May 9, 1841

“When May came I was the only man that was ready to go out of all who signed the pledge. In Weston however there was a man who had never signed the pledge, but who had said from the beginning that he would go to California when May came. This was Robert H. Thomes, a wagon maker at that time. 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 who was sure to go. . . . At almost the last moment every one abandoned the idea of crossing the plains.” (California 1841-48, p. 4-5)

(Thomes Creek in Tehama County is named after Robert Thomes, who settled there in 1844.)

May 9th was the day decided on for gathering at the jumping off point: Sapling Grove, in Kansas Territory. Early in May, in the Platte Purchase area of Missouri, Bidwell was the only member of the Western Emigration Society ready to go. He recruited George Henshaw and persuaded him to trade his “fine black horse” for a pair of oxen and a “sorry one-eyed mule” for Henshaw to ride.¬† They were joined by Thomes and a young man by the name of Mike Nye.

When California fever had swept the region in the winder of 1840-41, quite a few people in the Platte Purchase had signed the pledge. Now they had all backed out. But they saw the four men off on their way with the best of wishes. Bidwell and his companions soon arrived at the rendevous point of Sapling Grove.

“On reaching Sapling Grove no one was there but we saw fresh wagon tracks and followed them to the Kansas River. They belonged to parties who had come, some from Arkansas, and some from different parts of Missouri to cross the plains. We camped here and waited to see if others would come.” (California 1841-48, p. 5)

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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