The Gold Rush Diary
Of George Bonniwell
Part II - May, 1850
Diary courtesy of Barbara Sumner
protected by copyright, all rights reserved
Transcribed by J.R. Tompkins
Wednesday May 1st and 20 day out
Frost last night. Warm day. All well. Came 13 miles this forenoon. Rolling land. Saw a
dead wolf. Started at 1 p.m. Traveled about 30 miles today. No corn for our horses. Grass
very short. You may travel all day and not see a house. This is out of the world.
Thursday May 2 and 21 day out
All well. Fine day. Want rain in this part of the country. Set watch last night for the
first time. Myself and Mr. Rattery had the middle watch. Passed 2 dead horses. Hear that
corn is $3.00/bushel and flour $11.00/barrel. Great many selling out and coming back. 5
p.m. We are now in camp for the night and 25 miles from the Bluffs. We shall reach there
tomorrow if all is well. Looks like rain tonight.
Friday May 3 and 22 day out
Rained very hard last night. For the first time, we slept dry in our wagons. It is a
blusterous morning and rains a little. Rather cold to turn out. All well and in good
spirits. Struck tents and started at 6 a.m. Captain and 2 men gone on ahead to the bluffs.
Saw 1 dead horse, 2 buffalo Heads. 4 p.m. Camped 8 miles from the Bluffs on account of
feed. In sight of Missouri river. They're all mormons in this part of the country. A man
made an attempt to steal a horse in one of the company and got shot at. They recovered the
horse did not hurt the man.
Saturday May 4 and 23 day out
Sharp frost last night. Fine morning. Warm day. We have been employed today in cleaning
out wagons and repairing wagon hoops and putting spokes and having a general overall, as
the Captain is gone to town with six men to get our provisions ready and get horses shod.
We want to start on Monday for the promised land. We are all well and in good spirits.
Sunday May 5 and 24 day out
Fine morning. 8 miles from the Bluffs. Been in camp all day. The day has been spent in
regulating things, weighing clothes to make our loads equal on every wagon. We are 8 miles
from town. We [will] go to town tomorrow to get provisions. I have had a bad headache all
day. Commenced to write a letter to my wife. This is the first sabbath that I have worked
on for many years. Lord have mercy on us.
Monday May 6 and 25 day out
We took a early start this morning and went 1 mile and took on some flour and grain for
our teams, and then down what they call a town. One of the meanest places I ever saw, and
made out our stock of provision. Things of all kinds is very high. Traded 4 mules for 3
horses and 8 [dollars to] boot. The land here is very rough and curious to the eye,
resembling the waves of the sea. Some very high peaks. Me and some others went to the top
of some of the highest of them. You have a fine view of the country road.
Tuesday May 7 and 26 day out
All well. Beautiful morning. Finished and sent my letter to my wife. Went 2 miles on
horseback to the post office. 7 a.m. Took a fresh start for California. Our teams is in
fine order. We have about 1000 [pounds] on each wagon. Came 12 miles today and camped.
Took in more feed. 12 o'clock on watch. All abed and the wolves howling round. Have a
little time to meditate and think of friends at home that lay near my heart. God bless
Wednesday May 8 and 27 day out
All well. Lay in camp all day. Been employed in making tents. The Boys has been out
shooting ducks and we have had a chowder. All in good spirits.
Thursday May 9 and 28 day out
Started at 7 a.m. Went 3 miles and crossed Missouri River into the Indian Territory. Saw a
great many Indians. There is going to be war with two of the tribes in 2 months about the
hunting grounds. 12 a.m. Started from the river. 28 men and 3 wagons joining us, which
makes our Company amount to 14 wagons and 44 men and 47 horses and one mule. The Company
was organized and regulated. There is one doctor with us.
Friday May 10 and 29 day out
Struck tent 1/4 past 4 a.m. and traveled through a beautiful country, well watered. 3 p.m.
About one dozen of us went to shoot 5 buffalo; turned out to be 5 indian ponies. Saw 3
wolves. Had to mend 2 bad cracks so that we could pass over. This has been a fine day. All
well. The grass is just beginning to grow. Pitched tent and traveled about 20 miles.
Camped about 3/4 mile of the road.
Saturday May 11 and 30 day out
Rose at 3 a.m. Struck tent 1/2 [past] 5. Traveled over a beautiful country, well watered.
Crossed Salt Creek. Mended the road 3 times. One of our horses got bit or stung very bad.
Captain's son had the dysentery. Gave him some medicine. [He] is better tonight. Pitched
tent about 5 p.m. Traveled 30 miles.
Sunday May 12 and 31 day out
All well. Lay in camp at Salt Creek. Very warm. Put on thinner clothes. This is an
excellent country. Good campground. Plenty of wood and water. Our horse is a little
better. Great many camp here. There is indians' graves 1 mile from here. Our men dug up 1
brass kettle, 1 hoe, 1 small glass bottle [which] looked as if it had been buried a long
while. On the bottle was stamped London. Great many teams has just come up. This has been
a lonesome day. Had a great desire to take a rim[?] home till monday, in there is the
greatest order in camp. All in fine spirits. 5 p.m.
Monday May 13 and 32 day out
Took an early start this morning. All well. Good roads. Come to a bad place. Had to pull
the wagons over with ropes. Saw several dead carcasses. Four of our horse got adrift last
night. Found them at the next camp. Came 35 miles. Very bad water. Passed about 3 acres of
salt marsh. Salt on top of the ground. Quite a curiosity.
Tuesday May 16 and 33 day out
Fine morning. All well. Dry, hot, dusty. This is a very level country we are traveling
over. This morning passed a lot of wagons on the road. Dead cattle. Saw a great many
wagons come from Fort Laramie going to the bluffs for stores. Passed over high bluffs. Saw
a number of Pawnee Indians. Came over a splendid country. 30 miles up to one of the
branches of the Platte river. Made and passed some laws last night.
Wednesday May 15 and 34 day out
Rose at 3 a.m. Had breakfast at 5. Started about 6 a.m. All well. 4 horses was stolen last
night in the next camp from us. One o'clock. We are bating along side of the Platte river.
It is very pleasant, about 150 yards wide. Water riley. Passed a dead horse. The roads is
good, rather sandy some places, quite hard putting. Passed a number of emigrants with
cattle teams and one mule team. Beautiful country about here. Passed an indian grave.
There was about 150 horses heads in a circle, and about 100 yards from that was an indian
village, all wigwams, curiously constructed, capable of containing several thousand
indians. Grass short. No wood. Had to carry wood. Came 30 miles and camped. Grass short. A
man has just come up and told us that the indians has stolen 4 mules and 3 horses and left
him without team and 1 thousand miles from home with only 25 dollars of money in is
Thursday May 16 and 35 day out
Took an early start. Thomas Mun had a chill yesterday, [a] little better this morning.
Roads sandy along the Platte river. We keep [to] this road 300 miles. Only had 1 shower
since we left home. Roads good but dusty. Saw a wolf this morning, and a buffalo head not
long been killed. Saw some indians' graves at a distance. Came 5 miles and turned out for
2 hours. Good grass. All in excellent spirits. Teams stand it well. Have not the least
desire to turn back. 1 p.m. Left the river about 2 miles, crossed a high bluff, struck the
river again. Beautiful scenery. River full of islands. River about 1 mile wide. High
bluffs on the left, river on the right. 4 men gone hunting buffalo. Saw another train
ahead. Came about 25 miles and camped. Good grass.
Friday May 17 and 36 day out
Struck tent about 5 a.m. All well. Roads level and good as can be. Turned out at 12
o'clock for 2 hours. Good grass. Saw 2 antelope at a distance. Shot a skunk. I and one
more went over the bluffs to hunt, about 6 miles, did not see anything. Pitched tent at 5
p.m. Came 20 or 25 miles. Had to ford the river for wood.
Saturday May 18 and 37 day out
Started about 6 a.m. Road runs about 1 mile from the river. Went 5 miles and struck the
Saint Joe and Independence Road. This is the road that leads to California. 1 mile from
here, I saw a grave. A young man 25 years old died June 3, 1849. Looks solemn. The road
here is as good as can be. Saw a great many teams this morning. Passed two trains. Very
warm day. Saw 2 wolves, 2 dead carcasses. 5 p.m. At Fort Kearney, 220 miles from Council Bluffs. This [is] quite a military
station, 150 soldiers here, 1 store that you can get anything you want. The officer in
command sent 1 sergeant and 3 soldiers yesterday to recover the horses and mules that was
stolen from the emigrants on Wednesday. If the chief don't give them up, they will send
out the soldiers and destroy their village. Came 28 miles and camped 1 mile from the fort.
Sunday May 19 and 38 day out
1 mile from Fort Kearney. All well. Fine day. Went to see the soldiers exercise at 8 a.m.
Wrote a letter to my wife and sent it. Spent the day in writing, reading and walking
Monday May 20 and 39 day out
Had quite a shower last night, about 3/4 of an hour, and blew our tent down. Expected to
get a soaking. Turned in all standing. Looks like rain this morning. Charles got sick,
headache. 10 a.m. Cleared off and hot. Saw plenty of game at a distance. Grass short.
Water riley. [We] keep along the Platte river. Saw 2 graves. Came about 27 miles and
camped. Gather buffalo chips to cook our supper.
Tuesday May 21 and 40 day out
Started about 6 a.m. Raining a little. All well. The roads is lined with emigrants. The
roads good and level. Grass very short. Plenty of large game here. Can't get a shot at
them. United States patrols along the road to keep the indians quiet. Can travel with
perfect safety. Come about 25 miles and camped. Took our horses about 1 mile to pasture.
Looks like rain. My second watch tonight.
Wednesday May 22 and 41 day out
Rained and blew very hard last night. All well. Cleared off fine. Started about 4 a.m.
Went about 5 miles on account of grass before breakfast. Saw 2 graves. Came 24 miles and
camped. Poor grass.
Thursday May 23 and 42 day out
Fine morning. All well. Started at 6 a.m. Part of the Company that joined us left today.
They did not like to get up so early. Very hot. Not much wind. Roads good and fine
country. Grass good. Came about 25 miles and camped 1 mile from the road.
Friday May 24 and 43 day out
Struck tent at a late hour this morning. Cold night last night and a warm day. All in fine
health and spirits. Roads good. We left the river this afternoon and crossed some rising
land and returned to the river again about 9 a.m. They shot a buffalo and I dress it a
very fine one. Would weigh 800 lbs. We had some for dinner. It was quite a treat. It was a
bull. Had 3 shots in him. It is rather coarse grain meat, not so good as beef. Saw a great
many buffalo this afternoon. Came only 20 miles today. Got a good campground at 4 p.m.
with plenty of wood, water and grass. One of our men jumped out of the wagon and sprained
his ankle at 10 a.m.
Saturday May 25 and 44 day out
Struck tent at 1/2 past 4. Buffalo meat gone. Some of the men [have] the dysentery. The
land is not so good. Grass short. Bluffs each side of the river. This is what they call
the South Fork of the Platte River. Sold one of our wagons. Burnt 1 old wagon. Turned our
horses on some islands in the river. Saw lots of buffalo today and one black wolf. Came 27
miles and camped.
Sunday May 26 and 45 day out
This morning about 5 a.m., we rose, and in a few minutes, we saw 2 buffalo run by our
camp. The Captain, William T. Bonniwell, and myself with several of our Company went in
chase after them. We run them about 2 miles and the Captain got thrown from his horse, not
hurt. The buffalo escaped. As we was returning, we saw 5 more and we set chase after them. We chase them
about 3 miles and came within pistol shot of them. I was ahead. The captain was some 20
rods behind of me. The other men was in different directions and the buffalo turned and
all at once I saw my brother's horse coming without a rider. I stopped and looked round
and saw him on the ground. I was up to him in a minute and I found him almost dead. As it
happened, there was a doctor with us and it was my wish he should be bled in both arms. It
would not run much in the first arm. We took about 1/2 pint out of the other arm. As quick
as he came to, we brought him in camp. Done all we could for him. In about an hour, we had
another doctor to give his advise. 10 a.m. He is a very sick man. Have a hard job to keep
him from fainting. Got some fever. Put wet cloths on his head every minute or two. 1 p.m.
Came to. Feels a little better after rest. 5 p.m. Is very sick. Complains of a hurt in the
chest. He is racked all over. I am by him all the time. It is just come on to blow a gale
and rains hard. It is a solemn time with me, a solemn chastisement. God enable us to
remember it and never go after buffalo on a sabbath morning again.
Monday May 27 and 46 day out
Set up last night with my brother. He had a good night rest. Is some better, but very
sick. Shook all over, and head bad. Started at 5 a.m. Can't hardly bear the jolt of the
wagon. 5 p.m. Captain is better. Came 18 miles and crossed the Platte River, 3/4 of a mile
across. Got our teams over in fine order. River 3 foot deep. We are now 165 miles from
Fort Laramie. Drove Captain's team all day. Saw nothing very interesting today.
Tuesday May 28 and 47 day out
Struck tent at 5 a.m. Captain is better. Very weak. 10 a.m. Crossed Coader[?] Bluffs, a
beautiful peace of nature's work. Came down a steep side hill. A frightful place. Came
down with out trouble. 1 p.m. Came to Ash Hollow and stayed 2 hours. Came 40 miles and
camped 1 mile from the Platte river. Good grass. No wood. There is a few indians here,
some squaws quite interesting. A French trader here has 2 of them for his wives. They are
the Sioux tribe. They declared that I was a Pawnee Indian.
Wednesday May 29 and 48 day out
Struck tent at 1/2 [past] 5 a.m. Captain is better. Fine morning. Had a fine rain last
night. Had a very sandy road to pass over. Saw a great many indians, all very friendly,
and two villages. Came about 25 miles and camped at 4 p.m. about 15 rods from the Platte
river. The indians here is almost black and some of the children is got blue eyes and a
light complexion. I can't account for it unless the ladies has rubbed too close to the
emigrants going to California.
Thursday May 30 and 49 day out
Started this morning at 5 a.m. Captain little better. Roads sandy and heavy. Saw a great
many indians today. They are quite good looking, good featured and teeth. Went 6 miles off
the roads to solitary castle or tower and stamped my name on the sand rock. I am writing
these notes setting on the sand 1/4 mile from this curious piece of nature's work. It
represents a castle at a distance surrounded by a sandy country. The prospect is
delightful. Can see a great many miles. 15 miles in a westerly direction is the Chimney
Rock. [Came] 28 miles.
Friday May 31 and 50 day out
Started at 1/2 [past] 5. All well. Fine day. Grass good. Roads sandy. Land not good for
cultivation. Beautiful prospects. I write these notes at 10 a.m. at the base of the Chimney Rock, 6 miles off
the road. It is a great curiosity. I have stamped my name on the rock. It is very high but
I can see it. There is a great many names on this peace of nature's work. There is a
spring about 50 rods from this rock. There are a number of curious sceneries at this
place. Saw William Smith from Wisconsin. He started some days before us. 12 o'clock.
Stopped to bate. Grass good along the river. 4 p.m. Camp in sight of the table rock. Made
25 miles. No wood at hand. Went 1/2 mile for water. The bluffs here is high and beautiful.
Some show as white and some green, scattered all over with cedar or pine, I don't know
which, which makes it have a splendid appearance. The table rock is round and flat on top,
all white. 1/2 a mile from the Platte river, the land is sandy and good for nothing nor
never will be. We are at this camp about 46 miles from Laramie.
The Journey Continues....
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