Tag Archives: MI

John Shafer and Lydia Dodge: early Michigan settlers

(Midwestern migration)

John Joseph Shafer: A Life story, 1819-1895

John Joseph SHAFER was born 22 April 1810 in New York at a location  believed to be near Albany.
John was first  married at about age 19 years, in New  York state, unfortunately the name of his wife has not been either located or preserved. This union produced two daughters: Hanna  Maria, born in 1829 in New York  and Harriet B., born before 1837.

It is believed  that John and his first wife separated in Pennsylvania before 1837.
Still in Pennsylvania, John married his second wife, our ancestor, Lydia A. Dodge. Lydia was born 2 May 1813, in New York  state. John and Lydia  remained together for the rest of their lives.

Little is known of John’s early years; children were born to him and his first wife in New York state; it is  said that he had worked on the Erie Canal,  which opened in 1825. Information gathered from the Lawrence Township, Van  Buren County, Michigan census of 1860 showed the family had moved to Carlisle  Township, Lorain, Ohio around 1836-37, where their eldest son, ♥ Martin Jackson was born 16 October 1837. Lorain is located twenty eight miles west of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on the coast of Lake Erie.

Birth records show that the family moved to Ingham County, Michigan between March 1849 and February 1851 where the last of their children were born.

In 1855, the family moved to Lawrence Township in Van Buren County, Michigan. John Shafer was one of the first white men to settle in that area, which was west of a lake on the township line next to Hartford Township.  The lake was named, Shafer Lake after settler John Shafer. In the year 2011, the lake still bears the Shafer  family name.

John acquired a considerable tract of land in Lawrence and Hartford Townships. A piece of this land was donated for a school on Lawrence Township. The Shafer School, as it came to be called, was built on the property, located on the northeast corner of the crossroad that runs to the south of Shafer Lake.
The building was “The Shafer School, Hartford andLawrenceTownship’s Fractional District No. 7”.

[Howard Leroy Shafer wrote the following account in 1967]
“John Joseph Shafer the one this history is about, the writer well remembers the tellings of his first settling in Lawrence Township, Michigan.

How they cleared the forest land of Beech, Maple, Walnut, Cycamore Whitewood (better known as Yellow Poplar or Tulip trees) and many others, by cutting them down and piling in great heaps, all the logs with the brush, then set them on fire (logs like these would be a prize today), so they could till
the land between the stumps.”

“A section of very large Sycamore log which was hollow was used as a smoke house for meat. By standing it on end, cutting a door in the side to walk through–so they could hang up their meat to be smoked on metal hooks…a roof made of boards fastened lengthwise to the sloping cut of the top end of the log. They used Hickory wood for the smoke. After his death his youngest son, John W. Shafer used it for many years- later it was returned to the old home place, which is now owned by one of the descendants, Clayton F. Shafer (R.R. 2, Hartford, Michigan)”

“Crops raised were beans, corn, hops, oats and wheat. The last two were harvested with cradle scythe, tied with a few stalks of grain into bundles, which were stored in the barn to be threshed; this usually done in cold weather.
Beans were pulled by hand when ripe. All were thrashed out with a flail–a wooden instrument made of a long pole, about eight feet long and about one and a half inches in diameter and a two and a half long pole, fastened to the end of the other with rawhide. It could be swung into a circular motion and
let fall on the grain which would spread out in thin layers on the floor, thus knocking out the grain. On cold frosty days was the best for this, the items being threshed would seem to pop out of its hulls. The grain and beans then would be cleaned by running them through a fanning mill which was turned by hand, with a crank.”

“Hops, a vine that grew several feet long, was raised on poles into the ground. They would have cone shaped blooms which were picked at a certain time, these were steamed and dried in what was called a hop house. They were used in making yeast for bread, balance sold for use in malt for liquor and narcotics.”

“How they use to catch wild pigeon, now extinct, with large trap nets, set out in the fields where they came to feed.. Sometimes flocks were so large they would darken the ground as if a cloud were in the heavens. When these traps were sprung often they would catch them by the hundreds. They would take them in to town where they would sell them for as little as  fifty cents a dozen, to be sent to the larger towns of city. They often would roost at night in the woods nearby, and sometimes they would be so many on a single large limb it would break the limb off.”

In 1860 or shortly thereafter, John a Lydia’s youngest daughter, several  year old, Lodema, died of TB. It was thought at the time that the disease gained access to Lodema’s system after she had breathed hot steam (!) through he mouth and into her lungs from a boiling tea kettle when she was a small child.

“…some of the Pottawattamie Indians (the tribe use to live around Lake Michigan’s southern shores) use to come in summer months and put up their teepees along the roadside and then work for the farmers. As late as 1906 the writer remembers them along the road about a mile and a half south of the old Shafer homestead, and not far from where the writer lived they picked huckleberries in the swamps for the owners.

When not working for others they would make baskets from Black Ash logs, which they usually stole from nearby woods. They made cloths baskets, hampers with covers, market baskets and many others in many sizes. They would beat the log with a maul to remove the bark and a hard layer of wood, while the log was still full of sap. This allowed the soft layers to be mashed so they could
remove each layer at a time, in long strips as long as the log. They would cut this into desired widths they wanted for the many styles of baskets. They stained some for decoration with natural stains they would gather–blue, green, red and yellow most common used.”

“The writer has attended Indian picnics and dances given by them to raise money to keep up the
church and burial ground they used,. Located in a thicket on the south bank of Rush Lake, north west of Hartford, Michigan about four miles.

They put on a War Dance, used bow and arrow, and boomerang. Also dance for all who wished to. The church has long been gone; few markers were used for the dead and remain.”
End of Howard Leroy Shafer’s account.

In the  years  after 1860, the Shafer family cabin burned down. John Sr. and his youngest son John Wyman Shafer Jr., who’d became a carpenter, built a new house just north of the  Shafer School.

Some  of John Joseph’s children and many of his descendants, including Howard Leroy  Shafer, attended the Shafer School.
The school house burned down twice and thereafter was not rebuilt. The old home place and school ground was in 1967, still owned by a Shafer descendant.

John’s wife, Lydia, died 26 April 1882 in Lawrence Township at age 68 years 11 months and was buried in the New Lawrence Hill Cemetery.

John was a prosperous farmer who loved nice horses. One day he hitched a colt to a sulky in order to break him in for driving. They headed east on the road to Shafer’s Lake where the colt ran away with
him-going off the road and throwing him against a tree. The injury received by 84 year old John J. Shafer caused his death shortly thereafter on 5 February 1895. John was buried alongside his wife in the New Lawrence Hill Cemetery.

A large monument has been set at their grave site with their names and a verse inscribed:

“No pompus marble to
their name we raise this stone
Bespeak their praise
Potential fondness
did their life attend,
A tender mother and a
faithful friend.”

Some time before his death, John deeded parcels of about 28 acres to each of his heirs. On 20 February 1895, John W. Shafer Jr. petitioned for an administrator to divide his father’s  personal property which had an estimated value of about $900. Elijah M. Shafer, another of John‘s sons became administrator and listed the heirs to receive  their share. The Will was not probated.

The Shafer family descended through Martin Jackson Shafer, to his son Charles Elmer  Shafer, to his son Pearl Elmer Shafer, to daughter Hazel May (Shafer) to myself, Larry and daughter Jane Elizabeth.

John  Joseph Shafer: A Life story has been, taken  from the 93 page family genealogy book, Descendants of John Shafer 1810-1967 by Howard Leroy Shafer, who was born in 1898.

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Filed under My family in history, __4. Midwestern migration

Pulaski Easton: A California 49’er

(Midwestern migration/Easton branch)

Pulaski EASTON was born to the family of Daniel Easton and L. Vanway on 12 May 1826 in Oswego, Oswego, NY; died on 22 Apr 1901 in Hartford, Van Buren, MI; buried in the “old cemetery”, Hartford, Van Buren,MI.

Pulaski EASTON married Sarah CARLETON on 25 Apr 1857.
They had the following children: Frank C. Easton (b. 6 Jul 1858), Luther C. Easton
(b. 15 Dec 1860), ♥ Elsie Easton (b. 30 Jul 1869), Arthur Easton (b. 1 Mar).

“This soldier has Blue eyes, Light hair, Light complexion, Five feet Eleven inches high.” {D2} Also, “Hazel eyes.”

1845 At age 19 years, Pulaski moved from Oswego, New York to Van Buren County, Michigan.
1848 Age 22 years, he traveled to California in search of gold. (See Historical Note)
1851 Age 25 years, left California and returned to Oswego, New York.
1853 Age 27 years, he left New York and returned to Van Buren Co., Michigan.
1857 Age 31 years, Pulaski married Sarah Carleton in Michigan.
1864 Age 38 years 3 months, he enlisted in the Union Army and was engaged in the Civil War.
1866 At age 40 years, he was Honorably Discharged from the Union Army at Detroit, Michigan.

The greatest gold rush in the history of the United States began with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in northern California on 24 January 1848. The great rush was fully underway in 1849. The first mining region was in the mother-lode region of the Sierra Nevada from Sutter’s Mill south to Mariposa. The earliest placer miners sought the eroded gold in the form of dust, flakes, and nuggets. Found in stream beds and in gravel’s laid down by ancient rivers, this supply of gold was exhausted quickly by more than 150,000 gold seekers that came in 1849 and 1850. Having arrived in California by a long arduous journey up the Oregon Trail, through the Rocky and Sierra   Nevada Mountains, the only acceptable route home was by water. Many tens of thousands of lucky and unlucky gold seekers returned home by ship via the Isthmus  of Panama during 1851 and 1852.{D6} See also, the following article, Pulaski Easton – Gold Seeker, 49er.

Pulaski Easton and Sarah Carleton was married Apr 25th 1857“{D1}

“In 1845 he came to this township, bought a piece of land then in a dense wilderness, built a log house, cleared a small piece of land and worked in the vicinity for three years, then he took a trip to California, where he spent three years more in search of gold. He then returned to his old home in New York, where he remained a few years, when he returned to Michigan. In 1857 he was married to Miss Sarah Carleton of Three Rivers. They moved into the house he had built 12 years before, where they commenced their battle with the forest. They patiently endured the privations, trials and hardships incident to pioneer life…until the dense and gloomy forest was removed and in its place can be now seen broad fields, thrifty orchards and fine buildings, the marks of this industry…” {D4}

Pulaski was a farmer.{D2}

1.  On 12 Sep 1864, Pulaski volunteered for a 3 year enlistment in the Army, at Decatur,MI.
2.  He Mustered In on 30 Sep 1864at Kalamazoo, MI, where upon he was assigned as a Private to Capt. Eri Beebe’s G Company, 28th Regiment, Michigan Infantry Volunteers. The Regiment was completed with an enrollment of 886 officers and men, Colonel William W. Wheeler commanding.{D2}
3. The 28th Reg’t. left Kalamazoo Oct 26th for Louisville, KY, and upon arrival was sent to Camp
Nelson, TN, where it took charge of a wagon train enroute for Nashville,  TN…The regiment took  a gallant part in the battle of Nashville, Dec 12 to the 16th, in repelling the Confederates under Gen. Hood, who was defeated with great loss, and driven in confusion out of the state. {D5}
4. The 28th Reg’t. was assigned to the XXIII Corps and sent to Louisville,  KY where on Jan 1865 they were ordered to Alexandria, VA where they embarked on transports to Morehead City, NC. They then cooperated with Gen. Sherman’s army marching through the Carolinas.{D5}
5.  At Wise Forks the 28th Reg’t. was engaged for 3 days, the enemy making determined assaults on Union lines, but were repulsed in every instance. The 28th was in the thickest of the fighting…On the 21st January the 28th Reg’t. was assigned duty guarding the Atlanta and North Carolina railroad.{D5}
6.  2 Apr 1866, Pulaski requested 30 days furlough, “to attend to his private business  in Michigan.” {D2}
7.  3 May 1866, Pulaski reports to Head Quarters Dept. of the Ohio for transportation back to MI, He is instructed to report to the Chief Mustering Officer of his state for discharge.{D2}

Pulaski Easton died in Van Buren Co., MI at about 74 yr. 11 mo. 9 days of age, on 22 Apr 1901 from “Organic Heart Disease”{D3} also “dropsy”{D4}

Pulaski’s obituary reported that he was to be buried in the “old cemetery”, Hartford, Van Buren Co., MI

1. From handwritten notes made in the Pulaski Easton family Bible, 1856 edition. The Family Records appear to have been written primarily by Pulaski Easton with several later additions by another person.
2.  Military Service Branch, National Archives and Records Service, 8th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC. Provided several various military service records of this individual.
3. Van Buren County Clerk, Paw Paw, MI; Certified Copy of Record of Death Record No. 4646.
4. Obituary of Pulaski Easton probably from the Hartford newspaper, Van Buren Co., MI, shortly after his death.
5. Book Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War 1861-1865, by the Michigan Adjutant
General’s Office; Pulaski Easton’s service is listed on page 23.
6. The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience, copr 1981 by J.S. Holiday, published by
Simon and Schuster, NY.

Sarah CARLETON was born on 30  Aug 1837 in Three Rivers(?), MI.

Pulaski Easton – Gold Seeker , ’49er
Compiled by Mr Larry
From the Obituary of Pulaski Easton (in bold italics):

“In 1845, at 19 years of age, Pulaski Easton removed from his home in Oswego, Oswego County, New York to Hartford Township, Van Buren County, Michigan. Here he bought a piece of land, then in a dense wilderness,  built a log house, cleared a small piece of land and worked in the vicinity for three years.”

Meanwhile, across the continent in distant California: The greatest gold rush in the history of the United States began with the discovery of gold in the millrace at Sutter’s Mill on the American River
in northern California on Jan.  24, 1848. Once the movement began it spread rapidly.
On March 7, some six weeks after the discovery, Sutter reported that his entire staff, laborers and overseers alike, had joined the rush to the foothills, and left me only the sick and lame behind.”

By April, a delegation was sent from the village  of San Francisco to visit the spot and learn what all the talk of a gold find was about. By May 8th, San Francisco’s townspeople were rushing pell mell to the diggings.
On May 20th people began arriving from Pueblo de San Jose.
By July, the scene at Sutter’s Fort was one of frightful confusion. “Men on horseback and afoot were milling around outside the walls, while loaded wagons were moving in and out the gates, some bringing goods from the Sacramento River landing, others taking them to the different mining regions. The open spaces within the enclosure were piled with heaps of merchandise being offered for sale, and the noise made by the crowd of buyers was such that one would have thought himself either in a Turkish bazaar or in one of the most frequented market places in Europe.”
On August 8th a St. Louis, Missouri, newspaper printed part of an article brought overland from San
Francisco, where it had appeared in the April 1 issue of the California Star. The news told of gold collected at random and without any trouble on the American River.” Other major newspapers
printed similarly colorful letters and reports from “the gold regions.” City folk and farmers who were discouraged by their prospects, those who were restless and others who were weary of marriage or fearful of growing debts found these first reports enough to send them off with expectations of quick fortune.

“In 1848, at age 22 years, Pulaski Easton left his cabin and small farm in Van Buren County, Michigan and traveled to California in search of gold.“

After December 5th and through the winter and spring of 1849, there appeared in literally every newspaper in the country continuing reports of the ever increasing emigration to California.
Week by week the news gathered force, men and their families agreed that if they could get to California success would be assured. The frugality of generations gave way to a contagion of optimism and ambition, responsible family men found their jobs and prospects unrewarding when set against all that California could provide.

Perhaps 25,000 left by sea that winter, bound for Panama and the hazardous journey across the isthmus or for the equally dangerous voyage around Cape Horn. For those who lived inland and had farming as a background, a voyage around South America or a tromp across the Isthmus of Panama seemed fearful, the overland trails on the other hand seemed practical, even familiar.
The well known history of travel from the Missouri frontier to Santa Fe and to Oregon increased their confidence. During the winter and early spring of 1849 tens of thousands of men throughout the
United States prepared for the overland trek that would begin with the first good weather in April or May. To raise money to join an overland company or purchase a wagon team and other fixings, gold seekers mortgaged or sold homes and farms, took out life savings, or borrowed from friends and father-in-law.
In cities and country villages they organized joint stock companies, each member paying an equal amount to provide funds for the company’s purchase of wagons, teams and provisions. Local newspapers often printed each company’s membership lists. Some company’s issued uniforms, elected officers with military titles and drilled their members.  On March 27, 1849 a newspaper in Ann Arbor, Michigan, estimated that $30,000. had been taken out of Wastenaw County alone, with each man spending an average of $400. to pay for his outfit and transportation to the frontier.

Pulaski Easton lived in Van Buren County, a mere 110 miles west of Ann Arbor.”

Those living in the central and upper Midwest packed their gear in their wagons and rolled down the nearest road, headed for the Missouri river towns of Independence and St. Joseph, Missouri.
At least 30,000 men, with possibly 1,000 women, traveled to the Missouri frontier, while other thousands went by other routes during the summer of 1849. Never before had this country, or any other, experienced such an exodus of civilians, all heavily armed, mostly young men on the road for the first time, many organized into formal companies, others alone or with a few friends from their
neighborhood. Impatient, curious, somewhat fearful of the uncertainties and dangers ahead they were not unlike a great volunteer army traveling from all parts of the nation to mobilize on the frontier.

In the spring of ’49, travelers just west of Independence, Missouri could see for miles across the ocean like swells of prairie. The trail ahead was marked to the horizon by an undulating line of white topped wagons and to the rear back to Independence.
No dust obscured the astonishing scene. At night the glow of campfires nearby and far off to the west gave everyone a sense of security.

About 40 miles west of the frontier the old Oregon Trail turned northwest. Entering “Indian Territory”
the gold seekers first encountered the now peaceful and poor Shawnee.

[Note: Recall from the biographical summaries of Jacob Seybert and his daughter, Margaret Seybert – Janes, that in 1758 a Shawnee war party slaughtered its captives, including the Seybert family adults, at Ft. Seybert, Pendleton County, West Virginia  and had taken all the Seybert children captive, back to Chillicothe in Indian Territory, across the Ohio River, in “the Ohio”.
After the defeat of the Northwest Indian Confederation by the US Army in 1794, the Shawnee were pushed out of “west” Virginia and Ohio. Then, with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the northwestern Indian nations ceded to the United States much of what became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.]

The emigrants next passed through the fierce Pawnee Indian lands, again without problem. The Pawnee had been weakened by frequent attacks by their old enemies the Sioux and in the summer of 1849 they suffered 1,200 deaths from cholera, brought by the first much smaller wave of gold seekers in 1848. Having so long anticipated the danger of Indians and consequently equipped themselves as if an army, most gold seekers experienced the ironic disappointment of not seeing any “wild” Indians.

Life on the overland trail was an astonishment, because of its contrasts with their more orderly home routines; there was guard duty in wind and rain at night; food cooked by careless, impatient, grumbling men; the crude, loud campfire talk of men without women and a sense of freedom afforded by the traveling life. There was little charity along the wilderness trail.

The wagons continued northwesterly up the Little Blue River in Nebraska to Ft Kearney. Between the first week of May and mid June 1849, officers at Ft. Kearney counted 5516 covered wagons pass which included some 29,000 people.

Although they moved about 20 miles each day, they could not escape the sight and sound of hundreds of other emigrants. In the mornings as they crawled from their damp blankets, they could hear and see on all sides the great crowd of city folks and farmers. Nearby they heard the friendly banter of campmates, farther away the angry yells of strangers in argument, the impatient cry of the cook for
more firewood, the stamping and pushing sounds of mules and oxen corralled within the ring of company wagons, the bark of a dog chasing a horseman in pursuit of a vagrant team. While the mornings duties were performed one could hear in the distance the punctuated sound of the rifle fire of hunters target practicing in anticipation of seeing a herd of buffalo along the day’s route. After dark, their songs and fiddle playing aroused thoughts of wives and sweethearts.

The Oregon Trail continued along the Platte River in present day Wyoming and through 100 miles of rugged Black Hills country. Most companies had lightened their wagon loads at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, but the process continued as the country became rougher and harder on teams and wagons. The trail side became littered with all manner of gear, personal items and food, to say nothing of the corpses of dead draft animals and broken wagons. At South Pass, in the Rocky Mountains, the gold seekers crossed the Continental Divide. For the next 400 miles there were several trails and cutoff’s which all led westward across north-south rivers and smaller mountain ranges. The emigrates spread out amongst the various trails thus putting less pressure on forage, fuel and wildlife.

After traveling on routes that passed either to the north or south of the Great Salt Lake, the California trails descended some 300 miles along the Humboldt River through an arid, hostile wasteland from the northeast corner of present day Nevada to the Reno area. Most company’s moved along this leg of the trip during part of July or August. The nearly three weeks spent moving down the arid Humboldt
Valley intensified all the worst of the trek west. The emigrants wearily walked day after day under
scorching sun; breathing and tasting dung pulverized and mixed with dust; there was an increasing disgust with meals that looked and tasted shriveled and dry; and the incessant complaining and cursing of messmates, the squealing and groaning of the oxen; the monotony of sandy plains rising onto sage covered hills that blended into naked mountains; the dreariness of it all… Edible provisions no longer littered the trail side as they had in the high plains. So much had to be thrown away as they traversed the Black Hills, that food supplies were now fearfully short. More and more, backpackers were seen trudging along some distance from the dust stirred up by the passing teams and wagons.

In the evenings the gold seekers visited each other’s camps because they felt reassured when they could compare disappointments and problems and talk over the latest rumor about the trail up ahead or reports of Indian attacks. Camp visiting also allowed for trading to obtain what the cook did not have. By September the sounds of music were not common as the heat had either ruined the instruments or voices were too sorrowful to sing.

During September and October the wagons and their weary crews were either working their way south through the mountains, from Goose Lake, California, or driving right through the Sierra Nevada range on either the Truckee or Carson Trails.
None wanted to be caught in the High Sierras by snow and all knew the misfortune of the stranded Donner Party in 1846.

By early fall the mountain altitudes were cooling and there were flurries. Toward the end of the season,
trailing emigrants found themselves fighting mud, slippery rock, freezing rain and snow.
Between summer and late November, the overland emigrants came stumbling into the Sacramento Valley. Behind them lie 200 miles of mountain trail covered with drifting snow, collapsed wagons, deserted flapping tents, bloated carcasses and treasured possessions, trails that all had once promised a quick entry into the gold fields.

Meanwhile, by the summer of 1849, Sacramento had become “quite a flourishing place containing some 300 canvass houses and with lots in the business section bringing $600 to as much as $20,000“…and  there were a forest of ship masts lining Sacramento City’s embarcadero. “Vessels of every type and size capable of navigating the winding river channel were arriving daily, each loaded to its fullest capacity. Immediately on landing, most of the passengers hurried off to  the diggings, to be followed after a day or two by the bulk of the ships’ cargoes, which had in the interim been unloaded and transferred to the backs of pack animals.” News of the gold discovery had spread rapidly and was arousing keen interest at places far removed from California.

The great rush, by those hoping to strike it rich, was fully underway in 1849. By all overland routes at least 42,000 gold seekers reached California between late July and the end of 1849. During the year, 697 ships had entered San Francisco harbor delivering more than 41,000 Americans and foreigners, of whom fewer than 800 were women. Most of the ships were deserted by their crews and left to rot on mud flats or creak at anchor. California’s population grew from about 14,000 in 1848 to 100,000 in 1850.  The 89,000 gold seekers were not settlers or pioneers in the tradition of America’s westward migration. These people came as exploiters, transients, ready to take, not build. They found themselves surrounded by crowds of hurrying men concerned only with how to make the greatest amount of money in the shortest time.

Arriving in the goldfields, the men of  ‘49 were dismayed to see so many miners along the banks of the American, Feather, Mokelumne and other rivers. They faced a reality that some must have anticipated and feared: too many gold seekers had come to El Dorado. Some mining partners built stone or log cabins, with only a doorway to provide light and fresh air. During rainy cold periods these temporary quarters were dark and dank. Others survived in canvas-walled shacks or dugouts covered with brush. In this masculine world of primitive housing, ignorance of cooking, and unconcern for appearance and
hygiene, with liquor, gambling, and an occasional fight the only distractions from their weary work, the great moments were when they heard the “expressman” (mailman) was on his way.

The first mining region was in the mother-lode region of the Sierra Nevada from Sutter’s Mill south to Mariposa. During 1848 there was a maximum of 6,000 men working the diggings. By December of 1849 there were at least 40,000 miners in the same area. Those arriving in the fall of ’49 found many of the rivers and their tributaries already claimed. The earliest placer miners sought the eroded gold in the form of dust, flakes, and nuggets. Found in stream beds and in gravel’s laid down by ancient rivers, this supply of gold was exhausted quickly, and miners were forced to turn to other techniques
requiring greater cooperation, sophistication, and expenditure. Deep mines, however, required huge amounts of capital, forcing the individual placer miner to either work as a wage laborer, or return home. While 40,000 worked small claims another 40,000 were in the settlements and growing cities near the gold mining region either preparing to enter the mines, seeking their fortune in other
burgeoning business opportunities or giving up their hopes and planning to return home.

By the early spring of 1850 it had become apparent that their original expectations of quick riches were wrong. That promise still seemed possible, but they knew its fulfillment would require far more time and effort than once imagined. For those already in the mines, their small success’ justified staying on through the summer of 1850.

The miners read several month old, eastern news papers with concern: The pages were still filled with stories of booming California cities and the fortunes in gold being found and delivered to eastern ports by steamship. Worst of all, they read to their astonishment, that great numbers of Americans were planning to travel overland toCalifornia that very summer.

As the newspapers had promised, more new emigrants came during the summer and fall of 1850. Officers at Ft Laramie on the main overland trail counted 39,650 men and 2,421 women with 609 children.

Meanwhile, the miners had been wading in icy water up to their waists all summer, their legs ached from the cold, their hands were bruised and blistered from moving and piling rocks, their boots rotted. From the last of September, through October 1850 was a rainy, muddy period in the mountainous mining region.
Throughout the settlements and camps there were great numbers of men sick with chills and fever. In mid October, Cholera was brought from San Francisco to Sacramento City, within a month at least 364 deaths were recorded from the disease.

“During 1851, at age 25 years, Pulaski left the gold fields in California and returned to Oswego, New York.”

Whether rich or poor, there was only one way to go home: by sea. Overland travel eastward across the Sierra and the deserts was out of the question. The water route was the way, from San Francisco
to Nicaragua or Panama, across the jungled isthmus by foot and canoe to an Atlantic port and then by
ship again to New Orleans orNew York.

The first leg of the journey home led from the gold fields to Sacramento and down the Sacramento
River by boat to San Francisco. San Francisco was a place without homes, a boom town of men given over entirely to business, speculation and entertainment. Auction houses, hotels, bathhouses, groggeries, billiard rooms, eating and drinking houses, two- and four- story office buildings, banks, canvass shelled business’ and scores of gambling saloons- all these, along with “dens of lewd women,” crowded the steep and filthy streets. During the period August 1 through September 13th,  4,672 men left San Francisco, by the end of the year the total having left was at least 26,593 men and 8 women. Just as merchants in the frontier town had taken advantage of the ignorant city boys and speculators on their way to the gold fields, ship owners in San Francisco grasped at the opportunity to pluck those leaving. Many old and abandoned vessels were refitted and advertised as ready to receive passengers, with good food, clean quarters and skilled crews. Once at sea there was no escaping the unsanitary
quarters or improving the daily serving of putrid food. “The passengers were fed like hogs…some of the hard bread was of good quality, some moldy, and much of it was infested with black bugs burrowing into it like woodchucks in a sandbank…”

In Panama City two distinctly different crowds encountered one another: those expecting to find gold, and the sick and weary returning home. For those on their way across the isthmus to Chagres, an  ancient trail led through dense jungle on a three day journey. With their baggage packed on mules, the homebound Americans walked to “the most miserable” town of Gorgona, where they climbed onto
flat-bottomed boats to float down stream to the eastern coast. Everyone knew the dangers and uncertainties of the sailing ships, so they tried in every way to secure passage on a steamship. Most frequently, those returning would have to wait in Panama for 3 to 5 weeks before boarding one of the overbooked ships. Generally, the steamers sailed north from Central America with 1000 passengers pressed into the space designed for a maximum of 600.

Across the United States, in villages, towns and cities, thousands of wives and their returning husbands
felt the emotions of welcome and anxiety. Many men had returned home within about 2 years after leaving. Like soldiers home from far places, the gold seekers came back with new ideas and changed values, and within a few weeks or months many felt restless and impatient. The Marshall newspaper, Calhoun County, Michigan, 50 miles east of ancestor Pulaski Easton’s cabin, made general references in 1851 and 1852 to various gold seekers who returned to southern Michigan–“non with pockets full of rocks”.

 “Pulaski Easton returned to his childhood home in Oswego, New York, where he remained a few years.
In 1853, at age 27, he left New York and returned to Hartford Township, Van Buren County, Michigan.
In 1857, at age 31 years, he was married to Miss Sarah Carleton of Three Rivers. They moved into the house he had built 12 years before, where they commenced their battle with the forest. They patiently endured the privations, trials and hardships incident to pioneer life…until the dense and gloomy forest was removed and in its place can be now seen broad fields, thrifty orchards and fine buildings, the marks of this industry…”

For an ever-increasing number of Americans, California seemed to offer a robust alternative to the slow, conventional life in the other thirty states. California had become a new kind of West, not only a place with gold and all it promised, but also a place with business opportunities and new ways for farming. It was suddenly a place of cities and wealth, with newspapers, hotels, theaters, first class transportation, comforts and luxuries, a place where city folk could go.
For the first time in American history, California appealed to everyone. The population boom in turn encouraged construction of wagon roads and railroads and attracted essential outside capital. By the fall of 1851, there had sprung up the presence of blacksmith shops, trading posts, bridges, and ferry services along the overland trails. Shipboard transport had improved as well with a score of steamships offering passage to San Francisco in three weeks. In 1852 more than 50,000 emigrants, including many more women and children, traveled overland on the well developed trails to California. These families knew of the realities of mining. Now came farmers and businessmen who were aware of the
needs of 100,000 miners and the market demands of California’s rapidly growing cities. All played a part in opening up the western territories and tying them to the rest of the nation. The ’49ers, followed by businessmen, farmers and families, had in a few short years — won the west.

“On 22 April 1901, 53 years after his youthful journey to the goldfields in  California, Pulaski Easton, aged 74 years 11 months, died in Van Buren Co., Michigan.”

Note: Most of this historical narration was copied as excerpts from the sources listed below, I merely
assembled the information into a coherent story relating to the life and times  of Pulaski Easton.
Mr Larry

1. The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience, copr 1981 by J. S. Holliday, published by  Simon andSchuster,NY.
2. Sutter’s Fort: Gateway to  the Goldfields, copyright 1966 by Oscar Lewis, published by Prentis-Hall,
Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
3. Academic American Encyclopedia, topic “gold rush.”
4. Obituary of Pulaski Easton. The article  probably taken from the Hartford newspaper, Van Buren Co., Michigan within days  after his death.
5. Van Buren County Clerk, Paw Paw, MI; Certified Copy of Record of Death Record No. 4646


Filed under My family in history, __4. Midwestern migration