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“First recorded cattle drive in California”
-Reese, Six Score

37. EDWARDS, Philip L[eget]. California in 1837. Diary of Col. Philip L. Edwards Containing an Account of a Trip to the Pacific Coast . Published in “Themis” by Authority of the Board of State Library Trustees of the State of California . Sacramento : A. J. Johnston & Co., Printers, 1890. 47 [1 blank] pp. 12mo, original grey printed wrappers, stapled (as issued).  Wrappers professionally restored, otherwise fine.

     First edition, first published in Themis 2 (1860). The book was published in two formats, cloth and wrappers. Adams , Herd 747: “Rare.” Cowan I, p. 82: “Apparently limited to a small edition, as the work is rarely seen.” Cowan II, p. 192. Dykes, Collecting Range Life Literature, p. 15; Western High Spots, pp. 13-14 (“Western Movement—Its Literature”). Graff 1216. Holliday 339. Howell 50, California 447: “Among the most important early descriptions of pastoral California .” Howes E66. Littell 315.  Merrill, Aristocrats of the Cow Country, p. 18. Norris 1045. Plains & Rockies IV:48n. Reese, Six Score 36: “Narrative of the first recorded cattle drive in California .... Aside from its cattle interest, which recounts bringing some 630 head of cattle from California to Oregon , the book is also a California and fur item.” Rocq 14541. Streeter Sale 3008.

     The Willamette Cattle Company was the first cooperative venture among the Oregon settlers from the United States . In 1835, President Andrew Jackson sent William Slacum, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, to report on the situation in Oregon . When Slacum discovered that the Hudson’s Bay Company held a monopoly on cattle in Oregon , he persuaded the American settlers to unite to buy cattle in California and bring them back to Oregon . In January 1837 the Willamette Cattle Company was formed for this purpose. That same year some 600 head of cattle were brought back to Oregon . The success of this venture gave American settlers a growing sense of independence from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The author, who served as Treasurer of the Willamette Cattle Company, originally came to Oregon in 1833 with Captain Wyeth’s party. Edwards arrived in San Francisco on February 29, 1837.  This day-by-day narrative ends on September 18, somewhere near Mt. Shasta , as the company attempts to reach the Willamette Valley . Edwards’s account of the six months spent in the Bay Area is among the most important early descriptions of pastoral California.

     Here is an excerpt from Edwards’ journal (pp. 27-28) describing the vicissitudes of driving a motley herd of wild, stubborn, skittish beasts overland and across waterways. In the genre of trail drive literature, Edwards’ account is very early, but the sentiments he expressed remained true to form to the end of the trail-driving days:

Horrors! Now we chased the cattle until after the moon rose, to get them across a little water [ San Joaquin River ] not more than knee deep. And then the state of camp! Shut the book! The last month, what has it been? Little sleep, much fatigue! Hardly time to eat, many times! Cattle breaking like so many evil spirits and scattering to the four winds! Men, ill-natured and quarreling, growling and cursing! Have, however, recovered the greater part of the lost cattle and purchased others. Another month like the last, God avert! Who can describe it?  ($300-600)

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