RLS arrived in Oakland, California on Sunday 30 August 1879, crossed by the ferry to San Francisco and then travelled some south by rail to Monterey, where Fanny Osbourne, her children and her sister Nellie were staying.
The ranch of Jonathan Wright and Captain Anson Smith was on San Clemente Creek in Carmel Valley. In 1846 Jonathan Wright (1821-1909) accompanied the first wagon train across the Great Salt Lake. Afer serving under General Frémont, 1846-1847, and later in the Mexican-American War, he worked in the redwood lumber industry, later following the rush for gold in 1849; then he worked as a whaler in Monterey Bay, and served as lighthouse keeper at Point Piños. He later became a rancher of wild honey and fine angora goats, at Rancho San Francisquito. There was also a small vinyard and peach orchard on the spread. In 1871, he co-founded Monterey Free Masons Lodge 217. Jonathan Wright and his family nursed RLS back to health for three weeks in their small family cabin near the San Clemente River. A widover with two daughters, he married again in 1871, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Claudy, they had 5 daughters and one son, 3 of these children died before 1909.
John Charles Frémont (1813-1890), American explorer and army officer, was the leading spirit in the abortive Bear Flag Revolt (1846) in which American settlers captured the Mexican headquarters at Sonoma and proclaimed the Republic of California. California was formally ceded to the USA in 1848, after the Mexican War, in which Frémont took a prominent part.
The ‘ranche children’ were identified as Sarah and Dolly Wright, who were both still alive in 1950.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 651.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 1, p. 286]
[Carmel Valley, California, c. 24 September 1879.]
Here is another curious start in my life, in the Coast Line Mountains, eighteen miles from Monterey.
I was camping out, but got so sick that the two rancheros took me in and tended me. One is an old bear-hunter, seventy-two years old, and a captain from the Mexican war; the other a pilgrim, and one who was out with the bear flag and under Frémont when California was taken by the States.
They are both true frontiersmen, and most kind and pleasant. Captain Smith, the bear-hunter, is my physician, and I obey him like an oracle.
The business of my life stands pretty nigh still. […] I work at my notes of the voyage. It will not be very like a book of mine; but perhaps none the less successful for that. I will not deny that I feel lonely today; but I do not fear to go on, for I am doing right. […] I have not yet had a word from England, partly, I suppose, because I have not yet written for my letters to New York; do not blame me for this neglect; if you knew all I have been through, you would wonder I had done so much as I have. I teach the ranche children reading in the morning, for the mother is from home sick. – Ever your affectionate friend,