Death Valley in ’49

Autobiography Of A Pioneer (William Lewis Manly), Detailing His Life From A Humble Home In The Green Mountains To The Gold Mines Of California; And Particularly Reciting The Sufferings Of The Band Of Men, Women And Children Who Gave “Death Valley” Its Name.

Early Life in Vermont
Birth, Parentage. Early Life in Vermont. Sucking Cider through a Straw.

The Western Fever
The Western Fever. On the Road to Ohio. The Outfit. The Erie Canal. In the Maumee Swamp.

At Detroit and Westward
At Detroit and Westward. Government Land. Killing Deer. “Fever ‘N Agur.”

The Lost Filley Boy
The Lost Filley Boy. Never Was Found.

Leaving the Farm
Sickness. Rather Catch Chipmonks in the Rocky Mountains than Live in Michigan. Building the Michigan Central R.R. Building a Boat. Floating down Grand River. Black Bear. Indians Catching Mullet. Across the Lake to Southport. Lead Mining at Mineral Point. Decides to go Farther West. Return to Michigan.

Wisconsin. Indian Physic. Dressed for a Winter Hunting Campaign. Hunting and Trapping in the Woods. Catching Otter and Marten.

Gold Fever
Lead Mining. Hears about Gold in California. Gets the Gold Fever. Nothing will cure it but California. Mr. Bennett and the Author Prepare to Start. The Winnebago Pony. Agrees to Meet Bennett at Missouri River. Delayed and Fails to Find Him. Left with only a Gun and Pony.

South Platte
Goes as a Driver for Charles Dallas. Stopped by a Herd of Buffaloes. Buffalo Meat. Indians. U.S. Troops. The Captain and the Lieutenant. Arrive at South Pass. The Waters Run toward the Pacific. They Find a Boat and Seven of them Decide to Float down the Green River.

Floating down the River. It begins to roar. Thirty Miles a Day. Brown’s Hole. Lose the Boat and make two Canoes. Elk. The Cañons get Deeper. Floundering in the Water.

The Sand Walking Company
The Indian Camp. Chief Walker proves a Friend. Describes the Terrible Cañon below Them. Advises Them to go no farther down. Decide to go Overland. Dangerous Route to Salt Lake. Meets Bennett near there. Organize the Sand Walking Company.

Southern Route
The Southern Route. Off in Fine Style. A Cut-off Proposed. Most of Them Try it and Fail.

The Jayhawkers. A New Organization. Men with Families not Admitted. Capture an Indian Who Gives Them the Slip. An Indian Woman and Her Children. Grass Begins to Fail. A High Peak to the West. No Water. An Indian Hut. Reach the Warm Spring.

Desert Everywhere
Desert Everywhere. Some One Steals Food. The Water Acts Like a Dose of Salts. Christmas Day. Rev. J.W. Brier Delivers a Lecture to His Sons. Nearly Starving and Choking. An Indian in a Mound. Indians Shoot the Oxen. Camp at Furnace Creek.

Crossing Death Valley
A Long, Narrow Valley. Beds and Blocks of Salt. An Ox Killed. Blood, Hide and Intestines Eaten. Crossing Death Valley. The Wagons can go no farther. Manley and Rogers Volunteer to go for Assistance.

Mr. Fish and Mr. Isham
They Set out on Foot. Find the Dead Body of Mr. Fish. Mr. Isham Dies.

Eating Crow and Hawk
Bones along the Road. Cabbage Trees. Eating Crow and Hawk.

Fertile Land
After Sore Trials They Reach a Fertile Land. Kindly Treated.

Reaching Their Friends
Returning with Food and Animals. The Little Mule Climbs a Precipice, the Horses are Left Behind. Finding the Body of Captain Culverwell. They Reach Their Friends just as all Hope has Left Them.

Good-bye, Death Valley
Leaving the Wagons. Packs on the Oxen. Sacks for the Children. Old Crump. Old Brigham and Mrs. Arcane. Once more Moving Westward. “Good-bye, Death Valley.”

Struggling Along
Struggling Along. Pulling the Oxen Down the Precipice. Making Raw-hide Moccasins.

Melancholy and Blue
Old Brigham Lost and Found. Dry Camps. Nearly Starving. Melancholy and Blue. The Feet of the Women Bare and Blistered. “One Cannot form an Idea How Poor an Ox Will Get.” Young Charlie Arcane very Sick. Skulls of Cattle.

Crossing the Snow Belt
Crossing the Snow Belt. Old Dog Cuff. Water Dancing over the Rocks. Drink, Ye Thirsty Ones. Killing a Yearling. See the Fat. Eating Makes Them Sick. Going down Soledad Cañon A Beautiful Meadow. Hospitable Spanish People. They Furnish Shelter and Food. The San Fernando Mission.

Los Angeles
Reaching Los Angeles. They Meet Moody and Skinner. Soap and Water for the First Time in Months. Clean Dresses for the Women. Real Bread to Eat. A Picture of Los Angeles. Black-eyed Women. The Author Works in a Boarding-house. Bennett and Others go up the Coast. Life in Los Angeles. The Author Prepares to go North.

Dr. McMahon’s Story
Dr. McMahon’s Story. McMahon and Field, Left behind with Chief Walker, Determine to go down the River. Change Their Minds and go with the Indians. Change again and go by themselves. Eating Wolf Meat. After much Suffering they reach Salt Lake. John Taylor’s Pretty Wife. Field falls in Love with her. They Separate. Incidents of Wonderful Escapes from Death.

Story of the Jayhawkers
Story of the Jayhawkers. Ceremonies of Initiation Rev. J.W. Brier. His Wife the best Man of the Two. Story of the Road across Death Valley. Burning the Wagons. Narrow Escape of Tom Shannon. Capt. Ed Doty was Brave and True. They reach the Sea by way of Santa Clara River. Capt. Haynes before the Alcalde. List of Jayhawkers.

Alexander Erkson’s Statement
Alexander Erkson’s Statement. Works for Brigham Young at Salt Lake. Mormon Gold Coin. Mt. Misery. The Virgin River and Yucca Trees. A Child Born to Mr, and Mrs. Rynierson. Arrive at Cucamonga. Find some good Wine which is good for Scurvy. San Francisco and the Mines. Settles in San Jose.

Experience of Edward Coker
Experience of Edward Coker. Death of Culverwell, Fish and Isham. Goes through Walker’s Pass and down Kern River. Living in Fresno in 1892.

California Coast
The Author again takes up the History. Working in a Boarding House, but makes Arrangements to go North. Mission San Bueno Ventura. First Sight of the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara in 1850. Paradise and Desolation. San Miguel, Santa Ynez and San Luis Obispo.

On the road to the Mines
California Carriages and how they were used. Arrives in San Jose and Camps in the edge of Town. Description of the place. Meets John Rogers, Bennett, Moody and Skinner. On the road to the Mines. They find some of the Yellow Stuff and go Prospecting for more. Experience with Piojos.

Life and Times in the Mines
Life and Times in the Mines.

Leaving California, Coming Back Again
Sights and Scenes along the Road, at Sea, on the Isthmus, Cuba, New Orleans, and up the Mississippi. A few Months Amid Old Scenes, then away to the Golden State again.

Off to the Mines Again
St. Louis to New Orleans, New Orleans to San Francisco. Off to the Mines Again.

Life in the Mines
Life in the Mines and Incidents of Mining Times and Men. Vigilance Committee. Death of Mrs. Bennett.

Mines and Mining
Mines and Mining. Adventures and Incidents of the Early Days. The Pioneers, their Character and Influence.

Introduction to Death Valley in ’49

This story is not meant to be sensational, but a plain, unvarnished tale of truth–some parts hard and very sad. It is a narrative of my personal experience, and being in no sense a literary man or making any pretense as a writer, I hope the errors may be overlooked, for it has been to me a difficult story to tell, arousing as it did sad recollections of the past. I have told it in the plainest, briefest way, with nothing exaggerated or overdone. Those who traveled over the same or similar routes are capable of passing a just opinion of the story.
Looking back over more than 40 years, I was then a great lover of liberty, as well as health and happiness, and I possessed a great desire to see a new country never yet trod by civilized man, so that I easily caught the gold fever of 1849, and naught but a trip to that land of fabled wealth could cure me.

Geography has wonderfully changed since then. Where Omaha now stands there was not a house in 1849. Six hundred miles of treeless prairie without a house brought us to the adobe dwellings at Fort Laramie, and 400, more or less, were the long miles to Mormondom, still more than 700 miles from the Pacific Coast. Passing over this wilderness was like going to sea without a compass.

Hence it will be seen that when we crossed a stream that was said to flow to the Pacific Ocean, myself and comrades were ready to adopt floating down its current as an easier road than the heated trail, and for three weeks, over rocks and rapids, we floated and tumbled down the deep cañon of Green River till we emerged into an open plain and were compelled to come on shore by the Indians there encamped. We had believed the Indians to be a war-like and cruel people, but when we made them understand where we wanted to go, they warned us of the great impassable Colorado Cañon only two days ahead of us, and pointed out the road to “Mormonie” with their advice to take it. This was Chief Walker, a good, well meaning red man, and to him we owed our lives.

Out of this trouble we were once again on the safe road from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, and again made error in taking a cutoff route, and striking across a trackless country because it seemed to promise a shorter distance, and where thirteen of our party lie unburied on the sands of the terribly dry valley. Those who lived were saved by the little puddles of rain water that had fallen from the small rain clouds that had been forced over the great Sierra Nevada Mountains in one of the wettest winters ever known. In an ordinary year we should have all died of thirst, so that we were lucky in our misfortune.

When we came out to the fertile coast near Los Angeles, we found good friends in the native Californians who, like good Samaritans, gave us food and took us in, poor, nearly starved creatures that we were, without money or property from which they could expect to be rewarded. Their deeds stand out whiter in our memories than all the rest, notwithstanding their skins were dark. It seems to me such people do not live in this age of the world which we are pleased to call advanced. I was much with these old Californians, and found them honest and truthful, willing to divide the last bit of food with a needy stranger or a friend. Their good deeds have never been praised enough, and I feel it in my heart to do them ample justice while I live.

The work that was laid out for me to do, to tell when and where I went, is done. Perhaps in days to come it may be of even more interest than now, and I shall be glad I have turned over the scenes in my memory and recorded them, and on some rolling stone you may inscribe the name of WILLIAM LEWIS MANLEY, born near St. Albans, Vermont, April 20th, 1820, who went to Michigan while yet it was a territory, as an early pioneer; then onward to Wisconsin before it became a state, and for twelve long, weary months traveled across the wild western prairies, the lofty mountains and sunken deserts of Death Valley, to this land which is now so pleasant and so fair, wherein, after over 40 years of earnest toil, I rest in the midst of family and friends, and can truly say I am content.

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