My New Project

I am working on a picture book biography of Nancy Kelsey, the first American woman to come over the Sierra Nevada into California. Nancy was seventeen years old when she set out across the plains with her husband Ben and their one-year-old daughter Martha Ann. When the company split at Soda Springs, she was the only woman to travel into the unknown desert toward California (the few other women went to Oregon, the safer option).

When friends told her she should stay behind and wait for Ben to check out California first she said,

Where my husband goes, I can go. I can better endure the hardships of the journey than the anxieties for an absent husband.  

Steve Ferchaud, who illustrated my John & Annie picture book, is working on the illustrations, and his sketches look great.


Nancy Kelsey admires her handiwork on the Bear Flag


A mule tumbles over a cliff in the Sierra Nevada mountains

I feel sorry for that poor mule who fell to his death in a rocky canyon. Although if he had not fallen, he probably would have been eaten. Members of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party had to eat their oxen first, and when those were gone and they couldn’t find game, they had to eat their mules to survive.

I’ll keep you posted as the book progresses. If all goes well it will be out this fall, another story of early California from Goldfields Books.

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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2 Responses to My New Project

  1. Susan J Kadlec says:

    Hello Nancy, I may have some information about Nancy and Ben Kelsey who were friends and neighbors of my great-great grandparents in George Creek, located between Lone Pine and Independence, CA. After the earthquake in 1872, both families sold their land and left together, I believe heading south through Walker Pass. The story is in and was donated by my third cousin

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