Friday, March 25, 2011

Edwin Pettit Autobiography, Part 5

[Edwin was 15 and 16 years old during the events narrated in this excerpt.]

I left Pomeroy’s company here and joined this independent company. We bought a yoke of oxen and the front wheels of a wagon and made them into a cart. Packed all our goods on that and in order to save the cattle, I took a bundle of our goods, tied them together, and carried them on my shoulders across the desert. One man belonging to our company died crossing this desert.

We arrived in San Bernardino, recruited our stock, and then made our way down to Los Angeles. I reached here during the rainy season, when the streets were pools of water from the heavy rains; had to sleep right on the ground, and many a time was soaked before morning.

1850 daguerreotype of San Pedro, California. For more information about life in California at this time, read Richard Henry Dana's book Two Years Before the Mast.

We disposed of our cattle for a good price, and went down to San Pedro where there were a few adobe huts standing. Here we found mostly Mexicans who killed cattle for the hide and tallow for shipment. As it was considered a very dangerous harbor, a vessel would only stop there once in a great while. Here we engaged passage in an old sailing craft for San Francisco at $25.00 each. I was very seasick about half the time while on the boat. We caught a shark while on board, and we all helped to eat it.

The Ship Brooklyn sailed from Old Slip, Manhattan, around the southern tip of South America, to Juan Fernandez Island (Robinson Crusoe's island), the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and from there to Yerba Buena (San Francisco). More than 200 Saints were on the voyage which took almost six months.

We landed in San Francisco after twelve days on the ship. Here we found friends who had sailed all the way from Brooklyn, N. Y. Some of the people here were from my old home in New York. Sam Brannan had fitted up a ship called the “Brooklyn.” He was put in charge of a company of the Saints who traveled around Cape Horn down to San Francisco, and after arriving there he tried to induce President Brigham Young and associates to come on to California, but he would never consent to this.

 San Francisco Harbor, 1851.

One lady whom I met in San Francisco gave me and some other boy a calico shirt, as we were badly in need of them.

"Degrees of fortune in the California Gold diggings."

We worked a few days in San Francisco to get a grub-stake to go to the mines. Went by steamboat up to Sacramento, and there met many friends. Here we engaged a team and took our mining tools out into the mines. On the 6th day of April, the day that the Conference convened in Salt Lake City, we had just reached the gold mines. We spent five months and four days making the trip from Salt Lake to our destination.

Sacramento, 1849.

We were not very successful at the mines and in the fall of 1850 we returned to Salt Lake. There were many who were discouraged, as they could not get any word from Salt Lake more than once a year. We went to Sacramento and bought two mules and fitted out for our return home, traveling by way of the Humboldt River—the northern route—in company with C. C. Rich and others. Crossing the desert we met a man who was selling water by the bucket. He had hauled the water out on the desert waiting for travelers to come along.

During this trip we had considerable trouble with the Indians. In the first part of our travels, we passed two graves of men who had been killed by the Indians. Traveled up the Humboldt River about three days. The wagons always took the lead and I generally rode one mule, and packed the other with our supplies. One day one man fell too far behind the company, letting his horse pick the grass as he came along; the Indians came out from the willows and tried to cut him off from the rest of the company, but he hollered and some of the company turned back to his assistance and the Indians took fright and ran back.

Tents at the Humboldt River, 1859, almost a decade later.

Leaving the Humboldt River I was sent out with another man to herd our band of animals over night so they could get the grass. We stood the first guard up till 12 o’clock, and then I started out for the camp to wake up the next guard. The night was very dark and it was hard to tell just which way to go to find the camp, so my companion told me the way as nearly as he could. I left him in charge of the animals, and had not gone more than half way when my mule took fright and ran away. Whether it was Indians I did not know. I lost my hat and have never found it yet. The mule finally returned back to the herd. This created some excitement; I told my partner what had happened and we finally decided that he should try to find the camp, which he did, and we got the other guards as we were badly in need of rest, I being left entirely alone, surrounded with Indians, awaiting their return.

At one place during our journey we came across the foot prints of a man and the marks in the sand of a wheelbarrow. Finding a place where there had been a camp fire, we soon discovered that the Indians had made away with this party. We followed the tracks of this wheelbarrow into the valley of Salt Lake, arriving in the fall of 1850.

Salt Lake City, 1850.

To be continued...

Part 2 
Part 3
Part 4

All of the pictures are from Wikipedia with the exception of the picture of the gold diggers from Walter Colton, Three Years in California, New York, 1850.

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