Transcript for Joseph Cain letter to Willard Richards in "For the News," Deseret News, 5 October 1850, 135

G.S.L. City, Oct. 2, 1850




Dear Sir:—Having just arrived from California, in company with thirty-four of the brethren, led by President Amasa Lyman; I thought a few remarks about our journey and the emigrants, would not be uninteresting to your readers; and at some future time, when convenient, would be glad to give you a more full account of the country, society, &c

We left the Mormon Tavern the 17th of August, General C.C. Rich accompanying us as far as Carson Valley, a distance of 150 miles from Sacramento. The Emigration had been coming for a month from the States, before we left Sacramento. We passed, for the first fifteen days, at an average of one thousand per day; most of which were in a state of starvation. We found the feed for our animals good, in consequence of the overflowing of the rivers in the early part of the season which made the river bottoms miry.

On the Desert, which is between Salmon Trout, or Carson River, and the Sink of Mary's River, we found an awful destruction of property. Wagons, carriages, harness, &c, were strewed from one end of the Desert to the other, and so willful were the owners, that, lest these articles should be of any use to any other person, they have cut and destroyed them in a way not to mistake their meaning. On this Desert, the dead animals were so numerous, that the stench was almost intolerable: one of our company, whilst riding along, counted 1400 head by the road side, beside hundreds more were scattered over the plain.

Near the Sink of Mary's River, we lost two of our brethren by the cholera; viz: John Gould, and Farnham Kynion [Kinion]; both taken sick at the same time, and died the same night. Some of the Emigrants died, just before our arrival at that point.

Every day, we passed hundreds of Emigrants; and the further we met them from the mountains, the more distressed they were for provisions; and I am much afraid that many will never see the Sierra Nevada Mountains; and if they are so fortunate as to get there, will find it difficult to get across the snow. We met the last train of Emigrants twenty miles west of the head of Mary's River; and saw a man, with a wheelbarrow, east of Goose Creek.

The Indians are very troublesome and hostile; many of the Emigrants having been shot while on guard. These Indians have become so bold, that they will attack a small party; rob, and often kill the men, and drive away their animals into the mountains, although our company had no trouble with them. At the head of Mary's River, they have a strong-hold in a Kanyon, where they have at the present time, about 1000 head of animals, which they have stolen from the Emigrants this season.

We met a number of persons who had come "Hasting's Cut-Off," who have all declared it is a much longer road, and a much more dangerous one, on account of the Desert of 91 miles, and also the Indians; many of the Emigrants having to travel on foot, packing their provisions on their backs, the Indians having driven off all their animals.

The Gold Mines have not been so good this year, as they were last, in consequence of high water; but the prospects were more flattering when we left; and it was reported that the Southern Mines, such as the Marcedes, Meri Posa, San Joaquin, and King's Rivers will be worked with profit this winter. King's River is only a short distance from Los Angeles, in consequence of which, Emigrants taking the South Route, will be able to avail themselves of these mines, almost as soon as they get through the mountains; from the 1st to the 10th of October being the best time to leave here for Los Angeles.


Yours, Respectfully,


P.S. There has been much sickness on the route this season: every day we passed more or less graves, and at the head of Mary's River we passed about 20 per day. I saw more than one hundred dead cattle by the way side, which had had pieces cut out of them by the starving emigrants.