November 8, 1841

John Bidwell stayed at Marsh’s rancho, while fifteen of the company went to “the pueblo of St. Joseph” (San Jose) to look for work. Bidwell wanted to pump Marsh for more information about California and its resources, as well as travel around and see some of the country on his own.

“The next morning I rose early, among the first, in order to learn from our host something about California, –what we could do, and where we could go,–and strange as it may seem, he would scarcely answer a question.”

Marsh had at first welcomed the newcomers, but he was evidently having second thoughts.  Bidwell soon came to see him as “one of the most selfish of mortals.” Although he had fed them on pork and beef the first night, and even used some of his seed wheat to make tortillas for the thirty-two men, Marsh was obviously worried about being saddled with a host of hungry mouths that he couldn’t afford to feed.

The men, who had no money, paid him with various items—a can of gunpowder or a butcher-knife–but Marsh only grumbled that they had already cost him $100, and “God knows whether I will ever get a real or it or not.” (A real being a Mexican coin.) All the men left as soon as they could, and Bidwell never had a good word to say about John Marsh.

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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