Eliza Ann McAuley


Iowa to the "Land of Gold"


Wednesday, April 7th, 1852. Bade adiew to home and started amid snow and rain for the land of gold. Our outfit consists of two light strong wagons drawn by oxen and cows, one yoke of heavy oxen for wheelers and a lighter yoke for leaders, with one or two yokes of cows between. We have two saddle horses and a drove of twenty dairy cows, a good sized tent and a sheet iron camp stove which can be set up inside, making it warm and comfortable, no matter what the weather outside.

We have a plentiful supply of provisions, including dried fruits and vegetables, also a quantity of light bread cut into slices and dried for use when it is not convenient to bake. Our stove is furnished with a reflector oven which bakes very nicely. Our clothing is light and durable. My sister and I wear short dresses and bloomers and our foot gear includes a pair of light calf-skin topboots for wading through mud and sand.

Sunday, April 10th. This morning the church bells were calling to worship, but we heeded not their gentle summons and hitching up our teams started onward, leaving church and Sabbath behind us. Road very bad all day. About three o'clock we came to an impassable mud hole in a lane. The only way was to lay down the fence and go through a field. While doing this the owner rushed out in great wrath, ordered us off and began laying up the rail fence, threatening all the while to go and get his gun and shoot us. Tom coolly laid his hand on the handle of his pistol, when the fellow suddenly changed his mind and went home and we left him to nurse his wrath and lay up his fence, which otherwise we would have put up as we found it. His object, it seems, was to compel us to stay over night at his place, and buy grain of him.

Monday, April 12, 1852. Tonight we pitch our camp for the first time. Our campground is a beautiful little prairie, covered with grass and we feel quite at home and very independent.

Tuesday, April 13th. Soon after we struck the Des Moines River and traveled up the north bank, passing through Ottumwa, the prettiest place we have yet seen and have decided to come here and make our home when we return from California with a fortune. Camped this evening on the bank of a little stream. While we were eating supper a lady who lives close by came to see, as she said, how campers did.

Sunday, May 16th. While we were getting supper, the Pawnee chief and twelve of his braves came and expressed a desire to camp with us. Their appetites are very good and it takes quite an amount of provisions to entertain them hospitably, but some willow boughs strewn around the camp fire suffices them for a bed.

Sunday, May 30th. There is a very large camp here and most of them are remaining for the day. There was preaching this afternoon and it seems more like Sunday than any since we left home.

Tuesday, June 15th. About three o'clock we came opposite Fort Laramie. Some of the boys went over to the fort to mail letters. There are two or three nice looking houses in the fort, the first we have seen since leaving the Missouri River.

Sunday, July 4th. It has been so windy and dusty today that some times we could scarcely see the length of the team, and it blows so tonight that we cannot set the tent or get any supper, so we take a cold bite and go to bed in the wagons. The wagons are anchored by driving stakes in the ground and fastening the wagon wheels to them with ox chains.

Sunday, July 25th. This is the most like Sunday of any day since we left home, and we feel very much at home here.

Monday, July 26th.Wash day.

Tuesday, July 27th. Ironing and baking today.

Saturday, September 18th, 1852. We started down the valley, passing a house on the way, which I must describe as it is the first California house we have seen. It is three logs high, about six feet long, and four wide, one tier or clapboard or shakes as they are called here, covering each side of the roof. Leaving this, and passing through a gate we soon came to another cabin of larger dimensions.

Sunday, September 19th. About noon we arrived at Father's cabin, where we consider our journey ended, after traveling almost constantly for more than five months. Several [Californians] called to pay their respects to "father Mac" as he is affectionately called by the miners, and to get a glimpse of his two daughters, a woman being a rare sight here. One enthusiastic miner declared he would give an ounce of gold dust for the sight of a woman's sunbonnet."