by Sherry Stocking Kline
24 March 2010
Last week when I volunteered to index some of the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society Center’s files and records, I had no idea what kind of historic treasures and glimpses into people’s lives I was going to find!
I brought home the Pioneer Settler “A” files, sat down at my computer, and began to open up the files expecting to find simple papers documenting our early settler’s ancestry.
What I quickly found were stories, the first being of a wife and children kidnapped by the Indians during the massacre of rural families in the Saline Valley in Kansas, (about 2 1/2 hours north of us here) and the treasure I’m transcribing now, copies of an Illinois man, John Arnspiger’s letters back home to his wife, Mary, his grown son Henry, his little children, Lukey and Rebecca Ellin, and unnamed grandchildren as he travels to the California Gold Rush, certain that he will soon better his life for his family.
The letters document the group’s troubles traveling up river to get to St. Joe, Missouri, his fears of the cholera epidemic that was there and the many deaths, the Indians that they meet along the way, both friendly and not, the buffalo and other game that they eat on the way, and his fears that he may never see his family again.
Unfortunately, after I read ahead, his last letter ends with the writer ill, lying in a wagon in California, a week away from the Gold Fields at Sutter’s and me with so many unanswered questions!
Did he die? Did he get to Sutter’s and simply get busy? How did his family come to be in Sumner County, Kansas, where his son Henry and his wife and children later settled? When I can, I will find these answers to add to this Pioneer Settlers’ files, and share!
29 April 2010 Update: Now you can read Part One of the Gold Rush Letters Transcription Here: http://www.ks-schgs.blogspot.com/