One of the first Bollinger men to respond to the excitement and adventure of the news of the discovery of gold in California, which rippled eastward across the plains back to Southeast Missouri, in ever increasing waves of music to the human ear, bearing the panacea to cure all financial woes and result in unheard of wealth, was Joshua Bollinger, my fourth great-grand uncle. The tragedy, in the winter of 1849-50, caused by the untimely death of his wife Lena, left him with six children, Elizabeth, Christopher Columbus, Adam, Polly, William, and Joseph. Pioneers were usually quick to help each other when needed or when tragedy struck. Joshua’s parents came to his aid and took care of his children, leaving him to ponder deeply his plight. With dreams of finding gold and wealth uppermost in his mind, he discussed a trip to “Californy” with his parents, William and Magdaelene. They agreed to take care of his children and thought that mining for gold might be a successful solution to his needs.


Groups of “goldfever” people were forming into caravans in the early spring of 1850 at Independence, Missouri, the beginning of the California and Oregon Trails. Joshua made haste in outfitting an oxen team, supplies, and a covered wagon, which also, would provide living quarters while searching for gold. After a long arduous seven month journey fraught with many hardships, and deaths to some members of the wagon train, the trail weary oxen and worn wagons with their rather ragged looking families reached the gold field areas. Excitement sprang anew with new tales of discoveries heard every day, and with a resurgence of hope and energy they scattered and began looking for places to stake a claim. Not all found immediate wealth but wages could be made and Joshua not being bound by family responsibilities could move about more freely than others. He moves from one area to another, with varies success, until he had amassed a small fortune. Joshua, remembering his parents and children were depending on him, decided to return to Missouri. The route to return was often ship by Panama, overland to the Gulf Of Mexico side by mule pack train, and aboard another ship to New Orleans, and then a river packet upstream to Cape Girardeau. He was welcome sight to his children and parents and with his new found wealth, life became much better for them. A few months later he met and soon married Mary Catherine Looney.

Life, in what is now Bollinger County, was not so exciting and he became restless to return to the “goldfields”. He had money to buy a god team and covered wagon and plenty of supplies and sturdy clothing for his new wife and his children. Bidding farewell to his parents, William and Magdalene, whom he would never see again, as the rest of his life was lived out in California, he joined another caravan west. His experience of problems of the overland route, caused him to be chosen as the leader of large caravan of brothers, among them was my fourth great-grandfather, Christian Bollinger.


Christian was born 1816 in Cape Girardeau County Missouri. Like his brothers and sisters, he did not get an education, and worked hard farming the fields. He would only have his ambition and sense of work ethic in his pursuits for succsess. At the age of 19, he married Sallie Farmer, daughter of Reuben Farmer, of Bollinger County. They traveled the road together for more than fourty-four years, Sallie dying in 1880. Christian emigrated to California in 1852, first living in Napa Country, for about a year, and then came to Santa Clara County. Here he spent another year, and again removed, this time to San Mateo County, where he became possessed of large and valuable tracts of land in the foot-hills of the Coast Range. In 1883 the Spring Valley Water Company, of San Francisco, having needs of Mr. Bollinger’s land in extending their water system, made him advantageous offers of seventy-five thousand dollars, which he accepted.



Having thus of all his real-estate interests in San Mateo County, he returned to Santa Clara County, and established his residence on a 184-acre tract of fine farming land on Saratoga Avenue, a little southwest of Santa Clara. This property he sold in 1887, realizing a fine return upon his investment. He then removed to Santa Clara, where he has since made him home.

Christian owned some fine orchard property on Saratoga Avenue, within the limits of Santa Clara, and there he built build a home, in which he spent his remaining years in comfort, dying in Santa Clara County in 1898.


Works cited

Orenia Bollinger, The Bollinger Connections, (Frederickstown, Missouri: O. Bollinger, 1984), 68-9.

H.S. Foote,  “Pen Pictures From the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated,” (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1888), 565.