Excerpt from An excursion to California over the prairie, Rocky mountains, and great Sierra Nevada. With a stroll through the diggings and ranches of that country. By William Kelly ... published in 1851.
...but thence to Chichago I was obliged, with seven others, to travel in an open waggon.
There are some comfortable and improving farmers about Niles, and along the northern part of Indiana to Michigan city.
But after leaving this place, which is a dull, stupid village, built amongst sandhills, formed by the drift from the lake shores near which it stands, the road lies through a large forest; and as our progress was necessarily slow, there being no regular road, I took my rifle and started for a saunter, appointing to catch up at a distant landmark, and diverged off the path, in expectation of finding some deer, with which I heard the forest was well stocked; but after some hours' laborious beating about, without meeting game of any description, feathered or four-footed, I headed, as I thought, to the appointed place.
When I arrived there, I could not find any indication of travel, and being very much tired, sat down for an hour's rest; but as evening approached without any sing of the waggon, I became rather uneasy, firing my rifle at intervals; and no shot being returned, I struck off in a westerly direction, in hopes of crossing the trail, fagging over five miles without discovering a trace, until I came suddenly upon some Indians, who were in aswamp, killing musk rats, the skin of which is of some little value.
I would have retired, but seeing they observed me, I went towards them, it being bad policy to betray apprehension, as it often leads to aggression where otherwise you might have escaped unmolested.
I made signs to them that I had lost my way, but they were sulky and uncommunicative, and either did not understand my gestures, or would give themselves no trouble to inform me; so I was obliged to rely on my own resources, still pursuing a westerly course, resignedly considering how I should spend the night in the woods, when I heard the tinkling of some bells in the distance, and following the welcome sounds, found a large clearance and a little hut, in which there was a lone nigger woman, who came nearly a mile with me to point out a path that would lead me to where the few travellers who came that way were in the habit of stopping. It was three miles further, and though there was very good moonlight, I had considerable difficulty in picking out the trail, which was a very faint one. I, however, proceeded, slowly and cautiously, and when very nearly tired down, perceived a glimmering light, which pointed out the solitary hostelry, where my companions had put up; they were at supper, and in deliberation as to what course they should pursue regarding me as I made my appearance, greatly knocked up, and with a greater desire for rest than refreshment; but a savoury plate of stewed beef and a bowl of good coffee elicited a capacity I did not imagine I possessed.
We reached Chichago next day, and found it in a state of partial destruction, from an unprecedented flood, that carried away stores, wharves, and piers, bursting with such violence in the inner harbour, that ships and steamers were stove in by the force with which they were jammed against each other.
Chichago is one of the most rising towns in the Union; and now that the canal connecting Lake Michigan with the Illinois and Mississippi rivers is open, must grow apace, as ships can, for the future, sail from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico by means of inland navigation, the Illinois being a fine navigable river, flowing into the Mississippi about fifty miles above St. Louis.
Some of the best farming country in the States is in this region, particularly along the course of Fox and Rock rivers, the produce of which comes to market in Chichago; while large tracts of prairie around the city are under cultivation, producing the finest description of grain and vegetables. It is becoming a very favourite neighbourhood for emigrants to settle in; and were I to take up my abode in the country, I should fix my quarters here-abouts, with land of superior quality, great facilities for transporting produce, and good markets.
In walking over the common in the afternoon I witnessed a very melancholy occurrence, in the wounding of a lady of great respectability, who was leading her child by the hand for an evening stroll, when she was shot quite close to me by a fellow who, with a number of others, was indulging in rifle practice. He at first made an attempt to run for the suburbs, but afterwards waited until he was arrested. When I left next day, I heard the poor sufferer's condition was nearly hopeless; so that people in that country, inclined for an after-dinner saunter, had better arrange their affairs in the first instance, for I understand accidents of this description are of very frequent occurrence.
The next day's stage lay over a low prairie, which presented a surface of pools, lakes, and flashes, from the late thaws, that made it more a water than a land journey, and, as the fellow said who agreed to work his passage by driving canal horses, “I might as well walk as be after trudging in that manner;” being compelled to proceed most of the way on foot, as the horses were unable to pull the waggon through the miry ground, while, to add to our grievances, we were some miles from our quarters at sundown, and, in endeavouring to pick out the most favourable wading places in the gloaming, were frequently aswim in crossing the sloughs.
However, we reached an old Dutch settler's in safety, where we billeted ourselves for the night.
The Worland Family in America and Beyond
I began my life in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, on an island filled with forests and wild rhododendrons. I was separated from my Worland family there at an early age. Recently, I was reunited with my family and learned of my heritage. And so, this journey to know my ancestors began. The Worlands, Gideons, Newtons, Conards... they were the colonists, the settlers, the pioneers. They fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War. This is their story, and the story of a nation. -Deci Worland MacKinnon