Oxcart Gold Rush: From Pompey Center, N.Y. to Sacramento
POMPEY CENTER, N.Y. – A hand-written journal that chronicles five years in the life of a 19 th –
century resident of Central New York is the subject of a fascinating new book that documents his life,
and a new and growing America, during five years that included his journey to the California Gold
Rush of 1849.
Oxcart Gold Rush: From Pompey Center, N.Y. to Sacramento – and Back is the work of Clarkson
Golden Knight and former Alumni Association President Elmer ‘Stub’ Estey, ’64, whose boyhood
home previously had been the home of the son of Daniel W. Holbrook, the author of the timeworn
Holbrook’s small, leather-bound journal had rested, undisturbed, in a trunk in the attic of Estey’s
Pompey Center, NY home for decades before it was discovered by his four sisters–99 years after its
author had first put pen to its pages in 1845. In the diary, Holbrook recorded the day-to-day life of his
family in Pompey Center; their move to Southport (now Kenosha), Wisconsin; and his cross-country
travel with three friends, by oxcart, to California mining towns made famous by the 1849 Gold Rush.
It was the kid-brother to these four sisters, Stub Estey, who took on the project of transcribing the
diary of Daniel W. Holbrook–and adding historical perspective through exhaustive research about the
country through which Holbrook traveled between the years of 1845 and 1850. Now, more than 172
years after Holbrook wrote the diary’s last page, his story is laid out before the backdrop of an
emerging new nation that was America in its early years.
For Estey, the book fulfills an unspoken wish of his family in telling Holbrook’s story. “It’s full of historical events, but it’s not a history book,” he says. “It’s a storybook, and the story is something
everyone can relate to — the journey toward our dreams.”
Along the way, Estey fills in historical blanks with stories of a young politician named Lincoln, the
struggles of Congress with issues of slavery in particular and governance in general, and dozens of
other threads of America that form a full tapestry of the time during which Daniel Holbrook brought
his family from Central New York state to Wisconsin, then left them to travel by oxcart through the
Midwest to California, Oregon, and home again.
Estey graduated from Clarkson in ‘64 with a BS in mechanical engineering and received his Clarkson
MS in Industrial Management in ‘66, then spent 30 years as a manager in almost all departments at
AT&T, retiring as Government Affairs Vice President. After corporate work, he started Triple E &
Associates, a management consulting LLC in Washington, DC. He later returned to Clarkson as
Executive Director of the Shipley Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, concurrently teaching
a Management Skills course to MBA students and a Consulting course to undergraduates.
In 2014 he co-founded the bluegrass group Thoroughfare Gap, performing with the group for over
three years before revisiting another old passion after a 60-year hiatus: theater. His revived theater
career saw roles in productions of My Fair Lady; Jesus Christ Superstar; Gift of the Magi – the
Musical; and other shows as well as a 2023 role as the ‘Stage Manager’ who narrates the play Our
Town – at Fauquier Community Theatre in Warrenton, VA.
Oxcart Gold Rush includes more than 100 photographs, maps and illustrations of the places Holbrook
visited and the life that surrounded him. There are newspaper clippings from world events of the day,
and reproduced pages of Holbrook’s hand-written diary entries. It’s a great book for students of
history and all those who have ever dreamed of making their lives’ dreams come true.
Oxcart Gold Rush is available from Log Cabin Books at logcabinbooks.com.