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LEEs West
Arkansas To California
By Jim Williams, Sr.

A Brief Summary Of An Unpublished Book

       In the spring of 1849, Mark Lee (s/Cader s/John Jr. s/jlx), his brother-in-law John PATRICK, their families, and a few others left Cader Lee's 2-story log cabin home in Spadra, AR, bound for CA.  Their first stop was just west at Ft. Smith, AR, where they joined up with other families and a small Army detachment.  Once assembled, the group of about 150 wagons started west.  Their path was via the "southern route" through OK, TX, NM, AZ, & NV, and on the first night out, they were joined by another group of wagons, which increased not only their number but their security as well.
        The trip was mostly uneventful with only a single peaceful Indian encounter and one murder-trial-execution among their lot.  The notes of the wagon master, the ranking Army officer and, years later, the remembrances of a young girl who made the trek, fill in all the details of the event.
        Rather than traveling during the daytime heat, they soon found that resting during the day and traveling at night proved much more reliable to both their comfort and that of their stock (which included mules and hornless-oxen for pulling, and other stock for milk and food).  This was especially true near the end of their trip as they crossed 90 miles of desert.  Also, this train of about 200 wagons was frequently split up into smaller groups a mile or two apart, so that there was enough grazing for all the stock.  At the beginning of the trip, mud was the biggest problem, but after a few weeks, and better terrain, that changed.  Throughout the trip, grazing and water were the two main problems, although they faired far far better than those who took more northerly routes and suffered greatly.
       Arriving in Santa Fe, NM, the Army detachment left the wagon train and returned to the starting point via a slightly different route, seeking a better "road" west.
        In the fall, the wagons arrived in the Palm Springs, CA area.  Mark Lee and family (and perhaps a few others) continued on to San Diego, where they sold their stock and equipment, and proceeded to San Francisco by ship.  The majority of the wagon train wintered in the Palm Springs area, and the following spring they resumed their journey north along the coast to Santa Barbara and up to the Santa Clara Valley and San Jose.  This is where the "families" settled, whereas the gold-seekers headed for the hills to the east (some having left the train as it traveled north).  It now being 1850, San Jose was the capitol of the newly formed State of California.
        Of those who made the trip, those who made it for gold were mostly disappointed and either returned home or eventually changed occupations.  Those who made the trip for opportunity faired far better in farming or especially businesses that provided equipment or services for the gold miners.  Considering all the horror stories of the wagon trains on the more northern routes, this group had probably the easiest crossing of any. 

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