John App April 20 – 24, 1850 Gold Rush Diary

John’s last diary entry was on April 19th, and his next entry will be made in a few days on April 25, 1850 after the river crossing. He and Jake are camped at St. Joseph, Missouri which is one of several points that begin the journey west on the California-Oregon Trail (Independence, Missouri and St. Louis, Missouri are a couple of others). The famous trail begins once they cross the Missouri River which is one mile or so from where they are now camped. Lewis & Clark also canoed up this river with the Corps of Discovery.

While John is waiting for his turn to be ferried across the Missouri River he is gathering the supplies he will need to complete the next section of his trip, and he is making some necessary repairs of his equipment. He is a practical man and makes every minute count, so no diary entries are made during this time of waiting because there is nothing of significance to report. Here is a painting of what St. Joseph, Missouri would have looked like in 1850:

Once John is on the California-Oregon Trail he does not make diary entries as often as he has up to this point. You will be able to sense him concentrating on making fast progress. There are fewer places of population and landmarks to mark his stopping points. The trail is more wide open with long, long stretches of nothing but uneventful, monotonous travel. When he does not make entries I will try to post about some interesting things to be found along the way, although it might not be every day. So, for now you can get yourself re-supplied, relax, and be prepared for an interesting, personal journey west on the California-Oregon Trail… the very same trail that thousands of immigrants followed in the years before and after 1850 as they sought a better life, and even gold, in the Great American West.

The first of the following pictures is a representative picture, from John App’s day, of some teamsters. The next two photos are from St. Joseph showing the Jesse James’ house (where Jesse was shot dead) which was built long after John passed through in 1850, and the Pony Express terminus (original building). The Pony Express didn’t begin service until ten years later in 1860, and this original building was the eastern end of the line. Although the Pony Express was able to transport mail from the east coast to the west coast in only 10 days, its life was short (only 18 months) because the transcontinental telegraph was completed and obsoleted the entire Pony Express system.

About storiesretoldblogger

I am an Elkhart, Indiana native and became interested in applying video to history when consumer video cameras were first introduced on the market in the late 1970’s. My production company, Stories Retold, specializes in preserving oral history, traditions, and values with video. Primarily interviewing individuals, I sometimes document families, and on occasion document an entire community. My niche is developing a personal relationship with clients which helps me to tell their story just the way they would like to have it told. Everyone has a story worth preserving, and I enjoy discovering interesting stories from people with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. In years to come, these videos will be priceless as they portray original stories complete with visual images and actual voices filled with all the primary material and emotion that was intended to be. I gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction with each completed project whether it involves an individual or an entire community.
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2 Responses to John App April 20 – 24, 1850 Gold Rush Diary

  1. Pat Hillman says:


    This is fascinating and I appreciate your comments about John explaining why he doesn’t make dairy entried every day. thanks again for doing this.


  2. wil keepers says:

    This is very interesting, I am attempting to write a novel about my ancestor who traveled the Oregon Trail with his family in 1850 and his description of St. Joseph was very helpful, since I have never been there and have found little to describe its appearance in 1850..

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