Voyage to California (43c) – John Jackson Lewis – More of the San Jose Valley

This is the last section of the final letter from John Jackson Lewis. This one is  to Edward, dated May 8th, 1851, describing the San Jose Valley and what he can see from his brother William’s farm. This sketch was made by John Jackson Lewis and enclosed with the letter.


Turning our gaze up the valley towards Monterey, the timber prevents our seeing much of the low land, except in the immediate vicinity of our house, that is within two or three miles, but beyond the timber, and distant, perhaps, five or six miles, the hills, comparatively low, but high notwithstanding, indicate that the valley becomes much narrower, and changes its course very materially.  Looking towards the Bay, the mountains fade away on either side, leaving us one place where we can look out on what I shall call the real horizon.

On the plain, in this direction, there is nothing essentially different from what is visible in other directions.  The same vast fields of grass and flowers, interspersed with spots of timber, or lines of it along the streams.  The timber on the plain is almost exclusively white and live oak, but in some places, dense thickets of Willows border the streams.

Distances on the plain are very deceptive.  This day two weeks, after sitting and writing a considerable portion of the day, I felt desirous to take a walk before supper, and pitching on a timbered spots, which I supposed, after making all due allowances, to be about a mile distant, as the extent of my excursion.  Pointing it out to Wm., I asked him if it was much more than a mile distant.  He replied in the negative, and I started.  The sun, I suppose, was about an hour high, and as I walked and walked towards the trees, the sun appeared to be making almost equal haste toward the horizon.  I reached the trees, however, and found several of them to be splendid Live Oaks, with lots of magpies, blackbirds, woodpeckers, and hanging birds hopping about them or flying from tree to tree, making the air vocal with their notes.  I stayed but a short time, and started back on a tall walk; but the sun had gone to rest; in the dusk of evening was upon me as I approached our humble abode.

I met with another rather curious instance of this deceptiveness.  Nearly all of the farm, (as will be explained more fully hereafter) is open to the plains, and the cattle that roam over them will occasionally trespass upon the land under cultivation.  In driving them off one day, I picked up a clod and threw at one that I thought very near to me, but, to my astonishment, it fell considerably short of its object.  I threw again, harder, but it still fell short, and it was only after repeated trials that I found how much harder I had to throw in order to hit anything that I had been accustomed to doing.  One reason of the deceptiveness in this instance was probably the being out of practice of throwing, for two or three months, reasons for other cases are perhaps found in the clearness of the atmosphere and the background of the mountains.  The rectangular figure on my map, near the Monterey Road and on a branch of the Guadalupe Bay, is where Wm. and his partners were farming last year.  one of them, Capt. Winslow, is on it this year.  He rents it, I believe, at $30. per acre.


This concludes the entries of the Diary and Journal of John Jackson Lewis concerning his voyage from New York to California to visit his brother William.

My Mother’s Ancestors will be the next series I post on Sundays. Here is a picture of Edith May Lewis, daughter of John Jackson Lewis and Margaret Ann Wilde.

Edith May (DeDe) Lewis, daughter of John Jackson Lewis.


This picture is of Homer Marchant Rider, Edith May’s husband.

Next Saturday I will begin a series of posts concerning Lad’s Voyage to Venezuela, taking a similar route as John Jackson Lewis during the first portion of his journey, about 88 years later.

Tomorrow my final post about My Ancestor, Alfred Peabody Guion. This will be quotes from the Memory Book that was passed around during the Celebration of Life held for Al (Lad) and Marian Guion.

Next week I will begin a week of letters written in 1944 while all five of Grandpa’s boys were scattered arount the world in the service of Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion

6 thoughts on “Voyage to California (43c) – John Jackson Lewis – More of the San Jose Valley

  1. Reblogged this on Musings of a Penpusher and commented:
    Absolutely fascinating.

  2. Thanks    for accepting and following my blog.

    I’m available to read your post at my convenient time.

    You have such an interesting topic I will love to read in
    your blog.

    I still remain  the simple blogger…..

    Peace ✌and Love ❤

    • Judy Guion says:

      Patrick, I’m pleased that you came across my Blog. I have hundreds of letters written by family members, especially my Grandfather, Alfred Duryee Guion, from 1939 to 1946. I call it a Slice of Life. History is so much more interesting when we read the stories of people who lived through a particular time frame. Enjoy.

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