Voyage to California (16) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

These were not times for the squeamish traveller, and the butchering aspect is a long way from what we’d expect, especially on a short journey or cruise these days.

The matter-of-fact manner in which he records these events illustrates the extent of his daily experiences and those of his fellow passengers – not to mention the everyday life in any community.

This is what make these anecdotes from the past such an extraordinary history as well as rich source of historical fact.

"Greatest Generation" Life Lessons

(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.


Sailing in sight of the coast all day; it presents quite a rugged and mountainous appearance. Saw a school of porpoises to-day, also some black fish. A bird, somewhat allied to the wild duck, alighted on the bowsprit and remained there for some time. By evening the ship was heading n. west, the wind had freshened, and the sea was rough enough to make me somewhat seasick.


Weather pleasant and sea tolerably smooth. One of the beef cattle was to day judged unfit for use, even here, so she was knocked on…

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