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More 49ers: The St. Clair Mining Company


Compiled by Sanford "Sandy" Wilbur

USED BOOK SALES - OVERLAND TRAILS, AMERICAN INDIANS, GENEALOGY, ETC.

 

The diary of Joseph Waring Berrien is one of the longer, more informative journals of the overland trip to California in 1849. It was published as:

Hinckley, T., and C. Hinckley (1960), Overland from St. Louis to the California Gold Field in 1849: The Diary of Joseph Waring Berrien. Indiana Magazine of History 56(4):273-352.

Berrien came from Belleville, Indiana, to St. Louis, Missouri, with one partner, Mr. Mercure {probably Frances D. Mercure, born ca 1810 in Canada), a wagon, supplies, and some mules. Apparently, he had been told that he would be able to join up with the wagon train of "Colonel Jarrot" at St. Joseph, Missouri. On 31 March 1849, he and Mercure started by steamboat up the Missouri River to St. Joseph. After some controversy, they were voted into Jarrot's company on 16 April. The wagon train started west the same day.

Berrien's description of their route is very clear. From St. Joseph, they proceeded on the usual "Oregon Trail" route across northeast Kansas and Nebraska to the Platte River, reaching it at Grand Island on 8 May. They reached the junction of the north and south forks of the Platte 14 May, crossed the North Fork 19 May, and reached Ash Hollow on 20 May. They passed Courthouse Rock 25 May, were at Horse Creek near the Nebraska-Wyoming line on 28 May, and reached Independence Rock 10 June. They crossed South Pass 14 June, took Sublette's Cut-off, and arrived at Ham's Fork 20 June. Soda Springs was passed 24 June, and Ft. Hall 27 June. The party proceeded down the Snake River, reaching the Raft River cut-off to California 29 June.

Berrien had a sick mule and a broken wagon. According to his narrative, he sought to buy a mule and an axletree from Colonel Jarrot, but both requests were refused. At this point, he and Mercure left the "Jarrot train," and joined with other gold seekers. He did not see Jarrot again until 11 August 1849 near Coloma, California.

Berrien's narrative is excellent for its description of the route itself, and the day-to-day business of traveling overland. He mentions only eight people by name. However, on 30 April 1849, the New York "Herald" gave a brief description of the Jarrot party - officially called the St. Clair Mining Company, from St. Clair County, Illinois. According to the "Herald's" reporter: "They are provided with twelve light wagons, four mules to each, ten tents, provisions for six months, and other necessaries for an outfit. Each man, excepting the drivers, goes mounted on a pony." The list of members:

Adams, J.O.
Amel, Louis
Boismenue, John

*Boismenue, N. - Berrien includes Nichalas Boismenue, who died accidentally when he shot himself. He was buried near the Big Blue River crossing in Kansas on 29 April 1849.

Boles, John
Butler, John H.
Butler, J. O.
Carnes, Robert
Chandler, John

*Christy, John - Burrien felt that Christy was the one opposing his admission to the Jarrot company, because Burrien had earlier refused Christy a chance to go west with him (when Burrien had been planning a trip earlier).

Cornoier, N. C.
De Noville, P.
De Rousse, M.
Delorine, B.
Delude, B.
Everson, _.
Frotier, H.
Frotier, Joseph
Gamlin, A.
Greer, John
Hook, G. W.
Hotue, Jeremiah

*Illinski, Dr. A. X. - Burrien called him "Dr. Linsky." The party had waited for him at the Missouri crossing. He arrived but then had wagon trouble, and had to return to St. Joseph. He caught up with the group again on 1 May 1849.

*Jarrot, Vital, the wagon master; Burrien called him "Colonel" Jarrot.

King, _.
Lecompte, M.
McCracken, Robert
Morrison, M.
Ogden, William
Peron, P.
Renois, B. C.
Robinson, A.
Sexton, N.
Short, Thomas
Statis, J. J.
Stewart, L. D.
Thatcher, L.
Turcot, N.

Berrien also mentions a "Captain Lafferty," and an unnamed nephew of Colonel Jarrot. Another member, Daniel W. Gelwick, wrote a journal of the trip, that is now in the collection of the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield. The editors of the Berrien journal describe Gelwick's as "distinctly inferior." I have not reviewed it.

 

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