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Biography of William Taylor (1804-1890)

by Sally Knutson

(Return to Biography title page)

Page 1--Early years
Page 2--First journey to California
Page 3--Life in Nevada County
Page 4--Later years

Page 2

(Paragraphs in italics are the exact words of William Taylor--spelling, punctuation and grammar as he wrote it.)

“We bid "good buy" to little mother the "ballance" of my dear children and started for the long trip, not knowing whether I would ever see them again! and with a two horse wagon started for Memphis. Cornelius and a negro boy went with us to bring the wagon and team back.”

They had bad luck from the very start. William took a chill and was very sick. They bought passage on a boat going to Independence but couldn’t take their provisions aboard and had to ship them with a captain and ship which William didn’t like the looks of. When the ship didn’t arrive with their goods, William and another man hired a buggy and drove to Independence where they found disaster.

“At Independence we camped near the landing, waiting for our outfit, which never reached us. In a few days we received the news that the Saluda had blown up at Lexington. A gentleman going to California and I hired a buggy and went to Lexington. We found the boat near the shore, with at least one half the front torn to fragments! There was a large crowd of Mormon “emigrants on board and an awful loss of lives. Some blown into the river and some on the bank! The captain was blown on the bank a corpse terribly mangled! I found nothing of our outfit but a "ceag" of medical brandy and did not get that.”

They formed a company with 20 other wagons. The only man with a wife was elected captain. Both of his younger boys came down with a bad case of the measles. The wife didn’t help him with the boys and made them camp away from the rest of the train. This treatment did not sit well with William so he and his crew broke off and went on their own even though they were warned it would be dangerous to travel alone.

“One Sunday we found a good camp, grass and water plenty, but we had left the road farther than usual and I confess I felt rather lonesome, if it was a lovely evening, which it really was! Late in the evening we saw a lone "waggon" approaching our camp. I recollect my feelings to this day. I desired company. The "waggon" came up, permission was asked to camp with us. Of course, it was cheerfully granted. The company consisted of two brothers named "Warm?", a nephew the same name and a married niece and her husband. I forget his name, but the niece was my angel! We soon agreed to travel together and did so until we came to the "sink" of the "Humbolt". They took the Carson and we the "trucky" "rout".

“By the time we reached the foot of the sharp divide we had congregated a pretty good company, and it was well we had, for it was with "dificulty" even by doubling teams to get our now nearly empty "waggons" to the top of the summit. As stated, our company had increased until we had at "leas" fifteen or twenty able bodied men, at the foot of the mountain one lone "waggon" we found waiting for some one to come up and help him. He had a wife and two or three children and it was well for him, for as he afterwards told us, he had seen some Indians and he now knew they were watching him and no doubt would have stolen all his cattle if they had not done more mischief. That "knight" the Indians did get one of his oxen as you will presently see.”

“We had no more "acidents" until the day we reached the blue tent, near the south Yuba, when we turned out at noon, our cattle ate some kind of "pisen" weed or shrub that acted like a most powerful "emittick". Oh! but didn't they throw up and looked sick! I had never seen or "herd" of anything like it! I gave it up. We had lost our team at last! but we was near the Golden Nugget, and we could walk and pack on our backs what we had in our "waggons" the balance of the distance! but after stopping often to let the steers throw up the "pissen" they had taken, we managed to reach the blue tent, where we were informed that cattle was often "pisened" at the place where we nooned, but generally got over it by good treatment. We turned ours out on a good place of good grass and pure cool water and in about two weeks sold them at auction in Nevada City. This is the first and last auctioning I ever did. I had the "waggon" and team driven up before the most "publick " place I could find, mounted the most elevated and "conspikuous" place convenient, cried out, "Oh yes, Oh yes, a "waggon" and team for sale", and I had a good many bidders. Cattle and "waggons" were in good demand, and I obtained more, Yes! more than satisfied my most "sanguin" expectations! I now sent home to my little wife and mother to encourage her, six hundred dollars, although I believe she was well provided for before I left home! but it was safer than if I had put it in Adams Express Company bank, but this was the last remittance in the year 1852.”

William tells about the travails he and his sons had during the winter of 1852-53. It snowed and rained most of the first part of the year and they were living in tents and an abandoned cabin. The boys were sick; the oldest boy, Thomas, left them and went on his own. William was pretty desperate.

“January 1st, l853 I received my first letter from home, (it took a long time to send and receive letters) this letter was from Azaline. It was so affectionate, wished she was with dear Pa to cook his dinners, (she did not know how rough we lived). Gave us information about our home and family, and said a great many kind things. I had no "idia" of returning home just now, but this letter set me to thinking about my dear family, and I decided that I could not, nor would not, be "seperated" from my family. I had not, with all the discouragement, given up the "idia" of finding gold. Some were finding fortunes; why not when all my boys are together, some of us must strike it! I did not know at that time that California was richer in other resources than hunting for gold, and a thousand times more certain, and another thing influenced me, I had not got over my big failures! It stuck to me as a disgrace! and I wanted to make as wide a gap as was possible, and the "Pacifick" Ocean was as far as I could go! where I hoped by a hard struggle and possible luck, to regain my former standing and the shortest way was by hunting for gold.”

After borrowing money from his young friend Norman, he walked to Rough and Ready and then to Penn Valley on his way to Marysville to catch a boat to San Francisco. There was quite a band of men “going home”. They walked together in the deep mud. He says it was so muddy a mule could not have made it.

“We reached Marysville that "knight". Here we found a boat ready to start in the morning. Boats had no "difficulty" of landing where the bridge now stands. The channel was deep, no stickers then. The Sacramento River and Country as far as we could see was a sea of water. Poor Sacramento had just been burned and "fluded" by the overflow. No new house had been built. The chared posts of some could be seen, the whole picture did look awful! I did not go on shore and could not if I had wished, indeed it did look awful and here many poor fellows lost their all.”

His description of sailing the Pacific Coast to Acapulco and then to Panama City, crossing the Isthmus on foot and eventually arriving in Havana where he changed ships for New Orleans is quite extensive. He arrived home and found everything there in fine shape. He had a hard time convincing his wife to make the trip to California. She had seven little children. The baby was not quite two years old.

They sold off their farm, equipment, livestock and headed west. The trip is well recorded. They had a few adventures but arrived in California before the winter weather set in.


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This page last updated: 4 July 2015

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