As shown above, her husband's estate was appraised at $125, the value of household goods like brooms, a bed, farm equipment, and so on. Not shown are several IOUs totaling a few dollars, and the bill for appraisal and settling the estate.
My guess is there was little actual cash to keep Asenath and her kids afloat for the long term. So a few years later, when her brother John Cornwell and his neighbors decided to join the Gold Rush, she did the same.
Asenath left her children behind in the care of other family members and set out from Ohio, in March of 1852, bound for California and a new life. Her youngest child was not even 7 years old when Asenath began her journey. Her oldest was 15.
Asenath Keeps a Journal
Asenath wrote a journal for a full year, March 1852 to March 1853, commenting on her long journey, her fears, her hopes, and her faith. You can read the entire journal, transcribed and typewritten, here.
The first entry, dated March 16, 1852, tells how her children begged her not to go. She writes that after considerable prayer, "in the Lord put I my trust." It was her oldest son's birthday, and "oh how much have I thought of him during the day," she laments, not knowing when or if she might see him ever again.
She and her brother book passage on the Lady Franklin to St. Louis (cost: $10 per person). She continues to think about her children left behind, "there is a whispering of conscience that I am in the path of duty, and I feel a strong faith that the Lord will go with me and bring me back again, and . . . [he will] be a Father to my fatherless children..." at this time, she writes. It's quite clear from the journal that her faith sustains her through many difficult challenges in the months ahead.
The Circle of Life
Soon Asenath and her brother switch to the Pontiac to go "up the Missouri" River. She falls ill but quickly recovers. Just two weeks into the journey, a child on the boat dies, buried in the woods during a brief stop on shore. Two days later, an older man becomes ill and dies. Asenath is coughing and begins taking Dr. Janes Expectorant [sic, see here for formula].
By mid-May, her wagon train has joined a "constant crowd of wagons" headed west. She writes: "Colera and small pox both among these trains. 30 fresh graves have been counted on that road." Several more of her traveling companions sicken, pass away, and are buried.
Meanwhile, babies are born along the way, to the great joy of all in the wagon train.
Through the Nevadas to Volcano and Clinton
California had been a state for less than two years--and Asenath writes of passing out of the United States, then entering the States again. By mid-September of 1852, six months into the journey, she and her brother reach Volcano (east of Sacramento). Days later, they go 8 miles to Clinton, where they choose a lot and set up a tent. Her brother will prospect for gold while Asenath takes in washing and patching and baking.
Unfortunately, he and his partners don't find as much gold as they would like. He sells oxen for credit to buy food. Asenath chronicles the steady rise in prices for various commodities. She bakes and sells pies, clearing enough to cover costs.
By March of 1853, the brother and sister have halted efforts to find gold and begin putting down roots. Asenath plants a garden and settles into her California life. Through letters from home, she knows her children are doing well.
Larimers Reunite in California
|1863 San Francisco city directory showing Asenath Cornwell Larimer and her son|
In the 1861 city directory for San Francisco, dated September of that year, Asenath is listed as a widow, living at 913 Stockton. By 1863, the city directory for San Francisco showed Asenath as a baker, living with her son Anderson Wright Larimer, who was a partner in a harness-making firm.
A few years on, Asenath moved to Santa Monica, where she was among those who organized the public library. Her granddaughter Elfie Asenath Mosse (1867-1939) was the first librarian in 1890 (according to History of Los Angeles County, vol 3 by McGroarty).
Asenath as Inspiration
Asenath Cornwell Larimer lived from 1808-1897. After she was widowed, she never remarried. She was a woman of strong faith, twice a pioneer, a settler and civic leader, the mother of a Civil War soldier, the grandmother of a librarian.
In the midst of the current coronavirus crisis, I find the life and times of my husband's amazing ancestor quite inspiring. Which ancestor inspires you?