CHARLES GLASS GRAY. CALIFORNIA TRAIL.  1849.

Charles Glass Gray

  • b. 1820, Greenwich Street, NY.
  • nephew to Dr. John Stevens Darcy.
  • brother to well-known artist, Henry Peters Gray

Dr. [General] John Stevens Darcy

  • b. Feb. 24, 1788
  • Lived in Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey.
  • Served in the New Jersey Militia.

Acorns

On Native American ethnobotany, at Sierra Nevada:

“This afternoon shortly after leaving Lawsons I met a party of 5 Indians, carrying on their backs willow baskets fill’d with acorns & grapes & their long black hair, fine forms & scarlet & blue blankets made them look quite stylish.  I took a dime from my pocket & gave it to one of the Indians who spoke English very well, requesting some of the grapes & he fill’d every pocket I could empty with them.  They were very welcome as I was suffering with thirst all the afternoon from the effects of my great dinner.” [Oct. 3, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 119]

“In the afternoon I went out for grapes, but could not find many.  So I crossed the creek on a fallen tree & hearing a noise like somebody swimming in water I went down the opposite side of the creek some distance & there found a band of about 30 Indians cooking and puttering in the water,  I shook hands with one of them, their “head devil” aparently & asked for some grapes, they pointed some ways ahead down the creek, but I din’t feel like going any further so we went to”Swapping Knives”–but the chap wanted too much boot & we couldn’t agree.  So I gave him a pence of tobacco & returned.  They had a lot of stuff resembling pumpkins (probably acorns pounded into a kind of flour) & which they put in a circular place of about 3 feet in diameter, amde in the earth & then threw into it quite a lot of stones heated hot, they then after a little while took it out in a kind of wooden or wicker vessel eating it with their fingers, like a spoon.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 131]

See Grapes.

Alkali Water

strong alkali waters

“We unanimously concluded this morning that “we had seen the Elephant,”… At all these places have been dug some 4 to 6 feet square & the strong alkali waters obtain’d therefrom have to be cooled before they are drinkable, very little being used except for coffee & the team the coffee made with it I could scarcely drink, it was much worse than the tea.  These waters are very dangerous for cattle & guards were constantly watching day & night to prevent their drinking, one of our oxens who accidentally took a sip blister’d his tongue & another had his throat swell’d up very badly by it.  Last night I presume from my drinking so freely of the alkali water & tea & coffee made from it, I had quite a pain in my stomach & was awake nearly all night.  We hear of some teams losing 5 out 8 oxen crossing this desert.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 86

See “Water, Mineral Spring”

Anodynes

anodyne                                  

See “hot spring” entries for pages 84 onwards, described under “Water, Mineral Spring” section.

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 95

Biscuit/Hard Biscuit

      Poultice formula

“no milk & hard biscuit makes but a poor poultice”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

See Lancet, Leeches, Milk, Poultice.

Blood-letting

      See Lancet and Leeching.

Brandy

I unpack’d a bottle of fine brandy

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 9-10]

See Camphor.

Burns–see Surgical/Medical Implements.

Camphor

“In the afternoon I was taken with a violent headache—weakness in the legs–nausea at the stomach thought I should come on the sick list myself, so I unpack’d a bottle of fine brandy, took a good dose of that & some camphor, wrapped myself very warm & took a sleep, & awoke all in a sweat, & feeling much better.”  [May 10, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 9-10]

Cayenne Pepper

cayenne pepper

“Arrived at the camp soaked thru & thru, changed my clothes, & took a dose of cayenne pepper & vinegar.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 10-11]

Chloroform

chloroform

“A man who unfortunately had his kneespan shattered by the discharge of a gun has his leg taken off by the Gen’l & the U.S. Army Surgeon & being stupified by chloroform he bore it with great composure!”  [June 29, 1849]

      [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 48-49]

Consolation

“Visited the sick man Denman & found his nervous system in a very exciteable state, every part of him moving involuntarily with twitches, his fingers particularly, so much as though he was playing a piano.  The only sign of animation he show’d for several days was at a common breast pin, but very pretty however & which I had just put on today in overhauling my baggage.  He asked me to give it to him which I did, fastening his shirt together with it.  It was a sad sight to see him so prostrated & no doubts are entertain’d but what we shall say “lay him in the cold ground” as Ophelia says so mournfully.”

      [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 82]

Vivid descriptions of Denman’s pre and afterdeath appearances are given later, after his death date, August 24, 1849, p. 86-7.  Gray offers this diagnosis:  “His desease was of a malignant typhoid character…”

Dust

      dust

“The dust today was excessively thick & of a different character from any I have seen before, it acted upon me like lime, burning & irritating the skin.” [Aug. 7, 1849]

      [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 77

dusty

“Road today exceedinly dusty, in fact I believe it to be a kind of lime as it burns & blisters he skin (my ancles particularly) quite severely.  To this add intense heat from 11 till 5 oclock & a pretty faithful picture is presented of “our woes & sufferings.”” [Aug 13, 1849]

      [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 80

Dried mineral spring salts? or perhaps crystalline material from the bedrock?

Flour

“I wear a large plaister made of flour & molasses”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 76]

See Plaster.

God/Great Spirit

“God revered in Woodland homes”

“There were quite a number of Indians in the house, so I rode off thinking how we at home were doing this day, whilst the poor Indians were worshipping here in the wilderness & thought of Bryants lines, as somewhat appropriate “How man is loved & God revered in Woodland homes & where the solemn ocean foams!”  [“Pottawotamie Indians,” May 13, 1949]

Reference was being made to Edwin Bryant’s What I saw in California (1848), and Bryant’s Louisville Daily Journal article, January 23, 1849, on instructions as to what to take with you.

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 12]

Grapes [Oregon Grape(?)]

grapes

On Native American ethnobotany, at Sierra Nevada:

“This afternoon shortly after leaving Lawsons I met a party of 5 Indians, carrying on their backs willow baskets fill’d with acorns & grapes & their long black hair, fine forms & scarlet & blue blankets made them look quite stylish.  I took a dime from my pocket & gave it to one of the Indians who spoke English very well, requesting some of the grapes & he fill’d every pocket I could empty with them.  They were very welcome as I was suffering with thirst all the afternoon from the effects of my great dinner.” [Oct. 3, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 119]

grapes

“…several of our men sick from eating too much meat & grapes & laying about in the hot sun.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 127]

Lancet [for Bloodletting]

for “the boil”

“…he wished to lance it but I wouldn’t consent to it.” [Aug’t 2, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

Later, he would write: “My lip discharged largely through 3 holes in it & presented a dreadful picture.” [Aug. 3]  Whether these holes were deliberately made, or occured due to the boil is uncertain.

See Leeches, Poultice, Plaster.

Leeches

for “the boil”

“Still suffering great pain…The Gen’l was out yesterday afternoon looking for some leeches.” [Aug’t 2, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

See Lancet, Poultice.

Lime–see Dust

Milk

“no milk & hard biscuit makes but

a poor poultice”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

See Lancet, Leeches, Milk, Poultice.

Mineral or Salt Water–See “Water, Mineral Spring.”

Molasses

“I wear a large plaister made of flour & molasses”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 76]

See Plaster.

Morphine

morphine

“The morphine the Gen’l gave me to ease my pain, vomited me violently & my head ached dreadfully from the dreadful jamming it has had this afternoon.”

                                          [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

morphine

After a mineral poisoning from mineral/alkali water: “Slept a while by the aid of morphine”

                                          [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 94]

See entry which appears for “hot water”   (p. 94) in “Water, Mineral Spring”.

Oak–see Acorns, Grapes.

Opium

opium

“I also had a painful cholic, which however I quieted with some opium & passed a tolerable night only.” [Oct. 10, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 127]

Plaster

a large plaister

“The holes in my lip (about the size of an ordinary pencil) continue to discharge & the side of my face considerably inflamed. I wear a large plaister made of flour & molasses & find it relieves me somewhat, at least it keeps the dust & dirt out.” [Aug. 6, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 76]

At the end of this day’s entry, he wrote: “My face is getting better.”  [p. 76]  On August 13th: “The boil has almost totally subsided, but has left three scarified spots which do not add much of anything to my personal beauty.” [p. 80]

See Lancet, Leeches, Milk, Poultice, and related entries.

Poultice

for “a fever blister”

“a fever blister…broke out on my lip…Poulticed my lip which kept me awake nearly all night.”  [July 29, 1849]                                   

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 73]

Note: The ingredients for the poultice, milk and bread, appear in the next entry on it.  This blister continued the next few days, and on July 31st he received some morphine for the pain, following by an attempt to lance or leech it. 

See Morphine.

for “the boil”

“Still suffering great pain, the boil having having discharged and regather’d.  The Gen’l was out yesterday afternoon looking for some leeches, but without success & no milk & hard biscuit makes but a poor poultice, he wished to lance it but I wouldn’t consent to it.” [Aug’t 2, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 74]

See Lancet.

Scurvy [Land Scurvy]

“The General beyond doubt has the scurvy, but he intimates no such thing to any of us.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 105]

” a few days ago we saw swarms of butterflies along the margin of the small streams & several graves of person who had perish’d with the scurvy…” [September 28, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 111]

“Dr. White of Bath, England, about as near drunk as he well could be.  He examined the General’s legs & ancles, which have lately been so much swollen & decidedly pronounced it scurvy…” [Oct. 19, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 136]

Starvation, Animal

Gray writing about the behavior of the oxen:

“After going about 2 miles, the best ox in our team, & probably in the whole train & whom no money could buy of us fell almost lifeless in his yoke.  So we were obliged to hold up.  We gave our noble fellow 1/2 a pail full of water & emptied before him our last bag of hay.”

“At the sight & smell of the green leaves they were so ravenous as almost to pull the wheels off the wagons & eat up leaves, twigs, bark & anything they could get hold of, being truly speakings nearly starved to death.” [September 30, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 114]

Note: there were many notes in the immediate preceding pages on multitudes of dead oxen just prior to Lassen Peak, perhaps due to starvation as well as fatigue.  Other causes for team deaths include ingestion of toxic plants as the result of an extended period of starvation, followed by re-entry into a green forest where potentially toxic plants reside, such as Veratrum in the wet or marshy river basins and along the shores of streams.   

See Scurvy.

Sun

“Old Sol”

“A beautiful day being overcast till 11 O’clock & so cool & agreeable that we could wish for nothing more pleasant.  At noon however “Ole Sol” came out with all his power.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849]

See Grapes entry.  See entry for God/Great Spirit.

Surgical/Medical Implements

scizzors

“A few days ago I was cooking over a large fire, the wind drove the flames in my face & as I did not move, but merely closed my eyes, the consequences was my eyelashes were nearly burned off, is I took scizzors & trim’d off the crisp’d edges but so far have found no inconvenience except a little soreness.”

Covered separately:  Lancet; medicaments such as Plaster, Poultice and Leeches; God/Great Spirit.

Sweating

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 9-10]

Tobacco/Cigars

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 9-10]

      segars

Vinegar

vinegar

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 10-11]

“Arrived at the camp soaked thru & thru, changed my clothes, & took a dose of cayenne pepper & vinegar.”

Water–see Alkali

Water, Mineral Spring

a hot mineral spring

“…went about 3 miles on the north side of the city to “Bath Spring” the Lion of the place.  It is a hot sulphur spring, about 15 feet square, the bottom of it being cover’d with green. black & yellow pebbles, the water like chrystal, the smell strongly but not unpleasantly sulphurious, about 1 1/2 feet deep, the water issues from the side of the mountain by a hole, about the size of a mans body, & also bubbling up the bath itself, its temperature delightly warm, about 100 & the bath which some half dozen of us took it in, perfectly delicious.”  [July 15, 1849.]                                 

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 65]

See Stansbury, Explorations, pp. 418-9, for a chemical analysis of this spring.

another sulphur Spring

“In the afternoon went to the “Hot Spring” alone, this is another sulphur Spring & so hot that you are unable to bear your hand in it & very strongly sulphureous & clear.”  [July 16, 1849]

                                    [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 66]

hot spring

“Stop’d about at 8’Oclock at a hot spring & the water was hot enough to boil an egg & from which we made some tea, which was so nauseous that I could hardly drink it, accustomed as we are to drink & eart anything.  The stench & effluvia of the Springs & the water flowing therefrom was very disagreeable.” [Aug 22, 1849]

                                    [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 85]

hot spring

“The thought of death has struck every heart & silence reigns triumphant through the camp.  Went about 1/4 of a mile to a hot spring to wash myself, several dishcloths & towels & some clothes.  I found it was a hot spring in reality, as hot as boiling water.” [Aug 25, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 88]

Notes:  The following day, they went to “Great Boiling Spring” and brewed a pot of “miserable coffee” with it.  Complaints about the abdominal pains due to drinking these waters continue through August 27 and 28, by which date it became “quite severe.”  On August 29th the team came upon a fresh spring gushing up at the base of a mountain; he writes: “so cold we could hardly drink it & which after so long using such execrable water is perfectly delightful.” The next day, Gray was taken by severe abdominal cramps: “Stop’d at about 4 oclock more dead than alive & the Genl examined me half naked in the wagon.”  On August 30 he was able to get along sitting inside a slowly moving wagon; on August 31st: “I was in the wagon all day surrounded by blankets to make it easy for me & supported myself by leaning back against a rope drawn accross the wagon.”  On September 1st, he was treated again by the Genl, this time with “medicines” including some morphine, which enabled him to catch some sleep. [p. 94]

This problem continued for days to come.  On September 2nd and 3rd it was so bad Gray barely made an entry into his diary.  On September 4th, he wrote in the diagnosis given to him by the General: “stricture of the intestines the same as the Gen’l himself suffer’d last year from drinking lead water.” [p. 95]  According to his description of himself, his abdomen appears distended or bloated on the left side.  He took anodynes to help relieve him of the pain.  According to the General: “no man in his hands on the whole route had suffer’d such intense pain.”  Gray’s reply to overhearing this comment, which he entered in his diary, was simply “I knew myself there was no alternative.  I should either take whatever was given me or else die.” [p. 95]  Gray became more vivacious again with his writings after this date.  His September 10th entry has the writing of reactice depression.  [p. 98]  By September 13th he was back on horseback. [[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 99]

Willow Baskets–see Grapes

May 10

After taking care of the wagon on which a cholera victim stayed, Gray felt he was coming down with the same ailment.  Immediately preceding this he had “smoked a couple of segars,” which perhaps led to his headache:

“In the afternoon I was taken with a violent headache—weakness in the legs–nausea at the stomach thought I should come on the sick list myself, so I unpack’d a bottle of fine brandy, took a good dose of that & some camphor, wrapped myself very warm & took a sleep, & awoke all in a sweat, & feeling much better.”  [May 10, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 9-10]

May 11, 1849

“…I mounted my horse & rode out about 5 miles , when suddenly a tremendous rain arose & as I could not get shelter I had to face it & ran my horse at full speed, the road being like a race course.  Arrived at the camp soaked thru & thru, changed my clothes, & took a dose of cayenne pepper & vinegar.”

C.G. Gray, 1849, pp. 10-11]

May 15-16, 1849

The effect of cold, wet and dampness on rheumatism is noted.  Description of a large Prairie Fire, water.

June 29, 1849

“A man who unfortunately had his kneespan shattered by the discharge of a gun has his leg taken off by the Gen’l & the U.S. Army Surgeon & being stupified by chloroform he bore it with great composure!”

      [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 48-49]

July 5, 1849

Camp no. 61.

“The ground burned up like ashes, no water, or verdure or vitality except the tough, stunted artemesia bushes and wild sage with which the country is covered.”

      [Gray, 1849]

Commentary

How do we interpret these writings?  Are they 100% valid or are they a Hoax?  This is usually a question we need to ask regarding the validity of what we are being told about a trip or journey through unknown territory. 

During the Colonial period, there were a lot of observations made that duplicated previously published materials.  It was not unusual for someone to read several other encounters with similar regions before writing down his (or her) personal observations.  This method of recalling “truths” has the effect of sometimes modifying the story a bit, since in the case of certain plants, there may be similars between regions resulting in a misidentification on behalf of the new writer. 

Likewise a prejudice about a specific behavior may be repeated by the new author, such as the ways in which certain religious ceremonies are carried out or how the deceased and the spouses appear to be treated.  These prior observations often prejudice what is being documented by someone noticing these events, people and activities for their own personal first experience. 

There are a number of things about Gray’s writings that can be related to this narrator’s behavior.

On “October 2nd, 1849,” Gray wrote:

“And now having arrived at Lawsons & being obliged to return to the General; I shall introduce like all other great writers, an episode as if it were (of my skill in horse hunting.)” [[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 118]

In his section about the “Grape”, he possibly means an edible grape, but could be referring to Oregon Grape (Mahonia sp.) due to the native American ethnobotany parts of his description.  The assumption here is that Gray knew how to distinguish other edible berries like the blueberry and huckleberry or certain Viburnum species.

On Native American ethnobotany, at Sierra Nevada, he wrote:

“This afternoon shortly after leaving Lawsons I met a party of 5 Indians, carrying on their backs willow baskets fill’d with acorns & grapes & their long black hair, fine forms & scarlet & blue blankets made them look quite stylish.  I took a dime from my pocket & gave it to one of the Indians who spoke English very well, requesting some of the grapes & he fill’d every pocket I could empty with them.  They were very welcome as I was suffering with thirst all the afternoon from the effects of my great dinner.” [Oct. 3, 1849]

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 119]

This is preceded by the following entry on Sept 31, 1849: 

“We were all “down in the mouth” on account of the breaking down of our noble ox, but went to bed congratulating ourselves that we were safe, having only about 15 miles further to go reach what we had so long desired, the house of the white man in California.”

The tense used in this entry is uncertain:

“The Gen’l still very unwell & his boy Ash begins to wane.” [Sept. 19, [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 102]

He quotes all of the famous writers very well:

  • See p. 96, the “Ode to Pleasure…” stanza.
  • See eloquent writing style in photo of original diary pages:  pp. 90-91.
  • Many detailed drawings, seem accurate.
  • Garbled quotations.

He recovered very well on his own with that stricture of the bowels.  Does not mention what happened after that recovery; he should have had some sort of extra or borborygmal passage from the bowels.

He remembers a lot of detail, adding a lot of verses and prose, and heavy and careful use of adjectives.

He tells of how (p. 127) on Oct 10, 1849, far from Sacramento, he heard about the death of President Polk, which usually didn’t reach you until you made it to the end of your journey and into the city.  See footnote for this.

In this story, he leaves, yet still knows what happens afterwards.  He goes out for grapes but “could not find many,” does he expect them to grow wild?  He also has a very good conversation with the “head devil,” “Swapping Knives” with him, etc. (See also footnote for this entry, [C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 131-2):

“In the afternoon I went out for grapes, but could not find many.  So I crossed the creek on a fallen tree & hearing a noise like somebody swimming in water I went down the opposite side of the creek some distance & there found a band of about 30 Indians cooking and puttering in the water,  I shook hands with one of them, their “head devil” aparently & asked for some grapes, they pointed some ways ahead down the creek, but I din’t feel like going any further so we went to “Swapping Knives”–but the chap wanted too much boot & we couldn’t agree.  So I gave him a pence of tobacco & returned.  They had a lot of stuff resembling pumpkins (probably acorns pounded into a kind of flour) & which they put in a circular place of about 3 feet in diameter, made in the earth & then threw into it quite a lot of stones heated hot, they then after a little while took it out in a kind of wooden or wicker vessel eating it with their fingers, like a spoon.”

[C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 131]

See more on these acorns and about asking for fish in the following fashion “held up an old red flannel shirt & some beads & which they saw immediately…” ([C.G. Gray, 1849, p. 134).

See footnote 223, p. 140, regarding copied quote.