Diary and Journal of a Trip from Denver, C.T. [Colorado Territory] To the United States, 1861By John Forsyth
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Copied from the original by Anna Stowell Bassett (circa 1934)
Microsoft word version: by Edward Swenson and Dana Rokosny: July 2003
The original spelling and capitalization have been retained. Occasionally the original punctuation has been changed in order to avoid confusion. Comments by the editor are indicated in square brackets.
Tuesday, July 23d
1 A.M. Left Denver & walked 5 mi. down the [?]. The day very hot and sky cloudy, misting and indicating [rain] toward evening. Passed [?] all day weather hot and mosquitoes bad. About 8 P.M. went to a shanty or cabin near by and obtained a supper of beef-steak, biscuit & hot coffee. Two boys lived in the cabin-- clean and hospitable. Price 25 cents in gold dust for supper. After supper took a smoke, had a short chat and went on about a quarter of a mile and slept till near morning in the tall grass, not far from the river. About 1 a.m. of 24th awoke and thought of travelling toward the cut-off but concluded finally to go back to the Platte and stop till night again- went to sleep again at 2 A.M. and slept till 7 A.M.
Wednesday, July 24:
9 1/2 A.M. in the tall grass under a bunch of cottonwoods on the bank of the Platte about 5 mi. from Denver, C[olorado]. T[erritory]. Spent morning in reading old letters from home and in contemplation.
One year ago to-day took part in a Mormon Anniversary Celebration at Mount Pleasant, San-Jute Co. Utah. Was Secretary and Reporter of the proceedings of the day, also, member of the special choir, enjoyed myself very well. Spent a few hours at the home of Mr. I. Clements in company with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Farnsworth, Mr. and Mrs. Coates, Mr. And Mrs. Strickland, Mr. and Mrs. Sidwell, Miss Strickland and Mr. Clements and family--time spent in singing songs and drinking Danish beer. Heard good speaking from Mr. D. McArthur and others during the morning and in the P.M. had a fine dance under an arbour. Commenced dancing in the evening under arbour but had to adjourn on account of rain. What events a year will bring forth- truly it has been said that there is no telling what a day may bring forth or even an hour may bring to pass. In the brief space of one year I have been a surveyor & school-teacher in Utah, a Driver of a Bull-team across the plain from Provo City to Denver, next a loafer about town for a few days, then a bar tender in a hotel, and Co. Proprietor in an Intelligence and Stock exchange office. Next opened a small dry-goods store on commission stocks. About the 15 January was engaged in guarding prisoners for the City of Denver. Next Dept. City Marshall in which office continued to about 10th April 1861. Then a loafer for a short time again. Then an employee in the City Clerk’s office and next, and my last occupation in Denver to this time, a Clerk in Judge Sherman’s court. Through all these vicissitudes have struggled along with perhaps small benefit pecuniarily-- but flattering myself that I have acquired a knowledge of men, of manners, of ways, and means and of Country and location that may in future life result in much benefit.
1 P.M. have been resting all day under a bunch of willows and small cottonwoods. Weather hot- mosquitoes and ants very troublesome and here I am anxiously awaiting the approach of night with its welcome coolness.
3 P.M. A slight shower of rain with indications of more coming- air cool and delicious since the shower.
4 P.M. Rain passed away, sky clear and cool and delicious but mosquitoes thick as hail and awful voracious.
7 P.M. Sun set behind a cloud. Sky murky, distant thunder and indications of rain during the night. Mosquitoes still as bad as ever. Packing up my duds and will start soon in quest of something in the edible line have eaten nothing since 8 P.M. last night and as the Indian would say “Shet-cup ashantu - ninna tu witch tiginara- Parowa ninna mi” etc.
8 P.M. left my lair in the grass and at once proceeded to visit my friends in the cabin. Partook of a hearty supper of boiled beef, bread and hot coffee. Lit my pipe, shouldered my duds and struck for the cut-off [road]. For my supper I paid 25 cents in gold-dust. After leaving cabin set out in a southern direction for the Cut-off, traveled about one hour, then spread my bed in the grass and at 10 P.M. lay down to repose for the third consecutive night on the prairie.
Slept sound till one o’clock A.M. of 25th when I was awakened by a storm of wind, went to sleep again and slept soundly till 3 A.M. of Thursday, July 25th. Arose, shaved and packed my blankets and started for the Cut-off. Traveled along slowly till just about Sun up when I came across two skunks, the largest I ever saw. They were walking in the weeds, and, at first I took them to be wolves, but on coming nearer saw they were skunks with their tails cocked up over their backs, strutting around with all the dignity of a turkey cock. My first impulse was to shoot one of them but on sober thought wisely (perhaps) concluded that not always “to the Victors belong the Spoils.” Next saw a large hare or Jack Rabbit who very prudently kept out of range of my revolver. Traveled on slowly and at 7 A.M. came in sight of the Cut-off Road near Nine-Mile Creek. Saw the coach of the C. O.C. pass at about 7. Stopped in the tall grass in a slough to rest.
Suffered all forenoon for want of water and about 8 A.M. came to a small pool of fetid water near the road. Was so thirsty that I was obliged to drink a quantity of it. Traveled till 11 A.M. and came to a well near the road side. There being no bucket was obliged to climb down the well and use my hat for a dipper. I never had a drink of water in my life that tasted so well. Saw a large wolf in my travels this morning- also found a small quantity of wild currants. About 11 1/2 A.M. was taken with a severe diarrhea.
11 1/2 A.M. under some cottonwoods near the roadside resting myself as well as I can under the circumstances.
Rested till 2 P.M. when I concluded to travel on as the air was cool and there was [sic] strong indications of rain.
2 1/2 P.M. commenced raining lightly and continued to 3 1/4 P.M. traveled till 4 1/4 P.M. and stopped to rest in a bunch of willows near the road.
While resting there Mr.[Isaac Newton] Bassett [1825-1920] and team came along. [I] got in. Drove to Box Elder Station, stopped, baited our team and took supper, and about 5 1/2 o'clock came on a very heavy rain storm. Traveled till 8 o'clock and stopped for the night on Kiowa Creek, 30 miles from Denver. Coach passed at 7 1/2 P.M. Went to bed at 9 P.M. and slept till 4 A.M. of Friday July 26. Passed a herd of antelope Thursday evening.
Arose at 4 A.M. harnessed team and started at 4 1/2 A.M. Traveled 5 mi. to Bijou Creek and breakfasted. Sky clear and weather warm. Several emigrant teams for the mountains passed us this morning. Started again at 7 3/4 o'clock and traveled till 1/2 past 12. Stopped for dinner at a mail station, having traveled 15 mi. since breakfast. Passed several teams bound in the direction of Denver, also a large ox train bound for the states. Saw a fine antelope this morning. Cool and fine for traveling. 3 P.M. Started again and traveled to crossing of Bijou Creek- distance from Denver 70 miles. Passed one ox train bound for the states and camped with two 2-horse teams all on their way to "America." (Saw a large antelope herd this P.M.) Several men with their teams, and all appeared glad that they were on their way home. Went to bed (blanket on the ground) at 9 P.M. and slept till 3 A.M. of Saturday July 27.
Arose, fed team, breakfasted and at 5 o'clock started on our journey. Traveled until 10 A.M. when we arrived at the junction of the Platte and Cut-off roads. Stopped to "noon" near the mail station and near a singular looking dilapidated old mud building over the door of which appeared the following sign.
(sign not included)
After turning out our teams, went back to the "Ranche" to learn if possible what the etc. meant.
On inquiry found it was a very inferior article of "Rot gut" whisky which the "Ranche" keeper was quite willing to dispose of at 25 cents per dose.
The road so far, with a few exceptions (Sand hills) has been very good, but grass, wood and water have been Scarce.
Started at 3 P.M. and traveled down the Platte till 6 1/4 when we turned out for the night near a mail station, having made 20 miles this P.M. Fed and turned horses to grass, took Supper of bread and milk and went to bed at 9 P.M. During the night the up and down coaches passed.
Sunday July 28
Arose at 5 P.M. and turned horses out to grass and cooked breakfast and just as we commenced eating our horses stampeded and we had to run them about 2 miles in the direction of the Bluffs before we caught them.
7 A.M. Started on our way and about 9 A.M. passed 3 graves near thee road side. One contained the remains of a man killed by lightening July 9, 1860. - Traveled till 11 1/2 A.M. when we stopped on the bank of the Platte to "noon.” Weather at 12 noon moderately warm and sky clear. Gathered some small brush on an island for fuel. Ate dinner and at 2 P.M. started.
Traveled till 6 1/4 P.M. and stopped for the night near the Platte. An ox team camped near us bound in the direction of Denver C.T. Sky obscured by clouds and indications of rain. Whilst watching our horses feed, played several games of "Old Sledge" on a buffalo skull and after night spent some time in singing. Retired at 9 P.M. Mosquitoes very bad and voracious.
Monday July 29.
Arose at 5 A.M. At 6 1/4 started, traveled till 11 1/2 A.M. and arrived at "Lillian Springs." Distance from Denver 175 miles. Stopped to noon at the springs which were so named in honor of the first white young lady who ever crossed the plains and she is said to be the first one who discovered these "springs." At the Ranche found a man named Lewis who engaged in a Shooting affair with One D. M. Hearn in Denver last winter. Was well entertained by him. At 2 P.M. started and traveled down the Platte till 5 P.M., when we stopped for supper, waded the Platte and cut some small brush for fuel. While preparing supper, our horses took a stampede and ran down the river about a mile when luckily they met the express coach the "Messenger" which kindly stopped our horses and brought them back to us. Cooked and ate supper and prepared to start on again. This P.M. Saw a very large wolf (Mountain Gray Species) also an antelope and 2 fawns. Day has been hot.
Started again at 7 1/2 P.M. and traveled till 9 1/2 P.M. and stopped for the night. Slept in wagon to avoid mosquitoes.
Tuesday July 30, 1861
Arose at 3 1/2, harnessed team and traveled about 10 mi. and stopped at 7 A.M. and breakfasted. Had to cross river again and pick brush for fuel. River at this point about 1/2 mile wide but very shallow and bottom of quicksand. Weather this A.M. cool for the season but flies bad.
Started at 9 1/2 A.M. and at 11 1/2 A.M. arrived at Overland City (Julesburg) where we stopped to noon. Distance from Denver 201 miles--water and grass plenty but no wood of any kind.
Passed several Trains to-day bound in the direction of the mountains and a number of teams homeward bound.
At 3 P.M. Started again and traveled till 6 P.M. When we stopped for supper- to-day traded an old vest to an Indian for a “Lariat.”
After supper concluded to stop all night.
Wednesday July 31, 1861
Arose at 3 1/2 A.M. and at 4 started and traveled till 7 A.M. where we stopped for breakfast at the lower crossing. Started again at 9 A.M. traveled till 1 P.M. and stopped for dinner. At 3 1/2 P.M. started again and traveled till 7 P.M. when we stopped at “Union” Ranche for supper. Just before supper shot a beautiful bird apparently of the crane species-- as white as a swan. After supper traveled a few miles and stopped for the night. A few hours after stopping mosquitoes were so thick and so voracious as to be almost unendurable.
Started again at 3 A.M. of Thursday Aug 1 and traveled till 6 A.M. and stopped within about one mile of the Post Office at O’Fallons’s Bluffs and breakfasted, and started again at 9 A.M. and at 12 noon arrived at Fremont’s Springs where we stopped to noon. This A.M. passed an Indian scaffold “grave” the posts of the scaffolds were about 12 ft. in height and on the top of these cross poles were laid, on which lay the corpse of the Indian wrapped and embalmed with all the care formerly given to Egyptian mummies but with a small degree of the success which attended Ancient embalmments as there was a very perceptible effluvia emanating from the region of the corpse or “thereabouts”. Started again at 3 P.M. and traveled till 6 P.M. passing the corner of Fremont’s Slough and leaving the Bluffs behind us. At 6 P.M. stopped, baited our team, took lunch and at 7 P.M. started and traveled about 2 miles and camped for the night. To-day passed a number of Indian lodges. No mosquitoes to-night for a wonder. Sky clear and weather moderately cool for the season.
Friday Aug. 2, 1861
Arose at 4 A.M. and traveled till 6 A.M. and stopped at Jack Marrow’s Ranche for breakfast. At this place are 3 Indian scaffold graves. This A.M. weather cool and sky clear. Started again at 8 o’clock and at 11 A.M. arrived at Cottonwood Springs and stopped to noon. Passed this A.M. three graves on a mound near the Road-side. One was of a man who was shot accidentally in March 1861. Back of the Ranche near which we are stopping is a small field of corn growing which looks fine. Weather 12 M moderately hot and sky clear, no flies or mosquitoes for a wonder. Two coaches of the C. O.C. + P.P. Elx. [?] Co. bound westward passed us while camped. Saw this A.M. a flock of very large buzzards or vultures. Dawn coach of C.O. C. passed while camped. Started again at 2 P.M. and traveled till 5 P.M. and camped near the road for supper. This P.M. passed 45 teams bound East + West, majority West. Some loaded with Telegraph wire and a few with Mormon immigrants. Sky this P.M. clear and weather cool--a fine well of water where we stopped. An Austrian, late a soldier in the U.S. Army, who could speak but little English, was building a Ranche here. Started again at 6 P.M. and passing “Brady’s Island” and confluence of Platte North and South traveled about 5 mi. passing Gilman’s Station and halting for the night on the Prairie near the road.
Saturday Aug. 3.
Arose at daybreak, harnessed team and traveled about 6 mi. and stopped for breakfast near some fine springs about 1/4 mi. from the road. Country a level prairie with fine groves of cottonwoods lining the banks of the Platte. Several ox and mule teams bound for Oskaloosa, Iowa were camped at the Springs this A.M. Weather fine and sky clear. Started at 8 A.M. Stopped to noon on bank of Platte River. This A.M. passed nearly 100 ox teams bound for G[reat].S[alt]. Lake. Weather this A.M. fine till about 10 o’clock when it commenced blowing a strong breeze from the south and weather hot- a very disagreeable day for travelling. At 3 P.M. started again and traveled till 6.- got along finely with the exception of a tire coming off. At 6 P.M. stopped on Bank of Platte for supper. Mosquitoes very bad. Sun set behind a dark cloud this evening with indication of rain. About 7 P.M. started again and traveled in the direction of the Bluffs about 2 mi. and stopped for the night.
Turned in at 9 P.M. and about 1 A.M. of Sunday Aug 4, 1861 was awakened by a sound of horses running and on getting up found that our horses had stampeded. Concluding from the sound that they had taken the road to Kearney. Started immediately in that direction in pursuit of them, after going down the Platte 16 mi. on a dog trot concluded, as I could hear nothing of them, that they must have taken the other direction. Started back to camp and traveled till about sunrise when I stopped to talk with some boys who were freighting to the mountains- was invited to take breakfast with them and as I had walked then some 20 miles since eating any thing- and having my appetite sharpened by a “horn” of whiskey which was presented me by a Frenchman I concluded that I did ample justice to a breakfast of hot biscuit, coffee and molasses. After my repast resumed my way to camp and at about 9 A.M. met the company travelling down the Platte- having shortly after daybreak discovered the horses quietly grazing in the bluffs about 2 or 3 miles from camp. In my excursion this morning came across a large skunk which I shot twice with my revolver before killing it. After meeting the team traveled about 8 miles down the Platte and stopped to rest ourselves and bait our team. Intended to stop till about Sundown and then travel awhile in the night time. This is a beautiful region of country. Just before us winding its way eastward in a Serpentine course, through a dense bed of sand, rolls the waters of the Platte, or Nebraska R. while far away to the North of the River extends a magnificent plain or prairie. The Platte dotted in all directions with small Islands covered with a growth of fine cottonwoods, while back of us and to the South a thin belt of prairie extends to where the bluffs rise in all their variety of hill and ravine with the monotony of their appearance broken here and there by a solitary cedar. And what adds more than all the rest to the interest of the scene, the forerunners of civilization are occasional Ranches on either side of the Platte. The indispensable log cabin, usually double with a corral close by for the Security of Stock and usually a small patch of vegetables near by. The growth of which on account of the extreme drought of this country presented a meager appearance when compared with the vegetables in the states. Started again at about 7 P.M. and traveled about 8 mi. and stopped for the night on the prairie near the road. Slept with the horses to-night. Mosquitoes very bad.
Monday August 5, 1861
Arose at day-break and traveled about 8 miles and stopped to breakfast on Banks of Platte. Some brush for fuel and a spring of tolerable good water. Distance from Ft. Kearney about 12 miles west. Weather this A.M. warm (hot) and sky cloudy. Platte R. at this place about 1 mile wide and thickly set with sandbars. Started again at 9 A.M. and traveled till 12 1/4 P.M., then we stopped at noon near Kearney City, about 2 miles west of the fort of the same name. Kearney City contains over 100 inhabitants, 5 “stores” where a general assortment of Mdse. is kept for sale. 1 or 2 good dwellings, a number of mud or adobe huts or hovels, 2 express and Stage Offices- U.S. Marshal’s office for Territory of Nebraska, etc. Is situated in a somewhat romantic spot on the Prairie about 2 miles west of Ft. Kearney. After dinner, passed Ft. Kearney at which post are Stationed about 200 U.S. Soldiers, a small battery etc. The Fort presents more the appearance of a small rural village than a military post and to an army of soldiers armed and equipped according to usage would present, but a shadow of resistance. At the fort saw for the first time since leaving Denver a U.S. banner flying. The sight under the circumstances was imposing as well as gratifying. After passing the fort traveled till about 9 P.M. and stopped on the prairie about 15 mi. from Kearney and 2 mi. from the Platte for the night. Pleasant but towards daybreak the mosquitoes were very bad.
Tuesday Aug. 6,1861
Arose at 3 A.M. harnessed team and traveled about 15 miles and stopped to breakfast on the banks of the Platte (Wood River). Rested about 4 hours and then proceeded about 15 miles down the Platte and stopped for supper. Have been traveling today over a magnificent prairie bounded on the south side by bluffs and on the north by the Platte R. skirted by magnificent groves of cottonwoods (Pawnee). Weather warm and Sky obscured by clouds which makes it rather comfortable traveling. Prairie crowned with a thick growth of Prairie grass interspersed with flowers. Have passed to-day but two ranches and a team. At the last Ranche near where we suppered was a fine field of corn growing. Saw a fine antelope this P.M.
Started again at 7 P.M. and traveled about nine or ten miles and camped n the prairie for the night.
Wednesday Aug. 7, 1861
Arose at 4 A.M. and traveled about 5 miles when we struck a “Camp” road leading to the river. While eating breakfast one of our horses slipt away from us and after riding for about 2 hours in various directions found him quietly feeding on an island about 3 or 4 hundred yards from camp. Just opposite to where we are camped is an island about 2 miles in length covered with a luxuriant growth of Elm, Cottonwood, Box elder and Hackberry, the whole thickly interspersed with a growth of underbrush. The Prairie here is narrow between the bluffs but the upland prairie extends as far as the eye can reach. Passed this A.M. a fine field of corn and on the island is a fine potato patch. Weather this A.M. cool and sky cloudy. A few drops of rain-- started again at 11 A.M. and at 3 P.M. stopped at the Ranche near the Platte and 140 miles west of Plattsmouth City. Weather fine, cool and a nice breeze blowing and withal a fine day for traveling. At the Ranche was a fine field of corn. Started again at 5 P.M. and traveled till about 9 P.M. and stopped near the Platte for the night. Night cool and pleasant.
Thursday Aug. 8 1861
Arose at day break and traveled about 6 miles to a small creek and stopped at a Ranche for breakfast at the Ranche. They are trying to raise corn and vegetables, but owing to the drought they present a rather famished appearance. Have been traveling since 1 P.M. yesterday over very broken country. Along the Platte are large quantities of timber, mostly Elm and Cottonwood. Sky cloudy and a thick fog flying this A.M. and weather very cool. At 8 A.M. commenced raining and rained till about 9 A.M. slowly. -And at 12 M. was dry again but sky obscured by clouds and weather cool and fine for traveling. Traveled this A.M. about 20 mi. over a somewhat broken country. Grass fine but dry. Bought a small melon this A.M. for 10 cts. Are now traveling almost parallel with and about 2 miles from Platte R.
Started again at 3 P.M. and traveled till about sun down over a very broken and sandy country very heavy and bad for traveling. About sundown our horses became so much fatigued that we were obliged to stop on the open prairie away from wood and water for the night. Walked about 1 1/2 miles and waded the river and picked some brush for fuel. About 9 P.M. came on a heavy shower of rain and rained most of the night. During the night mosquitoes very bad.
Friday Aug. 9 1861:
Arose shortly after day break and drove about 3 miles and stopped for breakfast on Clear Cr. (Silver Creek) a fine stream of clear pure water about 100 mi. west of Plattsmouth on the Missouri River. Just as we were at breakfast a heavy thunder shower came on and lasted near an hour after which it subsided to a gentle but constant rain. At this creek is a fine field of corn growing and a crop of oats has just been harvested. Potatoes and vegetables also look fine. Rain ceased about 9 A.M. an at 10 A.M. started and traveled about 6 mi. and stopped at a Ranche to noon. Weather cool, sky obscured by clouds and roads very heavy and somewhat slippery.
Started again at about 3 P.M. and 5 1/2 P.M. stopped at McCabe’s Ranche for the night, having traveled this P.M. about 7 miles, over a fine prairie. This Ranche is situated at the foot of the Bluffs about 7 miles from the River. In sight down the river is Shim’s Ferry. McKabe has raised a fine oat crop and has now prospect for a fine yield of corn from a field of some 40 acres. Appearance of more rain coming to-night. Night damp with a very heavy dew and the mosquitoes very troublesome. Slept till shortly after day break of Aug. 10th 1861. Was shown the bones of a man’s foot out of a well in process of excavation at the depth of 16 ft. from the surface. They were imbedded in a hard blue clay, also some Musele, Snail and Periwinkle shells that were taken from a little below by Mr. McKabe.
Saturday August 10, 1861
Arose shortly after day-break, breakfasted and started. Road this A.M. heavy. Grass very wet with dew. Sky cloudy. Thunder in the distant west and strong appearance of rain. A short time after starting commenced raining slowly but steadily and continued to about 10 A.M. when it slacked up and cleared off partially but warm and threatened more rain. Stopped at about 1 P.M. for dinner on the prairie and went down a slough to the South in search of water. After traveling about 2 miles, found some standing water. A game trail led in different directions to this trail. Saw fresh signs of deer or antelope. Started again at 2 P.M. and at about 8 P.M. arrived at Wahoo Cr. having traveled 30 miles today over a hilly country with very muddy roads and through a light rain ever since 4 P.M. Stopped at 8 P.M. with the intention of remaining in camp throughout the whole of tomorrow (Sunday)
Went to bed without supper. Throughout the entire night continues to pour down rain in torrents.
Sunday Aug. 11, 1861.
Arose about sunrise, prepared breakfast and afterward went out on the banks of the Wahoo and picked some wild grapes and plums. Along the banks of this Small Stream are an abundant growth of Plum, Hazel, currant and gooseberry brush and Ash, Elm and Oak timber etc. A good camping place at this point were camped three boys with teams headed for the mountains. One from Alba, Iowa named Emory and one from Warren Co. Ill. named Hannce. Spent the day and evening in playing cards, singing, etc. Day cloudy and air damp in the P.M. Some rain. Had a good time to-day and enjoyed our short respite from travel hugely. At the crossing is Ben Hill’s Ranche. Monday Aug. 12, 1861. Arose at sun up + breakfasted and at about 7 A.M. started. Cloudy this A.M.- air damp roads very wet, slippery and heavy and consequently the traveling bad. 9 A.M. Sky still obscured by clouds and roads very heavy in traveling ahead of the team. This A.M. saw numbers of prairie hens but they were so very wild that we could not get a shot at them. Took in this A.M. a South Carolinian who was flat broke, out of grub, money, spirits and very much disheartened. He was very anxious to ride with us to the river but we told him we could accommodate him no farther that Salt Creek, the next Ranche on the East. Mr. Carolinian kept very quiet (lucky for him) on the Secesh [sic] question. Stopped at 2 P.M. for dinner at a fine spring near the road side. Distance from Salt Creek East 15 miles.
Started again a 3 1/2 P.M. and at about 4 P.M. passed a large boulder or rock of Red granite about 15 ft. in diameter and about 6 feet in height. Weather this P.M. cool and sky almost clear-- a good prospect of fair weather ahead. Road much better than it was this A.M. At sunset sky clear but air foggy and roads heavy. Traveled till about 9 P.M. and failing to find wood or water for camping purposes, was obliged to stop on the Prairie for the night. Made a Supper of dry bread and went to bed. Air very foggy.
Tuesday Aug. 13, 1861
Arose just before sun up, and after hitching up traveled on about 7 miles and arrived at Salt Creek and stopped to breakfast. This A.M. weather cool. At the creek is a small settlement. Crops look fine, grass plenty and the skirts of the creek lined with maple elm, cottonwood and ash. A prospect of a very hot day. Traveled till 2 P.M. passing one Farm and over a fine rolling prairie but found no wood or water. A splendid country but the conditions of our team, they being so very thin and weak as to be almost unable to walk, destroyed all the romance of the scenery.
After resting our team about 2 hours traveled on till about sundown when we saw a number of farms to the right and left of the road but no sign of any at a convenient distance from the road to be of benefit to us for camping. At sunset stopped on the open Prairie, turned out team when I started on in advance in guest of some sign of civilization. After traveling about 5 miles came to a farm house and learned that it was then with in ten miles of Plattsmouth. After obtaining two small biscuits (all the bread the lady of the house had on hand) I started back to camp, found the company all asleep except Bassett. Went to bed about 10 P.M. Saw this P.M. the Smoke from a steamer on the Missouri R.
Wednesday Aug. 14, 1861
Arose at sun up and traveled 5 miles to the farm house and at about 7 A.M. stopped for breakfast. Weather this A.M. cool and fine for traveling. A fine farming country all around us. Several fine farms and crops looking well. On this farm wheat harvest is about over and Some is in Rick-Corn, oats and sorghum look well. Started again at 9 A.M. and at 1 P.M. Stopped at “Noon” on Four Mile Creek, having this A.M. in the course of our travels passed several fine farms. Corn looking finely, wheat mostly in Ricks. Near the bank of the creek found a grove of wild plum brush. Started again at 3 P.M. and about 5 1/2 P.M. arrived at Plattsmouth. After stopping a few minutes to trade and lay in a supply of grub, drove to the lower ferry intending to cross over into Iowa this evening, but arriving there rather late, about Sundown, and the Boat lying on the Other side was obliged to camp on the River bank for the night. Plattsmouth is a small village near the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers, - containing about 4 or 5 hundred inhabitants. Several business houses-- but presents a very deserted appearance on account of the stagnation of business. The buildings all look old and dilapidated and the streets almost deserted. Traveled this P.M. through a fine grove of timber--walnut, Oak, Maple, Basswood and Hickory and every thing presents an air of civilization that is very gratifying to a person just off the plains. Weather cool but sky threatening. Our camp ground is bordered by a fine grove of timber. Retired at 9 P.M.- during the night had a Shower.
Thursday Aug. 15, 1861
Arose just after daybreak and prepared breakfast. While waiting for the ferry, the steamer West Wind, upward bound, passed. Weather this A.M. warm with signs of rain. A very fine growth of timber near our camp.
The Missouri R. is low and but few boats running the upriver trade. The West Wind is the first one in 15 days, so we are told. There are at this point two steam ferries and very little travel--consequently great competition. The ferrymen on the lower boat about 1 1/2 miles from town bargained to carry us over for 25 cts. At 5 minutes to 8 A.M. we got on board the Ferry and with emotions akin to transport, bid adieu to the shores of Nebraska over whose plains and hills we had for so may days pushed our toilsome and monotonous journey confident in the belief that we were just emerging from the “valley of the Shadow of Death” and about entering the “happy land of Canaan. ” In a few minutes we were safely landed on the Iowa shore at the village of Bethlehem (not in Judea) and pursued our journey eastward. In the course of a few miles travel through a fine grove of timber passing Pacific City on our left, about 2 miles. Pacific City is a small village on the extension of the [?] and St. Jo R.R., the grade of which we crossed just opposite to the city. At about 11 A.M. arrived at Glenwood, the Co. Seat of Mills Co., a thriving village of about 6 or 7 hundred inhabitants consisting of Several fine Public and private buildings. Traveled about 2 miles East on the Ottumwa road and camped near the roadside to noon. While in Glenwood feeling anxious to obtain the news local and general, inquired of a very respectable looking gentleman for a printing office. Was shown a sign “Printing Office” over the door of a dilapidated frame building and walked up the stairs. But on entering the door was surprised to find the only occupant of the room to be a very rubicund looking personage with a nose bloom of brandy or “Kindred Spirits” and the “fixins” of the room in keeping with the occupant. Concluded that either the people of Glenwood were not a reading community, or otherwise that the “editor was abroad.” Met this A.M. a “Union” man at the ferry who had in company with a number of others been compelled to leave his home and property in the state of Missouri on account of his sentiment and flee to Iowa for Safety. Started again at 2 1/3 P.M. stopped by a fine grove of timber on Silver Creek for the night. This P.M. passed the village of Clinton, one of the many ephemeral Western towns. Country Splendid- good farms, timber, grass, and water plenty & good. Crops fine, weather rather warm but roads splendid. Distance from Plattsmouth 2 miles.
Friday, Aug. 16, 1861
Arose at dawn of day prepared breakfast. This is a fine section of country. Land rich, crops fine, an abundant growth of timber, ash, hickory, oak, maple, elm, hackberry interlined with a luxurious growth of hazel, Plum and Crabapple Brush. Some few wild cherry trees. 2 teams camped near us last night and yesterday P.M. a team of wagons passed us returning from carrying “Volunteers” to the River- weather this A.M. very fine-cool.
Started at 7 A.M. and at about 8 A.M. passed the village of White Cloud (a very small cloud) a small village near the west fork of Nishebotony R. (Nishabatna). Crossed the same branch and at noon camped on Walnut Creek. Water and wood plenty but grass light. Started again at 2 P.M. and about 4 P.M. passed the main branch of the Nishebontony R. Passed through Red Oak Station- a small prairie village at just about sundown. Camped on the Prairie near Frankfort, Co. Seat of Montgomery Co. Have traveled to-day over a fine Prairie Country about 1/10 settled timber on the water courses, plenty and of good quality, particularly on the main branch of Nishebotony- weather to-day fine for travelling, wood scarce but grass plenty.
Saturday, Aug. 17, 1861
Arose at day break and prepared breakfast and started passing through Frankfurt, Co. Seat of Montgomery Co., a small village of some 150 inhabitants. From the dome of the court-house the national flag was flying. This town presents a very deserted appearance- streets vacant- houses tenantless, etc. etc. After leaving Frankfurt met with no incident worthy of note till about 11 A.M. when we arrived at and crossed Noddaway R. (Nodaway) and about 12 M. camped for noon about 2 mi. east of the river on the Prairie. This is a very fine Farming Country but sparsely settled. Started again at 2 P.M. Weather warm. Passed this P.M. several fine farms. One in particular on which I noticed a remarkable fine field of corn and a few acres of excellent timothy hay. Crossed this P.M. two branches of the Noddaway R. passed through Quincy, Co. Seat of Adams Co. and at about 7 P.M. camped on a small branch of the “Noddoway” in a fine grove of timber about 1 mile east of town intending to remain in camp throughout the whole of to-morrow (Sunday). Quincy is a fine looking village of 5 or 6 hundred inhabitants and a very strong indication of thrift, taste, etc. A No. 1 School-house. Quincy is situated in the midst of a thickly settled (for the western country) Farming Region. Farms are well arranged, stocked etc. and every thing presents an air of thrift and Enterprise that augurs well for the prosperity and success of the community at large. Stopped prepared supper and about 9 P.M. retired.
A camp meeting is in progress about 2 miles below us in the grove. After retiring could hear the music and speaking plainly. From the top of a large tree in the vincity of the camp ground a fine National banner is flying and just below and circling an area of several square yards was a sort of an octagon enclosure of planks and cloth tents, the area of which directly in front of the stand.
Sunday Aug. 18, 1861
Arose at sunup and prepared breakfast- stopped in camp all day in charge of team and wagon while Mr. Bassett attended camp meeting. At 4 P.M. prepared. Day fine but toward evening cloudy with indications of rain. We have now traveled 23 days and rested 2, are about 680 mi. from Denver and about 220 from home. At 7 P. M. Started for the camp ground to attend “Meeting.” On arriving near the ground paused to listen and admire from the centre of a magnificent oak grove numbers of candles and bonfires shot forth silver rays to illume the darkness and above the rustling of wind in the forest the murmur of the rippling brook and the lowing of the cattle heard in the distance rose the accents of praise to God rendered in a familiar style and their beauty enhanced their melody mellowed and the beauty of the whole scene heightened by distance. While as if Nature was striving to add interest to the scene from the boughs of the trees on the banks of the stream was heard the plaintive notes of a whippoorwill and far above a rapacious night hawk varied the exercises by a shrill scream. As we arrived in the ground the exercises had just commenced. A rather impressive looking man officiated, as minister. The sermon however was better than the appearance of the man. After the sermon several earnest exhortations were given in good style and by ten o’clock the excitement surged pretty high. A number of applicants or seekers presented themselves before the anxious seat when the exercises were varied by singing and prayer until a late hr. and we left the scene with the excitement and interest still at its height
. Monday Aug. 19, 1861
Arose, prepared breakfast and at 6 1/4 0’clock A.M. started. A heavy fog this A.M. traveled on crossed a branch of the “Noddoway”, passed through Queen City and Icarian- the former a small village, the latter a colony of carious or French infidels. At 11 A.M. stopped to noon on a small creek. Weather cool. Country fine but sparsely settled. Land can be had for L.A. price $1.25 per acre. Started again at 1 P.M. and at about 5 P.M. camped on a branch of Little Platte for supper. After supper drove till 9 P.M. and camped on the prairie 7 mi. W. of Afton. Co. Seat of Union Co.
Tuesday, Aug. 20, 1861
Arose- prepared breakfast and at 7 A.M. started. Traveled on and about 9 A.M. passed through the City of Afton. Afton is the largest town we have passed through in W. Iowa, but presents rather a dull appearance as far as business is concerned. At 12 M. stopped “Riviere le Grande” (Grande River) to noon. Heavy timber, fine prairie, numbers of fine watercourses are the characteristics of this country. Started again at 2 P.M. and at 5 P.M. stopped on the prairie for supper. After supper went within 8 miles of Asceola and camped for the night.
Wednesday, Aug. 21 1861
Arose at sunrise and prepared breakfast and started. Weather this A.M. cloudy, foggy and indicating rain. At 10 A.M. passed through Asceola, County seat of Clarke Co. Asceola is quite a respectable looking town numbering some 500 inhabitants. Several fine public and business houses and private dwellings and presents quite an aspect of thrift. County fine, well watered and timbered. All kinds of produce very cheap and money scarce. At 12 N. stopped to “noon” on a small creek 5 miles E. of town. Started again at 2 P.M. A light rain falling which continued through out the P.M. At 5 P.M. stopped on the Prairie by an old deserted Farmhouse for the night. This P.M. passed the village of Ottawa.
Thursday, Aug. 22, 1861
Arose at dawn of day to prepare breakfast. Clear this A.M. and cool. Started at 7 A.M. and at 9A.M. crossed the Chariton R. and about noon arrived at Chariton, Co. Seat of Lucas Co. A fine prairie town of some 3 to 500 inhabitants. Passed through town and stopped to noon about 2 1/2 miles E. on the Prairie. Started again at 2 P.M. + at 7 P.M. stopped at a farm house about two miles east of La Grange for the night. La Grange is a small village on the prairie 12 mi. from Chariton.
Friday, Aug. 23rd. 1861
Arose at dawn to prepare breakfast and at about 7 A.M. started and at 12 M. camped on Cedar Creek 5 mi. West of Eddyville to noon. Country fine, timber and water fine etc. Passed this A.M. the thriving village of Staceyville and are now camped within 4 mi. of Albia, Co. Seat of Monroe Co. Started again at 2 P.M. and at 6 P.M. camped in a small grove of timber 2 mi. W. of Eddyville for the night. Had passed this day through a fine agricultural country, thickly settled, fine farms, and moderate crops. Passed one church by the wayside and 2 fine school houses. Weather cool and fine for traveling.
Saturday, Aug. 24, 1861
Arose at dawn and prepared breakfast and at 6 1/2 A.M. started and about 8 A.M. crossed Des Moines R. by the ford and passed through Eddyville, a thriving town on the Des Moines R. --the present terminus of the K. & Ft. D. R. R. After leaving town traveled about 8 miles through a fine settlement and camped for noon near a small grove--fine farms, good crops, large hedge, etc, etc.
Started again at 1 1/2 P.M. passing Kirkville on our right + Freemont on our left. At 5 P.M. stopped at a farm house for the night and to remain over Sunday. Day warm with strong indications of rain.
Sunday, Aug. 25, 1861
Arose at sun up and breakfasted. During last night rained hard, weather clear, [?] A.M. Road wet and very unpleasant. More rain coming from appearance. 3 P.M. cloudy and warm all day--much prospect of more rain.
Monday, Aug. 26, 1861
Arose at sun up and prepared breakfast. Traded a pair of blankets for some grub and at 7 A.M. bade adieu to the Ranche of Cummins Esq. and started forward on our journey. Weather this A.M. cool and fine since the rain. At 8 A.M. Passed “Haugh’s Point,” at 9 “Martinsburg,” and at 11 A.M. “Ioka.” At 12.00 we stopped in a superb grove of young oak, hickory etc to noon. A fine country and thickly settled. Started again at 2.5 P.M. and passed in the course of the P.M. several fine farms on a number of which were fine apple orchards. The young fruit looking very fine also. Noticed a piece or two of fine Osage orange hedge which made a very good fence. At 7 P.M. stopped on [?] Creek 3 mi. W. of Brushton for the night. Day has been fine but appearance indicate rain.
Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1861
Arose at dawn and prepared breakfast. Weather cool and fine for travelling. At 7 A.M. started and traveled over a very rough and hilly country road ‘til about 8 A.M. when we arrived at Brighton, a thriving country village [with] several stores, hotels etc. Passed through Brighton and at 10 1/2 crossed “Skunk” River at Coppings Mills and at 12 M. camped near Marshall, Washington Co. to noon. Have traveled all day through a very hilly country, heavily timbered and well settled. This A.M. and yesterday P.M. have been travelling through a “Quaker” settlement. The houses, barns, outhouses & fences plain & substantial but thrifty looking. Started again at 1:20 P.M. and passed through the village of Marshall, crossed Crooked Creek and at 5 P.M. passed the small village of Crawfordsville on our left. Country heavily timbered and thickly dotted with fine farms. Weather hot and road hilly. At 5 P.M. stopped at a farm house, 18 miles west of Wapello for the night.
Wednesday, Aug. 28 ’61
Arose at dawn prepared breakfast and at 6: 30 started. Morning clear and fine and weather cool. A heavy dew last night. Just after starting I was invited to ride in a farm wagon. Whilst riding along and upon informing the man I was with that I had an uncle by name David Forsythe living somewhere in the Neighborhood of Columbus City, was informed that he lived within about two miles of where we were. I concluded to stop and see them and whilst stopping the team traveled ahead so far that I was obliged to take it on foot about 18 miles. Left D[avid]. F[orsythe]. at 10 A.M. and at 2 1/2 P.M. came to the Iowa River at Wapello City. Bought a dozen apples and a glass of “Lager beer,” to refresh myself, then started down the River. After traveling about 3 mi., and at about 4:20 P.M., overtook team. In my travels this P.M. blistered my feet severely. At 7 P.M. camped for the night in a fine grove near the Bluffs and 7 miles from the Mississippi.
Thursday Aug. 29, 1861
Arose at 4 A.M. and at 5 A.M. started. This A.M. cool and fine for traveling. At 8 1/2 o’clock came in sight of the “Father of Waters,” [the] Mississippi, opposite New Boston, Ill. A fine body of timber on the west bank of [the] Mississippi at this place. On arriving at the ferry landing, found the boat lying on the opposite side and were obliged to stop and wait its coming. After waiting (very impatiently) till 10 A.M. got on board the ferry and at 10. 3 A.M. started across the River. At 10 1/2 A.M- landed in New Boston, where we met a number of acquaintances and stopped with Mrs. Dickson for dinner. Started again at 2 1/4 P.M. and at about 6 1/4 P.M. arrived in sight of Aledo. At 7 P.M. stopped at the residence of John R[ay]. Bassett Esq. in Aledo, Mercer Co. Ill. - It is now upwards of 3 1/2 years since I have been in this city and but little improvement and no Railroad yet.
Friday, Aug. 30, 1861
Arose at sunrise and took a view of the City of Aledo--everything Natural. As this is about the end of my journey and I am so near home, I will close this with the word
We have followed the journal on a modern map and find John Forsyth's comments about distances to be remarkably accurate. We would love to hear from anyone who could tell us about how they measured distance when traveling in that time period. When time permits we will also look up old place names on Animap and list them here with location.
In May 2010 we heard from a Forsyth descendant and attempted to identify the John Forsyth who wrote this journal - we had previously been focusing on Bassett as he was more related to the subject matter on this web site.
In 1860 in Viola Township we find John Forsyth, 32, farmer, born Pa; Margaret, 30, born Pa; Margaret J, 5,Il; May E., 3, Il; William 11/12, Il. We find him again in 1870 in Green Township: John Forsyth Sr 41, born Pa; Margaret, 38, Pa; Margaret J, 14, Il; William, 11, Il; Adison, 9, Il; John, 7, Il; Sherman, 5, Il; James, 4, Il; Delilah, 1, Il. It would seem this is not the John Forsyth of the Journal as he clearly states in 1861 that he had not been in Mercer County for three and a half years so would not have been there in 1860.
In the 1882 History of Mercer County, Page 480 we find another possible candidate: "Elijah Forsyth, son of William and Eleanor Forsyth, was born August 6, 1810, in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. When he was four years of age his parents settled in Ohio. There Elijah was educated to the common schools and became a schoolmaster at the age of nineteen years, teaching twenty-two years in Ohio. He was married in Muskingum County to Ann Dawson, daughter of Thomas and Catherine Dawson, and a native of Ohio. In 1855, Mr. Forsyth emigrated overland to Mercer county, bringing his family of seven children: John, William, Elijah Jr, David, Mary, Eleanor, and Nancy J.... ." In 1860 Elijah and family are found in Sunbeam #466; Elijah Forsythe, 49, farmer, born Pa; Ann, 49, born Pa; Eleanor, 21, born Oh; William J, 18, Oh; Nancy J, 13, Oh; David, 12, Oh; Elijah, 8 Oh; Comen, 4, Il. John is missing so he likely could be the one who went to Colorado? The 1882 History says that Mr. Forsyth's son John was a member of the 102d reg Il Vol in the civil war and was promoted captain of a colored company. He served two years when he was discharged on account of sickness. We do not find him in Mercer County in 1870.
If anyone can comment on our theories above would appreciate hearing from them (email on the About Us page).
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