California Here I Come

“As the time approached I became very anxious about the expedition but supposed a few would go with me. Finally I could not find a single member of the company that was sure to go.  I went forward with my preparations however and to the extent I could I purchased an outfit which consisted of a wagon and some provisions, a rifle and ammunition.  At almost the last moment every one abandoned the idea of crossing the plains.  I cast about however and found in Platte County a man by the name of Henshaw who was willing to go.  He was old, quite an invalid, and nearly helpless. He had a fine black horse that he allowed me to dispose of. I sold him for a yoke of young cattle and a one-eyed mule for Henshaw to ride.” (California 1841-8, p. 4)

In April 1841 John Bidwell was preparing to hit the trail for California, in spite of the fact that everyone else had dropped out of the Western Emigration Society. Of all those who  signed the pledge to journey together to California, only John Bidwell actually followed through. Other members of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had not been a part of the Western Emigration Society.

Why George Henshaw, “old, quite an invalid, and nearly helpless,” wanted to undertake the rigors of the trail remains a mystery. Probably he hoped to regain his health in California’s salubrious climate. At any rate, he survived the trek, although he did not stay in California. He traveled back east in 1842 and nothing more is known of him.

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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