Wild West

BRUFF’S ROUGH WINTER

On April 14, 1889, when Joseph Goldsborough Bruff died abed at age 84 in Washington, D.C., he left a valuable inheritance. Though he had been a Forty-Niner, he’d found no gold. He had, however, kept detailed journals and sketches far more valuable to the annals of Western history. Given the perilous cross-country journey he’d undertaken four decades earlier among that first wave of seekers, it is remarkable Bruff had survived at all.

It was a stormy spring morning in 1849 when 64 young men gathered near St. Joseph, Mo., to begin their trek across the Great Plains. They had pooled their resources into a mining company headed to California, and 44-year-old Bruff was their captain. Though born into a prominent East Coast family, the captain himself was a man of fairly modest means and had left behind a wife

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