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John Early Andrews Collection of Letters

Submitter: John Early Andrews
jandrewsfam@juno.com
Letter from Houston Texas March 11, 1849 from Robert N. Slack to his brother James Brown Slack, Bardstown Kentucky
- MAIL:

Dear Bro

- As I am about leaving here for the new and distant west, I feel it a duty which I owe you and others of my Kentuckians to appraise them of my route, prospects, interest view hi Ky. I left Wharton on the 8th with for this place for the purpose of furnishing myself such entirely as could not be obtained in my town. I leave here on Tuesday next for my county. On the 20th of the month I leave there for San Antonio in route for California. This will be an immigration of two thousand inhabitants from this state to Cal the ensuing spring. We have a company of 12 or fifteen from my county numbering some of the worthiest, wealthiest and most reliable men in the county. We expect to rendevous at San Antonio. Then we meet officers and companies from San Anton. We travel with Major Gen. Morth's division to the Passi dels Noston, a distance of 500 miles, north there hope to establish a military post. We will then take almost a due west course to the head of the Gila which empty's into the over Colorado of Cal. thence to San Diego, thence to the "poldo diggendo. Our company will be fitted out with pack mules, Wagons, provisions, arms, the civilians not confident that the route will admit of carriage travel further than the Passo. We will go prepared with pack mules in the event of our having to leave the cassiapes on the way. It is supposed by Col. Lach Hays (who was less a few days since) that the casasans leaving San Antonio will be on a larger and grander seale then any that has even traveled the western plains, riviling in grandeur and magnificance the cavalcades of the east. Than will be between one and two thousand wagons with the same number of persons and three or four thousand horses and mules. We expect it will take us 15 weeks to reach the Pacific Coast. I will take with me a small stock of drugs clothing enough to serve me two years and a few books. The most of my books I shall be compelled to leave behind. I have three mules and my saddle horse. One of the mules I shall ride mostly either leading or allowing my horse to follow. Take my horse to ride in emergencies as we may expect to encounter some trouble on the way - He's one of the over See my Decan old mother and tell her though I write in a stylze of much trouble, not to fear for I know none even were blest with warmer friends than I have been. I may write her a few lines from San Antinio. R.N.S. Write to me and direct to San Francisco, California your letters will arrive by the time I get there.

Tell my friends to write me there.
RN.S.

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Notes: It has been confirned that it was Leroy P. Daingerfield [Jr.] who was Dr. Slack's partner - not Judge William Parker Daingerfield, but his brother. They were also found in the 1880 census along with the other two Daingerfields who are buried at Emmanuel Chapel, Leroy's unmarried sisters. His wife's maiden name was apparently Margaret Virginia BEARD. The Bancroft Library at UC, Berkeley, has a typed transcript of some of Judge Daingerfield's letters that he wrote home during the gold rush, covering August 1850-February 1853. Apparently the Daingerfields were having financial difficulties, so William P. and his brother Leroy came to California hoping to strike it rich, send money home, and gather enough to go home and set themselves up with farms. They arrived in San Francisco after a voyage around Tierra del Fuego in August 1850. After a few weeks of digging for gold, William found he could make more money practicing law in Sacramento, so he went there to board in a hotel while Leroy kept mining. William was able to accumulate $500 when his hotel burned to the ground and he had to buy new clothing, law books, etc. which consumed all his money. By 1852 the brothers had gone north and Leroy was mining along the Trinity River while William practiced law in Shasta, which had been designated the county seat of the new county, Shasta County, and which was a jumping-off point for the mines in the Trinity Alps and the Marble Mountains. Then there was one letter from Leroy. William and two other men from Virginia had bought a ranch 13 miles south of Shasta and had sent for Leroy to run it, so he came down from the mountains and did. The ranch was equipped with a tavern and liquor which Leroy could sell, and which apparently distressed their pro- temperance mother back in Virginia. There was one letter, the last one, in which Dr. Slack was definitely mentioned, and an earlier one which I think referred to him but not by name. Smallpox visited the valley in 1852 and Leroy came down with it, but "his physician" did not notify William until Leroy was over it, because he feared William would go to Leroy and catch smallpox himself. William assured their mother that Leroy had not suffered any disfigurement and it was a light case. The last letter described an incident in which six men went out searching for one of Leroy's ranch hands who was missing. About 3 miles from the ranch they found the man's mangled corpse, and while examining it they were surprised by a "she grissly bear" who chased them and caught two. She was working over the second man when Leroy risked his life to save him, running up and putting a shotgun to her ear and pulling the trigger. The cap only snapped, failed to fire, but the noise scared her and she ran away, so they were able to get the wounded men back to the ranch. William noted that they were being tended by "L---'s partner, Dr. S--- a skillful surgeon." The typed transcript of the letters had all the names like that, L--- and J--- etc., which is probably how William wrote them, but someone had added (both typed and handwritten) notes about who the initials were for, and Dr. S--- was clearly identified as Dr. Slack. It is not known why the letters ended in 1853. There was only one reference to the father, Leroy P. Daingerfield Sr., as "Pa." The letters to brother John Daingerfield were the frankest; the ones to the mother and (unidentified) sisters were meant to reassure them. William and Leroy were able to send $900 home to help the family by late 1852. It can be inferred from the available evidence that when their mother died, Leroy went home to Bath County, VA (Warm Springs) to help his elderly father with the farm and to support his maiden sisters (there is a reference to the two men listed as farmers in the 1860 census), married, started a family, lost a leg in the Civil War, etc. Meanwhile his youngest brother and sister, Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield and Sarah Jay Daingerfield went to Calif. to live with William, who had also married by then and started a family. Leroy Jr. left virtually no trace of himself in Shasta County. William ran for judge but it is unknown whether he won on his first attempt, though we know he eventually did become a judge there. Some time after the 1860 census, William and his wife Eliza moved to San Francisco, probably along with his sister Sarah and brother-in-law James R. Keene. William's widow is found in San Francisco in the 1880 census with her two children, William, an attorney, and Eliza, age 17, both born in Calif. There is a history book of San Francisco which includes information about the family in Calif. Sarah Jay (Daingerfield) Keene and her husband is found in Newport, Rhode Island in 1880; his occupation was listed as "speculator" and they had 7 servants, including a ladies' maid, parlor maid, chamber maid, cook, cook's assistant, butler, and laundress. They had two children, Jesse [i.e. Jessie, or Jessica], a daughter, and Foxhall, a son, both born in California.

On 7 Dec 1853 Leroy P. Daingerfield and R. N. Slack were granted license for a ferry opposite the Daingerfield and Slack ranch, about 5 miles below the Emigrant Ferry at the mouth of Bear Creek. This was renewed in May 1855 by G. W. McMurty, from 1856-1857 by Haycraft and Lafferty from 1858-60 and by Adams and Bragg in 1861-62. A notation in a dictionary of Shasta Co says "at the mouth of Bear Creek to the present Blue Jay Lane on the west side of the river". There is also a notation elswhere that the Daingerfield ranch was AKA Aloha. Per old cemetery records R. N. Slack is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Shasta, an old town a few miles west of Redding. There may have been a marker there at one time when these records were catalogued in the 1970's. This cemetery is under the jurisdiction of Shasta State Park. There is a probate record that might have a record of funeral expenses, gravestone, property owned etc. There might be old deed records also at the courthouse.

Dr. Slack died of "congestion of the brain." Read Death Notice & Obituary of Dr. Robert N. Slack This meant a number of different kinds of deaths a hundred and fifty years ago. One definition was "hydrocephalus." For Dr. Slack, this is nonsense, because you don't "get" hydrocephalus, you are born with it, and it killed babies in a matter of days if they weren't born dead. Edgar Allan Poe died of "congestion of the brain." For years people thought he drank himself to death, but modern doctors think he died of rabies. A person can be bitten in their sleep by a rabid bat and not even know it. Other definitions include stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, perhaps meningitis. I'd rule out stroke because of his young age; I don't know enough about the symptoms of meningitis. One idea I had on my own, before consulting Google, was sunstroke, and sure enough that is given as one of the 19th century definitions of "congestion of the brain." Dr. Slack died in late October, which can be at the end of a very long dry spell. It does not rain in California, except on rare occasions, from mid-May until late September at the earliest; and in dry years it may not rain before November. Late in October it is not as hot as usual, and a person might get dehydrated without realizing it. He might have been up for long hours with a patient. Truthfully, though, I don't think we will ever really know why he died.

P.S. I wonder if his disappointment in love had anything to do with his being Catholic. There was such prejudice against that in those days. William P. Daingerfield's little baby who died in 1860 is also buried in the same cemetery, but it isn't clear to me whether that cemetery was always a Catholic one. There is no mention of going to church in any of the Daingerfield letters, as far as I noticed, although there are comments on preachers who preached in public among the gold fields. Daingerfield was a lawyer from Virginia, and would have been in his mid- 20s in the 1850s. Slack and Daingerfield had a license for a ferry across the Sacramento River at Bear Creek.

Assessor's records show Slack & Daingerfield had a ranch there of 320 acres, valued at $640. On 7 Dec 1853 Leroy P. Daingerfield and R. N. Slack were granted license for a ferry opposite the Daingerfield and Slack ranch, about 5 miles below the Emigrant Ferry at the mouth of Bear Creek. This was renewed in May 1855 by G. W. McMurty, from 1856-1857 by Haycraft and Lafferty from 1858-60 and by Adams and Bragg in 1861-62. A notation in a dictionary of Shasta Co says "at the mouth of Bear Creek to the present Blue Jay Lane on the west side of the river". There is also a notation elswhere that the Daingerfield ranch was AKA Aloha.

Per old cemetery records R. N. Slack is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Shasta, an old town a few miles west of Redding. There may have been a marker there at one time when these records were catalogued in the 1970's. This cemetery is under the jurisdiction of Shasta State Park and they might have more information. There is a probate record as I told you but if you were really interested it might be better to contact the courthouse directly about copies. The probate record might have a record of funeral expenses, gravestone, property owned etc. There might be old deed records also at the courthouse and these I could look through without much trouble. Another record "Between the Lines/The Catholic Church in Shasta Co., CA 1853-1977"

Read more letters in the John Early Andrews Collection

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