Red Ball William Gaines Pennebaker's 1868 Diary
Diary of the crossing of the plains from Peoria, Wayne County, Iowa to Visalia, California. Trip took 3 months and 17 days - total of 108 days and 2035 miles (as reported in diary). The party consisted of 24 members including Pennebaker family listed below:
  • William H. and Lucinda Finley PENNEBAKER
  • George Finley PENNEBAKER and family
    • Sarah Ann Predmore Pennebaker, wife
    • dtr: Della Emma
  • William Gaines PENNEBAKER and family
    • Louisa J. Jennison Pennebaker, wife
    • dtr: Sarah Ellen
    • dtr: Mary Anne
    • dtr: Laura Willie
    • son: Sherman T.
    • son: Bloom F.
  • James PECK and family
    • Sarah Ellen Pennebaker (James PECK married Sarah Ellen Pennebaker after Mary Anne's death)
  • William F. PENNEBAKER
  • Elijah DENNY

  • Others mentioned in diary: T. Crow, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. and Mrs. Stengel, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Butler and Mr. Kimball.

Trail map prepared by Paul E. Pennebaker.

Year 1868

April 20

Having completed our arrangements for the campaign to California, we left Peoria, Wayne County, to take up our march to the Far West. Started at 3p.m. after bidding our friends farewell, 24 of us in number and camped four miles west of Corydon, Wayne County, Iowa, at old Father Brooks.

April 21

Marched at one-half past seven a.m. and took dinner two miles west of Lewisburgh and thence to the creek one mile east of Leon, Decatur County, Iowa, distance 20 miles.

April 22

Nothing special occurred. All well. Ate dinner on the Grand River and camped eight miles east of Mount Ain, Ringold County. 18 miles.

April 23

Passed through Mount Ain, cool and cloudy. At 2p.m., commenced raining. Camped near a branch of Platte River. James Peck and Isaac sick. 16 miles.

April 24

Raining and cold, came 12 miles. Sick not better. Camped 10 miles east of Bedford, Taylor County. 12 miles.

April 25

Past Bedford had a pleasant march. Sick on the mend. Camped on west 102. Came 18 miles.

April 26

Sabbath. Marched past Clarinda Page County. All well. Camped on the Turkey. Nothing special occurred. 18 miles.

April 27

Came 14 miles and crossed Fisher's Creek. (part of paragraph indistinguishable) 24 miles.

April 28

Raining. Came 3 miles to Sidney, county seat of Fremont County (IA). Thence to East Port on the Missouri River. Cool. Cloudy. Distance 15 miles.

April 29

Pleasant day. Lay in East Port, opposite Nebraska City (NE), visited the city. All well and in good spirits.

April 30

Crossed the river. Ferriage for four teams, $3.75. Bought our outfit and drive six miles.

May 1

On guard last night. Pleasant morning. All well, our teams in good condition. Came 22 miles and camped at 2p.m. at Nemaha Creek.

May 2

Marched at 7a.m. to Stephens Creek 12 miles, thence to Lincoln 12 miles and camped on Salt Creek. Salty water. 25 miles.

May 3

Drove to Blue River 20 miles and took dinner. This Sabbath heard of a train waiting for us 20 miles ahead. Drove to Walnut 10 miles farther. Distance 30 miles.

May 4

Drove 10 miles to Beaver, overtook our comrades, 12 men, two women, two children. Lay over to shell corn and wash. Very stormy windy day. 10 miles.

May 5

Bought corn and started for Platte River 65 miles without a horse. Came 36 miles and camped on the head of Beaver Creek.

May 6

Raining. March one-half past six. Blowing and stormy. Tremendous bad cold and wet. Came 23 miles to Platte River and camped in old house covered with sod. Quite cold and disagreeable. All well.

May 7

Lay til 2p.m. cooking and drying our goods. Grazing grass tolerable good. All well and in good spirits. Start up Platte on the south side. March 14 miles and camped. Pleasant evening. Everything lovely and the goose hangs high.

May 8

Left camp at 7a.m. for Fort Kearny. Marched up Platte river, saw plenty of antelopes and buffalo carcasses. Reached the fort at 3p.m., 30 miles, thence to Daly two miles and went into camp. All well and hearty.

May 9

General stampede of stock last night. All of our stock gone but one mare. William Peck, William Boswell, T. Brown and myself started in pursuit, followed them to the junction of the Nebraska City road 12 miles and stopped at 11p.m. on the prairie, lay three hours.

May 10

Left our post at 2a.m., followed the horses to Beaver Creek crossing, a distance of 48 miles in all counting the meandering of the trail, 128 miles. Arrived at Beaver at 1a.m in 23 hours. Very sore and rited indeed.

May 11

Started back to camp, horses sore and gaunted. Made 36 miles. Traveled with Waterman and Ferguson and Davis and Van Burean counties, Iowa.

May 12

Came to Bishop's Island on the Platte River 42 miles. Kept our stock on the island. Stopped with Bishop, and a young man set our supper. Went to bed safe and slept well.

May 13

Left the island with our stock in company with a train of seven wagons and 13 men. Got to camp at 2p.m. after 4-1/2 days hard riding over 233 miles. Stock all right except is gaunt up very much.

May 14

Lay in camp preparing for a march tomorrow. All well. Writing letter, after which we held an election of officers. T. Crow elected captain and Mr. Ferguson wagonmaster to serve for two weeks.

May 15

Left camp at one-half past 7a.m. Made 23 miles. Pleasant. Looks like rain. 21 wagons and 43 men in company. All well.

May 16

Left camp at 8a.m. and marched up the Platte valley. Very warm. Met the cavalry moving from Fort McPherson to Fort Kearny. Seen four Pawnees. Soldiers come running on opposite side of river. 25 miles, cloudy this morning.

May 17

Marched at one-half past 7, all well. Marched up Platte valley, did not touch the river all day. Passed a large ranch vacated. Made 25 miles in good time. A little rainy.

May 18

Came to Cottonwood Fort. Commenced raining, came five miles in rain and camped. Raining very hard. Camped at 2p.m. Made 18 miles. All well.

May 19

Came to Platte river 10 miles, crossed the river all right about 80 rods wide. Came to Platte City two miles. Saw a great number of Indians.

May 20

One month out. Raining now. Noon all well. Three trains passed, going to Cheyenne. All quiet in camp 2p.m. Still raining. Agreed to lay in camp til morning. Court martialed a youth for going to sleep on guard last night.

May 21

Pleasant morning. Ready to march at one-half past 7, marched 24 miles up the RR. Camped at 3p.m. Pleasant evening, the river rising, all ready for their rations. G.F.'s foot hurt yesterday by horse stepping on it much better.

May 22

Came 27 miles and camped near station of RR 18 miles west of Julesburgh. Nothing special occurred.

May 23

Marched at the usual hour past Julesburgh. Very deep sandy road on the Platte. Left the Platte River at Julesburgh. Came five miles to camp. 23 miles today.

May 24

Sabbath. Rained last night hard. Clear and pleasant today. Came 24 miles and boys killed two antelopes. All well. Camped on Pole Creek.

May 25

Monday came 30 miles. Camped late. Health good. Rained hard in evening. Nothing exciting. All quiet. Heard of some Indians. Passed Sidney at 10a.m.

May 26

Came 25 miles and camped on Pole Creek near the RR. All well, rather cool.

May 27

Wednesday passed Pine mountains at 12p.m. Marched up Pole Creek and camped. Grass poor and short. In sight of train ahead. Made 24 miles, health good.

May 28

Marched eight miles and came in sight of the Rocky Mountains. No water til 3p.m. Camped at Crow Creek, made 23 miles. Five miles to Cheyenne. Mother not well.

May 29

Camped Friday to wash and rest. Mother better. Clear and then cloudy. Writing some letters. Nothing special occurred.

May 30

Saturday marched at one-half past 7, came through Cheyenne. Bought a pony at 60 dollars. Left town at noon and had a hail storm and rain. Came 23 miles up the RR and camped on the Rocky mountain. Cool, all well.

May 31

Marched all day on the mountains. Saw nature's wonders in great stones, evergreens and other growth adapted to the mountain regions. 32 miles.

June 1

Monday our train divided. Captain Crow with five wagons left us with 14 wagons near Fort Saunders. Said fort is two miles east of Larami River. Now in fair view of the snow capped mountains. Crossed the river and camped. Made 10 miles. All well.

June 2

Came to the Little Larima River, 18 miles, thence to 7 Mile Creek and camped close to the mountains. Poor grass. All lively.

June 3

Left camp at 8a.m. traveled over very rocky road close to foot of the mountain. Gathered from the great heaps. Nice river of clear mountain water. Came 18 miles and camped on Rock Creek.

June 4

Left Rock Creek at 8 and came to Wagonhour 11 miles, thence to Medicine Bow eight miles, thence to old Halleck six miles. 25 miles dreadful rough road. All well.

June 5

Snowing hard. Laying in camp all day writing letters to N. Applegate and N. Jenison. Moved at 3p.m. Came 13 miles and camped on Ross Creek.

June 6

Came to the North Platte River at 1p.m. and lay in camp all evening. All well. 17 miles. Very barren sandy country.

June 7

Came to the river at sunup, crossed the river and came seven miles to breakfast, then 14 to Willow Creek and stopped overnight. Burned sage brush. My eyes sore. Health good.

June 8

Started at one-half past 7. Mag sick with cholic. Came over the mountains and stopped to graze at one-half past eleven near the summit, Pine Grove, after making 12 miles. Came down Muddy Creek to Sulphur Springs and camped. All well.

June 9

Dry and dusty road. Left the creek and came to Duck Lake station 13 miles, then to Barrel Springs 18 miles and camped. 31 miles today.

June 10

Let Barrel Spring and came four miles to Dug Spring, then to Bingham's Canyon, then to Leclede station, head of Bitter Creek, 6 iles, then to Dugout Springs, 2-1/2 miles, 24 miles.

June 11

Left Dugout Springs at 7a.m. Crossed South Bitter Creek 5-1/2 miles from camp, then past Point of Rocks station at 10 o'clock and camped for dinner and grazed at 11. Came to Black Butte station and camped three miles below.

June 12

Came to Salt Wells 29 miles. Camped in bottoms near Bitter Creek.

June 13

Marched 29 miles to Green River and camped one-half mile above town. Late getting into camp. The town is situated on the southeast side of the river and is composed of doby and brush.

June 14

Sabbath. Lay in camp all day. Had eight wagon tires set for $12. Went on guard. My eyes very sore.

June 15

Left camp at 9. Mr. and Mrs. Stengel sick. Mr. Robinson sick. Crossed the river and came to Ham's Fork and camped.

June 16

Crossed the river and made 18 miles by 2p.m. and camped. William Peck quite sick. Cool and windy, poor grass.

June 17

Left camp at 7a.m. and came to the south fork of the Green River. Crossed and came three miles, in all 23 miles over a sandy, desolate country. Camped near the foot of a small mountain. Pleasant. Sick improving.

June 18

Came eight miles to Fort Bridger. Wrote a letter to Father Jenison and J. Rynerson. Left Ashbaugh and Scott. Came out 14 miles and camped on an alkaline branch. Mosquitoes quite bad for the first time. 22 miles.

June 19

Came over the mountains, very rough road and alkaline water except from snow which lay in heaps along the road. Camped near Bear River. 1-1/2 miles of sulphur Creek. Friendly Indians. Health good. 20 miles.

June 20

Saturday, crossed Yellow Creek on toll bridge 11 miles from camp. Moved one mile west of the creek on a high ridge. Snow for to cool the water. Mountains covered with snow all over. Pleasant day, all well. Camped at the head of Echo Canyon. 24 miles.

June 21

Sabbath, pleasant. Came down the canyon to Weaver Creek, Echo City, thence up the river 3 miles and camped. 25 miles, all well. Passed the Mormons in camp on the railroad survey.

June 22

Started at 7a.m. Passed Coal City where the coal was burning under the side of the mountain. Crossed Weaver River on bridge. Passed Wanship and camped near summit.

June 23

Started up the summit and crossed it, thence down the canyon 20 miles near the city and camped in the city emigrant corral in Salt Lake City.

June 24

Lay in city, raining and cool. Funeral service in memory of Mr. Kimball. Health good. Received a letter from John Barnett, John, H.P. & S. Jenison.

June 25

Still in the city. Raining some. Nothing special. Bought 18 bushels of barley at $2.75. G.F. quite sick.

June 26

Started out of the city. Came 21 miles and camped near the Great Salt Lake. Very salty. Quite warm.

June 27

Passed a little town near the foot of the mountain. Came 12 miles to a mill, six miles to Stockton. Camped three miles below a little lake.

June 28

Sabbath. Left camp at 7:30 came three miles and crossed a little creek. then to water again 16 miles, 19 miles in all. Camped for noon Rush Valley, afternoon came five miles and camped, went 1-1/2 miles for water. Grass good and grasshoppers very bad. 24 miles.

June 29

Monday. Came over the summit to Lookout Station, thence to a creek 10 miles, camped for noon. G.F. very sick with fever. Very warm, good grass. 14 miles.

June 30

Lay in camp preparing for the desert. G.F. some better. Pleasant day. Mr. Robinson and Butler gone on.

July 1

Wednesday. Started early to cross the desert. Came to Simpson Springs 7 miles, then to Riverbed Station 10 miles and nooned. Started at 4p.m. and came to Black Rock Station 12 miles, then to Dugway 14 miles, then to Fish Spring 10 miles where we arrived at 5a.m. the second, 53 miles.

July 2

Lay in camp and rested our stock until 2p.m. and started for Willow Creek where we arrived at 1a.m. the 3rd, having crossed the desert and rested in camp until 2p.m. Then came four miles west of Canyon Station and camped 39 miles from Fish Spring.

July 4

Saturday. Came to Deep Creek 10 miles, and lay over to rest our stock.

July 5

Sabbath. Lay in camp until 2.p.m and came six miles further up and camped for the night.

July 6

Monday, marched early. Good roads. Came to Antelope Station 24 miles. There we took the old road, the cutoff. Rough and hilly road but eight miles nearer. Camped two miles west of station.

July 7

Came through the canyon and camped for noon 12 miles in Spring Valley. Pleasant day, all well but mother. Thence over the summit to Lookout Station to camp. 24 miles in all.

July 8

Left camp at one-half past six and crossed the valley and came up Egan Canyon for noon, 16 miles. Rough mountains on either side. Gold and silver mine. Left the canyon at 3p.m. and came up on the mountain six miles and made a dry camp. Mother and Jane both unwell. 22 miles.

July 9

Left camp at 6a.m. and came down the mountain 15 miles to a station and watered. Then to a spring 2-1/2 miles. Paid $1.40 for water for the train. Then to camp six miles. Jane quite sick, but mother better.

July 10

Left the spring and came to a spring on Silver mountain at noon, then over the summit to a valley and Jacob's Wells station to camp. Sick better.

July 11

Left camp at 8a.m. James Pecks left us at Jacobs Wells and took the Neward road for White Pines district. We crossed Diamond mountain, nooned at Diamond Spring. Quite sick myself. Came to Sulphur Springs 12 miles to camp. 24 miles. Our train all alone. Froze hard last night.

July 12

Sabbath. Came 10 miles to water, 12 to grass, and nooned. Then three miles to Roberts Creek to water, then 13 to Grubbs Wells at night. 28 miles. Pleasant. Crossed a nice valley and good roads.

July 13

Left the station at one-half past six for Dry Creek Station where we arrived at 12, 16 miles, good roads and pleasant day over a nice valley. Snow in sight all the time. All well. Camped until morning. Not very good grass.

July 14

Left Dry creek and passed over the summit and around Cape Horn to the station, thence to Blackbird Canyon and up it seven miles, all in 26 miles.

July 15

Came into Austin four miles, where we visited the Manhattan Quartz Mill and got specimens of silver in the ore. Bought our goods and started for Dayton, 180 miles. Camped on Rees River six miles from town. Warm day, health good.

July 16

Left Rees River in due season and came to station, thence to Big Springs 25 miles and camped. Good water and grass. Lost one horse by guard going to sleep. Indian.

July 17

Left Big Spring at 9a.m. Found our horse. Came down New Pass to Tolhouse three miles, then to Smith Creek Station, then to Cool Springs and camped on a nice mountain stream. Went three miles to grass, and very poor. 26 miles.

July 18

Saturday, left camp at seven for Middle Gate eight miles then West Gate four miles and nooned. Took in water to cross the desert of 34 miles. Came 11 miles and camped at the Englishman's. Paid $2 per barrel for water for our teams.

July 19

Sabbath. bought another barrel of water and left camp for Sand Springs 11 miles. Arrived at 11a.m., watered our stock and came five miles and fed. Then to Salt Wells and camped. Dreadful dusty and sandy. made 23 miles in good season. Water brackish, grass two miles off, health good.

July 20

Left Salt Wells and came to bridge on arm of Carson River. Paid $2.50 toll, then across to the main river and nooned at Mr. Toggs. then to Hills across Old river where we paid $2.50 toll. Camped. Made 23 miles.

July 21

Left camp for Ragtown four miles, then to Cottonwood six miles, where we paid $4.50 toll. Then to Log Cabin and to the lake five miles west and camped. 23 miles.

July 22

Wednesday, left camp at 7a.m. and came to Davis Station on the desert, then to Stockton Station, then to the next station, in all 14 miles, and nooned. then to the next station seven miles, then to Carson River three miles and camped near Dayton. Then desert 26 miles long. 27 miles.

July 23

Came to Dayton eight miles, no mail. Bought some barley and beef and came four miles for noon. Quite warm. Came on near Carson City and camped at a stone house and big spring. Quite warm night. Health good. 12 miles to Carson.

July 24

Came to Carson and wrote a letter to J. Peck. Very nice town. Lively place. Came to Genoa 14 miles, bought barley. This is in Carson Valley, a nice valley. Then came six miles and camped. I got pasture at 8 cents a head. 22 miles.

July 25

Saturday, came to Hope Canyon and the to Markleeville. Then west to south fork Carson River and camped. Paid toll at Hope Canyon and Markleeville $8.00. 23 miles.

July 26

Sabbath. Came to Silver Mountain 10 miles, then started up Sierra Nevada mountains six miles up very steep. West to the summit and camped. Cool, plenty of snowbanks. 16 miles.

July 27

Left the summit of the mountains and came down the valley five miles, thence up the second summit three miles thence to Silver Valley eight miles and camped.

July 28

Left the valley for Flood's Station in Bear Valley three miles. Paid $7 toll. Set out for Cold Springs 20 miles, where we arrived at 6p.m., down the mountains all the way.

July 29

Left camp for the Big Trees three miles. visited the largest trees in the world, the names we give below some of the principle ones: (ed.note: Here Mr. Pennebaker left a large blank space in which he expected to enter the names of some of the trees in the redwood grove, but the entries were never made.) Came to camp 1-1/2 miles southwest of Murphys, in all 20 miles.

July 30

Came down the canyon, rough and hilly road, to Angel's Camp, 5 miles. bought barley and four, then to Carson three miles. Paid $3.50. Tuttletown 3-1/2 miles, Jamestown four miles, and camped in town. Quite warm. Hay $20 per ton.

July 31

Left Jamestown for Montezuma, 7a.m. Kentucky Ranch eight miles. LaGrange 13 miles and crossed on the Tuolumy(sic) River. Camped. Quite warm.

August 1

Left LaGrange for Murry's Ferry on Merced River 15 miles. Cross the river one mile above Merced Falls. Came out five miles and stopped over night. Grass all dead now and have to feed altogether. Father quite sick. 20 miles.

August 2

Sabbath. Left camp at 8a.m. Father better. Quite warm. Came nine miles and nooned at Cunningham's, then to Chely River 14 miles and stopped overnight. Father still unwell.

August 3

Monday, came to ----- for noon. Still warm and roads dusty. Came to San Joaquin River. Sick still better. Made 23 miles.

August 4

Crossed the San Joaquin River and came 10 miles to feed and get dinner. Then to Mr. Lindsay's camp, in all 28 miles.

August 5

Came 10 miles to Ferry on Kings River, then 17 miles to Mr. Parker's and camped in five miles of Visalia.

August 6

Came to town. Quite warm. Stopped at Mr. Kenner's.


Text prepared by: Mike Tassano 16:26 UTC, 20 Aug 1996 and modified by Paul E. Pennebaker 16:00 UTC, 6 Oct 2004.

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