On the Trail — July 15, 1841

John Gray and W.G. Romaine had set out on July 6th to see if there were any fur-trappers camped at Green River, where the trappers usually had their rendezvous at this time of year. They didn’t find anyone, so the two men came back on the 13th. But other members of the party were anxious to find the trappers, since they had items that they wished to trade, so Gray set out once again on the 15th.

Thursday, 15th. As many of the company had articles of traffic which they wished to dispose of at Green river, a subscription was raised to recompense any who would go and find the trappers. John Gray started in pursuit of them, while the company marched on slowly, waiting for his return. Travelled about 6 miles today.

Gray was gone for a week and suffered a great deal in his search for the trappers. It would have killed a weaker man. I’ll write more about his ordeal when we get to the 22nd.

At this point in their journey they were traveling along the Sweetwater River and approaching South Pass and the Continental Divide.

Bidwell doesn’t mention it in his journal, but elsewhere he reveals that the “articles of traffic” were bottles or kegs of liquor. In The First Emigrant Train to California (Echoes of the Past, p. 119) Bidwell says:

Approaching Green River in the Rocky Mountains, it was found that some of the wagons, including Captain Bartleson’s, had alcohol on board, and that the owners wanted to find trappers in the Rocky Mountains to whom they might sell it. This was a surprise to many of us, as there had been no drinking on the way.

No drinking—because Bartleson was saving it up to sell to thirsty trappers. This was a bit of entrepreneurship that hadn’t occurred to young John Bidwell. Bidwell was not a teetotaler at this time in his life, but he never was a drinking man.

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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