The Valley of Heart's Delight

Charles Parr
Overland to California in 1846

BIO- Pen Pictures, 237-239


Charles Parr, born in England, May 5, 1827, crossed the Atlantic in 1842, together with father, mother, three brothers, and four sisters; also in company with Jonathan Parr, an uncle and family; also William Booth, who was his mother's brother, and family. All landed safely in New Orleans. When moving up the Mississippi River, the youngest brother died suddenly, and was buried on an island. Soon after arriving at the city of St. Louis, Missouri, death deprived him of his mother. The following spring the three families moved to Lee County, Iowa, and there engaged in farming until 1846, in which year he and the three families started to cross the plains to the Pacific Coast. All went on reasonably well till they reached North Platte River, where, after camping, their cattle stampeded. They got them back, after a little trouble, but they continued stampeding as long as they had strength to do so. One night, on South Platte, they stampeded three times, and the company lost as many as one hurdred and twenty-five. Their caravan at that time consisted of forty-one wagons. In the course of two days they got back twenty-five cattle, but in getting them back they lost one man, Trimble, leaving a wife and seven children. This man Trimble was killed by the Pawnee Indians. A partner of his, named Harris, was captured and stripped of his clothng, ready to receive his death-blow, when he was rescued by some of the party! The loss of the cattle weakened the caravan, so much so that one family, named Scott, went back to Missouri; but the widow Trimble went through to Oregon. Their cattle stampeded again at Chimney Rock, in the middle of the day, when they were hitched up to the wagons. It was a scene never to be forgotten.

When the party reached Fort Bridger, the Graves family, with three wagons, concluded to go to California; and as there was no party in the rear going that way, they undertook to overtake Reed's party, afterward the Donner party. The latter were eighteen days ahead, and were going through by Easton's cut-off and Salt Lake, being the third party to take that route. On reaching Fort Laramie, the party moving westward were notified by the Sioux Indians that they could not be permitted to travel through their territory unless some substantial compensation was forthcoming, which they received, and the party were then allowed to proceed. When Sweetwater was reached, the company suddenly found themselves surrounded by a force of some seven hundred redskins, who were on the war-path against the Snake Indians. They therefore hastily collected their wagons and prepared for action. For a time the prospect was gloomy. The Indians were bold and rough, in many instances pushing their way through to the wagons, thus frightening the women and children. The chief of the tribe, Smoky, was notified of this, and he rode in among them, commanding them to disperse, which they did, and the emigrants were permitted to proceed. Mr. Parr thinks that had it not been for the timely interference of the chief, a bloody tragedy would have followed.

The Parrs continued their way toward Oregon by the old route, by the way of Fort Hall. When they got to that point they lay by a day or two, to rest their cattle. There news came that there was a new cut-off to Oregon known as Applegate's. The caravan concluded to take it, thus leaving the old California trail about forty miles west of Fort Hall. When they got to Goose Creek, where they were to take the cut-off, they were suprised to see coming into their camp two companies which had taken Easton's cut-off, and which were over twenty-one days ahead. Mr. Easton came in, and told them not to take Applegate's cut-off, or they would be overtaken by winter, and they would never reach Oregon. He advised them to go to California, and they accepted the suggestion. The party had eagerly looked forward to their arrival at Johnson's, on Bear River, where they supposed they would find a store and get supplies, but this was not the case. They had been an entire week without anything to eat except a few acorns and a little poor meat. They applied for flour (which was there made by grinding wheat in a little hand-mill), but he had none. The next thing to flour was what he called bran, and of this they purchased some. They exchanged two head of cattle for a fat steer, which they slaughtered and made a pudding suet and bran. When it came to eating, the suet part was all right, but the bran could not be swallowed, and the pudding was voted a failure. The meat had to be eaten California fashion, which made all hands sick. Two or three days later they went down to Captain Sutter's Fort, and there got flour, faring very well for a few days.

In this journey, with all its hardships, perhaps the saddest day was that on which the news came, early in the morning, that Trimble was killed, and the cattle not recovered!

Leaving the American River, they made their way to Livermore, Contra Costa County, where our subject left his family and came to the town of Santa Clara, where he was joined in the spring of 1847 by his relatives, all save his father, who died at Livermore from the effect of a broken leg, which had been unskillfully treated. While he was cutting down a tree, it fell upon him, breaking one of his legs in two places. He was buried at Livermore, in December, 1846.

Job Parr was married in England to Miss Elizabeth Booth, a native of Staffordshire, and their seven children were: Charles, the subject of this sketch; John, who went to Australia, married there, and returned to California, where he died, leaving one living child, Fannie, who is married and lives near Sonora; Elizabeth, widow of John Dixon, who lives in Santa Clara; Edna, wife of John Bohlman, living at New Almaden; Simpson, deceased; Diana, married and lives in the Sandwich Islands; Prudence, who removed from California to the Sandwich Islands; and Job, deceased.

Charles Parr was a young man when the party started across the plains on this memorable trip. While at Livermore his father sold two yoke of oxen and a wagon to Mr. Forbes, who was remodeling some old adobe houses which were included in the property of the Jesuit College at Santa Clara, and as that gentleman had no white men to manage the oxen, he asked Mr. Parr to send one of his boys along, and so Charles was chosen. About three months after coming to Santa Clara, he went home on a visit to the family, and while there his father's death occurred, Charles holding him in his arms when he passed away. He afterward returned to Santa Clara, and was first employed by James Alexander Forbes, for Dennis Marten. While working in the redwoods, in the spring of 1847, he went to Bear River and witnessed the remains of the Donner party. Here he joined the party that went up the American River to procure lumber to construct the famous Sutter's Mill. At the end of three months he proceeded to San Francisco, and afterward back to Santa Clara. In 1848 he was employed in the New Almaden quicksilver mines. In the latter part of that year he made a journey to the Mokelumne River, and Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties, where he engaged in mining, an occupation he continued at intervals for the two succeeding years, and finally returned to this county. Here, in Santa Clara, he opened a public house, in partnership with Dr. Warburton, for one year. He then built a similar establishment, which he conducted for six months, when he engaged in blacksmithing. In 1854 he engaged in stock-raising on the Coast Range, which he abandoned the next year on account of ill health. He then resided in Santa Clara till the fall of 1862, when he moved to his present farm of one thousand two hundred acres. In April, 1854, he married T. Gracia. They have ten children: Joseph E., Prudence, Teresa, Simpson N., Charles, Belle, Stephen A., Agnes, Eugene, and Mary.

SOURCE:  Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H.S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.Transcribed by Carol Lackey- page 237-239



SANTA CLARA COUNTY HISTORY -The Valley of Heart's Delight