In January 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold while constructing a sawmill along the American River, northeast of present-day Sacramento. The discovery was reported in the San Francisco newspapers in March but caused little stir, as most did not believe the account.
The spark that ignited the gold rush occurred in May 1848 when Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter’s Creek, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco.
Workers abandoned their jobs and newspapers were forced to close their doors as their staff was struck by gold fever. The populations of many of the costal towns were depleted as prospective prospectors headed to the gold fields.
On March 28, 1850 in Auburn, Illinois, five men sat around a table in a bar and formed a company to go to California and seek their fortune. It was called the Auburn California Company. The six men were Samuel Thompson, Michael & Elias Giltner, John Bunnap, my Great Great Grandfather Daniel Stark and his father Archabald Cass Stark.
Daniel was 26 years old and had been married two years. He and his wife, Galena (Griffin) Stark had a one-year-old son. Daniel’s father A.C. Stark was 50 years old. As they sat around the table, each gave money to the company as my Great Great Grandfather Daniel duly recorded each amount in a ledger. The plan was a simple one. They would buy provisions with the money recorded in the company ledger, put their provisions in a wagon powered by six oxen and head for California. A.C. Stark would ride in the wagon; the rest would walk. Once they arrived in California, they would mine a fortune in gold and then come back to Illinois where they would live happily and comfortably with their families.
The ledger within which Daniel recorded the company business was a 12X8 inch book, typical of the era. It has ruled pages with an area for making entries and another for descriptions of entries. His ledger has survived for 155 years. The front part of the ledger contains all the business entrees of the Auburn California Company and in the back of the ledger contains a day-by-day description of their trip to California.
The Waynedale News will follow Daniel’s journey to California that began on May 5, 1850 from Auburn, Illinois.
May 5, 1850…Traveled today twelve mile and encampt on the Blue River, southwest of Independence, which is a small stream in Missouri.
May 6…Marched today eight mile and crossed the lorne (desolation) of the Missouri and now we are in Indian territory amongst the Shawnee tribe and encampt on the west side of the road. Nothing of importance occurred today. Asahel (AC Stark) went back this morning to Redman to see if A.B. McCoun started or not. We started before him by one day and we expected to stop here until he came up, but he did not.
I am setting here on a golfer hill in the open Plaines, herding the steers (oxen), and writing on my knee. This is a beautiful prairie country.
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