The End of the Trail — November 4, 1841

On this date 175 years ago, John Bidwell and most of the rest of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party reached the home of John Marsh near Mount Diablo.  They were at last in California and they knew it. The long journey was finished and a new chapter of adventure would begin.

Thursday, 4th. Left the river in good season and departing gradually from its timber came into large marshes of bulrushes. We saw large herds of elk and wild horses grazing upon the plain. . . . Finally we arrived at Marsh’s house, which is built of unburnt bricks, small and has no fireplace — wanting a floor and covered with bulrushes. In fact it was not what I expected to find; a hog was killed for the company. We had nothing else but beef; the latter was used as bread, the former as meat.

After the skimpy rations of the past few months, the men hungered for fat meat, and the pork was welcome, even if it came in a beef and pork “sandwich.” Bidwell might have been hoping for bread too. He liked bread and missed it. But he had no complaints about the food Marsh gave them that first night.

marshhistoricpark

Map courtesy of the John Marsh Historic trust

Considering the glowing reports of California that Marsh had sent back east, Bidwell was surprised at the primitive conditions he was living in. A small adobe house with a dirt floor and no fireplace–hardly what Bidwell had envisioned. He was accustomed to cooking over a fireplace indoors, but in California the cooking was generally done outside in the courtyard.

To the right is a map of John Marsh’s Rancho. The adobe is at the bottom, by the creek. Take out the big house, the barns, and the garden to get an idea of what Marsh’s home looked like in 1841.

Dr. Marsh welcomed the company. “He seemed delighted to see us and was very communicative and even enthusiastic.” He had known a few of the men in the company back in Missouri. Now, their journey ended, they sat around telling their stories and exchanging news.

The journey was over, but the adventure would continue. John Bidwell was now embarking on a new life, the life of a Californian. He would spend the next 59 years in his new home state.

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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