Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois

March-September, 1846

March 26, 1846

“Several families will leave Sangamon County, this spring, for Oregon and California. Among them are some of our best citizens. A disposition to emigrate to the shores of the Pacific, will enable persons who wish to purchase well improved farms, to invest their money here to great advantage. The farm offered by Mr. David Newsome, can be had at a great bargain.”

April 30, 1846

CAPT. FREEMONT–A NEW WAGON ROAD TO OREGON: We are favored with the following extract of a letter, says the Union of the 16th, received at Washington, from “Jalapa,” March 27, 1846: Letters from Mazatlan of the 4th inst. State that Captain Freemont, with his corps of observation, arrived at Suter’s settlement on the Sacramento, early in January; he is said to have discovered a good waggon road to Oregon, which is much shorter than any heretofore traveled. He had gone to Monterey, in Upper California, leaving his corps on the Sacramento.

May 28, 1846

WHAT OF CALIFORNIA? We learn that there is a military expedition in contemplation for California. We should now run no risk of losing that valuable territory. By the new route discovered by Capt. Fremont, it can be reached in sixty or seventy days. The co-operation of our navy in the Pacific with a force of a thousand men from this side of the mountains, together with the Americans now in California, would make all sure. We have heard General Hardin, of this State, spoken of to command the expedition, a cool, deliberate, energetic officer — true as steel. Who’ll go?

June 4, 1846

We have heard from the California emigrants as late as the [1]9th of May. They were progressing slowly, at the rate of about 15 miles a day, and had reached a point four miles west of Kanzas River. They were visited daily by Indians, nothing had been stolen, and the Indians were not regarded with the slightest apprehension. The party, without a single exception, ladies and gentlemen, continued to enjoy most robust health — which is evinced by appetites that would do justice to the subjects of a menagerie. If we come across buffaloes [says a letter] the poor slaughtered animals will have just cause to regret our invasion of their far distant pasture grounds. But one accident had taken place — the birth of a pair of twins.

June 11, 1846

UPPER CALIFORNIA Extracts from a letter from Captain Fremont, U. S. Army, dated Bay of St. Francisco Yerba Buena, U California, Jan. 24, 1836 [sic] Now, as rapidly as possible, I will tell you where I have been, and where I am going. I crossed the Rocky Mountains on the main Arkansas, passing out at its very head-waters; explored the southern shore of the great Salt Lake, and visited one of its islands. You know that on every recent map, manuscript or printed, the whole of the great basin is represented as a sandy plain, barren, without water, and without grass.

Tell your father that with a volunteer party of fifteen men, I crossed it between the parallels of 38 and 49 [39]. Instead of a plain, I found it, throughout the whole extent, traversed by parallel ranges of lofty mountains, their summits white with snow, (October) while below, the valleys had none. Instead of a barren country, the mountains were covered with grasses of the best quality, wooded with several varieties of trees, and containing more deer and mountains sheep that we had seen in any previous part of our voyage. So utterly at variance with every description, from authentic sources, or from rumor or report, it is fair to consider this country as hitherto wholly unexplored, and never before visited by a white man.

I met my party at the rendezvous, a lake southeast of the Pyramid Lake, and again separated, sending them along the eastern side of the great sierra, three or four hundred miles in a southerly direction, where they were to cross into the valley of the St. Joaquim, near its head. The eleventh day after leaving them I reached Captains Sutter’s crossing the sierra on the 4th of December, before the snow had fallen there. Now the sierra is absolutely impassable, and the place of our passage two years ago is luminous with masses of snow. By the route I have explored I can ride in thirty five days from the Fontaine qui quille [i.e., boullit]* river to Captain Sutter’s, and for wagons the road is decidedly far better. I shall make a short journey up the eastern branch of the Sacramento, and go from the Tlamath lake into the Wahlahmath valley, through a pass alluded to in my report; in this way making the road into Oregon far shorter, and a good road in place of the present very bad one down the Columbia. When I shall have make this short exploration, I shall have explored from beginning to end this road to Oregon.

I have just returned, with my party of sixteen, from an exploring journey in the Sierra Nevada, from the neighborhood of Sutter’s to the heads of the Lake Fork. We got among heavy snows on the mountains summits, there more rugged that I had elsewhere met them: suffered again as in our first passage: got among the “horse thieves,” (Indians who lay waste the California frontier,) fought several, and fought our way down into the plain again, and back to Sutter’s. I am going now on business to see some gentlemen on the coast, and will then join my people, and complete my survey in this party of the world as rapidly as possible. The season in now just arriving when vegetation is coming out in all the beauty I have often described to your; and the that part of my labors I shall gratify all my hopes.

I find the theory of our great basin fully confirmed in having for its southern boundary, ranges of lofty mountains. Sierra, too, is broader where this chain leaves it, than in any other party that I have seen. So soon as the proper season comes, and my animals are rested, we turn our faces homeward, and be sure that grass will not grow under our feet. All our people are well, and we have had no sickness of any kind among us: so that I hope to be able to bring back with me all that I carried out. Many months of hardships, close trials and anxieties, have tried me severely, and my head is turning grey before its time.

*Boiling Spring river, in English. This is the outside settlement on the Arkansas, about seventy miles above Bent’s Fort, where old retired hunters and traders, with Mexican and Indian wives, and their children, have collected into some villages, called by the Mexican name for civilized Indian villages, pueblos, where they raise grain and stock. Reprinted from the National Intelligencer.

September 17, 1846

From California–The Emigrants: Solomon Sublette, with a very small party, recently arrived at St. Louis from California. He left “Pueblo de los Angels,” about the last of May, driving 80 mules. He met a company of emigrants on the 8th July, 20 miles beyond Green River, numbering 18 waggons, who were progressing without difficulty. Col. Russell had given up his command on the Platte, beyond the reach of danger or trouble. It appears that nearly all his company, including Gov. Boggs, had changed their course for Oregon. Col. Russell, with 11 men, procured mules at Fort Laramie, and were proceeding for California. Mr. Sublette met other companies of emigrants. The Indians had attempted to rob him of his mules, but failed.

Mr. Sublette was nearly out of provisions at Fort Laramie, and proceeded from thence to Bent’s Fort, where he arrived on the 17th August. With the exception of the sick, the troops had left for Santa Fe. He met the Mormons and some companies of Col. Price’s regiment on the way to Fort Leavenworth. Mr. Sublette says that the Governor of California seemed disposed to encourage American emigrants; but Gen. Castro was very hostile to them. He also states that the usual quantity of rain had fallen in California the past season — contradicting , in this respect, the reports of other travelers.