John Wesley Hillman (JWH)

Born Albany, NY 29th March 1832
Died Baton Rouge, LA 19th March 1915


A few weeks before he died John Wesley Hillman sat down and began to dictate, evidently to his grand daughter Mabel Brooks Hillman / Mrs Nathan King Knox, this autobiographical memoir.   He evidently ran out of time or of energy after the first 30 or so pages.   Nevertheless, what he has left us is a delightful and intriguing record: it concentrates on his participation in an expedition out west, setting out from New Orleans in 1849.  The memoir includes JWH's 'discovery' in 1853 of Crater Lake in Oregon. 

At one point, JWH states,
"One day I think of something that happened in '52, the next I remember an incident that occurred in '56.   So if the reader notices that I break a thread in my narrative by continually reverting to past years, he must bear with me."    Eagle eyed readers keeping in mind (or hoping to obtain) an intimate knowledge of the chronology of the time and place should probably look elsewhere. At times, especially towards the end, aspects of the sequence become barely fathomable.

His first 16 years I was born in Albany, New York, March 29, 1832. I lived there for sixteen uneventful years. In 1848 my father [John Hillman. Born Castle Dawson, Ireland 1805: died while visiting New York 1864] decided to move to New Orleans; we children greeted this plan with enthusiasm and could hardly wait until the time for the departure.


Relocation to New Orleans  

While aboard the ship which was carrying us to our destination, I made the acquaintance of a Mr. Goodrich, of the firm of Hyde & Goodrich, New Orleans. He seemed much interested in me and after reaching the city he secured me a position with the firm of Buck & Peck, Cotton Factors.

Compelling rumors of Californian gold discoveries  

We had not long been in New Orleans when rumors began to circulate of the wonderful gold discoveries in California. My father paid much heed to these rumors and decided to leave for there as soon as an opportunity was open.

Father arranges for them to join expedition  

At the time there was a regiment of mounted rifles stationed at st. Jo, Missouri, and the Teamsters department was being recruited in New Orleans. Many people were joining in hope of securing a safe trip to California and thus to secure a position in the troop, one must have some influence. My father's brother [George Hillman. Born Castle Dawson, Ireland 1809:  died in the wrecking of 'The Evening Star' 1866] was Port Warden at the time, and it was through him that my father was made a saddler for the trip and I was mustered in as extra driver. We reached St. Louis without, accident and from there we proceeded to st. Jo where the regiment awaited us.

Travel logistics  

It was some time before final arrangements were made for the start. Finally it was decided that due to better camping facilities it would be best to break the company into small sections. There were three hundred six mule wagons, and these were divided into divisions of one hundred wagons each; In my position as extra driver I had nothing to do except to be on hand in case of an accident to the regular driver. As we travelled in sections from ten to twenty miles apart, I seldom saw my father who was in another division.

First impressions: uncharted prairies, millions of buffalo  & open skies  

We followed what was known as the "Old Immigrant Trail" crossing the Rocky Mountains at South Pass. We were now in a section of the country which was unsurpassed in its beauty. The miles and miles of uncharted prairies stretched as far away as the eyes could see, and on the succulent grass grazed millions of buffalo. Above us shone the blazing sun, shining as though it would never set.  When it did finally sink to rest there were no hills to hide it from view, but it seemed to disappear into the very earth. A bright glow would pervade the west for sometime, then it would change to a pinkish glow; then purple twilight; then darkness, and in all directions our camp fires sprang up as we hurriedly prepared for the night.

Evidence of cholera ahead  

The two things that impressed me most upon the entire trip was the deadly effects of the cholera that raged in the trains ahead of us - as shown by the many new-made graves - and the mad rush of the buffalo when they began a stampede. No cholera had broken out in our ranks yet, though we were expecting it every day.


Stampedes We had the pleasure of witnessing several buffalo stampedes.  Some distances away one of the leaders of the herd became frightened and began to run, the ones nearest him followed and then it seemed as though the whole universe was moving. As far as the eye could see were the rocking, brownish ;forms of the monarch of the plains. On they rushed, sweeping all before them in their mad rush over the prairies; over a wagon train, through a river, on, on, stopping at nothing. In their wake hundreds of the weaker members strewed the way, some crushed and mangled, others bleeding and dying and all inevitably falling prey to the slinking coyotes that followed in the rear.
Arsenic in some springs  

The country now became mountainous, and the scenery more grand. Sometime we would come upon springs boiling from the ground hot enough to cook meat; other times we would come to springs that, were cold as ice, but should anyone drink of them they would surely be sick and sometimes would nearly die. I learned later that these contained arsnic and other poisons. If a spring was filled with insect life one might drink without fear, but when crystal clear, let him beware. It is indeed a great temptation for a man nearly dying with thirst to come upon a poison spring.

Trouble in the ranks  

As we crossed the Rockies and saw the water flowing toward the Pacific we thought our troubles were ended and shouted for joy. But such was not the case for as soon as we came to the trails that branched off to Salt Lake and California desertion became common and we were forced to guard the wagon to prevent the deserters rifling them. The feeling between the officers and men became very bad and many of the teamsters were placed in irons for being rude to the officers. Thus ill feeling sprang up and the men did what they could to get even. One morning one of the officers missed his horses and orders were issued to search for it. A number of hours passed but it could not be found; true, we saw an old blackish horse in the distance, but it had neither mane or tail and no one thought it belonged to the officer, for his horse had been white, with a beautiful mane and tail. Finally this object was brought forward and it was found that some one had clipped the mane and tail and charcoaled the hide and hair. It was some time before the officer was convinced that this was his horse and when he did recognize it there was trouble in the camp, but no one seemed to know a thing about it and the matter had to be dropped.

Indian contact  

One thing I have forgotten to mention, and this was our adventures with the Indians. We saw very little of them as our party was too strong to offer any chances of a safe attack. The only man killed by the Indians was one of the guides, Jack Wilcox, by name. A young brave had been following in our rear for a number of days but he seemed friendly and nothing was thought of it. One day Wilcox was showing him how to use a six shooter; when he happened to turn his back the Indian placed the gun to the back of his head and fired. Wilcox fell dead without a sound, and the murderer still grasping the revolver fled. A party rushed after him at once and in a few minutes a volley of shots told us that the rash brave had paid for his folly. Sometime later it was rumored that Wilcox had killed or mistreated some of the Indian's family and he had sworn to get revenge.

Travelling Companions
Every night as the camp fires were lighted we circled around the cheery blaze and listened to tales of adventures told by grizzled old veterans of the plains. Ours was not a ladies' tea party for there were men in the party who were murderers, thieves, gamblers, men who had been hunted; men who had seen every well known port in the world and who would shoot to kill and ask questions afterward. One of the mule drivers became unruly and had to be placed in irons and I was appointed to take his place and the job of handling six hard-mouthed Mexican mules gave me enough to think of for quite a while.
Near miss   One day after a strenuous drive I fell asleep on my mule and dreamed a rattlesnake sprang at me. I awoke with a start to find the trail going down a steep mountain side. I think that dream saved my life for had I not awakened when I did I most surely would have been dashed down the steep incline.
The going gets tougher
The teams became rather weak, so we abandoned the empty wagons, thus making much better time. But short rations and long marches had begun to tell upon the men, for ill feeling sprang up between officers and men and the latter became rather hard to control. But the appearance of a dread disease in our midst caused all petty jealousies to be cast aside; it was the death of one of the men with cholera.
First cholera death
One day Bainbridge, one of the wagon Masters, came riding and cursing into camp like one possessed with the devil. He drew his pistol to shoot at some object, but before he could fire, a cramp seized him and he fell writhing in pain from his mule. We did all we could to relieve the stricken man but all to no purpose for within a few hours he was dead.
Lack of doctors  

It seems to me there must have been an army surgeon with the command, but I do not remember his attending any of the civilians or teamsters during the entire trip. But though we had lawyers, professors and soldiers of fortune all following the beckoning finger of the fickle goddess of fortune, men from all walks of life, we had no doctor. One of the camp poets wrote the following:

We have lawyers, we have doctors,
We have educated fools-
All quit their mean professions
And gone to driving mules.


Grande Ronde Valley

Forest fire aftermath


As we crossed the cascade Range we came to where there had been a fierce forest fire and the logs and stumps were still smouldering. The ground was intensely hot and required skilful driving to get the teams by in safety. Passing through Grande Ronde valley we had to fight a small prairie fire, but no damage was done to the teams or men.

September 18, 1849 arrival Columbia River and  Oregon City


We now came to the mighty Columbia, whose majestic sweep was a revelation to us all. We now headed straight for Oregon city and reached there September 18, 1849, after having been five months and three days on the journey. Oregon city was then a tiny I place having much the appearance of a New England village. Neat rows of houses and each one had a clean, pretty flower garden in front.

Thought provoking encounter  

An episode occurred which, though it had very little to do with the story, comes vividly to my memory. We halted our teams in the street to allow them a brief rest. I was sitting on my wagon gazing about me when I spied a pretty miss, surely not out of her teens, coming out of a house directly in front of me. She halted and gazed timidly at me -- she did not think I had noticed her and I did not care to stare. She looked just like the girls I had left back home so long ago; she was cleanly and neatly dressed and was very pretty.
I longed to speak to her, but refrained for fear she might misunderstand and become angry. She turned and disappeared and I suddenly realized that I was only a tired and homesick boy many thousand miles from home.

How to get to California  

Turning over our wagons and teams to the quartermaster ended our connections with the united States Government and a new and different life opened before me. At this time there was lying at the mouth of the Willamette River the three masted, full rigged whaler, the Aurora, commanded by captain Kilbourne, First Mate Mr.Powell. The ship was waiting to take a load of lumber to San Francisco, lumber at that time being worth three hundred dollars per thousand feet. All the citizens who could, secured passage on her to California -- the goal of all our dreams. The price of a ticket was seventy-five dollars and under favorable conditions it could be made in a two weeks run, but first the cargo must be gotten aboard.

Passage to California secured


My father secured a 'passage' for himself, and I had a free passage given me by acting as assistant steward. Our regular steward was a Malay and after assuming my duties I was initiated in the mysteries of baking bread, which must be baked each day for the entire crew.

Log Rafts to be floated dowstream first: race and accident


On our way down the Williamette there were two unfinished rafts of lumber to be completed and floated to where the Aurora was anchored in the Columbia. The larger of the rafts was taken command of by the second mate and I was told to help load the second one so that I could follow by the next tide. The second mate had a six hour start on us and expected to beat us very easy, but I was anxious to catch him as soon as our raft was completed I made a large steering oar and two sweeps. In addition, I fastened two uprights to the raft on which we could fasten our blankets, causing them to act as sails for our unwieldy craft. There was a good breeze and our hopes ran high as we scuddled along. Our raft was imperfectly built and near the center was an unfilled space about six feet square. I occupied the front of the raft to watch the course and keep a sharp lookout for snags and other impediments, for owing to our blankets we could not see which course to steer from the rear. And I was kept pretty busy calling out directions. It 'was here that the defect in our raft came near to being the cause of my finish, for as it plowed along the surface of the water it collected debris of all kinds, and during the night the treacherous place seemed as sound as any other part of the raft. And in my eagerness, I walked off into the water. I was, to say the least, very much surprised, but managed to climb back upon my perch. Perhaps an hour passed before I again forgot myself; another plunge into the water. This was too much. I climbed aboard dripping wet and told the crew to fold the sails and to proceed with the aid of the sweeps, as there was too much excitement in it for me to act as pilot during the night run.

A specially welcome breakfast


When morning came, we awoke to the fact that we were a very hungry lot, and had no provisions with us. Just as the morning sun peeped over the tops of the magnificent trees we spied a little house in the clearing. We tied up the raft and went ashore on a begging expedition. I told the settler who and what we were and he and his good wife kindly gave us all the potatoes, biscuits and coffee we could eat and drink. I have eaten daintier meals, but to me that fragrant coffee, those beaten biscuits and delicious potatoes seemed the best I have ever eaten. After dining we proceeded on our journey.

Portland, OR has grown since 1849


I remember but one settlement between Oregon city and Baker's Bay at the mouth of the Columbia River, and that was Astoria, situated on the side of a mountain seeming as though it was going to slide down and find a watery grave at any moment. True, I stopped at a place called Portland, went ashore and looked for the town, but at first I could see no sign of habitation. I climbed over a tangle of fallen timber, and standing on one of the monstrous trees piled on top of each other, I counted what seemed to be three small cabins, one, I think was a black-smith shop. So far as I could see there was no road leading to and from the place. This was the latter part of September, 1849. Portland now, as everyone knows has a population numbering into the thousands.

More of that log raft interlude


We forced our raft along as fast as possible and just before sundown we saw the first raft making fast to the Aurora, preparatory to storing its cargo in the hold of the ship. All were surprised to see us so soon.

Delay of 3 months before crossing the Columbia River mouth bar


My duties as assistant steward now began in earnest and I had ample time to learn my trade, for we were tied up for three months at Baker's Bay in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Columbia Bar. By the way, an article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, written by John Fleming Wilson, and he stated that this bar is still the most dangerous one on the Pacific coast.

Many attempts to cross that sand bar


The time we spent in Baker's Bay was not entirely lost for we had plenty of excitement to keep us from getting bored. Captain Kilbourne was a skilful and careful navigator and always took advantage of every opportunity to try and cross the bar.  I was lucky enough to be selected as one of his crew when we went out in a small boat for investigations. Many times when we thought the water deep enough for a passage we were nearly dashed to pieces on the Peacock Shoals, which received its name from one of Uncle Sam's warships that had been wrecked there sometime previous to our passage. Her spars were plainly visible above the water and we gave them as wide a berth as possible. What I learned about managing a whaleboat when we were sounding was of much value to me later on.

Still waiting for a higher tide


Oftentimes when we were watching longingly to get out to sea, we could see the spars of ships waiting just as anxiously to get in. Sometimes the sails would disappear and the captain told us the ship had gone back to San Francisco for provisions.

Shipboard life at night


The Shipboard at night changed from the daily routine of labor to one of laziness and enjoyment. The particular kind of amusement being indulged in was cards. At a long table in the cabin the captain and three others would play poker every night; it was always the same quartette, two brothers by the name of Cody and the Captain.  Now whether either of these men turned out to be the famous Buffalo Bill, I do not know, but I do know they could play a fine game of poker.

The modalities of shipboard poker


When the game began I would always take my seat by the Captain, but as I hardly knew one card from another at the time, the two brothers did not mind. Betting was always lively and large sums of money passed across the boards, not to one, now to another. Once or twice it was rumored the captain lost his entire ship and cargo, but he always must have won it back for I know it remained in his care until it was delivered. One night a dispute arose as to who had the largest amount of money on their person - Cody offered to bet that he (Cody) had the largest amount but the Captain ingeniously led the talk around to other channels and the game went on as usual. When no one was looking he whispered to me to go into his state room and bring him a large amount of cash. I had never been there before and hardly knew where to look. but as his wife was out of the room I had plenty of time to search. I went to a closet that was locked but had the key in the lock. I opened the door and entered, in a corner I saw a heavy iron bound chest, opening it my search was rewarded for it was filled with gold doubloons -- Spanish money valued at $16.00. There was also fancy boxes of Chinese make, filled with the same. It was a great deal more money than I had ever seen and like the child in a pantry I didn't know which box to go to first. I stuffed a double handful in my, pocket and returned quietly to the table, and as quietly transferred the money from my pocket to his. A few minutes later he began to talk about the bet the brothers wanted to make, and offered to bet with them. But they were suspicious and said, "That kid has been away from the table and I think I saw him pass something to you a few minutes ago -  no I don't believe there will be any bets tonight on that."

Finally under way to San Francisco


We made a successful dash across the bar and at last found ourselves on the open sea. Everything aboard changed, the Captain became the keen, alert commander who inspires confidence in the passengers and obedience in the crew. Besides the large crowd of discharged civilians and the wife of the Captain, there were but three  passengers booked for 'Frisco. Two of them were cousins, one of them named Libby, the names of the other two I forgot. Our ship must have been a beautiful sight to those whom we met or passed, for every spar was crowded with clean white canvas. The wind was fair and we made a record trip to port.

Arrival in time to see San Francisco burn

We reached San Francisco a few days before the big fire that swept the canvas city from the map. The fire was a terrible sight to behold; it belies description, where thousands of white canvas houses and stores stood a few hours ago, there was nothing but smouldering ruins.    
Salvage work in San Francisco  

I made my home on the. boat for several days, but most of the passengers struck out for the mines at once. After the fire my father and four other New Orleans men managed to secure an entire house outside the burned area. We paid one hundred dollars per month for it and there was just room for us to spread our blankets and sleep on the floor. We remained there for some time before we decided to go to the mines, but we were preparing for the trip all the time. I secured jobs in the lumber yards at five dollars per day. Short jobs were one dollar per hour; I usually took these, as I was able to make more.

CA in the early 1850s: culture and low life  

In the early fifties California received the finest artists, musicians, and the best merchandise money could buy. Famous among the writers was a man named Bret Hart, who became one of our best known writers. There was also the riff-raff of the world, thieves, thugs and murderers from everywhere. Gambling houses were in full blast, each one supporting a fine orchestra of musicians. There was one exception where a solitary violinist held sway. John Kelly, an Irishman, played alone, receiving from two to three hundred dollars per night for his services, and wherever he played the house was packed.

More on John Kelly, violin virtuoso, with whom JWH fetched up doing jury duty  

In later years I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the genius. In his travels through the country he stopped over in Jacksonville, Oregon, where I had my home at the time. One day he and I were drawn on the same jury to try some petty case in the office of a justice of the peace. When the case was given to the jury I said "Kelly, we will make you foreman, now let us decide the case and get away." In two minutes the verdict was ready. "Kelly," said I, "Get busy and write up the report." JI It was then I learned that the poor chap could not write a word. I took paper and pencil and in about half an hour taught him how to sign his name so that it could be read when signed on the returns. But to get back to San Francisco:

Controlling San Francisco low life  

The boldness of the criminal element in the West was amazing and especially in the aforementioned town. Terrible crimes of all kinds became the rule rather than the exception and culminated in the citizens forming what was known as the Vigilance Committee. And after months and years of untiring labor they partly got control of the thugs and thieves.

The (almost) impassable streets of San Francisco  

The streets of the city were sometimes so impassable that merchandise could not be hauled from one square to another. Merchandise which needed hauling and storing before it was sold was often abandoned, because the storage would be too great. I have walked for squares on full boxes of tobacco laid down for that purpose. Montgomery Street was nearly impassable during all of the colder months. It is an ill wind that blows nobody good, for instance: A gambler gave me five dollars to carry a bag of coins across the morass of mud and slush, while he picked his way carefully across. On another occasion a man offered me one hundred dollars for my boots -- a pair my father [John Hillman 1805 - 1864, a cobbler by trade] had purchased for me in St Louis. I refused the offer.

Arranging transport to the gold mines  

When our party had decided just where they intended to go we began to really prepare in earnest. First a whale boat was purchased and supplies got for her, but as the men of the party attended to the details I do not remember just what supplies we carried, but I do know that the supplies, together with the party of five, overloaded the boat and she sank very low in the water. Four men and a boy in an overloaded boat is not in the least conductive to safety, and so far as I know, I was the only one who had ever handled an oar.

January 1850. Setting out. First night's camp.  

We set out one bright day with a hazy idea as to our destination, and to cap the climax the tide was against us. Some one said we were headed for the San Joaquin River. I had no idea where it was, or how to get there, but had they decided to head for the Amazon I would have taken it as part of the day's work. It was hard work to navigate the boat, the tide wanted to carry us through the Golden Gate, and we were not ready to go. Night drew near and we were anxious to camp for the night if we could possibly make a landing. It was nearly dark before we came to what seemed a fairly good place to land, but the rush of water through and around the rocks made it impossible to do so.   I gave the steering oar to one of the men with instructions how to use it and then went forward and lay on the bow and watched for rocks and other dangerous obstructions until we could make-a safe landing. The boat was then hauled as far inland as possible and we at once prepared for our night's camp. I was saved the trouble of cooking supper, for we had enough cold food with us to last for quite a while.

Camping place proves a poor choice  

I was pretty well worn out from handling a sixteen foot steering oar either on my knees or in some other posture as there was no room to stand. My father spread a large rubber blanket on the ground and bade me lie down and try to get some rest while he and the others took turns in watching the boat and cargo. They must have had trouble, for when I awoke the boat was in an entirely different position. What my father had thought was a dry spot on the ground turned out to be what is known as a "sponge" in the ground and when I awoke I was lying in about two inches of water.

Challenging conditions for  navigation & provision of an impromptu ferry service  

Quick preparations were made for an early start and while we got breakfast ready the others busied themselves in repacking the loose cargo. Soon we were on our way with high hopes of a quick fortune. Our worst troubles came when we reached that crooked, treacherous stream called the San Joaquin River. It was early in January 1850 and the river was filled with a rushing, roaring torrent caused by the early thaws. We were at the mercy of the current until we learned to take advantage of the bends, thus escaping the full sweep of the rushing waters. In this way we made good time. We stopped for a couple of days at a place called New York, a short distance from the river, and all of the party except myself went there. It was on a Sunday and hardly a soul was in sight. A man appeared on the opposite bank and asked for the ferryman. I told him there was none. He saw my boat and asked if it belonged to me. I told him I was the owner, but the current was too swift and I could hardly manage it. But he seemed very anxious to get over, and I went across and got him. After landing he asked me what he owed. I told him two dollars, which he paid without a kick.

Fatal gun accident  

We continued our journey by boat. One day a member of the party was handling a "pepper box" the first example of the revolver and accidently shot himself through the foot, The wound did not appear to be serious at first, but later we had to leave him behind; with another man as nurse, expecting them to overtake us in a few days. Lock-jaw set on and the only one to rejoin us was the nurse.

Sale of boat, purchase of mule and continuation overland  

We sold the boat and purchased a mule and continued on our way. After some time we reached the famous Fremont, of Mariposa claims, I think they were called. The high cost of living was felt at once. Flour was selling for one dollar per pound and everything else in comparison.

Digging starts  

We staked off our claims, dug a big ditch to turn the stream into it, and then after running in debt for supplies, we found the claim was no good. I then took a prospecting trip; found some gulches that looked promising and we staked them off and hustled to get out of debt, which luckily we were able to do in a short time. In those days I was never satisfied to work in a regular mining camp, but always wanted to prospect and find my own mining ground. I never made any rich placer finds, but just enough to keep me encouraged and working hard in hope of finding more. Our party never made any rich finds but cleaned up a neat amount each day which showed up well in the long run. Occasionally we heard of men striking a rich pocket and cleaning up many thousands in a day.

Summer 1851: father goes home as JWH stays on  

We stayed in the Mariposa claims until the summer of '5l,when my father decided he wanted to leave for home, and he and I struck out for San Francisco. There he made arrangements for his passage to New Orleans; he wished me to go with him but I wanted to stay a while longer in California and try my luck. He was much surprised at my decision and insisted on depositing $300.00 to my account with Wells Fargo& Co., in case I was stranded. To the best of my knowledge they have it yet, for I do not ever rem­ember drawing it out. I bade my father farewell and it was many years before I saw him again.

Sojourn in San Francisco  

San Francisco always held a certain charm for me - at least for a while - so instead of going back in the mines I went the city looking for work. I had no trouble in securing a job as men were always in good demand.

Work as a teamster and accommodation  

I made the acquaintance of a man who was owner of several fine teams. He was preparing to start a stage route out of Stocton and was letting out his teams on shares. I got one after promising half of what I made, and as it turned out that our future business was good, both of us were satisfied.   There were two places where I boarded while teaming; one was a restaurant on Montgomery Street called the "Blue Wing" where the price of board was $21.00 per week. A person had the privilege of eating three meals a day but no place to sit and rest - just eat and get out. On the bill of fare could be found any kind of meat west of the Rocky Mountains, mountain sheep, antelope or grizzly bear. You could call it what you wanted, but you got something nicely cooked, and if you were in doubt as to it being your original order they did not try to argue with you but let you do the proving, which saved them lots of trouble.

Another boarding house  

I would board at the "Blue Wing" a couple of weeks and then go to a place near where I had my horses stabled. It was different kind of boarding house, there being much room. A long room opened off the street having tables running its full length, with benches on each side. I liked this place for two reasons; first, because of the spare room, second, because of the fact they made the best Boston brown bread I have ever eaten and it was served in liberal quantities. After supper we would sit at the long table and read.

Job offer  

One night while I was so occupied, a man opened the door and asked if there was a teamster present who wanted a job in a hurry.  I told him I did. He asked how long it would take me to get ready.   "Ten minutes after I reach the stables," I replied. "Hurry up and come along" was the answer.

Dodgy work?  

I was ready in a few minutes. "Where to," I asked. "Rincon Point," was the reply. Now Rincon Point was a locked in whaff under the supervision of the Custom House. While driving there the man asked me if I could cross from an open wharf to the one he wished me to go to. I said I thought I could. A foot wharf connected the two; I knew this to be about eight feet wide and
not intended for teams. I also knew how perfectly I had my teams under control, and how close to danger I could drive and escape. I said "I think I can make it." "Do it, and hurry;" was the reply. I crossed over safely and got inside the locked wharf where a steamer was unloading cargo. The wharf was full of teams and workmen. My employer got down and disappeared for a few minutes, returning with a man who carried a box about three feet square and eight inches deep. It was placed in front of the wagon and placing our feet upon it and drawing our overcoats well over our knees we drove to the locked gate. A man came up and after a cursory examination allowed us to pass. The man then told me to drive to the Wells Fargo Express Office and leave the box there and return to his office the next day for my pay, handing me a slip of paper with the address written on it.

Unsuccesful attempt to short change a teamster  

When I called the next day the office was filled with people and I told the clerk what I came for. He said "How much?" I answered "Twenty". He said ten dollars was plenty and he did not intend to be held up. I said, "Your boss seemed very anxious to get that box out of Rincon Point and there are very few drivers foolish enough to drive their teams over an eight foot bridge."
I began to talk rather loud and I suppose he became afraid the people in the room would catch on to what we were saying, for he slammed a twenty down on the counter and said "Git" - this I did without further talk. I never found out what the mysterious box contained, and did not care, so long as I was paid for my risk, but I think there were valuables in it and we escaped paying duty upon them.

The San Francisco job market: a plowing job  

It seemed to me the easiest thing in the world to secure a job when I asked for it, and it seemed odd for me to read of thousands out of work in San Francisco. I never turned a thing down as being unable to do; I would have agreed to run a steamship or a revival meeting so long as the terms were satisfactory. One day the proprietor of a large gambling house came to me and asked what I would charge to plow a piece of ground. This was indeed a poser, for I had never placed my hands on a plow in my life, that is to plow with it. I put him off from time to time and said I would have to see the ground before I could come to terms. I immediately got busy among the teamsters whom I thought knew something about plowing and asked them what a man could plow in a day; they said about one acre. I went out to look at the land, which I knew now to have been about ten acres. I told the owner I would do the work for twenty dollars per acre. He asked me if that wasn't pretty steep; he knew less of farm work than I. I said it must be about the average in this part of the country, and furthermore I might have to hire a man to help me. He finally agreed to pay the amount asked. The ground was a thin layer of sod over a rock foundation and I could not plow deeper. than four or five inches. I had all kinds of trouble learning to handle a plow; sometimes it would jump out of the ground and run for twelve or fourteen feet before I could get it back. It is needless to say that I never went back to remedy the evil. I had no worse trouble until the last day or two when it began to seem the work was on my team and I hired another man and team to help me. Later I found that the trouble was I had worn my plow point out on the rock and did not know enough to have a new one put on.

That plowing job was done "all right"  

After finishing the work after a fashion I reported to the owner. He inspected the work and said it was all right, and then I knew that he would never be a farmer, no matter how good a business man he might be in other pursuits.

A high risk assignment  

Another instance of how jobs turned up for me might be illustrated as follows: One Friday morning when [sic] after a couple of days of dull times I drove down to Long Wharf, just to see what was doing. The day previous the owner of the team had given me a young mule to drive telling me to be careful for fear she might run away. I took my stand a few doors away from the corner near the wharf and was very much surprised to see a number of fish stands blocking the way. One enterprising man had taken up a position so that there was no getting to the sidewalk without going some distance around him. While sitting on my wagon gazing at this sight, the proprietor of the corner saloon came up and asked what I would take to upset the stand on the corner, for he would perhaps be able to beat me if he caught me; The saloon keeper seemed very anxious for him to move and argued with him to no avail. I finally said I would do the job and do it neatly, for ten dollars. He thought the price rather high; but I pointed out that I had to run the risk of my mules breaking my wagon and the fish-monger breaking my neck. He slipped a ten dollar eagle in my hand and retired to his saloon to watch the fun.

Scattered fish  

I gathered the lines tight in my hands and then gave the young black mule a cut with the whip, and of course she began to run. I cried out that my team was running away and for everyone to clear the way, and they did to the best of their ability. I guided my team so the hub of the wagon just caught the leg of the table, and you may imagine the rest -- some three hundred pounds of fresh fish hit the street and slipped and slid in all directions. The irate owner began chasing me and kept cursing and yelling for me to "come back." I did not go of course.

Another San Francisco inferno  

I had the opportunity of witnessing another disastrous fire while in San Francisco. The hundreds and hundreds of canvas houses burned like so much paper and thousands of dollars worth of property went up in smoke and flames in a few minutes. Once while a fire was raging a man jumped upon my wagon and offered me a hundred dollars to make a load for him, as the flames were on all sides of his doomed place of business. While trying to get to his store, I became blocked by wagons and vehicles of all descriptions and the heat of the flames becoming more unendurable each second, I sprang from my wagon to loose my frantic team so that I could rescue them the easier, when suddenly I saw an opening ahead of me; I forced the team into it and gradually forged ahead, my animals becoming more unmanageable as the heat became more intense.  Finally I got out of the immediate fire zone and made my way to further safety.  I made nothing on that occasion and considered myself lucky to escape with my life and team.

Back to the mines  

Once again the desire for change and wanderlust got hold of me and off I struck for the mines. I was not particular what mines, just so long as I was on the go. This must have been the continuation of my boyhood ambitions which were to cross the Rocky Mountains and go where no white man had ever been before. Both of which were realized before I became a man.

Drytown, Sacramento  

I went to Sacramento and then decided to go to Drytown, a mining camp Some miles away. In a short time I had located a claim and found an empty cabin which I occupied. It turned out to be a pretty good claim and I worked it until another wander fit struck me.

Franco-American differences at Mokolumne Hill mine  

While working at Drytown we heard rumors of trouble between the French and American miners at Mokolumne Hill, a mine some distance away. The trouble finally culminated in the killing of some of the Frenchmen. They organized and being the stronger party, drove the Americans away from the camp. Among them was a man called "Mountain Jack" who had killed two or three of the opposite party and their concentrated hate was directed toward him. He slipped from the camp one night, but the French discovered the fact and hotly pursued him, but he was too well mounted and out-distanced his pursuers, but not until he had put up a hard race of one hundred miles. I thought no more of it until I had to duplicate the distance some years later and only considered it as part of the day's work.

Sacramento brick manufacture  

I left the mines and returned to Sacramento and looked for another job, as I was tired of mining for a while. I walked into a busy looking mercantile establishment and asked for the manager.  He came, and the usual questions were asked pertaining to my ability to work. I said I was willing to try anything. Mr Polluck, the owner, said he was in no need' of clerks at the time, but needed men in the brick yard he owned some miles down the river. He was in need of four boys to work as "off-bearers," that is, boys to carry the moulded clay in their frames and empty it on the ground so that the sun might dry the brick-shapes before being stacked in the kiln for burning.

Al fresco sleeping arrangements at the brick manufactury  

When I reached the place, I was surprised to see that the sleeping quarters were arranged on the open plain. A mosquito bar was staked off for each individual and under each bar was a neat bed. Everything was arranged in straight rows, and reminded one of a cemetery instead of a camp, although nothing could have been more appropriate for the comfort of the men. How long the works had been established I had no idea, but there was little or no system, especially as to the output of the plant.

Work at the brick manufactury  

A pit from which the clay was shoveled to the mill for grinding was attended by men with whom I seldom came in contact. We had a stint of ten thousand bricks per day and due to lack of system we were usually until night doing this. There were two big, husky Russians shoveling the clay and they were either too lazy to keep the mill running regularly and smoothly. One morning they began to quarrel about the work, and I became angry and told them to get out of the pit and let me do what the two of them had not done. They took it as a joke and got out and I began to shove the clay. As luck would have it, Mr. Polluck came up on one of his periodical visits and seeing us wanted to know the cause of the disturbance. I told him and he gave the Russians a talking to they did not soon forget, the result being we got our stint two or three hours earlier.  We were well fed and well treated. Every morning at sun up the cook would bring around a cup of coffee to all those who wanted it.
This was something I never allowed myself, to drink coffee or smoke before breakfast, for it spoiled my appetite.

Life at the brick manufactury  

We continued to progress with our stint, getting it completed earlier each day so that when the evening boat plying between Sacramento and San Francisco passed by we would jump into the swell and enjoy a delightful swim. Mr Polluck would often come to the works and spend the night in a neat little house far away, and he would often send for men to come and talk with him. This I often did, and spent many pleasant nights with him.

Horse thieves' public hanging at Sacramento  

One day the whole force took a holiday to go to Sacramento and witness the hanging of three horse thieves. People at that time enjoyed a little social hanging as much as the present day youngsters enjoy a tango tea. Everyone witnessed these gruesome sights without pity, for were they not horse thieves, and they need never expect mercy? Only two of the men were brought to the gallows the other one had been respited by the governor. As soon as these two were decently strung up, a committee of citizens formed a parade and marched to the jail and very soon appeared with the other one. But before stringing him up they allowed him to talk.  And I do not think I ever heard more lies told in the same length of time as that fellow told.   He accused every citizen in town of being implicated in the thievery carried on in the valley, going so far as to accuse the governor, giving as evidence the fact that the governor had granted him a respite, He was talking for time and it was granted him, as everyone was a close listener. He was indeed a fluent speaker and a handsome man; personally, I was sorry when his neck was broken.

Rough justice  

At that time the worst crime in the calendar was stealing horses. It was not necessary to steal one to bring prompt execution - in case a community was stirred up over a number of thieveries - for if a posse came upon a stranger who could not give a good account of himself he was strung up, especially if he was carrying a rope upon his saddle. And the party would ride away with the air of duty well performed.

Plans to move on to Yreka  

I was becoming tired of remaining in one place and began preparing to leave and go to the most northern town in California, as I heard the finds there were quite numerous. It was called Shasta Butte city - later Yreka.

San Francisco cleans up  

But before leaving, I journeyed to San Francisco, the Mecca of all true Californians then, as it is now. I noted that the Vigilance Committee had gotten the "hounds", as thugs were called, under control. Some had been hung, others put in jail to await trial; others just "disappeared". The jails would not accommodate the large number and the top floors of warehouses were pressed into service, being kept well guarded. One of the prisoners was Yankee Sullivan, one time bare-knuckle prize fighter.   He was found dead in his cell sometime later and while some thought it was suicide, others thought he was put to death by order of the committee. I do not know what crime he had committed.

Serendipitous encounter  

I only stayed a while in the city, but while there I had the pleasure of meeting the redoubtable "Mountain Jack", of whom I spoke a few moments ago. Imagine my surprise to recognize an old friend whom I had known in Albany, N. Y.  Verily, life offers some strange surprises: When I left Albany he worked in a cabinet shop just one square from where I lived; often in going and returning from school I would stop and talk with him, and often he showed me how to fashion some boyish trifle. His greeting was kind and cordial, but in a few years we had grown leagues apart.  He was a man who was hunted and was called by the world a "bad man", while I was yet a boy and had not taken up any of the bad habits of life. We had no friends in common and we -- gradually drifted apart. I never saw him again, but often wondered what became of him, whether he was killed in some drunken brawl or whether he got tired of the rough life of the west and returned to the little city of Albany and took up his trade of cabinet making. I like to think he did the latter. He was only like a great many others I have known - good men who have been beaten and buffeted by fate until they lose all hope and become criminals.

The dangerous journey to Yreka  

In a short time I started for Shasta Butte; I travelled by easy stages, sometimes by regular stage route and sometimes afoot all depending on my finances. Between Shasta and Shasta Butte, or Yreka, as I shall call it from now on, was a very dangerous trail, infested by Indians of very different type from the harmless Digger Indians of Southern California, and a constant care and watchfulness was required to make a safe passage. Even then they would very often get the better of the traveller and rob and perhaps murder every member of the party. I made several different trips between the two places, and each time had narrow escapes.

First impressions of Yreka: robust sheep  

On my first journey to Yreka, some three or four of us left camp one more morning to take a walk to the summit of Mount Shasta. We left early and did [not] take any lunch with us, expecting to be back within a few hours at the most. We made a brave start, but it seemed the further we walked, the higher the top of the mountain. So hunger and fatigues soon forced us to abandon our trip. I, for one, was not sorry we had taken the trip, for I had had the opportunity of witnessing several Mountain sheep take some of their spectacular jumps. I cannot understand how they can jump from such heights and not be dashed to pieces, but they always hit the ground on the run.

Meeting up with uncle Constantine Arthur Hillman.




Surpising dietary preferences of native Americans


I learned while on the trail that an uncle of mine, Dr. C. A. Hillman [Constantine Arthur Hillman 1827 - 1858], was now in Yreka and I was of course the more anxious to get to that place. On one occasion my Uncle, whom I had found on my former trip, and I started from Shasta to Yreka, taking a pack mule along to carry provisions. We fell in with a party of three French who were bound for the same place. They asked if they might accompany us and we gladly consented, for they were well supplied with guns and ammunition and also had a good watch dog. At night when we made camp we tied all animals to a tree nearby, securing them by the neck and from the leg with strong rope, to be doubly sure that they would not be stolen by the Indians. Generally speaking, I would rather have a mule than a dog to give warning of the presence of savages, for they can scent them farther than any dog. They have a good right to be afraid of them for in a bunch of animals the Indian would pick out the mules before a horse, not for riding purposes, however, but for food. According to the queer culinary code of a redskin, a mule came before a horse as far as eating was concerned.

Camp raided  

During the first night in camp our animals gave warning of an intruder and my Uncle and I arose and crawled to where they were tethered; found them all safe but very excited. We quieted them and began creeping back to camp. My Uncle said that he would never wear a white shirt while travelling in the mountains again, for since we both had on white our movements were plainly discernable. While talking he suddenly stopped and exclaimed, "There goes our disturber now, but I do not think it is anything but a coyote." with this quieting thought we returned to camp and slept peacefully until morning. On awakening and beginning to prepare breakfast we found a quantity of good food gone.  We searched closely and found tracks of Indians. And then we knew that what my Uncle had taken for a coyote was a savage crawling away from camp. We were thankful they had not tried to attack us, for we would have stood a bad chance of escaping unhurt in a night fight although we had good guns and they were only supplied with bows and arrows.

Neighboring camp also raided: aftermath  

We resumed our journey and had not travelled more than a mile when we came to a large camp off to our right. They hailed us and and asked if there was a doctor in the crowd. My uncle said he was, but had no medicine or implements with him. Nevertheless he was asked to visit the camp and tend a man who had been wounded' the night previous by an Indian. As soon as he saw the fellow he knew he had no chance for life. He had been wounded deeply in the stomach with an arrow which was still imbedded in the wound. After extracting it and binding the place as best he could, he turned him over to his comrades to nurse. It seems that the men had built a large fire and stood around it at different times of the night, this making good targets for the watchful enemy, and they could not resist potting the man mentioned. Continuing our journey, we reached our destination without mishap.

Memories of camping on this road on another occasion  

A short time later, I made a trip over the same route with a pack train. On the road to Shasta we had to climb one of the worst mountains in Northern California, and upon arriving at its summit, we looked back and saw five signal fires smoking on the peaks behind us. This was not a soothing prospect for us, and it was up to us to beat the Siwash at his own game. My uncle, who had always proved resourceful, took command of the situation. We pitched our camp in a nice little valley with plenty of grass and water; put up our tent, built a fire and proceeded to cook supper. In the meantime we cautioned the Indian boy who rode the bell mare, not to let her or any of the other animals stray too far from camp, but to act as though we expected no danger. We prepared ourselves as though for a night's rest, made up a huge fire and sat around it.  But in the meantime others were preparing for a quick get-away as soon as darkness came on. I do not think there were any Indians close enough to watch our individual motions, but we were taking no chances.

Decoy tactic supports escape from attack  

As soon as it was good and dark we removed the bell from the lead mare and drove all the animals into camp and saddled them up. Gathering everything up except the tent, which we left standing to fool the enemy, we sprang on our mounts and made a silent dash for safety. We travelled all night without being attacked and then decided that we had fooled them. Just as the first streaks of dawn tinted the East, we stretched ourselves on the grassy slope of the mountain and soon all of our fears vanished -- we were asleep.

Return to wild Yreka  

I soon returned to Yreka. It was then a wide open, fighting town, drinks sold at the bars for fifty cents, but a great deal was sold regardless of the high price. And of course, the more drinking there was the more shooting affrays we witnessed. Oftentimes after retiring, I would hear rows which I thought might materialize into a shooting. I would dress and come out and watch for the fun. Occasionally, an outsider would be hit by a stray bullet, but if he was a fighting man, his only complaint would not be that he had been wounded, but that he had not been a principal in the affair and had the opportunity of sending a few bullets himself.

Jacksonville becomes home  

After leaving Yreka, I went to Jacksonville, Oregon, which was the county seat of Jackson County. It was a lively mining town of about 1200 inhabitants. And it was entirely different from the usual mining towns of California, as there was no mining done in the immediate vicinity of the town proper, which was situated at the mouth of a gulch in the beautiful Rouge River Valley. I seemed to fit in on the general run of things as though I had been born there, and for seven years it was my home, or as near home as a man could have who was most of the time in the saddle.

Jacksonville's locally bad reputation undeserved  

For some time Jacksonville had a bad reputation throughout the cow countries, as they were called. To claim that place as your home was almost the same as proclaiming yourself an all around gunman and fighter. And yet, a nicer community did not exist on the Pacific coast. The majority of the citizens were immigrants who had crossed the plains and settled down permanently. This was in 1852.

The skill involved in packing a train  

As I drove pack trains a good deal, I became adept in packing, and it was indeed a science to learn to fasten a miscellaneous cargo varying from three to four hundred pounds, to the smooth sides of an aparajo so that it would ride from ten to fourteen miles on a perfect balance so as not to skin the sides of the mule or fall off. It was customary for a hired man to furnish his own saddle animal. Wages were from seventy to eighty-five dollars per month, with board free with the train. The Mexicans were the first to teach us how to pack, but some of the Americans beat them at their own game, thus causing them to lose their jobs.

Working for pack train owner Ben Drew  

I became acquainted with the owner of a pack train by the name of Ben Drew, who offered me $85.00 and a mule to ride. This looked good, so I accepted. I made several trips with him throughout Oregon, sometimes going as far as Salem, the capitol [sic] of the state. Late one fall, we made a return trip to Jacksonville, and after unloading our cargo, Ben and I remained in town and sent the mules out in the valley to camp. He kept his mule in town and placed her in a stable, while I sent mine out in the valley along with the other mules. We went around town and watched the gambling and dancing until pretty late, and I was nearly ready to retire. We were standing on the gallery of a billiard saloon watching the crowds when I said, apropos of nothing, "Ben, I want more salary", "How much?" he said. "One hundred dollars" I replied. He said he would not be able to give that amount and pointed out that one of the men from another train had offered to furnish his own mount and work for fifty dollars. "All right," I said, "if I am not worth two of that fellow, hire him, and come on and take a drink to show there are no hard feelings, and then I am off to bed."

Mules dispersed in snow: start of "Starvation Winter" 1852 - 1853  

I do not know just how long Ben stayed up, but just before daylight he woke me, saying for me to get up and go out in the valley and look for the mules, for he was short of hands and they could not locate them. I asked what was the matter and he said there had been a heavy snow, a very unusual occurrence for this season of the year. I said, "All right, Ben, I'll go, but on my own terms." "Damn the terms," he sputtered, "go and get those mules:" I asked him what mule I was to ride, and he told me to take Lady Hold, his saddle animal. I sent my saddle down to the stable with instructions that the mule be brought to me at once.

[The compiler is grateful to John Stec who makes a powerfully persuasive case for this having been the winter of 1852 - 1853.  John's evidence includes personal journals of the time in which the exceptionally savage winter of 1852 - 1853 is consistently documented.   It seems possible that global volcanic activity was running at an unusually high level during this time.  There had been a significant volcanic eruption in Martinique in August 1851.   Across the ocean, in Sicily, Mount Etna underwent a massive eruption that commenced in August 1852 and was not fully expunged for approximately nine months.]  

Rounding up the mules: on up the road  

After a cold ride I came to the camp and went on a hunt for the trail at once. In a few hours we had found them all, and as quickly as they could be saddled, we were on the road down Rogue River valley. We had no tent and I do not remember making camp until we crossed the river but I do know we made a record drive, doing two days work in one. I crossed the river at Evan's Ferry and found several trains ahead of me in permanent camp. They wished me to stop with them, but I said that I wanted to get to the timber where I could get protection as well as fire wood.

Break in to Vannoy's Ferryman's  home  

A few miles down the river we came to a place called Vannoy's Ferry and found that the family had gone near Portland to be near supplies, should the winter be a hard one. We tried the doors of their house but without success, for they had locked everything up tight before they left, and how they did so I cannot see, unless they locked and bolted the house from the inside and then crawled through the chimney. Finally we discovered a wedge over the door as well as locking it. We made a wedge and drove it in the small crack of the door, thus forcing the other one out, and this also broke the hinges, so we reversed the opening and walked in and made ourselves at home. It was warm, comfortable house. We were a set of cold, hungry men, and as Kaiser Wilhelm said when he ignored the neutrality of Belgium, "Necessity knows no law." Many years later, I occupied a much larger building on the same spot when I had charge of a number of squaw prisoners, of whom I shall speak later. 

Looking after the mules in difficult weather  

My first thought after getting settled was to save my train. I emptied the aparjos and fed the weakest animals. Then I drove them to a patch of thick timber to be sheltered from the cold winds.   Each morning I had them driven out to a space between the river bank and the rise on which the house was sitting. I was indeed pleased with my surrounding when I saw the mules paw the snow at the river bank and uncover large patches of reeds, which sprang upright when the load was taken off them. They ate this unlooked for forage greedily. Every morning they were driven to the river bank, and every evening to the timber. It was well that I did this for one night the river rose twenty feet and had they been under the bluff they would surely have drowned.

Scarcity at Evans' Ferry  

I made several trips to Evans Ferry to purchase supplies, which were very scarce. Flour was selling from one dollar to two per pound. Beef were killed to prevent starving. On one of these visits I was asked to shovel snow so that the animals might feed on the scant herbage beneath; on my refusal to do so, I was told that my mules could not trespass. I agreed to this and told them to run them away if they came around, but that they need not worry as my mules were not that hungry. It was pitiful to see their skin and bones, while my animals were in fairly good condition. I asked them to come see how I was faring, but perhaps they were too busy playing poker, for this they did from morning until night.

Tough conditions because of the vileness of the winter  

The losses of the various trains that year were from twenty to eighty per cent. Occasionally we would get a rumor of what was happening in Jacksonville, and from what we could learn, times were as hard there as where we were. Tobacco was an article much in demand. A man would chew a piece for a few minutes, then take it out and lay it aside much like a child does his gum in these days. Later, he would pick it up and make it do further duty as a stimulant, afterwards he would carefully dry what was left and smoke it in his pipe. Plug was the kind mostly in demand. When purchasing it you would take out a dollar and the dealer would lay it on the tobacco and carefully cut around it; then the two articles would change hands. Salt was, I think, the necessity that most missed, and an ounce sometimes sold for a dollar. Times were indeed hard that year, and for many years it was known as Starvation Winter.

Ben Drew arrives  

It was a month or more before I saw Drew, when one day he rode into camp. I was glad to see him for I was anxious to be on the road once more; although I despised being idle. Of course, as I stated, everything had been expensive, but I had bought as long as there was anything to buy, and charged it to Drew. And naturally, his first question on greeting me was, "How much do you owe?" and then, "How many mules have you lost?" I said, "Ben" I do not owe a thing, but I am pretty sure you owe about two hundred dollars or more to Evans." He promptly said he was not going to pay it, but I argued with him, and he finally settled with him by giving him a fine mule.

Contractual negotiations with  Ben Drew  

As to the second question, I had brought all the train through safe, with the exception of one old mule who disappeared from camp a few days before the arrival of Drew. Later, I said, "Ben, you are the luckiest man in Oregon. I have pulled your train through the winter in fine condition, while you know that most of the others are dead." He grinned and replied, "Yes, the honors are about even; you saved my mules but you lived high at my expense." After such friendly chaffing, we got down to business. He wanted to know how long it would be before I could get the train ready for the road. I replied that I could be ready by morning.

Back to Jacksonville:  meat short  

The next day we began our trip back to Jacksonville. We were joined by Bob Williams, a hunter and Indian fighter, and to them, a very bad man, for he thought the only good Indian was a dead one and he was always ready to make a good one. He had a couple of horses along with him and was also on his way to get provisions. Supplies were now easy to get, with the exception of meat, which we could not get for love nor money. No one would sell a cow, sheep of a pig. One day we saw a fine drove of hogs near where we camped. We went to the owner and asked him to sell to us, but he would not.

Delectable meat of barely ambiguous provenance  

That evening Bob went hunting and returned rather late with a large piece of "fresh". We asked where it came from and what it was, and he noncommitally said "bear". The head, hide and feet of that bear were noticeable in their absence, but asking no questions, we prepared for a feast. The delectable smell arising from the pots caused our mouths to water and we were so hungry for the treat that we could hardly wait for it to finish cooking. Just before we sat down to eat, the owner of the hogs came to camp and said that one of his hogs had disappeared, asking if we had seen it, and of course we could truthfully say we hadn't. The tantalizing odors of the cook pots came to him and he wanted to know where we got fresh meat. We said it was bear meat, but he became very inquisitive and wanted to see the hair or the feet. We were about to give some explanation when Bob, good old Bob, spoke up and said that he had killed a young bear that day, and being so far from camp he had skinned it and thrown all the useless parts away to save unnecessary work. To show our good will, we invited him to dine with us. This he did, hoping no doubt to find some evidence of the hog in our "bear", but Bob skinned it clean and there was no evidence whatever. He found no convincing proof but voiced the fact that the meat tasted very much like pork to him. Bob agreed with him, saying that all young cub meat tasted like pork, especially if it had been cooked with potatoes as this had. He said no more, but glumly ate his supper and soon departed in search of his lost treasure. He never told us, but I'll wager he thought us a bunch of thieves. And what's more, I'll wager he never found his hog, though if he should have discovered where Bob skinned the bear, he might have found some traces of hog.

Teamster life in California  

Our trips with the train carried us to all the small towns where the Jacksonville merchants secured their provisions. Sometimes we went to Crescent city, a town situated on the California coast directly facing the pacific Ocean; again to Scottsburg on the Umpqua River, and occasionally to Salem; in fact, we went anywhere the merchants desired us to go, and so long as the price was satisfactory, we were ready and willing to go.

"Steel Points" (a favourite poem by the Hon W G Steel)  

Whenever I think, of the Umpqua country, the words of a poet come to mind. I read the lines in a little book-entitles "Steel Points", published by the Hon. W. G. Steel, and as follows:

An Umpqua Memory

I know a place where the fern is deep
          and the giant firs wave high,
And a dripping ledge leans cool and steep
          and a laughing brook leaps by.
And it's there to be with a soul that's free
          from the street's discordant jar,
With a blanket spread on a cedar bed
          and a wealth of the world afar.

I know a pool in a mossy dell
          that the wary trout loves best,
And a timid trail to the chaparrel
          where the red deer lie at rest.
A night birds call when the shadows fall,
          and a gray wolf's lonely cry;
A slumber deep and a dreamless sleep
          under the open sky.

The magic of the Umpqua country: mule thievery  

The haunting magic of these words can only be felt by a person who has lived long in the Umpqua country, and who knows and loves nature for what she is. "A night-bird's call, when shadows fall, and a fray wolf's lonely cry," bring back memories of the other nights when I often lay awake on my "cedar" bed and listened to the weird cry of the grey wolf, but often the cedar bed was only a blanket and my saddle was a pillow. Once when we were making a trip down the Umpqua River, Drew and I were riding about two miles in the rear of the train, our mules stepping off about six miles per hour, when we met a man who stopped and asked if I were the owner of the team ahead. I winked at Drew, and "admitted" that I was. "You have several mules in that train that belong to me; I would know them anywhere." I knew that Ben had bought three or four mules the week previous, so I said, "Very well, settle it with this gentleman here," pointing to Drew, "he is my secretary and man of business, and any arrangements you make with him shall be satisfactory to me." And I rode, like a gentleman of leisure is supposed to ride. Later, I asked Drew how he had arranged matters with the man, and he said that the fellow proved that he was the partner of the man who sold Drew the mules, but this was done without his knowledge and the man had absconded with all the money. Drew, to settle the dispute, gave the man part of the money he had given for the animals and bought several more from him.

Sources of news  

The Portland papers, The "Oregonian" and "Statesman", together with the Sacramento paper, "The Union", and the New York papers kept us supplied with all the news of the outside world. Local events were discussed and passed upon by what might be called gossip; very few events in the valley that did not reach my ears.

Joaquin Miller up the valley  

Joaquin  Miller, with a few companions, camped at the upper portion of the valley and I was soon notified of the fact. But at that time I thought his chief distinction was that he had assumed the name of a notorious Mexican bandit, for whose arrest, dead or alive, a large reward was offered. He did this purely in a spirit of fun, but it was rather a dangerous joke, I thought. He did not come to town and it was several years later that I made his acquaintance.


Tales of Lost Cabin Mine:  an opportunity not to pass up  

Not long after the above incident, news came to me that a party of California miners were in the valley, and that one of them had inadvertently disclosed the object of their visit, which was the locating of Lost cabin Mine, a mythical, or real mine which has never been discovered. I lost no time in getting up a party to keep in contact with this party ahead of them, or to share the spoils with them.

Following those Californian prospectors  

The number of the party of Californians was eleven, and I think our party numbered the same. I do not remember the names of all of the party of ours, but there were Henry Kippel, J. L. Louden, Pat MaManus, and a Mr. Little and myself. We stuck to the trail of the Californians, who soon discovered that we were on their trail; and then it was a game of hide-and-seek until rations on both sides began to get low. They would scatter through the brush, hide,
double backward on the trail and camp in the most inaccessible places to be found, and we often had trouble in locating their camp, so that we could watch them. Ind day while thus engaged, and when provisions had run very low,  each party scattered out to look for anything in the shape of provisions. On my return from an unsuccessful hunt, I passed close to the camp of the Californians. Up to this time, neither party had spoken to one of the others, but seeing a young fellow in camp, I bade him good-day, and got in conversation with him. He asked what our object was in the mountains and why we hung so close to their trail.

Negotiation leads to collaboration  

I frankly told him we believed their leader had certain landmarks, which, if found, would enable them to find the "Lost cabin," and as we were all pretty good prospectors and hunters, we intended to stay with them until the mine was found or starvation drove us back to the valley. After this a truce was declared and we worked and hunted in unison. One day, just before deciding that it was no longer safe to stay in the mountains with our limited supply of provisions and no game to be found, we camped on the side of a mountain, and after consultation, it was decided that a few of each party should take what provisions could be spared, and for a couple of days longer hunt for landmarks which the leader of the California party was in search of; of that party, I was one. Louden did not go with us, and who else did or did not I cannot remember.

Sudden discovery of "that lake"  

On the evening of the first day, while riding up a long, sloping mountain, we suddenly came in sight of and close to Klamath Lake, and not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of crater Lake did I look down, and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the ledge to death. We came to the lake a very little to the right of a very small, sloping butte or mountain situated in the lake, with a top somewhat flattened, which was, I believe, named Wizard Island by Hon. W. G. Steel some years later. Every man gazed with wonder at the sight before him, and each in his own peculiar way gave expression to the thoughts within him; but we had no time to lose, and after rolling some boulders down the side of that lake, we rode to the left, as near to the rim as possible, past the butte, looking down to see an outlet for the lake but we could find none.

[From other sources, the discovery by Hillman and his party of Crater Lake appears to have occurred June 12, 1853.]

The lake is named "Deep Blue Lake"

(The name "Crater Lake" came later, in 1869)


I was anxious to find a way to the water, which was immediately vetoed by the whole party. At last, we decided to return to camp, but not before we discussed what name we should give to the lake.   There were many names suggested, but "Mysterious Lake" and "Deep Blue Lake" were most favourably received, and on a vote, "Deep Blue Lake" was was chosen for a name.

Farewell to the lake: Indian beliefs concerning the sacred lake  

We secured a small stick, about the size of a walking cane, and made a slit in the end, a piece of paper was torn from a book, and we wrote our names upon it, and placing it in the slit, we propped the stick up to the best of our ability. We then reluctantly turned our backs on the future Lake of Oregon. The finding of this lake was an accident, as we were not looking for lakes, but the fact of my riding the best saddle mule in Oregon, the property of Jimmy Dotson, a miner and packer who had loaned me the mule in consideration that I stake a claim for him in case we were successful, was perhaps the reason I was the first of the party to view the lake.
Stranger to me than our discovery was the fact that after our return I could get no acknowledgement from any Indian that such a lake existed; each and everyone denied any knowledge of it, or ignored the subject completely. Later I discovered that they held this lake as sacred and none except a few of the medicine men ever gazed upon its surface.

The beauty of that lake  

It is really an impossibility to describe this lake as I first viewed it; the vast loneliness of the place, the sparkling water so many feet below, the beautiful view of the water is remarkably clear, a six inch plate showing to a depth of 92 feet. When looked upon from the surrounding cliffs, its color is the deepest possible blue, except close to the shore where it blends into a rich turquoise.  Seen from a boat, the blue remains as deep as before, but assumes a brighter hue. In the absence of wind, surrounding objects are reflected as from a plate-glass mirror. I knew when I gazed upon Crater Lake that even though the West was filled with undiscovered wonders Crater Lake would hold its own; that while not a passing thought was given at the time, a later generation would realize its wonders and its possibilities as an incomparable piece of western scenery, and that tourists (though we called them immigrants, and they had not come out west to gaze at scenery, they came to make a living) would come for miles to view it. I may mention that we went back as poor as we left, for we did not find the mythical "Lost Cabin Mine".

the Hon. W G Steele, a subsequent write on Crater Lakey  

I will give the description of the lake as I saw it described in the pamphlet by the Hon. W. G. Steel:

...what Steele later wrote  

"Crater Lake is located on the summit of the Cascade range of mountains in Southern Oregon, three miles from the Jacksonville and Fort Klamath wagon road. It rests in the crater ofa great mountain, the top of which has disappeared, leaving a cauldron 4000 feet deep and five and one-half miles in diameter.  The lake itself is 1996 feet deep and fills, the cauldron about half full. Near shore on the westerly side is a circular island, or cinder cone, 763 feet high, known as Wizard Island, in the top of which is an extinct crater 100 feet deep and 500 feet in diameter. Near the shore of the easterly side is a jagged rock called the Phantom Ship. These are the only islands in the lake. The whole thing is all too great to be described, one must see it to appreciate it."

The criminal element persuaded from California to Oregon where they were strictly on good behavior  

The effects of the vigilance Committee in banishing the "Hounds" from San Francisco was followed up by other interior towns following her example and getting rid of their undesirables. They flocked to the nearest town in Oregon, which was Jacksonville, and we had as temporary citizens some half dozen well known gun fighters, and quite a crew of gamblers and other riffraff. But they were all looking for safety and were strictly on good behaviour, for they did not wish to incur the hostility of the people who were of a very different stamp from them. For the Oregonians were mostly immigrants just from a two thousand mile trip across the continent and were many farmers and mechanics. Blacksmiths were busy in town working, while others were in the surrounding country staking out claims for permanent occupancy.

Jacksonville's wild reputation  

I was in town for a few days while the gunmen were there --the Billiard Saloon was their stopping place -- and I noticed one old gentleman who came from the interior of the state. I know him slightly and went up to where he was sitting and engaged in conversation. He said he was surprised at the quietness of the town and where he had come from they thought that it was a common thing to see one or two men killed in the disreputable town during the day and to wake up and find others lying in the street who had been killed during the night. I asked the old gentleman when he reached home. [sic] He said he would, but I think he would have changed his mind had he been sitting in his favourite seat in the Billiard Saloon and seen Bob Williams when he killed Jack Driscoll. The same Bob of "bear meat" fame.

Fatal shoot out  

Bob and Jack sent word to each other that they intended to kill each other on sight and that was excuse enough for a killing when they met. I was in the general wash room of the hotel one Sunday morning when I saw Williams ride into town. I knew that Driscoll was in the Billiard Saloon and that one of the two was going to certain death. I had neither shirt nor under-shirt on, but I ran into the bar of the hotel and grabbed a clock lying there and jumped into the street, intending to warn Driscoll to leave at once. The principal gambling house of the town and the Billiard Saloon were on opposite corners. Bob rode on, left the street, turned into an alley, turned again and came to the alley adjoining the saloon. He watched the gambling house across the street and before I got to my destination -- it seemed like a nightmare to me -- for though I had seen men killed before, they were not my friends -- Driscoll came out of the house and started to walk across the square. Bob came into the open and called to him. He wheeled like a shot, reaching for his gun in the meantime, but he was covered, for Bob had his gun resting across the hitching rack. A slight pause intervened which must have been an eighth of a second, but seemed tome like hours, then Bob fired. Jack half turned in his tracks, a look of wonder spread over his face, he clutched at his breast where a dark stain was beginning to appear, then he slowly crumpled down in a queer heap. What a few seconds before had been a living and kindly man was now an inanimate lump of clay. But had not Bob done the killing, the same fate might have been his. Such was the life in Jacksonville in the years '52 to '55.

Bob Williams  

After Bob was sure Jack was dead he calmly walked away; he had warned his man and had given him a chance for life; if he had killed his man without warning, he may have been condemned for assassination [which] was looked upon as a coward's resort. Bob was an Indian fighter, but I do not remember his ever joining a company. He would go along with them and hunt by himself, making as many good Indians as possible. He was not a man to quarrel without cause and was not dangerous until he began to grin, if it could be called a grin. I have seen the same snarling expression, lips pressed upward against the gums, white fangs showing, on a wounded wolf's face, but have never seen it on the face of another man except Bob. Well, when he grinned it was time to reach for your gun and do what you could"to protect yourself for your life was numbered by seconds.

Following false rumor to BC  

It was about this time that there was much excitement about a new gold mine being discovered in British Columbia. So with a party of four or five prospectors, I got ready and set off on a five hundred mile ride through a well-nigh trackless forest, and a wild goose chase, as I learned later. We had been travelling up the Columbia for some time when we met prospectors by the score, returning from the so-called new mines. They all advised us to turn back as there was nothing where they came from, but we continued on for a couple of days longer and the returning men increased in numbers with their tales of terrible hardships undergone, with a scant supply of grub, so we concluded that we would return.

Lost: encounter with strangers  

We had made a few days on our return trip, and as our packs were light, we decided to pack our sleeping blankets on the pack animals and relieve our mounts. One morning I concluded to let the boys travel on the well-marked trail while I would go closer to the river and cross the trail and catch them before camping time. I rode around for a few hours and when I decided to return to the main trail I found that I could not do so for it must have made a sharp turn and left me, I knew not where, except that I was too close to the Columbia. There was nothing for me to do but to keep riding in what I thought was the right direction.  I confess I was rather uneasy as the afternoon passed and I had not yet found my companions or even the trail. While making a short turn around a rolling piece of ground I came upon the largest and finest spring of water I had ever seen in that section of the country. It formed a round basin about three feet deep and several feet in diameter, while the bottom was the purest of white sand. The basin could not hold the water and a little rivulet was continually flowing from it, keeping the water pure and fresh all the time. A short distance away I saw a camp and made eagerly for it, thankful that I would not have to camp alone, especially since I had left my blanket with my party. I had images of a fine supper and a warm sleep, but my happiness was soon dashed down when one of the campers -- there were three -- yelled out to not let my horse drink at the spring for that was where they got their water. I knew that a dozen horses could water there and not hurt the freshness or the purity of the pool. Another said it was private property, as he had just homesteaded it. Maybe I did not get hot; I jumped off my horse, slapped him on the hip and said, "go in there, John, and drink all you want." I had named him John after myself because he was such a good horse, for like all youngsters, I was very egotistical. The animal waded in as he was bid and drank to his heart's content. They did not argue the point any more just then, and so I unsaddled and loosed my horse within ten yards of them. I placed the saddle so I could lie on my stomach and look across it and watch their motions. When I was comfortably fixed, I said, "Boys, I am lost. I have neither blanket nor grub and am more than three hundred miles from home -I am from Jacksonville." I saw that this made some impression, and was glad for once that the town had a bad reputation. I continued, "I am now desperate, and if you think I am a good subject to trifle with, just start something." They said nothing.

Making up  

I began to talk to my horse, who was enjoying himself on the excellent grass. I told him to eat quickly for someone might interfere with his supper. But everything remained quiet in the other camp. Soon they went to a small rise in the ground and set  up a target and began to shoot at it. They shot poorly, and I laughed at them and said New York newsboys could beat them. I offered to shoot for a wager against one of them, but still they would not notice me. I said I had known men to be run out of Jacksonville because they could not shoot well and even they could beat what I was witnessing. I named off a list of men who had been killed in Jacksonville in the months past and also mentioned that I was a close friend to several desperadoes who had a reputation for gunplay. 1 had never seen but one or two of the men I mentioned, but I was working for effect and got it, but not until I placed a target up and luckily planted several shots in the center of it.

A meal shared  

Soon they called me to come over and get some grub. I had been in the saddle all day riding on the treeless, sandy shores of the Columbia and was hungry as a bear, but now I grew stubborn and told them they had not treated me right and therefore I would not touch their grub unless they made some excuse for their actions. They then apologized after a fashion and I gladly went over to where they were. They had--plenty of home cured bacon, flour and coffee and this was all a prospector wanted or needed. We sat about the fire until late in the night spinning yarns and smoking and soon all our ill feeling disappeared in the smoke we raised. When we prepared for bed each one offered me a blanket and all went merrily as a marriage bell.


A stranger coming into camp would have taken us all for boon companions.


I don't think that if they had not taken me in I would have gotten out of the place alive, for none of the returning prospectors had returned that way and it was not until several days of steady travelling and after night at that, that we camped on one of the cascade Range that we caught sight of a human being.  But now they were very plentiful, for in a distance the whole mountain top was lit up with many camp fires, and we could see scores seated about them. From appearances, they had all eaten supper and were lounging around doing nothing except talking and smoking or walking around. As we rode near one of the fires someone saw me who recognized me and yelled out, "Hello here's Hillman." Soon my friends came up and asked me all about my adventures, saying that they had searched for me and not finding me decided that I had gone in with some other train. They wanted me to come back to camp with them, but I told them I would remain a while longer with my new-found friends, as they were going in a different direction from me when they reached the valley on the morrow. I said I would join them and then go to Jacksonville with them. The next day I regretfully parted company with my rescuers, for though they were anxious for me to come with them, I could not, as I was anxious to get home. They went their way and I went mine, and I do not remember ever seeing' them again.

Chronology of the text (imperfect nature of)  

After a period of so many years, my mind refuses to recollect the many things that occurred to me and it is so hard for me to remember dates on which to base my story. One day I think of something that happened in '52, the next I remember an incident that occurred in '56. So if the reader notices that I break a thread of my narrative by continually reverting to past years, he must bear with me.

Foul deeds and heroic resistances  

I think it was in 1855 that a Mrs. Wagoner and her child were murdered by the Indians, and a Mrs. Harris so nobly defended herself and child from them, that Col Ross and his Adjutant, Charles Drew, made their camp and headquarters at Table Rock. They were puzzled to know how every move contemplated by the volunteers was immediately known by the hostiles in the field. After much study and investigation, they concluded that the information was gotten from the white miners living at Galico Creek, by their Indian wives. And to stop and further revelation of their plans, they decided to capture all the squaws and place them in Fort Lane, under-command of Capt.
A.J. Smith of the regular army. If a company of volunteers had been dispatched, the squaws would have, in some way, got the news and defeated the purpose of the expedition.

Challenging assignment to Galico Creek  

At this time, I was living in Jacksonville, and I was enjoying myself and making enough money, and had no desire to hunt Indians. I knew there were enough volunteers in the field to whip the hostiles. For some reason Ross and Drew wanted me as a volunteer for they sent word to me several times to come and see them as they had a secret mission for me to go upon. Each time I sent word back that if they wished to see me it was their place to come to see me, and the road was as long one way as the other. One day, another messenger came to be bringing a letter from Drew, together with a Major's commission to me. I told the messenger it seemed that I would get no peace until I went to see them, but I had no horse close, as my horse was out on Griffin's Ranch and he would have to go and get it if he wished me to go with him. This he did at once, and I rode down to see what Ross and Drew wanted with me. He wished me to take a company with me and go to Galico Creek and capture the squaws living there with their white husbands. Before consenting to do so, I returned the Major's commission and said I would go as special messenger for the command. I mustered in at $16.00 per day, with $4.00 allowed for my horse. For my trouble, I only received part of the payment from the Government a year or two ago, not a cent then. Charley Drew wrote lengthy instructions for my guidance when I had arrived at my destination, the pith of which was that I was to bring the squaws away with me or evidence that I had been there. It was couched in very nice language, but the intent was plain -- I was to bring the women or their scalps. Ross knew and I knew that their scalps were safe, as far as I was concerned, but this was written for the bluff and I used it as such very effectually.

Heading off for Galico Creek: report of dangers ahead  

Very shortly I started on my ride down Rogue River valley on my way to my destination. I do not remember where or how I crossed the river, but I know I was making a pretty lively gait down-stream when I saw a rider approaching who was making as fast time up the valley as I was making down. We met, stopped and talked. I asked him where he was from and where he was going to He said he had crawled out of Galico Creek, picked up a horse and was looking for help, as the camp was surrounded by Indians and all white men who tried to escape were killed, and that they would have been entirely out of it had it not been for a few Chinamen in the camp who were allowed to go about at leisure, and thus kept the camp supplied with water from the spring. There was but one white woman and two children in the camp, her name was I think, Mrs. Pickett. Again he tried to persuade me to give up my foolish mission unless I got heavy reinforcements. He finally consented to pilot me, provided I got the right kind of help.

Disagreement on treatment of Indian prisoners  

On my telling him that a move on his part to kill a prisoner of mine would be followed by an order from me to the soldiers to kill him and any of his company who aided him, he became indignant, and wanted to know when I became an Indian sympathizer. My reply was, "I was ordered to bring back those squaws and I intend to do so; as for me being an Indian sympathizer, you may examine my record. Would yours bear a close inspection?" He said no more, but walked away.

Overnight encampment  

We camped that night at our camp of the previous night, the squaws occupying a room on the ground floor of a new tavern house which was being built by Vannoy. We spread our blankets outside and stationed guards to prevent any attempt to escape.

Nervousness overnight  

The white woman of whom I spoke a moment ago remained at the creek (Galico) with nearly all the miners, for they thought that danger from ambush and furthermore, another uprising was not imminent. They wished to remain with their claims, which were panning out well.

The journey countinues  

The next morning we made and early start and all during the trip the prisoners kept close to me, for fear of meeting some of the volunteers that I looked more like the prisoner than they. We proceeded on our way past Evan's Ferry, but I did not get a chance to see Major Fitzgerald, for he had gone. I was very sorry, for I wished to thank him for his kindness to me. 

Arrival. Squaws reportedly would be reunited with their husbands ultimately  

We reached Fort Lane without event and turned our charges over to Capt. Smith at the fort. I continued with the command until the close of all Indian hostilities. The squaws I never saw again, but heard that they all finally went back to their husbands. 

Necessary secrecy of this 'escort' mission  

I should state that when I left camp that day to go to the Creek, there were but three men who knew of my mission; they were Col. Ross, Adjt. Drew and myself. But had it not been for Major Fitzgerald; my mission would have been a failure for even had I gotten to Galico Creek, which I doubt very much, the miners would have killed me before parting with their wives.  

Another close shave  

I was passing by a group of Indian prisoners one day and an Indian brave said, "That fellow passed so close to me not long ago that I could have knocked him off his horse with my gun, but did not do it because me and some of my companions were waiting for a pack train to rob. Had I killed him, an alarm might have gotten out before we captured the train." I do not know whether he was speaking the truth or not, but I am aware that I took my life in my hands many times acting as an express rider.




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Updated at  09:06 on 19 April 2008