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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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Preparations for a '49er

The "Colony Guard" (25 members) from New York City (Gold Seekers heading to California, via Salt Lake, in 1849)

(Information gleaned from company minutes, Utah Hist. Quarterly, 1983, Vol 51, #1)

A group of young men began meeting in New York to organize themselves into an immigration company headed to California to seek gold. In order to be a member of the company, members had to deposit $400 and sign the company's constitution. They met weekly in January, more frequently in February, and almost daily in March. They left New York by train, heading west, Mar 16, 1849.

By then they had elected a captain, first and second lieutenant, orderly sergeant, surgeon, judge, secretary, treasurer chaplain, finance committee of four members, and divided the 25 members into two mess groups.

Items taken along:

  • 150 red flannel shirts
  • 100 Hickory shirts (Hickory cloth was a stout cotton fabric, often twilled and striped, used for shirts or trousers.)
  • 35 bbls (barrels) of navy beef
  • Beads, cheap handkerchiefs, blankets, silver trinkets to use for trafficking with Indians
  • 12 Colt Revolvers ($35 each)
  • 2 tents
  • Water-tight wagon in place of a (extra) boat
  • ($1.75 max price for knives; 9 * pounds minimum weight for rifles)
  • One pair Mackinaw blankets for each man (5 to 10 pounds in weight each, color choices included white, scarlet, blue, green, drab, moose, or mixed)
  • 40 mules
  • 3 baggage wagons with harnesses
  • Screws, screw drivers, locks, hinges, 1 adz (wood-cutting pick-like tool)
  • Lead; powder; cooking utensils; personal items; 2 towels

Items shipped by boat to San Francisco:

  • 15 gallons of oil; 3 lanterns; 1 solar lamp (an Argand lamp has a tubular wick that admits a current of air inside and outside of the flame.)
  • 3 bbls of cider; 1 keg of ginger
  • Tired wheels (which could be added to barrows in Calif.)
  • 2 kegs of cut nails; 25 pounds of wrought iron; 12 bars and 5 bundles of iron; 3 crowbars; 1 bar of steel; 1 vise, 1 case goods; 2 casks of nails; 1 box of axes; 2 bundles of shovels
  • 1 keg of lead; 1 roll of leather; 1 gold washer; 1 bellows; 3 Ps. of sheet iron; 1 bundle of dye
  • 10 bbls of flour; 9 barrels of beans; 6 hhds (hogs heads - 63 gal barrels) of Navy bread; 2 bbls of sugar; 2 bbls of rice; 2 bags of coffee; 1 box of soap; * chest of Soucheng Tea; 1 barrel of dried fruit
  • 5 Ps. (pieces) of crash (cash was a coarse, heavy linen fabric, often rough in texture, used for towels, summer suits, draperies, table linens, etc.)
  • 20 pair of blankets; 2 cases of boots; 240 pair of socks; 5 pounds of thread; 1,000 needles; 180 buttons

Company Notes:

The New York Tribune indicated the Colony Guard is composed of 25 picked men, well armed, and provisioned, dressed in the United States Army uniform. The principle on which they are organized is perfect equality, the captain no better than the private. They are high principled and moral men. They hold sacred individual rights, and will recognize the Sabbath and the rites belonging to it. They went by rail and boat to St. Louis, then Independence, Missouri, then over the Oregon Trail.

By April 21 the company was on Kansas Territory. On the 28th of April, dissension began to be felt. It was voted that anyone wishing to could take his share of the provisions and go it alone.

At a May 10th meeting, accusations and complaints were made. Officers resigned and were replaced. Rations were cut to 3/4 of a pound of bread stuffs per man per day (these men were in their early 20's). A large number of the company became seriously ill with cholera. Plans of the company changed. Instead of going to Ft. Hall, the company would go to Salt Lake City and try to recuperate.

May 19th, four of the men left the company to travel alone by horse to Ft. Laramie.

After a short stay in Salt Lake City, about eleven of the healthy members continued together across the Nevada deserts and arrived in California without any apparent further difficulty.

All but John Hudson regained their health sufficiently to join a caravan of 107 wagons under the leadership of ex-Mormon Battalion Captain, Jefferson Hunt, headed to California via Las Vegas and San Bernardino. Five of the group split off the main group in Southern Utah, got lost, ran into difficulty, and finally made it back to the Hunt's group. One of the group, William Robinson, kept on with another splinter group and died of thirst in Nevada. Others of that group also died giving "Death Valley" its name

John Hudson is the only one of the twenty-five to remain in Salt Lake City. He was nursed back to some health by a Mormon. He taught school in Provo, was hired as an artist by Capt. Howard Stansbury in the spring and early summer of 1850 as he completed his survey for the U.S. Government of the Great Salt Lake. His sketches were included in Stansbury's official report.

Later that summer, he clerked for one of the Mormon justices of the peace handling litigation involving contentious god emigrants who wised to end their trail contracts and divide their possessions before continuing their journey to California. He joined the Church and was sent in the fall of 1850 by Brigham Young and 100 other men and families to strengthen a new settlement in Manti, Utah. He was still somewhat debilitated from his bout with cholera. He contracted pneumonia and died the 14th of December and is buried in an unmarked grave in Manti.


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