August 11, 1841

“Wednesday, 11th. Having traveled about 6 miles this morning the Company came to a halt–the Oregon Company were now going to leave the Bear river for Ft. Hall . . .  Many who purposed in setting out to go immediately through to the California, here concluded to go into Oregon so that the California company now consisted of only 32 men and one woman and child . . . The two companies, after bidding each other a parting farewell, started and were soon out of sight. Several of our Company, however, went to Ft. Hall to procure provision, and to hire if possible a pilot to conduct us to the Gap in the California mountains, or at least to the head of Mary’s river.”

Their guide, Captain Fitzpatrick, had already told the Bidwell-Bartleson Party to give up their plans to travel to California. He advised them to travel with the missionaries and then continue on to Oregon.  If they still wanted to get to California, they could winter in Oregon and continue their journey next spring.

The direct route to California lay across dangerous unmapped territory, with no roads and no guideposts. Fitzpatrick was not familiar with the region, but he said he had heard of trappers that had explored the country to the west and the south of Salt Lake, looking for beaver. The company hoped to find a guide at Fort Hall, and sent four men to inquire, but they would not find anyone there to guide them.

They would also not find any “Gap” in the California mountains, but that realization lay six arduous weeks in the future.  Bidwell had seen a map back in Missouri that showed two rivers flowing from the Great Basin through California to the Pacific Ocean. They were still hoping to follow one of those rivers to the sea.

“After getting all the information we could from Captain Fitzpatrick, we regretfully bade good-bye to our fellow emigrants and to Father De Set and his party.  We were now thrown entirely upon our own resources. All  the country beyond was to us a veritable terra incognita, and we only knew that California lay to the west.” (The First Emigrant Train to California)

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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