Gold Rush, 1858, by J. H. Presson

Rumors of gold strikes on several small creeks in what is now Colorado touched off the Pike’s Peak gold rush in 1858. Nebraska City was the steamboat landing and principal depot of the new traffic to the West. The Nebraska State Journal, on January 10, 1912, included the brief reminiscence of one who made the trip to the goldfields and returned empty-handed:

“Nearly fifty-four years ago a train of ox teams was slowly wending its way westward from various points in the east. All were headed for Pike’s peak where gold in great quantities was said to exist and where hundreds of prospectors had preceded them by many weeks. In the party was J. H. Presson, now recording clerk at Governor [Chester H.] Aldrich’s office, . . . . Mr. Presson tells the following story connected with a part of the ox team trip.

“‘My first introduction to this state’ said he ‘was about the middle of the year 1858. Some of my relatives and myself had made the trip from McDonald county, Illinois and had just crossed the Missouri river near Nebraska City. We were ferried across the big muddy stream with our oxen and at once began our trip across the long level stretches the like of which we had never seen before.’

“‘I recall that it was on Saturday night we reached a point near what is now known as Saltillo, southeast of this city [Lincoln]. Here we met several wagons returning from Pike’s peak. The people told us that the big gold craze at the Colorado mountain was greatly exaggerated and that most of it was humbug. At a camp meeting held the next day, Sunday, the returned gold seekers told us we had better turn back and not go farther in our attempts to reach a place where we could gather in the gold.’

“‘My father, who was a preacher and a public speaker, took the stump at the meeting, however, and advised the crowd to keep on, charging those who had already been to Pike’s peak with being tenderfeet and lacking in nerve. A sharp discussion ensued over this and but for the fact that the cool heads intervened might have led to a general fight so warm did the talk become. The next morning, however, our long string of wagons pulled out for the west determined not to forego the experience of the full trip despite the discouragements that we had encountered from those who had been there. We met many more wagons during the day on the way back to the east, and one by one, different teamsters would pull out of our train until at sun down that night ours was the only wagon left of the bunch which had started for Pike’s peak. . . .’

“‘We kept on and on for days and days, but finally reached the place we long had sought. And we found it as they [the returning miners] had said. But we had the experience and learned much during our journey.'”

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