October 24, 1841 — Abandoned Horses

Saturday, 24th. Concluded the Co. had gone north. I travelled E., found no trail — traveled S. — came to the place where I left the Company yesterday morning, having made a long quadrangle in the mts., 8 by 10 miles — took the trail of the Company. They had with great difficulty descended to the river, [I] saw where they staid last night. Distance about 6 miles. Ascended on the S. side of the creek a high precipice. I overtook them; they had traveled today 10 miles.

They had hired an Indian pilot who had led them into the worst place he could find and absconded. 5 horses and mules had given out; they were left. I learned likewise that two hunter (A. Kelsey and Jones) started shortly after I did, and had not returned; part of a horse was saved to eat.

The Company was making very slow progress, and it must have felt like no progress at all. They feared they might wander about in the canyons for weeks until the snows caught them and they perished.

While Bidwell was off on his his detour to the grove of sequoias, the rest of the company had hired an old Indian to pilot them out of the mountains. They were sure that he had led them “into the worst place he could find” and left them there. They suspected the Indians of wanting their horses for food.

Before Bidwell caught up with his companions late on the 24th, they abandoned five of their horses and mules. On his way back to join the group, Bidwell came upon the Indians cutting the beasts up for meat.

Many [animals] gave out and had to be left, the men carrying on their backs what they could of the burdens and leaving the rest. And here I witnessed a most horrible sight. For many miles the Indians were cutting the animals to pieces and carrying away the meat, poor as it was, for food. Late in the night I overtook the company. (1877 Dictation)

The Sierra Nevadas, by Albert Bierstadt. Hard to admire the scenery when you are lost and starving.

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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