October 14, 1841 — “But We Made No Halt”

Thursday, 14th. This morning we saw at a distance Capt. B. with his 7 men, coming in a direction towards us, but we made no halt, ascended the stream about 20 miles. The mountains continued to increase in height.

That phrase, “but we made no halt” is a telling one. These men (and Nancy, don’t forget her) are not going to wait up for the double-crossing Captain Bartleson and his party. Note that the Kelsey-Bidwell Party is now ahead of Bartleson and his men, even though Bartleson was expecting to reach California before them. What went wrong?

Nicholas “Cheyenne” Dawson was with the Bartleson party, although in his telling some 50 years later, he says the men with Bartleson only meant to do some exploring, not desert the rest of the Company. They seemed to have followed the Walker River downstream until it terminated in a lake. This did not get them where they wanted to go so they headed west. They had eaten up the ration of beef that they had taken with them.

In the meantime Hopper had seen some deer signs; so we camped, and sure enough, Hopper soon killed and brought in a back-tailed deer. We made short work of eating him all up. We also found some baskets of grass seed hidden away by Indians. We confiscated them, poured the seed into the water we had boiled the deer in, and made a delicious soup. While we were devouring the deer, I had noticed Barnett cramming bones into his pocket. I understood this next day when I saw him, as we rode along, gnawing bones.

Traveling the next day we finally struck the river. On the opposite side was a bunch of Indians preparing to leave in haste. By shaking a white rag, we induced them to remain until we approached, for we had nothing left to eat, and thought they might have something we could barter them out of. Although they were frightened at first, we soon gained their good will, and having smoked the pipe of peace with them, let them know by signs our wishes. They produced their stock of trade — a gallon or two of pinion nuts. After tasting these we agreed to take them all, swapping butcher knives for them. We and the Indians then parted, very good friends, each thinking he had the best of the bargain. We now divided the nuts by measure; and I remember that I cogitated for some time — should I make one bait [bite] of mine, or dribble them out. I decided on the latter course, and dropped them into my pocket; but they were delicious.

Pine nuts were a staple of the tribes in the Great Basin. They are high in protein and an excellent food source. For more on the history and culture of pine nuts by Native American tribes in Nevada, go to pinenut.com.

Paiute women harvesting pine nuts in 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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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