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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Gray Matters: The conclusion of John Mc Queen's journal

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Here is the conclusion of John McQueen's journal started last week. But first, through a "typo" on my part, I skipped a generation. John McQueen was actually Charlie Miller's GREAT-grandfather. I think this makes the story even that much more remarkable. Enjoy!

'At Salt Lake City we visited the Mormons and were treated with the best consideration. When we left, we discovered a young Mormon girl stowaway in our train.

In two days, the elders of the city overcame us and reclaimed her.† From there on the Indians began to raid our camp. I recall where we were held up for three days fighting the Indians. Many of the train were killed in the raids. In one close call an arrow ripped my boot from the heel to the toe.†As we moved in the mountains we found more bear, deer and some buffalo for our fresh meat.

By the time we reached San Francisco, there was three men, the front wheels of one wagon and one ox out of 27 men and 18 wagons. At this time, San Francisco was a city of tents with one frame building in it.

Also, prices were almost out of reach. Potatoes were $8 a pound. A pair of mining boots was $27 and so on. My friend and I started up the trail that led from the city to the mining area. As we were walking along the trail, the man ahead of us was shot and a hand reached out of the brush and cut loose a pair of new boots off of a pack.

With some help of others on the trail, they surrounded the patch where the killer was and forced him to come out. He admitted he had killed the man for his boots. We escorted him to the nearest tree and proceeded with the only law in the territory. After the man had paid his price, we wrote to his people to inform them of what had happened.We found endless amount of streams, some with gold and others without.

"In one day on one of the stakes we held, we found $1400 worth of gold. Every time I went to town I sent money home. All together I sent home around $3000. It came easy but it often went just as easy. It was the privilege of any man to dip into another man's stream to see what he had.On one stream, my partner and I dipped into another man's stream and found it to be rather rich. We bought it for $1100 and then found out it had little gold, not even enough to buy the grub.

After working at it for two years, we decided to go home This time we traveled by water, taking a boat from S.F. to the Ismas (sic) of Panama. We crossed the Ismas(sic) on the back of a burro. From there we took a boat to New York, then up the St. Lawrence on to the Great Lakes to Chicago and then a train back to Iowa. In all, I got $9000 and a great adventure.'

I later found the following in a local biographical account: 'When he (John) did not return as expected, his mother boarded a steam ship going down the Mississippi, where she boarded another boat taking her around Cape Horn, South America, and up the west coast to San Francisco, where she died in search of her son, who had returned home. ' How tragic!

As for the gentleman himself, shortly after his return he, with Phoebe and their first son, relocated to Jackson County, Iowa, where he purchased a farm, presumably with his Gold Rush profits.

There they raised their family which, in time, numbered nine. In the early 1880s McQueen started buying land in Cherokee County, where his older sons re-located and started farming. In1887, John and his wife also moved to this area, living near Grand Meadow for the rest of their lives.

Both are buried in a Washta cemetery. There are still descendants of this remarkable journal-keeper living in our area - all proud of his adventuresome spirit, I'm sure.

Now we are led to wonder if those wanderlust genes are still lurking somewhere in their DNA. Who knows, perhaps a pioneer moon dweller will turn up next as this interesting family lineage continues.