Voyage to California – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlap (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.


The wind blew hard last night and today, while we were on the ocean.  Of course the sea was rough, and, of course, I was again seasick.  We entered the Golden Gate in the afternoon and anchored off San Francisco about 5 o’clock.  The bay and part of the city is crowded with shipping, and the city almost hidden by the forest of masts.  A majority of the passengers succeeded in getting ashore this evening, but owing to the delay, on account of the customhouse officer, several of us remained on board all night.  Some who had been on shore, returned in the evening and numerous and startling were the reports from the gold regions circulated through the ship.  The stillness and quiet of the vessel, so friendly to repose, were very acceptable after so much tossing and rolling.


A strong wind arose in the night, causing a very heavy sea, and we were obliged to travel very slowly in consequence, during the latter part of the night.  As another consequence, I was again seasick immediately after rising.  As soon as I could do so I went on deck, and selected a position near the middle of the vessel, where there was the least motion, the most protection from the wind, and exposure to the sunshine, and there I sat until we approached the Golden Gate, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  After getting through the Gate the cannon were fired, we proceeded up the bay a short distance past the city, and finally cast anchor at 5 o’clock P.M., – thus completing our long journey in 35 days, one hour and 30 minutes from the time of leaving New York, including a detention of 5 days at Panama.  Owing to the sun setting immediately behind the town, and the forest of shipping in front, we have as yet been able to distinguish but little in regard to it.  We could see however that building still progresses, and that a number of lots were laid out on the hills immediately in the neighborhood of the town.  The bay looked beautifully calm and placid after coming in from the turbulent ocean.  A number of boats came off to us from the shore, and most of the passengers succeeded in getting ashore.  In consequence of having to wait the examination of the custom-house officers, we could not all land before night, and rather than do that, I and a considerable number of others concluded to stay on board till morning.

Tomorrow, another post about My Ancestors, this one, Alfred Beck Guion, son of Rev. Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck. He is Grandpa’s father and my gret-grandfather.

Next week I’ll be posting more sections from Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in his own words. 

Judy Guion

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

  1. Reblogged this on Musings of a Penpusher and commented:
    These reports are vivid reminders of the bravery and resourcefulness possessed by these early travellers. What a joy it must have been to hear their stories at first hand.

  2. These first-hand reports are vivid reminders of the bravery and resourcefulness possessed by these early travellers. What a joy it must have been to hear their stories at first hand.

    • Judy Guion says:

      Maureen – As Grandpa stated in his Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion, “If our ancestors had written their memories and handed them down for posterity, how much more interesting our heritage would seem! ………….I realized the happenings of fifty (or 168) years ago now fed to the young folks in history books, might take on an added interest if recorded by one who had actually been a part of them.”
      I am extremely grateful for John Jackson Lewis, Ernest Jerome Hopkins, J. Marshall Guion IV and Alfred D Guion for recording and documenting various pieces of my family history. I am blessed with all these records.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.