[California Gold Rush overland diary]. Admiral Nelson Penny.
[California Gold Rush overland diary].

[California Gold Rush overland diary].

Various locations on the trail to California, 24 April 1850 to 23 July 1850. 24mo (5.75” x 3.75”), full calf. 78 pp. of manuscript, additional blank pp.

An unpublished and unrecorded overland diary, documenting in lively and captivating detail the author’s arduous journey from St. Joseph, Missouri to California in 1850, during which he endures the challenges posed not only by the elements and topography, but also by his personal health, lending his account an even greater sense of peril than that of the average overland narrative.

Penny jumps off from St. Joseph on 24 April as a member of a party of forty or fifty wagons, traveling ten miles up the Missouri River and crossing the following day. On the 26th he and others have two wild ducks for dinner, evidently their first meal of game taken en route. He names two cooks in the party, one Mrs Myers and a Sam Bancroft.

Penny’s health is an issue throughout the journey. On the 28th the party camps on “Mosqueter Creek” and he notes that his throat is swollen and he fears he has “the quinsy.” He also makes reference to his “complaint,” a mysterious malady that will later become quite dire. By the end of the 29th they are 30 miles from St. Joseph. Having reached the Big Blue River on 2 May, Penny finds that the country is very different than he imagined it would be, with “not a tree or a shrub except on the bank of some stream and low and scrubby at that.” The party encounters heat, cold, wind, and rain early in their journey.

On the 4th, they pass some graves from a year earlier, one being that of a seventy-eight year old man from Indiana. Penny observes—as he will frequently throughout his diary—that they found no grass for the horses, whose only sustenance is “three quarts of corn a day.” Things “look blue” on the 5th, with one horse dead and two at death’s door. It is bitter cold, soldiers from Fort Laramie report no grass ahead, and 500 wagons ahead of them have the same troubles. Every day they meet people turning back. With no grass and grain running out, he despairs…”

An entirely fresh, unrecorded, and most evocative overland diary, with far more substance than appears in this truncated description.

[Full description will be provided to potential buyers upon request].

Item #6950

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