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First Relief Diary
(Ritchie-Tucker Diary)

Late in the afternoon of January 17, 1847, after a hellish crossing of the Sierra Nevada, William H. Eddy staggered into Johnson's Ranch with his terrible news. The area was sparsely settled, resources were slender, the roads nearly impassible from the winter rains, but somehow within three weeks the small American community around Sutter's Fort and Johnson's Ranch managed to put together a rescue party, the First Relief, which set out from Johnson's on February 5. Col. Matthew. D. Ritchie began the following diary, which he kept until he left the group and passed it on to Reason P. Tucker. The original of this document is at Sutter's Fort and is published here with permission.
Notes kept by M. D. Ritchie on the
journey to assist the Emigrants—
Names of the Party—
Capts. R. P Tucker
— A.Glover

Men [?] Joseph Sell
R. S. Moutrie [Moutrey]
John Rhodes [Rhoads]
Daniel Rhodes [Rhoads]
George Tucker
Wm. Coon




Edward Coffymier [Coffeemeyer]
M. D. Ritchie
Adolph Brueheim
W H. Eddy

Feby 5th 1847- First day travelled 10 miles bad roades often miring down horse & mules. The 6-7th days travelled 15 miles road continued bad commenced raing before we got to camp continued to rain all of the day and night very severe here we laid by on the 8th to dry our provisions and clothing
9th Travelled 15 miles swam the animals one creek and carried the provisions over on a log
10th day travelled 4 miles came to the snow continued about 4 miles further belly deep in snow and camped at the Mule Springs
11th Mr Eddy started back with the animals left Wm. Coon and George Tucker to guard what provisions were left in camp, the other ten men each taking with the exception of one man (Mr. Curtis who took about 25 pounds) about 50 lbs and travelled on through the snow having having (sic) a very severe days travel over mountains making about 6 miles camped on Bear River under a cluster of large Pines-
On the 12th moved camp about two miles and stopped to make snow shoes tried them on and found them of no benefit cast them away and on the 13th made Bear Valley upon digging for Curtis's waggon found the snow ten feet deep and the provisions destroyed by the Bear. Rain and snow fell upon us that night-Morning of the 14-fine weather.
From this on the journal was kept by Mr. R. P Tucker-
15th Fine day three of our men declined going any further W.D. Ritchie A. Brueheim-Curtis only 7 men being left the party was somewhat discouraged we consulted together and under existing circumstances I took it upon myself to insure every man who persevered to the end five dollars per day from the time they entered the snow we determined to go ahead and that night camped on Juba after travelling 15 miles-
16 Travelling very bad and snowing made but 3 miles and camped in snow 15 feet deep-
17 Travelled 5 miles-
18th Travelled 8 miles and camped on head of Juba on the Pass we suppose the snow to be 30 foot deep-
19th at sundown reached the Cabins and found the people in great distress such as I never before wittnessed there having been twelve deaths and more expected every hour the sight of us appeared to put life into their emaciated frames
20th Myself and two others went to Donners camp 8 miles and found them in a starving condition the most of the men had died and one of them leaving a wife and 8 children, the two families had but one beef head amongst them, there was two cows buried in the snow but it was doubtful if they would be able to find them we left them telling them that they would soon have assistance if possible on the road back I gave out but struggled on until sundown when I reached the other cabins-
22d Left camp with twenty three of the sufferers 2 of the children soon gave out and two of our men carried them back and left them with Mr. Brin [Breen] they were children of Mrs Reed
23 Got to the first cash [cache] and found half of the contents taken by the Bear being on short allowance death stared us in the face, I made a equal divide and charged them to be careful-
24th started 3 men on ahead of the Company- We had travelled about two miles when one man gave out (John Denton) I waited for him some time but in vain he could go no further I made him a fire and copped some wood for him when I very unwillingly left him telling him he should soon have assistance but I an afraid he would not live to see it travelled 7 miles and camp
25th This day a child [Ada Keseberg] died and was buried in the snow travelled 5 miles and there met with some provisions half of a cash small allowance-
26, at noon had a small divide of shoe strings roasted and eat them and then proceeded about half a mile when we met two of our men with provisions we struck fire and feasted on our dry beef when we travelled about one mile further and camped-
27th Travelled 4 miles and met with another Company hear Mr. Reed met with his wife and two children the meeting was very affecting; travelled about 3 miles further and camped in our old camp head of Bear Valley here we found plenty of provisions and was waited on by Mr. Thompson a man of good feeling and judgement-
28th remained in camp but after all our precaution three of the party eat to excess and had to be left in the care of an attendant
March 1st Travelled 10 miles and camped on the mountain side in the morning Mrs Reed was very sick and we had to stop that day
on the 2d met Lieut. Woodworth and three men well loaded with provisions and blankets 10 miles from Bear Valley Travelled on 3 miles and reached the Mule Springs at our old encampment where we met with nourishment tea and sugar which revived us a good deal-
3d Mrs. Reed reached Mule Springs and was waited on by Mr. Thompson about 4 o'clock John Gordon arrived with two of the three that were left behind sick the other a boy about 15 (Wm. Donnor [i.e., Hook]) had died and was buried in the ground by the side of a tree-
March 4th Lay still waiting for mr. Kern arrived at 9 o'clock with horses and packs-
5 left Mule Springs and came to Rocky Run to Kerns Camp their he had 8 Baqueros to tend camp he shared very close with us keeping the best for himself and his Indians-
7 at 3 in the evening reached Johnsons-

The following statements regarding Edward Kern's behavior appear at the end of the diary. The first was evidently written by of John Sinclair; the other two may be in another hand or hands.

Sinclair arrived at Mr. Johnson's on Sunday the thirty first of January having left his residence the day previous on foot immediately after his arrival he requested Mr. Johnson to have all the horses that were scattered about in that neighborhood brought in in order to select a sufficient number for packing the provisions and taking the men as far as practable on their journey he succeeded with considerable trouble in getting and with the aid of a few Bullock Hides rigging them out so that the whole party had saddles to ride with the exception of one, as many cattle as was necessary for the expedition Mr. Johnson cheerfully furnished and every man of the Party exerted himself to the utmost in cutting and drying the beef for the journey all hands were actively engaged until twelve o'clock on Thursday the fifth of February in completing the arrangements at that time the horses were brought up and part of them saddled when unfortunately a few of them got away and recrossed the river Mr. Sinclair having done all that could be done then called the party together and addressed a few words of encouragement to them requesting them never to turn their backs upon the Mountains until they had brought away as many of their suffering fellow-beings as possible, he then left us to return home while several of the men crossed the river at the same time to bring back the horses which got away from us when the horses were brought over there was every appearance of a storm coming on the day being nearly spent the party considered it best to remain until morning rather than risk the destruction of their provisions by the rain which in a short time after fell in torrents accompanied by one of the heaviest hurricanes ever experienced on the Sacramento.

On the 4th day after Mr. Sinclair arrived Mr. Kerns [Edward M. Kern] came and encamped on the opposit side of the river where we dried our meat and had our horses saddled and prepared for starting, Mr. Kerns never for the first time attempt to cross, the creek the balsey or raft that Mr. Sinclair and others crossed in was still there and as for a boat I do not think there ever was such a craft on Bear Creek and as for Mr. Kerns having anything to do directly or indirectly he had not, nor did he ever give any directions or instructions, he arrived the day before we left, and I returned home, when he had his frolick out, since my return I understand Mr. Kerns crossed bear Creek and went to Mr. Kysers (--?) on the day after we had started for the mountains

to be attached to Mr. Tuckers Journal of the 7 March

[evening] of the 7th I went to Mr. Kerns and asked him to give the unfortunate emigrants that I had under my charge some pork that [I] understood the good people of Yerba buna had brought for their benefit his answer was there was none for them, he had no mor than would do himself and Indians but and at last handed me about two pounds which I Cut in small pieces and divide it between the people the women and children    when on the next morning I saw him Kerns and his Indians faring sumtiously on Pork and superfine flour and when I asked him for Some of the flour that was Sent for the use of the emigrants he told me he would give them none they might eat hard tack old dry sea bread which was broke to Crumbs in a bag, he also stated that he must and would take care of his boys meaning the Indians (about 8 in number) and did not care a dam for any one Else when I met Mr. Woodworth he informed me he had left liqure at the camp where Kerns was and instructed me to get some for them people and when I came to the camp I made application for it and was told by Kerns that there was none there for them when the same night he and one or two others of his party ware drinking it during the night follow

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Revised: 31 Jan 2006

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