Basil Green Narrative

Basil Green

Written June 21, 1910
Dayton, Illinois

Away back toward the first end of the last century there lived a small family in the  then frontiers of the state of Ohio composed of the parents and two small children. The names of the parents were Isaac and Elizabeth Green. They were ardent Methodists and prompt attendants at church, two miles distant.  They had no wheeled vehicle on which to ride; hence, their mode of going about was on horseback. They had a strong horse on which they rode to church; the father in the saddle and the little girl in his arms; the mother on a blanket behind the saddle with the baby boy on her lap. The writer of this was that baby boy. Later a half dozen other children were born to the parents, equally divided in sex. They all grew to maturity.

A family altar had been early erected and was maintained. Their house was enlarged and became a place for public worship on special occasions. In the year 1847 they sold their farm and removed with their family to Crawford County in the state of Illinois.

My father bought a squatter’s homestead and near a thousand acres of government land adjoining it. Besides improving his land he dealt in cattle, herding them in summer time on the wild prairie grass. The second summer in Illinois I herded 400 cattle, empounding them at night time in a field prepared for that purpose.

In the year 1848 gold was discovered in California. A furor went throughout the civilized world, produced thereby. My father was among those who desired a share of the gold. Accordingly, in the winter of 1849 he outfitted with a four horse team and wagon and company to cross the western front of the continent to the gold field. His company consisted of four men and my younger brother, Nicholas, and myself. Seven in all. I, with an assistant had charge of the team and wagon. The others were horsemen.

There were three other companies similar to ours who rendezvoused at our house and started with us from there. We left home on the 19th day of March, 1850. We traveled together across the states of Illinois and Missouri to St. Joseph in the latter state. At St. Joseph we took on supplies of food, etc., for our sustenance while crossing the uninhabited country that laid between there and our goal, about two thousand miles distant. Early geographers called that region “The Great American Desert”, it being a broad expanse of mountains and bare plains.

We left the Missouri River at a point opposite to St. Joseph on the 24th day of April. The next morning our team was the first to leave camp. The others did not take up with us during the entire journey. We arrived three weeks in advance of them at the first mining camp in California.

About 30 miles out from St. Joseph there was a mission school for Indians maintained by the Roman Catholics. About 200 miles further on was Fort Kearney where soldiers were stationed to protect travelers. About 400 miles beyond there was Fort Laramie, which was used for a like purpose. We passed Fort Laramie on the 19th day of May, being two months from home, and having traveled about twelve hundred miles.

We had traveled along the south side of the great Platte River and its south fork, from a point near to Fort Kearney from a point near to where Julesburg, in the state of Colorado, now is. There we crossed the south fork of the Platte River. Thence our course was along and up the south side of the north fork of the Platte River and past Fort Laramie, to near the confluence of Sweetwater River. We crossed those rivers and followed up on the south side of the latter river to a point near to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains.

The South Pass is in what is now the state of Wyoming and near to the 109th meridian of west longitude and the 42nd parallel of north latitude. The Pass has no gorge-like appearance but is a broad, upgrade plateau to the summit, with mountains visible at a distance on either side, north and south. That range of mountains is sometimes called the “Backbone of the American Continent”; its extent being from the Arctic regions to Cape Horn at the south. The elevation of the Pass is about 8,000 feet above sea level. The waters beyond the Pass make their way into the Pacific Ocean.

Our course from the Pass was southwest to the Green River. We crossed it with the wagon on a crude ferry but had to swim the horses over. From Green River our course was westerly to the Bear River Divide. After crossing the Divide we were in the Great Utah basin, where the waters have no outlet into any ocean. The Basin contains much of Utah and nearly all of the state of Nevada. We traversed the Basin for near 400 miles in a southwesterly direction. Much of that distance was along the Humbolt River to its Sink. From the Sink we crossed a sandy desert, near 60 miles broad to the Carson River, a beautiful stream from the Sierra Nevada. Thence along that river to the Sierras and over them into the state of California.

We arrived at the first mining camp in the neighborhood of Placerville, on the 13th day of July; having been four months less six days from home. Many others consumed six months, and even more, in the journey.

I will revert to our journey. Shortly after we left the Missouri River at St. Joseph we picked up two men who were without food. That addition to our company caused our food supply to run short. The journey was invigorating until after we reached the Utah Basin. That region contains many sand fields and that made traveling wearisome. Also, the water was impregnated with alkali which was bad for man and beast. Also, grass was scarce for horses to feed upon and they became thin in flesh and very weak. We left the wagon near the head of the Humbolt River and packed our few supplies on the horses.

Our supplies consisted of blankets, under which to sleep, and the little food that was left. We were then living on half ration. Later we were reduced to one-fourth and still later to less.

We arrived at the Sink of the Humbolt in the forenoon of the third day of July. We had a plenty of unground coffee. Other supplies were reduced to about one quarter of dry beans and a spoonful of flour. We cooked the beans and stirred in the flour to thicken the soup. We ate a part of the beans and saved the rest for a later emergency. I should have written before that we had also nine cuts of dried apple and four spoonfuls of cracker crumbs to the man.

About four p.m. we started on our way across the sandy desert that laid between us and the Carson River. About midnight we came across a wagon that had been left by the wayside. We took off a wheel and made a fire in the hub and made coffee and finished the beans. We rested a little while and then started on our way, each dependent upon himself. My father and another had each a horse to ride. I and two or three of the others had each a horse to lead. I arrived about nine a.m. at the Carson River. It was full of  melted snow from the Sierra Nevada. It was the best water that I had ever tasted. We had been using alkali water for about two weeks. Oh, how we did drink of that good water! One of our number had preceded me. The other came straggling in one at a time. There was grass there for our horses. It made our hearts glad to see them eat. One after another had dropped by the way until all were gone of the team which I started but the one that I led.

We found a horse that had been left by the wayside. We killed him and cooked and ate some of his flesh. After resting a little while my father went ahead in search of food. We followed on at leisure. At the end of two days he met us with supplies. He had paid two dollars per pound for flour and bacon and sugar. Also he had paid five dollars for a two pound loaf of bread. He had met with traders who had come out from California with supplies for such as we were. There had been no game along the way through that sandy region for us to live upon. Also, having thrown our guns away we could not have killed it if there had been abundance.

While ascending the Nevada mountains we traveled over much snow. Much of it was so hard that horses made no marks in walking upon it. After passing the summit we came upon men who were loading snow on wagons and delivering it to users in Sacramento City. They said that they received $2,000 per load for it.

After leaving the Missouri River we did not see a white man’s house until the journey was complete except at the stations mentioned on fore-going pages. We passed three Indian villages but the population of each was small.

The next day after arriving at the first mining nucleus our company disbanded. My father and my brother and I remained together. That night our father had a chill. It resulted in typhoid fever. We went with him to a boarding house and called a doctor. He died at the end of three weeks. We found a minister and had a Christian burial service. His body was buried near to another grave on a hillside near the village of Georgetown. Those graves were the beginning of the village cemetery. The following February I went to Sacramento City and obtained a marker for his grave made of Italian marble. I put it up at the grave and built a wall of rough stones about the grave.

I have recently heard through the postmaster of Georgetown that the marker and wall are as I left them almost 60 years ago. Later my sister, Mrs. Mary E. Eckhart of Los Angeles, Cal., planted a rose bush on the grave. My brother was young, only 15 years old. He had chronic diarrhea. I induced him to return home the following spring. He left San Francisco by the first of April by ocean steamer by way of the Isthmus of Panama. His name was Nicholas Green. He arrived safely at home in Illinois.

Aside from the bereavement occasioned by the death of my father my life in California was vigorous and enjoyable. I might relate some incidents but incidents are common to every life. The climate was balmy and healthful.

I could work at mining every day without becoming tired. Often our beds were on the ground with no covering but the starry heaven. Our sleep was good, without nightmare or other intrusion. Our mode of going about was by “foot and walker’s line”. It became so easy for us to walk long distances. When about to leave our camp expecting to be gone over night we would take a blanket along to lie upon at night time.

During the second summer that we were there three of us went about four miles to prospect for gold deposit. The next morning we wished to cross a small stream of water. My comrades’ names were Fred and Si Newlin. They were cousins. While Fred and I were digging a hole in the ground to examine for gold, Si fell one of three small trees that stood on the edge of the water. In falling it lodged upon one of the others and the but sprang upward. He at once fell the one lodged upon. Then as the one that had lodged came down it struck Si on his head and threw his body outward, but fell across one of his legs. We sprang to him at once. Fred lifted the log with a bar and I drew his body away.

We carried him out and laid him on blankets. He was unconscious. I started at once for our home camp that we might have help. From there another man ran four miles further but found no doctor. But one was found and arrived near night time. He stayed with us four days and charged us four hundred dollars. Si lived about a week. One of our number was skilled in the use of edged tools. He made a coffin of rough boards. We dug a grave near to where the accident occurred and buried the dead body of our friend and comrade. The grave was on a beautiful table-land near to that mountain stream. Large trees of oak and pine and other kinds were all about. Grass was on the ground. Birds were among the branches of the trees singing happily. A waiting widow and two children were at the distant home ignorant of the condition. Doubtless the trees have been removed and a plowman’s share has stirred the soil above the grave. No marker was left to show that a human form had been buried there. Will that body be resurrected and given to the same spirit that once inhabited it? Of course, God can and will do as he likes, and I am glad of it but I don’t understand the hold scripture as teaching that belief. Si had a Christian spirit and I believe that he was received through the atoning Grace of our blessed Redeemer.

Some men tired of mining life and went into the valleys and took farming claims on government land for permanent homes.

The object of the writer of this was to obtain gold by searching in the ground for it. He did not find it lying about in nuggets as some might imagine. Still he had no reason to complain of ill success. After four years he returned to his home in Illinois with more gold than any other man who went from our county. But he was without building experience. He worried along for five years and then sold his property and paid his debts.

In the meantime he had fallen in love with a bright neighbor girl. And, she loved him. He honestly told her of his business failure and asked that he might go elsewhere to recover. She replied by asking to go along. They married and went to the gold field of Colorado. That occurred in 1860. At the end of five years they had been fairly successful in business but they had suffered bereavement. Two little ones were buried on a mountain side near to Central City.

We returned to “America” and located here in Dayton in the state of Illinois. Three children were born to us prior to that and three since. On the fifth day of September, 1871 my wife died. She went home to God. We were allowed only twelve short years of married life. Long years have followed. Sweet memories have traveled with me but there has been longing for the “touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that’s still.”

“We loved her
Words cannot tell how well
We loved her.
God loved her
And called her home to peace and rest.
He loved her.”

My children were small when their mother died. The same mother who carried me to church on her lap and taught me to repeat “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” came to our relief. The children loved her. She loved them first. At the age of 80 she was she was teacher of our infant Sunday school class. After while her body died and was buried in Fairmont Cemetery near to Denver in the state of Colorado.

The great Rocky Backbone of the American continent and the desert wastes of the great Utah Basin, and the Sierra Nevada, lie between the places where her dust and that of her husband are, but we have faith to believe that they worship together in Heaven among the born again of Christ.

I still revert to early days in Colorado. We arrived at a hamlet called Denver on the 10th day of April, 1860. We continued our journey on up among the mountains to a mining nucleus called Nevada City. Frontier centers were often called cities. Some were cities in embryo. Many persons now living can remember when the greater part of our country was frontier. Frontiersmen have always been Squatter soverigns [sic]. In the nature of things we had to be. Where people are, government is necessary. No matter how crude a people may be there will always be a leader among them. In some collections leadership may be attained by self-assertion. Not so among Americans.

In our early settlement about Nevada City we elected a President and Secretary and Justice of the Peace and Constable. The Constable was called “sheriff”. At one of the early elections there were two candidates for the office of sheriff. There were two polling places in the district. There were about 400 voters in the district. Men voted early and some of them often. Having voted at one place they then voted at the other under an assumed name. By that time some had become excited and shaved and changed clothing and voted again at the first place of voting under still another name. When evening came and the ballots were counted one of the candidates had his little number that he had counted on to elect him but his opponent had about three times as many. It was easy to see whose friends had been the most active. One candidate was from Missouri and the other was from Illinois. Missouri came out ahead. Both were Democrats. Both were good men. It was politics and they shook hands and laughed it off. I need not say who the Illinois man was. The Territory soon filled with adventurous miners and business men and women and the federal government looked after us by organizing us into a Territory and sending us Territorial officers.

First we had the “Prairie Schooner” for transportation. Also, a “Pony Express”. Then came the stage coach for passengers and the mail. Soon we had a telegraph and a little later railroads were built. In my Western experience I crossed the plains eight times in a wagon; once on horseback, once by stage coach and later several times by rail. Four times my wife was with me in the wagon. Some of my happiest times were with my wife and little girl in our wagon home. Once we crossed the Missouri River at Omaha on ice with our team and wagon with much pleasure.

Once when driving away over what is now the southeastern part of the state of Idaho we came upon an English gentleman who was camped with his family and retainers in one of the beautiful oases that are in that region. They had horses for a team and horseback riding. They had cows for milk and fresh butter. They could shoot wild game for fresh meat. They had books and instruments for scientific observation and calculation. They were traveling for pleasure, health and scientific advancement. That region was then totally uninhabited save by Indians and wild animals. The Indians were peaceful. In all my journeys I never had trouble with them. I never knew personally of any.


One John Greene was born in Salisbury, England about the year AD 1600. He migrated to North America and landed at a northern port and became a member of the Rhode Island Colony. Of his posterity there was one Nathanael Greene of Revolutionary War fame. Members of the line of posterity migrated to New Jersey and later to Virginia and other states. [This John Greene is almost certainly not Basil’s ancestor.]

I am informed that government records in the War Department at Washington show that one Benjamin Greene and one Michael Beem volunteered from Loudon County in Virginia and were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Each had a sister and after the war had ceased each married the other’s sister. About the year 1799 they removed with their families from Hagerstown in Maryland to Licking County in the state of Ohio.

The said Benjamin Green was my grandfather. He was a Baptist preacher. His wife’s name was Catherine. There were born to them seven sons and seven daughters. They were named in order of birth as follows to wit: Annie, Phoebe, Elizabeth, Richard, Sarah, Michael, Daniel, John, William, Sophia, Benjamin, Rachel, Isaac, Mary.

The said Isaac Green was my father. The brothers dropped the final “e” from their name. I don’t know why. All of the children grew to maturity. They were brought up as farmers. Michael and Daniel were soldiers in the War of 1812-1814 with Great Britain, and were at the battles of Chippewa and Niagara. The sons and daughters were noted for individuality and enterprise. My mother’s maiden name was Elizabeth Browne. Her parents were Nicholas and Sarah Browne. There were born to them five sons and five daughters. They were Kentuckians. My parents had four sons and four daughters.


Passing from the foregoing pages the thought of introspection comes before me. My recollections go away back to near babyhood. By associating incidents of which I have dates, I think that I started to school when I was not more than four years old.

My father and a neighbor built a square pen of round logs in my father’s wood field. They made the floor of split logs hewn smooth on the flat side. The roof was of clapboards about three feet long and were held in their places by weighting them with round logs lying transversely. The ceiling was similar to the floor only that the flat side was downward. Refuse tanbark was piled on top the ceiling to keep the cold out. On the east side was a hole for a door. On the other sides there were holes for windows. That pen was called a “Family School House.” It later became a district school house.

I will describe further. The cracks between the logs were stopped with split and mud _____ made from common clay soil. On the side with the door were wooden pegs for girls and boys to hang hats and bonnets on. On the south side was a long, low bench made of a split log with wooden pins for legs. It was for the smallest children to sit on. On the west side was a similar bench. On the north side the bench was a little higher still for the largest children. There was a writing table on each of the three sides. They were made by inserting long wooden pins in auger holes in logs of the walls and broad boards laid on them. The teacher was monarch of the center area. When we wished to write we would rise and step over our bench and thus face the table.

Sweet memories attach to that “Academy in the Forest.” It was our alma mater. You see I spell the word with the capitals. Our early sweethearts date from that place.

From the academy in the woods we traveled westward across the state of Indiana to the prairies of Crawford County, Illinois. They detained us but two short years when we were lured to the goal of which I have written on a preceding page. The phantom produced by a desire for gold is very enchanting. Often good men have wandered from home in search for it. Different motives influence them.

I don’t believe that my father was avaricious. In fact, I believe that his chief characteristic was benevolence. As for myself I was only a boy still “in my teens.” I went because he took me. Still, I wished to go. He had a brother (John) who went the year before and took two of his sons. They wrote of how easy it was to find gold. Doubtless that influenced my father to go.

My father had been a great deal in public life as a county official. Also, he had represented his country several terms in the state legislature. He was prominent in Freemasonry and Oddfellowship. Also, in temperance movements. His adventure in California was the mistake of his life and cost his life. If he had lived he would have accumulated gold. It was there in abundance for all who were industrious and prudent.

As for myself I think I can truthfully say that I am not or have been avaricious. I have tried to be industrious and prudent in conduct so that I might be useful in ways that are good. Also, that I might have a home of my own. I have had lots of sunshine along with a occasional cloud in this life. I am now well nigh an octogenarian. The vital parts of my system seem to be in good health. Still I know that this part of my eternity is well nigh gone into the eternity of the past.

I have thought much along the lines of the new birth which Jesus taught as being necessary to attain to salvation. I think it means the beginning of a revolution from sin. I think we can see truthful evidence of the new birth in the lives of Christian men and women surrounding us.

How is it with us? Have we been living along the line of zealous love for our Redeemer? Can we look up and say “Abba Father behold our hands and our sides”? Holy Father, our hands are empty. We bow low and humbly at the foot of the cross of our Redeemer and trust in His love.  Amen.

Dayton, Ill.  June 21, AD 1910
Basil Green [signed]

To my children:

The foregoing narrative has been written for you, that you may have knowledge of our genealogy and of some of the incidents of my early life. Of course, I might write much more but I think the foregoing is enough. You have known my later life very intimately. Almost as well as I have known myself.