep watch on our provision to prevent the starving emigrants from eating
them which they would have done until they died of repletion."
( If they had been from Minnesota, they would have ice-fished)
"When the emigrants had first been stopped by snow they had built small
cabins using the skins of the slaughtered oxen for roofs Storms nearly
continuous had caused the snow to fall to the depth of 18 feet so that the
tops of their cabins were far beneath the surface. When we arrived they were
eating portions of the hides forming their roofs, which hides being under the
snow were in a putrid condition. The bodies of those who had perished were
lying on top of the snow, covered with quilts. When a person died an
inclined plane was dug to the floor of the cabin and the body slid up to the
surface; the inmates being too weak to lift the corpse out. So far the
survivors had not been compelled to partake of human flesh. I remember seeing
but 3 living men Louis Keeseberg was lying on his back unable to rise.
Patrick Breen and one other were the only ones left. Very few women or
children had died up to this time."
"The morning after our arrival John P. Rhoads and Tucker started for another
camp distant 8 miles East, where were the Donner family, to distribute what
provisions could be spared and to briong along such of the party as had
sufficient strength to walk. They returned bringing four girls and two boys
of the Donner family and some others."
"The next morning we started on our return trip accompanied by 21 emigrants
mostly women & children. John Rhoads carried a child in his arms which died
the second night. On the third day an emigrant named John Denton, exhausted
by starvation and totally snow-blind, gave out. He tried to keep up a
hopeful & cheerful appearance, but we knew he could not live much longer. We
made a platform opf saplings, built a fire on it, cut some boughs for him to
sit upon and left him. This was imperatively necessary. The party who
followed in our trail from California found his dead body in a few days after
we had left him, partially eaten by wolves."
"As we were now guided by the stumps of the pine trees we had burnede on our
way out as we never had to stop to determine the road and as the ground we
travelled over was mostly descending we made much more rapid progress than on
our journey East being only five days from the lake to the camp where we had
left our mules. Had we not made the journey thus quickly I do not know how
we ever could have got through as will be seen. The first night after
leaving the lake we consumed the last of our dried meat expecting that our
next days journey would bring us to one of our 'caches' of provisions which
we had left hanging to the boughs of the trees. When we reached this point
(2nd night) we found that some 'varmint' (predatory animals) had climbed up
and eaten our 'cache' so that we had to make a supper of some strips of raw
hide which we still carried, &which we cut from our snow-shoes roasted. We
passed the night on our usual platform--there had to be several to accomidate
the entire party--This rawhide was our sole subsistance for three days until
just before we reached our 'mule camp' when we met a party going East under
the guidance of a halfbreed named Brit Greenwood who acted as pilot.
Greenwood told us that when his father, an old Rocky Mountain hunter and
trapper, heard that our party of seven had started over the mountains without
a guide, he offered to wager the money he was to receive for piloting a
party, that not one of us would ever come back alive; and the bet was not
"When we reached the camp where we had left our mules we remained until next
day During the night, the food in Camp not being guarded sufficiently, the
eldest boy of the Donner family managed to eat so much dried meat that he
died the next day. We here found a party of sailors from the U.S. Squadron
commanded by Lieutenant Selim E. Woodworth U.S.N. and piloted by old man
Greenwood before referred to. This was a novel business for the Sailors and
I heard that they suffered terribly when they reached the snow."
"Glover & myself were the weakest of the party suffering greatly from
exhaustion caused by deprivation of food and want of sleep. We mounted mules
and returned to the Fort It was a long time before I recovered from the
effects of the expedition. My brother John Rhoads made a second and third
trip with relief parties none of which however met with the difficulties
experienced by our Party..."
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Rhoads GenForum Address..
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Plant Your Potatoes:
The Mormons and the California Gold Rush
An Address by Dean May, University of Utah
There would surely have been a good many yawns from both sides of the
congressional aisles had President James K. Polk delivered his fourth annual
message to congress in person on December 5, 1848. The printed version
stretches on for forty-one pages, the President assuring the people that
Peace, plenty, and contentment reign throughout our borders, and our beloved
country presents a sublime moral spectacle to the world.1 I will refrain
from any comparisons with the moral spectacle surrounding President
Clintons State of the Union speech of last January.
President Polk spoke of the peace prevailing between the United States and
all other nations, including even Mexico, nearly half of which we had just
taken in the Mexican war. The amicable relations between the two countries,
which had been suspended, have been happily restored, and are destined, I
trust, to be long preserved.2 He then proceeded to wax eloquent on the
benefits to the United States of that suspension of amicable relations,
its demonstration to European powers of Americas war-making capability, the
wonder of such a large mobilization without endangering American liberties,
and the valor of American soldiers and seamen.
Yet sagging eyelids no doubt would have popped open, when, in enumerating the
possessions America had acquired through that suspension of amicable
relations, the President turned to a description of the mineral wealth of
Upper California. The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory
are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were
they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public
service who have visited the mineral distinct. The officer had found 4,000
persons there, engaged in collecting gold. . . . The abundance of gold and
the all-engrossing pursuit of it have already caused in California an
unprecedented rise in the price of all the necessaries of life.3 President
Polk then turned to other matters of state, a speech that would have droned
on for another two hours while weary congressmen settled back into their
chairs and day dreams of holiday plans, political deals, election wrangling,
power ploys and perhaps even for some, of inappropriate relationships with
maids and servant girls.
At least part of President Polks message was nonetheless to resonate far
beyond the Potomac. News of abundant gold in California for the taking
stirred dreams and hopes of thousands upon thousands and launched a fevered
migration that for the next two years would astonish the world. The American
West would never again be the same. Gold had her magic, her way with men, and
so in droves they left sweethearts, families, careers and offices, heading
out to see the elephant in their passion to possess the precious metal.
In doing so, they were but reenacting a long-held European conviction that
gold was of all earthly treasures the most to be sought after. The Aztecs of
Tenochtitlan were astonished, when in 1519 they brought gifts to the invading
Cortez and his men. They [the Spanish] seized upon the gold as if they were
monkeys, their faces gleaming. For clearly their thirst for gold was
insatiable; they starved for it; they lusted for it; they wanted to stuff
themselves with it as if they were pigs. So they went about fingering, taking
up the streamers of gold, moving them back and forth, grabbing them to
themselves, babbling, talking gibberish among themselves.4 The cultural
predisposition of people of European background towards the yellow metal was
a mystery and wonder to the Aztecs.
That predisposition, much in need of further study and understanding,
launched the migration by sea and land that has ever since shaped and defined
cultural understandings of the American West. A famous German Hamburger
seamans song made the point, with its verses in German but its refrain in
English, Blow boys blow, for Californio, For theres plenty of gold, so
Ive been told, on the banks of the Sacramento.
The summer before President Polk gave official legitimacy to reports of the
gold discoveries but 400 Americans had traveled the plains across to
California. The next summer, 1849, more than 25,000 made their way to the
gold fields; and the year after that, 44,000 crowded onto the dusty highways,
toiling up the Platte, over South Pass, across the Great Basin , over the
Sierra Madres and down to the American River and its surrounding mining camps.
There were many ways to get to California, and men no doubt debated endlessly
in smoky pubs whether a trip around the Horn, a Panama crossing, a Southwest
wagon track, or the long-established Platte Oregon road offered the best
hopes of a safe and quick passage to the mother lode. The potential
consequences of their decision were enormous. To understand them we must
consider how vacant of Europeans were the vast stretches of land between the
Missouri and the Pacific. Aside from small gatherings at the established
Forts; Laramie, Bridger, Hall, and Carson, the only population of consequence
between Council Bluffs and Sacramento was the eight or nine thousand (11,380
in 1850) Mormons hunkered down in the vicinity of the fabled Great Salt Lake.6
Given the perils of overland travel, it was inevitable that some would see
the Mormon settlements as a haven where they could refresh themselves, their
animals, and their provisions, before moving out on the last leg of their
epic journey. Professor Brigham Madsen estimated that about a third of the
gold-seekers chose to digress from the established routes and make their way
down to the Mormon settlements in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake. If
this is an accurate estimate, some 8,300 came through the Utah settlements in
1849, a number at least equal to the whole Mormon population; and 14,600 in
1850, the passing immigrants substantially outnumbering the resident Mormons.
No wonder Brigham Young felt that since [the gold diggers began to arrive] .
. . our peaceful valley has appeared like the half-way house of the pilgrims
to Mecca.7 Those of us who stay around through January 2002 might get a
small glimpse of what such an inundation can mean to a resident population.
The first observation of significance, is that the economy of the Great Basin
was at the time very much in its infancy. Farming, building, and trading were
nearly the only livelihoods available to Utahs citizens. No manufacturing
establishments to speak of had as yet been founded. Anything that could not
be produced in the territory, and this included such basics as iron, glass,
pottery, cloth sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, and snake bite medicine,all such
products had to be shipped nearly a thousand miles by wagon, a slow,
labor-intensive, and highly costly process. Any cash that could be garnered
including the gold coins the Mormons began to mint in 1849, flowed
immediately east to pay for the manufactured goods the burgeoning population
Even farming was a decidedly risky enterprise. The crops of the 1848 season,
their first full growing season, had been decimated by crickets, droughts,
and frosts. The winter of 1848-49 had been cold and miserable, with
temperatures dipping to thirty degrees below zero. In February, 1849 the
bishops of the nineteen Salt Lake City Wards put the people on rations,
recommending that they limit themselves to but three-quarters of a pound of
breadstuff per day.8 Brigham Young was being particularly threatening
towards any who tried to hoard their supplies. If those that have do not
sell to those that have not, we will just take it & distribute among the
Poor, & those that have & will not divide willingly may be thankful that
their Heads are not found wallowing in the snow.9 Youngs method of
countering selfishness may have not have been genteel, but it apparently was
By spring the Mormons were looking forward hopefully to enhancing their
Spartan rations with spring vegetables, the earliest of which were almost
ready to harvest when the first Argonauts came into Salt Lake on June 16,
offering to exchange worn animals and wagons, cash, and store goods, for the
peas and new potatoes the Mormons had been eyeing hungrily in their gardens.
One can only imagine the personal dilemmas individual men and women faced as
they pondered the value of an iron stove against the food needed to feed
their families. Small wonder that in many reports the Mormons were the ones
trading for food.
The cruelties of such dilemmas were heightened by the fact that the migration
was predictably seasonal, with the incoming Mormon converts arriving late in
the season, before their labor could be applied to the seasons productive
efforts. This meant that late in 1848 some 2,400 arrived, requiring food and
shelter through the winter, before they could become part of the work force;
in 1849 another 1,500 arrived; in 1850 2,500 more. Mormons had to make
choices that would provide for and protect their own families, but also felt
compelled to make choices that would care for their co-religionists as they
arrived in the Salt Lake Valley each fall.
Something of the dimensions of the task can be gained by noting that even in
1850 the value of the average farm in Utah was but $377 compared to $2,500 in
Oregon.10 Utahns had a horse or mule for every five persons; Oregonians a
draught animal for every two people. Utah harvested nine bushels of wheat per
person that year; Oregon, much of which is too moist for good wheat crops,
almost 16. The produce of market gardens was valued at $2.10 per person in
Utah; in Oregon $6.79. The point is, I think, well made. Utahns were
miserably poor, and as the gold-seekers arrived had almost nothing they could
spare. Many were discouraged, feeling the whole population should move on to
California, to which Brigham Young replied: We have been kicked out of the
frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and
here we are and here we will stay.11
Into this environment, then came some 8,300 gold-seekers in 1849; 14,600 in
1850. And in each instance they were but a third of the whole train of
immigrants who made their way across Wyoming on their way West. The result
was what Leonard Arrington called, the Harvest of 49 an event seen by
Mormons since that time as providential, and one that clearly provided a
significant economic stimulus at a critical time. It did so in several
First, Mormon ferries charged on average, $3.00 to $4.00 per wagon for
ferriage across the upper North Platte, east of Casper and on the Green and
Bear rivers. If we were to estimate conservatively a wagon for each five
gold-seekers and that Mormons crossed a third of the wagons at two ferries
their gross in 1849 would have been between $11,000 and $12,000 in 1849; in
1850 some $20,000. Payment would have been in store goods or cash, both in
very short supply.
Second, though sternly discouraging gold-seeking, Brigham Young nonetheless
sent officials to collect tithing from those in the fields. And many Mormon
Battalion members dutifully brought tithing to Utah in the form of gold dust.
Leonard J. Arrington estimated that the tithing payments alone approached
some $60,000 in value from 1848 through 1851. There would have been, in
addition, several times that amount brought into Utah in private hands,
helping to stimulate the flow of goods and services and especially the
affordability of imported goods in a cash poor economy.
Third, the complementarity of needs made it possible for Mormons to trade
animals, services, such as blacksmithing, lodging, and whatever food they
could find a surplus of, for the very goods that were dearest in Utahtea,
coffee, cloth, iron implements and products, all of which began suddenly to
sell at or below eastern prices. The willingness of the Mormons to charge
whatever the market would bear led to very high prices for flour, vegetables,
and other foods during the summer months when the Argonauts were in town. The
exchange process was described by the ubiquitous herbal doctor, to this day
still, apparently, of influence in Utah, Priddy Meeks. Meeks was negotiating
to sell a pony to one of the gold-seekers.
What is your price? says the man. I said I have no price but I want
clothing for my family. which was five in number. I believe his heart was
softened for he handed out goods, some ready-made, and some not, until we all
had two suits each from top to toe, both shoes and stockings and everything
that was needed. He said, How much more? I said, Hand out and I will tell
you when to stop. he handed out factory and calico until I was almost
ashamed; even my conscience reminded me of stopping. I said, Here is a great
coat and a high pair of boots for winter, and he handed them out without a
word. . . . Among the emigrants I made money enough to buy a stable horse and
the best wagon I thought I ever saw, paying $60 for both.
Arrington reports Mormons were able to get $200 for fresh horses that
normally would sell for $25 or $30. What flour they could count as surplus
shot up to $10 or $15 a hundred pounds and vegetables also sold at premium
prices. At the same time they could suddenly purchase wagons the Argonauts
were eager to unload for from $15 to $25 each, compared to a common price of
$50 to $125. Coffee and sugar, previously selling at a dollar a pint dropped
to ten to fifteen cents. These conditions persisted through all of 1849 and
1850, making possible for many the acquisition of materials and goods that
had worn out since they arrived in Utah, but that they could not replace
without adding prohibitive shipping charges.
But there was more. Many immigrants in their eagerness to beat the crowd to
California, simply abandoned along the trail goods they deemed nonessential
to their journey. Howard Stansbury left a well-known account in 1849 of the
road from Fort Laramie. The road has been literally strewn with articles
that have been thrown away. Bar-iron and steel, large blacksmiths anvils and
bellows, crowbars, drills, augers, gold-washers, chisels, axes, lead, trunks,
spades, ploughs, large grindstones, baking-ovens, cooking-stoves without
number, kegs, barrels, harness, clothing, bacon, and beds were found along
the road in pretty much the order in which they have been her enumerated.12
Hearing of this bonanza, many Mormons took wagons east as far as Fort
Laramie, collecting all of value that they could carry back to replenish
their dwindled supply of goods.
Thus cash from ferry and tithing gold, inflated prices for commodities they
could part with, bargain basement prices for goods they desperately needed,
and a considerable quantity of goods that were free for the taking, all must
have had a dramatic impact on the fledgling economy. Leonard Arrington notes
that food rationing ended in 1850, and that, by the end of 1849, the Mormon
leaders felt confident enough to launch a wide-reaching set of plans for
developing the region, including the founding of the Perpetual Emigrating
Fund Company, the establishment of the State of Deseret, and the first bid
for statehood, plans for the Iron Mission, and designs for major freighting
and transportation companies.
Perhaps most significant of all, however, is a phenomenon noted by Arrington,
the demonstration, in the light of these circumstances of a remarkable degree
of social cohesiveness. The Mormons seemed somehow inoculated against the
gold fever with which the nation was stricken. We began by noting the
cultural propensity of European peoples to hunger after gold and seek it at
almost any cost, a propensity amply demonstrated in the California gold rush
and the series of rushes that continued to pepper the West through the 1890s.
There were, of course, Mormons present when gold was discovered at Sutters
Mill, Henry Biglers being the only contemporaneous eye-witness account that
has survived. And there certainly were Mormons who got caught up in the rush.
But the number, given their proximity to it all, is minuscule. This is
particularly telling when we consider as we have done, the relative poverty
of the Utah people. The Oregon farm folk that I have studied, vastly more
wealthy already than the Mormons, were mightily affected by the discovery of
gold; there was hardly an Oregon farmer that did not spend some time in the
gold fields. Mormons, on the other hand, sternly counseled by their leaders
not to go to the fields, for the most part stayed put. I did not find one of
my Alpine folk who went off to California, though several who volunteered to
take teams east in the 1860s to bring back emigrants.
These facts speak not to fear of reprisals from Brigham Youngs iron fist, to
the awful specter of heads wallowing in the snow, but rather to a profound
cultural change that went right to the core of what it was coming to mean to
be a Mormon. We are gathered here, wrote Young, not to scatter around and
go off to the mines , or any other place, but to build up the Kingdom of
God. Brigham Young called the Great Basin a good place to make Saints, and
it is a good place for Saints to live; it is the place that the Lord has
appointed, and we shall stay here, until He tells us to go somewhere else.
He insisted, plow your land and sow wheat, plant your potatoes.13
Perhaps there are behind Brighams words useful concepts for people of our
time, Mormons and non-Mormons alike. It may be that, as the Aztecs apparently
understood, there are more important things than gold; that the fawning after
material abundance that the gold rush exemplified, is indeed corrosive and
disabling to civil society, and that as this century now ends, we might be
better off if we metaphorically at least, looked away from the gilded siren
of personal material abundance and put our plows back into rich, dark, soil
of mutual responsibility, cooperation, and public good."
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END R H O [A] D [E] S W E S T.....Electronic Newsletter#3
Address Comments to ...Janie and Bernie Rhoades RhoArClass@aol.com
11809 36th St E
Edgewood, Wa 98372