September 12, 1841

“Sunday, 12th. Mr. Kelsey left his wagons and took his family and goods on pack horses, his oxen not being able to keep up. Distance today about 12 miles.”

The Bidwell-Bartleson Company party was finding out just how arduous travel in the desert could be. Their wagons bogged down in the dry sandy soil, and the travel-weary oxen had not the strength to pull the wagons through the shifting sand. Precious time was passing while they struggled to move the wagon train along.

When their animals could no longer drag the wagons through the sand, Ben and Nancy Kelsey decided to abandon the wagons and pack all their goods on the horses. The rest of the company would do the same shortly.

Nancy Kelsey many years later. This is the only photograph of her.

Benjamin Kelsey must have had two wagons, pulled by oxen, as well as horses to ride. His wife Nancy rode most of the trail on a horse, with baby Ann riding in front of her.  Ann was about one year old, and Nancy was eighteen.

Nancy was the only woman in the group that headed for California. She had said goodbye to her sister-in-law and the other women when the company split in two at Soda Springs. When people asked Nancy why she had ever started on such a difficult journey into unknown dangers, she said, “Where my husband goes I can go. I can better stand the hardships of the journey than the anxieties for an absent husband.”

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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