One of the best parts of having a public website is hearing from strangers who have landed here via Google. Recently, I got an email from someone who had found two documents in her deceased father’s estate that meant nothing to her or her family. She did not know why he had them, but she read them, got interested, and Googled the people mentioned. She sent me copies of the items – they are typed transcriptions of 2 letters from Jesse Green, on the trail to California in 1849, to his brother David at home in Dayton. These are not the original letters and why and where the transcripts were made is unknown. It is possible neither letter ever reached Dayton, as the family treasured the letters from Jesse and preserved them carefully, but neither of these two new letters appear in the family collection. Here is the first, written on the way to California. (The map is one I made for a program for the Dayton Cemetery Association.)
Sept 6 1849 10 [cents postage]
Mr. David Green
La Salle County
25 Miles East of South Pass
June 28th 1849
Dear Brother – Wife & All
Here we are within 25 miles of the S. P. and have met with an express for the States and write a few lines whilst our train is going on. We have reached this point without any difficulty. All well with the exception of diarhea. I have had it badly but am perfectly over it. Wm. (or Mr.) Goodrich & Wiley are complaining some at this time of the same complaint.
We divided our Company about two weeks since on account of the scarcity of grass for so large a train. We have ten of the wagons of the original Company together now. We find grass our only hindrance but have kept our cattle in good condition thus far and hope we have passed over the greatest scarcity. We have gained some on the crowd ahead of us – the first Ox teams are from 3 to 4 days ahead of us and number about 500 and probably 1000 mule teams but what the large number behind us are to do for feed the lord only knows, for 3 or 4 days past we have seen large numbers of oxen dead, that was killed by the sabulous or alkaline water. We have been very cautious about keeping our cattle from those places and have not lost any since we started. Our wagons are standing it well and nothing to complain of, but we are getting along much better that could possible be expected. We had been calculating to celebrate the 4th on South Pass but will pass by before that time and of course will not stop in this crowd. There is frequently 200 wagons in sight of the same encampment. Health generally on the route good – no cholera nor any fatal sickness. We have not heard from home since we left. If you have not already written us at San Francisco do so immediately as it is the only place we can get them. I hope you have escaped the cholera and all are well. I have not time to write more, be not uneasy if you hear of great suffering on the route as I think we are safe. O that I could hear from you all and especially Byron.
As ever in haste
Note that, although the letter was written when the company was within 25 miles of South Pass, the letter was actually mailed from Iowa. The emigrants would take every opportunity to give a letter to someone headed east, for them to mail when they reached a post office.
- From a typed transcription of the letter, found in the estate of G. Stanley Smith.