Voyage to California (13) – 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 most of the day in writing. A number of persons, bound for San Francisco, combined to-day for the purpose of trying to get a passage at a reduced price, and in the evening 22 tickets for the New Orleans were contracted for at $75, each to be taken out tomorrow morning. Tickets have been selling at auction today in the streets, for $52-$76. A number of miners returning from Cal. passed through Panama on to-day. They do not give very encouraging reports, but they generally look healthy though rather rugged.


Spent most of the day writing. A combination was formed to-day, among those bound for San Francisco, and a committee appointed to endeavor to procure a passage at a reduced price. The prospect this evening is that steerage can be obtained for $75; cabin $150. This we think will do very well. Tickets for the steamer Antelope were selling at auction to-day in the street, at prices varying from $52 to $76 for steerage, but whether the sales were real or sham I was not certain. A number of Californians have passed through this place since my arrival here, on their way home. They appear to be nearly all unsuccessful miners, and well satisfied to get away from the country. They represent the winter as having been unusually unprofitable to the miners of the dry diggings, from the extreme scarcity of rain. Many of them threw up large banks of earth with the intention of washing them out when the rains set in, who from the want of it, left them and abandoned the country. They are a rugged looking set of fellows, but they generally look well and hearty. Indeed I have seen but little sickness since landing on the Isthmus, – three or four cases of fever constituting almost the entire amount. One of my fellow passengers in the cabin of the Cherokee was sick when I left the vessel, but he is now here apparently well and in good spirits. He says he and the fever parted company at Chagres, and have not known each other since. Our committee this evening agreed to take 32 tickets for the steamship New Orleans, at $75 steerage; $150 cabin, offered to leave a list of names, and pay part of the money, but the agent told them it was needless, – they might come to the office at 9 o’clock, and the tickets should be made out at those prices.

Tomorrow, more about My Guion Ancestors in New Rochelle, New York.

On Monday, I’ll begin posting letters written in 1944, when all five sons are serving Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion


One thought on “Voyage to California (13) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

  1. Reblogged this on Musings of a Penpusher and commented:
    These accounts of travel in 1851 must surely put present day complaints about transport problems into perspective.

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