In 1850 the Sacramento Transcript published this list of the members of the “first band that penetrated the almost unknown wilderness lying between the shores of the Pacific and the Mississippi valley.” This is what became known as the Bidwell-Bartleson Party. The article called them “Old Settlers” since they had been in California eight or nine years longer than most men.
Several of these men became prominent in California. One such was “our respected fellow-citizen” Talbot H. Green. Green was a leading San Francisco businessman and a founding member of the Society of California Pioneers. This article was written before Green’s true name and history was discovered. Click on the link to find out who he really was.
Charles M. Weber was the founder of Stockton. More about him someday.
Josiah Belden became a wealthy businessman in San Jose.
Michael Nye, was a well-known resident of the Marysville area and shows up in Bidwell’s correspondence.
Robert H. Thomes acquired Rancho Saucos, where the town of Tehama is now located, in Tehama County. He remained a close friend of John Bidwell.
Another prominent settler was Joseph B. Chiles, who was probably the person who took Bidwell’s journal back to the States for publication. A hardy pioneer, he made three trips back to Missouri — to gather more immigrants, to pick up the children he had left behind, and to remarry. He settled on a ranch in the Napa Valley.
The Kelsey brothers, Ben and Andrew, set out from Missouri with two other brothers, Samuel and Zedediah (also known as Isaac). The two latter brothers took the safer route to Oregon and came later to California.
Note that Andrew Kelsey’s name has a mark by it indicating that he was killed by Indians. This was a fate he and his partner Charley Stone brought on themselves by their brutal treatment of the Pomo Indians that they held in slavery. It’s a dark chapter in California history.
I have written a picture book biography of Nancy Kelsey, famous for being the first American woman to come into California on the overland route. She led an adventurous life with her peripatetic husband, Ben. They lived all over California. Like his brother though, he was an Indian killer, not a man to admire.
I have written quite a few posts about Nicholas Dawson. After three years in California, he went back to Arkansas to find a wife. By 1850, when this article was written, he was back in California, having returned in 1849 for the Gold Rush. He eventually settled in Texas.
According to this list, three of the men drowned, which was a fairly common fate in pioneer days. Eight of the men, a quarter of the list, returned to the United States, including John Bartleson. Bartleson managed to get himself elected Captain of the emigrant party, but he turned out to be a poor leader, and his subsequent career was negligible. Getting his name on the first emigrant party to come to California was the only notable thing he ever did.
A couple of the names on this list should be corrected. Joseph Henshaw was George Henshaw. He returned east in 1842.
Henry Hever was actually Henry Huber. He acquired a Mexican land grant of eight leagues situated somewhere between the Yuba and Feather Rivers and Honcut Creek and the foothills. The boundaries were vague and he made no improvements, hence the grant was not confirmed by the U.S. Land Commission. So Huber bought some lots in San Francisco and there (according to Bancroft’s Register) he kept a liquor store.
Springer was James P. (not Jacob B.) Springer. I’ll write more about him someday. He returned to the States in 1842 with Joseph Chiles. In Missouri he promoted immigration to California and made several overland trips. He married and settled in Saratoga, Santa Clara County. I have corresponded with one of his descendants.