May 26, 1841

“Wednesday, 26th. Two wagons were broke today; about a dozen Pawnees came to our camp, stopped to repair the wagons, having come about 15 miles. . . . A man by the name of Williams, a Methodist preacher, overtook the company this evening on his way to Oregon Territory. He had not arrived in time to start with the company from the settlements, and had traveled entirely alone, without any gun or other weapon of defense, depending wholly on Providence for protection and support.”

The Rev. Joseph Williams was 64 years old in 1841 when he set out to visit the missionaries in Oregon. That made him the oldest member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party. He left a short record of his experiences on the trail entitled “Narrative of a Tour from the State of Indiana to the Oregon Territory in the Years 1841-2.”

Williams was greatly disappointed when he reached Westport, the starting point, and found that the company had already left. When he was told that he had only missed them by three days, he set off to catch up. On the 26th he rode across the prairie, “happy in my soul,” until about 4 o’clock, when he spotted the company a few miles ahead. He stopped to feed his horse, then traveled on and by evening he joined the company. They told him how narrowly he had missed being captured by Indians. Williams didn’t seem particularly surprised, for he was confident that God was watching over 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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