November 1, 1841 — “A Striking Contrast”

November, Monday 1st. The Company tarried to kill game; an abundance of wild fowl and 13 deer and antelopes were bro’t in. My breakfast, this morning, formed a striking contrast with that of yesterday which was the lights of a wolf.

“The lights of a wolf” being the lungs of a coyote.

Nancy Kelsey was not only walking barefoot and carrying her toddler, Baby Ann, but was also about six months pregnant. She collapsed in exhaustion when they reached the valley. She stated:

At one place I was so weak I could hardly stand, and I lay on the ground while Mr. Kelsey went out and killed a deer. We were then near Marsh’s ranch.

Bidwell tells it this way in his 1877 Dictation:

The eve of the next day found us surrounded by abundance; thirteen deer and antelope had been brought in. It was about the first of November, and there was no time to delay if we were going to reach California that fall. Most of the party were ready and anxious to press forward. Captain Bartleson and his men thought otherwise. They said we hadn’t yet reached California, we probably still had a long distance to travel, that such a place as we were in could not be found everywhere and they were going to stop and lay in meat for the balance of the journey.

Leaving them in camp and crossing the Stanislaus River, we proceeded down the north side of the same and camped. Early the next day the news came that the Indians in the night had attacked them and stolen all their horse. We remained till they came up, carrying on their backs such things as they were able.

John Bidwell never did get on with John Bartleson, and there is a note of satisfaction here that once again, Bartleson was wrong and got what he deserved.

The Stanislaus River

It seems strange that they still don’t know that they are in California, but all will be resolved tomorrow.

California mule deer

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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