Voyage to California (5) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlop (Irwin) Guion, (5) Judith Anne Guion.

The following are transcriptions of John Jackson Lewis’s diary and journal of his voyage to California in 1851. He was going from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.

Diary:

(Feb.) 4th. A beautiful, calm, tranquil day, the seas so smooth as to have a somewhat glassy appearance. It must not be supposed, however, that a glassy sea is smooth like a mill pond; there is still a very perceptible wave; it does not break, however, and foam at the top, but retains a smooth and somewhat glassy surface. When I went on deck in the morning, the Island of St. Domingo lay to the left but a few miles distant, appeared quite hilly and rough but the hills were covered with vegetation. So something like a town on the coast, but the haze was too thick to admit to seeing it distinctly. Parts of the Island were visible all day, in the evening, but a few miles distant. A part of the Island of Cuba was visible this morning but at an extreme distance. Flying fish quite numerous this morning. Several sail seen during the day, but nothing peculiar in that line. Weather very much like harvest whether at home, the sea and sky beautiful indeed. Distance – 210 miles.

Journal:

4th. A beautifully calm, tranquil day, the sea so smooth as to have a somewhat glassy appearance. It must not be supposed, however, that a glassy sea is smooth like a mill pond; there is still a very perceptible wave; it does not break, however, and foam at the top, but retains a smooth and somewhat glassy surface. When I went on deck in the morning the island of St. Domingo lay to our left but a few miles distant, but the sun had risen immediately behind it, and this, together with the thick haziness of the atmosphere, prevented us from seeing any thing with distinctness, except the mere outline of the country. The country appeared very hilly and uneven, the hills covered with vegetation. Something having the appearance of a town was perceptible on the coast, tho’, for reasons already given, but very dimly. Parts of the island continued in view all day, most of the time at an extreme distance, but in the evening again within a few miles. A part of the island of Cuba was also visible a short time to day, but at an extreme distance. Flying fish very numerous this morning. These little creatures will start out of the water and fly along near the surface for a distance sometimes exceeding 50 yards before they drop. They are apt, however, to touch the tops of the waves about once in every 10 or 15 yards. A gentleman on board tells me that they will fly until their wings get dry. Five or six will frequently start up at once and fly in different directions like a flock of partridges. I saw one in the hands of one of our passengers a few days ago. It was very much such a fish as our sucker, except that it was darker colored on the back, it’s fins or wings were set higher up on the back, and were longer and broader. Several sails were seen during the day, but had nothing very peculiar in their appearance. The weather to day is very much such as one of our most beautiful days in the sixth month at home; quite warm, but with a delightful breeze, the sea and sky beautiful indeed. If all ocean travel could be done beneath such a heaven, and upon such a sea, well might the poet rave, and the landsman rushed to enjoy it. I expect I appreciate it more keenly from the fact of my previous experience as being entirely the reverse. Distance to day 210 miles.

The Voyage continues next Saturday.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting another story about one of my Ancestors, Joseph Marshall, 1672 – 1722.

On Monday I will begin a week of letters with more  news for the Guions written in 1944.  All the boys are scattered around the world in the service of Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion

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4 thoughts on “Voyage to California (5) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

  1. Mrs. P says:

    I believe the flying fish he saw were mullets. They are found in southern coastal waters from east to west, including the islands near Puerto Rico and Cuba. Almost all fish like mullets and when you see lots of them going in the same direction together your best bet for a larger catch is to throw the line in at the back end of the school.

    • Judy Guion says:

      Mrs. P. – Thank you for that fascinating piece of in formation. I know I can always count on you to add interesting and factual data to my blogs. Thank you, my friend.

  2. I enjoyed John’s description of the flying fish. My husband and I saw some when we visited the Florida Keys. They’re really quite a wonder. (I was relieved to read that poor John was no longer seasick.)

    • Judy Guion says:

      Liz – I am roo. I am really enjoying his description of what he is seeing. I can imagine what he is seeing and the view comes to life.I can’t wait to read about is trip across the Isthmus.I expect it to be quite vivid.

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