The Gold Rush Diary
Of George Bonniwell


Part IV - July, 1850

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


Monday July 1st and 81 day out
Photo Copyright Southwind ProductionsAt an early hour, we was on the trail. Went about 1 mile and broke brace on wagon tongue crossing a creek. This detained us some time at this place. We meet with a number of indians and some traders. They had brandy and tobacco 25 cents a glass. We have passed over 30 miles of a pleasant country today. We come to Soda, Steamboats and Beer and Cold springs. This is a beautiful fountain at this place. Camped on Bear River 1 mile from Hudspeth Cutoff. Good grass. No wood at this place. We meet some more indians. They told us that it was 800 miles to Sacramento City.

Tuesday July 2 and 82 day out
Photo Copyright Southwind ProductionsWe left our encampment at 1/2 [past] 5. Went about 1 mile and took the cutoff. After traveling about 1 hour, we came to some rocks that had been parted. It looks as if it had been done by the shake of an earthquake. It is very singular looking. Ascended a long hill, 1 mile high. Hard to ascend, and then down in a valley where we stopped to bate. Traveled 16 miles without water. Came to a fine creek and good grass. Here we meet with some indians and saw 1 grave, a young man died 2 days ago. He was left behind by his company. This afternoon, we have had a tedious road, one of the most dangerous roads we have passed over. It was down a ravine. Some places, we could hardly keep the wagon from capsize. We got along without accident. It is hard to describe this road as it is. It has been very dusty. We had a little shower this afternoon. The roads is more hilly with more stones then any we have passed. Grass is good. Land is good. Warm days and cold nights. There is been snow on the mountains for a great many miles. There is plenty of bear, elk, mountain sheep. A bear in this vicinity. William Townsand is sick with the fever. Came today 28 miles and camped alongside of a stream. We don't know the name of it.

Wednesday July 3 and 83 day out
Struck our poles at 5 a.m. This is a fine morning. All usually well. The roads has been in all respects the same but not quite so dangerous. Very hilly and rough. No person can imagine what their roads is like unless he sees them, but still they can be got along with very well. Anybody that comes this road must have thriving horses and plenty of patience, and all will go right enough. But I don't think that he will want to come again. The dust is horrible as there is no rain. We have passed several small creeks. Grass has been plenty and tonight we are 29 miles nigher the Sacramento than we was this morning. There is some indians in this part. All as peaceable as if there was none. The land is rich and good. There is a fine creek at this place. We don't know what the names of the places is here as we have no guide to inform us. 6 p.m.

Thursday July 4 and 84 day out
Left our grounds at 5 a.m. and traveled 30 miles, 20 miles without water. This is been a trying day. We all feel tired out, men and beast. We came over a mountain, about 5 miles from the base to the summit, and so hot, enough to scorch us, and the dust enough to kill the devil. Then we had to descend the same mountain. One of the worst and steepest places we have passed over. Tonight we found a well scant of water. Grass poor. Hard to get wild sage enough to cook our supper. We are surrounded with mountains. We are all about as usual. 7 p.m.

Friday July 5 and 85 day out
The morning found us ready to resume our journey. The morning is hot and clear. This forenoon, our road has been up hills and down dales. Road good. This afternoon, we have had plenty of water as we have passed through a ravine about 22 miles long. Good road descending very nigh all the way. Crossed one or two creeks. We are all well, thank God, and in good spirits. We think 16 days will fetch us to the diggings. Saw a few indians this morning. We have traveled 26 miles and camped. Good grass and good water.

Saturday July 6 and 86 day out
Started at an early hour. All well. About 6 miles from our camp, we crossed a small creek. The remainder of the day, we traveled through a valley. We crossed Raft River where we found a difficult job as its banks is steep and mire-y. This river is about 30 foot wide and 3 foot deep. We had to cross 4 other small cricks, bad to cross. Traveled about 24 miles and came on the old Fort Hall Road. Went about 3 miles farther and camped on the Raft River, making 27 miles. Good grass. Wild sage for fuel.

Sunday July 7 and 87 day out
As usual, we lay in camp. The day is wild and cold. Looks like a shower. All well. This, as usual, is a lonesome day. We have time to read and think of our friends we left behind. We all long to get to our journey's end. The roads is very dusty and we look more like millers then anything else. We caught some trout last night and a few mussels. We have lived so long on bacon that anything in the name of a change is very acceptable. There is a great many sick on this road with the mountain fever. Saw the grave of a young man died July, 1849. He has a large pile of stones over his grave.

Monday July 8 and 88 day out
Left our encampment at 5 a.m. All well. About 4 miles travel brought us to the second crossing of the Raft River. Easy crossing. We then past over some swampy land and then through a narrow valley. There is a hot spring in this vicinity under the mountains. We did not go to see them as it was not convenient. We have had good roads today. Saw some beautiful shaped rocks, very high and different colors. Passed several creeks and one large stream this afternoon. We have traveled through a narrow gorge or gut; mountain-y each side. Some I should judge was 1,000 foot high. Come to Castle City. This is a short valley surrounded with mountains and specked all over with small rocks of different shapes and sizes. Some is perpendicular, some round on top. This truly is the works of God and worthy the travelers' notice. We passed the Salt Lake Trail at 5 p.m. Went about 2 miles farther and camped, making 30 miles today. Good grass and water, no wood. We found a part of an old wagon. This served us for wood. Passed one grave on the road today.

Tuesday July 9 and 89 day out
We was on the start at half past five. All well. We suppose we have traveled 28 miles today. The roads has been very tedious and crooked and one of the wildest looking countries I ever saw. We passed this morning 2 small creeks and passed a fine spring on top of a mountain at an elevation of a thousand foot high. About 3 miles from this spring, we had to come down 2 very steep plains[?]. Some of the teams had ropes to steady the wagons down. We came 15 miles and took our nooning at Goose Creek. Good grass and water. There is a table mountain right where we stopped that has a man's face on the west and quite worthy the traveler's notice. Saw a little wild clover at this place, the first that I have seen. This afternoon we crossed Goose Creek and followed it about 13 miles. The road has been good and easy. Passed a warm spring; we didn't see it. Found good grass where we camped for the night, and water. We had a small shower about 5 p.m. which laid the dust. This day's travel has been the most crooked, wild and tedious that I ever want to travel on, and there has been the most curiosities and fine landscapes I ever saw. I hope we shall soon get at our journey's end for I am quite tired of traveling on this long and dusty road, and I believe we all are.

Wednesday July 10 and 90 day out
An early hour found us on the trail. All well. There is 3 warm springs within 6 rods of where we camped. The roads has been good, generally. We have had some nasty little creeks to cross and have had some stone in spots. Saw some strange looking rocks in a narrow gut in the mountain. 11 a.m. Began to cross a desert of 17 miles. No grass or water. 3 p.m. Crossed a small creek, and we was watering our horses and an ox team came across and broke one of our axletrees. The man gave us his without any difficulty as we was the strongest party. We camped after traveling 28 miles. Grass very poor as we are not quite off the desert. Water scant enough. Hardly enough for us to use. It is a well where we get it. Plenty of wild sage and scrub cedar.

Thursday July 11 and 91 days out
This morning we left our encampment at half past four, in order to get ahead of the ox teams. 3 of our horses got strayed but we found them after a short hunt. The roads has been good. The dust has been so bad that we sometimes could not see the next wagon. Horrid in the extremes. We passed 2 graves today. We traveled about 30 miles and passed over a lone piece of land. At this place there is about 1/2 an acre or more of boiling springs, which makes a creek of hot water of 2 miles in length, so hot that you can not bear your hands in. 5 miles from this place, we camped, 1/2 mile from the road. Good grass and water, making 35 miles today. The land here is a sort of a clay. Miles and miles of wild sage. We are in the root digger nation, a tribe of the most miserable looking creatures I ever saw. The Humboldt Mountains is in sight, with their towering peaks, covered with snow. We saw today some packers that offered us 1 dollar a pound for flour. We could not spare any. Every man for himself on this road.

Friday 12 and 92 day out
Left our encampment 4-20 m. Fine morning. Traveled 31 miles. Road good. Land about the same. Found a fine large spring in a valley about 8 miles from this place. 1 of our horses fell in it, but we soon choked him out. The roads has been horribly dusty, a steady cloud.

Saturday July 13 and 93 day
Struck tent at 4 a.m. All well. We have had excellent roads, but dusty. We left one of our horses behind that was wore out. 7 miles from our morning camp, we crossed the long-looked-for Humbolt River. This is a stream, varies in width from 15 to 20 and 30 foot. Current runs 3 miles an hour, about 3-1/2 ft deep. Followed up the river, crossed a branch of the river, crossed a small bluff and went west till we stuck the river again. Kept up the river. Lined level, grass in abundance. Water good in the river. No wood for fuel. We used wild sage and ox dung to cook our supper. The land where we have camped tonight is mire-y and we have to cut grass for our horses. The land on these bottoms is rich. In front of our camp in a south direction is the pasture of the Rocky Mountains. On top is an abundance of snow. The days is warm and nights comfortable. There is great pushing on the road, as a great many is getting short of provisions. 6 p.m. Made 28 miles.

Sunday July 14 and 94 day out
Notwithstanding it is the sabbath, we thought it necessary to travel today, as we are getting short of provisions. We left camp at 6 a.m. and kept along the river. Kept touching on the river at different places. Good road and grass. not quite so dusty. There was a young man from Waukessa[?] County shot by the indians while on guard the 3rd of July and died on the 5th, and there was a man and horse found that the Indians had killed and dug a hole and burnt. The other night, there was 23 horses stolen from the emigrants all out of one camp, and last night there was 2 men supposed to be Indians come in our camp. They was hailed by the watch and cleared. These Indians is a very hostile tribe. Fine day. Traveled 20 miles and camped on the Saint Mary or Humboldt River. Good grass.

Monday July 15 and 95 day out
Left our encampment at 4-1/2 a.m. All well. Our road this forenoon has been good along the river bottom. The dust is horrible, about 4 in. deep. It is like flour. 2 horses was shot with poisoned arrows by the Indians belonging to another company. We cannot see them by day. We have to keep well armed off at night. 2 men on a watch. I and Andrew Blovom was on watch last night. We had 8 rifles and 2 revolvers. We have to watch twice a week, now we are among this tribe. It was quite cold last night. Very warm day. This afternoon, the roads has left the river and crossed the mountains. Very steep hills, hard pulling. We all feel about fagged out tonight. Some of the boys feel some dissatisfied as we have to live short. No tea, no sugar, coffee just gone, but for my part, I won't complain as long as there is a shot in the locker and California so near. There is hundreds on this road is out, and would give any price for flour. We have traveled 30 miles, struck the river and camped. Good grass. We have, in some places, to ford the river and move grass for our horses. This is trying work for us, but it has got to be done.

Tuesday July 16 and 96 day out
5 a.m. found us on the road. All well. The road left the river again and it has been over mountains and hollows. Touched on the river this afternoon and left it again. Went over 24 mile stretch, a most awful road, stones and rocks and the dust so bad we could not see our train enough to kill the old boy. Water scarce, grass scant. Drove 28 miles and camped on the river bottom. Had to ford the river for grass. This is a trying time to the men and horses. I have just been to get grass and got up to my other hand in mud and I did not know whether I should get out. First glimpse of the Elephant. Last night, just as I got to sleep, on jumped Mr. Toad on my face. We had to get up and have a hunt and rouse him out. The other night we found a lizard under our buffalo robes, and a short time ago, a snake.

Wednesday July 17 and 97 day out
We was on the march at 5 a.m. All well. We have traveled 20 miles today. Camped about 1 p.m. We thought it best to stay in camp till tomorrow as we have got excellent grass. The roads has been quite crooked and the dust is enough to kill us and our horses. Our horses has failed more this last 2 days then any week we have been traveling. The dust is worse then the work. This river is a perfect zigzag. The land is flat and it has made its channel in all directions. Some places is 10 and 12 foot deep. It is not very good water unless you're used to it. There is a great many leaving their wagons and packing. There is a good deal of complaining on the road. There was a man stripped staff naked by the Indians the other day. There was 200 men went to recover a lot of horses that the Indians had stolen day before yesterday, and if they did not give them up, they was going to kill every one in the village. The village is 2 miles from the river. They stole them where we camped on the 16th July.

Thursday July 18 and 98 day out
Left camp at 5-1/2 a.m. Fine morning. Very warm. Roads a.m. good and not so dusty. Struck river at 8 a.m. Left it again for 7 miles. Good grass. At noon here, we traded another wagon for 1 horse and 1 mule. Put all on 2 wagons, hitched up. New horse is broke down, wants rest. Mule, poor thing, one of the men undertook to riding. Had to jump off. Went about 3 miles. Road heavy. The new horse and 1 of our best horses began to lame behind. Had to drive till 9 p.m. We camped. Hardly got our team there. 2 horses had to do all the work. We camped 20 rods from the river. Not a bit of grass and horses have come 30 miles. Watered out of a well. Bad water as we could not get to the river on account of an alkali creek. Took our supper, which consisted of water enough to kill a nigger, raw pork and bread. Spread our buffaloes on the ground and went to bed. Our case looks rather dubious. Men worn out.

Friday July 19 and 99 day out
Captain woke us up at daylight, ordered us to harness up before breakfast, and drive till we found grass. Drove about 4 miles and camped on the river. Had to swim the river, it is about 30 yards wide, and cut grass and haul it over with a rope. Got enough for to bate, and come and had our breakfast. William feels rather down. He told me he had as much as he could bear. This was on the road to this camp as we was walking together. I told him to look up, we should get there somehow, and he took out his little textbook to look at his morning lesson, and read it and gave it to me to read. It was a blessing to our souls. Thank God. His grace is always sufficient to all that put their trust in him. I don't feel the least discouraged. I know God is with us, but I can't help feeling for my brother, as he has got so much on his mind. He stands it well. After a breakfast of coffee, bread and an allowance of bacon, we swam the river again, got more grass. Thought it best to stay in camp till tomorrow. Horses put that out of sight. Had our dinner of bread and coffee, weak at that. Been out of sugar some time. I thank God I don't feel to murmur, and I feel as cheerful as ever I did. I have not been once sorry that I left home. Our bacon is gone and I expect we shall be down on bread and water in one week. I don't see any help for us unless we can get some off the emigrants and that is almost an impossibility. 3 p.m. Went across the river again for grass. Come to the conclusion to pack all our worn-out horses out of our wagon, put on a fresh mule, and took the new horse off our wagon. Only me and another to go in our wagon. It looks a little more promising now. William is about right this afternoon. [?] to the backbone. Some Mormons passed here this morning. A pack come from Sacramento going to Salt Lake. Would not give us any information. I expect they had a lot and afraid to let us know it. They say we are 800 miles from Sacramento.

Saturday July 20 and 100 days out
Left camp at 4 a.m. All well, but some of them a little cross. Traveled on till we came to the Oregon Road. Took that and went 5 miles and found it was the wrong road. A great many has taken this road. It runs North, ours Southwest. Turned back. Traveled 20 miles to the watering place, the river that is, from morning's camp. The land has been all saleratus and alkali creeks. There was a beef killed here, 200 lbs. Went 1 mile and camped, and swam the river for grass. Hitched up at 3 p.m. Went 11 miles and camped along side of a branch of the river. Went 1 mile for grass. Crossed the creek twice, up to our thighs in mud and water. Here we heard that 2 men had been shot by the Indians, and 1 wondered on a cutoff a few miles from here.

Sunday July 21 and 101 days out
Fine morning. Quite hot. I have a bad headache this morning. We thought it best to travel today. Came 10 miles and good road. Shot 1 of our worn-out horses. Crossed the river again for grass at noon. Very hot this p.m.

Monday July 22 and 102 days out
Rose at 2 o'clock. This is the first time we came down on bread and water. Started at 3 a.m. Very nigh all the men went off without eating anything. This is hard times. Traveled 20 miles. Crossed a creek, crossed a bluff and came on the river again. Kept along the river and found grass of a mile from camp. We have been wading the river in 2 places all the afternoon to get grass to cross the desert. This is trying to our health, on such hard food. Charles and me has been wondering if the old lady has got the potatoes on yet. Tonight our supper consisted of flour and water, boiled, and bread.

Tuesday July 23 and 103 days out
Fine morning. Breakfast the same as last night. Started at 5 a.m. I feel quite weak. The food and crossing these rivers for grass is enough to kill a horse. The men feel quite down and complain a good deal. The roads has been very sandy all day, as much as the teams could get along with. Kept along the river. Water black with alkali. Camped or stopped on the river after traveling 20 miles till 12 o'clock, as we have 20 miles to go without water. Here we have had to cut grass with our jackknives out of the weeds. Hard way to get grass. We swapped a little flour, 2 pans full, for a quart of coffee, and we made out to get 4 lbs. of bacon. We shall live again for a day or two. We can't tell anything about the road, as one says one thing and one another. We expected to be at the desert tonight. Now we hear it is 20 miles off. The land here is all sand. Nothing grows on it but sage and greasewood. There is mountains on both sides of us. There is great destruction of property on this road. Photo Copyright Southwind ProductionsWe have passed some few dead cattle and horses poisoned with the water. The men has quite long faces. I tell them this is a man trap. I fear there's harder times ahead. Left camp last night at 12 o'clock. It was a fine moonlit night. The road was stony and dusty, land entirely barren. We traveled 15 miles and reached the river, where we had to cut willows for our horses. Our case looks rather bad. William is not well. I have got a touch of dysentery.

Wednesday July 24 and 104 days out
Lay in camp till 1 p.m. Traveled along the river 15 miles and camped. Not any grass. Happened to have a little with us. We can't tell where we are, no more than the man in the moon. Some says one thing and some another. Can't find 2 men that tell the same story. That has been this way before. Saw 2 ponies, one had been drowned. Saw several dead cattle and horses. The land here is black with alkali. There is some snow on the mountains, yet our case looks rather dubious. Very warm days. Cold nights.

Thursday July 25 and 105 days out
Our case looks hard. Our poor horses has to go on the road without anything to eat. They had a very little mite of grass last night. We made our supper on bread and coffee. Breakfast the same. This is our every day living till our coffee is gone. We have got about 60 lb flour for 8 of us. This has to last us to California. We can't tell where we are, nor how far we are off, as 2 men don't tell the same story. We took the Carson route, as this is called the best route. Drove till noon, off a desert. Came to the river and cut grass with our jackknives. Went 10 miles further, expecting to find grass and found none. Went 6 miles further and stopped and not a spear of grass. Men tired out and no bread baked. We made a fire and made a pot of flour and water. Blowed our bags out, spread our buffalo on the ground and went to sleep. This is hard times. Feel in good spirits.

Friday July 26 and 106 day out
3 a.m. found us on the road before breakfast. Drove 6 miles. Forded the river and cut grass for horses before breakfast. Got about an armfull a piece. Took breakfast. Had a sharp appetite and feel well. Never better in my life, thank God. Drove today 27 miles. The roads has been very dusty. I saw a number of dead horses and cattle starved to death. Saw as much as a dozen horses on the road left behind. I picked up one and led him about 10 miles, but he was so dry he could not get to the river. It is very hot, and I was so tired and thirsty, I had to lay down on the ground. The teams got in camp before I did, and it was sundown and I had to go a mile to get grass for my team, up to my middle in water and had to watch at night. I thank God for good health today.

Saturday 27 and 107 days out
Left camp at the sink at 5 a.m. Drove 6 miles and cut our hay for our horses to carry us over the desert, and laid in camp all day. We cut the grass out of a slew, up to our thighs in water, and carried it out on our backs. I must say a little about this section of country. The sink is the end of the Humboldt or Saint Mary River. Here, the river empties on the surrounding country and goes into the sand. It represents a pond of water. The water is very bad and bloats some of the men up. It has not hurt me yet. There is several thousand acres of this swamp where there is an abundance of grass. 20 or 25 miles from here is a desert of 40 miles, and if it was not for this grass, this road could not be traveled by teams, as there is great scarcity of grass for 100 miles back, and by the time we get here, the teams is about starved out. They have to lay here to recruit. We have got a hard time of it. We are on one biscuit apiece for each meal while we lay still. Almost everybody is out of provisions and packing, and the destruction of property on this road is very great. And what it will be to those that are behind, the Lord knows. God have mercy upon his people. The number of dead horses and cattle is very great, and the smell when you pass them is very offensive. Mr.'s Murm and Rattery is packed and just come up.

Sunday Morning July 28 and 108 days out
This is a lovely morning, though I should like to alend at God's sanctuary today and be with his people. I trust in God who is able to keep all them that put their trust in him. We lay in camp today till this evening, and put on our hay and moved to the starting place of the desert. We have some Cayute[Piute?] Indians lurking 'round our tents. They are rather a good-featured people, very dark brown complexion, quite friendly, but will steal if they can get a chance. Once in a while we see a white woman on the roads. It looks good to us and makes us think of our beloved companions we left behind. I have not in all my trials been sorry that I started for California, but you may be sure I shall be glad when I get there. There is great complaining with the men. Now they have to live on short allowance. Yesterday morning, I looked at our flour bag and was struck, and I uttered a word that had not passed my lips for some years. God give us grace and keep us down humble. 9 a.m. A man has just killed a beef. Sold it for 25 cents lb. I bought 2.00 worth and he gave me liberty to cut the scraps off the paunch. I got the melt[?] and some lites[?] and a sweetbread, and a piece of skirt and the tail, and went and cut it up big enough to put it in our mouths as a great deal of it was skin, and I doubted whether we should have patience to wait to cut it when it was ready to eat, and it gave us a better chance to divide the best pieces that made us with a little [?] a good blow-out. The meat that we bought, I salted it. We shall eat that when we cross the desert. 3 p.m. Our supper is just done, and after supper we leave this campground and go 10 miles, and take on our hay and then travel tonight to the starting place of the desert. There is no game here. 3 p.m.

Monday July 29 and 109 days out
We left our camp yesterday at 3 p.m., after getting all ready with hay and water. Traveled all night and came 20 miles. The roads has been in some places very sandy and heavy, and some places good. We passed over 8 or 10 miles where there is nothing growing, just white dirt, and it is in some places all over with little knolls. I think it has been carved by heavy winds or something of this sort. We came to the edge of the desert. Stayed and rested till 4 p.m., then hitched up and started on. We have only had one meal from Sunday afternoon till about 10 this morning and going all night. This is wearing us down, and then allowance'd out. We are in a bad state and I don't know what is going to be done William has money, but don't feel disposed to spend it.

Tuesday July 30 and 110 days out
We have been traveling from 4 p.m. yesterday until 12 tonight on the desert. Came about 18 miles. The road has been good with the exception of a bad creek. On the commencement of our teams, got down and smothered with mud. We stayed from 12 o'clock till daylight.

Wednesday July 31 and 111 days out
We started this morning at daylight, without our breakfast. Went about 7 miles over a very sandy, heavy road, as much as our horses could draw. Here we stopped to breakfast and bate our horses. We had a little water aboard, 2 pails, that we had to divide to our horses, and they was all most famished, and then they had to go 15 or 20 miles farther to water ourselves. Made our breakfast of bread, each 2 biscuits and 2 pieces of meat that we had, about half the size of an egg each. I think that I never suffered so much for water in my life. My lips and mouth was quite parched up. The teams was not quite ready to go and some of the men and myself started on in hopes of getting water, not knowing that we was so far off. We traveled over the burning sand till we traveled about 15 miles. I thought we should die, and a little further on we met a man that had water to sell at 10 cents per pint. Some of the men had money in their pockets. I had none and they could not spare any of their water. I thought it was no use stopping there and started to go on, and the man called me back and gave me a half pint for which I felt thankful and gave him my blessing. He said it was 4 miles to the river. Then we was almost exhausted not having a sufficiency to eat, and the road was so heavy and so hot, up to our ankles in sand, every step we took we [?] up and started on, till we came to the river. Here we requited our selves with a hearty drink of the cooling beverage. We was in about 3 hours, and then in came William and Charles and one more with the horses. They said that they had to leave the wagons 5 miles out and bring the horses in for water and grass. They had to leave one of the horses behind. Could not get him along at all. This horse is an entire loss and they had, as they was bringing down the horses, to leave 1 mule and 1 horse on the road, intending to take them water and hay. When they went back, the horse was gone. 1 of our best horses. The mule was found and brought in. We was dying with hunger and nothing to eat, and none of us had any money in our pockets, and our wagons with the few pounds of flour was 5 miles off. What to do. We did not know. We went down the river and saw Thomas Mun and he had some provision, and he made us some supper and only half enough as he was very short. I will mention here that Mr.'s Mum and Rattery parted a day or two ago. We felt almost dead tired and hungry and we suffered a great deal on account of going without water so long. Well, we had some bedclothes and we spread them on the ground, 8 of us, and laid ourselves on the ground for the night, tired enough.

The Journey Continues....
Return to Contents