August 10, 1841

“Tuesday, 10th. The day was fine and pleasant; a soft and cheerful breeze and the sky bedimmed by smoke brought to mind the tranquil season of autumn.”  John Bidwell waxing poetic on the trail.

“A distance of 10 miles took us to the Soda Fountain, where we stopped the remainder of the day. This is a noted place place in the mountains and is considered a great curiosity–within the circumference of 3 or 4 miles there are included no less than 100 springs . . . The water is strongly impregnated with soda, and wherever it gushes out of the ground, a sediment is deposited, of a reddish color, which petrifies and forms around the springs large mounds of porous rock . . .”

The Soda Fountain, or Soda Springs, was a well-known landmark on the Oregon Trail, and many travelers got out their diaries and recorded their impression like Bidwell did. I couldn’t find any good photographs of Soda Springs from the 19th century. Today the landscape has changed, and most of the naturally carbonated springs are gone, covered by a man-made reservoir.

The company of pioneers was about to split up, with half going to Oregon and half to California, and before they do I want to mention Mrs. Samuel Kelsey. There were four Kelsey brothers in the group–two would go to Oregon and two to California. Samuel Kelsey had married Lucretia “Lucy” Applegate in Missouri in 1830–they had five children.  Bidwell tells this story from their time on the trail before they parted ways:

“I remember Mrs. Samuel Kelsey; I pitied her. We had traveled all day and everybody was tired. It was hard work to get a fire built, but she managed to and was frying some bacon and tried to make some coffee. She had, I think, 5 children, the smallest of which could barely stand alone. They were all standing about, crying at the top of their voices for something to eat. Just at that time the coffee upset and it went into the bacon and put out the fire. She threw up her hands and hollered out loud enough for the whole camp to hear: “I wish to the Lord I had never got married!”

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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