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This is a continuation of the diary kept by Daniel Stark on his journey from Auburn, Illinois to the gold fields of California. Grandfather Daniel and his company had been on trail to the gold fields in California since May 5, 1850 and was approaching Ft. Kearny. Ft. Kearny was the first military post built to protect the emigrants. The fort remained an important wayside throughout the emigration period. Many pioneers purchased food at the fort, and nearly everyone took advantage of the fort’s reliable mail service. In late May as many as 2,000 emigrants and 10,000 oxen might pass through in a single day.

Ft. Kearny was not the walled fortification that many pioneers expected. It was instead a collection of ramshackle buildings, most made of sod. The construction was so crude that snakes often slithered through the walls and into the beds of the soldiers stationed there. But the enlisted men were not overly refined anyway.


May 28, 1850…Marched today 20 mile and encampt in the open plain within three mile of the of the Platt River without wood or water with the exception of stock water, but all got along fine as we are all well and harty. We think that we will leave this pretty early in the morning.

May 29…Left our encampment this morning and marched about 4 mile and come to the big Platt and stopped for to graze and then traveled on 18 mile above the Fort Carony, (Kearney) which will make 22 miles that we marched today. There is something peculiar about this bottom for a wagon one mile off appears as large as a twenty-foot house, two story’s high. And a man appears ten foot high. Thompson and I bought a tent cloth here for which we paid $2.50 and I wanted some change and they directed me to the martial house and there I come right amongst the officers that was all dressed in their uniforms and they looked splinded. There is about 200 soldiers here. This is a beautiful place situated at the bottoms of the Platt. It is 340 miles from Independence and it is 339 from this to Fort Laramie.

May 30…Marched today 20 miles and encampt in the open plaines on the Platt. There is no timber on the South which we are on. We do our cooking with buffalo chips which is a very good substitute for wood. This stream is 1 1/2 mile wide and runs very swift and is very muddy.

May 31…Today 25 mile and encampt on the Platt again. There is some Germen men with us that had a poor ox that was give out and they kild him for a beef and ate his tongue and liver and steaks and that takes me right where I live by juckers.

June 1…Marched today 15 mile and encampt on the side of the Platt and there is a cedar swamp here, the first timber that we could get to for some days. We are all well at this time.

June 2…Marched today 15 mile. The country from Independence here is a open plain except on the stream of water and that is so low that you can not see it until you get right over it, apparently for vallies are very deep and timber short. The land is very rolling but it is the best natural road that I ever traveled in my life.

June 3… Marched today 20 mile and encampt on the Platt. Still out of wood. We have a right time burning buffalo chips and water and grass a plenty.

June 4…Marched today 15 mile and crost the South fork of the Platt which is about one mile and a forth acrost and is from 1 to 2 and three feet deep from the way it rolls and boils.

June 5…Marched today 20 mile and encampt on the North Fork of the Platt, which is about the same size of the South Fork

June 6…Marched today 18 mile and encampt on the Platt a splinded spring of water but wood is scarser. The road has been very sandy today.

June 7…Marched today 16 mile and we had very hard wheeling as the road has been very sandy. We come to a place today called Ash Hallo and come into the bottoms and come up in where there was some Indians campt. There was 2 wigan and they made a mark acrost the road and said that we should not pass until we gave them something. I handed him 25 cents and he motioned for us to go on.


Most emigrants had been following the south side of the Platte River for miles—this was the best place to cross. Unlike many other crossings, this river crossing was not difficult most years. That is because the Platte here was often no more than one or two feet deep—although it was typically more than a mile wide. Some years, the Platte River would actually be two miles wide at this point.

The pioneers had followed the south side of the Platte River, but the river was about to split in two. If they stayed on the south side of the river (now the South Platte), they would have reached a dead end in Colorado. So they had to cross the river to connect with the north branch—called the North Platte.

A few miles further along the trail was Ash Hollow. Here was fresh, clean water—a luxury the emigrants had not tasted for weeks. But getting to Ash Hollow was tricky. The pioneers had to negotiate a very steep hill. Sometimes they would let the wagons down with ropes—or get a dozen men to hold on as “human brakes.” Occasionally the brakesmen would lose control of a wagon and a severe crash would result.

Once they reached the bottom, Ash Hollow was a welcome site. The trees were the first the pioneers had seen for 100 miles. Most of the wagon trains would rest at Ash Hollow for a day or two.

The Waynedale News Staff
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