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Jersey County Page     Quest for Gold (Part I)

The Quest for Gold

Constitution and By-laws of the Green and Jersey Co. Company

contributed by Carolyn Houghton Chapman

What we have learned of the gold rush journey of Abraham Houser III and his father-in-law, John Arnspiger, comes from newspapers, journals, and letters. Beginning with the dates of their deaths in family histories, and knowing that they lived in Jersey County, Illinois, we discovered the name of the group with which they traveled west. Their wagon was mentioned by name in three different published journals kept by members of the Green and Jersey County Company. Hence, we know that they were part of this company of emigrants to California which originated in Illinois, just north of St. Louis, assembled in St. Joseph, Missouri, and departed on May1, 1849.

Because the Donner Party had departed from Springfield, Illinois in 1846, the news of their tragic experiences was undoubtedly well known throughout the area. The St. Joseph Gazette published the Constitution and By-Laws of the Green and Jersey County Company. The regulations are demanding, but they show that the organizers knew of the problems encountered by the Donner Party. The rules appear to be designed to avoid similar difficulties. Original spelling and punctuation have been maintained from the St. Joseph Gazette. (May 4, 1849), St. Joseph, Mo. Page 4, Columns 1 & 2.


Previous to the adoption of the Constitution and By-Laws, the following Resolution was unanimously agreed to, and signed by every member: Resolved, That we the subscribers, members of the “GREEN AND JERSEY COUNTY COMPANY of emigrants to California, now rendezvoused at St. Joseph; in view of the long and difficult journey before us, are satisfied that our own interests require for the purpose of safety, convenience, good feeling, and what is of the utmost importance, the prevention of unnecessary delay, the adoption of strict rules and regulations to govern us during our passage: and we do by our signatures to this resolution,pledge ourselves each to the other, that we will abide by all the rules and regulations that may be made by a vote of a majority of the company, for its regulations during our passage; that we will manfully assist and uphold any authorized officer in his exertions to strictly enforce allsuch rules and regulations as may be made. And further, in case any members of the company, by loss of oxen or mules, by breaking of wagon, robbery by the Indians, or in fact from any cause whatever beyond their control, are deprived of the ability to proceed with the company in the usual manner, we pledge ourselves never to desert them, but from our own resources and means to support and assist them to get through to Sutter’s Fort, and in fact, we pledge ourselves to stand by each other, under any justifiable circumstance to the death.

Constitution of the Green and Jersey County Company.

     We the members of the Green and Jersey County Company of Emigrants to California, for the purpose of effectually protecting our persons and property, and as the best means of ensuring an expeditions and easy journey, do ordain and establish the following Constitution:
  Art. 1. The officers of the company shall consist of a Captain one assistant Captain, a Treasurer, Secretary and such other minor officers, as may be provided for by law.  Art. 2. The Captain and assistant Captain, shall be elected by ballot for theterm of twenty days, and until others are chosen.  Art. 3. The Treasurer and Secretary shall be elected in the same manner, forthe term of four months, and on charge of neglect of duty may be removed at any time, by a vote of two-thirds of the company.  Art. 4. The Captain shall preside at the meetings of the company, may callmeetings of the company when deemed necessary and shall do so at all times when requested by six members. He shall — under the advice of the Guide — have the entire command of the company, in all matters relating to the time and order of marching and encamping, and whenever any obstacle whatever, to our progress and welfare occur, may require the aid of any or all of the members. He shall have discretionary authority, to inflict penalties upon members for disobedience of his orders or those of his Assistant: provided, such penalties shall consist only of extra or additional guard, and other duties to which they are liable.  Art. 5. The duties of the assistant Captain, shall be to execute the commandsof the Captain, and to supply his place in case of absence.  Art. 6. The duties of the Treasurer shall be, to take charge of, and safelykeep all moneys belonging to the Company, subject to the duty of reporting the state of the treasury, whenever called on by a vote of the Company.  Art. 7. The duties of the Secretary shall be to keep a record of the proceedings of all meetings, and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law.  Art. 8. This Constitution may be abolished or amended, at any time by a vote oftwo-thirds of the Company.

By-Laws of the Green and Jersey County Company.

     We, citizens and inhabitants of the United States, and members of the Green and Jersey County Company of Emigrants to California; about starting on a journey through a territory where the laws of our common country do not extend their protection, deem it necessary, for the preservation of our rights, to establish certain wholesome rules and regulations. We, therefore, having first organized a constitution of government, forourselves, do now proceed to enact and ordain the following Laws; and in so doing, we disclaim all desire or intention of violating or treating with disrespect, the laws of our country.

  Sec. I. In case any complaints made to the Captain, by any member of the company, that any of the rules or regulations have been violated, or that any of the company have violated the laws of order, right and justice, which are evident to all men, it shall be his duty at the first camping place, to call a meeting of the company, and state to them the complaintthat has been made, when, if the company decide, by a vote of a majority, that the offence is of that character — deserving punishment, they shall proceed to the trial of the person complained of, in the following manner. The names of all the company except the parties, the witnesses,and the mess-mates of the party complained of, shall be placed in a box, and five drawn promiscuously therefrom, which five person shall constitute a jury to try the case. The witnesses, shall be examined under oath, by a person appointed by the Captain, and after a full and fair hearing, the jury shall decide the case by a majority, the jurors to be sworn to dojustice between the parties.
Any person feeling himself agrieved by the decision of a jury, shall have the right of appeal to the whole company, but it shall require a vote of two-thirds of the whole company to set aside the verdict of a jury, and such vote shall be taken by ballot. When any offence is comitted, requiring punishment, and a punishment is not named for such offence, in our By-Laws, it shall be the duty of the jury, in such case, to name in their verdict what the punishment shall be, and how and when inflicted.

  Sec. 2. In case any member alleges to the Captain, that he believes his life, or those of his comrades, to be in danger from any other member, or complains that any member has drawn any deadly weapon on another, except in self-defence, or has threatened the life of another, it shall be the duty of the Captain to bring such person, complained of, to trial in the same manner, as is provided in section first of these By-Laws, and if the jury shall unanimously decide that it is unsafe that he shall continue with us, he shall be expelled.  Sec. 3. Expulsion from the company, is defined to mean, and shall be enforced as follows, viz: the expelled person shall be supplied, from the mess to which he belongs with provisions sufficient to carry him to the nearest settlement, and then warned to leave the encampment within one hour, and if, after the expiration thereof, at any time during the journey the person thus expelled, shall be found within the encampment or persists in holding communication with members of the company, the taking of his life by any member shall be deemed to be in self-defence.

  Sec. 4. Any member of the company taking the life of another, shall be tried for the offence by a jury of twelve, selected in the manner and form as prescribed in the selection of a jury for the trial of minor offences, and six unqualified challenges shall be allowed on both sides, and as many more as good reason can be shown for; they shall then proceed with the trial in the manner aforesaid, but their verdict must be unanimous, and from it there shall be no appeal. If the jury cannot agree, a new jury shall be empannelled from the balance of the company, and a second trial be had, and so on, to a third jury, when, if the third jury cannot agree, it shall be considered as an acquittal. But if found guilty of wilful murder, a file of twelve men shall be selected, by lot, under the direction of the Captain to execute the penalty of death on the convicted person.

  Sec. 5. The Captain shall preside at all trials for offences, or violations of the laws of the company, and the Secretary shall make record of the proceedings and result of the same.  Sec. 6. All gambling, for money or property, by members of the company with each other, is expressly forbidden, and shall be deemed an offence, for which the parties shall be tried, and on conviction, shall be required to do guard duty, one day for the first offence, two days for the second, three days for the third, four days for the fourth, and in the same ratio foreach additional offence.

  Sec. 7. At all times when practicable and safe to the company, each and everySabbath day shall be observed as a day of rest to man and beast.

  Sec. 8. A corps of twelve men shall be detailed by the Captain, to be termed the Pioneer Corps, who may be ordered in advance of the train, at any or all times when deemed necessary by the Captain, for the purpose of repairing roads, building bridges or doing any other work necessary to facilitate the progress of the train. Such corps shall be formed by taking one only at a time from any mess, and no member shall be required to perform saidduty the second time, until all others, except the Captain and his assistant, have done the same.  Sec. 9. The Captain and his Assistant shall be exempt from guard duty.

  Sec. 10. The wagons shall be numbered from one upwards and divided into messes of four each and in changing from front to rear, three daily, to enable the messes to always travel together, the whole four shall change. Each mess of four wagons may, if they choose, elect a Chief, with power to command their order of travel, and perform any other duties not inconsistent with the rules and regulations of the Company.  Sec. 11. The guard shall be organised and constituted as follows: the Assistant Captain shall procure from the Secretary, a list of all members — each mess by itself — from this list he shall make up his guard roll, in such a manner as to require but one from any one mess to be on guard at the same time. The next man on the roll, after detailing the guard of each day, shall be the officers of the guard, whose duty it shall be to attend to relieving the guard during the night, and also to report, to the Captain the name of any guard who shall neglect his duty. The assistant Captain shall notify the officer of the guard of his duty, and furnish him with alist of the guard for the night, at least twelve hours previous to the time he enters on duty. — The guard shall consist of nine men forming three reliefs, whose duty during the day, shall be to guard the cattle, mules and horses, prevent their straying, and drive them into camp atnight, at which time the first relief shall enter on the night watch, to be followed by the other two, at such times as will most equitably divide the duties to be prescribed by the Assistant Captain. The guard of each day shall enter on their duties at the rising of the sun, and continue fortwenty-four hours.

  Sec. 12. No member of this company shall be allowed to carry, in a wagon, a gun or pistol, loaded and caped or primed.

  Sec. 13. In the event of the decease of any member of this company, on the rout to, or in California, the property of said member shall be duly preserved, and if on the route shall be taken to our point of destination, and unless otherwise provided for by the said deceased person, and after due notice shall be given, said property shall be exposed to public sale, and sold to the highest bidder for cash, and the proceeds shall be paid, first to thenearest relation of the said deceased, and by him remitted to his legal heirs; and if said deceased has no relation in said company, then said proceeds of sale shall be paid over to such persons as the company may designate, and by them accounted for as aforesaid provided; and for the faithful performance of said trust, they shall enter into bonds, payable to the relations of the deceased.

   A. R. KNAPP,
   Committee to report Constitution, &c.

(For a list of members see second page.)
[No list appeared on the second page.]

From a History of Jerseyville, Illinois, 1822-1901, published in 1901 we learn: “DR. AUGUSTUS R. KNAPP came to Jerseyville in 1844, where he had an extensive practice. He was a member of the constitutional convention to revise the Constitution of Illinois in 1847. In 1849 he went toCalifornia where he was quite successful in his search for gold. He died in Jerseyville, July 13, 1862. Mrs. Knapp survived her husband until 1868.”

This article contributed by Carolyn Houghton Chapman
Reno, Nevada
[email protected]

Jersey County Page          Quest for Gold
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