The End of Bryant's Journey

Edwin Bryant reached the ranch of Mr. Johnson on August 30 and then Sutter's Fort on September 1. The following diary entries from those days will conclude this tour:


August 30 - We commenced our march early, determined, if possible, to force our way out of the mountains and to reach Johnson's, the nearest settlement in the valley of Sacramento, about 40 miles, above or north of Sutter's Fort, before we encamped. After travelling some three or four miles rising and descending a number of hills, from the summit of one more elevated than the others surrounding it, the spacious valley of the Sacramento suddenly burst upon my view, at an apparent distance of fifteen miles. A broad line of timber running through the centre of the valley indicated the course of the main river, and smaller and fainter lines on either side of this, winding through the brown and flat plain, marked the channels of its tributaries. I contemplated this most welcome scene with such emotions of pleasure as may be imagined by those who have ever crossed the desert plains and mountains of western America, until Jacob, who was in advance of the remainder of the party, came within the reach of my voice. I shouted to him that we were “out of the woods” — to pull off his hat and give three cheers, so loud that those in the rear could hear them. Very soon the huzzas of those behind were ringing and echoing through the hills, valleys, and forests, and the whole party came up with an exuberance of joy in their motions and depicted upon their countenances. It was a moment of cordial and heartfelt congratulations.... 


Mr. Johnson was not at home, and the house was shut up. This we learned from a little Indian, the only human object we could find about the premises; he intimated by signs, however, that Mr. Johnson would return when the sun set. We encamped under some trees in front of the house, resolved to do as well as we could, in our half-famished condition, until Mr. J. returned....


Mr. Johnson returned home about nine o'clock. He was originally a New England sailor, and cast upon this remote coast by some of the vicissitudes common to those of his calling, had finally turned farmer or ranchero. He is a bachelor, with Indian servants, and stated that he had no food prepared for us, but such as was in the house was at our service. A pile of small cheeses, and numerous pans of milk with thick cream upon them, were exhibited on the table, and they disappeared with a rapidity dangerous to the health of those who consumed them. Mr. J. gave us the first number of the first newspaper ever published in California, entitled “THE CALIFORNIAN,” and published and edited at Monterey by Dr. ROBERT SEMPLE, a native Kentuckian. It was dated about two weeks back. From the columns of this small sheet we gleaned some farther items of general intelligence from the United States, all of great interest to us. The leading paragraph, under the editorial head, was, in substance, a call upon the people of California to set about the organization of a territorial government, with a view to immediate annexation to the United States. This seemed and sounded very odd. We had been travelling in as straight a line as we could, crossing rivers, mountains, and deserts, nearly four months beyond the bounds of civilization, and for the greater distance beyond the boundaries of territory claimed by our government; but here, on the remotest confines of the world as it were, where we expected to visit and explore a foreign country, we found ourselves under American authority, and about to be “annexed” to the American Union. 


September 1 - I inquired if Captain Sutter was in the fort? A very small man, with a peculiarly sharp red face and a most voluble tongue, gave the response. He was probably a corporal. He said in substance, that perhaps I was not aware of the great changes which had recently taken place in California; — that the fort now belonged to the United States, and that Captain Sutter, although he was in the fort, had no control over it. He was going into a minute history of the complicated circumstances and events which had produced this result, when I reminded him that we were too much fatigued to listen to a long discourse, but if Captain Sutter was inside the walls, and could conveniently step to the gate a moment, I would be glad to see him. A lazy-looking Indian with a ruminating countenance, after some time spent in parleying, was dispatched with my message to Captain Sutter. Capt. S. soon came to the gate, and saluted us with much gentlemanly courtesy, and friendly cordiality. He said that events had transpired in the country, which, to his deep regret, had so far deprived him of the control of his own property, that he did not feel authorized to invite us inside of the walls to remain. The fort, he said, was occupied by soldiers, under the pay of the U. S., and commanded by Mr. Kern. I replied to him, that although it would be something of a novelty to sleep under a roof, after our late nomadic life, it was a matter of small consideration. If he would supply us with some meat, a little salt, and such vegetables as he might have, we neither asked nor desired more from his hospitality, which we all knew was liberal, to the highest degree of generosity. A servant was immediately dispatched with orders to furnish us with a supply of beef, salt, melons, onions, and tomatoes, for which no compensation would be received. We proceeded immediately to a grove of live-oak timber, about two miles west of the fort, and encamped within a half a mile of the Sacramento river. Our fires were soon blazing brightly, added to the light of which was the brilliant effulgence of the moon, now near its full, clothing the tree-tops, and the far-stretching landscape, with a silvery light; and rendering our encampment far more agreeable to me than the confined walls of any edifice erected by human hands. With sincere and devout thankfulness I laid myself on my hard bed, to sleep once more within the boundaries of civilizaton. Since we left our homes none of our party have met with any serious accidents or disasters. With the small number of only nine men, we have travelled from Fort Laramie to Sutter's Fort, a distance of nearly 1700 miles, over trackless and barren deserts, and almost impassable mountains; through tribes of savage Indians, encountering necessarily many difficulties, and enduring great hardships and privations; and here we all are, in good health, with the loss of nothing materially valuable belonging to us, except a single animal, which gave out from fatigue, and was left on the road. We have had no quarrels with Indians, rendering it necessary in self-defence to take their lives; but on the contrary, whenever we have met them on our journey, by our deportment towards them, their friendship has been conciliated, or their hostility soſtened and disarmed, without striking a blow. We uniformly respected their feelings and their rights, and they respected us. Results so favorable as these, to expeditions constituted as was ours, and acting under such circumstances, are not often recorded.