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Fortyniner Gold Hunters

 
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roger.pape
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:51 pm    Post subject: Fortyniner Gold Hunters Reply with quote

The discovery of gold in California created a fever for gold prospecting throughout the entire United States. Even a conservative community of hardworking farmers such as Concordia was not immune. This is obvious from the 1850 census records. The Lafayette County census taker indicated all those who had gone west in search of gold either with the notation "Gold hunter" or "In California". What is surprising is the large number of people that got caught up in the fever. In Freedom Township alone, 33 men and boys from as old as 57 down to as young as 17 sought their fortune in the gold fields. That was over 10 percent of the males in that age range.

Louis (Heinrich Ludewig) Frerking, one of the original settlers of the Concordia area, was part of this group. (He was one of the three Frerking boys that came to the US with their uncle Friedrich Dierking in 1837.) Louis died on the trip to California. Family tradition says that he was killed in an Indian ambush of the wagon train. St. Paul's Church records show his date of death as Sept. 8, 1850 (possibly a memorial service).

Louis was 30 years old at the time, still single and living with his older brother Friedrich. So it is easy to understand why he might have succumbed to the adventure and lure of quick riches. However, the actions of some of the others is harder to understand. Nearby friend Christian Oetting, who was 45 years old at the time, left his wife Mary and five young children behind in Concordia to seek his fortune. Christian was one of the first settlers in the Concordia area. The baptism of his daughter Maria was the first official act of St. Paul’s Church and regarded as the founding of the church. Another neighbor, William Ferrell, went with his oldest son leaving his wife and six other children to take care of the farm. Of the Freedom township group, nine left their families behind to fend for themselves. Life was harsh in the frontier area and difficult to make a living; so they must have been taken in by stories of easy riches in California. They probably felt that they could make a quick fortune and return with their newly acquired wealth or possibly have their families join them and make a fresh start out West.

Whether any found their fortune is not known. One can check the 1860 census records to determine their whereabouts. By then, Christian Oetting was back on his farm in Concordia with his family. Henry Dierking, Jr. was also back in Concordia, married and living on a farm next to his parents. Several others, such as John Holtcamp, John and Samuel Spafford, and Edgar Young, also returned to farming in the area. On the other hand, the four Mock men stayed in California, moved their families there, and became farmers again. Many of the names cannot be traced. Perhaps some of the lost their lives like Louis Frerking. The oldest member of the group did survive the ordeal. He was Thomas Asbury, who was a plasterer in Concordia. He was 57 when he left his family to search for gold. By 1860, he can be found in Leavenworth. Kansas reunited with his family and back working as a plasterer.
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roger.pape
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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
Posts: 383
Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:05 am    Post subject: Goldhunter Update Reply with quote

The previous posting about the gold hunters from Freedom Township overlooked the information provided in Frizzell’s Independent Immigrants (see pages 60-63). Frizzell’s account downplays the total number of men involved, although he was primarily concerned with the German immigrants. The following are several interesting observations that he made.

Christian Oetting returned to Concordia only to be killed during the Civil War in the bushwacker skirmish at Cook’s store.

Casper Uphaus did not find gold but made a tidy sum of money hauling water in Sacramento before he returned to Concordia.

While Henry Dierking also returned to Concordia, he moved to Illinois in 1865, apparently because of the Civil war violence in Missouri.

The one person who did "strike it rich" in the gold fields was young John Holtcamp, who mined up until 1856 and returned to Concordia to buy a farm with the $1700 he made from his prospecting.
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