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This story is not meant to be sensational, but a plain, unvarnished tale of truth–some parts hard and very sad. It is a narrative of my personal experience, and being in no sense a literary man or making any pretense as a writer, I hope the errors may be overlooked, for it has been to me a difficult story to tell, arousing as it did sad recollections of the past. I have told it in the plainest, briefest way, with nothing exaggerated or overdone. Those who traveled over the same or similar routes are capable of passing a just opinion of the story. Looking back over more than 40 years, I was then a great lover of liberty, as well as health and happiness, and I possessed a great desire to see a new country never yet trod by civilized man, so that I easily caught the gold fever of 1849, and naught but a trip to that land of fabled wealth could cure me.
Geography has wonderfully changed since then. Where Omaha now stands there was not a house in 1849. Six hundred miles of treeless prairie without a house brought us to the adobe dwellings at Fort Laramie, and 400, more or less, were the long miles to Mormondom, still more than 700 miles from the Pacific Coast. Passing over this wilderness was like going to sea without a compass. Hence it will be seen that when we crossed a stream that was said to flow to the Pacific Ocean, and for three weeks, over rocks and rapids, we floated and tumbled down the deep cañon of Green River till we emerged into an open plain and were compelled to come on shore by the Indians there encamped. We had believed the Indians to be a war-like and cruel people, but when we made them understand where we wanted to go, they warned us of the great impassable Colorado Cañon and pointed out the road to “Mormonie” with their advice to take it. This was Chief Walker, a good, well meaning red man, and to him we owed our lives.
Out of this trouble we were once again on the safe road to Los Angeles, and again made error in taking a cutoff route, and striking across a trackless country where thirteen of our party lie unburied on the sands of the terribly dry valley. Those who lived were saved by the little puddles of rain water that had fallen from the small rain clouds that had been forced over the great Sierra Nevada Mountains. In an ordinary year we should have all died of thirst, so that we were lucky in our misfortune. When we came out to the fertile coast near Los Angeles, we found good friends in the native Californians who, like good Samaritans, gave us food and took us in, poor, nearly starved creatures that we were, without money or property from which they could expect to be rewarded. Their deeds stand out whiter in our memories than all the rest, notwithstanding their skins were dark. It seems to me such people do not live in this age of the world which we are pleased to call advanced. I was much with these old Californians, and found them honest and truthful, willing to divide the last bit of food with a needy stranger or a friend. Their good deeds have never been praised enough, and I feel it in my heart to do them ample justice while I live.
The work that was laid out for me to do, to tell when and where I went, is done. Perhaps in days to come it may be of even more interest than now, and I shall be glad I have turned over the scenes in my memory and recorded them, and on some rolling stone you may inscribe the name of WILLIAM LEWIS MANLEY, born near St. Albans, Vermont, April 20th, 1820, who went to Michigan while yet it was a territory, as an early pioneer; then onward to Wisconsin before it became a state, and for twelve long, weary months traveled across the wild western prairies, the lofty mountains and sunken deserts of Death Valley, to this land which is now so pleasant and so fair, wherein, after over 40 years of earnest toil, I rest in the midst of family and friends, and can truly say I am content.
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William Lewis Manly (1820–1903) was a miner, rancher, merchant, farmer, and above all pioneer and adventurer who lived through the gold rush and the opening of the American West. He lived in Los Angeles, California.
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Book Description CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1512357154