Transcribing 1849 Gold Rush Migration Letters

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:

7 Responses to “Transcribing 1849 Gold Rush Migration Letters”

  • Sherry,
    sounds like the making of a novel. Looking forward to reading what you do with this story. Also cudos for the good work of transcribing.

  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lowcountry Africana said: RT @familytreewritr: Been busy this past week indexing KS-SCHGS records and transcribing 1849 Gold Rush letters: […]

  • I found this on posted by Connie Sauer.

    John Arnspiger with his two sons, Simon Peter and Andrew
    Jackson and a son-in-law Abraham Houser started to California
    during the gold rush of 1849. Abraham Houser died before they
    reached California and Eula’s great grandfather John Arnspiger
    died soon after crossing the California line. Place of burial
    unknown. Andrew reached California and wrote back many
    letters. He returned to Kansa and is buried in Sumner county.” Parents: John ARNSPIGER and Catherine FUNK.

    • Hi Toni! Bless you for adding more info to this! My apologies for being slow to respond, but our SCHGS group hosted the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies Conference this past weekend, and besides trying to rest up, I’m scrambling trying to catch up!

      I so appreciate you adding more info. I was pretty sure that John had passed away, just given the fact that he was ill as he wrote the last letter that I’m still struggling to transcribe, and that it ended so abruptly without a “goodbye line” to his family, which was in all the other letters. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I can find time to finish that transcription as much as possible (about six lines are too faded to read), and several more paragraphs are so small they are difficult to read, too.

      Our society would love to have copies of Andrew’s letters, too, to put in the Arnspiger file, and when I find time, I will add more census research, etc, to it as well.

      You are the second Arnspiger person who has responded with information, and it is very much appreciated! Bless you!! This is what makes genealogy, and genealogists, so great! We all help each other ‘connect the dots!” Thank you for stopping by! Sherry

  • Sherry,
    we corresponded before about John Arnspiger and his letters. I just recently was contacted by another cemetery researcher in Jersey County, Illinois, where John and his first wife and famiy lived. They have found the headstone for his wife Catherine Funk Arnspiger and two children, John Milton and Elizabeth Arnspiger. If you are interested in seeing the photos she has posted the info on under the Hathaway Cemetery in Jersey County, Illinois. My understanding is John was part of a wagon train that was formed in Jersey county with other local residents.

  • Charles Sullivan:

    Hi Sherry,

    Thanks for transcribing and posting the first letter from John Arnspiger. He was my 3rd great-grandfather. His daughter, Rebecca, was my great-great grandmother.

    This web site gives some more information about his journey:

    I look forward to your transciptions of the remaining letters.
    Thanks again for you efforts!

    Charlie Sullivan

    • Hi Charlie!

      Thank you for stopping by my blog! I won’t be able to fully add the third and last letter, as part of it is simply too faded (unless photocopying and darkening helps) to even be able to read it.

      I plan to try to find out who submitted these copies and see if they will attempt to make other copies.

      I need to make another post asap anyhow, as I do have more info from other Arnspiger relatives, and I am sooo grateful to you for writing. It is simply interesting to me.

      And when I do post again, I will add links to your account.

      One thing I do know, though, is that it wasn’t Henry on the journey to California (unless he survived and came to Kansas). He came here to Sumner County, Kansas, and is buried here as well. I think, though, that the letters refer to Henry as taking care of the farm and the family back home with Mary. You can see him on the census on Ancestry, and probably one of his descendants is why we have the info that we do have in our Genealogy Center.

      Once again, thank you for writing!

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