Agua Mansa

Traders in the caravans coming to California did not just trade with those at the missions, but with any group or community they came across. The little settlement of Agua Mansa enjoyed the benefit of being the first village of any size once the mule trains dropped in from the mountains after crossing the deserts.

Agua Mansa cemetery

It was called Aqua Mansa, meaning Gentle Water, and was composed entirely of immigrants from New Mexico, numbering some 200 souls–simple, good souls they were, too, primitive in their style of living, kind and hospitable to strangers, rich in all that went to make people happy and content, never having been, up to that time, vexed by the unceremonious calls of the tax collector, owing allegiance to none save the simple, kindhearted old priest who looked after their spiritual welfare. With peace and plenty surrounding them, the good people of Aqua Mansa went to make as contented and happy of people as could be found in the universe.

Bell, Horace, Reminiscences of a Ranger – 1927

Lost on the Trail – Ellen Baley

During this phase of the journey the wagon train was doing much of its traveling at night, owing to the great daytime heat of the desert and the long distances between water holes. At regular intervals during the night they would stop for a short rest. At one of these rest stops, eleven-year-old Ellen Baley, a daughter of Gillum and Permelia Baley, fell asleep and failed to awaken when the wagon train moved on. Somehow, she was not missed until the train traveled some distance. The poor girl awoke to find herself alone in the middle of a vast hostile desert. Filled with fright, she began running to catch up with the wagon train, but in her confusion, she took off in the opposite direction. When she was discovered missing, her father and older brother, George, immediately rode back to where they had stopped. To their horror, she was not there! Captured by the Indians must have been their conclusion! Nevertheless, they continued their search by calling out the little girl’s name at the top of their voices as they rode back. Their efforts were soon rewarded when, far off in the distance, came a faint cry,
“Papa, Papa.” Her father immediately answered and kept calling her name until he caught up with her. When reunited with her family and the other members of the wagon train, Ellen had a tale that would be told and retold by family members until the present day.

Disaster at the Colorado
Beale’s Wagon Road and the First Emigrant Party
Charles W. Baley

Notes: On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer

On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer

By Francisco Tomás Hermenegildo Garcés, Elliott Coues

Crossing the Sierra

Mar. 21. Leaving the river I set forth southwest- ward, and having gone two leagues through a Canada and some hills, I arrived at a rancheria of five huts (xacales) on the bank of the river.

I continued on a course to the south and entered into a Canada of much wood, grass, and water; I saw many cottonwoods, alders, oaks, very tall firs, and beautiful junipers (sabinos); and having gone one league I arrived at a rancheria of about 80 souls, which I named (Rancheria) de San Benito. I was received with great joy, and they made me the same obeisance.

Mar. 22. I went three leagues and passed over the sierra by the southsouthwest.

Map showing Old Spanish Trail and commonly accepted trails of Garces and Jed Smith with possible alternate route by Garces.

The woods that I said yesterday reach to the summit of this sierra, whence I saw clearly the sea, the Rio de Santa Anna, and the Valle de San Joseph. Its descent is little wooded. At a little distance from its foot I found another rancheria where the Indians received me very joyfully. I continued westsouthwest, and having traveled three leagues along the skirt of the sierra, I halted in the Arroyo de los Alisos.

Mar. 23. I traveled half a league westsouthwest, and one south, at the instance of some Indians who met me and made me go to eat at their rancheria. Thereafter having gone another league westsouthwest I came upon the road of the expedition, which . . .