The Gold Rush Diary
Of George Bonniwell


Presented in Five Parts

Part I - April, 1850

Diary courtesy of Barbara Sumner
protected by copyright, all rights reserved
Transcribed by J.R. Tompkins


First Day, Friday, April 12th, 1850
Left Milwaukee at 1 o'clock for California with 6 wagons and 16 men. Cold day. Roads very bad. Went 19 miles.

April 13, Saturday, Second Day
Very cold morning. All well. Broke kink bolt on William's Buggy. Went to Darien. Traveled 33 miles. Put up for the night.

April 14th, Third Day, Sunday
We lay over today. It is a fair morning. Not too cold. All well. Took a walk this morning. Went to meeting this afternoon and enjoyed the sermon. Feel in good spirits. Wrote a letter to my wife. Went to meeting this evening.

[April] 15
Left Darien at 1/2 past 6 o'clock. I like the country very much. Past through Beloit at 12 o'clock. This is a beautiful place. A large town with 5 churches. A great business place. Swapped a pair of horses for a pair of mules. Gave 20 dollars to boot. Mules is very high. Bought 1 Horse for 75 dollars. 3 o'clock. Passed Rosco Downs, a small place with 1 church. 5 o'clock. Went through Rockford. A very fine place with 5 churches. Went 5 miles from there and put up for the night. Prairie on fire.

April 16 - 5 Day Out
A fine morning. All well. Started this morning at 7 o'clock. About 1 mile from this place is an old building intended for a seminary, all in ruins, built by P.M. Johnson of Grafton. Passed over fine valleys and fine prospects. Drove too far yesterday. One of our horses is about give out. One of Charles' horses has got lame. Drove 31 miles to Dixon, a small place on the Fox River. Good land. Traded our poor horse, gave 50 to boot.

April 17 - 6 Day out
Started at 7 o'clock. All well. Try our new horse. Crossed Fox River. Come 35 miles. Put up at a farm House. Cold night.

Thursday April 18 - 7 Day out
Looks like rain. Charles traded a lame horse, gave 10 dollars to boot. Came to Albany, crossed the Mississippi river. Charles [and] Mr. Han got a touch of the dysentery.

Friday April 19 - 8 Day out
Put up at De Witt last night. Started at 7 o'clock. Crossed very large prairies. Some good land and some bad. No wood as far as the eyes could see. Charles' team got down in a slue. No hurt done. 12 o'clock. Crossed a small river in ferry boat. I had touch of dysentery this morning. I am Better now. PM. At the ferry that we have just crossed, there is a book kept that they put all the names down in. We had all the company's names put down. We found Mr. Rattery and Mr. Muns' names there. Went 24 miles to postern[?] grove and camped out for the first time. The country is mountainous and uninhabited. Passed a dead horse.

Saturday April 20 - 9 day out
Took a early start this morning. Good roads. Crossed Cedar river. Went 2 miles from the river and camped. Came 28 miles.

Sunday April 21 - 10 day from Home.
All well. Lay over today. Dull morning. This is a dull place to spend the sabbath, in a valley by a small log house. Have a little time to read and think of friends we left behind. We can't read when we travel, it hurts our eyes. Feel very comfortable in the company. Captain Bonniwell has just give me charge of the doctor's book and medicines. 12 o'clock. Rains hard. Wrote a letter to my wife all well.

Monday 22 - 11 day from Home.
All well. Took a early start this morning. Very cold. Came 23 miles and camped. Passed through Iowa City. Crossed Iowa River. Met with Mr. Mun at this place.

Tuesday 23 - 12 day from Home.
Cold morning. Started out six o'clock this morning. All well. Good roads. Saw Mr. Rattery for the first time since I left home. He was expecting to overtake us tonight. Crossed a beautiful plain. At this place is a village marked out. One of our men set the prairie on fire. Traveled about 30 miles today. Camped in a wood at about 4 o'clock.

Wednesday 24 - 13 day out
Photo Copyright Southwind ProductionsGot an early start this morning. All well. Came about 12 or 16 miles and broke one of our axletrees. Mr. And is not very well this afternoon. Came 25 miles and camped.

Thursday 25
Fine morning. Mr. And is a little better. Made an axletree. Got started about 8 o'clock. Doctored Mr. And, the first case, and bled him. Came 22 miles and camped.

Friday April 26 - 15 day out
A fine morning Mr. And is a little better. Started at 1/2 past six. Came through some very bad slues. Traded a lame horse, gave 5 dollars to boot. The grass just begins to look green. Very warm. Elk horns lay along the road. Prairies on fire, beautiful sight at night. Came 26 miles.

Saturday April 27 - 16 day out
Cold change in the weather. Gave Mr. And another dose of medicine. Went to see some indian graveyards. Quite a curiosity. Come at 12 o'clock to Fort Des Moines. Houses mostly built of logs. Perhaps 400 inhabitants. 1 steam sawmill. This fort was built to protect the whites against the indians. There is a steamboat [that] comes to this place occasionally. Crossed this river. Otherwise looks as if it might make a place. Woodland and prairie. Saw another sawmill. We traveled late today to get a place to camp. One of our mules ran back. The two boys went back but did not come in. Captain Bonniwell turned out six men and horses with a trumpet [who] found them coming in.

Sunday April 28 - 17 day out
All well. Traveled today about 6 miles on account of getting a better campground. Cleaned our wagons out and washed some things. Give the men a dose of scurvy medicines. In camp with about 60 men. Good camp ground. Sung this afternoon in tent. Missed two of our horses. One of our men is out looking for them, has not returned. 8 o'clock this evening, the Captain has sounded the trumpet to call them in.

Monday 29 - 18 day out
Fine morning. Andrew Bloxom and Mr. Giffied laid out last night. Found the horses at 7 this morning. Started at six. Broke 1 spoke in my wagon. Smashed camp kettle. Men overtook us at 12 o'clock. Captain got kicked with one of the mules, hurt his thigh. Came about 30 miles. Good roads. Camped at 7 o'clock with 80 men in camp. No grass for our horses. About 80 miles from the Bluffs.

Tuesday 30 - 19 day out
Started this morning about 1/2 [past] 5 a.m. Captain's thigh is better. Went about 10 miles and camped on account of high winds. At 9 a.m., saw a dead horse. Very cold. Very large prairies. Don't like the country. Come to a log House where there is 3 men. They have 2 barrels of liquor to accommodate the emigrants. Killed a rattlesnake near one of our tents. Passed a dead horse. 12 p.m. Struck tent. Went 13 miles. Land rolling prairie. Pitched tent 5 p.m. Saw elk horns along the road and some deer. Wind high.

The Journey Continues....
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