"The Journey of Poland’s Argonauts"

The first Argonauts were a group of heroes in Greek mythology. They sailed with their leader, Jason, on the ship Argo, to search for the Golden Fleece that hung from a tree in a forest near the Black Sea. After many adventures and traveling great distances the Argonauts finally found the Golden Fleece and returned to Greece with the treasure.
In 1849 a group of 15 men left Poland in search of gold, had many exciting adventures and traveled great distances, but unhappily these men returned 3 years later empty handed. One of the men in this group who went to California in 1849 was Ira Mansfield's maternal grandfather, Elkanah Morse (1790-1849). Another was his mother's cousin, Cook F. Kirtland (1826-1896). In 1916 Mr. Mansfield wrote a book entitled "Reminiscences" in which he gives a brief account of what happened to Poland's "California Argonauts". Here is his account:
"The discovery of gold in California by John Marshall, at his mill race on January 24, 1848, soon spread to our community. Captain Robert Wilson, who was a partner with Esq. Edgar, a tailoring business at Darlington, caught the gold fever and began organizing a company of fifteen men from Poland, Ohio. We sometimes think it an unfortunate thing that so much more money was invested by these Argonauts than they ever realized out of California; that ten dollars should be spent for teams, provisions and general lay-out to every one (dollar) that came back in gold dust. But it is not the purpose of the Almighty to make the nation rich when he tucked gold among the hills, it was to make men go over there and develop the country; to hew down the timber, bridge the canyons, tunnel the mountains and make the nation great from ocean to ocean".
"Captain Wilson, was genius in overcoming local problems; he served in Col. Black's Pittsburgh regiment, under Gen. (Winfield) Scott, in the Mexican war and during the Civil War raised a company that was assign to the 105th Ohio (Volunteer Infantry). At the battle of Perryville, Ky., on October 8, 1862 this regiment lost 258 men, either killed or wounded. Captain Wilson received three bullet wounds and died that night".
"When the company of gold seekers was ready the citizens of Poland gave them a rousing send off; speeches, donations of food and every member of the company received a thousand kisses from "the girls they left behind". The writer (Mansfield) only seven years old was present, desiring to go with them. They left at noon March 12l, 1849, reaching Darlington at dark and camped at the crossing over the Little Beaver. The next day marched to Rochester, Pa., taking passage down the Ohio River on the steamboat "Consignee". Col. James S. Negley was aboard and in later years gave the writer many items of the overland march".
"At St. Joseph, Mo., they waited some time for the grass to start, making feed for teams. Here they purchased mules for their three wagons. The men followed on foot and hunting deer and other game daily for food. They reached California about ten months after starting; taking up number of claims, and spent one year in digging and washing out gold dust".
"Growing homesick and securing enough gold for their return, they sailed down to Panama, crossing the Isthmus afoot, taking a sailing vessel to New York. From there they had passage on Canal Boat all the way home. They were a penniless lot of adventurous spirits, only a few small nuggets of gold to show; but in the reunions, they developed a rich and interesting fund of memorable events".

Kelsey' s Diggins, California
February 3rd, 1850

I rec'd your letter of Oct. 28th, when I was at Sacramento City. A letter from home is really appreciated and you have no knowledge how every one in our camp enjoyed yours. After Christmas, Cal Haynes and myself went down to San Francisco. The journey was through water, rain and mud, and our journey back was worse, often wading up to the waste. The cheapest night lodgings was at Gum Springs, supper, lodging and breakfast four dollars each, reaching Kelsey's on the mountain worn out. At Sacrament City received letters from home. We found the water on main street five feet deep and 400 have died there in one week. Daniel Houck and myself keep our cabin in venison and sell a good deal to others. Tomorrow will look over Rock creek for new diggings and soon as we can scratch out gold enough will break for our Ohio homes. William Morse is living with us. Alex Scroggs is here. Today is Sunday and Daniel Houck is reading a S.S. Manual. Cal Truesdale and son gone to town. Boyd Hartley, making pies, Henry Sheppard missing but will turn up at supper. David McGill, having no doctor, died from cholera, raving mad, drowned in "streams of gold". It's a desperate struggle to get gold and live.

Yours, &c., C. F. Kirtland
Last Will and Testament

of Cook Fitch Kirtland (1887)
Item 6. I give and bequeath unto my son Lucian my "Fordham" gold watch, with its chain, also my guns and gun fixtures, and also the gold and gold nuggets, which I have kept as specimens of what I got in California in 1849 and 1950.

In 1916 Mr. Ira Mansfield, Trustee of the Riverside Cemetery, erected a large stone monument to the memory of the Captain Robert Wilson and the Argonauts. Located in the south west corner of the Cemetery, this monument contains the following 15 names:
Elkanah Morse, died Fort Laramie,
June 1849 (age 59)
John Steel, died from Cholera on way. Edwin Bostwick, died from Cholera on way.
Alonzo McConnel, died in California
David McGill, died in California of Cholera.
William Alderman, died in California
John Douglass, died on Panama trip and buried at sea.
C. F. Kirtland, returned 1852 to Poland, O.*
Robert Wilson, returned 1852 to Poland, O. (Killed in the Civil War in 1862)
William Morse, returned 1852 to Poland, O. (Killed in the Civil War at Atlanta, GA.)
Henry Sheppard, returned 1852 to Poland, O.*
Calvin Truesdale, returned 1852 to Poland, O.
Daniel Houck, returned 1852 to Poland, O.
John McGaughy, returned 1852 to Poland, O.

Boyd Hartley, returned 1852 to Poland, O.
*(buried in the Riverside Cemetery)