October 27, 1849

From letter published in the Missouri Whig, Palmyra, January, 1850


Three letters were received in this place last week from Mr. C. F. Kirtley, of which we made brief mention in our last paper. Two of them were to his wife, residing in this place, and one to his brother-in-law, Stanton Buckner, Esq. We make such extracts as we think will be interesting to our readers. The first is dated October 27th, 1849, at Sacramento City.

DEAR WIFE:— I embrace this as the very earliest opportunity of writing to you since my last, which was written from Fort Laramie on the 21st or 22nd of June. Doubtless it appears long to you and I do assure you that it is almost an age to me.

We got to the mines on the 1st of October, after a long, tedious and toilsome journey. I would like to give you a minute account of our journey, but it would require a volume to do so. I will therefore have to content myself by merely giving you a brief outline of it. I will say nothing about it up to Fort Laramie, as it has been described in my former letters, but for fear they have not reached you, I will repeat that it was easy, pleasant, and without the slightest difficulty. But at that point the Black Hills set in, which lasted for a hundred miles and over which the grass was scarce, and roads bad. We came to the North fork of the Platte, and found that the Ferries were very much crowded, and we took off our wagon bed and crossed in it, which was very troublesome. At this point we struck the Alkali, and lost one or our finest oxen, and were never able to supply his place at any price. Here also, we came in contact with the dead cattle and mules, which were exceedingly unpleasant. From the Platte to the South Pass the road was literally strewed with them, sometimes six or eight might be seen at once, and we were scarcely ever out of sight of them. This might have been easily avoided if the emigrants had been acquainted with the country. Grass was scarce from Fort Laramie to Green River, though not much difficulty in the road. There is not the slightest difficulty in crossing the Rocky Mountains. The day we were in the Pass, Dudley was driving, and I was riding. I thought I would like to get on the highest peak, so I could look a fair view of the country; so I started towards it for the purpose, and travelled near half a day, and it did not seem to me much if any nearer to me than when I started. We were in the South Pass on the 15th of July. The Desert in Subletts’ cut-off is fifty miles without water or much grass. We travelled it in 24 hours. We started from the Big Sandy about 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon and got through about 1 o’clock the next day. The remainder of the cut-off is well watered, and has fine grass. Bear River Valley, on this route is from 60 to 80 miles long, and contains the finest grass I ever saw. We then took Green Wood’s cut-off, and had fine grass, water and wood. Here we left Fort Hall to the right—not much difference in the distance. But I must leave off describing the route, for the want of room.

California is every thing that the most vivid accounts you have seen describe it to be. I just now paid $1.50 for my dinner, though provisions sell low, comparatively speaking. It is labor that makes every thing that requires labor to be bestowed upon it so dear. A good cook is worth from three to five hundred dollars per month. The lowest boarding I know of is 75 cents per meal. I got here too late to do much this year, yet I have in money and property about $800. Dudley and I are keeping a hay yard, and hauling. Hauling is worth 12 cents a pound for 50 miles, 25 cents per pound for 100 miles, and so on. Our team is in good order. We were offered $800 for the yoke of oxen and wagon. This city has been built in four months, and now contains from five to eight thousand inhabitants, many of whom live in tents, some in cloth houses, and some in wagons.

Transcribed courtesy of Kathleen Wilham