Voyage to California (41) – 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.

Following is the rest of a letter dated San Jose, March 30, 1851.

We have potatoes, peas, turnips, radishes, cabbage, lettuce, onions and tomatoes, the last four of my own sewing, all up, and more planted.  I got my seeds through, I think, without their taking any injury from saltwater or tropical weather.  The onion, tomato, and cabbage seeds at any rate have proved their generative powers. xxxxxxx

After the accounts received at home of cash being required for all moneyed transactions, I have been surprised to find money one of the scarcest articles in the country.  People have to trust and take pay in trade, much more than in Chester County.  I have been also surprised to find that in this Valley of San Jose, which has been represented to raise such enormous crops of potatoes, the very few that we get to eat cost 10 cents per pound.  Other vegetables we don’t get at all.  I suppose the fact is, the demand for them exceeded the supply, and they have all been cleared out.  The potatoes used here now are brought from San Francisco, and are brought there I suppose from the Sandwich Islands.  Flour and cornmeal cost 10 cents a pound at the stores in the Pueblo, rice 20, sperm candles 10 cents each.  Beef costs 12 ½ cents per pound.  A full-grown hog is worth here from 75 dollars to 100 dollars, nearly as much as a pair of oxen.  These are worth from 125 to 250 dollars.  Birds are very numerous here: most numerous perhaps are the wild geese.  These settle down on the plains in flocks which might be counted by acres.  A large flock settled down for several evenings, within a mile or two of our house.  I twice attempted to steal upon them in the night, but did not succeed in finding them.  I also tried once about daylight, and another time on horseback, but they all proved “wild goose chases”.  I got one or two shots at them, but at too great a distance to kill any. xxxxxx

Our fare consists of bread, molasses, fresh beef, tea and coffee, with occasional variations of rice, potatoes, dried apples, boiled pork, and pickles.  Potatoes and rice however our rarities.  I hope to see vegetables of our own raising on the table before many months have passed away.

Tomorrow, more of the story of Lad and Marian during and following World War II.

On Monday, I will be posting a week of letters written in 1943.

Judy Guion

 

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Voyage to California (40) – 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.

Excerpts from a letter dated San José, March 30, 1851

The day before yesterday I saw a coyota, the first live one that I have seen.  The Texan tells me that they are precisely the same as the prairie wolf of our Western States; so as you have a description of them in Godman’s Natural History, I need not attempt it.  At any rate this one was too far off for me to give a very accurate description of him.  The creek which passes between here and the Pueblo, I suppose derives its name from this animal.  The term “creek”, when applied to this stream, implies something very different from what we are accustomed to see at home.  The stream of water at present, is somewhere near the size of that at the bottom of our meadow in New Garden, but the bed of the stream is another affair.  I have seen none of it as yet, except so far as I could see up and down from the place where we cross it in going to or from town, that I think I can safely say that it is from 50 to 250 yards wide, and from 10 to 25 or 30 feet deep in different parts of it; a deep gulch dug out of the plain, and the dirt all gone somewhere, forming a channel which when full, would contain a fully as much water as the Christiana Creek at Wilmington.  This channel was full last “rainy season”, this one there has not been rain enough to raise the streams.  From the depth of the channel, the stream is useless for the purpose of irrigation, unless pumps are resorted to.  At the time I came here, tho’ nominally the rainy season, the ground was hard and dry, cracking in some places, and the grass beginning to die.  Since that time we have had several fine showers, and the prospect is much more encouraging.  I suppose from what I have heard that more rain has fallen since my arrival, then in all the former part of the winter.  Wasn’t it a lucky thing for the Californians that I came?  When it rains here in the Valley, it frequently snows on the mountains.  We can see considerable bodies of snow to-day cresting the mountains on either side of us.  The altitude of these mountains is not sufficient to retain the snow for any considerable length of time; – it generally vanishes in a day or two.  We have heavy frosts nearly every morning, and the air is rather keen.  After the sun gets up a short distance, it becomes warm and pleasant, and this continues until the latter part of the day, when the wind rises, and by evening becomes quite disagreeably cool. This is the usual state of the weather, but on days immediately preceding a rain it is frequently calm all day.  I suppose this may be accounted for in this way.  The regular winds are from the North West; the winds which produce rain are from the opposite direction.  The countercurrents produce an equilibrium, which lasts sometimes a day or two before the South East finally prevails.  Take the weather altogether it is much more pleasant than in the same month at home.  The ground don’t freeze; the grass grows, the flowers bloom on injured.

I will post the rest of this section next Saturday.

Tomorrow, the second half of Army Life, Marriage and the Army, about Lad and Marian Guion’s travels shortly after they were married and before Lad is shipped overseas.

On Monday, I’ll begin posting more of “The Beginning”, Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion, the story of his early life, marriage, the birth of the children and the early years living in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (39) – 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.

Extracts from a letter dated San Jose March 12, 1851

March 13 – The preceding pages, tho’ all under the same date, have been written in part to-day.  My time for writing has as yet been rather limited, and in consequence I have not been as minute as I might otherwise have been.  We have now a daily mail between this place and San Francisco, but it closes as 8 o’clock in the evening, so that to be in time for the steamer of the 15th, I must put this in the office this evening.  Of my prospects here I cannot say much at present, no arrangement having been entered into with Wm.  and Sherman.  It is impossible to foresee what the effect of the dry weather on farming will be.  If water can be raised from wells without too heavy an expense, the dry season may be in our favor.  Many who would otherwise be in the business do not possess sufficient capital to bear the increased expense, and the expectation of many is that vegetables will be scarce and dear next fall.  Indeed it is reported that potatoes have risen in value since I left San Francisco.  The future, however, will reveal all, so we must do the best we can, and patiently await the results.  We have bargained for the sale of 4 pounds of my onion seed at $16 per. lb.  It is not yet delivered, or the money in my possession, but I hope it will come along one of these days.  At the stores in San Francisco they were asking $20 per.lb., from $4 to $6 for cabbage, and $4  for turnips, but I did not then know how much would be wanted here, and did not feel at liberty to sell any of the onion seed.  I assisted to do one small job of surveying the morning after my arrival, and have done a little work at the garden, but I do not expect to go to work in earnest until next week.  I want some time to get my dirty clothes washed, and arrangements made for living at the ranche as comfortably as circumstances will permit. x x x I must now stop writing for this time, to go and plant some seeds in a hot bed.  So with love to my relatives and friends, and peace and good-will to mankind in general, I remain thy affectionate brother, John J.  Lewis

Next Saturday, excerpts from a letter written March 30, 1951, from John Jackson Lewis to family and friends back in the states.

Tomorrow, more on My Ancestor, my Dad, Alfred Peabody Guion and his life with his new wife, Marian, during World War II.

Next week, I will be posting letters written in 1944. Grandpa is holding down the fort in the Old Homestead in Trumbull while his five sons see the world, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion

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

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.

Journal

(March 8th) About noon, I repaired to the wharf, and after waiting an hour or two, got started.  The boat or vessel was a small schooner, capable of carrying about 25 tons, and was manned by three men, including the captain.  After getting as I thought, started, I found that considerable addition to our cargo, in the shape of 3000 ft. of boards, had yet to be put on board.  This was brought to us in a lighter, after we had gone some distance from the wharf.  With our cargo and five passengers we finally got started about five o’clock.  A strong wind was blowing, which bore us along quite rapidly.  About 10 o’clock the vessel ran aground, and we were obliged to wait two hours for the tide to float her off again. By 4 o’clock we had proceeded as near the head of the bay as the captain thought it prudent to venture in the night, so the anchor was cast, and we lay by, waiting for daylight, wind and tide.  The morning was far advanced ere we could leave our anchorage.  After getting aground two or three times, and waiting for the tide to float is off again, we at length entered the mouth of the Guadalupe River, on which the town of Alviso is situated, about 8 miles from its mouth.  This stream, dignified with the title of “River”, is about the size of the Brandywine, and as crooked a stream, I think, as I ever saw.  It flows through the valley of San Jose.

We arrived at Alviso, (a little scattering town of some ten or twelve houses), at nightfall, and as it was late to seek lodging, all slept on board.

Tomorrow I will continue with My Ancestors, Alfred Peabody Guion, my father.

On Monday, I will begin a week of letters written in 1944. Dave has joined hos brothers in the service of Uncle Sam. Lad is preparing to be shipped overseas but isn’t sure when or where. Dan is in London, Dick is in Brazil, Ced continues in Alaska and Grandpa holds down the fort in Trumbull.

Judy Guion

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.

Journal

(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

Voyage to California (34) – 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.

Diary

After breakfast, took a walk with Norry, about the city.  The variety and abundance in the markets as stuffed specimen of an animal called California lion, Chinese goods, the auction stores, and the extent to which auctions have taken the place of the regular mode of mercantile transactions, were among the objects of interest.  I was also interested in noting the peculiar appearance of some of the different classes of the population, as miners, Chinese, and Indians, and the new ways resorted to, to make money, among which boot blacks stationed along the streets, were conspicuous.

Journal

Extracts from a letter dated San Jose, March 12

I succeeded in getting to shore about 9 o’clock (3rd. Mo. 5th), and left my trunks at a store near the wharf, with one of the partners of which concern I had become acquainted on the voyage.  I found porters plenty on the wharf, but as they asked $1.00 for transporting my trunks, and I strongly suspected the store was not far off, I left them on the wharf until I found the place, then shouldered them myself and saved my dollar.  The distance I had to carry them was probably 150 yards.  I then took my letter to the P.O. On the way there I saw the sign of Peter Lester, shoe store, – returned there as soon as possible, and was kindly received.  Peter is doing a pretty good business, clearing I suppose from what he told me, from $60 to $70 per week, – enjoys good health, and seems pretty well contented, tho’ of course the absence of his family is a privation.  He directed me to Dr. Gibbons’ office, where I was again kindly received.  After talking with him a short time, I left him to allow him to finish some letters to go by the mail, and walked out to deliver some of the letters entrusted to my care.  I had excellent luck in finding the places, and pleased a number of people, very considerably.  In about an hour I returned to the Dr.’s, and he walked out with me to various parts of the city.  In the course of our walk we called on Norris Palmer.  He and two others are keeping an auction and commission store.  They were about going to dinner when we entered, and at N.’s invitation I of course joined them.  The Dr. having business elsewhere, I remained with N. for a while.  N. and one of his partners, and Watson Smith, live in the building that their store is in, and are their own housekeepers.  They buy their bread of a baker, but cook their meat themselves.  They have vegetables that were cooked and put up in canisters in the States, and these they warm over at their stove.  They make their own coffee, buy milk and butter, and fare very well.  The meal was as good and as satisfactory a one to me as I have sat down to since leaving the States.  N.  gave me an urgent invitation to eat and lodge with them while in the city, and to stay as long as I chose to do so.  I lodged with them, and generally took my meals there, occasionally at the stalls in the streets, and once I bought fish enough to serve us two meals.  I felt satisfied to do the latter because provisions are dear, and my living was costing me very little besides.  Beef cost 25 cts.  per lb.,  Fish 12 ½ cts. per lb.,  butter from 50 cents to $1, bread 12 ½ c.  a loaf the size of common twist.  Theie vegetables were bought at auction, the cost I did not learn.  Milk is $2 per gallon, on the stalls it sells for 25 cents, a tea cup full, just double the price of tea or coffee.  The cup however is quite a large one.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting another entry from My Ancestors. This one is about Alfred Peabody Guion, my Father.

Next week I’ll be continuing posts from The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion.

Judy Guion