October 14, 1841

I’ll be signing books at the Chico Library Fall Festival this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. If anyone would like a copy of either John Bidwell or my new book The Miner Poet, or if you just want to chat about California history, please stop by and say “Hi!”

And where was John Bidwell on this date in 1841?

The Bidwell-Bartleson Party, minus Bartleson and his friends, was heading up the Walker River. A week earlier the erstwhile leader of the company, John Bartleson, with seven  of his friends had taken off on their mules, abandoning the rest of the group. There had been friction in the company, as you can imagine given their perilous situation, and Bartleson decided to push on ahead. They took all the meat from a freshly-slaughtered ox with them.

His words as they left were, “Now we have been found fault with long enough, and we are going to California. If you can keep up with us, all right; if you cannot, you may go to hell!”

Captain Bartleson’s words still rang in John Bidwell’s mind when he wrote about the incident 48 years later.  (Although Bidwell, mindful of the readership of The Century Magazine, put in a dash— for the word “hell.” I imagine that’s what the man said.)

Then on the 14th they came back, dragging their tails behind them. As Bidwell recorded:

“Thursday, 14th. This morning we saw at a distance Capt. B. with his 7 men, coming in a direction towards us, but we made no halt, ascended the stream about 20 miles. The mountains continued to increase in height.”

Captain Bartleson was back, and out of food.  “We were glad to see them,” Bidwell later reported, “although they had deserted us. We ran out to meet them and shook hands, and put our frying pans on and gave them the best supper we could. . . He seemed heartily sick of his late experience, but that did not prevent him from leaving us twice after that.”

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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