Bartleson–Bidwell Party

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In 1841, the Bartleson–Bidwell Party, led by Captain John Bartleson and John Bidwell, became the first American emigrants to attempt a wagon crossing from Missouri to California.


In the winter of 1840, the Western Emigration Society was founded in Missouri, with 500 pledging to trek west into Mexico California. Members included Baldridge, Barnett, Bartleson, Bidwell and Nye. Organized on 18 May 1841, Talbot H. Green was elected president, John Bidwell secretary, and John Bartleson captain. The group joined Father Pierre Jean De Smet's Jesuit missionary group, led by Thomas F. Fitzpatrick, westward across South Pass along the Oregon Trail. That trail took them past Courthouse and Jail Rocks, Chimney Rock, Scotts Bluff, Fort Laramie, and Independence Rock. The Bartleson-Bidwell party separated from Fitzpatrick, and the missionary group, at Soda Springs on 11 Aug.[1]:8-12

The Trail[edit]

The western Emigration Society had resolved to follow the route suggested by Dr. John Marsh. This route, the California Trail, was based on the prior experiences of Jedediah Smith, Peter Skene Ogden, and Joseph R. Walker. That route led southwest from Soda Springs along the Bear River and the Cache Valley. On 24 Aug., the party headed west and north around the Great Salt Lake, camping in the vicinity of the Hansel Mountains until 9 Sept., while they scouted the route to Mary's River. By 12 Sept., wagons and possessions were beginning to be abandoned. By 9 Oct., they crossed Mary's River and headed west to Lake Humboldt, Humboldt Sink, and Carson Sink. On 30 Oct., they passed through the Stanislaus River canyon into the San Joaquin Valley. On 4 Nov. 1841, the party made it to Marsh's ranch.[1]:8-15

According to Doyce Nunis, "...the Bidwell-Bartleson party had successfully made the first planned overland emigrant journey to California, bearing with courage and great fortitude the vicissitudes of their ordeal. These hardy pioneers were the harbingers of many thousands to come."[1]:15


Missionary Party[1]

  • Captain: Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick
  • Jesuit Fathers: Pierre-Jean De Smet, Nicholas Point, Gregory Mengarini
  • Jesuit Brothers: William Claessens, Charles Huet, Joseph Specht
  • Teamsters: L. Boileau, E. Chaussie, L.L. Coving
  • Trappers: Jim Baker, John Grey, william Mast, Piga
  • Others: Amos E. Frye, Rogers, W.G. Romaine, Reverend Joseph Williams

The Bidwell-Bartleson who arrived in California[1]

  • John Bartleson
  • Elias Barnett
  • Josiah Belden
  • William Belty
  • John Bidwell
  • Henry L. Brolaski
  • David W. Chandler
  • Joseph Chiles
  • Grove C. Cook
  • Nicholas Dawson
  • V.W. Dawson
  • Paul Geddes
  • George Henshaw
  • Charles Hopper
  • Henry Huber
  • James John
  • Thomas Jones
  • Andrew Kelsey
  • Benjamin Kelsey
  • Nancy Kelsey and daughter
  • John McDowell
  • Nelson McMahan
  • Samuel Green McMahan
  • Michael C. Nye
  • Andrew Gwinn Patton
  • Robert Rickman
  • John Roland
  • John L. Schwartz
  • James P. Springer
  • Robert H. Thomas
  • Ambrose Walton
  • Major Walton
  • Charles M. Weber

The Bidwell-Bartleson who arrived in Oregon[1]

  • Carroll
  • Augustus Fifer
  • Richard Fillan with wife and child
  • William Fowler
  • Charles W. Flügge
  • David F. Hill
  • J.W. Jones
  • Samuel Kelsey with wife and five children
  • Zedidiah Kelsey and wife
  • Edward Rogers
  • James Ross
  • Richard Williams and wife

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Nunis, Doyce, ed. (1991). The Bidwell-Bartleson Party: 1841 California Emigrant Adventure, The Documents and Memoirs of the Overland Pioneers. Santa Cruz: Western Tanager Press. pp. 201, 247–248. ISBN 9780934136327.
  • Charles Hopper, "Narrative of Charles Hopper, A California Pioneer of 1841", Utah Historical Quarterly 3 (1930)
  • Charles Kelly, Salt Desert Trails (1930)
  • Roderick J. Korns, "West from Fort Bridger", Utah Historical Quarterly 19 (1951)
  • David E. Miller, First Wagon Train to Cross Utah, 1841", Utah Historical Quarterly 30 (1962)
  • Benjamin Kelsey, "Man of Adventurous Disposition"
  • Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (1947) from Pioneers and Cowboys at

External links[edit]