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October 1850

1 October 18501 • Tuesday

Engaged as on Monday. The store’s custom2 was not much it was falling away very fast.3

2 October 1850 • Wednesday

Finished the dam to-day weather very lowring.

3 October 1850 • Thursday

Went to work this work morning in the Claim; prospects were very poor during the morning; but towards the close of the day they struck it pretty rich.4

4 October 1850 • Friday

Took it out pretty freely to-day.

5 October 1850 • Saturday

do. [ditto] do.

6 October 1850 • Sunday

Divided the proceeds of labor. $200 apiece.

7–12 October 1850 • Monday to Saturday

Working at taking out gold all week with good success.

13 October 1850 • Sunday

Divided the proceeds $444 apiece.

14 October 1850 • Monday

Worked until Tuesday night when the diggings failed.5

16 October 1850 • Wednesday

Divided $92 apiece.

17 October 1850 • Thursday

I was busily engaged to-day in settling up the concern making up a/cs [accounts]. &c.

18 October 1850 • Friday

Left the River;6 Bro. Berry was quite unwell and we were unable to travel very far in consequence & we stopped at Greenwood Valley.7 I found Bro. Andrew Cahoon was living here. I called at his place he was not at home. I had a chat with Sister [Mary] Cahoon about home, she was very anxious to get home and very tired of the country, she told me that their prospects were not very good at present for getting home. I told her their way would be opened for them related how dark ours had been until the last, when we had been blessed to exceed our expectations. I spoke about some books I told our situation that we had none &c. she said she had a hymn book she would let me have and when Bro. Cahoon got back he might let me have a Book of Mormon she invited me up to breakfast I offered her a $5 piece for the Hymn Book but she would not take it, I left it laying on the Table.8

19 October 1850 • Saturday

Went to Bro. Cahoon’s to breakfast. Bro. Hy [Henry] Gibson went with me, Bro. C. was in very goods spirits he had been unfortunate in mining he had [a] share in several dams but they had all failed. He let me have a Book of Mormon and a Synopsis9 I offered to pay him for them but he would not accept anything he said when I came back I could return them to him if I had them if not it would make no difference. I thanked him and said that if I did not bring the books I might bring him something that would be as acceptable.10

We put <our> things in a Wagon to go to Salmon Falls, & walked ourselves. I never was more tired scarcely than I was with this day’s travel I had not been in the habit of walking or working much for several weeks past and it made it very hard for me.11 We put up at Bro’s. [Henry] Green & [Hezekiah] Thatcher they kept the house [inn] that Bro. [Arieh] Brower used to keep.12

20 October 1850 • Sunday

Bro. Green harnessed his mules to take us over to [Asahel] Lathrop’s.13 I had <heard> that Bro. [Howard] Egan was there sick I wanted to see him and concluded it best to go round there. He had stayed there and Capt. [Jefferson] Hunt had gone up to see who were going home and to send [Lafayette] Granger down to Bro. E. I had a long talk with him about the affairs of the store, and the concerns South [at the Mariposa]; he told me that thro’ his sickness every thing had gone to wreck and that Phin. [Phineas] Kimball had acted the scoundrel with him. He thought that Granger was as bad as him and blamed him very much.

There was some doubt about a company going home and I wanted to send $100 home and John Dixon $150 and Bro. Hy. Bigler $240[.] I thought it best for me to leave mine with Bro. Egan <to send if a company should go,> with another $100 to be kept for me; and John left $50 more to be kept for him[.] he and Bro. B. thought best to leave <theirs> on the same conditions I had <left> mine to be used by Bro. E. if no company should go.14

21 October 1850 • Monday

Took passage this morning on a wagon to [Jeremiah] Root’s six miles from Sacramento City. We arrived there about sun-down.15

22 October 1850 • Tuesday

This proved to be a regular apostate nest. Root (an apostate) had sold to his brothers-in-law Eleazer & Stirling [Sterling] Davis and Hy. [Henry] Fairbanks all of the same stripe. I had some conversation with F. I was acquainted with him before he went in the [Mormon] Battalion and I thought him a fine young man;16 but he has changed since then; in speaking to me on the Mormonism he said he would not believe anything in religion or God or anything else unless “Old Christ” himself would come down and tell him. I thought to myself that it was doubtful that whether he would believe him or not. He swore he would kill Bro. Erastus Snow if he ever came across him, this was for some imaginary insult that he gave him. I was thoroughly disgusted with him and his conversation I thought of the saying “if the light that is in you becomes darkness how great is that darkness.”17

We remained here [Six Mile House] all day waiting for Bro’s. Keeler and Hawkins who had gone to round by Mormon Island to see Bro. Clark and tell him.18 They came in about sun-down they said that Bro. C. was not there. Bro. [William] Huntington had told them that Bro. C. was up with his sons 40 miles from Sacramento City [on the Bear River].19

23 October 1850 • Wednesday

Started for the City met Bro. [Hiram H.] Blackwell who told us that Bro. C. had sent word that he would be down in three days; it was thought best to send Bro. Blackwell after him. We hired a horse and he started about noon. Wm. Squiers [Squires] & Jeptha [Jephtha] Condit had rented a saloon and were fitting it up. Wm. offered us the privilege of sleeping in it which we accepted.20

24 October 185021 • Thursday

Waiting patiently for Bro’s Blackwell & Clark; Bro. B. returned this evening alone, he had rode to where Bro. C. had been and found that he had moved on to the [Bear] River; he left a note with a man at the place to be sent to Bro. C. by his son who was expected down that evening. Upon due consideration it was thought best as we had all to get garments <made> to go down to San Francisco and we could be nearer ready by [the time] Bro. Clarke [Hiram Clark] came down.

25 October 1850 • Friday

I was busily engaged disposing of a box of Doctrine & Covenants containing 175, & two or three Times & Seasons.22 I left them with Mr. Conrad and wrote to Bro. Huntington about the Books as he had said he would take care of them and sell what he could. Engaged our passage on the Steamer Senator; after we got on board Bro’s. Whittle Keeler, Dixon, Hawkins & Farrer not liking the boat went on board the West Point, and they <did> not miss Bro’s Bigler, Blackwell and myself, nor we them, until the boat had pushed off.23 We arrived in San Francisco about 10 o’clock; we remained on board all night.

26 October 1850 • Saturday

Just after we got up this morning we saw the West Point coming in; we went to the Wharf where she comes to[,] to meet the brethren. From there we went up Broadway and stopped at the Rose Inn kept by Mr. Foreman near Bro. [Barton] Mowry’s.24 The remainder of the day engaged buying clothing &c.

27 October 1850 • Sunday

In House all day troubled with the diarrhuea. A brother by the name of Geo. Serrine [Sirrine] called upon us; we had some conversation with him about the Islands &c. He promised to call again. In the evening a man by the name of Wm. Patten called upon us; he was unwell and had been very sick all summer he was in the hospital at this place; he wanted to get to the Islands he thought he would get better, and called to see us if we could help him. I did not feel like helping him especially as there were some of our own brethren [who] needed help. He came out from the Valley in our company and had been with us in the Southern [Mariposa] Mines; he had been a Mormon but was a complete apostate now. I had several conversations with him that satisfied me as to his Mormonism; he was a complete infidel and opposed Mormonism. This was my reason for not helping him, the others needing help.25

28 October 1850 • Monday

Eight Years to-day since Mother [Ann Quayle Cannon] died an eventful day not likely to be erased from my memory. Called along with several others of the brethren upon Bro. [Richard and Sarah] Knowles they are English joined the Church in Manchester; they appeared like very fine folks and seemed to be glad to see us. Bro. K. went round with us to Sister Poole’s [Mary Pool’s] her son [Peter] was in and he was unwell we did not see Mrs. P.; from there we went to Mrs Bro. [William] Evans’ our object in calling round was to see where we could get some garments made Mrs. [Hannah] Evans thought she could make eight26 we did not see Bro. E. they have several children and look like a fine family; they are getting ready to go to San Diego. This afternoon buying cloth for garments.27

29 October 1850 • Tuesday

To-day was a Gala Day here to celebrate the admission of California into the Union. We were awakened at day-light by the firing of Cannon which continued at intervals until eight o’clock. At 10 o’clock the procession was formed composed of various Fire companies[,] a company of California Pioneers; the New England Society, a company of boys in a Carriage representing the different States in the Union; a wagon with a Printing Press printing an ode to be sung composed for the occasion. A company of Police officers; & a company of Seamen with their officers; and two companies of soldiers. Taking it altogether it looked very well. They were marched into the Public Square when they had prayer by the Rev.—[R. T. Huddart] After which the Hon. Nathaniel Bennet delivered an Oration of about one hour and a half’s length. I was tired listening to him it [was] done very well for anybody but a Mormon to listen to.28

30 October 1850 • Wednesday

Waiting anxiously for Bro. Clarke. Bro. Egan in town he appears some better than he did.

31 October 1850 • Thursday

Called upon Sister Evans this morning to see how the making of the garments progressed. We had a long talk on various subjects.


  1. [1]Cannon originally wrote the month as September but corrected it in pen.

  2. [2]Custom is a chiefly British term for “regular business patronage.”

  3. [3]The Deseret News noted: “This freshet caused a great suspension of gold digging, throughout the country, on the stream, and deranged business generally; as a deluge of rain, at an unusual time, during the dry season, necessarily must. While the waters were up, all business was suspended; and when they abated there was not time to repair the dams, and get much advantage therefrom, before the annual rainy season would commence; consequently, there was little left for the miners and others to do” (“Latest from California,” Deseret News, Nov. 16, 1850).

  4. [4]While the precise nature of a claim along the American River is not known, Peter Decker explained that a claim on the nearby Yuba River was “30 feet fronting on the river, low water mark, & running back for as far as one chooses to work it” (Giffen, Diaries of Peter Decker, 205). Concerning their newfound success, Bigler observed, “We commenced takeing out the gold after labouring so long in building & repareing our dam” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 6, 1850). He later reported that twelve individuals had claim to the gold (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 6, 1850).

  5. [5]Regarding their sudden change in fortune, Bigler lamented: “The gold has failed. O what a pity” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 15, 1850). Reflecting upon this event nearly a half-century later, he added to this entry, “Yet . . . no doubt it is all right for our eyes might be so filled with gold dust that we might not be able to see” (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 15, 1850).

  6. [6]Bigler recorded additional details about the beginning of the journey: “About noon we left the River when we gained the top of the mountain and Caught the pure are [air] from towards the Seacost and looking west the elements seamed to smile apon us and my heart felt to rejoice with in me although I would of give anything to went home this fall” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 18, 1850).

  7. [7]Greenwood Valley, described by Bigler as “a large mining Camp, a town built of Canvass, that is Tents, and log buildings,” had around 1,000 to 1,500 inhabitants (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 18, 1850; Gudde, California Gold Camps, 145).

  8. [8]The missionaries spent their night at Greenwood Valley under a tree (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 18, 1850).

  9. [9]The reference is most likely to Benjamin Winchester’s Synopsis of the Holy Scriptures. For an overview of Synopsis, see Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:199–201.

  10. [10]Bigler was able to obtain from “Br. Singly” an order addressed to “Bro. Crowe” at Sutterville “for some books of mormon, Hym books” and other Latter-day Saint works (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 19, 1850).

  11. [11]The day’s eighteen-mile journey also took a toll on Bigler: “The day was vary warm and not being use to walking for some time I felt vary tired” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 19, 1850). Salmon Falls, site of one of the early rich strikes of the 1849 gold rush, was located on the south fork of the American River and is now partially covered by the waters of Folsom Lake (Gudde, California Gold Camps, 302).

  12. [12]The missionaries again spent the night outdoors under a tree, each paying two dollars for supper and breakfast (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 19–20, 1850).

  13. [13]The missionaries paid two dollars each for the six to eight-mile trip to Lathrop’s, “or ‘Mormon Tavern’ as it is called by the miners” (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 20, 1850). Located on the White Rock road about thirty miles from Sacramento, the Mormon Tavern was established in 1848 or 1849, supposedly by a Latter-day Saint named Morgan. For additional information on Mormon Tavern, see Cross, Early Inns of California, 207–8.

  14. [14]The missionaries spent the night in a hay pen, again each paying two dollars for supper and breakfast (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 21, 1850).

  15. [15]When the missionaries left Lathrop’s, John Berry was no longer part of the company, having decided to return to Utah to take care of his mother (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 21, 1850). Root’s Six Mile House in Natoma was a popular stopping place on the American River about twenty miles from the Mormon Tavern and six miles from Sutter’s Fort. For further information on the Six Mile House and Natoma, see Davies, Mormon Gold, 356–57; Gudde, California Gold Camps, 234.

  16. [16]After the United States annexed the Republic of Texas, portions of which were still claimed by Mexico, war erupted between the United States and Mexico over the disputed land in 1846. At this time the Latter-day Saints were preparing to move to the Great Basin and had petitioned the United States government for help. In response to this request, in July 1846 the United States enlisted the Mormon Battalion, made up of more than five hundred men, to a year’s military service that eventually took its members to California. Several former members of the Battalion, including Henry Bigler, were present in January 1848 when gold was discovered. For overviews of the Mormon Battalion, see Fleek, History May Be Searched in Vain; Ricketts, Mormon Battalion; Bigler and Bagley, Army of Israel.

  17. [17]Matthew 6:23.

  18. [18]Mormon Island was not an island but a sandbar on the south fork of the American River located near Natoma. It was initially mined by former members of the Mormon Battalion in March 1848; many historians consider it the site of the first California gold camp during the gold rush. Mormon Island is now under the waters of Folsom Lake (Gudde, California Gold Camps, 225–26).

  19. [19]Keeler and Hawkins had left the group at Salmon Falls in an effort to locate Clark. They remained at Mormon Island “untill Tuesday [October 22] 10 oclock am when we received a leter from Br Cannon Stateing that they ware waiting for us” (Keeler journal, Oct. [22,] 1850).

  20. [20]The saloon was the Bella Union, located on J Street. In the evening the missionaries attended a performance of William Shakespeare’s Life and Death of King Richard III (Farrer diary, Oct. 23, 1850; Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 23, 1850).

  21. [21]Keeler’s and Cannon’s journal entries for this day are nearly identical, the differences being the spelling of some words and the ordering of words within some sentences.

  22. [22]The Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a compilation of latter-day revelations, as well as other inspired writings. For more information on the Doctrine and Covenants, see Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants”; Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:37–42, 54–57, 277–80, 304–5, 308–9, 340, 2:107–8; Flake and Draper, Mormon Bibliography, 1:348–49; Robert J. Woodford, “Book of Commandments” and “Doctrine and Covenants,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:138, 404–27. The Times and Seasons was a periodical published in Nauvoo, Illinois, between November 1839 and February 1846. It served as a semiofficial organ of the Latter-day Saints. As was common at the time, individual issues were frequently bound together into volumes. Additional information regarding the Times and Seasons can be found in Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:91–96; Sorensen, “Nauvoo Times and Seasons.” The box of books belonged to Cannon’s uncle John Taylor and had been sent to California in 1846 on the ship Brooklyn. Bigler took “a Book of Covenants and some pamphlets and let br. Cannon have $5 to pay br. Taylor” (Bigler autobiography, “Book A,” Oct. 25, 1850). Prior to looking at the box, Cannon and the other missionaries went to a silversmith’s and each bought a pocket watch costing thirty-seven dollars (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 25, 1850).

  23. [23]One of the first paddle-wheelers to travel a regular route between Sacramento and San Francisco, the Senator measured 219’ 30’ 12.’ Having arrived from the East in 1849, the boat was designed for the deeper rivers of the eastern United States (Sonne, Ships, Saints, and Mariners, 179; DeBolt, “Sacramento Paddle-Wheelers,” 32). A regular notice in the Daily Alta indicated that the Senator left Sacramento “every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 p. m.” (“People’s Line for Sacramento City,” San Francisco Daily Alta California, Oct. 29, 1850). Considerably smaller than the Senator, the West Point measured 157’ 25’ 7’. It had recently arrived from New York (Sonne, Ships, Saints, and Mariners, 197).

  24. [24]The Rose Inn was a boarding house located “on the corner of Broadway & Powell.” The missionaries obtained “a private room free to stop in as long as we wish to stay and board with him $10 per week [each]” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 26, 1850).

  25. [25]The portion of the sentence that reads “the others needing help” was added later in blue ink.

  26. [26]Bigler reported that Sister Evans “said she would do all she could for us, said she would take a lot and get some of the other sisters to help” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 28, 1850).

  27. [27]These garments were likely the undergarments that endowed Latter-day Saints wear as an outward expression of their inward commitment to the sacred covenants they have made with God. For more information, see Evelyn T. Marshall, “Garments,” and Alma P. Burton, “Endowment,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:454–56, 534–35.)

  28. [28]Bigler thought the celebration “went off verry well until dusk when the Steamer Sagamore burst hur boilers and blowed every thing all to atoms.” The following day Bigler and some of the missionaries went to view the damage: “Hur Cabin & wheel house was blown a way, there was no knowing how meny was killed” (Bigler diary, “Book B,” Oct. 29–30, 1850). Later estimates placed the death toll at between thirty and forty (Soulé, Gihon, and Nisbet, Annals of San Francisco, 295). For Nathaniel Bennett’s oration, see “The Celebration,” San Francisco Daily Alta California, Oct. 31, 1850.