Voyage to California (37) – 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.

Excerpt from a letter written by John Jackson Lewis to family back in the states written on March 12th.

The next morning, after unloading the lumber, we  proceeded about a mile and a half up the stream to the place where goods destined for Santa Clara and San Jose are landed, and there I disembarked.  San Jose is called eight miles from Alviso  and three from Santa Clara, Santa Clara six miles from Alviso..  I did not succeed in finding a conveyance direct to this place, but a waggoner who had just arrived with a load of quicksilver, told me that he was going back to Santa Clara immediately, and that communications were quite frequent between there and the Pueblo.  I took with him at $2.00 for myself and trunks,, and in a very reasonable space of time, we set down to Santa Clara.  Here again conveyance for the transportation of baggage were wanting, but as I had not much further to go, I concluded to leave my trunks, walk over to the Pueblo, and trust to finding a conveyance there, with which to return and get them.  While talking about it, a man who is about started the hotel at Santa Clara told me that it was not likely I could get a card to perform the journey both ways for less than $5.00, that he had a table and two benches at San Jose, and that if I could get a team to bring them over and return with my trunks, he would be willing to pay $2.50.  I arrived at this place about 1 or 2 o’clock, went directly to Williams office (John Jackson Lewis’s brother), found no one in, but soon met him in the street.  He looks more robust and healthy than I remember ever seeing him before, and about as civilized as when at home, shaves as much of his face as he did there, and wears quite respectable clothing.  William’s horse was let to Captain Winslow, and was absent, but after waiting until about 3 o’clock on March 11th, I succeeded in getting started for Santa Clara, with his horse of the Captain’s mule geared to a two-horse wagon, and the table and benches loaded in.  I received $2.50 from the tavern keeper, thus reducing my expenses from San Francisco to $3.50, – obtained by trunks, returned in safety, and now I have the satisfaction of stating that I have arrived here, so far as I know, in good health, and without losing any of my goods or chattels, even of the value of a tooth-pick.  I have also something over $30.00 of my money still in my pocket.  This valley is indeed beautiful.  The winter has been exceedingly dry, so that the growth is not so luxuriant as usual at this season of the year, but the plains are covered with green herbage, sufficiently high to afford good pasturage.  In some places considerable tracts are yellow with buttercups.  The valley is beautifully level and smooth, dotted places with groves of live oak or willow, while the mountains on either side, covered in some places with redwood, and others with live oak or large fields of wild oats, prevent the eye from becoming wearied with the monotony of a level surface.  William and Sherman Day are in partnership in farming as well as surveying.  They own two farms, one of 200, the other of 100 acres, but in consequence of the dry weather, are farming only the latter it is situated near the Coyota Creek, about 2 miles from town, and is a very pretty and evidently fertile piece of land.  It’s situation does not admit of irrigation from the creek, but water could be found a short distance below the surface, and they propose to dig wells and raise water by means of pumps, worked by windmills.  This I suppose will be practicable, unless the water fails in the summer.  There is a new frame house on the farm, 60 x 22 ft., one story, with a loft above, and a well of water with a small iron pump in front of it.  There is a good deal of fencing done, and several acres of ground ploughed, some of which is planted with potatoes, turnips, radishes and onions.  The radishes and turnips are showing themselves above the surface.  A considerable number of pear trees, and several hundred grapevines, are also in the ground.  They had two men and a boy hired to work for them and live in the house. Wm. and Sherman live in town, rent an office, and and take their meals at a restaurant run by a man from Buenos Ayres.  I have eaten there several times, and fared sumptuously.  I suppose my home will be at the farm but I am not yet established there.  I have as yet slept with Wm. at the office, and generally taken my meals at the restaurant, sometimes at the ranche.  Of our fare at the ranche my experience is too limited to permit me to say much, so I leave that for the future.  I think we could get along with tolerable comfort.

Tomorrow, I will post more about Lad and Marian’s early married life during World War II.

Next weeks posts were not planned this way, but I will post more about the developing relationship between Lad and Marian, which results in their marriage in November.

Judy Guion


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