The Gold Rush Diary
Of George Bonniwell
Part III - June, 1850
Diary courtesy of Barbara Sumner
protected by copyright, all rights reserved
Transcribed by J.R. Tompkins
Saturday June the 1st and 51 day out
Started at 6 a.m. Had a wet night. Fine morning. Thomas Mun is not very well. Captain is
about recovered. Traveled 1 mile and left the river and struck for Scots Bluffs. 11 a.m.
Came 14 miles in Scots Bluffs valley. This valley is 8 mile long and about 5 wide, 3/4
surrounded with the most splendid sights I ever saw. 1 p.m. Crossed Scots Bluffs. Very
high. Can see a great many miles on these heights. From here we had 14 miles of road all
down hill. Crossed Horseshoe Creek at the Scots Bluffs. There is a blacksmith shop and a
store. Came 30 miles and camped 1 mile from the road and 1/2 mile from the river, 37 miles
from Fort Laramie.
Sunday June 2 and 52 day
5 a.m. This is a fine morning. Took a dose of medicine as a preventative against sickness.
Good grass at this camp and water. No wood. Thomas Mun sick. This has been a long day. We
have spent this day in washing our clothes and riding. I have had a great desire to be
home today and have a visit with my friends. We are all in good spirits for California. If
all is well, we shall take a early start tomorrow morning.
Monday June 3 and 53 day out
Started at 1/2 [past] 4 a.m. Mr. Mun is better. Fine morning. 1 p.m. We have passed some
hard looking bluffs on each side of the road. Clear. Sand roads is in some measure hard as
we have to cross knolls of sand. About 2 miles from where we stopped to bate is a trader
and a blacksmith shop and some indians tanning buffalo skins. 9 o'clock on watch. We have
made 32 miles today. The land is rough and barren. We are in camp at Laramie Ford and
1-1/2 miles from the fort. Halfway from home. It is dark and rainy.
Tuesday June 4 and 54 day out
Cloudy morning. All well. 7 a.m. Moved
from our camp 1-1/2 [miles] up to the Fort Laramie. This is quite a place. In addition to
the old fort, they have built several frame houses, one very large not finished yet. There
is a nice garden belonging to the fort. The land is sandy. The land is bluffs and
mountains in this vicinity. Quite pretty to the eye. Spotted with scrubby pines. Laramie
peak is very high. We saw it one day's travel before we came to it. There is snow on top.
The Black Hills is in sight. We shall attempt to cross them tomorrow. Good grass and
water. No wood. Came 15 miles and camped.
Wednesday June 5 and 55 day out
From this place, I shall be able to give a more correct account of the miles we travel, as
we have the Mormon guidebook to go by. Before we had to judge as near we could. Started at
5 a.m. 1-1/2 miles south of the hot springs O. This is a very strong spring of clear
water. Past a narrow ravine. Ascended a steep bluffs 1/2 mile up past Porters Rock, a
small lonely rock on the left of the road. Bitter Creek and Cold Springs. Descended
crossing Dead Timber Creek. This is where we took our nooning. Plenty of timber, grass and
water. Ascended a steep bluff 1/4 mile up. A most splendid view from the summit at the
surrounded country. The land and bluff is spotted with pine trees. It looks like an
orchard. Camped at Horse Creek and Hebber [Heber] Springs. Passed 2 Graves. Came 30 miles.
Thursday June the 6 and 56 day.
Struck tent at 6 a.m. All well. Dry and pleasant. Cold nights and warm days here. We
ascended a high bluff 3/4 mile to the summit. This is the only place that the Mormon guide
says we shall have to double teams. We got up with single teams. We crossed several dry
cricks. We ascended a high bluff, the top of which is a succession of hills and hollows
for 5 miles. The road is crooked but good. Came to La Bonte river, 30 ft wide, 18 in deep
and camped. Plenty wood and water. Grass short. Came 18-1/2 miles.
Friday June 7 and 57 day out
The morning found us on the alert for a start. Passed over 1 mile of red sand and crossed
branch of La Bonte River, 10 ft wide, 18 in deep. Steep bank. Found no trouble. Had 3-1/2
miles more of red sand. Crossed another bluff. Roads tolerably straight and good. Toads with horns and tails. Very singular
things. Came to a La Prele river, 1 rod wide, 2 ft deep. Bated at this place. Land sandy
and barren. Very uneven. A succession of hills and holes. Some bad ravines to cross, which
requires great care in driving. Came to Box Elder Creek, 5 ft wide. This place was choked
up with teams. Such a time and situation require all the patience a man can muster.
Fourche Boise River [?], 30 ft wide, 2 ft deep. This place has plenty of wood and water
but little grass. Came 27 miles and camped.
Saturday June 8 and 58 day out
Took a early start this morning and came 9 miles to Deer Creek at the North Fork of the
Platte River, where we found a lovely place to camp. Plenty of grass, wood and a fine
creek with plenty of fish. And being Saturday, we concluded to stop till Monday morning
and recruit our horses as we have had a hard road this week traveling over the Black
Hills. The roads has been sandy and good, equal to a plank road, but hilly. A succession
of hill and hollows. But in no place have we been obliged to double teams. This section of
country is sandy and barren to all farming purposes. The prospects and landscapes has been
delightful. We are now well on our journey. All well and good spirits for California.
About 1/2 mile from this camp is a coal bank. On the Black hills, there is a great deal of
wild sage, mustard, chess tansy, wild flex and mint, and a variety of other things,
flowers, etcetera. 3 bears and 2 buffalo was killed on the hills south of us yesterday.
They are very numerous here.
Sunday morning June 9 and 59 day
5 a.m. A lovely morning and the birds singing. Delightful. All well. As usual, we lay in
camp today. I have been quite lonely today. I have been walking round this delightful
campground and have been thinking about those I love, and have been comforted. I miss the
meeting, which makes the sabbath a long day. The sabbath is not spent here as it ought to
be. Some employs their time in shooting and fishing, some in washing, and some in one
thing and some in another. Today I have been reading and talking with some young men on
religion. I told them my experience which made us all feel good. I feel that God is with
me. Amen. Sunday 5 p.m. Had a little rain today.
Monday June 10 and 60 day out
Left our Camp at 5 a.m. Crossed several bad creeks. Roads crooked but good. Went through 2
deep gulches. Crossed one or 2 more creeks and came to the North Fork of the Platte River
ferry and crossed. Paid 4 dollars each wagon. There is 4 scows here. They are coining
money here. The land is rolling, sandy, very dusty. This afternoon we have just had a
shower and laid the dust. The river here is deep and about 100 yards across. There is snow
on the mountains. Went 3/4 mile from the ferry and camped. No grass. Horses had 1 quart of
meal. Traveled 29 miles.
Tuesday June 11 and 61 day out
Had a hard blow and shower last night. My second watch last night, one of the mules broke
wagon tongue, which caused us to start late. 7 a.m. Horses look gaunt this morning. Got to
go 25 miles before we get feed. 10 a.m. Some men has left their wagons [and] left a great
many things. Several of us got clothes, [gun] powder, soap and a great many useful
articles. What I got was worth 6 dollars. A deal of property all along the road. A bear
was killed here on the 8[th] weighing 700 lbs. I saw his paws nailed up at the ferry. Hear
good news from the diggings and a good road. Bated near the Alkali Springs, which is
supposed to be poisonous. The land is barren. Curious rocks and fine landscapes. Grass
poor. Passed 2 dead horses, 2 cattle. 3 p.m. Came where the road passes between high,
forming a kind of avenue or gateway for 1/4 of mile, where 1 of our horses gave out on
account of water, alkali swamps and springs poisonous. Passed coal bank. Drove late. 5
p.m. Came to small spring where we allayed our animals' thirst and camped without grass
after 26 miles drive and a very hot day.
Wednesday June 12 and 62 day out
Left our camp at 5 a.m. Had shower last night. Horses look hollow. Trying time. Crossed
Willow Spring. Came to Prospect Hill. Saw Sweetwater Mountains. This is the commencement
of the Rocky Mountains. 10 a.m. Stopped at small creek to bate our horses. Grass all eat
off. Saw 3 buffalo. Passed 1 horse turned out to die. Traded wagon for 1 horse and 20
dollar to boot this afternoon. We have had a very hard road for 10 miles. All loose sand,
which tried our horses' strengths very much, as the feed has been very bad. It is a
complete sand hole. Nevertheless, we got along good. Crossed Greasewood Creek. Good water.
Came to saleratus springs. Got some saleratus. A great many acres of this kind of water.
The land looks all white with saleratus all ready for use. Came to Sweetwater River and
1-1/2 miles from Independence Rock. Traveled 23 miles [and] camped. Very poor grass. The
country here is all rocks of granite stone and I think it is rightly named the Rocky
Thursday June 13 and 63 day out
Struck our poles at 6 a.m. Came to Independence Rock, about 680 yards long and 120 wide,
composed of hard granite. There is a great many names of visitors painted on various
places on the southeast corner. This is one of the curiosities to be seen on this road.
Crossed Sweetwater River, 8 rods wide, 2 ft deep. 41/4 miles from here is the Devils Gate.
The river here runs between 2 perpendicular rocks 400 ft high. On top is a man's head and
body down to his thighs. This is a curiosity worthy a traveler's notice. Came 8 miles and
camped. Good grass. No wood. We are surrounded with mountains which has snow on their
peaks. The roads pass through them, sandy and good, very dusty. Saw great many things
thrown away and left, trunks, clothes, tools and so forth. Saw a great many names but did
not know any of them. We concluded to stop here today to recruit our horses. Spent this
afternoon in fixing and getting ready for a early start tomorrow.
Friday June 14 and 64 day out
Struck tent at 4 a.m. Traveled over very heavy sand for 28 miles at Sweetwater River.
Saturday June 15 and 65 day
Traveled 8 miles today and camped. Went on the mountains 1 mile high, hunting antelope. I
shot one, the first that was killed in the company. The snow is on the top of the
mountains. All well.
Sunday June 16 and 66 day out
Notwithstanding it is the sabbath, we thought it best to travel as the grass is very bad.
I feel the effects of my hunt yesterday. Soon traveled 18 miles and camped at Ford No. 5,
Sweetwater River. Grass very poor. One of our men is sick this evening with the headache.
Monday June 17 and 67 day out
Left our encampment at 5 a.m. Left one of our horses behind that had got poisoned. One of
our men, Thomas Allen is sick. I doctored him last night. He is a little better this
morning. Came 8 miles and camped on Sweetwater River. We have had heavy roads of sand and
no grass. Had to feed flour. We concluded to stop here today as the grass is a little
better. The country here is a complete desert mountains and bluffs. The road today has
been a hard gravel with some spots of small cobbles and hilly. Not very bad to travel.
Crossed a high bluff to escape crossing the river. Saw a wagon left behind and another
broke an axletree. Saw 1 poisoned ox and 1 horse turned out to die. There has been so much
travel on this road that every spot of grass is eat off. It is very cold today and blows a
gale. This is a trying part of our road. All in good spirits and making good headway.
About 32 miles from South Pass. Went out hunting 1 p.m. Returned at 6 p.m. Shot young
antelope. This animal is about as large as deer and its native place is on barren hills
and plains. They are good meat.
Tuesday June 18 and 68 day out
Struck our poles at 6 a.m. We had a sharp frost last night and this morning. We had to
have an addition in our clothes by putting on our coats and mittens. Charles is sick
today, complained bilious attack. Thomas Min is well. Our road today has been a succession
of hills and hollows with some rough rocky ridges, dangerous to wagons if care is not
taking. Crossed some small creeks. Grass very poor. Water plenty. The land is in all
respects the same only the mountains has more snow on. We have traveled 22 miles today and
camped on the Sweetwater River Grass very short. Very trying to our horses. We could
travel 40 miles a day if grass was plenty I have not seen anything yet so bad as I have in
Wisconsin. Saw some buffalo today. There is any quantity of antelope here. Just saw one a
little ways from our camp. The landscapes is beautiful and can see a great many miles of
these hills. I never was in better health and spirits in my life, thank God.
Wednesday June 19 and 69 day out
Left our encampment 1/2 [past] 5 a.m. We had a very cold night. Had a cold bed. I think of
the words my little daughter said to me before I left home. Today we traveled only 16
miles to the summit on South Pass. This is the dividing ridge between the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific.
Altitude 7,085 feet, according to Fremont account. We are on the line of California. We
stay here today as we camp. Got another place to camp short of 20 miles today. We have
tolerable good grass. Charles is a little better this morning. 8 a.m. Went to hunt
antelope. Shot 1 through the flank and lost him. Captain is unwell this afternoon and Mr.
Page, one of our Company, gave them an emetic. Some of the men has gone out hunting
antelope. There is considerable snow in this vicinity. The roads has been good today.
Thursday June 20 and 70 day out
Started about 5 a.m. Fine morning. not so cold last night Charles is better. William is
better. One of our men was taking with a puking last night. Mr. Hand is sick today, bad
headache, stomach foul. Myself was quite unwell this forenoon. Had a burning inward fever.
Took plenty of cold water and was better at noon and eat a good dinner of antelope, what
we shot yesterday. I have quite a deal to do attending on the sick. Have good luck in
doctoring them. It is they eat so hardy, and change of climate. We have come 24 miles
today. Good road. No grass. Water plenty. This afternoon crossed the Little and Big Sandy
River. No grass here. The 43 miles stretch is before us. Saw some bones of cattle that had
died and one horse on our road. The country is in all respects the same, sandy and will
hardly grow wild sage. Saw a high bluff with a rock like a castle on top. Looked very
natural. Tomorrow morning we shall make the necessary preparations for the 43 mile
Friday June 21 and 71 day out
Up at a early hour and took our horses 3 miles to
grass. Returned at noon. Found William and Mr. Hand sick. I gave them some medicine and it
help them and at 3 o'clock we started on the 43 mile stretch, which we dreaded, and it
turned out to be the best road that we have had, only it was most horrible dusty and no
water. This is what they call the desert. We arrived at Green River about 7 a.m. and they
have a ferry at this place.
Saturday June 22 and 72 day out
Not willing to pay 5 dollars for each wagon. We thought we would try to ferry our things
in a wagon box. We tried to get it across and the tide run so strong it took the wagon
box, me and another man 1/2 mile down the river. We come back and took a horse and found a
ford a little above the ferry. We got across and the other teams followed us and there was
two teams took down the stream and had every thing spilled. Just saved their lives. It is
a very bad river to cross. Camped on the west side of the river about 5 p.m., all tired
out. Grass short.
Sunday June 23 and 73 day out
This morning, I find my self very sick. Yesterday, I was in the water about 3/4 of the
day, which brought on a bad headache and cold chills and fever. Very sick all day. My
bones ache most dreadful. William is very sick, chills and fever. Charles also. I think it
is the mountain fever. Two teams went down the river today. Went to the bar. Saw some
Snake Indians round our tents, all friendly.
Monday June 24 and 74 day out
Started at 5 a.m. Myself is quite sick this morning. William is better. Charles complains.
Passed over a succession of hills and hollows and struck a branch of the Green River. Good
grass in places along the river. 1 p.m. Crossed a branch of the Green River. The land has
a barren appearance. Soil not so sandy. Came 23 miles and camped. Drove our horses 2 miles
for grass. Feel a little better tonight but very weak.
Tuesday June 25 and 75 day out
Fine morning. I feel quite sick this morning. Could not eat any breakfast, but still am
better. Charles and William is about the same. It is the mountain fever. We have [the]
road all day to ourselves. The roads has been very hilly and deep hollows. Some of them
frightful looking ones. Passed considerable [amount] of snow in this day's travel. Some of
the men has amused themselves at snowballing. There has not been anything very interesting
today. Saw some Snake Indians. Crossed Hams Fork and camped near Bear River bottom. Came
over 28 miles. Good grass and water. No wood but willow and wild sage. There is a number
of indians round our camp now. Wants to trade a horse for a rifle. Quite friendly.
Wednesday June 26 and 76 day out
8 a.m. We concluded to lay over today as we have good grass and our horses need it. I feel
quite smart this morning. William also. Charles is better. He was out watching the horses
last night a sick man. Came to me last night to doctor him. He is better this morning. I
gave him some more stuff. I think he will be better. William has a breaking out in his
lips. We are all in good spirits. 4 weeks from the diggings. Quite cold last night. 1 p.m.
Little Bill was taking with a fainting. Got well in a few minutes. He had been laying on
his face in the tent. We have spent the day in shoeing horses and washing, reading and all
kind of fixings. It has been quite warm today. Looked like a shower but it passed off.
There has been a great many teams passed us today. We all feel about the same. 5 p.m.
Thursday June 27 and 77 day out
I was out all night watching horses. Had quite a fever. Better this morning. All about the
same. Left our campground and ascended a very large hill. The land in general is better.
Would do to cultivate. We have had some fine sights. The hills is very bad. This is the
Bear River mountains that we are passing over now. Passed through a grove of poplars where
there was a great many names cut on the barks of trees. Saw 4 graves. One was an old lady
48 years old died in '48. Saw one or two dead cattle. Grass is poor at this place. 12 p.m.
Traded another of our wagons away, or rather give it for 20 dollars. Gave 100 lb flour for
1 barrel of peaches. Come near the Bear River and camped. Found the water was salt. Had to
hitch up and go 5 miles to Bear River. Camped 4 rods of the river. Good grass. and water
and wood. Came over 30 miles today. Mark Silverman is not well this evening, bad headache.
Friday June 28 and 78 day out
Took an early start this morning. Went about 2 miles and crossed Smiths Fork, where we had
to unload, which was the first time we have had to unload our wagons since we started.
This is the Bear river. We have had a very crooked road today. 2 p.m. Came to Thomas's
Fork. This was a bad place but did not have to unload. The grass has been good. We are all
getting over the mountain fever. It is a bad fever to have. Come over 20 miles and camped
2 miles from Thomas's fork. Good grass and water. 5 p.m.
Saturday June 29 and 79 day out
We was on the alert at our usual hour. We all feel about the same. We had very high hill to ascend this morning, about 1
mile high, and traveled a little on top and then descended again. Some of the hills is
desperate. This afternoon, our roads is been level and good. The land is rich here. There
is no wild sage here. The land is too rich but wild surenwood[?] in abundance. Saw a
badger. We have not seen any game in some days. This country is all mountains. 4 p.m.
Crossed fullows fork[?] of the Bear River. 2 miles from there we camped. Good grass and
water. Went 1/2 mile for wood. 6 p.m. Fine evening.
Sunday June 30 and 80 day out
This is a fine lovely morning, and as is our custom, we lay in camp today. We are all
about the same in health, not sick nor well. I should like to be home today to visit with
my friends. We have spent the day in fixing up and doing such as can't be avoided in our
situation. We have excellent grass here and water.
The Journey Continues....
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Additonal Image Credits:
Laramie Peak from Labonte Hill, by Wm. Henry Jackson: courtesy Harold Warp