We were in the domain of the dreaded
Indian, with rivers to ford and deserts
to cross before we would reach
civilization again. Cholera was claiming its victims on the trail before
the lure of gold urged us on.
-- California bound pioneer
James Marshall’s discovery of gold
at Sutter’s Mill in January, 1848 more then 80,000 men would set off
within the year. More would come from around the globe. By January of
1850, the era of the '49er had passed within a single year. With the
Gold Rush at its pinnacle, 1851-52 were halcyon years. But, as some
disgruntled miners returned home in the east with little more then
nothing in their pockets, settlers from the east were making their way
west to California in
'52. Unlike the '49ers who were miners, these pioneer settlers came with
their families. They were farmers, merchants, and others who saw
opportunity in California.
Among those first
wagon trains to head out to California
was a family from Galena,
Pauline Wonderly was just fifteen and recorded her family’s perilous
journey into the frontier. Her passage is a real life saga of life and
death. It is a story of survival, of murder, massacre, and disease.
But it is also a story of births, simple pleasures and new beginnings.
Pulling out of Galena
on April 15, 1852 Pauline’s outfit consisted of four men, her father,
uncle and two others. Her mother and both brothers, one eight the
other two. They left in two light wagons with four yoke of oxen and
two cows. It was, "Hangtown or Bust!” As there was little room in the
wagons it was decided that Pauline would walk, which is exactly what
she did, except at streams and rivers.
After crossing the