J. Smeaton Chase

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Sidewinder, from California Desert Trails, 1919

J. Smeaton Chase (8 April 1864 – 29 March 1923) was an English-born American author, traveler and photographer.

Joseph Smeaton Chase has become an integral part of California literature: revered for his poignant descriptions of California landscapes. An Englishman who toured the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains in 1915 with his burro, Mesquit, Chase published poetic diary entries detailing his escapades through the Sierra Nevada mountains and California desert.


Chase was born in Islington, now a London borough, in April 1864. He arrived in Southern California in 1890, although information surrounding his motive for doing so is sparse. It is known, however, that he lived on a mountainside and managed to obtain a job tutoring a wealthy rancher’s children in the San Gabriel Valley. Chase was drawn to the plants, animals, and Spanish-speaking individuals who resided in California. Subsequently, in 1910 he took a trip with local painter Carl Eytel, travelling on horseback[1] from Los Angeles to Laguna and then down to San Diego.[2] Chase journeyed through the uncouth California land and detailed his escapades in his book California Desert Trails.[3] He was passionate that the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains be preserved as a national park. Chase appeals to readers who appreciate the unspoiled west and California history.

Chase died March 29, 1923 in Banning, California, after several years of poor health. His wife (Isabel, née White, April 18, 1876 – September 30, 1962) continued to live in Palm Springs. They are buried in the Welwood Murray Cemetery at the foot of Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs.[4] Also his name is engraved at his parents' (Samuel and Jane) headstone in the St. Mary the Virgin Cemetery,[5] London Borough of Bexley, England.[6]



By year first published:

Journals, co-author, and other[edit]


  1. ^ "Author and Artist Seek Material for Booklet". Los Angeles Herald. 37 (337): 14. September 3, 1910. Chase will issue a more pretentious work on conifers in the spring.... 
  2. ^ Starr, Kevin (1973). Americans and the California Dream, 1850–1915. Oxford University Press. pp. 433–41. ISBN 978-0199923250. OCLC 632115. 
  3. ^ California Coast Trails by J. Smeaton Chase at www.ventanawild.org
  4. ^ J. Smeaton Chase at Find a Grave and Isabel White Chase at Find a Grave
  5. ^ Samuel Chase at Find a Grave, with gravestone photographs
  6. ^ Wild, Peter (2005). J. Smeaton Chase. Johannesburg, California: The Shady Myrick Research Project. p. 179. OCLC 62232191. 
  7. ^ Kurut, Gary F. (2009), "Carl Eytel: Southern California Desert Artist", California State Library Foundation, Bulletin No. 95, pp. 17–20 retrieved November 13, 2011
  8. ^ a b http://californialegacy.org/radio_anthology/scripts/chase.html Archived February 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading[edit]

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