There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!


In 1849, the dreams of “striking it rich” loomed large in the hearts of many. Stories of gold being found in the hills of California created a rush of men heading west in search of their fortune. Most were unsuccessful… like my wife’s 2nd cousin (five times removed), Charles Caviler French.

Charles became one of the forty-niners, leaving his wife and children at his home in Indiana to travel west with approximately 30 other men, driving a team of oxen to Salt Lake City at which time they traded their ox for horses to move forward into California. The trip took about six months to complete and the level of difficulty they endured can be measured by the fact that they arrived at their destination with only one surviving horse. Charles was 25 years old at the time.

Not much is mentioned about his prospecting adventures. We do know that he was tasked with hunting for meat provisions on behalf of the miners who accompanied him during his time in California. During one such expedition, he had a skirmish with some Indians and was injured. He returned home to Indiana some time later without his fortune in hand. He had to walk across the Isthmus of Panama and rely on steamships to make the journey home.

He then moved his family to Iowa and began positioning himself to be a traveling medicine man, even ordering a wagon to be used for this endeavor but his own failing health took its toll before the wagon could be delivered. He died at the young age of 31.

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