October 31st, 1841: The day that the Bidwell-Bartleson Party entered the San Joaquin Valley and knew they they at last had reached their destination—California.

The previous day this band of emigrants from Missouri had sighted the valley. Up till then they did not know that they had already reached California, and as a matter of fact, they didn’t know where they were.  They had set out in May with the goal of traveling to California, a place which they were told was fertile, healthy, and teeming with game. They were the first organized wagon train to travel directly to California from the United States, and they nearly didn’t make it.

They were starving. That morning, while still in the mountains, one of the men killed a coyote and cooked it for breakfast. By the time John Bidwell arrived for breakfast there was nothing left but the windpipe and the lungs, but he gladly devoured them.  Then they traveled down into the valley by way of the Stanislaus River and rejoiced when they saw hundreds of antelope and thousands of wild ducks and geese.

Crossing the valley, they met an Indian who guided them to the ranch of John Marsh, near  Mt. Diablo.  He welcomed them with a meal of beef, beans, and tortillas. A new life began for the 32 men, one woman, and a baby who were the newest arrivals in Alta California.

Posted by Nancy, who wrote John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer. Get it at your library!