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Pikes Peak or Bust! Part 8: The Road to Pueblo

 

Last updated 10/11/2022 at 1pm | View PDF

1862 US General Land Office Birdseye View Survey Of Colorados Fountain Valley

Between 1849-65 Daniel Jenks had the forethought to chronicle his gold rush trials, tribulations and triumphs across the American West. Writing to an "imaginary confidant" in his journal, Jenks shared his innermost thoughts with the reader, the dreams and fears that drove him.

Daniel's cross-country odyssey in 1859 took him from Rhode Island to Colorado, and then back to California where he'd been prospecting for gold on-and-off since 1849. Jenks documented 130 campsites on that trip, even drawing some of them, leaving us a detailed record of his (mis)adventures along the way.

But until 2021 Daniel's first-hand account of the Colorado Gold Rush remained undiscovered in the Library of Congress archive, read by few and never published.

As Jenks & Company traveled westward along The Cherokee Trail towards Pueblo, a steady stream of unhappy Go-Backers pass by. Daniel called them 'The Humbugged'. Scores of disgruntled prospectors returning to their homes in the east, cursing 'The Humbuggers' who lured them west with tales of Pikes Peak riches.

But Jenks was no greenhorn when it came to gold rush treachery, he was clear-eyed about the unrealistic expectations many had regarding the prospect of 'easy pickins' in Colorado. For his traveling companions; Loren & Elizabeth Jenks, Judson Jenks & Charlie Upham - whose plan all-along was to squat in Colorado - the end of their long journey to the Pikes Peak region was almost in sight.

Camp 35: Arkansas River - 5/5/1859

Left camp about six this morning and had traveled but a few miles before we met the advance guard of disappointed, returning, Pikes Peakers. The first we met were on foot. Soon after, we commenced meeting teams of all kinds; mules, oxen and horses, hand carts and go carts. On they roll. And a more disappointed crew, or longer faces, I never saw. Curses both loud and deep were showered by them upon the originators of this ___ humbug.

And now, how have the hopes of the sanguine fallen. Looks of blank dismay stare you in the face on every side. Teams are stopped, a vote is taken whether they shall go on and see for themselves, go back, or go to California. Some turnabout and take the long, weary backtrack. Others split up their companies and whilst some go on, the balance return to the homes they never ought to have left. But worst of all many, aye very many, have neither money or provisions to take them back. And what to do, they cannot tell.

Truly it is a sad sight to see strong men weep as they think of their families at home and their situation here. I being ahead of my team and not knowing how this news may affect them, intend to lay by for them to come on. I cannot go back, that is certain. And I am bound for California now. We are camped tonight on the river bottom a mile from the road in a Cottonwood Grove with good feed.

Our handcart man has concluded to take a loaf of bread in the morning and start back for Illinois. He is a man of about 45 years old and he cries like a child as he talks of his situation.

Camp 36: Handcart Man & Boney - 5/6

This morning our Illinois friend of the handcart shouldered his blankets and started on his long and weary homeward road. "It's all fired hard," says he, "to go back to Polly in this fix. I mortgaged my little farm to raise the means to start out here. Had to give my note for $300 to raise $150, and it bearing interest at the rate of 2% a month. I'll never get clear of this infernal scrape if I work all the balance of my days."

Another fellow called Boney, his companion, accompanies him. Was somewhat amused at a remark he made once on the road. It had rained all day and at night we had no fire, so we had to turn in to our blankets wet and cold. Boney had but one pair of blankets and as he was as thin as a June shad, he said the cold winds fairly whistled through his ribs. The first thing in the morning that I heard was a sort of a war-whoop from Boney. He awakened the whole camp by his yells.

What the devil is the matter, asks someone. "Why, when I woke up and found myself alive, I had to jump as high and yell as loud as I could to find myself on this side 'er Jordan. Oh Lord but I was powerful cold though." Another one of his company owed him a small sum of money and he wished for a settlement. Finally, the debtor agreed to give him an order on his father in Missouri for the amount. "Yer mought as well give me an order on a jay bird tother side 'er the Wabash as that," says Boney.

Dan and I concluded to remove our camp to some point nearer the road, so as to be able to see our teams if they should pass. So we packed up and drove about 6 miles further and camped in a grove on the bank of the river, in full view of the road.

5/7 - Lay in camp today, Dan and I all alone waiting for our teams to come up. Our Pikes Peak trip is up and now we are to prepare for a still longer one to California. Rather than go back to be laughed at, I'll try old California again.

Ours is a very pretty camp where we now lay. A grove of Cottonwoods shelters us. Free from underbrush, the level river bottom being covered with the new crop of grass just springing up. Geese, duck and brant are plenty in the marsh below, whilst the gobble of wild turkeys reminds us of Christmas feasts at home. Our little tent stands out in bold relief in its groundwork of green, forming a very pretty picture as viewed from the road.

Teams of emigrants are almost constantly passing to and fro. Some energetic fellows pushing forward to Pikes Peak to see for themselves whether they have been humbugged or no. Others, satisfied of that fact, are homeward bound.

Have many times thought of the singular fate of an individual I saw with Bent's train when we met it at the Great Bend. Amongst others, I saw one whose face showed him to be a white man but whose appearance every otherwise was decidedly Indian. I asked the Wagon Master who, and what, he was. He told me that he was a Comanche captive that Colonel Bent had bought from that tribe.

He was stolen from his parents in Texas years ago, when he was a little boy and had grown up with their tribe, had lost the knowledge of his mother tongue and had become in everything but features a perfect Indian. He must have been about 50 years of age and in his tastes and inclination was as much an Indian now as any of his red skinned friends. His only companion with whom he was on terms of intimacy in the train was a Cheyenne Indian that traveled with them as hunter for the party.

By the way, this Cheyenne was a brother-in-law to Colonel Bent, he having married a squaw and his children are all half breeds. These mountaineers are a singular race, singular in their tastes and habits, almost as wild as the tribes by whom they are surrounded. They become so habituated to the life, that they are never easy in any other station and many of them are well educated men and of good families at home.

At night our train has not made its appearance as yet. If they do not come on tomorrow, I shall go back to meet them. We are but a few miles below the mouth of the Huerfano, a tributary that puts into this river on the opposite side, from the south.

Camp 37: Charley Autobees' Trading Post - 5/8

This morning our teams hove in sight, our Ohio and Illinois friends of the forepart of the trip were with them again. We found our party intend to go on to Pikes Peak at any rate. And if that in fact proves a failure, then most of us intend to cross the country to California. Lissy says she can't go much further, she has traveled far enough with an ox team.

Reached the trading post at the mouth of Huerfano at noon, kept by a mountaineer by the name of Charley Autobees. Found the inhabitants much excited by the news of the murder of an Arapaho Indian, brother of a Chief of that tribe. He was murdered by a Mexican for his pony and the Whites fear the tribe will retaliate upon them. After dinner we drove about 8 miles and camped.

Camp 38: Pueblo - 5/9

Today we moved on up the river to near the mouth of Fontaine qui Bouille (Fountain Creek) and camped. Our cattle are very much reduced in flesh and some are very foot sore and we shall have to lay by somewhere to let them recruit. Nothing but man can stand this trip, he with his iron will outlives all others of the animal kind.

Loren and his wife, along with Jud and Charlie, propose stopping here on this creek at least for this season. They intend to put in a crop and trade with the Indians and emigrants. I would not stop here for all the wealth of Pikes Peak.

Daniel Jenks portrait courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

There is a little collection of mud huts and log cabins at the mouth of this creek, inhabited by Mountaineers and Mexicans and called by some the Puebla. By others since the gold humbug, Fountain City. Near this place Loren intends to squat..

Editor's note: This article is an excerpt from a first-hand account of 1800s traveler and prospector Daniel Jenks from the new book "The Lost Gold Rush Journals" by Larry Obermesik of Hanover. The book covers Jenks' experiences - in his own words, transcribed from his journals - of the California Gold Rush and then his arrival in Colorado south of Fountain. Obermesik is a member of the Fountain Valley Historical Society. Learn more online at: http://www.thelostgoldrushjournals.com

To see more please follow this link: https://www.epcan.com/home/customer_files/pdfs/ftnv_10.12.2022_p._16.pdf

 

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