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Gold rush letters, 1848-1850
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Gold rush letters, 1848-1850
Jacob Thrailkill gold rush letters, 1848-1850


Thrailkill, Jacob, 1812-1850?, creator


Three letters from Jacob Thrailkill to his wife, Sarah, and children in Fort Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa: April 29, 1849 from "Near Council Bluffs, Iowa"; Sept. 16, 1849 from "Columa California"; and Feb. 14, 1850 from "Georgetown sixty miles east of Sacramento City". A fourth letter is from M.C. Ferguson in "Charaton Cty Mo" dated Jan 28, 1848, addressed "Dear brothers and sisters" and sent to Jacob in Ft. Des Moines. All are transcribed. In addition there are two pages of family genealogical notes, one on a sheet with a colored lithograph.
Jacob's letter from Council Bluffs is a brief report on the journey since leaving home. They have arrived in good time to meet with other companies beginning the trek across the plains and plan on crossing the Missouri in the morning. He mentions practical details: "The provisions you cooked for us lasted till we arrived here except part of the ham, which was eaten up by a dog one night. The cows are of great use to us, partly for work, but particularly for the milk. -- The team is in fine condition, improving daily. Our cooking, milking, &c, goes off nicely since we made our mess box, got our cooking utensils &c." And also touches on the emotional: "Though we left you while the elements were in commotion and ourselves in tears, yet we had much pleasant weather before our arrival here, and a calmness of feeling resulting from a trust in the providence of God that he will protect both you and us, while present or far absent."
His next letter is from California and he gives a full account of the route traveled from Salt Lake City across the Great Basin "... called Great Basin because its waters do not run off to either of the Oceans, but run down in the valleys and sink into the ground", through the Humboldt sink and across the desert to the Carson River passage through the Sierra. He is now in Coloma and preparing to begin digging for gold with associates from home: "Myself, Howe, Hezekiah, Goodnough and McHenry are working together at the mining business. We got here a week ago to day and have been taking care of our cattle and recruiting ourselves. Tomorrow we commence business." He is pleased with California: "The country is very healthy, the ground covered with a beautiful forrest of Oak and Pine trees, gold is inexhaustible the whole ground being filled with it."
Jacob goes on to offer advice to others making the journey across the plains, especially discussing livestock: "I would advise those coming the overland route to get strong 2 horse wagons, tine well set, from four to six yoke of cattle not less than five nor more than eight years of age, and not bring more than 1000 to 1200. We were green in these matters when we started, but now we are ripe and capable of giving advise. Never get loose made cattle -- bulls nor stags". He encourages his wife to think about joining him and requests: "If you should come bring garden seeds of all kinds and especially Onion seeds as onions are worth one dollar a pound." He closes after enquiries about the children: "I wish in your next letter you would tell me how the children are doing at school, and whether Thomas Benton can talk yet."
The last letter is written from Georgetown where Jacob, Hezikiah and Mr. Howe are still together. "We are stopping here a few days until the snow melts off the mountains so that we can go higher up, and expect to remain together until we return, which I ardently hope may be soon but will be somewhat owing to our success within the next few weeks." Much of the letter discusses business matters in Iowa, obviously of concern: "It grieves me very much to think you have been put to so much trouble on account of the crops not being properly tended. Also on account of the children so many of them being sick at the same time and for such a length of time. I trust it will not be long before I will be with you and in a condition to render paternal relief."
He goes on to describe the winter weather and the recent rains. "Sacramento City has been entirely overflowed, which caused a great loss of property estimated at two [mill]ions of dollars. The water was from 5 to 12 feet deep in the City and boats were rowed all about the streets. It is a very common thing for us to wade through snow two or three feet deep and in two hours or less time be traveling in a pleasant valley where vegitation is rapidly growing and the weather uncomfortably warm. This is the spring season of the year here." And closes with thoughts of home: "Hoping that Kind Providence will still preserve us until we meet again I remain your affectionate husband, Jacob Thrailkill."


1848 (issued)


Thrailkill, Jacob -- 1812-1850? -- Correspondence
Gold miners -- California -- Correspondence
Overland journeys to the Pacific


Jacob Thrailkill was born in Tennessee on Jan. 26, 1812. He moved on to Missouri and then to Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, where he became an established farmer. He married Eleanor "Nelly" Ann Knaoy in 1831 and they had six children: Nancy, John, Joseph, Catherine, David and Casander. Nelly died in 1846 and Jacob was married again shortly thereafter to Sarah B. Ferguson. Their son, Thomas Benton, was born 1n 1848.
Jacob left for California early in 1849. Travelling overland, he arrived safely in late summer and located first in Coloma, the gold discovery site. He wintered over in Georgetown, moving on into the Sierra when the spring mining season got underway. According to family history, Jacob succeeded in his mining venture and left to return home with his "pile" in November of 1850. From family records: "Jacob Thrailkill left the Pacific Coast by steamer in Nov 1850 and was lost on the istmus of Panama and never was heard of afterwards".
Jacob Thrailkill gold rush letters, 1848-1850
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.
Donated by Gary Schwartz "In memory of Mary Katherine Schwartz, Esq., BA: 1940, University of New Mexico; JD: 1959, University of Miami".



Physical Description:

10 items : ill.







Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.