John App – After the Gold Rush Diary, Part 3 of 4

Following is a more “colorful” rendition of the journey on the Walker River Trail:

History of Kennedy Meadows
Sonora Pass, California Sierra Nevada

The history of Kennedy Meadows begins with the first crossing of Sonora Pass by the Clark-Skidmore party of 1852. They had begun their journey from Elizabethtown Ohio in the fall of 1851 to join the many other thousands bound for California’s gold. The party included Fifty-four men, women, and children, determined to overcome whatever nature or man could do to stop them…..

2 P.M. June 2, 1852
The trip down the Walker river from Reno had been deceptively easy. Had they known then what they knew now they would never have followed General Morehead. After turning west again (at what is now the junction of Hwys 108 and 395) they had come to a beautiful, peaceful valley. However the terrain had become steep and difficult after that. Snow capped peaks surrounded them now and the climb had been treacherous. They were finally approaching what appeared to be the summit. As they crested the top of the rise the site that lay before them was disheartening. On the right and left where snow capped peaks. Straight ahead a boulder strewn gorge and a sheer cliff with a two hundred foot drop. The only way out was straight down. The situation had now become desperate. They were running low on supplies with only three days of food left before they would have to start killing their livestock. Thoughts of the Donner party and their ill fated traverse of the Sierras six years previously were on their minds. Martinas Skidmore turned and pointed to General Morehead, his finger shaking with anger as he said: “You, sir have gotten us into this, and you sir, will get us out of it! You have jeopardized the lives of our families and livestock and we are now on the precipice. If we are to starve, you will not have that luxury, you will be hanging by this rope!” He began to pull a rope from his saddlebag. The anger seething from him was seized upon by the other members of the party, the cry to “Hang him now!” was heard echoing back down through the other members of the group.

This was not what Morehead had envisioned when he had heard of Sonora Pass the previous year. He had been told (from what he knew now to be less than reliable sources) that the pass itself was difficult but that after traversing the pass it would be a relatively easy trip. He had not however, made the trip himself but had relied on the word of another. If he had it to do over he would not have brought so many, with so much to lose. The predicament they where now in was his making and he would do his best to get them out of it.

Nathan Clark was a man of few words but at 6 foot four inches and the arms of a Blacksmith he was listened to when he did talk. His deep booming voice echoed off the rock walls as he spoke “Stop, I say. Hanging General Morehead will not get us over this pass. The predicament we are now in is no more and no less than what we’ve endured for the past two months. Cooler heads are needed. Let General Morehead speak.”
Thankful that the situation had been defused (for the moment at least). And thinking quickly (as he was known to do when under pressure). Morehead spoke. “I will lead a party to Sonora for a relief train and will return in three day’s time. I am a man of my word contrary to what you believe. I was deceived by another as to the difficulty of this traverse.”

Nathan Clark had a lot to lose and a very strong reason to see that this party made it to Sonora. His family was with him and he was going to make sure that Morehead followed through with his promise. If what Morehead said was true then there was reason enough to give him the opportunity to clear his name. Clark had always prided himself in his fairness and objectivity. They were in a situation now where all involved needed to think clearly. He spoke to General Morehead. “General, if what you say is true then you have my word you will not be harmed. Do you believe we can make the journey in three days time and on what do you base this time frame?” General Morehead spoke cautiously, “If we can make Leavitt Meadow in one day’s time then you have my word we will be in Sonora two days later.”

Skidmore and Clark stepped back from the others and spoke quietly for a few minutes. They were the undisputed leaders of this party and what they decided was final. Nathan Clark spoke first. “There will be a relief party sent and General Morehead will lead it.” A hush descended over the party. “Six volunteers are needed to accompany General Morehead. You will prepare to leave immediately.”

High above the emigrants and out of sight two brothers sat silently watching. Brave Bear (known for his sense of humor and his practical jokes) raised his eyebrows as he gave a sideward look to Eagle Feather. “Do the white men really think they can get those wagons over this pass?” Eagle Feather could not help himself as they turned their horses, his laughter echoing off the canyon walls….

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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