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


The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (15) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

            Alfred Duryee Guion

Also about this time I left the Smelting Company and took another stenographic job at a higher salary with the Estate of Collis P.  Huntington, one of the country’s great railroad builders.  His adopted son, Archer M.  Huntington, also a millionaire, used the office for his headquarters.  One day I was called into the manager’s private office and told that Archer M.  wanted me to go down that morning to the American Art Gallery’s auction sale and purchase, in my own name, a set of fine Sheraton chairs which were to be put up for sale, and for which purpose he gave me a thousand dollars in cash.  I had never had as much money as this in my possession nor indeed had I ever attended so glamorous an auction sale and felt the responsibility deeply.  I asked the office manager what I should do if the bidding should go higher but all he would say was: “You are to buy the furniture.”  I was still troubled in mind, and Mr. Archer having just come in, I decided in spite of the fact he was a very pompous individual not in the habit of discussing his business with clerks and in fact treating me and all my fellow employees as dirt beneath his feet, that I would do the unheard-of thing and approach him direct.  I told him I had been given a thousand dollars to buy the chairs and asked what I should do if I had to bid higher, a fatal error.  He glared at me and angrily replied, “Buy the furniture.”  And that was that.

On the way down to the auction gallery I decided to play it cagily and, as he didn’t want his name to appear in the transaction, I decided to let the low bidders and dealers, if there were any (there were), starte and when they had dropped out come in when there would be less competition.

When the set was put up for bids I followed this plan and joined in when it reached about $500.00.  Soon just a lady and myself were the sole bidders and every time one of us raised the amount by fifty dollars the other would immediately counter with another fifty.  We see-sawed back and forth until, with a firm voice and nonchalant air (I hope) but was dry mouth and butterflies in my stomach, I boldly said one thousand dollars and she promptly said “one thousand, fifty”.  I was over my head already and might as well sink as swim so I came right back with eleven hundred dollars.  She glared at me, threw up her hands and quit.  “Sold” said the auctioneer, “name please”.  After the sale was over I went up to the desk, lay down my thousand dollars in bills and told the cashier I’d send the balance later, which was all right with him.  As instructed, I gave him Mr. Huntington’s Fifth Avenue address where the chairs were to be delivered and returned to the office.  When I reported the price I had had to bid the office manager seemed not a bit concerned and I went back to my routine office work.

The following Saturday in my pay envelope was an additional two weeks salary “in advance” accompanied with a little note reading, “Mr. Huntington thinks you would do better elsewhere.”  I asked the manager the reason for my dismissal, pointing out I had never before been fired from a job, and while I didn’t doubt I could find other employment, it would help me if I knew what I had done wrong in this case to guard against making the same mistake again.  “Mr. Huntington thinks you would do better elsewhere” was the only answer I could get and to this day I don’t know why I was fired.

The N.Y. Times on the following day under “Auction News” contained an item which read: “Spirited bidding on a set of Sheraton furniture took place between Mr. A.D. Guion and Mrs. Vanderbilt.”

On Saturday, John Jackson Lewis arrives in San Francisco and continues the story of his Voyage to California in 1851.

On Sunday, I will continue the series on My Ancestors with an entry about grandpa, Alfred D.  Guion.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (14) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

Alfred D.  Guion, hamming it up

          I was also actively interested in a dramatic society which every year, for a number of seasons, gave amateur plays in which I was frequently given the leading role.  In some of these plays an attractive young girl named Arla Peabody occasionally played parts.  She also sang in the choir and the more I saw of her, the better I liked her in a mild way.  She was modest and dignified but very popular with boys and girls alike.  She had big brown eyes, a sweet smile, full of life in a quiet way and kind to everybody.  I suppose I was starting to fall in love but had no realization of it at the time.

One of my fellow stenographers at American Smelting was an ambitious, enthusiastic person named Alfred Thieme,  who felt we both could improve our lot if we had a college education – an idea which I had secretly entertained but pushed aside as hopeless because I had not finished high school.  He was very urgent, however, wanting me to take a course with him at New York University leading to a B.C.S. (Bachelor of Commercial Science) degree.  The prospect was grim – 5 nights a week over a period of 3 years.  From then on I spent most of my leisure time studying to make up the necessary counts for college entrance, and in the fall of 1910 at the age of 26, I started in a very grueling 3-year grind.  During this time however, I organized a glee club and was a charter member of the new Greek letter fraternity which has now grown to be national in scope.  I graduated in the class of 1912 with my hard-earned B.C.S.

Going back now a few years, my father had been a very prominent Freemason, not only being Master of his Lodge but also the District Deputy Grand Master.  His friend and great admirer was the man who helped my mother in her financial and housing problems after my father’s death.  He, too, was an enthusiastic Mason and about the time I had reached the age of 21, he had been actively interested in starting a new Lodge in Mt Vernon, of which he was Master, and was strongly interested, principally because of my father, in having me the first man admitted to the new Lodge.  He hoped, of course, I would take the same interest in Masonic affairs and follow in my father’s footsteps, but the combination of church activities and later college commitments left little time for anything else.

Tomorrow I will conclude this week of excerpts from Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion. 

On Saturday, John Jackson Lewis arrives in San Francisco and continues the story of his Voyage to California in 1851.

On Sunday, I will continue the series on My Ancestors with an entry about grandpa, Alfred D.  Guion.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (13) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.


                  Alfred D.  Guion at the Dell Avenue house

How eager I was to do my job right!  How earnestly I strove to please my boss and carry out his orders better than anyone else.  I took great pride in my work and resolved to overlook no opportunity to get ahead.  Overtime was cheerfully given although we received no pay for it – only 50 cents supper money.  It bothered me because the clerks ahead of me knew more than I did.  I began to suspect that their education was broader than mine.  I attempted to compensate for this by getting the boss’s secretary, who was friendly toward me, to teach me shorthand.  Mistake #2.  I would have been much better off if I had paid for proper instruction at a shorthand school, as eventually I did that anyway, and it was doubly hard to unlearn what I had been taught wrongly, although with the best intentions in the world.  I learned from this that the cheapest is not always the best and realized the truth of my father’s frequent admonition: “What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well.”  However, I labored away faithfully at it until one day the boss consented to try me out.  I was slow but he was patient and not long afterwards he told me his friend in the big Mutual Life Insurance Company, across Nassau Street, needed a private secretary and he had recommended me.  Mr. Farley was quick-tempered and impatient with my shortcomings, but I gradually improved.  At that time, the big insurance companies, of which mine was one, were undergoing a severe investigation, in the prosecution of which Charles Evans Hughes made a name for himself.  Mr. Farley died and my next job was with American Smelting and Refining Company, Purchasing Dept., as a full-fledged stenographer.

Just about this time with much ado, the first subway in New York was opened and on opening day I rode it from Grand Central Depot to City Hall, the entire length.  I was unaware that I was going through my teenage problems stage.  As I look back I realize that while I was not a “goodie-goodie” person, I secretly aspired to lead a noble life.  I had a deep respect for womanhood.  I clipped out, and put in a scrapbook, inspirational articles and resolved each day to acquire some new item of knowledge.  How much my early church training had to do with all this I don’t know, but as I grew older I became more occupied in church activities, first as a choir boy, then a Crucifier, Director of a boy’s association called the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, then Superintendent of the Church School and finally as assistant to the minister at the Sunday morning church service as a Lay Reader.

Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, I will continue posting the stories about grandpa’s early life written in his own words. 

Judy Guion

The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (12) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.

Alfred Duryee Guion

I was understandably quite proud of the gold medal awarded me and was bitterly disappointed when wearing it as a watch fob to a dance a few days later, it was either lost or stolen.  I suspected the latter because some of the folks from arrival school were also present and in spite of the thorough search of the dance Hall that night and subsequent ads in the local paper offering a reward for its return, nothing came of it.  I don’t think my name have yet been engraved on it.  Later, a vague rumor reached me that the boy who had lost out was seen wearing the metal but this was never verified.  To have achieved success in the field in which I never expected either by temperament or ability to shine and have nothing to prove that it wasn’t just a fantasy was deeply disappointing and to some extent illogically disgusted me with high school and everything connected with it.  Then too, I did not get top marks in all of my subjects, and this hurt my pride.  I was very good in English, History and German; so-so in Math; and terrible in drawing; fair in Biology.  Also I became more and more obsessed with the idea that my duty and responsibility was to get out and earn my own keep instead of continuing to be a burden financially to my mother; thus I would sooner be able to feel I was really helping to support my mother as it was my duty to do.

I had no one with whom I felt I could discuss so personal a matter (at times such as these a boy misses not having a father to advise him), so I finally put up to my mother the idea of quitting high school and going to work.  I wish now that she had said firmly, “No, finish high school first”, but instead she told me to do what I thought best.

One is sometimes asked: “what would you do differently if you had your life to do over again?”  And as I look back now this decision to quit school, an idea half-heartedly opposed by my school principal (or maybe I was convinced this was the right choice and I paid no heed to his advice), was mistake # 1, and a decision I was afterwards to regret.  So I quit school in my second year and, through a friend in the Church, started work as an office boy at $4.00 a week in a small insurance company in New York.  After paying for my railroad commutation ticket, car fare from Grand Central to the Nassau Street office and lunches, I don’t imagine my contribution was of material financial aid to the family but at least my conscience was satisfied and I WAS self-supporting.

Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, I’ll continue the story of my Grandfather in his own words.

Judy Guion

The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion (11) – 1884 – 1964

The following memories are quotes from “Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion, written in 1960 while he was on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.


One of Spot’s tricks

One day I acquired from our washwoman a little half-breed Fox terrier pup which I named Spot He was a bright little fellow and I taught him many tricks, rollover, play dead, chase his tail, not touch the most tempting morsel held in front of him until I gave permission, beg, shake hands, speak, come to heel, stay put until I called, etc. He was quite a show-off and one day I dressed him up in a little jacket and pants like a monkey, with a little hat, got out an old hand-organ of my father’s that played music rolls, and, with myself dressed as an organ grinder, called on several neighbors who did not recognize us at first and seemed to derive much amusement from the performance until Spot’s pants fell down and we were recognized.

I now attended high school which was a long walk from our house and sometimes, when I started late, I would have to run part of the way to get there on time.  (They didn’t take children to school on buses in those days.)  Possibly it was this occasional spurt of running that gave me the idea, furthered by reading of the Marathon runners in Greek history.  Possibly the medals I had won for distance running at Sunday School picnics had encouraged the idea.  However, I was never very active in athletics and reticent about pushing myself forward, so it wasn’t until our high school talent scout, spurred by the upcoming intercity high school athletic meet to which all of the surrounding towns sent their best contestants, persuaded me to train for the mile race.  From then on I ran back and forth from high school until I felt in top condition.  The great day came – the biggest event of the school year – and while nervous and none to confidence I lined up with the contestants from eight other schools in the county. BANG!  went the starting gun and we were off.  I don’t recall how many laps it took to equal a mile, but my strategy for the first few was to merely keep up with the majority and save my reserve powers for the final laps.  This I did and finally found only one runner ahead of me.  I put all I had into it but my utmost brought me in still second.  However there seemed to be some controversy among the judges until it was officially announced that I was the winner, the other fellow having cut a corner on one of the laps.  This caused a bitter argument between the two top schools involved, Mount Vernon running about neck and neck on total points with its nearest competitor and on the decision of this race hung the balance and my role therefore, assumed undue importance.  Anyway, my schoolmates in their enthusiasm, hoisted me on their shoulders and, being the hero of the day, escorted me all the way home.

For the rest of the week I’ll be continuing the story of Grandpa in his own words.

Judy Guion

My Ancestors (31) – Alfred Beck Guion – 1854 – 1899

Last June I  read about a Challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and I was intrigued. I decided to take up the challenge. Some Ancestors may take more than one week, but I still intend to write about 52 Ancestors. I hope you enjoy reading about My Ancestors as much as I am looking forward to researching and writing about them.

(1) Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion; (2) Alfred Beck Guion; (3) Alfred Duryee Guion; (4) Alfred Peabody Guion; (5) Judith Anne Guion

My great-grandfather, Alfred  Beck Guion, was born on September 24, 1853, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The earliest documentation I have been able to find was the 1860  U.S. Census.  He is listed with his father Elijah Guion, 50 years old, classified as Clergy (Episcopal); his mother Clara D.  Guion, 41; and siblings Clara B, 17; Josephine B, 16; Elijah B,  14; Adolphus B, 12; Covington B, 10; Elizabeth B, 9; Alfred B, 6; Almira B, 4.

The next Census I have found him listed in is the 1875 New York Census, living  with  Mary L. Guion. His relationship to her is recorded as a cousin. (I have determined that Mary L Guion is actually Mary (Lyon) Guion, widow of Rev. Alvah Guion, first cousin to Alfred Beck’s father, Rev. Elijah Guion.)

In the 1880 U.S. Census, he is also recorded as living with Mary L. Guion in New York City. He is recorded as her nephew and his profession is recorded as a Stock Broker.

On the 16th of September, 1882, he married Ella Duryee of New York City.

Alfred Beck Guion


Ella (Duryee) Guion

Alfred Duryee Guion (Grandpa)

The birth of a son, Gaion, on September 11, 1884 is listed in New York City birth records. This is the birthdate of Alfred Duryee Guion, my Grandpa. The name must have been corrected at a later date.

My grandfather records the following memories of his father in Reminiscences of Alfred D.  Guion:

In 1884, the year I was born, that part of Fifth Avenue, New York City where my parents lived was “uptown” which meant somewhere above 59th Street.  At that time my mother could recall looking out of their dining room window and seeing cows in the nearby pasture.

Soon after the birth of my sister, we moved into a brand-new house which my father had built in a newer part of town known as Chester Hill.  Here I spent most of my childhood.  My father, who insisted on having the best regardless of expense, was quite proud of this house.  He had an architect designe it.  My grandfather, Joseph W.  Duryee, being in the lumber business, was able to procure exceptional lumber for its construction so that each of the rooms was finished differently, one in Cherry, one in Black Walnut, one in Quartered Oak, one in Circassion Walnut, etc., all selected for their beautiful graining.  On the ground floor was what we called the “round room” in which even the windowpanes were curved glass.

My father liked sea trips, one summer took me to Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy with its tremendously high tides. On the voyage I saw my first whale.  Later he also took me to Newport News and Richmond, Virginia, on the old Dominion Line.

Papa was quite active in Masonic affairs, being eminently successful in this as in most other projects that interested him, was generally very popular, a good entertainer and storyteller, prominent in the local Episcopal Church of the Ascension where he was a vestryman.

My father seldom drank any alcoholic beverage stronger than beer.  One hot summer day both father and mother had beer at their evening meal.  It looked so cool and bubbly I asked for some.  My mother said, “No” but my father said, “Oh, let him have a taste.”

My parents did not believe in frequent or promiscuous spankings but we knew we would get one when we deserved, and then not a slap or two, but pants taken down in my case, and the back of a hair brush vigorously applied enough times to create a healthy respect for the punishment.

My father took me aside for a serious talk on the evils of smoking for a growing boy.  He exacted no promises of me but did say that if I did not smoke until I was 21 he would give me a gold watch.  When he died a few years later and I inherited his own gold watch, I felt doubly bound by the obligation and kept faith in spirit and letter.

My father was apt to be short-tempered at times, energetic, quick to form opinions, intense in his feelings, forceful and eloquent in expressing himself and alert-minded.  In any social gathering he usually outshone the rest by his personality.

He worked for a brokerage firm in Wall Street and was quite conscientious, so much so that in years of panic (today we would call it depression) losses of his clients, as well, I suspect, as of his own, worried him to the extent of bringing on heart trouble.  He died in his 40’s from angina pectoris.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting a week of segments from Reminiscencesof Alfred Duryee Guion.  Grandpa tells the story of his early life in his own words. 

Judy Guion