The Great Western Migration to the Gold Fields of California, 1849–1850

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About the Book

The journey west, from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast, was made by some quarter of a million Americans during the 1840s and 1850s, and stands as one of the great human adventure stories of all time. When gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, California, in 1848, the immigration took on an urgency and a scope that would never be matched again, though the numbers of migrants was eventually equaled over time by the slower pace of those who went to Oregon and followed later to California to put down more permanent roots.
This work draws heavily from the diaries of 17 men and women who made the four month, 2,000 mile trek to California during 1849 and 1850. The text is divided into three main parts. Part One covers travel from the Missouri River to Fort Laramie, Part Two covers Fort Laramie to Fort Hall and Salt Lake City, and Part Three covers the trek from there to the Sierra Nevadas.
Each part has chapters that detail specific parts of the trail, sites, or locations where the migrants found something important to write about. The diarists’ accounts tell of the adventures, hardships, desires, concerns, deprivations, sicknesses, deaths along the way, and of crossing the last great obstacle—the “Elephant,” as many of them called it—the high ridge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

About the Author(s)

Robert J. Willoughby is a professor of history and government at at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. He lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Bibliographic Details

Robert J. Willoughby
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 301
Bibliographic Info: 14 maps, 10 photos, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2012 [2003]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7394-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii
Preface     1
Introduction     3

PART I: FROM THE BANKS OF THE MISSOURI TO FORT LARAMIE     9
Getting Ready to Go     9
Leaving from Independence     15
Leaving from Weston/Fort Leavenworth     27
Leaving from St. Joseph     30
Along the Blue River Road to the Platte     36
Other Roads to the Platte     41
Falling in Along the Platte     45
Leaving from Kanesville/Council Bluffs     48
Fort Kearney     54
Fort Kearney to the Platte Fork     58
The Fork of the Platte     70
Crossing the South Fork of the Platte to Ash Hollow     74
Ash Hollow     78
Sioux Country Along the North Platte     80
Landmarks of the Western Plains     84
Scotts Bluff     90
On to Fort Laramie     94
Around Fort Laramie     98

PART II: FROM FORT LARAMIE TO FORT HALL AND SALT LAKE CITY    107
Into the Black Hills     107
Around Deer Creek     115
Ferry on the Upper Platte     119
North Platte Ferry to the Sweetwater     123
The Sweetwater, Independence Rock and the Devil’s Gate     129
Along the Sweetwater     135
Ice Spring     138
South Pass and Pacific Springs     140
Pacific Springs to the Road Fork on Big Sandy     144
Sublette/Greenwood Cut-off     149
Big Sandy to Fort Bridger     153
At the Green River     157
Toward the Bear River Road     161
Around Thomas’s Fork     169
Soda Springs and Steamboat Springs     174
Junction with Hudspeth Cut-off     177
On to Fort Hall     180
Fort Hall     182
Fort Bridger to Salt Lake City     186

PART III: FROM FORT HALL AND SALT LAKE TO THE SIERRA NEVADA    193
Salt Lake to the City of Rocks     193
Fort Hall to the City of Rocks     198
Raft River Road     201
Merger of Fort Hall and Salt Lake Roads at the City of Rocks     204
Goose Creek to the Upper Humboldt River     206
Starting the Humboldt Run     213
Carlin Canyon     217
Dust, Deprivation, Depredation     219
Junction with the Lassen/Myers Cut-off     230
The Lassen Route from the Humboldt to Goose Lake     233
On to the Sink     245
At the Big Meadow     248
The Humboldt Sink     250
The Truckee Route to the Crest of the Sierras     253
The Carson Route Across the Desert     258
Along the Carson River     261
The Elephant—Up the Eastern Wall of the Sierras     265
Promised Land—Into the Sacramento Valley     271

Epilogue     274
Notes     275
Index     287

Book Reviews & Awards

“great detail…thorough”—Colorado Libraries; “brings to life the hardships experienced by the immigrants who crossed the American desert and mountains…excellent”—St. Joseph News-Press.