Voyage to California (11) – 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 travelling  from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.


Spent considerable part of the day watching the trains of mules as they arrived with the view of securing my own baggage as soon as possible. Toward evening it arrived in good order, very much to my satisfaction. Took a bath in the Bay in the evening and I walked about the city. The view of the Bay walls was very fine. Water was very smooth, green islands rose abruptly from its surface. The coast was lined, in places, with palm trees, and wild ducks and pelicans were flying about in large numbers, or floating tranquilly on the still waters. The Cathedral is a grand old building and appears to have been very fine inside, but the tooth of time has deeply marked it. My lodging room is directly opposite, one side of it, and it’s gray walls are about the first objects that meet my gaze when I awaken in the morning. It is roofed with tiles, among the crevices of which, numerous parasitic plants find their sustenance.


I spent a good deal of the day watching for my trunks, which eventually arrived, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, in good condition. Some got theirs earlier in the day, others not till after. After getting my trunks, I went down to the beach to take a bath, which felt very grateful after the heat and anxiety of the day. Our hotel is situated on the main street, opposite the Cathedral, and is one of the old buildings of the place, fitted up to accommodate travelers. The room that I lodge in is on the side next to the Cathedral, and its wall is the first object out-of-doors that meets my eyes in the morning. It is a side wall, however, and very plain, the outside ornamental work being chiefly expended upon its front. The inside exhibits evidences of having once possessed considerable magnificence, but the hands of time and neglect, have placed their seal upon it in a matter not to be mistaken. The view of the Bay from the walls of the town, is quite handsome. A number of islands, generally composed of a single hill covered with verdure, rise from it, the water is very smooth and placid, and the coast stretches away from the town on either side, dotted with cocoa-nut groves, in a manner very agreeable to the lovers of the beautiful in nature. Large flocks of ducks and numerous pelicans may be seen at nearly all times upon the Bay. The pelicans will hover about over the water, occasionally diving down into it with a splash, but quickly emerging and flying off with apparent ease.

Tomorrow, I’ll be continuing the story of Louis Guion and his wife, Thomasse (Le Fourestier) Guion in England and then New Rochelle, New York.

Next week I’ll be posting letters written in the fall of 1946. Lad and Marian, Dick and Jean and Dave are all living in the Trumbull House with Grandpa and working in the area. Dave has been in charge of Guion Advertising while Grandpa took a much-needed vacation. Dan, Paulette (Chiche) and baby Arla are still in France, waiting to begin their voyage to America and their new home in Trumbull.

Judy Guion


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