November 2, 1841 — “Great Joy and Gladness”

Tuesday, 2nd.  Capt. B. with his 7 remained to take care of the meat he had killed — while the rest of the Company went on. We passed some beautiful grapes, sweet and pleasant.  The land decreased in fertility as we descended the stream.

Behold! This morning Jones, who left the camp to hunt on the 23rd ult. came to the camp. They (he and Kelsey) had arrived in the plains several days before us, and found an Indian, who conducted them to Marsh’s house, but he brought bad news; he said there had been no rain in California for 18 months, and the the consequence was, there was little breadstuff in the country. Beef, however, was abundant and of the best quality.

Thomas Jones and Andrew Kelsey (younger brother of Benjamin Kelsey) had gone on ahead to hunt for meat on October 23rd. Now they have reappeared with the exciting news that they had been lead by an Indian to the ranch of Dr. John Marsh.

“Cheyenne” Dawson recalled the same encounter:

We were traveling along, pretty comfortable on the whole, but casting glances of anxiety towards the mountains ahead, when we saw two men approaching transversely to our route. So rare a sight greatly excited our curiosity, and we stopped and waited. As they drew near, someone said, “Why, one of them looks like Jones! “No, it can’t be.” But it was Jones, and an Indian, come to find us and pilot us in, if found alive, to Marsh’s ranch.

Jones’ story was short. After getting lost from us he had struck westward, had killed with a rock a rabbit, and had subsisted on this until found by some Indians who took him to Marsh’s ranch. He had straightway put back, with an Indian guide, to find his comrades. Jones had some provisions, too. We all felt like hugging Jones. We didn’t, but those provisions! We must see them. So we camped right there and ate them.

Finding out about Marsh was good news indeed, for Marsh was the man who had set the movement in motion. His letters to Missouri, read by Bidwell and many others, had painted a glowing picture of California life and enticed them across half a continent.

As Bidwell said in the 1877 Dictation: “This settled the question that we had actually arrived in California, and were not far from San Francisco Bay. It was an occasion of great joy and gladness.”

John Marsh in 1852

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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