Voyage to California (36) – 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.


(March 7th) In the morning, finding the boat was not likely to start before evening, if then, I took a stroll on the hills, round towards the Golden Gate.  The town proper, be it borne in mind, is not in view as we approach it from the ocean, until we arrived nearly opposite.  After leaving the Gate some four or five miles behind us, we turn around a band of hills or blocks, and the city is immediately revealed.  From the interior of the town a valley runs to the coast, cutting off these hills from their fellows; and over these hills to the valley and along it back to the city, was the extent of my walk.  I found a number of flowers and flowering plants in the hills, some of which looked quite familiar, others were entirely new to me.  Among the familiar ones I noticed buttercups, a yellow violet, columbines not yet in bloom and a flag not much different from the wild flag in the neighborhood of N.  Garden.  The unfamiliar ones I shall not attempt to describe at present, hoping to be able to give a better idea of the Flora in this country at some future time.  The hills on each side of the valley before mentioned are laid off in lots, some of which are decently fence, and contained flocks of sheep and goats, some with patches of cultivated ground.  One in particular had a very comfortable-looking residence upon it, and a garden nicely paled in and under cultivation.  Radishes were growing in open beds, apparently uninjured by frosts or cold.  There are houses enough in the valley to make a little town, and building is still going on.  In one of my conversations with Dr. Gibbons, among much interesting matter, he told me of a curious practice of the woodpeckers in this country.  This was to select a tree and peck holes in it just of a size to admit an acorn;they then take acorns and plug up these holes, driving them in very tightly.  In this way they will put thousands in a single tree.  They live upon these acorns in times of scarcity.  He also showed me a plant having a large bulbous root, which he assured me was used for washing, as a substitute for soap, and answered the purpose very well.  I’m inquiring of the boatman in the evening, I found myself obliged to wait until high tide next day, which would be about eleven or twelve o’clock.

Next Saturday, I’ll continue with John Jackson Lewis’ trip to Alviso and San Jose.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with My Ancestors, this one all about my father, Alfed Pebody Guion, and his employment through April of 1946, the date he typed  “Life History of Alfred P. Guion.

On Monday, I’ll post a week of letters written in 1943. Lad has had a furlough in Trumbull, Dan is stationed in London, Dick is Brazil, and Ced remains in Alaska.

Judy Guion


4 thoughts on “Voyage to California (36) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

  1. VeraMaureen Jenner says:

    A very interesting and irresistible account that I found utterly captivating.

    • Judy Guion says:

      VeraMaureen – Thank you. Captivating is a great word to describe what John Jackson Lewis wrote about his journey to California to visit his brother. I’m waiting to see how and why he stays there!!!

  2. Wonderful descriptions in this journal entry! I particularly enjoyed the one about the acorns.

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