Family Accounts - Descendants of Anna Rosine Fetterman & Heinrich Gernhardt

Jacob Garnhart (5)
b. July 29, 1830

Son of Son of Elizabeth Goshorn and Daniel Garnhart (4), Jacob married Katharine Myers on January 29, 1856. They resided in Shelby, OH, and two children were born of this marriage:

  1. George F., born March 12, 1857; and
  2. Eva A., born June 21, 1860.

“In the spring of 1852, when 22 years of age, he and his brother George, age 20, and Henry Sotzen, who afterwards married their sister Lovina, and certain other ambitious young men of the neighborhood, contracted the ‘gold fever’ so seriously that the sequel was a party of twelve, all alike violently attacked, banded together to go for the precious nuggest that they fondly imagined were deposited for them in the sands and gravel in the river beds and alluvium bottoms of far-distant California. They fitted up three well-built wagons, with four to six mules to each, and on the 5th day of March started their little caravan on the long overland route for the then everywhere much talked of wonderful El Dorado. At Independence, Mo., they halted long enough to complete the outfit of essentials for so long a journey, and on the 25th day of April set forth on the Fremont trail, via Fort Kearny and Laramie, for the land of gold on which the eyes of the whole enlightened world was then fixed. They crossed the summit of the Rocky Mountains on the 21st of June, and on the 2nd day of July reached the head of the forty-mile sandy desert, where they gave their animals a rest and made preparations to pass the most dreaded part of the fatiguing journey. They stuffed sacks with grass for the mules, filled their cans with water, and on the afternoon of the 5th set forward on the barren and repellent waste. Twice they halted during the night to give the animals grass and water, but pressed steadily forward until they reached the Carson River, where they took another needed rest. It was a long and tiresome journey to the newly discovered gold field, attended with discomfort and danger, moving step by step slowly across vast treeless prairies, climbing over rugged mountains, wading through streams, now laboring through dark and narrow ravines, at one moment oppressed by excessive heat and at another shiving from cold, sometimes exposed to a soaking rain, and never knowing but that the next moment they might be attacked, killed and scalped by some prowling band of jealous and blood-thirsty savages.

“A number of parties of Indians were met along the trail after the young adventurers left Independence, but they never molested the boys, and the boys were valorously careful not to molest them. Jacob says that whenever they dealt with them or came into contact with them, they were always strictly fair and reasonable with them. The nomadic possessors of the soil, he reminds us, were sometimes ill-treated and taken advantage of by some of the inconsiderate ones of the many thousands who crossed the continent, and in their savage way the offended red men were not always indisposed to seek revenge. This agrees with the historians, who affirm that from the landing of Columbus, the settlement of Jamestown, and the advent of the Puritans at Plymouth, the white man has more frequently than the untutored red man been the first aggressor. The Indians justly regarded the country through which the gold-seekers and emigrants were swarming as their territory, and the government recognized their claim by agreeing to give them fifty thousand dollars every year for fifteen years to permit the emigrants to cross the plains without disturbing them. There was no serious trouble for several years, but the white men began crowding more and more on the domain reserved to the Indians by sacred treaty, especially a few years later when gold and silver were discovered to exist in such bountiful quantity in Colorado as to turn the tide of emigration to that section, and this rush of miners and settlers, and utter disregard of their rights, so alarmed and stirred up the revengeful feelings of the Indians as to incite them to commit depredations, plunder and murder, in the vain hope of regaining sole possession of their country. After they were themselves severely punished for too often indiscriminately punishing the white people, some of the tribes asked for peace. Twelve years after Jacob and the boys followed the overland trail the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were invited to come to Fort Lyon to discuss the question of a treaty, and as they were promised protection, five hundred of both sexes and all ages came to the fort. But how were they protected? History says Colonel Chivington fell upon and butchered them, men, women and children, without compassion. Oh! shame! This most disgraceful crime, known as the Sand Creek Massacre, so incensed the outraged tribes that it brought on a still greater war, which, it is stated, cost the United States thirty million dollars, as well as many lives.

“The boys also saw mighty herds of buffalo, at that time still a distinctive and marvelous feature of the great Western plains, but now a site that the traveler never sees, as since that day, or since the building of the railroads in that country, these huge and lordly animals have been subjected to a most brutal and greedy slaughter, and completely exterminated. They saw them along nearly the whole route across the plains, especially for several hundred miles along the North Platte River, where the herds were amazingly immense; a single herd sometimes containing countless myriads of individuals, covering the prairie farther than the eye could read. The boys were not skilled hunters, and were not on a buffalo hunt, and found the burly beasts rather shy; but one day they succeeded in killing one, a success by which they were quite elated. The antelope they also found plentiful, and regarded them also as interesting objects on the plain, creatures full of curiosity; when seen nearly always on the watch, and generally careful to keep at a safe distance, though not difficult to stalk when approached unseen and under cover. The boys killed a number, and hence did not have to subsist without fresh meat while on the plains. As the small, thin and pory pelts of the antelope are of little or no value, their extermination is not likely to take place so long as they have any considerable ranges. But the buffalo were noble game, both their flesh and hides being of great value, and so when the railroads were built sportsmen had easy and quick access to their ranges, ready transportation for their booty, and their destruction went on with startling and portentous rapidity. This also greatly incensed the Indians, who saw their hunting-ranges everywhere invaded, and the destruction of their chief means of subsistence going on at an appalling rate.

“The boys arrived at the mining town of Placerville July 16th, having been on the road just four months and one day—a distance now traveled in a few days. They found some of the gold about which they had heard fabulous tales, but they also found that the cost of subsistence was too great to enable them to pile up wealth as fast as they had hoped—and none ever came back East with actual wealth. Nearly all found their way back home inside of two years. When flour cost 45 cents a pound, potatoes 25 cents, ham 50, beef 60, and other expenses were in proportion, unless one had very lucky finds the ‘gold fever’ was quite apt to abate in the course of a few months. Only one nugget was found that was worth as much as sixteen and one-half dollars. After tenaciously digging and washing dirt in search of the yellow stuff more than two years, Jacob concluded he had saved enough of it to dig back home. He proceeded to San Francisco and secured a passage on the Yankee Blade, and Oct. 1, 1854, found him passing through the Golden Gate en route for ‘the dearest spot on earth.’ But fortune ‘shuffles with a random hand, the lots which men are forced to draw.’ The next day the vessel ran on a rock below Point Conception, and his feelings and bright anticipations were suddenly changed. There was a dense fog, and the sea was boisterous. When night came great uneasiness was felt by the many passengers. The wind increased in force, now shrieking as if proclaiming a dreadful fate, now bemoaning in so mournful a tone as if singing a death song, the waves meanwhile breaking fiercely over the deck. It seemed as if the ship must go to pieces at any moment, and a thousand helpless souls aboard sink beneath the lashing waves, ‘with bubbling groan, without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.’ Jacob had given up ever again seeing the dear old folks and sweet home. Next day, however, the staunch vessel was still unimpaired, and the wind and waves had so much abated that a freight boat was able to approach and get her off the rock and tow her back to San Francisco. On the 15th he started for New York on the U. S. mail line by way of Panama, and on the 16th day of November he sang, or whistled, and certainly enjoyed ‘Home again,’ after an absence of two years and eight months, and was entirely cured of the ‘gold fever.’ And he never had a relapse.

“The ex-gold digger with his savings of the treasured ‘dust’ now bought 80 acres of slightly improved land with a small log cabin on it, situated about two and a half miles north-west of Shelby, O., and began to improve, with axe and spade, and plow and harrow, and now in a way more to his taste and ambition tried to earn some of the gold that bears the stamp of good Uncle Sam. He next gave his heart and hand to Miss Kate Meyers, a very sensible and fortunate venture for him, as in her he found a valuable helper and counselor; and by their combined judgment, frugality, and industry, they have won respect and prosperity. They bought more land from time to time, so that by a policy of expansion—after the manner of Uncle Sam—their farm has increased to 195 acres. Good buildings and the best of farming implements also followed as the fruits of thrift and diligence. They had considerable wet and sterile land, but proper tile draining largely increased its productiveness and value—they thus, as public benefactors, adding to the wealth of the country. Jacob united with the Evangelical Lutheran Church nearly forty years ago, has held all its offices, and has for a long time been elder. Has been a director of the Citizens’ Bank of Shelby from its organization in 1892. About elevens years ago his spine was injured by a piece of timber falling on him while helping to raise a building, which has brought on an infirmity that has greatly abridged his activity and physical enjoyment; but he manifests constant thankfulness for the blessings of life he is still permitted to enjoy, looks on the bright side of things, and says he hopes ‘by the grace of God to pull through all right.’ ” (from Heinrich Gernhardt and His Descendants, pp. 116-121)

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