“One of the most remarkable of all emigrant diaries.... Clyman has a gift for phrasing and an awareness of an epic in progress” (Merrill J. Mattes)
23. CLYMAN, James. James Clyman, American Frontiersman, 1792-1881: The Adventures of a Trapper and Covered Wagon Emigrant As Told in His Own Reminiscences and Diaries. Edited by Charles L. Camp. San Francisco : California Historical Society, 1928. -247  pp. (complete), frontispiece (tipped-in sepia-tone photograph of Clyman), one photographic plate (portrait of Hannah Mecombs Clyman), text illustration (facsimile from Clyman’s diary), 3 maps: (1) Route of Jedediah Smith’s Party over the South Pass in 1823-24, and the Route of James Clyman’s Return to Fort Atkinson, 21.5 x 12.5 cm; (2) Clyman’s Route from Oregon to California in 1845, 12 x 21.5 cm; (3) Emigrant Trails to Oregon and California in 1844-46, folded, 30.5 x 19 cm. 8vo, original gilt-lettered blue cloth. Very fine in chipped d.j.
First edition in book form (text first printed in the California Historical Society in installments from June 1925 to March 1927); limited edition (Charles L. Camp states in the introduction to the 1960 edition that only 330 copies were printed). California Historical Society Special Publications 3. Bauer 72. Cowan II, p. 132. Eberstadt, Modern Narratives of the Plains and the Rockies 88. Flake 2439. Graff 769. Holliday 212. Howell 50, California 380. Howes C81: “One of the most trustworthy narratives of the far west, for the period 1842-46; the only Oregon overland journal of 1844.” Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 19. Jennewein, Black Hills Booktrails 3. Malone, Wyomingana, p. 3. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 7, 102, 169. Mintz, The Trail 99. Norris 830: “Very rare.” Paher , Nevada 359n: “Rare.” Rader 849. Rocq 5867. Smith 1826. Streeter Sale 3095. Zamorano 80 #19. In Chapter 18 on “Jedediah Smith and His Achievements” in Mapping the Transmississippi West, Wheat remarks (Vol. II, p. 121): “The published journals and accounts of numerous traders and trappers, notably the journals of James Clyman...have shed additional light on this remarkable man [Jedediah Smith] and his era.”
“The Virginia-born frontiersman, along with Jedediah Smith, joined William H. Ashley’s second expedition to the Far West in 1823, was one of the first to cross over South Pass , and explored the region around the Great Salt Lake with William Sublette. In 1844, the tall, wiry mountain man went to Oregon , came down into California the following year, returned east with Caleb Greenwood via the Hastings Cutoff (warning westbound travelers including the Donners not to take it), and catching gold fever, returned again to California in 1848. Eventually, this rugged adventurer settled permanently in Napa . In 1871, with the help of his diaries, Clyman wrote up his recollections. The reminiscences pertain to the 1823-1824 period and are invaluable for their coverage of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. The overland diary of May 1844 to July 1846, written with picturesque grammar and phonetic spellings, documents his trip via the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley and thence to California ’s Napa Valley . His diary entries give an important picture of northern California on the eve of the American takeover and Gold Rush” (Gary F. Kurutz in Volkmann, Zamorano 80 Catalogue).
Clyman provides valuable firsthand documentation on early stock raising in Oregon and the last days of the California ranchos under Mexican rule. He comments on the herds he saw along the trail, including those owned by Fort Hall and other military establishments and urges expansion of herds. As would be expected, he grouses about the Hudson Bay Company monopoly of trade, including livestock, commenting that now that the fur trade is dwindling HBC is expanding its cattle trade to the Sandwich Islands and other far-flung locations. Clyman documents a roundup in Oregon, describes a cooperative stock raising venture at Yam Hill, Oregon, and discusses Jesse Applegate’s ranch. Clyman’s 1845-46 account of his travels in California is filled with documentation on many of the important old ranches and the prospects for development of stock raising.
Clyman provides vivid glimpses of the California rancho lifestyle. “The Mexicans do not labour themselves the native indians perform all the labour and are kept in slavery much like the Negroes of the Southern states but not worked so steady or hard as all depend largely on their cattle stock for support and some fine Blankets are Here manufactured from the wool of their sheep The Mexican Ladies when they ride out alone mount a mans saddle in the same manner their husband would but frequently the husband takes his wife on before him and takes hold of the logerhead of his saddle with his arms around his bride and this method looks Quite loveing and kind and might be relished by the single” (p. 175). ($250-500)
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