October 27, 1841

“It commenced raining about one o’clock this morning and continued till noon–threw away all our old clothes to lighten our packs, fearing the rain would make the mountains so slippery as to render it impossible to travel.” The Bidwell-Bartleson Party was traveling light, coming down the western side of the Sierra Nevada. They had long ago abandoned their wagons, but John Bidwell still carried the astronomy handbook and celestial atlas that he could not bear to part with.

Here and there the men saw the bones of horses strewn about. Bidwell later learned that the Indians preferred the meat of horses to cattle, and brought horses up into the mountains to kill and eat them.

Each day as the party left its encampment, Indians rushed in to pick up whatever they had left behind. This day one of the men in the party stayed behind to watch them, and saw that they were led by the “old, racally pilot” that Bidwell’s group was sure was trying to lead them astray to their deaths. “The old gentleman was at the head of this band, and as he had undoubtedly led us into this place to perish, his crime merited death–a rifle ball laid him dead in his tracks.”

It was the only deadly encounter that the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had with any Indians.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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