Rhoads Family Descendants of Amanda Esrey and Daniel Rhoads


Daniel and Amanda Rhoads

California Pioneers

Talk given by Donna Crow
Rhoads' Cousins Luncheon
Dry Creek Golf Course
Galt, California

            Daniel Rhoads, farmer, California immigrant, rescuer, gold miner, cattle king, pioneer in irrigation in the Tulare Basin, and banker was one of California earliest settlers.  He was active in starting the first school and Methodist Episcopal Church South in the Lemoore area.    On April 7, 1846, Daniel Rhoads and his wife Amanda and a party of relatives crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph, Mo. They traveled overland across the plains using wagons and ox teams and met up the Donner Party for a short time.  After a journey of five months, Daniel and Amanda and family members    arrived at Johnson's Ranch on Bear River in the Sacramento Valley October 4, 1846. Daniel and Amanda stayed there for about a month and then moved down into the Sacramento Valley by Sutter's Fort.

Daniel worked for the nearby Grimes and Sinclair ranch.  He wrote in the Statement of Daniel Rhoads of Kingston Fresno County that, "while I was at Sinclair's news came to the Fort that a party of emigrants were in the mountains, 'snowed in' and destitute of food."   Traveling single file through the snow, Daniel made one trip into the mountains to help rescue the survivors of the Donner Party.  He said in the statement that, "Glover and myself were the weakest of the party suffering greatly from exhaustion caused by deprivation of food and want of sleep."   

Daniel worked for Briggs and Burris at Galt and in June 1847, the family moved to the Consumes River and the following October to Sonoma for the winter.  In 1848 Daniel and family returned to Sacramento, and was there when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill.  For the next two years he mined on the American River.  Leaving there they returned to Missouri in 1850. They family returned to California and located near Gilroy where Daniel purchased a 2,400-acre stock ranch.  During a drought in 1857 he drove his stock across the Coast Range to the lower Kings River, but the family did not move there until sometime in the early 1860's.  Amanda's brothers, Jonathan and Justin Esrey settled near Lemoore when Daniel Rhoads took his stock to that area.

The history of the family is reflected in a collection of Rhoads and Esrey Letters collected by Steve Emanuels of Lemoore.  He put the letters into a booklet called, "The  Rhoads-Esrey Letters 1846-1873."  Daniel and Amanda Rhoads, Amanda's brothers Jonathan and Justin Esrey, Elvira Sackelford, and Amanda's father Jesse Esrey, wrote these letters.  Steve Emanuels wrote in his introduction,

" The letters bring life to a long-ago time in California history, a time

which ought not be forgotten,"

Daniel writes to his father-in-law, Jesse Esrey, in Missouri, and tells of his trip crossing the plains to California and helping rescue members of the Donner party.  Daniel also tells the family in Missouri that he and Amanda have a son the letter that is simply dated Spring 1847.

" We've a fine young son born the 4 day of November.  Amanda calls him for her father and her brother Jesse Esrey."

  One of the first letters to have an address on it for Daniel and Amanda in California is from Elvira Shackelford and is addressed:

 Daniel and Amanda Rhoads  Sutter's Fort, Upper California, 14th April 1848

" Dear Sister, I avail myself of the present opportunity of writing you a line to let you know that we are still remembered with the living.  I should be truly fond to see you once more. I have undergone much suffering since you left.  I suffered most tormenting pain from toothache and having one extracted fractured the jawbone.  It has healed several times at intervals and given me great distress.  I have rathered feared at times an affection of the brain from its side effect. I had a son born in April 1847 and called its name John.  It only lived about four weeks until it pleased the Lord to remove it from this vale of tears.  It died of hives.  My husband was sick in the past winter.  His attack was something like winter fever.  He recovered and is now tolerable well.  Eliza Jane is stout and hearty.  The past winter has very mild and unusually sickly.  Mother is now quite relieved and under the influence of medicine.  Doctor Dyer is attending to her and thinks he can affect a cure.   Her disease is complicated inflammation of the spleen and an affection of the liver so that callous appearing tumor about her left breast slightly enlarges at times, and gives her some pain after taking a cold. Your loving sister while life lasts, Elvira Shackelford"

        Daniel wrote the next letter in the collection to Amanda's parents Jessie and Hannah Esrey in Missouri dated June 28, 1849. In the letter Daniel lets them know that their little boy, Jesse, has passed away, he also says that they have only received one letter from Amanda's parents since leaving Missouri and asks for more mail.  Daniel writes that they have a new baby boy called Alexander.

"Dear Parents, Again I take my pen in hand to let you know that we are all well that are yet living.  It pleased the lord to take from us a smiling little boy.  He died April the 28.  He took a chill in the morning and died in the afternoon.    Daniel goes on to say that, " Father and Turner Elder are going to start the 5 of July for the Salt Lake.  We had a very cold winter last winter.  The people are coming in very fast and shipping from every quarter of the globe.  When you get this letter write immediately and send it by water.  We have received but one letter since we left.  If any  one of our folks come out this fall we may probably return home in the year 1850.  We call our baby Alexander and nothing more at present but remains your loving children."

     As he wrote in the letter Daniel, Amanda and baby Alex did return home to Missouri in 1850 where Daniel planted a corn crop of 300 acres. The little family probably took a sailing ship from San Francisco through Acapulco to the Isthmus of Panama then crossed by mule train and went on another ship to New Orleans where they caught a steamboat up the Mississippi River to Ray County Mo to Amanda's parents farm. The 1850 census lists Daniel as a farmer with 300 acres.  Amanda and Alex are also listed on the Ray County Missouri census.  They return to California sometime in the fall and in a letter to them from Amanda's father Jesse Esrey on January 12th A.D. 1851 Ray County, Missouri Amanda's father asks them about the drafts for money that could be drawn for cash on the trip back to California for $2,300.  He also says that he had Daniel's corn crop harvested and husked and paid for it with one-seventh of the profit.

"Dear Children, I avail myself of the privilege of writing you a line at this time.  This leaves us all well with the fond hope that you are well and that you have escaped all the perils of the way.  I received your letters from Saint Louis and New Orleans acquainting me with the fact that you were unable to sell your drafts for any premium.  I spoke to Mr. Woollard about the premium on his draught and he said he would pay it back to me.  You did not sate whether E. M. Ryland paid you the one half percent according to the tenor of the letter of James S. Lightener or not.  If he did you would still lose one half per cent on $2300 and odd dollars." 

  In another letter dated February 10th 1851 to Daniel and Amanda from Ray County, Mo. Amanda's father Jesse Esrey lists the letters he has been receiving ones from Daniel and Amanda in Saint Louis, New Orleans and Panama and letters from Sarah Daylor, Thomas Esrey, John Rhoads, and J.H. Shackelford. In the letter he says Polly Elder and Father Rhoads were both there two or three nights ago and our friends here are all well.   He goes on to say, "Your brother Isaac if alive has doubtedly arrived before this.   He left the 14th of January.   He was in such haste to get away that he would not wait that I might write him a letter of credit in case of sickness or other catastrophe.   Isaac was going to Salt Lake and then on to California.

After arriving back in California in 1851 Daniel moves near what later would become Gilroy and in a letter to Jesse Esrey dated February 28, 1852 he talks about farming he says in this letter:" Every body in this part of the country is going to farming largely.  I am trying to fence a small field although I am weak handed". He had cut his hand clearing brush on the overland trip and it had become infected and had taken a long time to heal.    He says Joe House has built a good dobby house and is fencing land.   Daniel says, "I brought land off a Spanish grant and got a warrantee deed for it. Justin and Jonathan came down from the mines last October.  They made their home at my house.  They are going to start to the mines tomorrow day.  Wages are from 2 to 4 dollars a day . . .. Joseph House's wife has a young daughter born December the 1st.  Name is Sarah Jane… At this time I was finishing this letter John Rhoads drove up to the door with him brought a letter from you for me which relieved us very much to hear that you were all well and able.  For all your allowance you did not tell us any thing about the boys that started across the plains whether they got home or not.  John Rhoads wife is dead.  Her request on her death bed was that she wanted me to take her 3 youngest children and the girl and raise them."   The letter is signed AM D Rhoads

In 1853 Amanda wrote to tell her parents that their son Alexander has passed away. It is dated March the 3rd, 1853 and is from Daniel and Amanda.

"I avail myself of the present opportunity of penning you a few lines in relation to our misfortune. We have lost our little boy Alexander.  He died February the 26.  He was taken with a slow fever and tremendous aching of the bones.  We gave him pills and then we gave the second time.  It was to no effect.  His fever still grew on him.  We then got a doctor.  He sid it was the bilious fever and that he was not dangerous.   He gave him medicine but done no good.  His fever continued.  After being sick about 10 days he lost the use of his left side, leg and arm.  He was confined to his bed 19 days.  He died with a cramp.  He had cramps 22 hours and attended with spasms.  The suffering of this poor child during these 22 hours was beyond comprehension the doctor sed there was water collected on the brain.  When he died he went easy and left us with the smiles of heaven on his countenance.  He is gone and left us to mourn for him but a very few days."

In the letter Daniel goes on to says that he has not seen Justin and Jonathan for 12 months, but heard from them about three weeks ago and they are in good health.  He says they heard from Cosunmes that all are well and Misses Gun has another young daughter.  She says that Daniel's health wasn't good the past winter but all are in reasonable good health at present.  The letter includes prices in California flour is 7 to 10 dollars per hundred pounds; beef cattle are worth 30 to 35 dollars per head and in the mines they sell for 70 to 80 dollars per head.  Hogs are 25 cents per pound and the letter is signed Daniel Rhoads and Amanda Rhoads.

In a letter addressed to them in Gilroy on   April 10th 1853, from Richmond, Mo. to Daniel and Amanda from Amanda's father Jesse Esrey, he tells them that Thomas Rhoades is in Missouri and sold his farm, he goes on to say that Isaac, Thomas Jr. and family and Thomas will leave on Tuesday for California and feels that in all probability Thomas Jr. will reach California.  Thomas Jr. does not reach California but is drowned on the Humbolt while out hunting.  His family continues on and lives with Daniel and Amanda in the Gilroy area.

Jesse Esrey says," Your father is here came here 12th of last October last.   He sold his farm for $2500 to Dr. Ruffin.   Isaac, your father and Thomas and family I suppose will leave about Tuesday next.  Thomas I should think will in all probability reach California."

Daniel is still in the stock business in 1853 and writes to his father-in-law asking about stock prices. This letter to Daniel from Jesse Esrey is dated June 6th 1853 from Richmond Mo. Jesse gives Daniel the prices of 2, 3 and 4-year-old cattle, horses and mules that Daniel had requested.  Jesse also tells him that Thomas Esrey married Sarah Winset a few days since. 

Amanda writes to her father on December the 26, 1853 from Gilroy.

She says, ' I avail myself of the present opportunity of writing you a line letting you know that we are yet in the land of the living and hope that these few lines may find you in the enjoyment of health.  We are all well and doing the best we know how.  We are living in a little mud house and have a little something to eat.  We have a few hogs and some old cows.  They are out gathering grass.  I don't have to gather it for them."  In this letter she tells them about her new baby, " The babe's name is Mary.  She is 6months old.  Her weight is 11 pounds and a half.  She is fat and hearty.  They have two girls Sarah is two years old.  She goes on to say," Thomas Rhoads was drowned in the Humboldt.  As I wrote to you before his wife and her sister is living with us."   And that letter is signed Amanda

In a letter to her brothers, Niles and Septer in Missouri postmarked Gilroy, California April the 13th, 1856 Amanda writes quite a bit about the artesian wells in San Jose.  

Two of Amanda's brothers Justin and Jonathon have settled in the Lemoore area.

In this September 16, 1857 letter to Niles in Missouri from Justin in Kings River, Fresno, County Justin writes that Dan Rhoads' stock is in Kings River.

" Myself and Jonathan are living in Kings River.  We offered to make this our home as long as we stay in this county.  There is scarcely any settlement here but a great deal of stock.   It is good grass country and well adapted to raising stock and fit for nothing else. …  We have got out cattle here.  Dan Rhoads stock is here also." 

Justin Esrey, Amanda's brother wrote in a letter to Niles Esrey in Missouri from Fresno County California Nov. 1858 Justin wrote that Jonathan saw Daniel Rhoads and family there.

"Johathan came from San Jose last week.  Daniel Rhoads and family were well.  Isaac Rhoads had returned from Frazers River Gold mine. … He is going to live down at Rhoads Gilroy place next month… We have lately had trouble with the Indians in our section of country, but the whole fault is with the Indian Department, as they have not done their duty.  The Indians killed some of our cattle and we drove them off and put them on the Fresno Reservation.  Did not kill any Indians."

On January 17th 1859 Johathan wrote to Niles in Missouri from California. Jonathan told the family in Missouri that he had not heard from Daniel and Amana for about two months since he left the Gilroy area.  He also tells of the conditions of the county at that time. 

" I have not heard from Daniel and Amanda since I left there, which is about two months . . . We are going to make a garden this year.  We make the fence out of logs, limbs and brush.  I undertook to make some short rails today, for that purpose.  I made one hundred and forty out of worse timber that ever grew in the Horseshoe Bend.  The maul handle was big and cramped my fingers and hurt my wrist, but it hurt my feelings worse and my headaches yet.  But there is one thing certain we are not going to have our sheep lying about in the brush any longer."

In a letter to Septer in Missouri from Justin in  Kings River dated July 16, 1859 Justin and wrote that he was at San Jose in June and visited with Daniel and Amanda there. He also gives Septer information on the county and which route to travel if he decides to come to Kings County, California

" I was down at San Jose in the month of June stopping with Daniel and Amanda.  They were in good health.  In short all our relatives in this country are well."  He tells Septer about the country and tells him which are the best routes to come, " I suppose that you will take the mail steamer as that is the best."  Me and Jonathan are very busy in putting up hay.  When we get that done the most of our summer work will be done.  If you will come to California we will be of all the assistance in our power.  We have got a good stock ranch as we could desire, but it is a lonesome place to live.  This country is filling up very fast and I think will be a desirable country to live in after a while.   But I want you to use your own judgment about coming to this country.  If you are coming at the season that you're, take the Panama route."

In another letter from Justin Esrey to his brother Niles Esrey in Missouri dated August, 1859 Kings River, Fresno County.  Justin says that Daniel Rhoads was at Kings County for a few days.

" Me and Jonathan are well.  Daniel Rhoads was up here a few days ago.  He and family are well.  There is many a grizzly bear in this part of the country.  They have killed many hogs and a few cattle the last month.   They are dangerous to hunt.  They sometimes kill persons, when wounded, if they can catch them."

The first letter with a return address of Kingston is from Justin Esrey in California to Niles Esrey in Missouri.   A United States Post Office had been established there the previous November.  The date is Sept. 1, 1860

" I had a letter from Mr. Daniel Rhoads a few days ago.  They were all well."


Justin goes on to describe the country as being a hard one to live in as so many of the people leave in pursuit of gold and stay until they have spent all their money looking for gold.  He says they are doing well with the stock business,but that it is not a good country to live in and talks of selling out and returning to Missouri.  Daniel moved his cattle to Tulare Lake in Kings County during a drought because that was the only place in California where enough water could be found for the cattle. Amanda and the children lived in San Jose area while an adobe was being built so the children could go to school.    The local Indians made the adobe bricks for the house, men were paid 50 cents a day and the women were paid 25 cents a day.   The house had four rooms and out buildings at that time.  There is a fireplace in each room and the adobe walls are two feet thick.  The outbuildings included a blacksmith shop, barns, smoke house and storerooms.  A cemetery was started, near the adobe.  Wood for the buildings had to be brought from Stockton a two-week trip by team in those day.  The timbers in the barn and out buildings were hand hewed.   When Daniel and Amanda's  daughter Sarah Rhoads Phillips passed away in 1882 leaving a husband and six children, she was the first person buried in the Rhoads Cemetery.  Her husband died four years later and was the next one to be buried in the Rhoads Cemetery. 

Daniel raised cattle and farmed there for many years and then moved to San Francisco where he was worked for a bank.  He died Dec. 4, 1895 in San Francisco, Ca.   He sat down to dinner and began to say the blessing and passed away.  He was 75 years old.   Daniel was taken back to Lemoore and buried in the family vault.  He was president of the Bank of Lemoore at the time of his death and had been vice president of the Bank of Hanford.  He was a member of the Visalia Division of Territorial Pioneers, Mexican War Veterans, and Society of California Pioneers.   Daniel Rhoads was born December 7, 1821, four miles north of Edgar Count IL.  and was married on October 4, 1843 to Amanda Esrey who born on February 22, 1825 in Clark Co Il. My great great grandmother Mary Rhoads  was born in Old Gilroy June 12, 1853 and married George F. Kieffer on September 8, 1867.  He was a rancher and a farmer in San Gorgonio, San Mateo County, and Kings County.   My great grandmother Sarah Kieffer Esrey  was  born in San Gorgonio, San Mateo County California on  May 24,1869 and married Jessie Esrey who farmed in the Lemoore area.  My grandmother Lena Campbell was born on July 18, 1894 and married Elvan Yell Campbell. He farmed in Kings County and later worked for a sawmill in the Monterey area.   They had one child Bess Evelyn Campbell Smith.  

            Children of Daniel and Amanda:

  1. Jesse Rhoads born November 4, 1847; died April 28, 1849.

  2. Alexander Rhoads, born July 1848; died 1851.

  3. Sarah Rhoads, born Old Gilroy March 21, 1851; died January 3, 1886 in Lemoore, Ca. Buried at the Rhoads Cemetery she was 35 years old.

  4. Mary Rhoads, born June 12, 1853; died March 27, 1913. She married George Kieffer September 8, 1867

  5. John William Rhoads, born November 2, 1856 in Old Gilroy, CA; died August 30, 1906 in Hanford, Ca.

  6. Daniel Rhoads, born 1858 at Old Gilroy; d March 27, 1864, drown in a canal in Kings County when he was about seven years old.

  7. Elvira Rhoads, born 1863 in San Jose, Ca; died 1919 in Lemoore, Ca She married Harry Dawson in Lemoore, Ca.



Daniel Rhoads, "Relief of the Donner Party, 1873,"Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California. Original manuscript.

Emanuels, Stpehen P., "Daniel and Amanda Rhoads: History of the Rhoads Cemetery", The Lemoore Advance, April 18, 2002.

Emanuels, Stephen P., The Rhoads-Esrey Letters 1846-1873, Kings River Press.

Finney, Judy, Uncle Dan's Adobe, The Lemoore Advance, August 28, 1997.

Guinn, A.M. History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the San Joaquin Valley California, The Chapman Publishing Company Chicago 1905.

Haulman Donald J. The family of James Patterson 1758-1838.

Merritt, Robert &James, The Merrit's Tradition.

Ricketts, Norma Baldwin, Historic Cosumnes and the Slough House Pioneer Cemetery, , National Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers.