The Bidwell-Bartleson Party Gathers

Every day for a week or more, wagons arrived with the same object in view. At last we took steps to see how many had arrived and found our numbers to be sixty-nine. Among those were about fifteen women and children. All were anxious for a start. (1877 Bidwell Dictation)

For the next few days, one or two wagons would come each day, and among the recruits were three families from Arkansas. Every one furnished his own supplies. The party consisted of sixty-nine, including men, women, and children. (The First Emigrant Train (Echoes of the Past))

They were mostly young single men, like John Bidwell and Michael Nye. A few older men, like George Henshaw, and middle-aged John Bartleson, who became captain of the wagon train.


Ben Kelsey in later years

The families were Samuel and Lucy Kelsey and their five children, Benjamin and Nancy Kelsey and their little girl Martha Ann, and Richard Williams and wife and their teenage daughter, who married Zed Kelsey on the trail.

There were actually four Kelsey brothers on the journey — the other one was Andrew.

Lucy Kelsey’s sister, a widow named Mrs. Gray and her child were also part of the group. Mrs. Gray would find a husband along the way as well.


Nancy Kelsey in later years

That doesn’t add up to fifteen women and children, but I don’t think Bidwell was paying close attention to how many children there were. He just remembered a passel of little kids.



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.
This entry was posted in Bidwell-Bartleson Party, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Bidwell-Bartleson Party Gathers

  1. Sandy Hill says:

    This serious of articles on John Bidwell and his party are fascinating. To even think of such a trip must have been exciting but also daunting. Thank you Nancy. Really interesting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s