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Journal of a Trip to California Across the Continent from Weston, Mo., to Weber Creek, Cal., in the Summer of 1850   By:

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Across the Continent From Weston, Mo., to Weber Creek, Cal., in the Summer of 1850



Edited with an Introduction and Notes, by R. W. G. Vail

Librarian of The Minnesota Historical Society

The Cadmus Book Shop New York

Press Standard Book Company Manchester, N. H.


Several years ago I had the good fortune to find, in the lumber and rubbish of a storeroom, this little journal. A small leather backed notebook, it had lain unnoticed and forgotten for more than half a century in the author's old homestead.

The original manuscript is written in a 4 by 6 inch notebook, bound in boards. It contains 180 pages of text, with pressed western flowers and plants pasted on the five fly leaves at the end.

Mr. William Smith, our author's father, came from Gloucestershire, England, in 1831 and settled on a farm (now owned by his grandson, George Smith) just west of the village of Victor, N. Y. For several years Mr. Smith's sons, James and Charles W., both helped him on the farm, but eventually the latter decided to become a printer and so obtained a position in the neighboring village of Canandaigua.

At the time of the discovery of gold in California, Mr. C. W. Smith[1] had been for several years on the staff of the Ontario Messenger , which perhaps accounts for the interesting and newsy style in which his journal is written. Certain it is that he showed more than usual ability and training in narrating the experiences of the overland journey and especially in painting a vivid picture of the prairies, the rivers and mountains, the rocks and the flowers.

And so the Spring of 1850 found Mr. Smith leaving his place in the composing room at Canandaigua and, after a brief farewell visit with his family in Victor, he proceeded to Centreville, Indiana, from which town he dated the first entry of his narrative. The journal itself tells the rest of the story, and I am sure that the student of western history will find it one of the most valuable of the contemporary journals of the Forty Niners and the Overland Trail.

R. W. G. Vail. The Minnesota Historical Society, March 20, 1920.


[1] A portrait of the author, painted in East Bloomfield, N. Y., is still owned by the family in Victor. ED.


April 10, 1853.


I have concluded to send you my journal, not because I think it contains anything of great interest, but because I know you will take it as an evidence that I have not forgotten my Mother.

Nancy and I have been married two years today, and through that time have walked peacefully along the path of life together, a path on which little Alice now presses her tiny feet and, holding a little hand in each of ours, will make our union more complete. It is now nearly six years since I left home, a home which I then expected to see again in a few months, and would have seen had I been able to return in a better condition than when I left it, for it is always expected that when a young man goes out upon the world, it is to rise and prosper, and not return in rags. And if it was not for that ambitious feeling that forbids there are now thousands in California and Oregon, who would instantly start for those good old homes on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. In all my wanderings I have been singularly fortunate, always having my health, and never meeting with those accidents which are common to persons in an unsettled condition. In regard to the good things of this world, I have reason to be grateful, rather however for what we expect, than what we now enjoy, for our 640 acres of land are lying in an unproductive state, and Nancy's money is all in the States, excepting $200, which were sent across the plains.

The spring here opens early this year, a full month in advance of last... Continue reading book >>

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