BROWNING MISSOURI, FEBRUARY 24, 1921
"Crossing the plains to California"
We left our home in Sullivan Co., Missouri the 20th day of April 1852 and arrived the 2nd of August in Ione Valley, Calif. and in Sept., 1852 we came to Yolo county which has been our home ever since. When we left our home we did not intend to stay away but 5 years; nevertheless it was a sad parting from our home and loved ones as we knew it was a long and venturesome trip. We started with three wagons which were to meet at a certain place on the road. A neighbor man came with a small wagon to take Mrs. Knifong, her three children, myself and children to were the wagons were. We were each at our mother's home. How well I remember when I bid my mother goodbye and we waved at each other as far as we could see. Mrs. Knifong was in the wagon crying when they came by for me. She had a short time before told her mother goodbye. We both cried, going about a mile before we spoke to each other and then I said brokenly, "It is awful hard to part with a mother." and then she answered bursting into tears again, "It is hard."
Though we started with three wagons, in a few days Pockman's with three wagons joined us and a little later three from Illinois joined us.
My second day's experience was when we crossed Medicine Creek, MO. The creek was pretty deep to ford. The men thought the women had better ride behind the men on horseback. I rode behind a young man with my baby Columbus in his arms. When we crossed over, the horse got in the mud, foundered and threw me off in the water. The man threw the baby on one side and he jumped off the other. I got out of the water, ran and picked up my baby, went up the hill, all dripping with mud and water. They all laughed at me and I told them after this, I was going to stick to the wagon.
With our train of six wagons there were five yoke of oxen to each wagon and we had quite a lot of stock. There were nineteen grown persons and ten children. Later other trains joined us. We had pistols and guns in our original wagons that would shoot fifty two times without reloading. We had to stand guard every night as the Indians were very bad. They tried to stampede our cattle before we got very far from Little Blue river. In many places the roads were two hundred yards wide as there was so much stock. Whenever there was a good camping place a large number of trains would stop, there being so many tents it reminded one of a city. By the time we got to the Laplatte river smallpox and cholera broke out in almost every train. Mr. Pockman and daughter Harriett died with cholera in our train. Mr. Pockman was buried at Laboute stream and Harriett at Independence rock. When Harriett died we were two miles ahead and they sent a runner to stop us. Mr. Hatcher went back to help guard the body from the coyotes for they would howl all night long. The guards dared not shoot at them as it would disturb the campers and they would think the Indians were attacking us and come to our aid. My baby and I were all alone in our wagon and you may know what a lonesome night it was for me.
When we were going up the Platte river we saw a great many campers. Some big trains would bury from eight to ten persons before breakfast that had died of cholera or smallpox. We would frequently pass newly made graves some of which had been torn open by the coyotes and wolves. One circumstance nearly broke my heart. A woman had been buried that had left ten children. All of the children and husband were standing around the grave crying, one of the girls holding the infant baby. We passed by a tent one day and the men went and peeped in. A horrible spectacle met their gaze, for within lay three dead bodies. The men got away as quick as they could.
As we traveled up the Platte river there was not as much as a switch in the way of wood and we cooked with Buffalo chips for 700 miles.
When we were coming over the mountains, I had mountain fever and was feeling so miserable, I thought if they would only stop and camp under a big tree I would call it home, and stay there. We traveled on until we came to Ione Valley. There Mrs. Knifong died after taking sick in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I kept the three children till spring and then Mr. Knifong took them and went to Oregon.
At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains peddlers met us. We paid them seven dollars for a little piece of bacon and one dollar for an onion. The winter we were in Ione Valley we paid $85 per hundred for flour. One dollars worth of potatoes would make about one meal for us as they were so wormy. The flour had little wooly worms in it. I sifted the flour to get them out. Others borrowed my sifter as they had none. At Jackson the flour was one dollar a pound. Chinamen had to carry the flour to these places on foot which was about forty miles from Sacramento. They carried one hundred pounds at a time, fifty pounds on each end of a long stick swung over their shoulder, resting frequently on the way. I have only told you a small portion of our trip across the plains. It would take a book to tell it all.
Mrs. Frances Hatcher
Note: I copied this as writen from a newspaper account contained in Mrs. Ruby (Wallace) Knifong's book "THE KNIFONG FAMILY AND ITS RELATED FAMILIES" 1991 and 1994. Sub-titled "Moving on West". (page 24)
April 7, 1994
The Mrs. Knifong referred to in this account is Rhoda Ann (Thurlo) Knifong, my G. G. Grandmother.Submitted by Richard C. Smith - email@example.com, May 23, 1998.
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