Ho! for California, Part 2

July 8th, 2016

By Alice Askins, Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion

Painting of a barge going up a river.

Going up the Chagres River to Cross the Isthmus. Painting by Charles Christian Nahl, 1850.

Late in January 1849, the Geneva Gazette reported that area men were forming a group to travel to the California gold fields.  A couple of weeks later, the Ontario Trojan Band printed its constitution.  It reads in part:

The object of this Band is to proceed to California by way of Panama, and personally engage in amassing gold by mining operations and for the mutual benefit and protection of its members – the number of which shall not exceed thirty persons.  . . .

       The officers of the Band shall be a Chief, a Vice, a Scribe, and a Treasurer, to be chosen by a majority of the members  . . .

               The Chief shall preside at all meetings . . . and shall also act as Captain of the Band in every emergency requiring military operations . . .

               Every member shall bear equally the expenses, and share equally the profits of the expedition . . .

               Any member while sick shall receive the fraternal care of the Band at the general expense  . . .     

               In case of the decease of any member of the Band, he shall have decent Christian burial at the expense of the Band, and his effects, and the share of the profits to which he shall be entitled at the time of his decease shall be taken in charge . . . and . . . safely kept subject to the order of the legal representative of such deceased member.  . . .

              The Christian Sabbath shall be regarded by the Band as a day of rest. . . .   

On February 16, the Gazette stated that the Trojans were having their agent arrange passage for them all to Chagres, Panama.  Each Trojan was to get himself a rifle and revolver.   On March 9, the Gazette noted the start of the adventure:

            A number of the members of this Band left Canandaigua last Wednesday on the noon train of cars for Albany en route for California.  A large concourse of friends were assembled to witness their departure, and as the cars started forward, gave the adventurers three hearty cheers.   . . .

            The following list shows the names and places of residence of the Ontario Trojan Band for California: —

            NAMES.                                              RESIDENCE.

1  GEORGE R. PARBURT,                             Geneva, Chief of the Band.

2  M. H. LINCOLN,                                         Hopewell, Vice do.

3  THOMAS B. TYLER,                                  Gorham, Scribe.

4  ROBERT WALKER,                                   Canandaigua, Treas. & Sen. mem. of B’d of Conciliation.                                                                

5  STEPHEN PARISH, 2d,                               Canandaigua, Associate mem. of Board of Conciliation.                                                                       

6  JOHN SWART,                                           Gorham, Associate do.

7  Seth T. Walker,                                            Canandaigua,

8  Henry Tidman[,]                                                      “

9  James McGowan,                                        “

10 William Rowlett,                                         Gorham

11 Marvin D. Mapes,                                       “

12 Miles B. Clark,                                                        “

13 William E. Tooker,                                     “

14 James M. Richardson,                                             “

15 William B. Williamson,                                           “

16 F. W. Collins,                                              East Bloomfield.

17 Allan Pierce,                                                           “

18 Robert Quick,                                                         “

19 John T. Dickson,                                                    “

20 Lockwood Proper,                          Potter, Yates co.

21 John Wells,                                                 “

22 Henry Pultney,                                                        “

23 James Scott,                                                Italy Hollow,

24 William S. Kemp,                           Lockport, Niagara co.

25 M. S. Thompson,                            Springport, Cay. Co.

26 Chas. H. Westfall,                           Port Jervis, Orange co.

27 Levi Westfall,                                                         “

A week or so later, the Gazette observed:

We would reckon the gold fever was pretty considerable in these diggins [sic], from the way the boys are leaving for the Sacremento [sic].  Week before last Messrs. Duryee Staats, Champlin H. Spencer, David B. Hodges, Sylvester Staats and James Stewart, of this village, took their departure for the golden sands.  By the 3 o’clock train of cars on Monday morning last, Messrs. John White, Alfred Young, H. C. Prouty and Thomas White left, we understand to take the Texas land route[.]   . . .  Boys, one and all – here’s luck to you; may you get riches, and may wealth make you happy, if it can.

On April 27, the Gazette was able to print an update on the Trojans.  Their correspondent was George Parburt, formerly the paper’s political editor, who seems to have gone to California as much as a reporter as a miner:

We expect to be at Chagres tomorrow morning; and as I am on the committee to proceed forward to make contracts, &c., I shall have the pleasure of going ashore in the first boat, and also of proceeding up the river without delay.   . . . the everlasting dead swell in this sea annoys us very much.  The old Crescent [the ship] . . .  continues its frolics to the great discomfort of every one . . . Say to all our friends that the Ontario Trojan Band is well and in good spirits . . .

The band was apparently not all well, though, because on May 18 the Gazette said:

            We had the pleasu[r]e on Monday last of greeting one of the five returned members of the Trojan Band – Mr. M. D. MAPES, of Gorham.  The gentleman brought us a package of letters from [Mr. Parburt] . . .

Mr. Parburt reported that the five were in ill health.  The first letter was from Panama City on the west side of the Isthmus.  The Band and others were waiting for ships to come along to take them up to San Francisco.  On May 2, Mr. Parburt wrote:

            . . . The Sylph, a large whaler, arrived here on Monday morning, and has been already filled up at one hundred and fifty dollars for steerage  . . . Several other vessels are hourly expected . . . Four of our Band left this morning . . . homeward bound, and our Physician, Dr. Joseph S. Beemer, of New Jersey, starts early in the morning – joining the others at Gorgona.  One of our Band, T. A. Warbass, has taken passage in the Humboldt, the remainder of us, to wit, John S. Dickson, of East Bloomfield[,] James McGowan, of Canandaigua, James Scott, of Italy Hollow, Levi Westfall and Charles Westfall, of Port Jervis, Henry Putney, of Potter, Hiram E. Tooker, of Rushville, and myself – will, if spared by the fever, probably go on together – if not, we may return . . .

            It is not called the sickly season . . . still Americans seem to shuffle off their mortal coil rather easily at Panama.  Two were buried last evening.   

The Josephine with sixteen of our Band probably sailed this morning . . .

In his next letter, Mr. Parburt described the trip across the Isthmus.

Next: The Trojans’ Adventures in Panama

Previous: Ho! For California, Part 1

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