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John S. Brasfield
(Believed to be John Stroud Brasfield 4/25/1895 - 2/19/1900)

Pioneer notes from the diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes
January, 1850 en route to Temecula, California

Maj. S. has gone to Warner's for beef. I am drying blankets, etc., preparing to start this afternoon. Various characters of emigrants. A contented disposition the best. We begin to hear more of the emigration by other routes. This afternoon John S. Brasfield, of Platte Co., Mo., and N. B. Wood, of Savannah, Mo., made their camp here. The former came by the South Pass, the latter by Panama. Brasfield, Wm. Davenport, etc., left Fort Kearny May 7th, and on the 25th August got their teams into Hangtown dry diggings, (derived its name from some men having been hung there for stealing).

 

J. Brasfield, Wm. Davenport, and Perry Wood, leaving the waggons on Humboldt river, 100 miles above the sink, packed into the diggings. The whole way on the desert from the sink to Carson river, they had no water at all except from a salt water well too hot to drink nor grass; the desert is 60 miles. They suffered much. Weather intolerably warm. They walked nearly the whole way, near 500 miles. Got in August 10th, with their broken-down Indian ponies. Found very little water in these diggings; mined a good deal here; finally went over on the south fork of the American river, 10 miles above Sutter's mills. They have been more successful than they expected. All through the mining region a great many are dying with scurvy, diarrhoea, and colds settling on the lungs. All the Brasfield company have had the bloody diarrhoea. Jan. 10th or thereabouts, the whole city of Sacramento was overflowed with water to the depth of from four to five feet. As fast as they could, the people were getting out to high ground in canoes and skiffs. Those at Brasfield's location buy their provisions at Hangtown, packing them over on their backs. Flour, $1 per lb.; bacon, $1.50 per lb.; fresh beef from 37 1/2 to 50 cents; milk, $1 per pint; sugar, coffee each 50 cents per lb.; eggs, $1 apiece; potatoes, $1 per lb.; molasses, $5 per gallon; beans, 65 cents per lb.; onions, $1.50 to $2 per lb. Fresh beef is plentiful. This is the range of prices since the rainy season commenced; from about November 1st it was raining about two-thirds Of the time, when Brasfield left (Jan. 10th). At other seasons prices are not much below the above rates. Hauling from Sacramento City is from $15 to $20 per hundred; has ranged from $25 to $50.

Lewis Wood and James Clay came down on the steamer from San Francisco to San Diego. Steerage passage is $40, and rough living at that; cabin passage $80. From Sacramento City to San Francisco, in a steamer, $30 cabin, $20 deck, the same up and down. Coming down, 8 hours, $2.50 for one meal. This steamer, the Senator , makes the trip tri-weekly. Wood and Clay bought mules at San Diego. Brasfield is on the same business out here, of course expects to buy of impoverished emigrants at this point. They will meet at Los Angeles and drive up their mules, which command a high price in the mines.

Mr. N. B. Wood left St. Joseph, Mo., On November 7th; St. Louis 16th; New Orleans 28th taking a sailing vessel to Chagres, made it in 9 days; left Chagres December 9th, reached Panama on 15th (they usually go quicker); reached San Diego on January 18th. He says there are a thousand destitute Americans at Panama, and a thousand more awaiting transportation.

Brasfield says a pair of boots, such as miners use, will cost $40 where he is located. Harvey Owens made $1200 in the season at Sacramento City, killing elk, which are plentiful in the vicinity.

(Note: Antonio Garra, an Indian leader of this vicinity, was in 1851 leader of an insurrection which cost him his life. He was by Gen. Juan Antonio handed over to the State Military and shot. B. H.)

24th: Col. Whiting left yesterday, selling mule to Mr. Warner for $12! Maj. S. paid Warner $2 the almud for flour; beef, 10 cents per lb. Our arrangements are near completed for starting. All the mules we found about three miles off, except my riding mule, which had got among the horses of the Indian Capitan , to whose corral I went for him. Too wild for me to lasso him, after his wide range upon rich pasturage. A young Indian boy did it for me; paid him, together with muchas gracias . Brasfield bought a mule for $50. By 3 P.M. we were off.

Leaving Agua Caliente, we went down the valley, toward a gap in the mountains to the N. W. over broken low hills; in 5 miles reached an Indian village, small, none but old people about; soon entered a pass or caon, road of very deep sand, crossing dry, sandy beds of mountain torrents with banks three or four feet high. Four miles in this pass. The valley seemed to widen, but in a short distance contracted again. Travelling 10 miles saw a camp fire, which proved to be Col. Whiting's. He turned his mules out yesterday on the scanty grass, could not find them this morning, probably gone back to Warner's, sent an Indian back for them. We regretted we had not stopped four miles back, where just before dark we had noticed a better show for grass. The mules are tied up for the night, with a meagre diet. Our camp is under some huge evergreen oaks, a little stream of clear water. Music of frogs. Tales of emigration from Brasfield. Pay-u-tahs of Humboldt. Paddy Cooper's adventure. At 11 P.M. still cloudy, the air still; at 12 moon shining bright.

25th: Shortly after leaving came upon another pretty little rivulet rushing down among the rocks from the high mountains upon our left. Clear, good water, soon crossed it again, the bottom, or pass, becoming more narrow, with rugged rocks on the right. In a couple of miles it opened to a small prairie, over which the young grass was springing up. Along the creek a short distance and crossing the point of the northwestern wall of the prairie, came upon

the Indian village. Our approach was the signal for a dozen dogs to bark. There are perhaps a dozen small thatched huts of a conical shape; one had the pretensions of some we had seen at Agua Caliente. This had a large corral made of poles around it. Some ground near had been in corn and wheat. Nothing to sell but eggs, three for a real . These people spoke Spanish. The village is about one-half mile from the entrance of the prairie. No wind going through the pass; mountains on our left high and shrouded in mist. Clouds much broken. Quite a strong wind at the village. The Indians recommended us to the grass on the opposite side of the creek, here widened to 8 or 10 feet. The vegetation of the pass is oak, wild sage, willow; no grass; the road pretty good, one rugged place just as the road goes over the hill to the village. An old Indian shews a testimonial of good standing, given by the sub-agent, and complaining that the emigrants have driven off his cattle. Shameful!

About 4 P.M. the missing mules are brought back, found grazing near the first village on the road. Short, young, tender grass, not much substance in it. Preparations to start at daylight to make the next Indian village. The mules will not drink.

26th: Up before daylight. Brasfield's San Diego mule gone; starts for it, found at the prairie among some Indian horses. A good deal of sandy road all day, some distance down the creek. Several short, steep ascents and descents during this 20 miles. A narrow pass, until we approach the valley of Temecula. This valley spreads out fine grass, though still young. The mules catch at it greedily. Soil fertile. Pass a flushed stream as we near the valley, lined with cottonwood. Partridges. Road round the high bluff. A bald eagle on a tree. A vineyard is being set out here. There is a pear and peach orchard. We could get no flour; the supply of that article already exhausted by the emigrants. Flour has been $1 per almud , beef 4 cents per lb.

The bottoms of the creek occasionally spread out to the width of near a mile. The hills have much excellent

Cloudy, windy, raw day, rained a little in the night.

Sunday, 27th: Day breaking, found the tall mountain to our right white with snow; while raining here, it was snowing on the mountain. One of the N. York company told me yesterday that they had a heavy rain here for three days. The snow with us at Agua Caliente was rain with them.

This morning is pleasant; green grass covers the valley; bunch grass On the hills, through our journey of today. Scarcely any timber on the hills. Eight miles from the village to the Alamo (cottonwood), some half-dozen large cottonwood trees. An emigrant encamped here. Ducks and geese On the numerous little ponds. Maj. S. saw a wolf yesterday and three deer today. Two other mountains are now in sight, at a considerable distance to the ease ward and north, must be 5000 feet high, their tops covered with snow. One stream seems to pass out of the valley by a narrow canon but a few yards wide. Reminded of the prairies of Clay County in the spring. Came to an abandoned adobe house. It is said the owner had to remove his cattle to a neighboring valley, off the road, in consequence of the emigrants killing them.

Not a cloud in the sky all day; warm and pleasant.

In about 15 miles reach some timber where the hills approach near, apparently the termination of the valley of Temecula, a sort of low divide over which we enter into another valley. In both these is much good soil, although in the latter more of the wiry grass and more marshy, some little evergreen oak among the hills.