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


Voyage to California (31) – 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.


There was a heavy fog during the night and the vessel was stopped for a time, for fear of getting aground on some of the numerous islands or rocky shoals in the vicinity.  The weather to day is cloudy, cold and disagreeable.  We have been sailing near the coast to day.  Some of the mountains, inland, appear to be covered with heavy timber; the hills near the shore with grass or wild oats.  There is a very perceptible improvement in our fare to day.  Distance from San Francisco, noon, 195 mi., Distance sailed 210 mi.


This morning a heavy fog obliged the vessel to lie to for a while before daylight, and the day continued for the most part cloudy, cold and disagreeable.  The hills near the coast appear to be covered with grass, and at a considerable distance inland we can distinguish forests of trees on the mountains.  Distance to-day 210 miles; distance from San Francisco,195.  We passed between some islands and the coast to-day.  They appear to partake of the character of the coast, being  rocky, rugged and hilly.

Tomorrow I’ll post another segment about My Ancestors. This one is about Alfred Beck Guion, son of the Rev. Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion.

Next week, a week of posts from Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion, Grandpa’s story in his own words from the beginning.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Convalescents (3) – Extract from Dave and Grandpa’s News – July 16, 1944

This is the last section of a rather long letter from Grandpa. He does quite a job on bringing everyone up to date on the local news . The first and second parts were posted on Monday and Tuesday, the 4th and 5th.


DPG - with Zeke holding Butch

Extract of DPG: (David Peabody Guion) While I am waiting orders to be moved I’m working in the supply room of the company. They were short of men – – the supply clerk being on furlough – – so the first Sgt. asked me if I would mind working here instead of going to school. I said I would (or rather wouldn’t mind) and so I’m living the life of Riley, as you can see (I’ve got time to get off a few letters). I like this work – – you never know what is going to come up next. The supply sergeant is out in the company area most of the time making an inventory of all the company equipment so that leaves me in charge of the supply room.

Now for a few unexciting home commonplaces. It has been very hot and humid here for about three weeks steady, no rain, so that the grass is parched and brown like you may recall it has looked in times past in the middle of August. Today however, we had a brief windstorm with a small shower. This cools the air off but it is still humid.

I suppose you read about the terrible Barnum and Bailey fire at Hartford where the tent caught fire and because of the gasoline- paraffin waterproof mixture used in waterproofing, burned so completely and quickly that many people, including children lost their lives – – some so badly disfigured they were buried unidentified. The circus has returned to its winter quarters in Florida. I mention this because just a few weeks previously Elizabeth took her two youngsters to the same circus held in the same tent here in Bridgeport.

It is Jean’s birthday tomorrow but we celebrated it here in the usual manner, today, Biss being in attendance with her two little boys. (Zeke was attending a company outing).

Barbara (Plumb) has recently had a furlough in Italy and is now a Corporel.

Jean (nee Hughes) is home again in Trumbull.

I recently disemboweled the extracting mechanism of the furnace Stoker and found the two worms that eject the ashes have worn down to such an extent that the spiral fins are almost nonexistent being worn practically flush with the axle which turns them. I have ordered new worms but your guess is as good as mine whether I’ll be able to obtain them at all, or at least in time for the winter season. Toward the last of the season the firebox was continually filled with ashes and if the worst comes to worst I may have to put back the old grates and use the blower again.

Carl is on a big new tanker that has just taken a load of oil or gas to the far Pacific (Australia or New Zealand) and is on his way home again. The Bushey’s have moved into the little house opposite the Green where Danny Wells used to live. Coming down the hill approaching the Merritt Parkway overpass on Reservoir Avenue the other afternoon on my way home, and rolling at about 35 or 40 my right front tire suddenly blew out, twisting the wheel sharply to the right, so that I almost hit two posts guarding a culvert. Unfortunately I had no jack, so I had to walk some distance before I could find a phone and ask Ed Dolan to send his emergency car to the rescue. Now I am applying for a new tire. No jacks seem to be for sale anywhere in Bridgeport and the ones I have evidently are beyond repair, so California or Mo. P.X., please take notice.

Aunt Betty sends love, so does Jean, and as for me, well, you might know what to expect from                                        DAD

Tomorrow and Friday, another letter from Grandpa to his absent sons and daughter-in-laws.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Convalescents (2) – Extracts From Ced and Marian – July 16, 1944

In this weeks missive, Grandpa has gathered extracts from the letters he has received and presented them to all those away from home. This is the second portion of the letter.

(continuation of Ced’s extract)

I received a letter from the Reader’s Digest telling me that my subscription had expired and going on to say that they had a little stencil with my name on it which had been directing my copies to me and that before they threw it out they just wanted to remind me that the subscription had expired and let me know that it (the stencil) was in fine company – – MacArthur, Sinclair Lewis, Gen. Marshall and a host of others. There was a lot of other dribble which I don’t recall, but it kind of burned me, so I sat down and wrote them a letter explaining that it seemed a little odd that two weeks after sending a gift card from my Dad, and promising me so much, they now tell me the subscription has expired and didn’t I think it good to renew it? I also suggested that my father probably really intended that I get 12 copies of the magazine, not just a gift card. Then I flattered them by saying that I wasn’t surprised that MacArthur, etc., subscribed to the Digest, but that I didn’t give a damn who read it and took it just because I happen to like its contents – – no doubt the same reason the celebrities would profess, and that I was surprised that Roosevelt wasn’t listed, “didn’t he take the Digest, or was it an intentional slight.” I rambled on at length concerning the rest of the letter, but I did have fun writing it. In closing I said to remember me to Sidney Bagshaw if he was around, and signed the thing. I am curious to see what kind of an answer I’ll get, if any. The first copy (June) arrived today. I hope they don’t strike me from the records. In today’s mail there was also a copy of “Federal World Union” and the “Union Now” paper. The more I see the more I am encouraged. You ought to get on the bandwagon yourself. There are more and more people with political power joining the movement every month and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is heard from in some measure in the fall elections. I wish to heck Stassen had been nominated by the Republicans instead of Dewey, and could get the Presidency. He is back of the idea to a large extent and I feel would try to work it out. I don’t know about Dewey although he may be leaning that way too, for all I know. I think he could certainly improve on what we’ve got, anyway. I was reclassified 1-A three days ago and I think I can beat the rap again.


Extract of MIG.  (Marian Irwin Guion) Wish I could report some definite plans that the “roving Guions” have made but so far everything is very much up in the air. We might be here two days, two weeks or even two months – – we just don’t know. However we have tried to make a few tentative plans, subject to immediate change if necessary. 1.  If it is at all possible I am going to drive the Buick by way of Orinda (Her parent’s home)  back East to our new destination. We have received permission from the C.O. to get gasoline for the trip. 2. I would love to come and stay at Trumbull. I really love it there and could think of no nicer place that I would like to be. One is not supposed to up apply for gasoline for a move any oftener than once every six months so I may be with you longer than you anticipated. In that case I would probably get a job in Bridgeport. It remains to be seen just what will happen but maybe I’ll have a chance to spend a winter where it snows, yet. 3. One of the other wives is planning on going East with me, and before we get started there may be more. But at least I know I’ll have company. With two such recommendations as yours and David’s, we decided that we must see “Between Two Worlds” so we went yesterday. It was a very unusual picture, wasn’t it? We both enjoyed it very much. Lad is still in Camp Haan and although he gets home for dinner every night, this business of getting up at four o’clock every morning is no fun.

Tomorrow, the final section of this letter with an extract from Dave and Grandpa’s local news. On Thursday and Friday, another of Grandpa’s weekly letters including news from family and friends.

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (30) – 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 steamer held up last night, for a time, to avoid passing the entrance to the harbor of San Diego in the dark.  Arrived at San Diego about 7 o’clock.  The passengers were not permitted to land, the object in stopping, being to deliver the U.  S. mail and obtain some provisions.  The Bay of San Diego looked very beautiful in the stillness and brightness of a quiet, bright, Sabbath morning.  Numerous whales were spouting lazily about the entrance, and a multitude of seagulls were hovering above the ship, or floating on the smooth surface of the bay.  There were but few houses near where the steamer stopped, the principal town being at another and distant part of the bay.  The attempt to fire the cannon on entering the harbor  resulted in a “flash in the pan” and it is reported that on examining the weapon afterwards, it was found to be well shotted with grape.  It is probably that no harm would have resulted from a discharge but the experiment was an unwise one.  The scanty supply, at breakfast created general dissatisfaction; complaint was made to the Captain.  The cook and butcher overhauled, and the result was, the butcher was ordered to furnish pork steak and the cook to prepare it until all were satisfied.  This and a fresh supply of potatoes from San Diego restored the equality of the hungry ones.  Lights were prohibited in the steerage after bedtime, consequently, there was no more gambling.  The voyage was resumed about 10 o’clock A.M.


The monte bank was not opened last night, but gambling with cards was substituted, and continued until 3 o’clock this morning.  The opponent of the banker then discovered, or professed to have discovered, that the other had cards concealed in his bosom, to be used as occasion required.  He instantly seized the handkerchief of money, but the banker scraped it out of his hands upon the cabin floor, and secured all he could find of it.  The unfortunate young man was very wroth, but he received little sympathy from his fellow passengers, and was obliged to bear his loss as best he could.  The result of this row was a complaint to the mate, and to day a notice appeared that no lights would be permitted in the steerage after 9 o’clock, without the permission of the captain.  The mate says the gambling shall be stopped.

For fear of passing San Diego in the darkness, the steamer lay to for two or three hours, but when daylight appeared, proceeded, and arrived in San Diego at 8 o’clock.  The attempt to fire the cannon was made while we were at breakfast, but owing to the powder having taken some moisture, produced nothing more than a fizzing at the touch- hole.  One of the passengers sarcastically suggested that they were short of powder too, and didn’t put enough in to make a loud report.  To understand this sarcasm it is necessary to know that the potatoes had given out, that we are stinted in our supply of water, that when mush or duff comes on the table, there is never enough for all, that there are rarely cups of any kind sufficient to allow all tea or coffee, and some 4 or 5 are always left un-supplied with knives or forks.  Sometimes some would find a knife and no fork at their plate, and others a fork and no knife, while others might congratulate themselves on their good fortune if they succeeded in obtaining a spoon to eat the meat and potatoes with.  While the potatoes lasted, we have them, hard bread, and beef roasted or fired at almost every meal.  In addition to these we frequently had codfish or shad for breakfast, boiled rice for dinner, and cold salt pork for supper.  Twice a week mush for breakfast and duff for dinner was the rule, and occasionally we had pork steak for breakfast and roast pork for dinner.  Coffee for breakfast and tea for supper, with sugar plenty to sweeten it with, was an everyday rule, and the table was plentifully supplied with molasses at every meal. This sounds like fare sufficient for reasonable men, but as I have before intimated, there were some drawbacks.  The bread was good of its kind, but it comes in flat, hard cakes, without rising or shortening, is not half as good as crackers, and I soon became very tired of it.  The beef was always the rough parts of the beef, very poor, and frequently very tough.  The rice was always exceedingly dirty, and full of husks.  The coffee and tea were frequently very poor, and made of water that wouldn’t have been hurt by straining or filtering, and served up in tin cups that needed scouring pretty badly.  The potatoes were pretty good, and luckily were boiled with the skins on; it kept the dirt on the outside.  The water that we had to drink was kept in an iron tank, and whenever the sea was rough, became stirred up so as to be colored pretty deeply with iron rust.  The mush and pork did not show dirt, and were very good, what there was of them.  Duff is a kind of light flour pudding, pretty well filled with dried currants.  Having never met with the article before, I was no judge of the quality, but one of my companions assured me that it was poorly made.  Our table accommodates about 30 persons at a time, and there are about 70 steerage passengers.  This morning, mush and pork steak was the chief attraction.  My seat was at one end of the table.  I secured a reasonable portion of mush, but the dish of pork steak only reached within about 6 feet of me, when the steak disappeared as if by magic.  There were but two common-sized dishes of steak furnished for 30 men, so I concluded, perforce, to contend myself with mush and molasses.  By the time the third table was set, neither mush nor steak could be obtained, and some of the hungry ones proceeded to make complaint to the head steward and purser.  The mate attempted to talk to the steerage cook, but received only abusive language in return.  The captain was called, the cook received a scolding, the butcher was ordered to furnish plenty of steak and the cook to cook it immediately, and a number of us soon sat down to a second breakfast, and had pork steak in abundance.  The unusual abundance at dinner was very gratifying, nor have we suffered from scarcity since.  It may be mentioned here that an additional supply of potatoes was obtained at San Diego.

The vessel only stopped at San Diego to leave the mail, and we were not permitted to land.  The bay is small but quite handsome, and had a curious sand-bank which forms a natural breakwater.  The town contains about 15 buildings, dwelling houses and sheds all counted.  They looked very bare and exposed to the sun, without a solitary tree to make a particle of shade.  3 small vessels lay at anchor near the town.  Whales were quite numerous at the entrance of the harbor, and birds that I suppose to be sea gulls were very numerous in the bay.  Altogether the scene was one of considerable beauty.  We left the place at 10 o’clock, and proceeded up the coast.  During the afternoon we passed several mountains, crested with snow, the first that we have seen.  Owing to illness among the steerage passengers, the lights were not extinguished as we expected, but the gambling was not attempted, and a watch was set by the mate, and kept up throughout the night.

Tomorrow, another post entitled My Ancestors. This one is about my great-grandfather, Alfred Beck Guion. He was the ninth child and fifth son of Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion. He was also the father of Grandpa.

Slight change of schedule – the post about Alfred Beck Guion will be posted next Sunday. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting pictures of Elijah Guion and Clara Maria de los Dolores de Beck Guion.

On Monday, I’ll spend a week posting sections of the Reminiscences of Alfred D Guion, Grandpa’s memories of his early life.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Extracts from the Diary of Alfred D. Guion (2) – July 18, 1943 – The Mountain Went to Mohammed

This is the second half of a letter from Grandpa to his four sons who are all in service to Uncle Sam.

Daniel (Dan) Beck Guion

Daniel Beck Guion

Thursday, July 15.

Up betimes this morning – a bit after 5 AM to be exact, because this was to be the day when the mountain went to Mohammed. Dan has been consistently evading accepting furloughs that his C. O. has been trying to force upon him on numerous occasions lately, and I made up my paternal mind that I wouldn’t let him get away with it any longer but would seek Daniel in his den, so off I goes to Lancaster. From 1:34 until 7:00 I tramped the country surrounding Lancaster without even seeing one lion, even less Dan, finally learning that his whole outfit had been moved, bag and baggage, to a rumored place about 40 miles distant. With tired heart and sinking feet (or vice versa), but with the old Guion spirit which refuses to be licked, I started to trail T-5 and at 9:30 that night, after sampling bus transportation in Pennsylvania, I arrived at a Service Club in Indiantown Gap (an exact replica, Lad, of the Service Club in Aberdeen) and was tapped on the shoulder and a level (or transit) voice inquired if my surveying of the premises indicated I was searching for anyone in particular. And who do you suppose it was? Right! We never decided who was the more surprised, and I guess we’ll never know. I stayed in his barracks that night by permission of the Sgt., ate a  soldier’s breakfast at six something and after a nice long talk, in which I forgot to ask several things I had come down to find out about (one was what disposition Dan wanted made of his auto which is standing unused in the backyard), I took the 10 AM bus on my return journey (Dan’s time was up anyway), and after transportation delays and journeys in air-conditioned cars which weren’t conditioning, finally arrived back home a bit after 8 PM. Dan expects to be shipped out soon, but when or where is a deep, dark secret.

Saturday, July 17.

Aunt Anne phoned to ask if it would be all right for her and Gwen to come up to stay over with Aunt Dorothy. Gwen, it seems, is with her mother in New Rochelle for the summer but expects to go back to school in Vermont in the fall. Today was Jean’s birthday, which she spent with her family in Stratford.

Sunday, July 18.

Due to being back on the old kitchen detail, I have to divide my Sunday time now, once again, to getting dinner and trying to do odd jobs around the house. Today

I wanted to do some repairs on the old washing machine and also get the laundry tubs in working condition, but had time only for the latter. And I didn’t get the grass cut either. (Dave was busy praying for his father who failed to keep holy the Sabbath day). Carl is now in the Merchant Marine, but can’t land the kind of job he wants because of his colorblindness, so he says he may be peeling potatoes or doing any other job where it won’t matter if things are pink or purple. Barbara is being given a farewell party tonight by the young people. I was invited and intended to go, but it was so late when the Aunts finally got away and I needed a shave and had not written my weekly blurb (even now it is 10:20 and the shave is still to be) and I haven’t had any supper, and it’s getting near the end of the page so I’ll end this now.

Your faithful


Tomorrow, a letter from Bissie to her older brother, Ced, in Alaska.  On Saturday, the next installment of the Diary and Journal of John Jackson Lewis and his Voyage th California. On Sunday, in my series, My Ancestors, a post about Alfred Beck Guion, my great-grandfather. 

If you are enjoying these letters from an earlier time, please share them with others you think might also enjoy them. If you click FOLLOW VIA EMAIL and enter your email address, each post will automatically be delivered to your inbox. Now how easy is that???

Judy Guion

Voyage to California (29) – 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.


March 1 – Weather clear and very pleasant.  In sight of coast and considerably nearer than for a few days passed.  The smoke on shore, in various places, indicated that the country hereabouts, is at least habitable.  I saw some sperm whales to day.  The gambling in the steerage continued until 3 o-clock in the morning and then broke up in a row.  Some high words passed and shooting was talked of, but no blood was spilled, and the war-like ones soon cooled off.  The supply of potatoes for the steerage gave out today, and the complaints are becoming louder.  Distance from San Diego, at noon, 115 miles.  Distance sailed, 200 miles.


March 1 – To-day the weather is again, calm and pleasant.  We are nearer the coast than for some days previously, but it presents little difference in appearance from that mentioned a few days since.  It is still rugged and barren, with but little appearance of vegetation.  In one or two places near the coast, large volumes of smoke were rising, but what caused it was not satisfactorily ascertained.  This morning we passed what might be called a shoal of sperm whales; probably a dozen were seen in the course of half an hour, some of them quite near the vessel. Tho’ but little of them can be seen, they may be readily distinguished from the hump-backed whale by their different manner of blowing.  There is no regularity in the blow of the hump-backed.  They may blow once and then disappear for a long time, or they may blow to or three times in quick succession.  The sperm on the contrary, keeps at the surface for a considerable time, and blows at regular intervals.  Beyond this, but little difference is generally observable.  To-day it became rather disagreeably evident that our stock of potatoes was exhausted, and as nothing additional was given in their stead, their loss was sensibly felt at our table.  Distance to-day 200 miles, distance from San Diego, 145 m. (The transcription has two different distances and I have no idea which one is accurate.)

I will continue this story next Saturday.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting more information about the Rev. Elijah and Clara Guion and their daughter’s lives in the San Francisco Bay area of California.

Judy Guion.