1932-1936 — California
Written by himself 1932-1936
(He was a retired minister and senior member of the California Methodist Episcopal Church)
According to an entry on the fly-leaf of Mother’s Bible, I was born in Fremont county, southwestern corner of Iowa, October 11, 1850. Both Father and Mother had been previously married, leaving children in each case, but I came first of a family of seven children - two boys and five girls, all but myself having birthplace in Mills Co. on a farm some twenty miles east of the Missouri River, Glenwood being the county seat. My father was a sturdy native of Norway who had come over to America a good many years before my birth, first settling in Minnesota and becoming father of four children, one of whom is still living at the age of 100 in Spokane, Washington, in care of a daughter considerably younger than myself.
My father was a hard working man. He was a successful farmer and was quick to adopt farming methods that would improve his living and working conditions. He was very good to me and was always concerned about my education and welfare.
My Mother and her people, the Terry’s , came from Canada. They were very devoted members of the Latter-Day Saint Church. Her family had gone on to settle in Utah and Mother was very desirous of joining them. Her brothers, who were assigned missionaries to the Gentiles, were often in our home. They kept coaxing her to join her family and friends in the west. Her parent’s wrote frequently of their home in Utah and their desire to see her. Both of these things caused her to be unhappy with her lot.
Affairs came to such a state in our home that father finally agreed to fit out a wagon for her and she, with the children, started for Utah in company with my half-brother, William Crawford. I chose to remain with my father and later came with him to California.
After four months of travel with a well-proportioned team of four horses and plenty of pasture along most of the devious and interesting road via Salt Lake City and around the Great Lake to the north, and then down the sluggish Humbolt River, and finally across to Honey Lake, we climbed the Sierras and followed the Feather River down to Marysville, or rather to what is now Yuba City. Having recruited our teams for a week or two, we pushed on down to Sacramento, reaching our journeys end about the middle of September.
Satisfied that California would suit as a future residence, father soon disposed of team and wagon and arranged for a homeward trip by “Overland Stage”, the first section of which was a ride by railway train to Folsom, a live mining town some twenty miles away. And thence it was by old line stagecoach through and over the Sierras, first to Carson City, where father met the governor, an old-time friend, and we got some sense of the wild excitement over the wonderful discoveries of gold and silver ores conception of what the discovery of the Comstock Lode, in what has since been known as Virginia City, was to mean to San Francisco and the other great centers in our state.
Onward, night and day, pushed our strong vehicle, first to Salt Lake City via a route south of the Humboldt and Desert, where we saw the far famed “Pony Express” in operation and numbers of stalwart men planting great poles and stringing strong wires from one to the next, creating the wonderful Overland Telegraph, speady bearer of news from “The Battle Front” where brave Americans from North and South were struggling in deadly conflict to settle the supreme question of our country’s future. California’s interest in that matter was at white heat then and even the speeding “Pony Express” couldn’t bring the news fast enough. It gives one a thrill even now in these far-off years to think of having been alive then, and to find that we have today a United Country, under the ever glorious Flag of the Free.
A stop-over in Salt Lake City for a Sunday gave us opportunity to inquire as to the other part of our severed family- Mother and the other children. But we found no one who knew anything about them. Curiosity was gratified in having a chance that Sunday evening to see and hear that notable personage Brigham Young, at a gathering of the Saints in one of the ward school houses.
He was issuing a call for volunteers to move into Southern Utah, raise cotton and sugar cane, and so provide clothing and food articles, and by that means become more independent of “The Gentiles”. Bad boy, as I surely was, I was greatly shocked by the profanity which he employed in stressing the virtues of “Home Products” such as tobacco, so easily produced on the fertile lands along the banks of the Jordan River just south of the city. I may say that in my more mature years I have come to appreciate the shrewdness and statesmanship of this clever dictator and rank pretender, by whose undisputed sway for more than a quarter of the last century a great state with multitudes of sober, steady going people, who in many ways furnished us an example of what can be accomplished under the rigid regime of industry and sobriety imposed upon them by Brigham Young.
Day and night our stage pounded on with only an occasional stop for meals and change of horses, and at length, after 18 days of actual travel, Father and I were safely deposited in Council Bluffs, Iowa, about the 15th of October. My eleventh birthday had occurred on the way, and was celebrated by the customary supply of crackers and cheese which we had in store for the journey.
We found our way down to the old home place some thirty miles away and found our tenant in full swing of pomposity and big talk, as he claimed to have been in California himself sometime before we made the trip, and had to his credit some notable achievements of very doubtful moral character. He seemingly had been hoping that Father would never return and that he would become easy possessor of that fine Iowa farm. And so we enjoyed the old home during the late fall and winter – part of my time being taken with study in the district school, something in which I had never before been interested. Father became more restless and by early spring concluded to sell the farm, which he did at a scandalously low price (only $2500) and made preparations for another trip “Across the Plains”.
This time it was to be away out to the Pacific Northwest to the Gold Fields of the Salmon River, somewhere in the wonderful region since included in the state of Idaho. That journey, which began with ox-teams early in May and ended late in September in Portland Oregon, embraced happenings of a highly sensational character, which I have set forth in a fuller account not just now at hand. Of one thing I am certain, if the marauder who, with others, invaded our unguarded encampment one night out in Southern Wyoming, crept into our tent and took a rifle from under the pillow of Father and myself, had aimed better as I stood in the open doorway, something like seventy-four years of my earthly career would have been clipped off then and there. That
Bullet hole, close to where I stood, was for many a day a reminder of my narrow escape.