(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.
Washington’s birthday. Two guns were fired at sunrise. At 8 o’clock the vessel was decorated with flags. The U. S. Union Jack was hoisted at the bow, the U.S. Mail, English Union Jack, French Tri-color, and Chilean at the foremast; the Mexican and New Grenadian at the missen mast; and the stars and stripes at the stern. A single pennon was exhibited on the mainmast for an hour or two; then the Union Jack and a flag bearing the name of the vessel were hoisted. We arrived at Acapulco about 11 o’clock. A number of boats came alongside, and in company with three acquaintances, I landed, walked up the hill toward the castle and sat on a log in the shade until near the middle of the afternoon. We then took a stroll around and through the town, visited the fort and the salt works, stopped in an eating house and obtained a very good dinner of eggs, bread and chocolate, then went through the market and bought some provisions to ameliorate our steerage fare. We returned on board a little before sunset, found noise, confusion, and dirt to be the prevailing climate there in consequence of the operation of coaling, and getting water and livestock on board. The Bay of Acapulco is a handsome, landlocked, and secure harbor, and at this time has a calm and tranquil appearance very expressive of repose. The town bears the marks of age, and in its general features is much like Panama. The country around is quite mountainous.
At peep of sun this morning, the two cannon thundered forth their welcome in honor of the day. At 8 o’clock several flags were hoisted in the following order: the U.S. Union Jack was hoisted on a flagstaff at the bow of the boat. At the head of the foremast was a plain flag bearing the inscription “U.S. Mail”, below it waved the English Union Jack, and under this again were placed the French and Chilean National flags. On the mainmast, a single pennon or streamer fluttered in the breeze. On the mizzen mast, the national flags of Mexico and New Grenada were exhibited, and on the stern of the vessel waved our own stars and stripes. In about an hour, a flag bearing the name of the vessel, the U.S. Union Jack, and a number of private signals, ensigns etc. were added to those on the foremast, and a number of signals to those on the mizzen, and in this manner they remained throughout the day. This was all that I saw of celebration of the day.
Fish of various kinds are very numerous this morning, several shoals being frequently in view at once. Among others, several whales made their appearance. They were of the small species called humpbacked. Here, as in many other things, I was doomed to disappointment. Instead of a considerable portion of the animal being exposed to view at once, as I had been led to believe would be the case from pictures I have frequently seen, it was only occasionally that any, and then but a small portion, could be seen at all. The fin on the back and a small part of the back itself, were the parts generally exposed; once I saw the tail of one raised above the surface; and there “blow” is about similar to a puff of steam from a steam engine.
For fear of running past the bay in the night, our officers had the boat so slowly that it was 11 o’clock before we arrived at Acapulco. H. Gushee, R. Holbrook and I went ashore very soon after our arrival, in one of the boats that came off from the shore, and at a cost of 25 cts. each. We walked up the hill nearly to the fort, and lying down under the shade of a tree, stayed there till near 3 o’clock. We had been there but a short time before a little girl (one of a number following the same occupation), came to us with the jar of water upon her head, and a plate of limes and the glass tumbler in her hand, and seating herself, inquired in broken English whether we wanted lemonade at a dime a glass. The glass, by the way, was fully twice as large as our common glass tumblers. Her manner of manufacture was this: filling the glass nearly full of water, and taking the limes in her fingers, pulled them in two and squeezed the juice into the water, and this was the lemonade. A little boy soon followed with a bowl of oranges. I purchased three oranges for five cents, my companions purchased a glass of lemonade, and with these we regaled ourselves. Tho’ the day was quite warm, there was a fine breeze blowing, and with the cool breeze, the bay spread out before us, and the still, solid earth to rest upon, we contented ourselves very well until the declining sun made walking rather more agreeable, when we arose to take a stroll through the town and its environs. Before returning to town, however, we took a view of the fort. This is situated so as completely to command the approach to the town from the ocean, is supplied with heavy cannon, and manned with soldiers. It has had the appearance of considerable strength once in its day, but it is now going to ruin, and the fractures in its walls reveal the fact that they have not been so strong as their outside appearance would warrant one in supposing. I suppose, however, it was as strong as the times in which it was built required, and if manned by Yankee soldiers with Yankee guns, would still be difficult to take.
The town presents a motley assemblage of adobe, frame, bamboo and brush houses, covered with tiles, thatched with palm leaves, or even covered with brush, barely sufficient to keep off the sunshine. There are some houses of quite respectable dimensions, but the place has never equaled Panama in grandeur. The population I suppose to be almost exclusively native, that is, such as constitutes the native of the present day. I saw none of the kind of Spanish that are tolerably numerous at Panama. The market is pretty well supplied with bananas, pineapples, cocoa-nuts, oranges, limes, onions, bread, cheese, nichas, that is, eggs, a few tomatoes and some other articles. Liquors of course are abundant. Hotels and restaurants are by no means scarce. We went into one of the latter, kept by natives, and ordered two eggs, bread and a cup of chocolate for each of us. The bread and eggs proved excellent, the chocolate none of us succeeded in drinking, tho’ my companions said it was a good article. I don’t profess to be a judge of it. They charged us 50 cts. each. After finishing our meal we started out to procure provisions to take on board, to help out our steerage fare, of which, more anon, – bought 50 cts. worth of bread each, one dollar’s worth of oranges between, and one of my companions bought a few eggs and tomatoes. I did not invest in anything except oranges and bread, and the kind of basket or satchel to carry the man, the price of which was 25 cts. We went on board again about sunset, and found them very busy taking coal, livestock, water and vegetables, – noise, confusion and dirt being conspicuous features of the scene. Turned in early, and did what sleeping the noises permitted.
Tomorrow, more of the life of the Rev. Elijah Guion and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion.
Next week I’ll be posting more of Grandpa’s unique and creative Christmas Cards.