Trumbull – Dear Ralfred (2) – Impressions Of The USA – August 7, 1939

This is the rest of the letter to Lad written by Dan after he had been home for about a week.

My impressions of USA after having been away a rather surprising.  Vegetation seems much greener here!  The poorest house seems quite nice; the Merritt Parkway looks like the dream of some future Gomez.  Everything is so wealthy-seeming that I am amazed at not having been more shocked at the poverty of Vez.  When I first arrived last fall.  It seems such a short time ago that I left the States for Vez.,  Yet it seems ages ago since I did you and Bush farewell in Carora last spring!  I have seen more of Venezuela and crammed more experience in the last few months since I saw you last, that my whole attitude toward Vez.  Has changed.  In Caracas I learned to be spend-thrift por necesidad.  In Maracaibo I found one of the most interesting cities I have known, with painted Indians and burros rubbing shoulders with Americans and New trucks.  Driving from Cabimas to Barquisimeto via Coro along the shore gave me an insight on the highway system (or lack of system) of Vez.  The brief dash out to the beginning of los llanos and the amazing rock crags near San Juan de los Morros opened a new vista of South American beauty.  My three weeks at Bobare were spent in high, semi-arid, cactus-strewn country comparable to New Mexico.  I should never have believed it possible to see so much variety in such a short time.

Dan in Venezuela – 1939 (I wonder if this is the picture he sent to Lad)

I have many very fine photographs, and I shall send them from time to time when the weight of the letter permits.  Enclosed in this letter is a snapshot which, for obvious reasons, has been censored, and is safer with you in Pariaguan that it would be here at home.  I shall try to make it a point to write you each week, supplementing Dad’s news with my own impressions of Trumbull or Alaska as the case may be.  I have decided to go to the U. of Alaska if they will have me.

Ced is still working with Tilo.  We have heard nothing from Rusty for quite a while.  Dick is living the life of a country gentleman.  Dave is running a close second.  I am running a poor third and playing plenty of tennis (Barbara Plumb has a tennis court in her back yard).  Dad is running the Town of Trumbull, his office in Bridgeport, and the kitchen here at home.  His latest hobby is cooking, and, knowing his propensity for experimenting with foods, you can readily imagine what an opportunity he has. Biss is still happily married, and Zeke is on good terms with the entire family, for which I am very grateful.  I suppose you have heard that you are on the verge of becoming an uncle.  I don’t know when, but I suspect it will be before the year is over.  The house seems quite empty without any females.  There are only five Grandpa, Dan, Ced, Dick and Dave) of us.  It is the smallest family that I have ever seen in this house.

I don’t get around much yet, due to my lack of fore-sight in getting my license renewed and Bissie’s lack of fore-sight in getting Willy-o (the Wyllis) compromised.  I want to see the Fair (the World’s Fair in New York), Rudolph, Storrs (CT, site of the University of Connecticut) , Carl Nelson’s wife, McCarter (one of the Managers at the New York office of Interamerica, also the man who will cash Dan’s check from Maxudian, that he received before he left Venezuela), and a bit of New York’s night life.  I have not found a job, although I have professed a willingness to work for Mr. Skinner when he has worked for me.

I am rapidly shaking off my South American ennui, and have surprised myself on several occasions by a spurt of energy.  Perhaps my frequent change of diet has held back a more-rapid recovery.  During the last two months I have completely changed my diet 8 times! La Concepcion, Mena Grande, Maracaibo, Truck trip to Barquisimeto, Bobare, Caracas, Santa Paula (the Grace Line ship that brought him to New York), and now home.

Don’t hesitate to write all the Spanish possible.  I need plenty of practice, and it won’t hurt you, either.  Don Whitney speaks College Spanish, but helps a little.  I am trying to teach Dicky to help me.

Adios, pues


Tomorrow and Sunday, I will post a two-page letter from Dave recently arrived in Manila. 

Judy Guion


Trumbull – Dear Lad (4) – Dun and Bradstreet Report (1) – June 18, 1939

MAXUDIAN, Yervant                    Petroleum                   NEW YORK CITY, N. Y.

111 Broadway

(Room 2012)

CD 488 1 October 31, 1938


          He is 46, married, a native of Armenia but a naturalized citizen.  A graduate of Cornell University and began business in Ithaca, New York, as the Maxudian Phonograph Co., in 1937.  Disposed of that business to enter the service of the United States Government during the World War.  Upon his return he formed and became president of the North Dayton Oil Company and the Barbers Hill Co., Houston, Texas.  These two companies later were consolidated to form the Coastal Oil Fields, Inc., which was chartered under New York laws in 1922.  In addition to this in 1923, he formed the Maxudian Petroleum Corporation under Delaware laws.  This concern conducted business as petroleum engineers and brokers of oil royalties and leases.  However, in 1927 with others he formed the Venezuela Maxudian Oil Co., under Delaware laws.  This was quite a substantial venture and controlled a considerable amount of  oil property in South America.  In 1929 it changed its name to Venezuela Syndicate, Inc., and Maxudian was President for a while, and still claims to be a large stockholder in same.  Venezuela Syndicate, Inc., through Vimax Oil Co., the operating unit, owns ten selected exploitation parcels aggregating 4,958.95 Hectares (11-357 acres) in the southern part of the District of Paez, State of Zulia, out of the Encinoso Concession in Venezuela.  That company and its subsidiaries Vimax Oil Co., also controls Marafael Concession, comprising 5,712 acres and exploration rights of 57,061 acres of land.  In the past he has also been active in Venezuela Royalties Corporation, and conducted business in his individual name.

On December 1, 1934, a judgment was obtained against Yervant Maxudian in the amount of $21,334 in favor of D. C. Reid. Yervant Maxudian states that this judgment has since been paid in full, but no satisfaction piece has been entered due to a technicality.

The Venezuela Royalties Corporation is reported as having had a claim which later became a judgment for $600,000, against the estate of Charles Van Deminckel, which was entered at Gant, Belgium. Maxudian claims this judgment was reversed by the Court in Belgium, but additional proofs on his claim have been filed, and a compromise has been offered by the Belgium interests, which at this time is in process of negotiation. He is in control of Venezuela Royalties Corporation, in addition to which Yervant Maxudian is President and director of Interamerica, Inc., engineers and contractors who share this office.  That company was organized December 24, 1937, under Delaware laws, and has two highway survey contracts with the Venezuelan government to survey highways for the Venezuelan Government.  That survey project has been in active operation since July of 1938. (Uncle Ted Human was hired, then hired Lad and Dan, and both Uncle Ted and Dan went to Venezuela in October, 1938. Lad needed to purchase the tools he would need for maintaining the vehicles and did not leave for Venezuela until December 26, 1938.)


          The above has been active for numerous years in the Venezuela petroleum field, obtaining concessions for large territories, which are disposed of to petroleum interests.  At present time having concessions or leases of approximately 50,000 acres of potential oil Lands in Venezuela, which will be exploited later when conditions are more favorable.  A portion of his other concessions are now being operated by Vimax Oil Company, Inc., which is the operating company for Venezuela Syndicate, Inc. in both companies the subject party is a major stockholder.

Tomorrow I will post the rest of the report.

Judy Guion

Voyage to Venezuela (15) – A Few Letters From Dan – December, 1938


Daniel Beck Guion in the field in Venezuela – the fall of 1938

Dear folks,                                                                                                                                                                                          Dec. 1

Things are rather rushed, now, as we approach the dead-line for November.  We have worked every day, rain or shine, and the field work is virtually finished, altho’ there is plenty of office work to be completed before Dec. 4.

Thanksgiving day was quite wet.  I ran levels during daylight and plotted notes after supper.  We had purchased a turkey, but did not use it on Thurs. because Bill Rudolph (Chief of Party) and Dr. Bosnakian were absent.  The only thing of note on that day was the killing of a rattlesnake and the discovery of a bee’s nest (honey).  Incidentally, I have lost Jesus!  I am “in the field” for a re-birth.  Jesus was given to the cook as a helper, but developed a bad cold and had to be sent to Carora until he recovers.  He might come back this week-end.  The cook does not like Jesus’s substitutes and has given us two weeks notice.  Mr. Human brought him from Caracas with excellent recommendations, and the fellow is a marvelous cook (home-made bread – biscuits, pie, cake etc.) but he doesn’t like the weather and the unfavorable labor conditions.  He was satisfied with Jesus, but Jesus left, and the cook tried two or three other peons who either quit or were fired. *

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were days of work without respite.  The first three days were rainy, the last three more sunny with only occasional “freak” showers.  Wet feet from daylight to dark.

*Mr. Human says tell the cook he (Mr. H.) will be at camp in about two weeks to stay a while … Don’t leave till then.

I’m not sure this was the end of the letter. The boys always included a goodbye note and signature.


Obviously there is a letter missing, written the night before, but I do not have it. I think it is remarkable that I have so many letters from sixty years ago.  

Gente mia,                                                                                                                                                                             Mon. Dec. 5

The sequel to last night’s letter follows so closely that it will probably arrive with the same mail, some few days before Xmas.

Mr. Human, Mr. Myers and I rose early this morning, expecting to make the necessary purchases for camp, then leave Carora, Mr. Human going to Barquisimeto with the plans, Mr. Myers and I by hired truck to the mired “Campion”, scene of yesterday’s fiasco.

We left Carora at 10 AM, mas and menos, and tried the better branch of the road to Burere.  A body of water soon put a stop to our plans in that direction so we tried the other road, the road, incidentally, over which I had trudged the night before.  It was a futile alternative, so back to Carora we came, and made arrangements (no ink left) for a mule train to take us to the Campion Manana.  What will transpire then, I cannot say, perhaps we shall find the truck buried under a fresh river, perhaps we shall


This is the end of this letter. I do not have the rest. I also have no record of yesterday’s “fiasco”. I will leave it up to your imagination, using the clues: rain, bad road, mired Cambion (a transport vehicle) and Dan’s truge the night before.


This is just one sheet of paper. I do not know what letter it came with. The stationary is a different size and color, although it was written before Dan knew that Lad was actually coming to join him, probably late November or early December.

Alfred –

Ted, as you may know by now, is trying to get you down here to look after the trucks – the native mechanics are as trustworthy as an old maid on a tear.  I have my fingers crossed ‘til you actually arrive.

Ced – a shame you can’t make it here for the same job, but this job requires real mechanical knowledge on Ford trucks.  Carry on the Guion tradition – “never give up the ship, unless, of course, you want to”.

Biss – I can well imagine how “down-at-the-wheels” poor Willy must be after trying to lead the fast night-life you exact. (Perhaps a reference to Grandpa’s car, a Willys)

Dick – yo no hablo espanol muy bien, pero es no necessito! Los hombres saven!  If you can decipher that, you are on a par with the natives – I did not check with my Spanish books – Quiza mucho errors!

Dave – Still not seasick!

Perriolga – no blackberries acqui!

Grammar – plenty of flowers here, but no way to send you seeds or bulbs.


For posterity –

Carora is a God-forsaken hole, bounded on four sides by Venezuela.  Every-thing here is wonderful except the towns, nuff said.

Next Saturday I will post a letter written by Lad while on board the Santa Rosa which he says will be mailed from Curacao the next day.

Tomorrow, some more Special Pictures.

Next week, letters written near the end of 1943. Lad and Marian have been married for about a month and everyone is looking forward to the holidays.

Judy Guion

Voyage to Venezuela (11)- Day Five on the Santa Rosa and Onshore in Curacao – January 3, 1939

This is the  beginning of 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. Lad and Dan had been hired by their Uncle Ted Human (husband of Helen (Peabody) Human), Aunt Helen, sister of Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion, Grandpa’s wife who had passed away in 1933 after a long illness. This is Lad’s version of the adventure he was taking and the same trip Dan had taken earlier in the year, traveling with Ted Human to South America.

Lad wearing the suit he bought in Curacao


We were a little ahead of schedule due to the exceptionally fine weather and sea Tuesday Morning so that even though I got up at 6, the Island was only a few miles away, having been cited about four A. M. Being Dutch, it is a free port so there was no rigamaroll in landing and by ten we had navigated the very beautiful, winding channel with its picturesque brightly colored houses and lovely green foliage, and were in cars heading for the center of the only town on the Island, Curaçao.  While on the boat watching the shores gliding by I had spoken to a girl beside me at the rail and she told me that she and her mother and father were Venezuelans and had been in the States for the past nineteen years, she having gone there at the age of nine months.  They seemed to be rather nice people so on shore I stayed with them.  After wandering around the city for a couple of hours, Mr. and Mrs. Baptista were getting tired so they returned to the ship but the girl, Gabriella, and I wanted to see more so we stayed and continued our meanderings.  All articles were quite cheap since import duty is charged for goods coming into the Dutch West Indies and because of that reason I bought a linen suit for use in Caracas.  The material was a very fine and the suit only cost about half as much as it would have cost in the States.  At home I had worn a hat on only one or two occasions so I had no hat with me and being ignorant of the customs of the tropics, and also believing a hat necessary, I bought a cork helmet.  I have been sorry ever since that I let Briella, as I later came to know her, persuade me to buy it.  I believe that I have worn it no more than a total of two hours although it has been with me constantly.  We found no place on the Island that looked inviting enough to eat in so we went without lunch and saw quite a bit of the town before returning to the ship at about four-thirty.

The sailing time was set for six and we both wanted to change our clothes and be on deck to see the way the ship was warped away from the dock and maneuvered around in the small inland harbor in order to proceed on its way. By six we were on deck again but preparations for leaving were nowhere near completed and since supper was served at seven we went below to get ready for supper.  After supper they were still loading so we played a few games of Ping-Pong and waited about the decks watching the loading of the cargo. Twenty-two new cars had been unloaded and they were loading coffee and sugar into the space vacated.  By ten o’clock in the evening everything had been loaded and the gang-plank was hauled up the side and made fast.  The portholes were closed and the hatches sealed and battened down and we threw off the last line about ten-thirty.  To my surprise, all the maneuvering was done under her own power and therefore it took nearly an hour and a half to turn and get out of the narrow channel.  Then the Pilot left and we proceeded under the direction of the Captain for La Guayra and the end of my first sea voyage.  As the lights of the Island were fading in the distance, Briella and I went below, knowing that the coming day would bring the final preparations for leaving the ship, including the Venezuelan Customs Officials.

Tomorrow another post about My Ancestors, Elishe Bradford and his wife Bathsheba Brock.

Next week, I will begin another week of Childhood Memories of Trumbull.

Judy Guion

Voyage to Venezuela (10) – Day Four on the Santa Rosa – January 2, 1939

This is the  beginning of 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. Lad and Dan had been hired by their Uncle Ted Human (husband of Helen (Peabody) Human, Aunt Helen), sister of Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion, Grandpa’s wife who had passed away in 1933 after a long illness. This is Lad’s version of the adventure he was taking and the same trip Dan had taken earlier in the year, traveling with Ted Human to South America.

         Alfred Peabody Guion (Lad)

Monday morning I woke up with the warm, fresh sea breeze blowing into the room and discovered that, Jimmie, my room Steward, had opened the port hole earlier in the morning because the wind was so warm.  The exhilaration of that breeze was wonderful and it only took me a few minutes to dress and get out onto the deck.  Everything seemed wonderful.  The breakfast was good, the people were friendly, I had not been seasick at all and the sea had been smooth, even while we had passed Cape Hatteras, which is always the roughest part of the trip.  That morning, after spending an hour wandering about in meeting and talking to many new people, I asked for permission to go down to the engine room.  I was told that after the ship left Puerto Cabello there would be a conducted trip down below, but after explaining that I would leave the ship at La Guayra, the stop previous to Puerto Cabello, I was taken to meet the chief engineer, and when I had explained the circumstances he was very friendly and helpful and referred me to one of the assistants.  He took me down to the bowels of the ship and I spent another very pleasant hour or so asking questions and seeing how a modern steam turbine engine and the oil heated steam furnaces work.  It was quite enlightening and everything was fairly clean, but even with my coat off it was very warm.  Then, since I still had some time before dinner, I went up to the control and radio rooms and talked with a radio operator.  I could not get onto the bridge, however, because of very strict laws made by the owners.

After lunch and a game of Shuffle-board, I was beginning to get a little bit tired of waiting for the ship to land at La Guayra and as the day passed I found myself wishing more and more that I were already on Land.  That evening there was another movie – Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – which I had seen previously but thoroughly enjoyed seeing again.  Then afterward, another dance and since on the morrow we were to land at Curaçao, a Dutch West Indies Island, I retired fairly early so I would be on hand to see the Island as it came into sight.

Tomorrow I will post what little I have found about Joseph Bradford amd his family. I may also post information about his son, Elishe Bradford. J

udy Guion

My Ancestors (33c) – Alfred Peabody Guion – Employment History – 1928 – 1942

(1) Alfred Peabody Guion; (2) Judith Anne Guion.


Excerpt from “Life history of Alfred  P. Guion – April 11, 1946″

Employment, etc.:-

1928 – 1932  –  (summers) Kascak’s Garage, Trumbull, Conn.

Mechanic – General automotive repairing.

Lad was only fourteen when he started working as an automotive repair man during the summer.

1932 – 1933     C.C.C.  –  Niantic, Conn.

Compressor operator, driver (road construction).

Both Lad and Dan worked at C.C.C. Camps and sent their pay home to Grandpa to help support the younger children.


1934 – 1936    Alfred  D. Guion & Co., Bridgeport, Conn.

Driver, office machine operator.

Lad worked for Grandpa keeping the machines operating in perfect order and making deliveries.

1936 – 1937    Metro Oil Co., Bridgeport, Conn. .Service Station

  1. Kurtz & Sons, Trumbull, Conn., Service Station

At both of these Service Stations, Lad probably pumped gas and completed auto repair work

1937- 1938    Trumbull Coach Lines, Inc., Trumbull, Conn.

Driver and Mechanic (truck and bus maintenance)

At this point, Lad added bus maintenance to his usual responsibilities


     Alfred Peabody Guion (Lad)


         Lad in Venezuela (25 – 28 Yrs. old)

1939 –1941  Socony-Vacuum Oil Co.,  Caracas, Venezuela (N.Y.)

Asst. Superintendent, garage and transportation Departments –

supervised maintenance of fleet, (periodic checks, etc., minor and major

overhauls), hired and fired mechanics, helpers, drivers, etc.,

dispatched vehicles, maintained replacement parts, (automotive repair),

supervised machine shop.

Both Lad and Dan (surveyor)were hired by their uncle, Ted Human, (wife of Arla (Peabody) Guion’s sister) Helen.  Dan returned to the United States after six months but Lad stayed.

1941-1942   Producto Machine Co., Bridgeport, Conn.

Order assembly clerk, parts room clerk, stock chaser, shipping room clerk.

When Lad returned from Venezuela, landing in New York City, his passport was taken by the Customs Officials and not returned.  Lad knew that he was going to be drafted into the Army and was glad to get this job.

Next Sunday I’ll post information from May 1942 until November 1945.  During this time he received quite a bit of training, served as an instructor of maintaining the vehicles for the Army, met and married Marion Irwin, continued as an Army instructor and then was sent overseas to France.  He returned to the United States in August of 1945 not discharged until November of that year. 

Tomorrow I’ll begin posting a week of letters written in 1944 when all five of Grandpa’s sons are fulfilling very duty to their country.

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (18) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlop (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.


Wind pretty high, the sea rough, and I see-sick and lying in bed most of the day. At one time, while leaning over the guards, I saw a number of very pretty little rainbows in the spray thrown up in front of the wheel. Distance 234 miles.


This morning, the wind was blowing quite a gale, and the sea pretty rough: – as a consequence, I have suffered pretty severely from sea-sickness nearly all day, and remained in bed a good deal of the time. While on deck this morning, I witnessed a phenomenon that I do not remember to have seen described by any traveler, tho’ it is not new to sailors. As a wave dashed under the wheelhouse, it would frequently be driven back with such violence as to dissolve the spray into mist, and the relative positions of myself, the sun, and the mist, were favorable to the production of a succession of rainbows upon the waves, varying in brilliance according to the quantity of mist ejected. Some of them were quite fine, and as I lay there feeling sick and forlorn enough, the thought that the rainbow was the sign of promise to sinful man, sent a feeling of hope through me that was quite cheering. The wind abated during the day, and by evening all was smooth again.

Distance to day 234 miles.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting  the story of Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion, compiled by her granddaughter, Florence Gay Osborn in 1925, with the help of Clara herself.

On Monday, I’ll be posting letters written in 1943. Lad and Marian are getting to know each other better, Dan is in London, probably preparing maps for the -Day Invasion, Ced is in Alaska, Dick is going to Brazil, and Dave is still in school, staying in the Trumbull House with Grandpa.

Judy Guion 

Voyage to California (17) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlop (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.


In sight of the coast all day. I was quite interested in watching the operation of butchering on board, and at the sang froid with which many parts, usually saved at home, were heaved into the ocean. A cow that was considered unfit to eat was knocked in the head and thrown overboard. The phosphorescent light, and also the radical light, were quite bright this evening. Distance sailed in the last 24 hours, ending at noon, 216 miles.


Weather pleasant and see tolerably smooth. One of the beef cattle was to day judged unfit for use, even here, so she was knocked on the head and thrown overboard. A chicken was also thrown over without ceremony. I sat on one of the deck houses for some time in the evening, and watched the butchering of a beef, pig and sheep. This was performed in a very a summary manner. The head and feet of the beef were cut off without skinning, and immediately thrown overboard. The animal was then skinned, and the hide shared the same fate. The sheep and pig were both skinned and their hides followed suit. Head and feet of piggy, however, were deemed worthy of use, and were retained accordingly. As there was no fat on the entrails to clean off, they were sent over at once.

The phosphoric light on the waves is at least quite as bright this evening as I have seen it. The foam made by the vessel as she pitches forward is quite luminous, and as it subsides, which it does very quickly, a shower of sparks takes its place on the surface of the water. It is quite pretty, but not nearly so brilliant as I anticipated from the representations of others. In fact, I have been much disappointed in the brilliancy of the tropics. I cannot see that the moon and stars shine anymore brilliantly then is there wont to do at home on a clear cold night, nor is the zodiacal light, as I have seen it, any brighter than I have frequently witnessed it at home. So far as this part of the world is concerned, it seems to me, the imagination of travelers have done much towards investing it with either beauty or magnificence, and I have pretty nearly arrived at the conclusion that it may be more enjoyed by reading about it than by coming to see it.

Distance last 24 hours, 216 miles.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the story of Josephine de Beck, mother of Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beco Guion.

On Monday I’ll post the last letters from 1946.

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (10) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlop (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 going from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.


Hired a mule this morning, to ride to Panama for $15. Started at 8 o’clock. Traveled by and mule path over a very hilly country, mostly through a forest. Stopped and halfway house to dinner. Passed numerous eating and drinking houses, dignified with the name of hotels. Crossed a number of very pretty little mountain streams, and passed several ranches of the natives, some of which appeared to be well supplied with turkeys, ducks and chickens. As we neared the Pacific coast, considerable change was perceptible in the character of the woods. The succulent growth, particular to the tropics, became more rare, and the timber appeared more generally of the hardwood growth, as in northern forests. Beautiful flowers were also met with occasionally. Reached Panama about half past five, and took lodging at the American House, opposite the old Cathedral at a $1.50 per day.


Finding that my two companions proposed riding over to Panama, I concluded for various reasons to depart from my original intention of walking across, and accompany them. We accordingly engaged two horses and mule at $15 apiece, and after breakfast went down to the Transportation office to see our baggage off. After waiting there a while, we found that the mules were sent off three or four at a time, as they were packed, that the baggage was divided into mule loads so that one person’s baggage might be one half in one train and the balance somewhere else, and that it would be impossible either to watch all of it, or to keep together if each one watched a part of his own, so we concluded to leave it, and confide in the transportation company as the others had done. After coming to this conclusion, we started off on our way to Panama, about 8 or 9 o’clock. The mule fell to my lot, and a sorry-looking beast enough he was, very gentle, however, and I got along very well with him. As he rode through Gorgona on the road to Panama, I was amused at seeing a parcel of buzzards, dogs, and pigs, contending for the offal of a beef that had been recently slaughtered. Sometimes a pig would have hold of one end of a piece, and some buzzards hold of the other, each pulling their own way, while a dog would be standing apart in silent expectation, apparently not liking to push into such company, yet anxious to share the plunder. In a few minutes we were out of the town, and into the shade of the forest. Our road was a mule path, very good in some places, and others rough enough. The hills were very high, and some of them very steep. We passed several hotels on our way, at one of which, styled the half-way house, we stopped for dinner. Our dinner consisted of bread, butter, ham, a course kind of pumpkin, cheese, tea and coffee, the cost one dollar. During this afternoon’s travel, we passed a ranch where turkeys, ducks and chickens were running about in a very home-like manner. We crossed a number of very pretty little mountain streams, of nice, clear water, shaded so as to look much cooler than it really was, tho’ it was very good, except that it was rather warm. We passed one place in particular, shortly after dinner, that was particularly beautiful. The stream was broad and clear, and completely shaded by large trees that met above it, strongly reminding me of some of our most beautifully shaded streams at home. The general appearance of streams here is quite different from those of Chester County, (New York) and to my eyes, not so. The profusion of tropical vegetation crowds them almost out of sight, and the best part of the scene is frequently entirely lost. A distinguishing feature of the vegetation of this country is the absence of large forest trees. There are some, it is true, but they are comparatively rare. On the Chagres side of the Isthmus, vegetation is very much composed of rank, soft, succulent growth, that does not attain large size or great height. As we approach Panama, the forests are more of hardwood growth, and bear a considerable resemblance to our northern forests. Others may talk of the beauty of tropical vegetation, but give me our northern woods with periods of decay and renewal of leaf and flower. Here, where these periods are not so marked, where decay and renewals seem to be constantly going on, there is such a mixture of the dead with the living, as to give it, in my eyes, a very ragged, slovenly appearance. There are a number of flowering trees through the country, some of them very pretty. The cactuses, except some of the coarser kinds, were not in bloom. As we approach Panama, we also come on open spaces, where the land is totally clear of underbrush, and covered with a growth of short grass. On some of these, cattle were lying or browsing in a manner very familiar to me. We entered Panama about half past five, proceeded to the American Hotel, and engaged our board at $1.50 each per day. Pack mules continued to come in through the evening, and some of the company received their trunks before bed-time.

Tomorrow, I will begin to trace the Guion side of my family from our original ancestor, Louis Guion, Hugeunot, born in La Rochelle, France in 1654, and who arrived in this country in 1686.

Next week will begin a week of letters written in 1944, when all five sons are in the service of Uncle Sam.

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (9) – by John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlop (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 going from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.


Started at daylight, and stopped to breakfast at an old scow, that had been fastened, high and dry on the bank, and converted into an eating house. In the course of the morning, several of us took a walk of several miles on shore. In the course of the walk, saw an alligator, also several well-beaten paths made by ants. (?) Lizards from 6 in. to 1 foot in length were numerous. During the day we saw a few monkeys, some iguanas (?), and numerous parrots and paraquets. Before reaching Gorgona passed a ________ banana plantation, ¼ of a mile in length, reaching Gorgona at 3 o’clock. At G is a fine circular beach, covered with gravel. G is situated on a hill, and commands a fine view of the hills and valleys around. Hotels and eating houses, of course, are sufficiently abundant. I contracted to have my baggage conveyed to Panama for 8$ per hundred, took a bath in the Chagres River, and took lodgings at an American hotel.


Started at daylight and proceeded up the river. Our stopping place this morning was an old scow that had probably been landed on the bank during high water, and then dragged to its present position and labeled “Hotel”. I here procured a cup of coffee to make my crackers, dried beef and cakes go down better. I helped myself pretty liberally to sweetening, and succeeded in making it quite palatable. We saw two or three monkeys on the trees in the woods in the course of the morning, and they were the first and only wild ones I have seen in the course of the journey. The boatmen say they have been frightened away from the immediate vicinity of the river by the constant travel upon it. We also saw a few iguanas along the river’s edge; they are ugly reptiles, something between a lizard and an alligator. A lizard about 10 inches or a foot in length is quite numerous along the edge of the water. They are very quick in their motions. I had three walks on shore today; one across a bend in the river; the other two were taken with a view to lighten the boat in order to facilitate the passage over some rapids. The first walk extended to a distance I suppose, of some three or four miles, and in the course of it I was so fortunate as to obtain a glimpse of a real, live, wild alligator. He was in a quiet, secluded spot in a kind of gulch or bayou, away from the river a short distance. I saw part of his head, back, and tail, above the water, but he sank almost immediately, and I saw him no more. Large paths made by ants were quite numerous in the course of this walk. They are very much such paths as sheep make through the bushes at home, except that the surface is even, and the tracks not perceptible to the naked eye. The ants that make them are not larger than the common large black ant of Chester County. At one place where we designed walking, the water was so shallow that the boat could not go close enough to land us, so the captain took us, one at a time, on his back, and landed us dry shod. A short time before reaching Gorgona, we passed a banana plantation about one quarter of a mile in length; how far back it extended I could not tell, in consequence of the height of the river banks. The banana is a large, strong looking plant, with a stalk about as thick as a man’s thigh, rising to the height of eight or nine feet, surmounted by the leaves and fruit all clustered together. The leaf is some 2 or 2 ½ feet in length by 8 or 11 inches in width, and the fruit, as we saw it, about the size of a large Pennock apple, the shape of a pair with the stem at the large end, and of a purple color. We reached Gorgona about 3 o’clock, and I paid two of the natives two times each for carrying my trunks up to a hotel. Finding Transportation Company to send their baggage across, I concluded to send mine the same way. I accordingly took it to the office and had it weighed. The charge was eight cents per lb. and mine amounted to $13.36, half to be paid at the office, balance on delivery in Panama. After getting the contract completed, I returned to the hotel and got my dinner, for which I paid $0.75. Some of the company started off this evening, intending to walk to the first public house, distant some six or eight miles. I and two others, wishing to go with our baggage, concluded to stay till morning. I took a bath in the Chagres River and retired to rest in an airy apartment, in which sleeping accommodations were arranged very much like berths on ship board. For the first time since leaving New York, I had a place to sleep that was stationary, and I slept very comfortably. The town of Gorgona is situated upon a hill, and commands a very pretty little view of a valley and the hills beyond it, and of a circular bend of the river at the foot of the hill. It is said to be one of the healthiest places on the Isthmus. We were told by a resident there, that there were but two deaths from cholera there during the prevalence of that disease in the country. A fire occurred there about two weeks since, which destroyed a number of buildings, but it is still quite an extensive place for this country. There are two or three hotels kept by Americans, and they are thronged with customers. The food furnished is rough but substantial: charges $0.75 a meal; $0.50 for a nights lodging.