J.B. Hazen’s Wagon Train, Oskaloosa to California

Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Hazen moved to Oskaloosa, Kansas Territory, during Bleeding Kansas and in May 1867 was loading the wagons for California.  He wrote a journal of his wagon train move  for the Oskaloosa Independent newspaper, published in nine entries from June 1867 to Feb. 15, 1868, and transcribed into this blog.  I’ve found nothing in the Oskaloosa newspaper that announces that J.B. Hazen and his family were leaving town.  But his  journal, published late in the lives of the Oregon Trail and the  California Trail, provides a peek at life on the westward emigrant roads.  And although not highly detailed, J.B. Hazen’s journal does include intriguing observations, including the suggestion that he did not believe Indians were always at the root of the violence attributed to them during the 1867 Indian Wars.

You’ll get a better introduction to J.B. Hazen in an upcoming blog post, as he was one of Jesse Newell’s rifle company  members that helped ferry the rescuers of failed Underground Railroad conductor John Doy back to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1859.  Hazen had arrived in the territory during the worst Bleeding Kansas year, 1856, with a group of freestaters sent from Chicago with support from the National Kansas Committee.   He served in Co. E of the 5th Kansas Cavalry during the Civil War, rising to the level of corporal.

Kirk Webb, GIS manager and web developer for Jefferson County, Kansas, has created three splendid maps to accompany J.B. Hazen’s story.  The maps show Mr. Hazen’s route from Oskaloosa into Nebraska, accompanied by historical  Oregon Trail routes.

Although I was able to find loads of information about the trails and where they led, I don’t know very much about it.  I hope that readers who can fill in the blanks or correct my conclusions or give us better perspective will share their thoughts.

Here are Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Hazen’s published journals for the trip that eventually took him to his new home in San Luis Obispo County, California.

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Part IX:  Rockville, California.  December compares to Kansas in April and May, J.B. Hazen has plowed 50 acres, rainy overflow, fine fruit crops.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Feb. 15, 1868

From California

M.R. Dutton,[i] Esq., kindly furnishes us with the following extracts from a private letter by Mr. J.B. Hazen to him:

“We arrived here. (Rockville, Cal.,)[ii]  on the 13th of Sept. [1867], and found everything  dry and dusty — the weather pleasant except the high sea breeze, or ‘tradewinds,’ as it is here called, which commences at ten o’clock, A.M., and stops at four, P.M., blowing the dust in all directions, and nearly putting out everybody’s eyes; yet the people living here do not seem to care anything about dust, though to us it was very disagreeable.  The remainder of the day and night were very pleasant.

This kind of weather lasted until the 10th of Oct., when there came a rain sufficient to lay the dust and start vegetation nicely, and the stubble fields soon began to look green, while everything wore the appearances of spring.  The wind did not blow hard any more, and we had about six weeks of the finest weather I ever saw, clear and pleasant all the time.

About the 20th Nov. there came a heavy rain, wetting the ground sufficiently for farmers to commence plowing. The rain fell steadily for 24 hours, without wind, lightning or thunder.

From that date to Dec. 28 it was clear, warm and pleasant; then the rainy weather set in in earnest, filling all the little streams, and overflowing the land.

The water ran down the road in front of our house nearly a foot deep all over.  This time it rained constantly for three days, then followed a week of fine weather, then more rain, and another overflow worse than the first one, after which to Jan. 11, the weather was quite a changeable,

some rain, some sunshine, but warm and pleasant all the time; then it turned cold, and in the night the snow fell so as to cover the ground a fourth of an inch deep, which two hours of daylight dissipated in the valleys; but it remained on the hills and mountains three days, and Mt. Deabelo [Diablo], 20 miles distant, appears to have a heavy covering of it yet.

The weather has been cooler the last week; ice freeze on still water one-fourth of an inch thick, three different nights.  The old settlers seem nearly frozen, and say it is the coldest weather here since 1852, and that there has not been so much rain any winter since ’62.  I think the weather will compare very well with April and May in Kansas, except the winds are not so high or cold and raw.

The Sierra Nevada mountains are 200 miles from here, but are very plainly seen, with their snowy heads towering seemingly above the sky.

The farmers have been very busy plowing and putting in their crops.  I have 50 acres plowed, and 20 acres sowed to barley, which is up and growing nicely.  Last Friday I sowed and harrowed in 10 acres of wheat, since which it has rained so as to prevent working, and is now raining very hard, with indications of another overflow.

We look forward with great anxiety to the completion of the railroad to this country, which will render social intercourse with friend possible and pleasant.

We have the finest fruit here I ever saw – grapes weighing 4lbs to the bunch, and other fruits in proportion.

The letter is dated January 19th, and has a decided flavor of Spring for these cold days of our winter. — Oskaloosa Independent.

[i] Matthew R. Dutton was another Oskaloosa freestate partisan and member of Jesse Newell’s rifle company.

[ii] Rockville, Solano County, California, San Francisco Bay area.


Jefferson County Jayhawkers and Forgotten Freestaters author note: 

 Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Hazen’s wagon train left Oskaloosa, Kansas, on May 22, 1867, and arrived at Rockville, Solano County, California, on Sept. 13, 1867.

Although Mr.  Hazen wrote to his old Oskaloosa friend, Mr. Dutton,  in February 1868 from Rockville, by October 11, 1868,  he was registered to vote way down in San Luis Obispo, more than 250 miles south.  He and his family were in the same place for the 1870 U.S. Census, and J.B. Hazen remained in that area until his death in 1894 at Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, California.  His wife, Rebecca Gertrude Gamble Hazen, survivor of the poisonous berries, died in 1921 (88 years old) in San Mateo, where she had been living with a daughter and her family.

 Father-in-law Dr. Robert Gamble, who scouted out the future site of Oskaloosa with Jesse Newell, Joseph Fitzsimmons and a few others  in 1855, left Kansas for California, as well.  Dr. Gamble, who wore two hats as a miner and as a physician, lived with the Hazens  (his daughter, Rebecca, was Mrs. J.B. Hazen) in San Luis Obispo County at one time  and died at the age of 88 at Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, in 1889.


Hazen’s brother-in-law and Dr. Gamble’s son, Isaac S. Gamble, a Union Civil War corporal in the Iowa 3rd Infantry Regiment, Co. H, and later was captain of his own company from Oskaloosa for the Fourth Regiment, Kansas State Militia, in 1864.  Much of his Civil War service for both Iowa and Kansas  put him in Missouri fighting rebels. In 1867, Gamble left for the West, travelling a few weeks ahead of Hazen’s wagon train, working along the way to earn money. He and his family lived in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, and Capt. Gamble died age 69, 1898, in Bakersfield , California. His wife, Mary May Mott Gamble died age 73 in 1912 in San Diego.

 Abram Gamble , another son of Dr. Gamble and Hazen’s brother-in-law, and his wife Mary Catherine Poley Gamble first moved  to California in 1860.  They returned to Illinois in 1866 but left with Hazen in 1867 to try California  again. Abram Gamble and family lived in Solano and Sonoma counties, Abram dying in Santa Rosa in 1915 at the age of 89 and Mrs. Gamble dying at age 55 in in Santa Rosa, 1893.

 Material for the brief descriptions above was collected from U.S. census lists, voters lists, military records, ancestry.com, newspapers and from generous help from researcher and great great-granddaughter of Dr. Robert Gamble, Merilyn Smalley.

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Part VIII: Coming down the mountain into mining and farm country, finding grapes galore and pear trees that produce two crops a year, failing to trade for a farm, hearing Sacramento Democrats and rebel leanings raise a Union soldier’s ire.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Nov. 23, 1867

Continuation of J. B. Hazen’s Diary

Saturday 7th  [September 1867].   Ice an inch thick this morning.  Weather pleasing.  We now strike a turnpike road, which would be very dusty but for the fact that the owners keep it sprinkled as well as are the streets of a city, which renders it nice to travel upon.  This road is graded on the side of the mountain.  At the right, and about 300 feet below, is a river of considerable size, flowing very rapidly; and on the left thee mountains rise from 100 to 500 feet high, all covered with tall pines; and every few rods the water gushing out almost over our heads and rolling down into the dark chasm below.  The scenery is indeed beautiful.  We have had a down grade all day, and made 30 miles, camping near the Riverside House.  Every house along the road is a hotel.  They make most of their money from freighters and teamsters.

We counted fifty wagons on the road to-day, each drawn by ten mules or horses.  The wagons are larger than any Government wagons you see in Kansas – sometimes sixteen tons on one wagon.

Sunday 8th.  We had ascending ground a part of the time.  On reaching the summit of the mountain we came to a plank road; but soon found the plank broken and torn up and the way very dusty – the road here not being sprinkled.  There is some gardening done but the people depend upon selling wood, lumber, fence posts, etc. to the farmers in the valleys.  Oak is the principal timber – it is scrub oak mostly.  Sunday is not respected here, and is not more regarded than any other day.  We made 28 miles and camped six miles from Placerville[1] and 60 from Sacramento.

Monday 9th.  Drove 12 miles, stopped for dinner, and spent the rest of the day in trying to trade for a farm, but did not make it.  Had abundance of grapes and peaches to eat and cook – country very hilly, timber scrub oak – surface and quartz mining both carried on here; the quartz are very rich; surface miners make from $1 to $15 per day.  The Sacramento Valley railroad is built to this place, and the cars run to Shingle Springs,[2] six miles from here.

Tuesday, 10th.  Passed through a beautiful country, all fenced up and improved in good order.  The soil looks rather red – land rolling.  Grapes grow spontaneously in grand abundance; pear trees bear two crops a year.  The surface of the earth has been literally dug all to pieces for gold, and they are still digging in some places.  Passed a number of miners in the afternoon – saw them digging and panning the dirt.  It pays well.  All surface mining here. – Camped fifteen miles from Sacramento city.

Wednesday 11th.  Passing through a thickly settled and well farmed country, we reached the city [Sacramento] by noon.  It is Fair week, and everything is lively but I don’t like the looks of the place, which contains 50,000 inhabitants. – The State has gone Democratic,[3]

and I never heard stronger rebel sentiments than I heard to-day.  They made my blood boil.

Thursday, 12th.  Spent forenoon in the city.  Provisions and goods of all kinds cheap; best flour $5 per hundred; best prints 15 cents per yard and other things in like proportion.  In the afternoon started for the Suisun Valley.  The country is level and is called the Sacramento plains. It is highly cultivated and very productive.

Friday 13th.   Drove all night last night, and arrived just in time to see some of A. Gambell’s folks take the boat for Illinois.[4]  Country fenced and well improved.  I like the looks of this valley quite well.  Expect to remain here for the present.  All well but our babe.

[Readers will learn from the final installment that “here” is Rockville in Solano County, CA, in the San Francisco Bay area.  Next week’s Part IX is the final installment of Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Hazen’s wagon train story the Oskaloosa newspaper.]

[1]Placerville, an old Pony Express station and major mining town.

[2] Shingle Springs, another town started as a mining camp.

[3] California’s 1867 gubernatorial election, held on Sept. 4, 1867, was won by the Democrat, Henry Huntly Haight. As a Kansas soldier who fought for the Union in the Civil War and against slavery during Bleeding Kansas years (1856, 1857) J.B. Hazen can be forgiven his distaste for confederate sentiment.  The Democrats of the 1850s-1860s  era held fast to the idea of preserving the enslavement of human beings.

[4] A. Gambell was Abram Gamble, Hazen’s brother-in-law.

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Part VII: Giving the stock a break on the way out of Nevada, beauty and prosperity at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the women eat poisonous berries in California, snow on the hills and ice on the water pails.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Saturday, Nov. 16, 1867

Continuation of J.B. Hazen’s Diary

Friday, 30th[August, 1867].   Drove seven miles and struck Carson river again.  Supplied our wants for water, and seven miles further came to a ranch, where we co’d get our stock in a pasture of clover and red-top[1] at 12 ½ cents per head for 24 hours; and concluded to stop for the day, and while our stock recruited, to right up things, etc.  This morning we passed Fort Churchill[2] but at present there are only fifty soldiers stationed there.  The folks say there has been as much rain this year, as in all the three preceding years.

Saturday, 31st.  Started out early and reached Dayton, 14 miles distant, before noon.  This is a thriving town of 3,000 inhabitants, and mining is carried on extensively in this vicinity.  It is all quartz mining.  Five miles further, we came to the New York House[3], where we camped for the night.

Sunday, Sept. 1st.   A move of seven miles and we were in Carson City.  —  Found here a Mr. Welles, an old neighbor of A. Gamble in Illinois, and remained with him most of the day.  This is a pretty place of 5,000 inhabitants, and in a flourishing condition.  We started late in the afternoon, made 14 miles and camped at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in a most beautiful valley, dotted all over with handsome farm houses and nice, large farms. – They raise all kinds of grains and vegetables, but corn does not yield largely.  —  We bought hay at 1 ½ cents a pound.  The people here say that a shaft can be sunk and [place? plane?] in this country from 100 to 300 feet and find gold or silver ore [illegible] pays from $82.000 to $86.000[4] per ton.

West from Salt Lake 39 Copyright material
This map shows J.B. Hazen’s likely path on his way out of Nevada and into California on the Central Overland Trail.  The image is from page 39 in the book West from Salt Lake , Diaries from the Central Overland Trail, edited by Jesse G. Petersen and published in 2012 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Used with permission.

Monday, 2nd.  Traveled along the foot of the mountain 23 miles and crossed the line into California, and five miles further on camped at the mouth of Emigrant’s canon.  The valley we have just left is as good a farming country as I ever saw.  I noticed a machine run by steam which headed and threshed the grain at one stroke.  It operated well, and will cut from 15 to 20 acres per day.  The yield of wheat is from 50 to 60 bushels per acre.  The largest onions and potatoes I ever saw were shown me today.  The election is soon to come off in that State, and we had an invitation to a free dance this evening by the candidate, but declined to participate.  The Union feeling is strong here, but the rebels are trying to divide the Republican Party, and I fear they will succeed.

Tuesday, 3rd.   Started up the canon, and about four miles out, stopped to graze the stock.  Mrs. A. Gamble and daughter, and Mrs. Hazen, gathered and ate some berries.  Suddenly, all three were taken sick, Mrs. H. vomited and purged.  We concluded they were poisoned.  My wife was soon so reduced she could not stand.  The medicines given the others did not seem to do any good.  We placed them on beds in the wagons and drove two miles to a house where we camped.  Here we found a doctor who pronounced the sickness “mountain fever” of a malignant type.  We had medicines the doctor prescribed and we administered, and the patients all began to improve.

The country about here is thickly timbered with hemlock and pine, which grow very large. One can hardly see the tops of the trees.  On the tops of the mountains all around us, snow is visible – weather cool and pleasant.

4th.  Laid in camp all day.  Some frost last night.

5th.  Remained in camp – the sick ones improving.  I went fishing and had good luck, so we had a meal of fresh fish.

6th.  Ice froze half an inch thick in our water pails last night.  The invalids being able to travel, we resumed our journey; passed the summit of the mountain, and two miles beyond camped for the night, with plenty of water and grass.  Snow plenty on top of the hills about us.  The largest timber I ever beheld grows here – pine, hemlock, quaking asp. [aspen?], and fir, the last named the nicest ornamental tree I have seen anywhere.  We passed a number of buildings to day with the roofs broken in by snow, which sometimes falls 40 feet deep.  The people do not live here in the winter season on account of the deep snow.


[1] Redtop is a type of pasture grass.

[2] Fort Churchill’s ruins are now part of a Nevada state park. “Fort Churchill was built in 1861 to provide protection for early settlers and guard Pony Express mail runs,” according to http://parks.nv.gov/parks/fort-churchill

[3] New York House: A sort of way station. Source:  Nevada Historical Society Papers, Nevada Historical Society and in this newspaper clipping  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/22437810/new_york_house_near_dayton_nv/

[4] It is possible he meant this was the yield of silver or gold value from a ton of ore.  An extremely superficial look at prices from 1867 Nevada mining make $82 to $86 in silver from a ton of ore look about right.

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Part VI: Silver and gold, desert and heavy sand roads, an abundance of currants, a hay and wood road, the sink at Carson River, a dead animal in the well, nearly out of Nevada.

[Editor’s note: I removed a section of Mr. Hazen’s account until I can find more information about it.  The section describes an American Indian medical, healing procedure.]

From  The Oskaloosa Independent, Nov. 9, 1867

Continuation of J.B. Hazen’s Diary

Thursday, Aug. 22nd  [1867].  Set out at 3 o’clock, p.m.  Isaac Gamble[i] and family with us – made 15 miles and camped at 9 p.m.

Friday, 23rd.  Drove into the town of Orton [?] and camped.  Had some business to transact, and remained through the day.  This is a good mining country.  Quartz rock pays from $5,000 to $10,000 per ton – the rocks have the appearance of silver or gold, both metals abounding.  The town is a lively, business place.  Silver and gold constitute the circulating medium – no paper money.  Dry goods and groceries range in price much the same as in Kansas.  Wages are good, common laborers getting from $4 to $25 per day.  The boy that came with me from Denver hired out here for $75 per month and boarded.

24th.  Drove 32 miles to Smith creek and camped for the night.  Water and grass good – weather pleasant.

Sunday, 25th.  Drove 16 miles, into a canon[ii] and camped for the day.  We left the stage road at Orton, and took a new road never traveled by emigrants.  It is a hay and wood road, but has good water and grass in abundance.  I name this place Currant Canon, because of the abundance of the fruit of that name growing here wild.  I never saw so many currants at one time in my life.  They are very fine – as nice as any cultivated – and being just ripe, we fared sumptuously upon them.

West from Salt Lake p31 copyrighted image
J.B. Hazen’s route left the Oregon and California trails to take the route shown on this image from the book West from Salt Lake, Diaries from the Central Overland Trail, edited by Jesse G. Petersen and published in 2012 by the University of Oklahoma Press. The map may be found on page 31.  Used with permission. For further information about the book see https://www.oupress.com/

26th.  Moved through the canon to White Rock, a distance of 23 miles and camped for the night.  Here we struck the stage road again.  Water good, but no grass – hay two cents per pound.

The white rock is as soft as chalk, which it very much resembles.  There is a nice house here built of it.

Tuesday, 27th.  Made an early start, drove seven miles, and filled our kegs with water for a 22-mile drive; then set out, the road being heavy sand. – Fortunately a heavy shower had just preceded us, and this made the road much better.  Eleven miles brought us to a ranche where the people live by selling water to emigrants and teamsters, which they draw eleven miles and dispose of at $2.50 per barrel, and make it pay very well.  It is quite an accommodation to travelers.  We had water, but took our stock out half a mile to bunch grass, and then drove forward to water, which we reached after dark, but found it very salty, yet our stock drank it in the evening quite freely.  We bought hay at two cents a pound.  It is cut in the mountains and hauled 20 miles.  There is a sand mountain or hill here one hundred feet high, which cannot be climbed, as it is so soft it gives way under the feet. – This is a desolate country – nothing but sand as far as the eye can reach.

Wednesday, 28th.  A long, dry road before us.  This morning our stock refused to drink the salty water, so we did not carry any of it with us.  Drove 20 miles and came to the sink or lake of Carson river.  This river is a large stream formed by the mountain springs, runs to the sand country,  forms a large lake, and “sinks to rise no more.”  We watered our teams, and drove five miles further to a ranche where we could get provender for our stock, and camped.  There is no grass except in the mountains in this desolate region, and hay here is worth two cents a pound.

Thursday 29th.   Set out early, the road leaving the river.  Ten miles on we came to a well by the roadside, but there was a dead animal in it, and then stock would not drink the water.  Eight miles further along we came to where there had been a heavy rain or water spout, as it is called in this country, the water was yet standing in puddles in the road, and though thick with mud, our stock drank it heartily.  Five miles further brought us to a fast freight station with a well of good water, where we obtained a supply for ourselves, but none for stock.  Another five miles and we came to a well by the side of the road with a little water in it, and there being plenty of grass at the foot of the mountain, one mile distant, we camped for the night.  The wells along the route were dug by the fast freight company to water their stock in hot weather.

For the last three days the roads have been sandy and very bad, and would have been almost impassable but for the heavy rains which have fallen; and from the same cause we have had exemption in a good degree, from the sandy dust, which is exceedingly disagreeable in dry weather.  Today a portion of the road has been mountainous.

[Concluded next week]


[i] Isaac Gamble, born in Ohio  was the son of Dr. Robert Gamble, an early Oskaloosa settler.  Isaac Gamble served in the Civil War in the 3rd Iowa Infantry and in the Kansas State Militia.

[ii] Canyon.


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Part V: Traveling the Central Overland Trail, leaving Utah and entering Nevada.  Mormon tales, friendly Indians, a bad horse trade shows mules rule, Gamble family visits, disappearing greenbacks.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Sept. 21, 1867

Continuation of J.B. Hazen’s Diary

Thursday, Aug. 8 [1867].  Started out early – had to make 35 miles to water and grass; roads good, weather cool. – Reached Willow Springs at 3 o’clock, P. M.  Water and grass being good we camped for the night.

9th.  Moved early; traveled six miles to a spring, watered and filled our kegs, as it is 24 miles to the next water.  At 3 o’clock reached Deep creek[1] and camped; grass short, but water good.  Indians thick but friendly.

10th.  Moved up the creek 8 miles to good grass, and camped for the day.

Sunday, 11th.  Started early; 35 miles to water.  Drove 16 miles to a stage station, where we obtained a little water, and learned of a nearer road, and only 7 miles to water.  We took this route, found it rough, but otherwise all right, and camped where we had abundance for our stock.

I forgot at the time to mention that a short time since, the handsomest of Brigham Young’s wives, and the one he thought most of, played him a Yankee trick.[2]  She obtained his confidence, and access to his safe, and took $65,000 in gold from it.  Brigham found out the loss, and gave orders for none of his wives to go out that day; but this went to the hostler and ordered him to get out a carriage; he refused; she commanded; he yielded; she directed him to drive east of town; when near the fort, she ordered a halt, alighted, directed him to return with the carriage and then went to the fort.  Brigham followed and demanded her.  She refused to return, and placed herself under the protection of the national flag.  The officer in command refused to deliver her up, and told Young he could only have her by force.  He did not resort to that measure, and lost his wife and his gold.

Monday, 12th.  Drove 18 miles and nooned.  Had to make 22 miles further to find water and grass, which we found at Egan canon,[3] and camped – One of Gambell’s[4] mules nearly gave out.  There is a village here of 300 inhabitants.  Both gold and silver are dug from the hillsides at this point, and there are two quartz mills, one a five stamp, the other a three stamp. – The quartz yields $60 to $70 per ton.[5]  Much money has been lost in prospecting in this region, but the quartz mining pays well in silver, not in gold.

13th.  Pass over [illegible] mountain, grazing for noon on the summit, and then made 22 miles to Emigrant’s spring, which we reached at 10 P.M.  A thunder-storm passed close to us during the afternoon, but only sprinkled us.

14th.  Drove to Ruby valley station and grazed.  This valley is very productive, and considerably cultivated.  Ruby fort[6] has a garrison of 1,000 men; but why they are kept here is more than I can tell.  We purchased barley here at 7 cts. per pound.  Made Wild Cat spring, 12 miles further, and camped.  I traded my little mules for a horse and mare, 15 h.[7]  Hitched up my new team; the horse proved to be balky; kicked himself loose twice.  I told the man he had lied to me, and must trade back.  He refused at first, but finally did so.  We then drove to Diamond mountain, and nooned.  This mountain is one mile up and seven miles down it.  We drove over and camped near the foot of it – good grass and water.

16th.  Drove 6 miles to Sulphur Springs, then 18 miles to water, then two further, to grass; grazed two hours and then made 4 miles to Roberts’ creek; and camped.  Had to take our stock four miles up the creek to grass.

17th.  Moved early and reached Grubb’s well, 15 miles, at 10 ½ o’clock, and fed.  Made 19 miles more, and camped on Dry creek – grass and water good.

Sunday 18th.  Moved 4 miles to better pasturage, and laid up for the day.  Ascertained that Isaac Gamble[8] was 13 miles distant.  A. Gamble[9] went to see him.  They came back to camp with I’s family.  All well. I. is putting up hay on a contract – said if we would wait three days he would accompany us.  We remain.  Our location is Blue Springs, 16 miles from Austin[10], which place some of our boys visited, and report a city three miles in circumference with a population of 5,000 inhabitants.  It is a miner’s town, and there are a great many quartz mills in operation there which run night and day.  Gold and silver both abound; the former from $45 to $75 per ton, the latter $75 to $100 per ton.  Miners get $4 per day in coin.  We are out of the greenback[11] country now, and seldom see any.  Laborers get $75 per month and board. – Grain is high here on account of the distance it has to be transported.  A load of barley from Ruby valley 150 miles distant, passed to-day (21st), 10 cts. per lb was asked.  Other grain similar rates.  To-day (Wednesday) Indians are plenty, and friendly.  They live principally on pine nuts – boil them until they crack open, and the meat extracted.  Expect to proceed to-morrow.

[1] Both Willow Springs and Deep Creek are in western Utah.

[2] Unconfirmed (by this blog’s author) story.

[3] Egan Canyon was on the Central Overland Trail in Nevada.

[4] Dr. Robert Gamble or his son, Robert.  Emigrants on these trails most often used oxen and mules over horses for the rugged work.

[5] Readers who know these and other prices mentioned, please feel free to post.

[6] Fort Ruby in eastern Nevada, 1862-1867  Read more here: https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/lahontan-valley/fort-ruby-gone-but-not-forgotten/

[7] 15 hands.  A hand is a horse measurement based on a human palm.  One hand equals four inches.  These horses were 60 inches tall at the top of their withers (above a horse’s shoulders, there the neck becomes the back). These were bigger than ponies but not as tall as a typical thoroughbred, for example.

[8] Isaac Gamble, one of Dr. Robert Gamble’s sons, who died at Bakersfield, California, in 1898. Read an 1861 Civil War letter from Isaac to his father here, the article “Camp Correspondence.” https://www.newspapers.com/clip/22008631/civil_war_camp_correspondence_from/

[9] Abram Gamble, most likely, another of Dr. Robert’s sons. Based on information from Gamble family members on ancestry.com.

[10] A silver mining town about halfway across Nevada.

[11] Paper money issued by the U.S. government, beginning in the Civil War. Green ink was used on one side of the bills. Learn more about the greenback’s role in the Civil War here:  https://www.moaf.org/exhibits/checks_balances/abraham-lincoln/greenback


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Part IV:  Looking around Salt Lake City, voicing military musings,  floating in salt water, waiting for a wagon repair, taking on water for the desert.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Sept. 1, 1867

Continuation of J.B. Hazen’s Diary

July 31s t[1867].   We spent the forenoon in looking through Great Salt Lake City.  It is a large place, and growing rapidly, and if Brigham Young is not stopped in his wild career in less than five years, it will take Uncle Sam longer to whip him than it did to whip the South.[i]

The principal part of the Mormon population is in Great Salt Lake Valley, which is bounded on three sides by the Uriniah(sic)[ii] mountains, to bring an army through or over which would be almost impossible.  The only accessible approach is from the west, and it would require a large force to accomplish anything from that direction.  The natural barriers and defenses are very formidable.  It is claimed that the male population increases 16,000 every year.  At this rate what an army could be raised in a few years!

The city is handsome.  There are two streams of pure mountain water running on either side of every street.  Looking from a few miles off, the city presents the appearance of an orchard.  Every kind of fruit is raised in abundance, each lot having its orchard.

One of our boys went to the theatre, and saw Brigham Young[iii] come in followed by fourteen wives, who filled several seats.  This number constitutes about one-fourth of his wives.[iv]

We broke camp about noon, drove 16 miles, and camped for the night with plenty of grass, but the water quite salty.  We took a swim in Salt Lake.  It is a singular fact that a man cannot sink in this lake; but a person can stand straight up in it, and can walk just as well as on terra firma.  He will sink about up to the arm-pits and that is all.  It would be folly to attempt to dive; he might as well try to butt his head into the earth.  Salt is very cheap here.  One can go along the shore of the lake and shovel up a wagon load of it in a few minutes—as fine coarse salt as you would wish to see.

hazen #4 Utah
This is a Google map showing (approximately) some of J.B. Hazen’s stops from July 31, 1867, through August 7, 1867. Starting in the upper right, Hazen’s wagon train stops in Salt Lake City (red X’s make the points) and then stops at Great Salt Lake. Heading south, the group camped near Stockton near Rush Lake. The next point is somewhere in Rush Valley, and, finally, the point opposite Black Crook Peak and without a label other than the “X,” is Indian Spring.

Thursday, Aug. 1st.  Started early.  Drove 33 miles and camped by a nice little fresh water lake, near a small village called Stockton[v]—grass plenty and of good quality.

Friday, 2d.  Remained in camp all day for Gambell[vi] to get an axletree in his wagon, having broken one last evening.  Stockton is a miner’s town; gold silver and copper abound here in the quartz state; but for want of capital no mining is now going on.

I should have mentioned that in the Blue Hills our train divided – the ox teams being left behind.  There are but 8 wagons and 16 men here now.

3d.  The wagon being ready and our horses shod, we got off about noon. – Four of the wagons were left behind to recruit the stock which is run down.  Four wagons and 8 men go forward. – Drove 12 miles and camped on a mountain stream with plenty of grass.

Sunday 4th.  Started early, took a long noon, and made 25 miles, when we found good grass and water, and camped.  Roads good for two days.  A thunder shower to-day, which was most welcome.  Since leaving Salt Lake we have traveled up Bush Valley,[vii] which is well watered, and produces grass in abundance.

5th.   Made 38 miles, crossed a mountain and camped.  Left Bush [Rush] valley yesterday, crossed a small mountain and struck another valley.  We are now camped at Indian Springs on the borders of the Sandy desert, which is 50 miles across, with no water or grass.  Have seen no Indians since we left Salt Lake until to-day, one rode into our camp, and seemed quite friendly.

6th.   Took in water and grass – in all 40 gallons and 17 head of stock, and grass for one feed, and started out at 4 o’clock p.m. to cross the desert.  Found the roads hard in consequence of the rain yesterday, and not very dusty, which was fortunate for us.  The moon shone until midnight.  Made 29 miles as the moon went down, and stopped to feed and water; rested one hour, and started, I in the lead.[viii]  At daylight the stage passed us; and at 7 o’clock on the morning of the 7th we reached the other side and found fresh springs. – The grade was down the latter part of the drive, and going easy.  My team is in better order than went I left Kansas.

We laid by to-day (7th).  This country is not worth mentioning – grass small and intermixed with alkali grass.  Stock do not like it, nor is it good for them.  The springs are quite a curiosity – some as large as a barrel, others large as a hogshead and perfectly round.  Water runs over the top of them all the time.  They are from 10 feet to 40 feet deep – the water clear and cold.  I could almost see the bottom of the deepest. – Fish from 4 to 8 inches long can be seen swimming in them all the time.  In some of them the water is salty, in some sulphurish, in others almost as sweet as sugar.  We use the Sulphur water in preference to any other.  The day has been hot, and two of the men are quite ill.  Gambell’s wife was sick yesterday, but is much better to-day.


[i] Mr. Hazen refers to the decades-long conflict between the government and Mormon leaders and their western settlers. To learn more, see   http://www.pbs.org/mormons/ or any of a number of sites, books and articles.

[ii]  Mr. Hazen might have meant the Oquirrh Mountains that lie west of Salt Lake City. The Wasatch Mountains are on the east and north sides of the city.

[iii] Brigham Young (1801-1877) was a Mormon leader and politician and the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mormons-settle-salt-lake-valley

[iv] Brigham Young had 55 wives in his lifetime, according to numerous accounts.

[v] Stockton, Utah, in the Blue Hills.

[vi] Dr. Robert Gamble or his son, Robert Gamble, both Kansas Territory freestaters; the elder Gamble was a pioneer settler in what became Oskaloosa in Jefferson County, in 1856.

[vii] More likely Rush Valley, a typographical error frequently confused, about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

[viii] J.B. Hazen’s route description seems to indicate he was on the “Central Overland Trail,” a route taken south of Salt Lake City and south of the California Trail.. https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Central_Overland_Trail .

*  *  *

Part III: A mountaintop Independence Day, gun mishap at Gilbert Tower’s place, bad country and a trip through hell, scenic beauty and impressive crops.

From The Oskaloosa Independent, Aug. 24, 1867

Continuation of J.B. Hazen’s Diary

Saturday, June 29 [1867].  This morning on setting out, had some difficulty in crossing Clear Creek [northwest of Denver, Colorado], but got over safe.  The train stopped but Gambell[1] and I made for Tower’s, 28 miles distant – made a good drive and camped on Boulder creek at night, and the next morning forded the creek, which swam our mules, and safely arrived at Tower’s[2] about noon.  Tower is building him a fine house, which is nearly completed but the grasshoppers have taken his garden, and are working on grain all over the country.

Monday, July 1st.  Remained at Towers to fix up matters.  Weather very hot.  Face of country fine.  While Tower was examining Gambell’s revolver, it was discharged, the ball passing through Tower’s two forefingers, wounding them both, and shattering the bone of one.

Tuesday 2d.  Made 27 miles to-day.

3d.  Stopped near Laporte [Colorado] for dinner, went up to L and found some letters.  Heard from Isaac Gambell,[3] who is four weeks ahead of us.  Reached the Black Hills and camped at Stonewall Station where we found our train.  They had recruited eight wagons, once we left them.  Have seen no Indians yet.  The weather in the hills and mountains is cool and pleasant, with frequent showers.  To-day a little hail, but no wind.

(Fourth of July on the Trail)

Thursday 4th.  Laid by all day.  Raised a flag on top of a high mountain near camp—got up a picnic dinner and had a good time, with speeches, toasts and responses, and reading the Declaration of Independence.  Had a good time, with patriotism highly in the ascendant.

Friday 5th.  Made about 25 miles to-day, with good roads, except hills, and in the midst of fine scenery – mountain and valley in succession, with their pleasing variety – and camped at night on the mountain half a mile from a snow bank, with snow water to use.

6th.   Drove down the mountain road, hard and smooth – into the Laramie plains [the wagon train has reached Wyoming], and crossed the Laramie river, which was high and muddy.  Weather cold.

Sunday 7th .  Made 17 miles and camped for the rest of the day – roads good.

8th.   Two miles drive brought us to the Little Laramie, which we found very high, but crossed safely.  Made about 20 miles after crossing, and camped on Elk creek.  Passed near a snow bank, and all ate some of the snow.

9th.   Made an early start and a good drive over rough road – plenty of snow all the way.  Streams clear and rapid, water soft and cold.  Pleasant travelling. Camped this night three miles from Medicine Bough [Bow] river.  Plenty of grass along the route.

11th.   Made 25 miles and came to the North Platte.  Had to pay $5 and $5.50 per wagon to get ferried across.  Passed over nicely, drove three miles and camped.

12th.   A leisurely drive over dusty roads brought us to Pine Grove Station, where we camped.

13th.   Started early.  Roads dusty, grass and water scarce.  Filled our kegs with water at noon. – Made 34 miles, reached water and grass and camped.  Passed the summit of the Rocky Mountains to-day at noon. Snow still plenty. [Mr. Hazen’s wagon train appears to be on the Overland Trail, an alternative to the Oregon Trail.]

Sunday 14th.  Drove 15 miles to water; grass three miles distant.  Filled our kegs and drove to grass.  The water is a little salty in this region.

15th.   Made 25 miles and camped on Bitter Creek.  Roads not so dusty.  This is the worst looking country I ever saw.  The water is poisonous, and we dare not let our stock have much of it.  Grass very scarce.  We took our stock up and herded them on the mountain, where we found some grass.

16th.   Started early and drove 25 miles; weather cool, and a little rain, for which we were glad.

The country grows worse as we got down the creek.  We have 65 miles of this region yet to cross.  Sage brush is nearly all of vegetable life we see.  It makes good fuel for our stoves.

17th.  Weather so cold we had to wear overcoats.  Hard wind and storm during the night.  Made an early start.  Scenery magnificent.  Roads good.  Drove 25 miles and camped.  Found grass in the mountains for stock, and herded all night.

18th.  Weather still cold, and overcoats in demand.  Made a good drive, and camped on a fine little stream 12 miles from Green river, with plenty of water and feed.  This was the first good water for three days.

19th.   Reached and crossed the river, proceeded five miles beyond, and camped.  Weather is warm and pleasant.  On the ferry there was quite a fight this morning – one man shot, one struck with a club and one with a hatchet.

20th.   Drove to Ham’s Fork and laid over for the day fixing up matters in general.

Sunday 21st.  A majority favored proceeding, and we drove 15 miles, then camped for the rest of the day.  Water and grass good.  A man come from the stage station to my tent, and I asked him what day it was.  He did not know and when I told him, he said they did not know Sunday from any other day in that country.

22nd.   Made an early start and a big drive, and camped 13 miles from Fort Bridger.  Roads, Grass and water good, and weather pleasant.  Indians thick but friendly.  No grass hoppers visible for several days.

23rd.    Passed Fort Bridger at noon.  Prettier little streams that flow through this valley from the mountains never were seen;  yet, nothing grows in the valleys but wees; there is grass on the mountains.  Our train has been very fortunate so far;  we have missed all the large streams, all the Indian troubles, and the people say we are now out of danger; but we shall keep a sharp look out.  News came to the Fort to-day that all the stations had been burnt, all the stock driven off and all the emigrants “gobbled” that were on Bitter Creek, through which we had just passed in safety.  We camped on a nice little creek ten miles from the fort.

24th.   Moved early.  Roads generally good – some hills.  Made 25 miles, crossed Bear river, and camped, with the best of water and grass.

25th.   The best of roads today; made fifteen miles by ten o’clock.  In the afternoon found hills – went up 1,000 feet, I think, and then down grade the rest of the day.  Met a man from California with 1,600 ponies going to the [States?].  Camped at night in Echo Canon,[4] 75 miles from Salt Lake City. [The train has crossed into Utah.]

26th.   Traveled until 9 o’clock and stopped to graze and dine, as beyond we could get no grass.  Fished and caught some speckled trout. —  Camped at night ten miles from the mouth of Echo canon.  This canon is about 20 miles long, with mountains on either side so high that you have to look twice before you can see the top of them.  At the side of the road runs a nice stream.  All crops except corn are growing finely in it.  Potatoes $1.25 per bushel, butter 35 cts. per pound, and other things about in this ratio. – At the mouth is a fine little village called [Waterttown?]

27th.  At the mouth of the [canyon]; we took the right hand road, instead of the old California trail to the left, as this was said to be the best route.  This road runs along Weber river to Salt River.  Some places there is only room enough between the mountains for the river and road – and such mountains!  They are wonderful.  You have to look three times to see their tops.  At other points the valleys widen out, and are thickly settled, and extensively farmed, producing everything excepting corn, and a little of that.  I never saw better looking crops in general, and the wheat is the best I have ever seen anywhere.  It is nearly ready to harvest – is worth $2 per bushel, and flour $5 per hundred; other things in proportion.  The people are clever and accommodating.  It seems like living.  To-day Gambell broke one hind wheel of his wagon – the first bad luck we have had.  The road is rocky and sideling, and the grade down hill.  We have been going down for three days and will soon get to the level.

Sunday, 28th.  Remained in camp all day.  Some of the boys went to Mormon meeting.  The weather is hot.

29th Started early.  Had one of the worst canons to go through I ever heard of.  It is called hell.  We pass through the devil’s gate into the kitchen, and thence into hell.  It is well named. – After passing this hell, we came out into Salt Lake Valley, 25 miles from the city.  This is a very large and productive valley.  Crops of all kinds are raised; from 40 to 60 bushels of wheat to the acre, corn does not do so well.  Irrigation is necessary.  This is the most beautiful place I ever beheld.  A nice stream of pure, soft water runs down the valley past every man’s door and through his farm.  It is really delightful.  Peaches are the principal fruit raised with success.  There is a fine crop this year, and the peaches of this valley are famous for their quality.  The grasshoppers are making their appearance.  They commenced coming yesterday, from the north, and are moving to the south.  People say they have destroyed almost everything in the northern valleys.  We camped in a little place called Farmington for the night, and had to pay $1.25 per hundred for hay to feed our stock.  Hay seems to be the highest in price of any article in this region.  No. 1 flour is but $5.00 per  hundred, and other things in this ratio, except groceries.  They are high.

30th.  Moved on for the city.  Farmers along the road are harvesting.  It looks like living here.  Some of the grain is being cut quite green, to save it from the grasshoppers, which areas thick to-day as they were in Kansas last fall.  Corn will be entirely destroyed by them.  Apples grow here in abundance.  In the city every man has his orchard at his door, with all kinds of fruit growing.  The trees are hanging full.  The town is laid off with an acre and a quarter of land to the lot, so as to give room for fruits and garden;  Crossed the river Jordan, and camped on its western bank for the night.

[1] Probably Dr. Robert Gamble (current spelling of name), who in 1855 travelled with Jesse Newell and Joseph Fitzsimmons from Iowa to scout out a place to settle in Kansas Territory.  The three returned in May 1856 and settled in what would become Oskaloosa, Jefferson County.  J.B. Hazen was married to Rebecca Gertrude Gamble, Dr. Gamble’s daughter.

[2] Gilbert Tower, like J.B. Hazen, was in Jesse Newell’s 1859 rifle company and was with freestaters in the 1856 Battle of Hickory Point in Jefferson County.  Tower was married to another of Dr. Gamble’s daughters, Elizabeth L. Gamble.  In 1867 he was probably living in what is now Boulder County, Colorado.

[3] Isaac Gamble was a son of Dr. Robert Gamble who lived in Oskaloosa, Kansas, briefly. He was on his way to a new home in California.

[4] Mr. Hazen uses the more Spanish term “canon” for “Canyon.”

* * *

Part II

Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Hazen and his wagon train continue from Camp Cottonwood in western Nebraska.

J.B. Hazen’s Diary published July 20, 1867, The Oskaloosa Independent

Tuesday, June 11.   Moved five miles west of Fort Sedgwick,[1] pitched camp and remained over the rest of the day.  Sedgwick was formerly known as Cottonwood, and so named by me heretofore.

On the 12th made an early start with fine weather and good roads. – This day we passed a military post where were some Indians, the first we had seen since leaving home.  The soldiers had captured fifteen, but four of them proved to be white men.  We overtook a train of 12 wagons in corral, afraid to proceed without more force, and things looked as if there might be danger ahead.  We made 20 miles further and camped for the night.


Final Oskie to Fort Cottonwood w trails GIF #2
Kirk Webb’s map shows an early part of J.B. Hazen’s Oregon Trail trip in 1867 from Oskaloosa, Kansas. to Camp Cottonwood. in Nebraska   The red cross marks  show places where  J.B. Hazen’s wagon train stopped.

Next morning, 13th, we set out in good season, with a continuation of fine weather, but during the day found the roads sandy and heavy, and the hottest weather I ever experienced.  This day recruited 25 more wagons and 30 men, and now number 100 fighting men.

We hear large stories of Indians and their barbarity; but the scene of these atrocities is always ahead or somewhere else.  I have seen no sign except fresh graves on the route, and these maybe have been caused by other hands than those of the redskins.  A child four days old was buried from our train last night.

14th. Made a good day’s drive – saw no Indians, but we keep well guarded.

15th. Weather cool, roads fine — made a big drive.  Saw no Indians, but heard of lots of them just ahead.

Sunday, 16th — Had a heavy storm last night, and remained in camp all day, but could not rest much for drying clothes, cooking, etc.  Weather quite cool.

17th  — A bright morning, moved out early, made good time, and camped at night two miles west of Julesburg.  During the day recruited 18 wagons and 30 men.

18th Made a good drive. No adventure.

19th Were aroused in the morning by the cry of “Indians coming!”  Rode out to see.  Every man was at his post; but we soon found out it was a false alarm.  The guard had seen two wolves, which they mistook in the shadowy twilight for savages.  We were soon quiet, made an early start and a good drive.  Weather clear and hot.  All the excitement of the day was the shooting of some antelopes, which made a fine supper for some of us.

20thRoads sandy and weather hot.  During the day passed the place where a large emigrant train had been attacked by Indians, who captured all the horses; saw one dead horse and the graves of four men.  Made 18 miles today.

21stPassed some sand hills, then had good roads.  During the day captured a man on suspicion that he had killed a soldier.  He had a soldier’s gun, but said he had killed an Indian.  We could not find the body of the dead.  It is probable the fellow stole the gun from some military post.  After dark, captured another chap who came straggling into camp and could give no account of himself that was satisfactory.  So far thieves are very plenty and redskins scarce.

22ndWeather pleasant, made good speed and camped at the Snowy Range.

Sunday, 23d. Set out, drove into Fort Morgan, [2]where we had to undergo an inspection of stock, wagons and men, which detained us some hours.—We have 69 women, 65 men and 35 children.  Made ten miles from the fort, found no water after leaving it—none tonight for stock, and have to go yet ten miles before we find any.

24thStarted early, drove to water and camped for dinner; made six miles further to next water, and camped for the night, as it was ten miles before we should come to water again.  Five freight wagons went on, the drivers refusing to camp; the captain told them if they did so it was at their peril; they got angry, and for a time it seemed as though there would be trouble, but it passed over without.  We have antelope for supper; it is very fine eating.

[June] 25thOn our way early.  The cool winds from the mountains are much like the fall winds of Kansas.  Find plenty of water to-day, and made good headway.  One man sick; the first sickness since we were all together—chickens $2,50 each; butter $1,50 per pound.  Pretty high.

Hazen points part II map colo usgs
The map shows J.B. Hazen’s estimated route from Nebraska into Denver, Colorado, from the second installment of his travel journal detailing his move from Kansas to California in 1867.  The map is from the Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, and an article, Historic Trail Maps of the Sterling 1° X 2° Quadrangle, Northeastern Colorado, by Glenn R. Scott. The red star overlays point to wagon train stops  noted by Hazen.  This map and the article can be read at https://pubs.usgs.gov/imap/1894/report.pdf here

26thMade a long drive and camped on Box Elder creek.  22 miles from Denver.  Here found plenty of good water; the water has generally been bad since we left the Platte at Fort Morgan.  The grasshoppers are nearly as thick here as they were in Kansas last fall,[3] and almost as large—some as large again.  I have seen lots of them every day since leaving home.

27th. Out in good time, and drove through Denver, which is quite a nice looking city about one-half as large as Leavenworth.  The houses are constructed with much taste.  Business seems lively, and there are a number of new buildings going up.  Wages are $40 a month and hands boarded.  Flour is from $8 to $11 per hundred, corn 6 cents per pound.  I succeeded in getting some for five cents per pound.

29th.  Remained in camp—went into the city and took a look through it.  It is quite a lively place and improving rapidly.  The grasshoppers are very thick and doing great damage.  The people say they will soon leave for other parts.  Do not know where they will go.  Kansas certainly has enough already.  All well.


[1] Fort Sedgwick is just inside the northeast Colorado border; Camp Cottonwood is in western Nebraska.

[2] Fort Morgan was southwest of Fort Sedgwick between Denver and Fort Sedgwick, all in Colorado.”

[3] A reference to the grasshopper plagues of 1866 in Kansas.

* * *

Part I

From The Oskaloosa Independent, June 22, 1867

Correspondence:  We have before us the diary of Mr. J.B. Hazen, who left our midst recently for California, and give extracts from it to our readers:

May 22.  Left Oskaloosa about ten o’clock, A.M. for our long journey; cold wind from the north; camped on Peter’s Creek, one mile west of Grasshopper, for the night.  In the morning woke up with colds, but moved ahead, and at evening pitched camp on Elk Creek; two miles west of Holton.

 Weather cold and dreary.  During the night our stock got stampeded; the mules came to camp all right, but the horses could not be found.

Hunted all day without finding them; but on Saturday morning the 25th as we were preparing for a big hunt for the horses, they came to camp all right, dragging their lariats.  Considering ourselves in luck, we soon were on our way, and camped on Cedar creek, three miles west of America[i] for the night.  Under the circumstances, thought best to travel the next day.

Final Oskie to Nebraska Line GIF
This map shows J.B. Hazen’s start (from Oskaloosa, Kansas) for the Oregon Trail on May 22, 1867. The shaded route with long dashes shows Hazen’s route into Nebraska, based on our reading of his journal, with the red crosses showing his stopping points. The roads marked with smaller dashes are two routes joining the Oregon Trail, the St. Joseph Road on the north and the Independence road on the south.  Hazen joins the Oregon Trail near Marysville, Kansas.

Sunday the 26th. – Made a good drive, and camped on the Black Vermillion [river].  It rained very hard.  It was rainy and wet during Monday; but at night we camped on the Big Blue [river].  Expected here to find a trail but found none.  Tuesday, weather cool and rainy, reached Cottonwood creek, twenty miles from Marysville. Wednesday, weather pleasant, after a hard frost during the night.  Moved ahead and reached a small creek in Jefferson County, Nebraska, where we camped.  Thursday, pleasant; made a good day’s drive, and camped at night five miles west of Big Sandy.  Friday, rainy all day made but fifteen miles, and camped at Little Sandy creek.

Saturday, June 1st , [In Nebraska] weather wet, roads muddy; traveled up the Little Blue [river] fifteen miles, and camped for the night.  Sunday a majority of the train voted to travel, and we went forward, weather warm and pleasant.  Monday fine, and made favorable time; and on Tuesday reached the Platte [river], and that evening camped three miles from Fort Kearney.

Wednesday 5th remained in camp all day.  Have not yet seen an Indian – they are always ahead.  Moved out on Thursday, and camped at Ranche No. 2,[ii]  ten miles from Kearney.  Our train numbers thirty wagons.  [Report?] says Ranche No. 1,[iii] was robbed of 16 horses by 17 Indians, yesterday.

During the night we had a hard storm, and some excitement growing out of an attempt of some white Indians[iv] to rob our camp. – They failed in their object.  We took two of them prisoners; there were six of them.  Eight shots were fired during the transaction.  Friday made good time.  At noon organized into a company and elected a captain; we numbered 35 men and 23 wagons; [?] men and 15 wagons had been left behind; they came up before we left, but being heavily loaded – they are freighting to Denver – will not be able to keep up with us.  Started again, but at three o’clock stopped and corralled on account of a severe hail storm, which lasted for half an hour when we moved ahead and camped on Plum creek.

Yesterday the Indians robbed one six-wagon train of their stock; also in another place, one emigrant wagon and elsewhere killed one man.  They are very troublesome. During the night we had a hard storm, but on Saturday morning it was clear, and we set out in good spirits – roads bad, made about fifteen miles and came to a new grave made yesterday. On a board at the head was this inscription: ‘W.D. Vance, a telegraph operator killed by the Indians.”

But we all think it was white Indians who did the murderous work. We have yet to see an Indian.

Our company is increasing.  To-day we recruited seven men and six wagons.  A freight train is camped by us.  They are bound for Oregon and will travel with us.

Sunday [June 9] struck out and made a big drive.  While stopping for dinner saw a lot of men on the sand hills, and such rushing for the stock you never saw as we then made.  The women were scared greatly.  I and five other men mounted and went to see who they were and what they were after.  They were about three miles distant.   At a half mile off, we concluded they were Indians, and returned to camp.  I offered to bet my outfit against one dollar they were not Indians but the others laughed at me.  We made ready and set out on our journey – proceeded about a mile when the captain came dashing up calling out:

‘Indians coming! Corral your teams!’[v]

I was at the head of the column, and on looking around found the teams in considerable of an uproar, but we were soon in position and in very good order.  Then followed the fixing up of feather beds, blankets, etc.. at the sides of the wagons for the protection of the women and children.  We looked for the redskins, and saw two companies of cavalry and some wagons going in the opposite direction from us.  I told the boys they were soldiers in search of redskins, but all hooted at the idea.  Soon 18 wagons came in sight and one of my men said it was Indians with white blankets on; my wife said that was a good sign, as they showed the color of peace.  Soon, however, we learned that it was Gen. Custar’s[vi] command coming over from the Smoky Hill route[vii] on his way to meet Sherman[viii].

After the excitement was over we proceeded, and soon came upon another fresh grave, with a wagon standing nearby, and learned from some traders that there had been two men in the wagon, one was left dead, the other and the team was missing, and could not be found.  Now I think there was foul play.  If the white rascals could be ‘cleaned out,’ there would be no trouble with the Indians.

The rains have made the roads bad, and we do not make the best time.  We camped 25 miles from Cottonwood. –

We are said to be now in the worst part of the country, but I do not anticipate any trouble with Indians.

Monday 10th.  Weather fair and cool; made a good day’s drive and camped one mile east of Fort Cottonwood.

This ends the narrative for the present, but we have the promise of all that will be interesting of the journey.  All were doing well, and in good health and spirits

1  America City in Jackson County, Kansas.

[ii] Possibly a road ranch, a station set up along the trail to offer supplies to travelers, like water, food, animal feed.

[iii]  Possibly a road ranch, a station set up along the trail to offer supplies to travelers, like water, food, animal feed.

[iv]  “White Indians” is a term J.B. Hazen used more than once in his trail journal. I hope someone with knowledge of its meaning will enlighten us. One guess would be it referred to white people committing crimes along the trail hoping to create the appearance that the perpetrators were Native American Indians.

[v] Teams were the animals pulling the wagons.

[vi] Reference to Gen. George Armstrong Custer, most likely. Custer was indeed on the Plains at this time and did meet Gen. William T. Sherman in Nebraska. But it is not confirmed that this is what J.B. Hazen’s group saw. Read more from the Kansas State Historical Society at https://www.kshs.org/p/the-west-breaks-in-general-custer/13206.

[vii] The Smoky Hill Trail ran from Atchison, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado. More information is available on the Smoky Hill Trail Association’s website at https://smokyhilltrail.com/

[viii] Reference to Gen. William T. Sherman, most likely. Still, it is not clear that J.B. Hazen and co. saw Custer travelling to meet Sherman. More information is offered by the Kansas State Historical Society at: https://www.kshs.org/p/kansas-historical-quarterly-defense-of-the-kansas-frontier-1866-1867/12554