June 1, 1841 — Hailstorm and Wedding

On the trail with John Bidwell:

June. Tuesday, 1st. This morning we hastened to leave our miserable encampment and proceeded directly north, we reached Big Platte river about 12 o’clock. The heat was uncommonly oppressive.  I here discovered the ground was in many places hoary with Glauber Salts, or at least I was unable to distinguish them by taste. This afternoon we had a soaking shower, which was succeeded by a heavy hailstorm.

Glauber Salts are sodium sulfate, an inorganic chemical which today is used in the manufacture of detergents and in paper pulping. In Bidwell’s day it was used as a laxative.

About the hailstorm, the Rev. Williams wrote:

At 2 o’clock commenced a most tremendous bad storm, with wind, which blew down most of the tents, accompanied with rain and lightning and thunder almost all night. I slept but little, the ground being all covered with water. That night dreadful oaths were heard all over the camp ground. O the wickedness of the wicked!

Poor Rev. Williams found it very trying to travel “in the midst of an ignorant and hard-hearted people.” (“Narrative of a Tour from the State of Indiana to the Oregon Territory” in The Bidwell-Bartleson Party, edited by Doyce B Nunis.)

The Impending Storm, by Albert Bierstadt

Bidwell continues his journal entry:

Wonderful! This evening a new family was created! Isaac Kelsey was married to Miss Williams, daughter of R. Williams. The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. Pr. Williams, so we now have five families, if we include a widow and child.

Miss Winifred Williams was the daughter of Richard Williams and his wife, whose name is not recorded. Isaac Kelsey, who was also known as Zedidiah, was one of the four Kelsey brothers on the trip. He and Samuel and their families went to Oregon, and Benjamin and Andrew went to California. Isaac was born in 1818, making him one year older than John Bidwell, and 22 or 23 years old when he married on the trail. Very little else is known about the young couple and their further adventures.

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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